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Make Trios for Nana, Use a Fork on Kale, and Gamble on Math Skills in 21X

W. Eric Martin
United States
Apex
North Carolina
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Board Game: 21X
While checking Twitter at SPIEL '22, I saw a tweet about a strange-looking card game, then on the publisher's page I saw they were in Essen, and with a couple of quick notes I arranged an impromptu meeting with James Naylor of Naylor Games in which we sat on a stack of pallets to demo 21X from Leo Samson. So glamorous...

I don't know a lot of details about the game, which will be crowdfunded at some point, but the gist is simple: 21X is an algebraic blackjack game in which you're dealt two cards. Some cards have fixed values, others contain an N variable that equals the number of cards you have in front of you, and still others have an X variable, with you getting to choose an integer value for X that makes your card total as close to 21 as possible without going over.

If your total is 19 or lower, you can stand, and everyone else has one minute to beat your total. At any time, you can twist, that is, flip the top card from the deck into your hand. When time is up, whoever has the highest sum wins. I don't know whether you play multiple rounds, but that seems beside the point when looking at a fun math game!

Board Game: 21X

What's the best total you can make with the three card hand at the bottom of this image — and does it even matter?

The graphics on these cards are fabulous in terms of telling the story: A heart is a positive X and a spade is a negative X (although X can itself be negative), while a diamond is a positive N and a club a negative N. Dots are fixed numerals.

Board Game: nana
Kaya Miyano's card game nana was released in 2021 by Mob+ and caused a lot of excitement among fans of Japanese design who actually got their hands on a copy.

Now French publisher Cocktail Games has licensed the design for release as Trio, with the game debuting in France in January 2023 and with releases in other countries still to be announced. Here's how to play:
Quote:
The deck consists of 36 cards, numbered 1-12 three times. Players receive some cards in hand, which they are required to sort from low to high, and the remaining cards are placed face down on the table.

On your turn, choose any single card to reveal, either the low or high card from a player's hand (including your own) or any face-down card from the table. Then, do this again. If the two cards show the same number, continue your turn; if they do not, return the cards to where they came from and end your turn.

If you reveal three cards showing the same number, take these cards as a set in front of you. If you are the first player to collect three sets, you win — except that a player wins immediately if they collect the set of 7s or two sets that add or subtract to 7, e.g., 4s and 11s.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Mock-up cards from Cocktail Games

Trio has slight changes to the rules, with players using all cards no matter the player count. Additionally, you play in normal mode, winning with three sets or the 7s or "spicy" mode, winning with two linked sets or the 7s. Finally, Trio includes rules for playing in teams with four or six players.
I played Trio five times in one sitting, and the game is a delight. You have a memory aspect as to who has revealed which cards, and this meshes wonderfully with a deduction aspect in terms of who has not revealed cards...assuming you can keep all of that info straight.

For the team play, team members sit opposite one another and exchange one card before play begins (pulling cards from their hand and adding them below the table to hide their location), and each time an opposing team collects a set, your team can swap again.

Board Game: FORK
FORK is a quasi-trick-taking game for 2-6 players from Ta-Te Wu of Sunrise Tornado Game Studio that he plans to crowdfund in January 2023.

The game name is an acronym for Fox Owl Rabbit Kale, and those are the cards that comprise the deck. Foxes are all a wild 9, and each player starts with one fox in hand; the other cards come in four suits, with an owl at 8, rabbits at 2-7, and multiple kale in each suit at 1. On a turn, the active player names a suit, then each player must play a card of this suit, if possible, with kale being played face up and everything else face down.

Once all the cards have been played, reveal the cards, with a single fox eating an owl or rabbit (and with two or more foxes fighting amongst themselves); an on-suit owl (if not dead) eating an on-suit rabbit; an on-suit rabbit (if not dead) from high rank to low eating on-suit kale; and on-suit kale (if not eaten) being scored by whoever played it. Low-ranked rabbits can eat off-suit kale, but other off-suit cards are ignored.

Keep playing rounds until all the cards have been played or someone has collected five cards. Whoever has the most points wins.

I've played only one game of FORK so far, and it's an odd one because (1) the scoring is so minimal and (2) off-suit cards are mostly useless. From the former point, I now realize that every point is precious, but I'm not exactly sure how to score more. Clearly I need to better track what's been played, but initially I didn't even know the composition of the deck. (I'm fine playing a game without knowing exactly what the card breakdown is.)

From gallery of W Eric Martin

The second point also emphasizes the need to track what's been played. Each player has only one fox, and the deck includes only four owls, and you want to dodge being eaten, but then you're playing kale...which might still be eaten. Hmm. One playing is not enough to give a sense of what's going on...
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Sun Oct 30, 2022 7:00 am
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Links: Cracking the Cover on CATAN, Listening to Michael Schacht, and Unboxing Gordon Calleja

W. Eric Martin
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
CATAN: Der Roman, the first novel from game designer Klaus Teuber, will be released by KOSMOS in October 2022. A summary from the publisher:
Quote:
Norway in the year 860. The half-brothers Thorolf, Yngvi, and Digur help the daughters of the Viking prince Halldor to escape, and Halldor's revenge is not long in coming, pillaging the territory of the liberators and banishing them. With settlers who are willing to emigrate, the brothers set out for new shores and after an adventurous sea voyage, reach Catan — the land of the sun.

But the island presents the brothers with enormous challenges. Will they stand together to offer the settlers a brighter future, or will this task divide them?
Since CATAN: Der Roman is the first of a trilogy, I'll go with "divide them" since Teuber will have more pages to resolve these issues. You can read a sample from the novel in German here.

• Designer Michael Schacht created electronic music in the 1980s under the name Metric System, and now he's started to make music again, ideally (in his words) "creating music for game publishers, for their websites and videos". You can sample work from Metric System on Bandcamp or on various other systems.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

• In early October 2022, MIT Press published Unboxed, by designer Gordon Calleja. Here's the publisher's summary of this book:
Quote:
In Unboxed, Gordon Calleja explores the experience of playing board games and how game designers shape that experience. Calleja examines key aspects of board game experience — the nature of play, attention, rules, sociality, imagination, narrative, materiality, and immersion — to offer a theory of board game experience and a model for understanding game involvement that is relevant to the analysis, criticism, and design of board games. Drawing on interviews with thirty-two leading board game designers and critics, Calleja — himself a board game designer — provides the set of conceptual tools that board game design has thus far lacked.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

After considering different conceptions of play, Calleja discusses the nature and role of attention and goes on to outline the key forms of involvement that make up the board game playing experience. In subsequent chapters, Calleja explores each of these forms of involvement, considering both the experience itself and the design considerations that bring it into being. Calleja brings this analysis together in a chapter that maps how these forms of involvement come together in the moment of gameplay, and how their combination shapes the flow of player affect. By tracing the processes through which players experience these moments of rule-mediated, imagination-fueled sociality, Calleja helps us understand the richness of the gameplay experience packed into the humble board game box.
I'll note that I was interviewed by Calleja for this book, and I hope that I said useful things. That happens sometimes, but is not guaranteed.

• In case you missed the final Fairplay poll at SPIEL '22, here are the results:


What's surprising about these rankings is (1) the games seem a bit lighter than in earlier years, such as at SPIEL '21 when the top three games were Ark Nova, Witchstone, and The Red Cathedral, and (2) Cat in the Box barely had a retail presence at the show, with Hobby Japan selling out its stock within 15 minutes on Thursday morning.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

I happened to be in Hall 4 at the time, and the line of buyers swarmed quickly, then washed away once the supply dried up. My understanding is that the game is currently out of stock in Japan, so the publisher had a relatively small supply.

Licensee Bézier Games initially wasn't going to have any copies for sale, but at the last minute it got permission to sell 250 copies, most likely because Hobby Japan didn't have many itself. Those copies also sold out early on Thursday, so availability of the game was fairly limited, yet player interest was enough to land the top spot.

If you're not familiar with this trick-taking game that lets players decide which color their cards are, here's my overview.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

In addition to those top-rated games that received at least 33 votes, Fairplay had an honorable mention list for games that received at least 10 votes:

From gallery of W Eric Martin

• This InspiroBot image struck me as being ideal for some BGG users:

From gallery of W Eric Martin
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Sat Oct 29, 2022 7:00 am
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Game Preview: Monolyth, or Build Better Blocks

W. Eric Martin
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I rarely get to preview a game and announce it at the same time, but a copy of Monolyth from Phil Walker-Harding and CMON landed on my doorstep with no advance notice and I got it to the table today, so here we go:
Quote:
Every player builds their own block of stones in Monolyth, using 3D polyominoes to create patches of particular colors, complete levels, and a structure that matches a pattern.

Board Game: Monolyth

To set up, choose a structure card at random, then place it on the main board, along with the appropriate structure tokens, level tokens, and prophecy tokens based on the number of players. Place the crystal marker next to the main board, then draw twelve random polyominoes from the box and place them in a circle around the main board. The polyominoes come in five colors, and all 1x1 blocks in those colors are placed to the side.

On a turn, move the crystal 1-4 spaces clockwise, then take the polyomino in that space and add it to your 4x4 player board, with nothing placed outside that grid and no part of the polyomino hanging over an empty space; alternatively, you can remove this polyomino from the game and take a 1x1 block of the same color, then add that to your player board. In either case, draw a random polyomino from the box and place it where the crystal started this turn.

Instead of moving the crystal, you can choose a prophecy token from the main board and add it to a side of your player board. Each player board has four different colors around the four edges, e.g., blue, orange, black, and teal.

Board Game: Monolyth
Halfway through the game

When you fill all the spaces of a level on your player board, take the largest level token from the main board. If your construction fits the guidelines of the structure card, then you claim the highest available structure token.

Keep taking turns until someone has completed their 3D monolith, which is 4x4x3 in a 3-4 player game and 4x4x4 in a 1-2 player game, after which you finish the round. If a prophecy has been fulfilled, e.g., if you placed a 12 on the orange side of your player board and you have at least 12 orange blocks on that edge of your player board, then you score points equal to that prophecy token.

Sum the points of your structure token, level tokens, and valid prophecy tokens to see who has the highest score and wins.
Okay, that's a straightforward summary of the rules. For the solo game, when you take a block, you discard one of the prophecy tokens, and the game ends when you've completed your 4x4x4 monolith or no prophecy tokens remain on the main board. You score level tokens from low to high instead of high to low.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Nearly finished...

I've played only once with two players, so take these comments with that detail in mind. The Patchwork-style piece-taking is familiar in Monolyth, albeit with the wrinkle of you being able to take a prophecy token to delay taking a piece. In our game, we mostly took prophecy tokens only after we had locked in a color count on a side, as with my 14 teal faces in the middle image above, but I can imagine that practice changing once you play a couple of times and get a feel for how easy or hard it is to make something happen.

The structure in our game was an obelisk, with the center four spaces being at least three blocks high and the other spaces exactly one or two blocks high. I tried to make it happen, but blew that goal once it became possible to complete a level. In a two-player game, the structure is worth 10/8 points depending on whether you're first or second, whereas the levels score 10-3 points, so I wasn't going to stress about the structure if I could keep plonking down levels.

I placed a white block flat on the first level to complete that, then somehow overlooked that I was supposed to be placing dark blue on that side and just kept going with white. Whoops.

The design has nice push/pull mechanisms running through it. When building your own structure, for example, if you place an orange block in a corner, then the orange is visible on both faces of that corner. Thus, maximizing the value of one color reduces the potential value of the adjacent ones.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Those bags are getting recycled

The three ways to score — structure, level, prophecy — tend to pull you in different directions, with you giving up one of those areas to work on the other two. Sometimes you'll get the ideal block for all three, but if your opponent is paying attention, that should not happen.

You are supposed to draw a random polyomino from the box top, but even when looking straight ahead, out of the corner of my eye I could see the colors of the polyominoes in the supply, so we had to place stuff in front of the box to make it impossible to grab a particular color. Gotta ward off that "I'm not cheating, but I still feel like I'm cheating" sensation.
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Fri Oct 28, 2022 10:00 pm
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Designer Diary: 80 Days

Emanuele Briano
Italy
Savona
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Microbadge: It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swingMicrobadge: 80 DaysMicrobadge: I design games for the love of itMicrobadge: I design games in my sleep
Board Game: 80 Days
Intro

Stories are a great source of inspiration for games, and they are everywhere. It's a rainy day. I am at a bookshop, and the book Around the World in 80 Days attracts my eyes. I have read Jules Verne in the past, but I feel I need to do that again. Is it just a children's book? Does it have something to tell me? That is what I want to discover.

Page after page, I discover the book has something unique to narrate: a pervasive sense of adventure. The characters are continuously struggling between the tension to arrive in time and the desire to collect adventures and experiences. They are rushing, but they also feel this urge to enjoy life and all it has to offer around the world.

That feeling... I have it! Time to start working!

From gallery of lelebrian

That feeling is what I want to have in my game: a feeling of struggle between rushing to the end and having wonderful experiences. How to do that in a family game of less than one hour? Where to start from?

Well, is it really an option to have a game around the world without a map of the world? Maybe, but that is not my choice. A map, first. And it must include the path described in the book, with the cities of the main episodes.

From gallery of lelebrian
The first prototype

The Suitcase

When I think of traveling, I immediately think of a suitcase for all I need — and that's exactly what Phileas Fogg does in the first episodes of the book: He enters his mansion and calls his loyal Passepartout to prepare a small luggage with just some clothes, to get ready and immediately move towards the coast.

How to make the feeling of a small suitcase that's obviously too small for comfortable traveling around the whole world, with the easiest mechanism so that it feels natural to players? I go for a Tetris-style system with clothes in different shapes and sizes and a grid in which to put them and move them freely.

From gallery of lelebrian
The first version of suitcases and accessories

The system immediately feels good. The handling of the items is a bit poor with thin cards, so I stick them on a thick board and check the feeling. Yay! I can see the players having pleasure in touching them, adding them to the luggage, moving them to make space for another item, and eventually sacrificing one.

From gallery of lelebrian
The almost final version of suitcases and accessories in the prototype

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I am on the road for the first playtests. I usually playtest with the association Atlantide Giochi Savona, where I find a lot of smart family/casual players, the ideal target for the game.

Many players in the association are women, so it's obvious I have to do something to make them feel represented in the game. Of course, the book was published in 1872, and most of the protagonists are males, but that should never be an excuse for game designers to avoid trying, so I make all the clothes double-faced with male/female style clothes. Anyone is free to choose the side for each item — and even go gender fluid. Players immediately appreciate it.

From gallery of lelebrian
Clothes have two sides

The Diary

Scoring goals during the game is a good and safe system to challenge players gradually, give them rewards, offer a pleasurable moment now and then. (During a test, a player shouts "I won!" when reaching her first goal, which is very symbolic for this kind of pleasure.) I go for a well-known process:

1. Collect items (within the space limit).
2. Trade a set of items for points and actions.
3. Draw a new goal.

I add a twist to the point scoring: Points are not marked on the usual tracker, but you keep track of your personal achievement in a diary of cool adventures. Goal after goal, you build your diary, adding the card on the right of it as if you were writing a real diary. Each page with an inspiring picture and sentence about your adventure.

From gallery of lelebrian
The first concept for the diary of adventures

Where to find inspiration for those adventures? From French and worldwide literature of the time, of course! I start to collect ideas from the books I read, and I ask my friends for suggestions. Again, I am lucky: My friends read a lot.

The Mechanism

The atmosphere is ready. But what about the mechanism?

I want a simple mechanism with significant dilemmas between rushing to London and buying clothes to have new adventures. I want to encourage player questions such as: "Should I take a train now, or should I buy a hat?"

I love to have high interaction in my games, so I want the answer to be strictly linked to what other players are doing in the next turn.

The previous month I had been thinking of an increasing cost per action system. Each action has an area to mark the cost for that action, and you pay less if you are the first to take the action. This mechanism gives a good amount of interaction: As a player, I want to predict what other players are going to do next in order to take that action before the cost increases. Instead, I can delay actions that are not attractive to other players now.

The typical thought I wish players to have is: "My opponents are going to travel by train, so if I don't want to pay more, I have to take a train now. For the hat, I can wait."

From gallery of lelebrian
The increasing cost system with a special coin for three-player games

Also, I work on a mechanism to reset those costs for each area, trying various alternatives and picking the one that feels smoothest: Every n turns, a newspaper arrives bringing news and a new scenario, and the costs are set back to zero.

I am ready to test.

Playtesting Phase

Time for the game to hit the second table: the playtesters' one. This is the most interesting and enthusiastic phase for me as a game designer. You see how people react, you get encouragement from friends and casual players, you see the idea coming to life. Usually, if it works it will keep the same core spirit for the rest of the process, even if many changes will be made.

In this phase, you have to be careful because the enthusiasm for the new game can dazzle the designer and the playtesters. Luckily, my playtesters are many, and they don't get easily dazzled. I start to collect precious feedback and to debate all the aspects of the game:

• Is the duration okay? Can I remove one or more turns to make it feel more intense?
• Should I give players more space to score adventures, or should I force them to rush and always feel short of money?
• Is the space in the luggage okay? Should the player be comfy, or feel a very strict limit?
• Should the adventures be text-only, or should they have images? Or maybe, only images to make it language independent?
• How to balance the game for the number of players?
• Should I make the game 2-4 only, or should I make it possible to play with five players?
• How to balance the value of each adventure card in points? What formula to use for this problem which is reminiscent of the "knapsack problem"?

After more than two hundred playtests, the game finally feels ready for presentation.

The Crazy Ideas

There is always a moment in which the game designer starts to think of details which are useless to the current development phase. My useless detail is the box of the game.

I start to think about how cool the game would be in a real suitcase — then I actually build one.

From gallery of lelebrian
Building a suitcase from cardboard

Sometimes, even if those details are not useful, they help the designer to build the vision for the game: a game in which you travel, feeling comfortable and a bit nostalgic.

Publishers

What publisher to show the game to? Is this game more suitable for a German publisher or for a French publisher? Better to contact known publishers first, or to use the game as an occasion to meet new publishers?

I start to look around and meet publishers at fairs and online, collecting feedback and opinions. In general, the feedback is very good, but I also collect some refusals and delusions and confusing feedback: The same game is too complex for some, too easy for others.

Each publisher has their vision, and I have to find the right trade-off between following suggestions of the experts of the industry and my own designer feeling. This is never easy.

The Meeting with Piatnik

There is a new tremendous way for a game designer to present games to publishers: online. You can present it any time, any day, from your home, with your prototype already set up on the table and no wasted time. Personally, I love this way.

This is how I meet Florian at Piatnik. We have an online meeting for one hour to show three games: "All three of them with the same effort please." The presentation is good, and we immediately have a good feeling. All three games take the road to Vienna.

After some months, I receive good news: "The gameplay is very intuitive, easy to learn, highly interactive, but also tricky to master. We want to publish it."

In the following months, we do a pressing work of checking and discussing every single little detail. We test every assumption, we reconsider every choice to confirm or tweak it. We retest in parallel until we are totally happy with every aspect of the game. So far, this was my most intense experience in working together with a publisher.

Also, we start to work on the graphics and on the characters, and the publisher comes up with an intriguing idea: We should do something to be more inclusive. They suggest having four different sets of characters to represent people out of the common stereotypes. I love the idea. We go for it (and we feel proud).

Board Game: 80 Days
The four player boards, front and back

Also, Florian suggests having two sides for the map, with different rules for the end of the turn. We work on an alternative version and implement a system that reminds me of Terra Mystica to give expert players more choices on the B side of the map.

Elegance, or the Weight of Sacrifice

In the process of developing the game, some choices are not easy. The original prototypes came with more rules and elements, the most interesting of which was Inspector Fix. As in the book, an inspector distrusts the crazy bet of Phileas Fogg and thinks he is running away with the money. The player who collects more suspects at the end of each period has to lose time to answer the questions of the inspector before being released.

After some tests, we decided that less is more, and we make a strong decision. Au revoir, Inspector Fix.

Designer Rule

The frenzy for elegance overwhelms me. I come up with the idea to remove one of the key rules of the game and see what happens. I test the game by letting players buy clothes from any market regardless of the city they are in, and I have very clear feedback. Family players feel more comfortable, but expert players prefer to have a stronger challenge. The original rule requires players to plan their actions according to the city in which they want to score the next goal.

With the publisher we discuss how to implement this variant. We go for an option that I consider cool: The base game has the original rule, but we include a "Designer Rule" for family players.

The Final Title and Cover (and Games with a Similar Theme)

Around the World in 80 Days is a well-known book, so we cannot hope no one ever thought of a game about it. We check BGG and the web for games that could be similar.

We are lucky. We find some games with a title inspired by the book, but none of them is similar or seem to really grasp the atmosphere of the book.

We move towards the final product, and we start to see some sketches on the cover.

From gallery of lelebrian
First drafts for the game cover

The artist Felix Wermke gives us different versions — and all of them are brilliant. We have to decide what idea of the game the cover should convey: A character-centric game? A game with a lot of elements from all around the world? The lightness of traveling and flying? A warm vintage sensation?

Draft after draft, we arrive at a solution we love. One last step: changing the title to 80 Days, short and simple.

Board Game: 80 Days
The final cover

The Last Drafts

In the last weeks before SPIEL '22, the artist shows us more sketches for the final illustrations, and we refine the texts in German and French.

We are ready to go live!

From gallery of lelebrian
Final draft of the assistants

From gallery of lelebrian
Some final-stage drafts of the adventure cards


Emanuele Briano

From gallery of lelebrian
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Take a Seat for Tour de France, Oversee Miller Zoo, and Become the Law in Judge Dredd

W. Eric Martin
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Bit by bit, the real world continues to be transformed — or in one case re-transformed — into tabletop games by designers and publishers who want to give you a chance to relive an experience at home:

Miller Zoo in Québec is, as I understand it, more like a wildlife rehabilitation center for abandoned and rescued animals than a traditional zoo, although it still has plenty of animals on hand in natural environments for visitors to see — and now Decrypto designer Thomas Dagenais-Lespérance and publisher Randolph have released a licensed co-operative game called Miller Zoo in which 1-6 players equip their location, meet the animals' needs, and manage crises as best as they can.

Board Game: Miller Zoo

The game includes six envelopes with new animals and challenges so that add new elements to the game as you master your managerial skills.

Randolph plans to release an English-language version of Miller Zoo in time for Gen Con 2023.

Contra: The Board Game from Adam and Brady Sadler, and Mega Man Adventures from Peter Gousis and Michael D. Kelley — each of which is a tabletop adaptation of a video game — are finally making their way to the retail market.

Board Game: Contra: The Board Game

The two games were first announced by Blacklist Games, with pre-orders for Contra: The Board Game having opened in July 2020, and co-publisher Kess has let me know that these games are rolling out to stores now.

Side note: On October 19, 2022, Brady Sadler announced that he has decided to leave the board game industry:


Ravensburger continues to find new ways to gamify Disney, with Disney Space Mountain Game: All Systems Go from designers Chris Leder and Kevin Rodgers giving you a way to skip the lines and emulate the amusement park ride.
Board Game: Disney Space Mountain Game: All Systems Go

The game is a press-your-luck design, with you trying to visit five spaceports and complete five mission cards, but if you can't afford to fuel the navigation dice rolled on a turn, you lose any current progress.

• At SPIEL '22, Czech publisher RC Games showed off Tour de France Board Game, the second sports game in its catalog after 2021's SuperAce Tennis.

Board Game: Tour de France Board Game

The game includes track to recreate stages of the 109th Tour de France, with players using dice to determine movement for their six-person team. For more details, head to the publisher's website for this game.

Ian Livingstone's Judge Dredd board game, first released in 1982 by Games Workshop, will be updated in a new edition from UK publisher Rebellion Unplugged for release in November 2022 — forty years later! — under the name...Judge Dredd.

Board Game: Judge Dredd: The Game of Crime-Fighting in Mega-City One

The gist of the game remains the same:
Quote:
YOU ARE THE LAW! Under your watchful eye, no one escapes justice, whether their crime is littering or murder.

Head out onto the streets of Mega-City One in Judge Dredd to prove you are worthy of the badge. Bring the Angel Gang, Judge Death, Orlok the Assassin, and other notorious lawbreakers to justice! But be warned — they won't go down without a fight, and even a lowlife sugar-addict can take you out if they get lucky.
This edition features updated cards and rules, re-colored art from Brian Bolland and Ian Gibson, a refreshed graphic design, and the introduction of Specialist Judges. From the publisher: "Each has a special ability that will change how players approach the game, whether that be the brute strength of the Mechanismo droid, the innate abilities of the Psi Judge, the unrivalled authority of the Chief Judge, the added support available to the fresh-faced Cadet, the brutal methods of the Special Judicial Squad, or the...unique skills of the undercover Wally Squad!"

Board Game: Judge Dredd: The Game of Crime-Fighting in Mega-City One
Game on display at SPIEL '22
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Thu Oct 27, 2022 7:00 am
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In 2023, IELLO Welcomes Ancient Knowledge, Prophecy, Demonic Guests, and Even More Wickedness

W. Eric Martin
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Apex
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Board Game Publisher: IELLO
At SPIEL '22, French publisher IELLO had its traditional media room to highlight both new releases and upcoming games. Here's a sampling of what IELLO plans to publish in 2023:

Ancient Knowledge is a card-based strategy game from first-time designer Rémi Mathieu that will debut at SPIEL '23. The game is an ephemeral engine builder, with monuments that age over time and vanish into your past. An overview:
Quote:
As the ancient builders of this world, the last survivors of the civilization before ours, you are now the only holders of this multi-millennial knowledge. Leave your mark on history through stone and traditions, and protect this ancient knowledge.

Each turn, all your monuments get closer to the inevitable: falling into the past. It's up to you to find the best synergy so that you can pass down knowledge before the decline of the emblematic monuments you have constructed, monuments we still find nowadays in the four corners of the globe. From Mexican pyramids to the Sphinx of Giza, passing through the famous cities of Tiwanaku and Babylon, only the cleverest builder will shine through the ages and seize victory. In this game, your only enemy is time.
The game includes 145 unique builder cards that players bring into play, removing knowledge tokens from them to build artifacts, achieve common objectives, and take other actions. Once in the past, monuments can be used to acquire new cards, and players take two actions per turn. When a player has 14 monuments in their past, the game ends.

No pics were allowed, so I'll just say that the game had a strong Innovation vibe for me in terms of all the cards being unique and you needing to assemble an engine, but with only six "present" slots available for monuments and those monuments disappearing bit by bit, forcing you to re-create the engine constantly.

Hellton Palace is a two-player game from Jean-Baptiste Pigneur due out in mid-2023, with each player running their own hotel for demonic guests.

Board Game: Hellton Palace

The goal is to outlast your opponent because your guests are terrible beings who will wreck your business. If your bellhops don't serve them, they get irritated, and when one is irritated twice, you lose a bell token due to your guest smashing it in frustration. Run out of bell tokens, and you lose the game.

If you do serve a guest, you make use of the power associated with them, but the guests get bothered due to the intrusion, which can cause them to break the pillars supporting your establishment. Lose all the pillars in a column of your hotel, and you lose the game.

Cheese Master is a Q1 2023 release from Johan Benvenuto and Alexandre Droit for 2-8 players in which you attempt to determine how much cheese remains in the supply after each roll of the dice. Mice will eat cheese, but cats will chase them away prior to the meal — except that dogs will scare cats.

Board Game: Cheese Master

Guess incorrectly in a round, and you lose 2 points — but you lose 1 point for not guessing at all, so is it better to make a guess?

• In 2023, IELLO plans to release micro expansions for several of its titles, with King of Tokyo: Even More Wicked! allowing you to add the "wickedness gauge" from King of Tokyo: Dark Edition to a standard game of King of Tokyo. From the samples I saw, these powers seem to be the same as the ones included that standalone game.

The Baby Gigazaur micro expansion will consist of the stand-up figure, the health/point tracker, and Power Up cards.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Diamant: Mise en Garde et Trahison includes two tiny expansions for Diamant. The betrayal module gives each player a third, single-use card in hand, so instead of simply staying in a mine or leaving, you can throw a net across the mine, capturing anyone who leaves and letting you keep half of their gems. The warning module consists of eight tiles, and at the start of a round, you reveal one of the tiles to set new conditions for this round.

Bunny Kingdom: Bunny Express allows you to place railroad tracks in the Bunny Kingdom, with the role of sheriff going to whoever has the most tracks, which has consequences for turn order.

Board Game: Bunny Kingdom: Bunny Express
Mock-up at SPIEL '22

• In mid-2023, IELLO is starting a new line of card games, which includes a new edition of Bruno Faidutti's The Dwarf King, which first appeared in 2011. In this trick-taking game, special cards and contract tiles are introduced each round.

Foodie Forest is a new version of Reiner Knizia's Too Many Cooks, first released in 2002. Each player has a set of five goals, and in each round players simultaneously reveal a goal they haven't attempted previously. They then take turns adding cards to the pot, collecting them whenever the sum reaches at least 10, ideally collecting the right things to maximize their score while avoiding bad stuff.

Prophecy is a trick-taking game for 2-6 players from Christopher Haviland and Bob Kamp in which players sacrifice cards from their hand in order to set a target for the number of tricks they will win, scoring extra points should their prophecies come true.

From gallery of Photodump
From gallery of Photodump
Board Game: Prophecy

• Finally, in 2023 IELLO plans to release French editions of Ascension: 10 Year Anniversary Edition, Ascension Tactics: Miniatures Deckbuilding Game, and titles from German publisher Drei Hasen in der Abendsonne, such as Hula-Hoo! and Allegra.
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Wed Oct 26, 2022 7:00 am
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Prepare for the Holidays with Skeletons, Werewolves, Ghasts, and Bad Christmas Gifts

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Board Game: Smash Up: 10th Anniversary
I wrote about the dexterity game Flick or Treat in an October 2022 post, but surely that's not the only holiday-themed game popping up on the market these days, hmmm?

Smash Up: 10th Anniversary from Paul Peterson and AEG hits U.S. retailers on October 28, 2022, and this standalone set contains a new skeleton faction for those who want to throw bones at bases.

To stay on theme, AEG shared this preview image for a 2023 Smash Up set in an October 2022 newsletter, noting that you should "gather your squad for when Smash Up gets totally radical next year".

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Anyone else might shy away from the effort required for a Groin Strike faction, but I think AEG can make it happen.

• On the topic of werewolves, publisher 9th Level Games has released Women Are Werewolves, with this being a storytelling experience rather than a game. An overview from the publisher:
Quote:
At its heart, Women are Werewolves is a game about discovering your boundaries and whether you can find, or make, a space for your authentic self within a family that might not understand you.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

All characters are nonbinary. Players determine whether their characters have a wolf form or not, and build their own werewolf mythology as the game progresses.

Make a place for yourself in the family that raised you, or choose to find family elsewhere. What will you decide?
• And still speaking of wolves, I've yet to cover The Wolves, a game by Ashwin Kamath and Clarence Simpson that Pandasaurus Games debuted at SPIEL '22 and that hit retail in Q4 2022.

Board Game: The Wolves

An overview:
Quote:
The Wolves is a pack-building strategy game for 2-5 players. It's survival of the fittest as you compete to build the largest, most dominant pack by claiming territory, recruiting lone wolves, and hunting prey. But be careful not to expand too recklessly into terrain where your rivals thrive – they may lure members of your pack away.

A clever action-selection mechanism drives your choices. Each action requires you to flip terrain tiles matching the terrain where you wish to take your action. These double-sided tiles mean the actions you take this round will set up which terrain types you can act on in the next round. As you take actions to expand your pack's control of each region, you also upgrade your pack's attributes, allowing you to take more aggressive actions as the game goes on.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

In three mid-game scoring phases, power is calculated in each region. At the end of the game, players tally points based on VP tokens earned in these scoring phases and the highest VP number revealed in each of the six tracks on your player board. The player with the most VP wins!
Okay, this isn't really a Halloween-themed game, but I'm leaving this description here and moving on all the same.

Photoghasts: The Haunted Photo Game is a self-published game by T.W. Burgess that was crowdfunded in November 2021 and delivered to backers in August 2022. The gameplay isn't entirely clear, but it appears that you scan cards using an app to exorcise ghosts. Maybe this is more of an experience thing than a game? Not sure, but I'll leave further investigation to your whim.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

• Looking further down the calendar, Steve Jackson Games has two Christmas-themed games on its release schedule, although due to shipping delays the container holding these two Steve Jackson designs might keep them out of stockings until January 2023.

Board Game: The 12 Dice of Christmas

In The 12 Dice of Christmas, you attempt to pick dice with the right numbers so that you can buy the presents you need for the holiday, while keeping others from checking off items on their list.

In Bad Christmas, 3-6 players participate in a gift exchange with items like tuna-flavored candy canes and an inflatable birdhouse, trying to end up with the items on their wishlist before the game comes to a sudden end.

Board Game: Bad Christmas
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Tue Oct 25, 2022 7:00 am
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New Editions of Small Games: Planet etuC, Twinkle Starship, Big Top, Pollen, and Roll to the Top

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I recently highlighted a handful of games being crowdfunded, but the pool of publishers looking for backers is vast, so let's sample other projects underway, this time leaning into smaller games that are getting a second chance on the market.

• Designer Taiki Shinzawa has released more than two dozen games in Japan, and many of those titles are finding new life in licensed editions from other publishers.

Board Game: Planet etuC
Board Game: Ambiente Abissal

In 2022, Japanese publisher Twins Lion Do released new editions of Shinzawa's American Bookshop and Cinderella's Dance, and in 2023 it will publish Planet etuC, a new version of Ambiente Abissal, and Twinkle Starship, a new version of §egment Trix. (Kickstarter link)

Planet etuC is a shedding game for 2-3 players in which cards have both a number and a suit, with each of these being ranked. If you lead a pair of the same color, other players must play a pair of a higher ranked color; the same goes for playing a pair of the same number. If you lead a single card, the next player can play a card of higher number or color, setting what other players must follow. Once all but one player have passed, clear the played cards, then the last to play leads something new. Empty your hand first to win the round, and reach a point threshold first to win the game.

Board Game: Twinkle Starship
Board Game: §egment Trix

Twinkle Starship is a trick-taking game for 3-4 players in which you must follow suit, if possible, but you can manipulate the value of the card you play by placing sticks on the calculator-style number. Transform a 3 into a 9 with just one stick! At the end of the round, if you want to score, the number of sticks in your reserve needs to match the number of tricks you took.

Board Game: Big Top
Board Game: Suroboruos

• U.S. publisher BoardGameTables.com, which released Shinzawa's Time Palatrix as Ghosts of Christmas in 2022, is transforming his 2021 design Suroboruos into Big Top. (KS link)

The twist of this auction game is that you want to make certain bids in order to cover spaces on the cards in front of you, whether a card you started with or one you acquired in an auction. If you cover all of these bidding spaces, then the card will be worth points at game's end. You have an incentive to bid on stuff you might not want, unlike most auction games! James Nathan, who serves as a game scout for the publisher, wrote an appreciation of Suroboruos that provides more details of gameplay.

Board Game: Pollen
Board Game: Samurai: The Card Game
Board Game: Roll to the Top: Journeys
Board Game: Roll to the Top!

• BoardGameTables.com has two other remakes as part of the aforementioned KS project, with Pollen being a new version of Reiner Knizia's Samurai: The Card Game, with Beth Sobel art to inject a 2020s sensibility to the design, and Roll to the Top: Journeys from John Brieger, Peter Joustra, and Corné van Moorsel, with this being an updated version of 2018's Roll to the Top!, in which you use die results to climb up through landmarks from around the world.
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Mon Oct 24, 2022 7:00 am
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Profit from Pampero, Snap Pics in Redwood, and Escape Rising Waters

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Let's continue to sample the games that publishers plan to release in 6-18 months once the crowd funds their projects and kicks the manufacturing into motion:

Julián Pombo has worked with Vital Lacerda, creating a solo mode for Lisboa and co-designing Mercado de Lisboa, and now he has a giant, Lacerda-style game all his own in Pampero, which APE Games is funding on Kickstarter for release in 2023.

Board Game: Pampero

In the hand-management, card-driven, action-selection game Pampero, you represent an investor who is attempting to construct wind farms on behalf of the Uruguayan government, with your success being measured in personal wealth. APE Games' Kevin Brusky has posted an overview of the game on BGG, and Candice Harris plans to write a detailed overview.

• Publisher Game Brewer bills Delta from designer Franz Couderc as a "steampunk adventure" in which you employ a team of characters to create inventions in a workshop, gather knowledge about mechanimals, and use crystals to power Perpetual Steam Engines (PSEs) as you travel across the land. (KS link)

Board Game: Delta
Board Game: The Queen's Dilemma
Board Game: Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Renovations

• Italian publisher Horrible Guild plans to launch a c.f. project for The Queen's Dilemma from Hjalmar Hach and Lorenzo Silva on October 25, 2022. This sequel game to 2019's The King's Dilemma is another interactive narrative legacy game in which players negotiate with one another and vote to resolve crises in their land.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Renovations from Ted Alspach and Bézier Games expands Castles of Mad King Ludwig — either the regular edition or the colossal one — with rooms of two types that can be placed on top of existing rooms. (KS link)

• BGG recorded an overview of Robert and Max Jamelli's Lords of Baseball at the 2018 Origins Game Fair (video link), and publisher L4 Studios is finally moving this design to print...assuming it funds, of course. (KS link)

Board Game: Lords of Baseball
Board Game: Rising Waters
Board Game: JUST RUN

• In July 2022, I wrote about Scout Blum's Rising Waters, a co-operative game about surviving the 1927 flooding of the Mississippi Delta, and that project is now looking for funding. (KS link)

• A more familiar type of co-operative escape game is JUST RUN, a design from Warren Shaver in which you're trying not to fall victim to the zombie apocalypse. (KS link)

• In Christophe Raimbault's Redwood from Sit Down!, you attempt to take photographs of scenic views and wild animals, and to represent these efforts, you first attach a curved plastic path to your figure on the game board, then move to the end of that path, then place a "cone of vision" template next to your figure to determine what you capture with your camera.

Board Game: Redwood

I sampled Redwood at Gen Con 2022, and it's tricky to imagine where you're going to move and what you'll see from that location. I'm sure practice helps, as with dance and other sports that require you to be in the right place at the right time. (KS link)

• And I'll close with a game-adjacent item: Stéphane Villain's 3D building system of attachable plastic triangles called "CARAPACES", which I first covered in February 2020. The company, DOuG Solutions, funded a campaign on Ulule in Sept. 2020, and now it's running a Kickstarter project to reach a more American audience.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

DOuG Solutions also creates 3D rolling ball mazes, and its latest one (being funded on Ulule) is "Conan and the Lost City of Tanasul", which can't be sold in the U.S. since the company doesn't have the rights to Conan in that location. Next up, "Conan and the Lost Licensing Rights"...
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Sun Oct 23, 2022 7:00 am
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Persona 5 Royal, Elden Ring, The Matrix, and Iron Maiden's Eddie Come to Tabletop

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• My lack of video game knowledge continues to impede my efforts to write about newly announced games, as with the news that in Q4 2023 Pandasaurus Games will release a Persona 5 Royal card game designed by Emerson Matsuuchi.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Teaser image

All I can do is quote from the press release:
Quote:
Matsuuchi teases about the gameplay: "Players will take on the roles of their favorite Phantom Thieves and fight to change the world in this cooperative card-based strategy game."
• Similarly, UK publisher Steamforged Games has announced that it will publish Elden Ring: The Board Game, a tabletop adaptation of the Elden Ring video game.

Board Game: Elden Ring: The Board Game

In this case I've at least heard the name of the game, but beyond that, well, here's the press release:
Quote:
Elden Ring: The Board Game will immerse players in the forsaken Lands Between. In a vast, sprawling world of decaying grandeur that unfolds through their exploration, 1-4 "tarnished" players will embark on a huge and varied adventure, visiting iconic locations and crossing paths with familiar enemies and characters.

Board Game: Elden Ring: The Board Game

The video game's characteristically challenging fights will be recreated by intelligent dice-free combat, requiring players to strategize and adapt their plans during each encounter, whether that be with a lowly Godrick Soldier or the Grafted King himself.
Steamforged Games will launch a Kickstarter project for this game on November 22, 2022.

CMON has announced a "Bundle of the Beast" set of expansions for Zombicide: 2nd Edition that feature Eddie, the mascot of heavy metal band Iron Maiden. More specifically, fifteen versions of Eddie are available, with some of these characters also being playable in other CMON games, specifically Rising Sun, Massive Darkness 2, Ankh: Gods of Egypt, and Cthulhu: Death May Die.

From gallery of W Eric Martin


• At Gen Con 2022, U.S. publisher Upper Deck Entertainment previewed Legendary Encounters: The Matrix, a deck-building card game that it plans to release in Q2 2023.

The game is based on The Matrix trilogy, and during play you take the role of Neo or other heroes to save the human race from extinction, fighting adversaries such as Agent Smith, the Merovingian, the Twins, the Sentinels, and more.

Upper Deck wouldn't allow photographs of the cards, but I did shoot the front and back covers of the mock-up box on display. ("FPO" on the front cover stands for "for placement only", which is used to mark low-resolution images as placeholders for what's to come.)

From gallery of Photodump

Board Game: Legendary Encounters: The Matrix

In an October 2022 press release, Upper Deck notes that this game is "[t]he first product released as part of this new line of products", with trading cards also being in the offing.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Glass booth at Gen Con 2022 that let you walk through the Matrix
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Sat Oct 22, 2022 7:00 am
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