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New Game Round-up: Gen Con 50 Edition — Clank! In! Space!, Stuffed Fables, Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn, and Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition)

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• Lots of game announcements have been coming forth in the week prior to Gen Con 50. Well, no more than normal actually, but the games being revealed (1) tend to be of higher profile and (2) are being demoed or sold at the convention that opens Thursday, August 17, so they're jumping into the spotlight.

The newest contender for the stage is Clank! In! Space!, a standalone game that uses the same game system as in Paul Dennen's Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure, one of the hits of Gen Con 2016, but with player now trying to escape an alien spaceship instead of an underground dungeon. Makes sense to me — space is a vacuum, so noise wouldn't travel there and you could clankity-clank-clank all you want, but put yourself on a spaceship with, say, a xenomorph-type of thing, and you now have a gaming recipe. Here's the setting of this new title from publisher Renegade Game Studios:

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The evil Lord Eradikus has all but conquered the galaxy and is now on a victory lap across the sector in his flagship, Eradikus Prime. He may rule with an iron grip, but his most prized artifacts are about to slip through his cyborg claws. You and your fellow thieves have challenged each other to sneak aboard his ship, hack your way into its command module, and steal from him.

Along the way, you'll recruit allies and snatch up extra loot. But one false step and — Clank! Careless noise draws the attention of Lord Eradikus. Hacking into his command module and stealing his artifacts increases his rage. You'd better hope your friends are louder than you are if you want to make it to an escape pod and get out alive...

Beyond that, we have only a couple of images to share, but soon we'll see a lot more of the game because Renegade is selling "a limited number of copies" of Clank! In! Space! at Gen Con 50, with the game due to hit retail stores in Q4 2017.




• A competitor for the spotlight is Stuffed Fables, a new design from Mice and Mystics' Jerry Hawthorne and publisher Plaid Hat Games. This title will be available for demo games at Gen Con 50, with a release due to happen before the end of 2017. Here's an overview of the game from the publisher:

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Stuffed Fables is an unusual adventure game in which players take on the roles of brave stuffies seeking to save the child they love from a scheming, evil mastermind. Make daring melee attacks, leap across conveyor belts, or even steer a racing wagon down a peril-filled hill. The game delivers a thrilling narrative driven by player choices. Players explore a world of wonder and danger, unlocking curious discoveries. The chapters of Stuffed Fables explore the many milestones of a child's life, creating a memorable tale ideal for families, as well as groups of adults who haven't forgotten their childlike sense of wonder.

Stuffed Fables is the first "StoryBoard Game", a new product line from Plaid Hat Games in which all of the action takes place in the unique storybook — a book that acts as your rules reference, story guide, and game board, all in one! Each adventure in the game takes place over several pages of the immersive StoryBook. The book opens flat onto the table to reveal a colorful map or other illustration central to playing the game, with choices, story, and special rules on the opposite page.

On their turn, a player draws five dice from the bag. The colors of the dice drawn determine the types of actions and options available to the player. White dice can re-stuff stuffies injured in battle. Red dice perform melee attacks while green dice perform ranged attacks. Yellow dice search while blue dice are used for special actions and purple dice can be used as any color. Most dice can always find a strategic use, including moving, using items, or contributing to group tasks. Players can store dice for later, combine dice for stronger actions, or use them one-at-a-time for multiple activations. As turns go by, black dice are also drawn, and after enough appear, minions emerge or attack, and the dice bag is reset!

Players can encourage each other by sharing dice or their precious stuffing. In addition to fighting minions, each page of the storybook offers numerous points of interest, charming characters to interact or trade with, as well as many unusual challenges. And each page is but one chapter that folds into a branching, overarching story with a multitude of items and a special discovery deck full of surprises.




• The day before that was announced, Fantasy Flight Games unveiled Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn, a design by James Kniffen for 2-4 players that bears a 60-120 minute playing time — which is half the length of FFG's 2010 title Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game, which was from designer Kevin Wilson. Here's a summary of this Q4 2017 release, with far more details in the FFG announcement of the game:

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Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn is a strategy board game in which two to four players act as the rulers of history's most memorable empires. Over the course of the game, players will expand their domains, gain new technologies, and build many of humanity's greatest wonders. In the end, one nation will rise above all others to leave its indelible mark upon history.

This new game presents players with an undiscovered country to conquer, built from beautifully illustrated map tiles. These would-be conquerors construct and populate the map with barbarians, natural resources, and city-states, then formulate their plans for how they will shape this world to their vision. Their exact goals, however, change with each game. Agendas are detailed on victory cards, three of which are drawn during set up. Players race to become the first to accomplish one agenda on each of these victory cards, spreading throughout the world and ensuring their civilization’s place as the greatest world power.




• The weekend prior to that saw the announcement of Christian T. Petersen and Fantasy Flight Games' Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition), which is scheduled for a Q4 2017 release, but which (as it turns out) will be for sale at Gen Con 50. Surprise!

The game remains much the same as TI3, which was released in 2005, but with various changes that are summarized halfway down the FFG product page. Here's an overview of the game:

Quote:
Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition) is a game of galactic conquest in which three to six players take on the role of one of seventeen factions vying for galactic domination through military might, political maneuvering, and economic bargaining. Every faction offers a completely different play experience, from the wormhole-hopping Ghosts of Creuss to the Emirates of Hacan, masters of trade and economics. These seventeen races are offered many paths to victory, but only one may sit upon the throne of Mecatol Rex as the new masters of the galaxy.

No two games of Twilight Imperium are ever identical. At the start of each galactic age, the game a board is uniquely and strategically constructed using 51 galaxy tiles that feature everything from lush new planets and supernovas to asteroid fields and gravity rifts. Players are dealt a hand of these tiles and take turns creating the galaxy around Mecatol Rex, the capital planet seated in the center of the board. An ion storm may block your race from progressing through the galaxy while a fortuitously placed gravity rift may protect you from your closest foes. The galaxy is yours to both craft and dominate.

A round of Twilight Imperium begins with players selecting one of eight strategy cards that both determine player order and give their owner a unique strategic action for that round. These may do anything from providing additional command tokens to allowing a player to control trade throughout the galaxy. After these roles are selected, players take turns moving their fleets from system to system, claiming new planets for their empire, and engaging in warfare and trade with other factions. At the end of a turn, players gather in a grand council to pass new laws and agendas, shaking up the game in unpredictable ways.

After every player has passed their turn, players move up the victory track by checking to see whether they have completed any objectives throughout the turn and scoring them. Objectives are determined by setting up ten public objective cards at the start of each game, then gradually revealing them with every round. Every player also chooses between two random secret objectives at the start of the game, providing victory points achievable only by the holder of that objective. These objectives can be anything from researching new technologies to taking your neighbor's home system. At the end of every turn, a player can claim one public objective and one secret objective. As play continues, more of these objectives are revealed and more secret objectives are dealt out, giving players dynamically changing goals throughout the game. Play continues until a player reaches ten victory points.


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Wed Aug 16, 2017 5:05 pm
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Fantasy Flight Games Welcomes Fallout in 2017

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U.S. publisher Fantasy Flight Games loves to unveil surprises prior to Gen Con, the largest board game convention in the U.S., and it's unleashed a doozy in the form of Fallout, a "post-nuclear adventure board game" based on the popular video game series from Bethesda Game Studios, specifically Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 and their downloadable expansions. Here's a short description of this design from Andrew Fischer and Nathan Hajek:

Quote:
Fallout is a post-nuclear adventure board game for one to four players. Based on the hit video game series by Bethesda, each Fallout scenario is inspired by a familiar story from the franchise. Survivors begin the game on the edge of an unexplored landscape, uncertain of what awaits them in this unfamiliar world. With just one objective to guide them from the very beginning, each player must explore the hidden map, fight ferocious enemies, and build the skills of their survivor as they attempt to complete challenging quests and balance feuding factions within the game.

As they advance their survivors' stories, players come across new quests and individual targets, leading them to gain influence. Who comes out ahead depends on how keenly and aggressively each player ventures through the game; however, if a single faction is pushed to power too quickly, the wasteland will be taken for their own, and the survivors conquered along with it.

The game announcement from FFG has more details on the set-up and how gameplay unfolds in this 120-180 minute game. You start the game with a single Influence card and will likely acquire more during play, with these Influence cards providing points based on how you meet the goals listed on them or how well one in-game faction does against the other one. Each scenario has two factions, representing the opposing poles of "Security" and "Freedom", and while you're mostly functioning on your own, you probably want to align yourself with other players and one of these factions to have a larger impact on the game.

Each scenario has distinctive landmarks — e.g., The Capital Wasteland, The Pitt, The Commonwealth, and Far Harbor — but otherwise the map is variable, with players exploring the terrain and (ideally) avoiding radiation to uncover equipment and do whatever it is they want to do to gain influence.

FFG lists a release date of Q4 2017 for Fallout, but perhaps the game will be on a few demo tables at Gen Con to give attendees a first-hand taste of how the game plays out.

(Note that this is the second Fallout title due for release this year as in April 2017 UK publisher Modiphius Entertainment announced the Nov. 2017 release of Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, a minis-heavy design from James Sheahan. Modiphius has confirmed that title as being available for demos during Gen Con 50, so perhaps we'll have head-to-head Fallout fever to see which games best survives the fire and fury of fans.)
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Wed Aug 9, 2017 3:16 pm
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New Game Round-up: After Centuries, A Golem Emerges Through the Desert

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• With Gen Con 50 opening in just over a week, publishers are flooding out game announcements — or teasers of game announcements — ahead of that show. Plan B Games, for example, has revealed that it will sell Emerson Matsuuchi's Century: Golem Edition at that show, with the first fifty people who show up at the Plan B Games booth on Thursday and say, "I came for the golems!" getting a copy for free. (Everyone who says, "I came for the golems!" after that will receive only a funny look and a request for $40.)

Mike Young from Plan B Games has stated that currently this edition is planned as a one-off, so don't expect to see all three titles of the Century trilogy in this golem-filled universe. (At Spielwarenmesse in early 2017, Plan B's Sophie Gravel had told me that all the artwork for the golem edition of what was originally Caravan had been completed, which makes this edition relatively easy to produce. Creating all new artwork for two additional games would be another matter.) Plan B Games has also stated that Century: Golem Edition and a matching playmat for the game would be sold only via its webstore and at conventions.

• In March 2016, Fantasy Flight Games announced the debut of Windrider Games, an internal studio that would publish non-FFG-style games to which FFG held the rights. Windrider Games released new versions of Ra and Citadels in 2016, then FFG owner Asmodee bought Z-Man Games and Windrider Games became redundant since the Z-Man Games brand has been around for more than a decade and already publishes titles similar to those released by Windrider.

Thus, it should not be a surprise that when a reprint of Reiner Knizia's Through the Desert was (finally!) announced after being out of print for years, the announcement came from Z-Man Games, which has adopted the "Euro Classics" brand from FFG and Windrider.

Through the Desert is an exceptional game, one in which 2-5 players take turns placing two camels on the board to extend their caravans, with caravan lines never crossing and with lines of the same color never even touching since no one would be able to tell who owns which camels. You want to claim watering holes, reach oases, and create a camel fence to claim land for yourself. This new version of Through the Desert has a double-sided game board with the Niger River running across the Sahara on the new side; players naturally want to cross the river to claim water, but there isn't room for everyone. New gameplay variants are also included in this version.

As for a release date, Z-Man Games writes only "arriving soon", so perhaps this game will show up at Gen Con without announcement, just as FFG's new version of the "Euro Classic" Samurai (also from Knizia) did at Gen Con 2015.

Days of Wonder will have copies of Alan R. Moon's Ticket to Ride: Germany on sale at Gen Con 50 ahead of the game's scheduled U.S. release date of September 2017. (BGG will have Moon in its booth on Friday, Aug. 18 at 17:45 EDT (GMT-4) to chat about game design on camera. I plan to publish our Gen Con 50 broadcast schedule on Wed., Aug. 9 since it's now mostly complete.)

Days of Wonder will also have copies of Five Tribes: Whims of the Sultan and Quadropolis: Public Services for sale.

Vice Games will have published copies of Bruno Faidutti's Kamasutra, which was previously available only as a print-and-play game. In the game, teammates reproduce positions in the Kama Sutra while trying to pop a balloon placed between themselves. I don't expect to see this game demoed much during exhibit hall hours, but in the evening...absolutely. Vice Games will be located in the back of the Japanime Games booth, presumably behind a black velvet curtain.

• In late July 2017, I shared this teaser image from Pandasaurus Games, an image related to a game due out at SPIEL '17 that will be demoed at Gen Con 50:



That game is named Coaster Park, with Scott Almes being the designer and Kwanchai Moriya and Peter Wocken supplying the art and graphic design. The only description we have right now is that "Coaster Park is a board game", but if you look at the image and put two and two together, you might guess that in the game you'll put two and two together.
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Tue Aug 8, 2017 4:05 pm
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Latin American New Game Round-up: Thirsty Mages, Bustling Beaches and Exploding Potatoes

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As my previous round-up was received somewhat well, here's the promised sequel:

[Editor's note: Hilko submitted this article in mid-May 2017, and somehow I have neglected to publish it until now. My apologies to him — and you — for the delay! —WEM]

Argentina

The third "Geek Out!" Festival was celebrated in Buenos Aires in early May 2017, and from what I read, it seems to have been great. Anyone who has ever organized a con like this will probably know that 2,400 people the third time around is a huge success, especially when they are the first in their country trying something like this. I assume that many people who were there are looking forward to the 2018 event already.

For the second time, the King Alfonso Award was handed out. The winner was Conejos en el Huerto ("Rabbits in the Orchard") by Luis Fernando Marcantoni, published by Ruibal Hermanos S.A. Congratulations! At the same time, the game also won "Best overall presentation". (Gotta love the letter "J" in the title. Congratulations to artist Celeste Barone as well.) I am curious whether we will hear from the rabbits outside of Argentina in the future. Co-finalist Mutant Crops has an upcoming English edition already.

In the small print run category, the winner was Star Warships by Gabriel Isaac Jalil. Again: Congratulations.




A candidate for next year's award scheduled for release in July is Magos & Tabernas ("Mages & Taverns") by Adrián Novell. Three thirsty mages enter a pub which has only one beer left. Unsurprisingly, fireballs start flying. Players are working their way towards said beer by removing obstacles in the way. Why can't there be a good brewing spell instead?




This isn't final artwork, but taken from this thread.

Brazil

Brazil seems to have the largest gaming and publishing scene in Latin America by far – that's not too surprising, I guess. I have a feeling that I am still just scratching at the surface, but I am planning to explore more of it and am always happy to discover new things.

Still rather new on the board game scene is publisher Redbox from Rio de Janeiro. After a couple of fairly successful RPG publications, they started localizing foreign publications and are publishing four Brazilian games in 2017:

In the short economic card game Tsukiji by Leandro Pires, you are a fish trader and try to manipulate the Tokyo fish market prices in a way that lets you earn more money than the other traders.




Labyrinx by Daniel Braga and Thiago Matos just completed its crowdfunding campaign. As the name suggests, you move through a labyrinth. The labyrinth is created from cards during the game, and you have to make sure to remember your way home as there is a "fog of war" mechanism that obscures most of the labyrinth. While you are trying to remember which way was out, you collect treasure, dodge traps, and mess with the other players.




Micropolis by Rodrigo Rego is a tile-laying game with rhombic tiles. All players try to expand a city by adding houses, parks, factories, and so on. When placing certain special buildings into the city, you can add influence markers on them. The goal is to be the first player to place all your influence in the city.




Copacabana is also by Rodrigo Rego. At the beginning of the 20th century, players transform the sleepy beach into the mixture of glamour and chaos it is known as today. Achieve this by placing tiles and getting into the most valuable streets to build the most valuable buildings.




In April 2017 I had mentioned Space Cantina by Fel Barros and Warny Marçano. Fel Barros now works for CMON Limited, which in the first half of 2017 released a new edition of Gekido: Bot Battles, a game that he designed together with Romulo Marques and that was first published in 2014. With the new edition, this should become a lot more available outside Brazil. Gekido is a dice roller in which robots smash each other in an arena.




Pablo by Marcos Mayora is one of those rather unusual games, it seems. There are 140 cards with words and categories (in various difficulty levels). Some you hold in your hand, some are on the table. One player starts to sing any song and tries to insert as many words or categories from their cards as possible, for which they get points according to the difficulty. When someone else has a card which might fit the current song, they can start to sing along and push in their own words. You can also throw tomatoes (in the form of cardboard counters) if someone sings wrongly. For an impression of how such a game works, you can see it in Portuguese below. (Jump to 6:17 for the Pablo demonstration):




Pablo is published by Mandala Jogos, and there are promo packs for different musical styles. It was named after a Brazilian music show of the 1980s and sounds like one of those games that gets you kicked out of your apartment if you play it too often.




Colombia

Colombian publisher Azahar Juegos released the well-noticed game Xanadú in 2012, with Quined Games re-releasing it three years later. Now there are two new games by Azahar:

FocusX by Guillermo Solano is a card game in which you try to find matching characteristics between three cards. (There are animal categories, numbers and colors.) You can play it by speed or more quietly, and according to the publisher, it is suitable for players aged five and up.




Hot-Pota-toH! is from Xanadú designer Javier Velásquez. A stack of cards makes the rounds, and you either have to draw a card from this stack or play a card. While doing this, you try to get certain cards and avoid drawing the exploding potato. While this description might sound similar to Exploding Kittens, Hot-Pota-toH! has no player elimination; instead a round ends when someone explodes and everyone else then counts their points. Therefore there is a motivation to either take a risk and draw cards, or sacrifice expensive cards to avoid losing everything.


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Sun Aug 6, 2017 1:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: Students Make Calls in Zendo and Bricks Make Walls in Amun-Re While Night Falls in Dominion: Nocturne

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• U.S. publisher Looney Labs has been working on a new version of Kory Heath's well-loved and long out of print Zendo, and now the company has finally spilled the beans on the new edition. What's more, it's already going into production, with a mold for the pieces having been approved and the finished item expected to appear on retail shelves in late 2017 or early 2018.

Wait, a mold? Doesn't Zendo use the familiar pyramid pieces that you can now find in abundance in Pyramid Arcade and other Looney releases? Yes and no — the pyramids are one of three shapes of pieces to be included in Zendo, with the other two being a rectangular prism and a triangular prism.

What is Zendo anyway? A tool for teaching the scientific method, according to designer Nick Bentley, in addition to being a game in its own right. One player, the Master, creates a rule, then presents all of the Students with one arrangement of pieces that follows this rule and another arrangement that doesn't. The Students must create arrangements of their own, which the Master then labels as following the rule or not. If a Student attempts to guess the rule, the Master can build a counterexample that demonstrates why that guessed rule is not correct or congratulate the Student on winning.

I believe that Looney Labs will be demoing this new version of Zendo at Gen Con 50 in late August 2017. The publisher is also asking interested parties to complete a survey about this new version of Zendo should you care to share your opinion.




Donald X. Vaccarino and Rio Grande Games have sprung another addition to the Dominion empire on gamers: Dominion: Nocturne, which RGG expects to release in October 2017. As usual, Donald X. kills it on the exposition:

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You've always been a night person; lately you've even considered becoming a vampire. There are a lot of advantages: you don't age; you don't have to see yourself in mirrors anymore; if someone asks you to do something, you can just turn into a bat, and then say, sorry, I'm a bat. There are probably some downsides though. You always think of the statue in the town square that came to life and now works as the tavern barmaid. The pedestal came to life, too, so she has to hop around. The village blacksmith turns into a wolf whenever there's a full moon; when there's a crescent moon, he turns into a chihuahua. That's how this stuff goes sometimes. Still, when you breathe in the night air, you feel ready for anything.

Dominion: Nocturne, the 11th expansion to Dominion, has 500 cards, with 33 new Kingdom cards. There are Night cards, which are played after the Buy phase; Heirlooms that replace starting Coppers; Fate and Doom cards that give out Boons and Hexes; and a variety of extra cards that other cards can provide.

• At SPIEL '17 in October, French publisher Super Meeple — which released a new version of Reiner Knizia's Amun-Re in 2016 — will debut Amun-Re: The Card Game, about which I know nothing more than these facts for now. Look, a picture!



• Other pictures of forthcoming releases include these shots of Pioneers, an Emanuele Ornella title coming from Queen Games at SPIEL '17 about which I also know nothing:




• And there's this beauty shot of another Queen Games title for SPIEL '17: Merlin, designed by Stefan Feld and Michael Rieneck:

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For Late 2017, AMIGO Spiel Prepares Greed, Druids, Beans, Fish, and More Fish

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German publisher AMIGO Spiel has unveiled its line-up for the second half of 2017, and as you might expect if you are familiar with the company, many of the new titles are pocket-sized card games, such as Gier from Alexander Pfister, a 2-5 player game in which you must steal cards from others in order to win. An overview:

Quote:
In Gier ("Greed"), players steal cards from one another to build their own collection, and once you start clawing at others' goods, it's hard to stop — but whoever wants too much will go home empty-handed.

At the start of player, each player takes one crook card and seven number cards, with the number cards being dealt face down from the deck. Players will build up a personal collection turn by turn, with these collected cards being face up.

On a player's turn, they play a card from their hand into their collection, then they're allowed to go on a card raid. They choose an opponent, then draw a card from their hand and place it face up on the table. They can stop and keep that card, or they can draw again from the same player; if two stolen cards have the same number, then the player's turn ends, and the cards return to the victim's hands. If the active player has drawn a crook (and stopped voluntarily), they can take a card of their choice from the opponent's collection.

Some cards have a special action on them that takes effect as soon as they're drawn from someone's hand, such as looking at an opponent's hand or placing cards from the deck into a collection.

Whoever first collects six cards of the same value wins!



• The trick-taking card game Druids comes from the design team of Günter Burkhardt and Wolfgang A. Lehmann, previously responsible for the delightful trick-taking game Potato Man. AMIGO bills Druids as the fifth title in its Wizard-series of games, a series that seems connected mostly by art from Franz Vohwinkel in addition to their shared use of trick-taking. As in Potato Man, players in Druids need to keep an eye on which colored cards have been played during a round:

Quote:
Knowledge is power, but with power must come control. In Druids, the novices of the Stonehenge Academy must collect experience points in various knowledge domains, but you don't want knowledge from just any domain because if you enter a domain not intended for you, then you lose all knowledge previously gained that round.

In more detail, each player is dealt a hand of cards, with the deck containing cards in five colors, numbered 1-12 in each color. Players then play a trick-taking game, and whoever wins a trick must place the cards sorted by domain (color) in front of themselves; if they receive multiple cards of a color in the same trick, the lowest-valued card must be placed on top. The tricks continue until either all cards have been played or one player collects cards in all five colors. In this latter case, that player receives negative points for what they've collected while everyone else scores positively for their topmost card in each color. (If all the cards have been played, then all players score.) Whoever has the most points after five complete rounds wins!

In addition to the regular cards, Druids contains special cards that allow a player to avoid an unwanted trick or remove cards of one color from a player's holdings.



• The components and game board in Haim Shafir's Memo Dice give off a Liar's Dice vibe, but the two games actually have nothing in common once you get past the exterior. Here's how this game works:

Quote:
Memo Dice demands the full attention of players right from the start because they must remember which die faces have been hidden underneath the colorful cups.

The game includes nine six-sided dice that show 54 images across their faces with the sides being colored black, blue, or red. The starting player for the round rolls a die, gives everyone a chance to memorize the topmost face, then covers it with a die cup that matches the color of the face. The next player then rolls a die, and so on. As soon as no die cup remains that matches the face of the current die, the current player covers this die with the gold die cup, ending the round.

This player then has the first chance to guess the first die in the line. If correct, the player scores 1 point, then guesses the next die; if wrong, the next player gets to guess. Whoever guesses the die under the gold die cup scores 2 points. Players play multiple rounds until someone reaches a total of 20 points, winning the game.



Reiner Knizia's Schollen Rollen is a press-your-luck dice game for 2-6 players that is possibly already in the database under another name as Dr. K has designed many such games in the past, but I looked various titles over and didn't spot anything that matches exactly, so here goes:

Quote:
In Schollen Rollen ("Stolen Rolls"), players take turns rolling dice to capture different colored fish from a central pool in their net, with yellow fish being worth 1 point and red fish 5.

On a turn, the player rolls the dice, then may collect a fish for each die rolled. Special effects on the die faces may augment what happens, with the player possibly doubling (or quadrupling or even octupling!) how many fish they collect, perhaps stealing fish from an opponent's net, or locking the dice from being re-rolled. After each roll, the player may choose to end their turn and keep their catch, or re-roll the available dice in an attempt to catch more. However, if you roll and don't catch anything, all the fish escape your net and your turn ends.

Once all the fish have been caught, the game ends and whoever has the most points wins!




• Other titles coming from AMIGO Spiel in the latter half of 2017 include German editions (or new German editions) of previously released games:

Paaranoia: This new German edition of Pairs from James Ernest and Paul Peterson includes the original game as well as four other games that can be played with the same deck, a deck that contains one 1, two 2s, etc. up to ten 10s.

Sam Bukas Bande: This is a German edition of Tomohiro Enoki's Dungeon Busters, a game in which 3-5 players attempt to take down monsters by pooling their strength. Unfortunately those who play the same number get removed from play, possibly foiling the attack and punishing the person who played a low number and therefore didn't help much toward victory.

Schöne Sch#!?e: Thorsten Gimmler's No Thanks! receives a new German title to replace the Geschenkt of old.

Ladybohn: Manche mögen's heiss! ("Some like it hot!"): On its ten-year anniversary, this standalone edition of Ladybohn from Uwe Rosenberg gets a new cover and no other apparent changes.

• The final title in this round-up is another reprint, but of an obscure Alex Randolph game that was released in 1993. Here's an overview of Tief im Riff, which is for 2-6 players, ages five and up:

Quote:
In Tief im Riff ("Deep in the Reef"), players work cooperatively as fish swimming through a coral reef to turn over 28 sea animal tiles placed around the game board. The fish start in one location, then travel through a series of paths — following the arrows as they move — to reach openings in the reef.

On a player's turn, they roll a die, then choose one of the four fish and move it along paths a number of spaces equal to the number rolled. After they finish moving, if they're on a space all by themselves, they can reveal a tile that has only one bubble on it. If they share a space with other fish, they can reveal a tile with as many bubbles as the number of fish on that space. Thus, players need to keep their school from wandering too far apart as they travel through the reef.

If the players manage to reveal all 28 tiles before all four fish have swum out of the reef, then they win!

The interesting thing about this new edition is that the original game from Herder Spiele was titled Der Rattenfänger von Hameln — literally "The Ratcatcher from Hamelin", although the English title on the box is The Pied Piper of Hamlin. This game differs from the new one in two ways. First, in Tief im Riff you can reveal certain tiles only if you gather enough fish in a clearing, whereas in Der Rattenfänger von Hameln you placed fifty tokens on the side of the board and you removed a number of tokens from the pile equal to the number of player pieces in the space where you stopped moving.

Second, the tokens in Der Rattenfänger von Hameln represented kidnapped children, so if you failed to win the game, some number of children would never go free. How's that for a burden on young players?

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Thu Aug 3, 2017 5:04 am
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New Game Round-up: Queendomino to Reign at SPIEL '17, and Is Friese Finished?

W. Eric Martin
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• I've already written about three forthcoming titles from Friedemann Friese due out from his 2F-Spiele at SPIEL '17 in October — FLEE, FEAR, and FORTRESS — but believe it or not, he still has more in the works for release in 2017!

Finished! is a solitaire game in which you're trying to finish your work so that you can go home. Be sure to bring the game to the office and play endlessly so that you're fired and really can go home. Victory! (Sort of.) Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
It is a typical day at work. Your working schedule is chaotic as always and it‘s time to focus on the task at hand. Start sorting files and do not fall asleep. If you require a jolt of caffeine or rush of sugar, there is a limited supply of coffee and a small stash of sweets to help complete your tasks and get finished!

You start Finished! with a shuffled deck of 48 cards and try to sort these cards by cycling through the draw stack during eight rounds. You may sort cards only in your "present" area, but helpful actions will let you manipulate your cards in many different ways. If you sort all cards starting from card 00:01 up to card 00:48, you win the game! If this is too easy for you, the game offers four difficulty levels.

I played Finished! once in prototype form and can provide a bit more detail, while noting that the design might have changed in the meantime. You're kind of reliving the same day over and over again, Groundhog Day-style, but to make it stop you must sort all the cards in the deck into their proper order. You're presented with a few cards at a time in your "'present' area", while other cards lie in the "past" and still others might lie in the "future". Some of the card actions allow you to manipulate time (as it were) to move cards into different zones, and you can rearrange the order of cards only in the present, if I remember correctly. You can draw additional cards and hide things, spending candy all the while and possibly getting more to keep you working on a sugar high and therefore able to do more things than you might otherwise.

• The other two titles coming from 2F-Spiele (and its publishing partners such as Stronghold Games) are expansions. Fabled Fruit: The Lime Expansion adds twenty new locations to the game, along with gambling tokens and "the mysterious camouflage coat". How did this game not have limes in it already? And how I did I miss that omission in 2016?!

Power Grid: Fabled Expansion spreads Friese's Fable Game system to Power Grid and Power Grid deluxe, with players getting two presorted Fable Decks that allow them to play campaigns of three consecutive games on any of the base game maps. In each game, players reveal Fable Cards as their conditions are met, and these cards add new rules to the gameplay.

• Two other SPIEL '17 releases that have been recently revealed come from the European branch of Blue Orange, with one of them coming from the Danish design team of Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen, with Panic Mansion seemingly pitting 2-4 players against a three-dimensional mansion stand-in. To explain:

Quote:
The mansion up the hill has always had a reputation…of being cursed. After dark, villagers keep seeing strange things moving behind the windows as the house seems to be "tilting" and "rocking". It is said that the only way to break the mansion's curse would be to gather in one specific room some of the ghoulish ghosts, wandering eyes, slithering snakes, crawling spiders, and other objects that have been inhabiting its dusty walls. Will you be the first to break the curse…and flee the mansion?

To win Panic Mansion, you must be the first to complete five challenges by gently tilting and shaking the box to place the correct objects into one room, following the information on the cards.

• The other Blue Orange title has been mentioned a few times in passing. Having won the 2017 Spiel des Jahres award with Kingdomino, for October 2017 designer Bruno Cathala will release Queendomino, which serves as both a standalone game and an expansion. Some details:

Quote:
Build up the most prestigious kingdom by claiming wheat fields, forests, lakes, grazing grounds, marshes, and mountains. Your knights will bring you riches in the form of coins — and if you make sure to expand the towns on your lands, you will make new buildings appear, giving you opportunities for new strategies. You may win the Queen's favors ... but always be aware of the dragon!

Queendomino is a game completely independent from Kingdomino, while offering a choice of more complex challenges. Two to four players can play Queendomino independently, but also in connection with Kingdomino, allowing for games with 7x7 grids for four players, or for up to six players if you stick to 5x5 grids.

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Mon Jul 31, 2017 5:39 am
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Game Preview: Sonar, or Battleship for a Brand New Era

W. Eric Martin
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In 2016, as part of an effort to introduce exclusive new games for its customers, the U.S. retail chain Target partnered with Days of Wonder and its owner Asmodee to produce Ticket to Ride: First Journey, which aimed to give players as young as six something akin to a Ticket to Ride experience. While the games share the same core — collect cards to place trains on tracks between cities — they play out quite differently, with First Journey being a race game that ends in 10-15 minutes while Ticket to Ride is a (relatively) more involved points game in which players have more time to deduce what others are doing and block them or can shoot for the moon by drawing tons of tickets and hoping to luck into completed routes.

For 2017, Target has another such simplification heading to its shelves, but the tricky thing is that while the rules for this new game are simplified, the gameplay itself is not. Sonar from Roberto Fraga, Yohan Lemonnier, and Matagot is a new take on their Captain Sonar, which debuted in 2016. Both games function as a more advanced version of ye olde Battleship, a game already known by millions. In Captain Sonar, which can be played with teams of up to four players, you attempt to be the first to cause four points of damage to the opposing submarine; in Sonar, which is for 2-4 players and therefore limited to teams of two, you need to damage the opposing sub only twice. Here's a rundown of Sonar in detail:

Quote:
Time for an underwater game of cat-and-mouse, with each of the two teams in '''''Sonar''''' competing to be the first to deal two points of damage to the other. Do that, and you win the game instantly.

In detail, ''Sonar'' includes four pairs of maps, and each team takes the same maps in their color. A team can be one or two players, and with two players on a team, each player takes a different role: Captain or Radio Operator. (A one--person team handles both roles.) A divider separates the teams, and each Captain marks their starting location on the map.

On a turn, the Captain calls out an action, typically moving their sub one space north, south, east, or west. When they do this, they call out a direction, mark their new location, and add one energy to their ship's register. The Radio Operator on the other team notes the movement of this sub on a plastic sheet, and through deduction and trial-and-error tries to determine exactly where the opposing sub might be on the map.




Quote:
Instead of a moving, a Captain can also:

• Use sonar: Erase two energy from your register; the opposing team must reveal their row or column.
• Go silent: Erase three energy from your register; move your sub, but don't gain energy and don't tell the opponents which direction you're moving.
• Fire a torpedo: Erase four energy from your register; call out coordinates in your quadrant (e.g., F6); if the opponents are on that space, they take a point of damage.
• Surface: Announce your location to the opposing team, then erase your previous path on your map; you can't cross your own path during the game, so sometimes you need to surface in order not to box yourself in.

You can have at most four energy in reserve, so you need to manage movement and the other actions carefully so that you'll be able to fire at the opponents once you know where they are — ideally without being torpedoed in response!

If you've played Captain Sonar, you can recognize this game immediately; it's the same, yet not. The two boring roles — First Mate and Engineer — have been removed, which is a good idea as I'd never recommend someone learn Captain Sonar in those roles anyway. Being Engineer is like being the dad in a group of kids who's always telling them "No": "No, you can't go play in the river." "No, you can't throw rocks at that propane tank." You're just a bummer, bringing everyone else down with what they can't do and only occasionally allowing them to do stuff that feels natural. "Okay, fine, now you can launch a torpedo at the bad guys. Are you satisfied?!"

With Sonar, the game is focused solely on moving and hunting. You've lost a few of the special abilities in the original game, but you've gained a trickier timing conundrum. After all, once you use sonar to gain information about the opposing team (or clarify what you already suspect), you're down at least two energy and must move at least twice to get back to full torpedo strength. Will those extra turns help you nail down exactly where the enemy is located, or will it allow them to sneak into an adjacent quadrant, thereby putting them out of range.

Sonar has lots of little changes that make the game easier to learn (and teach!), but that doesn't mean the gameplay itself is easier. Torpedoes now require a direct hit to deal damage instead of doing two points of damage on a direct hit and one point when landing on an adjacent space. The sonar ability gives you one piece of information (out of two) instead of two (out of three); yes, one of those intel bits was a lie in Captain Sonar, but sometimes that detail still helped you.

In the end, you have two games — Captain Sonar and Sonar — that seem like mirror images of one another. It's not Bizarroworld weird, mind you, but more like Earth A and Earth B versions of the same game design that was developed down different paths. I appreciate the efforts created to simplify Captain Sonar for a more casual audience and look forward to more such experiments in the future!

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Mon Jul 24, 2017 4:00 pm
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Friese Facilitates Fast Forward Franchise Featuring Flee, Fear & Fortress

W. Eric Martin
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If I've learned one thing about designer Friedemann Friese, who publishes his designs under the 2F-Spiele label in Germany, it's that he loves to experiment with game design simply to see what's possible. You can see this experimental nature in a GeekList he created to detail the origins of some of his games (a list unfortunately not updated since 2011). Foppen came about from thinking about trick-taking games and the notion of someone losing their ability to play each round. Fische Fluppen Frikadellen was born from the notion of having people play multiple games at the same time on different tables. A children's flip book in which you assemble a creature with mismatched head, body, and feet provided inspiration for what became 504, which meshes rule segments from different types of games into a single game.

In 2016, he released Fabled Fruit, which functions akin to a legacy game in that new elements are added to play over successive games, with players saving their place after each game — using a bookmark, as it were — in order to start with the "right" set of cards next time. You have lots of individual games which last only twenty minutes that collectively form the larger game of Fabled Fruit, which Friese dubbed an example of a "Fable Game" — that is, a game that changes over multiple playings, but one that you can reset at any time in order to start over with a different group or just explore again.

Now for 2017, he's gone even farther with the Fable Game system, introducing three new titles that will debut at SPIEL 2017 in October under the label "Fast Forward". These games are all Fable Games in that they start with an ordered deck of cards, with which you'll play multiple games — saving your position when you stop should you want to start in the same place next time, while also having the option of starting over from scratch — but beyond that, Friese has embedded the rules within the deck itself. You read nothing prior to play other than perhaps an instructional card that tells you not to shuffle the deck. You place the deck on the table, read the top card, and begin.




Fast Forward title #1 is FEAR, which is for 2-5 players and plays in 15 minutes. The description on the BGG page is brief: "Do you fear ghosts? Or are you confronting the danger and scaring your opponents? FEAR is a fast-paced and straightforward hand management game of tension-filled ghost chasing."

Thankfully I played the game in prototype form, so I can fill in a few more details. (Please note that all of the games described in this post might have changed since I played them.) Your goal in FEAR is twofold:

1: Don't make the total of cards in the middle go over a certain number because if you do, you lose the game.
2: If you didn't lose, have the highest total of cards in your hand because then you win!

On a turn (at least initially), you either draw a card from the deck or play a card to the center of the table. If you have three cards in hand, then you must play something. Gameplay is super simple, and the turns fly by. When someone loses, their cards are removed from play, then all of the other cards are shuffled and placed on top of the deck. Thus, you shrink the deck by a few cards each game, which means you'll start digging into new cards as each game progresses — and as you dig, you discover new cards with different numbers and (more importantly) new rules! When you uncover a rule, you read the card, set it aside, and the rule immediately takes effect, both for the current game and any subsequent games — until that rule is replaced, as might be the case.




I don't want to detail any rules, partly because I don't want to spoil the fun and partly because I played the game three months ago and might misremember things. If you've played games — and you probably have — then you can likely imagine what some of those rules (and numbers and effects) might be.

I played FEAR twelve times in a row at a convention with designer Joe Huber and 2F-Spiele's Henning Kröpke, and I loved every minute of it. I already dig playing short games multiple times in succession to see how gameplay evolves as players learn how to play better and how to react to opponents, but now the game was changing as well. It was like rearranging the furniture in a room that spontaneously changed in size, then grew new windows. And if I recall correctly, Kröpke said that after you finished the deck, you could keep all the existing rules in play, shuffle only the number cards, then play the game that way.

Ta-dah! A new way of learning how to play a game, something perhaps akin to placing a video game in a console, then mashing buttons to figure out what you're doing on the fly. I've often said that the need to learn rules is the biggest obstacle to people playing games. You, that person out there reading BGG, are probably comfortable reading rulebooks and teaching others how to play a game, but much of the general public hates doing that, which is why retreads of old games continue to dominate mainstream retail shelves year after year. People want to grab something they're pretty sure they already know how to play, so they grab a spinoff, figure out what's new this time, then start playing. FEAR and the other Fast Forward title try to short-circuit that nervousness about learning rules by giving them to you one card at a time.

Whether that nature of these games is transmitted clearly on the box — and therefore to potential players — is unclear at this time, but that's my hope. Why? Because I want more people to play games. Why? Many reasons, but mostly because it increases the odds of me finding others to join me in a game.




FORTRESS is title #2 in the Fast Forward series, and this 15-minute game for 2-4 players is "about taking risks and out-witting and bluffing your friends to become the dominate ruler of the kingdom", and (initially) you become dominant by possessing the lone fortress.

Each game, you build a hand of cards, and (if I recall correctly) on a turn you either draw a card or attempt to claim the fortress by playing one or more cards onto the table. If no one owns the fortress, then it's yours and those cards represent your strength; if you're attempting to take it away from someone else, they look at your cards and either hand over the castle (which is occupied by your cards) or shake their head disdainfully, keeping one of your cards as their prize. You've now gained information about what's in the fortress, but can you make use of that info before the round ends?

As with FEAR, some cards are removed from play each game in FORTRESS, which therefore introduces new cards and new rules, which again I'll leave you to guess. You can probably guess the obvious first twist, but what next? I played FORTRESS a few times before being stopped by dinner plans, and the game is partly about reading others (a skill that eludes me) and partly about the luck of the draw and partly about throwing yourself at targets because that's the only way to score in the end. Take chances! Take action!




FLEE differs from the first two Fast Forward titles in that it's cooperative (for 1-4 players) and it bears a listed playing time of 75-90. This is not the time needed for a single game as those take only 5-15 minutes (based on my experience), but perhaps for the entire experience to come to a satisfactory conclusion. Here's the short description:

Quote:
"Quickly, we must flee!", you tell your companions. "THE MONSTER is almost upon us! Look to all sides for help as you never know where it will be!" Can your team survive long enough to finish all chapters of this exciting story?

FLEE is a cooperative game of escaping for ambitious puzzle solvers.

I played FLEE in less than ideal conditions, with Friedemann walking into a convention at far-too-late in the morning and asking whether I wanted to play a game. Instead of going to sleep as I should have, I gathered a couple of other people and we played. We lost, so we played again, then we lost — over and over again. Either we weren't thinking clearly, or the lateness was hitting us hard; I'm still not sure which is correct.

In FLEE, someone gets a monster card when you start going through the rules, then players take turns drawing cards and doing things and if the active player has the monster in front of them, then you all lose. Initially the choices are straightforward. I can play this card to make someone skip their turn, so clearly that's Paul with the monster card — but things quickly start getting tricky, with cards that move things and reverse turn order and much more, with all of you continually trying to figure how to keep that monster out of the spotlight. The description mentions multiple chapters in the game, but we never made it past chapter 1, so I can restart this game anew once it becomes available in October 2017, with each of these three games being released in English, German, Dutch, French, and Spanish. How fortunate!
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Sat Jul 22, 2017 1:05 pm
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Two Robotech Board Games Prepare for Launch in 2018

W. Eric Martin
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Strange Machine Games was founded in 2011 as a publisher of role-playing games and print-on-demand items, launching with the crowdfunded RPG Age Past.

Today at San Diego Comic Con, SMG announced that in partnership with Harmony Gold, it will release two Robotech board games in 2018. On the smaller side is the dice-based Robotech: Ace Pilot from SMG's Jeff Mechlinski, a 2-4 player game that bears this short description:

Quote:
The Zentraedi are attacking! Quick, grab the nearest crew member and destroy the enemy. Using luck and skill, you can become the SDF-1's ace pilot.

Robotech: Ace Pilot is a small area, fast-playing, competitive dice-based game. The game takes minutes to learn and can be played almost anywhere. Your favorite Robotech heroes help you destroy the Zentraedi Threat!




The other game is a much larger design, a cooperative game for 1-6 players that's titled Robotech: Attack on the SDF-1, with Mechlinski and SMG's Darius Hambleton handling the design, which works like this:

Quote:
In Robotech: Attack on the SDF-1, you play heroic characters of the venerable Super Dimension Fortress One, also known as the SDF-1. Players are thrown on a chaotic path as alien forces, known as the Zentraedi, attack without warning. You must defend the SDF-1 against continuous waves of Zentraedi attacks, unexpected disasters, and treachery. As a hero, you are forced to battle vicious enemies, repair damage, and manage resources. Tough decisions and sacrifices are required for you to reach home safely.

If the Heroes can keep the SDF-1 from being captured by the Zentraedi and make it to the end of the Scenario, they win. Beware as there are many ways to lose, and the Zentraedi will not give up...

SMG will be demoing both titles at Gen Con 2017 in the Indie Game Developer Network booth (#2437), so check them out during that show or watch for more details from those who have.


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Fri Jul 21, 2017 6:18 pm
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