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Manage Railroads in Wyoming and Explore New Dual Gauge, Age of Steam, and Maglev Metro Maps

Candice Harris
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Trains and stock markets have been on my mind a lot lately. I've been hooked on Amabel Holland's Dual Gauge, which is a stock-holding and route-building game for 3-5 players. Plus, I played an epic and enjoyable first game of Helmut Ohley and Leonhard Orgler's 1880: China (new Lookout Games edition), which was one of my most anticipated SPIEL '22 releases. So in the spirit of trains, allow me to share a few new and upcoming releases.

Board Game: Dual Gauge
• In mid-May 2023, Hollandspiele announced the release of Dual Gauge: Netherlands and Eastern U.S., the third expansion map pack for Dual Gauge, designed by Amabel Holland. If you're not familiar with Dual Gauge, it's a shared incentive train game system where you compete against other players building train routes, and operating and investing in train companies. It has 18xx-lite vibes, but feels unique and can be played in about 90 minutes. Each map for Dual Gauge varies up the core system in fresh and interesting ways, offering players a plethora of exciting new challenges.

Here's the publisher's description of what twists and turns you can expect in the new Netherlands and Eastern U.S. map pack:
Quote:
These maps introduce Star Dits, which function as normal dits for most purposes – they count as a stop but cannot be tokened – but are worth more money. Depending on the map, players may also have an additional incentive to hit these stops over others. Both maps also see players in a race to grab bonuses, which also serve as another game end trigger.

The Netherlands map seats up to five players and features a new gauge conversion step, allowing you to flip narrow track to its standard side. Of course, what it doesn't do is change your narrow trains. You'll need to plan your train purchases carefully, and beware of opponents who might use this tactic offensively.

That's if you have enough time, of course! The standout feature of this map is a race to complete certain Goals. Achieving one of the map's eight Goals will win you a disc. This can be traded in later, either to place a station or to buy a precious second share of stock in a single round.

The Eastern US map is for three to four, and is a bit subtler. Preprinted track segments provide awkward chokepoints to either work around or embrace. Company turn order isn't fixed, but shifts from round to round depending on company stock value. Increases in that value are gated – tied to your dividends, so you'll need to work for big routes while your rivals try to block you with aggressive token play.

At the western end of the maps, there are the destination cities of Detroit and Chicago, each containing a set of Bonus Discs. When a company ends a run there, their President claims a disc. At the end of game, you'll get a payout based on the number of discs you've claimed.
Board Game: Age of Steam
Dual Gauge isn't the only train game getting new maps. Eagle-Gryphon Games is crowdfunding the Age of Steam Deluxe Expansion Volume IV on Gamefound, which includes seven new expansion maps for Age of Steam. The Volume IV maps cover a wide range of player counts (2-6 players) and each map has its own unique feel.

The crowdfunding campaign also includes the Age of Steam Deluxe: Acrylic Tile Set, which features transparent acrylic tiles for both track placement and new city placement, which will allow you to see the board below each track tile to read the maps easier.

If that wasn't enough, there's also a Jamaica/Puerto Rico promo map expansion available too. Jamaica is a 2-player map expansion and Puerto Rico is a solo map expansion, both designed by Ted Alspach.

Board Game: Maglev Maps: Volume 1
• Speaking of Ted Alspach and map expansions for train games, Maglev Maps: Volume 1 is available at retailers after a successful Kickstarter campaign in May 2022. With Maglev Maps: Volume 1 you get a box set with three expansions for Maglev Metro (Moonbases & Mars, London & Paris, and Mechs & Monorails), and each features a double-sided map with different rules and mechanics from designers by Ted Alspach and Dale Yu and Bézier Games.

Board Game: Maglev Metro: Moonbases & Mars
Board Game: Maglev Metro: London & Paris
Board Game: Maglev Metro: Mechs & Monorails


• On the 18xx front, Mercury Games announced 1868: Wyoming in a May 2023 press release. 1868: Wyoming is an 18xx game for 3-6 players from designer John Harres, which integrates the coal and oil industry boom in Wyoming to add some fresh twists to traditional 18xx mechanisms.

Here's the scoop from the press release for 1868: Wyoming, which is due out in 2024:
Quote:
1868 takes players on a journey through the history of the railroads during the coal and oil industry boom in Wyoming. Headlined by the powerful Union Pacific, this territory was not only born thanks to the railroads, but also saw a large influx of people and industries looking to make their mark on the immense and rugged terrain.

Board Game: 1868: Wyoming
Original TraXX edition cover

1868: Wyoming is novel in that it depicts the coal and oil industry boom-and-bust cycle in a way that is different each play. Railroads must decide whether a new rail line makes sense given the development level of an area and the potential for total industry collapse. All the while the Union Pacific pushes further West seeking vital connections to maximize their revenue. Variable at-start Private Companies ensure that no one strategy can be employed with any guarantee of success.
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Fri May 26, 2023 7:00 am
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Start a New Acquisitions Incorporated Franchise, Defeat New Bosses, and Revisit the Infinity Engine

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Clank! Legacy 2: Acquisitions Incorporated – Darkest Magic
• One of the 2020 pandemic lockdown silver linings for me was playing through Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated with our neighbors. I always enjoyed Clank! and its push-your-luck, deck-building gameplay, especially early on as I discovered modern board games. Clank! Legacy resonated with me even more, so I'm very excited about its upcoming sequel, Clank! Legacy 2: Acquisitions Incorporated - Darkest Magic from designers Paul Dennen and Jay E. Treat, III, which Dire Wolf is crowdfunding on Kickstarter in May 2023 (KS link).

Clank! Legacy 2 is a legacy deck-building game for 2-4 players which continues the fun, engaging narratives and gameplay introduced in Clank! Legacy, but adds boss battles, co-operative scenarios, and new surprises to be explored.

Board Game: Astro Knights
• For another deck-building sequel on Kickstarter, be sure to check out Astro Knights: Eternity (KS link), from Indie Boards & Cards and designers Nick Little and Sydney Engelstein. Astro Knights: Eternity is a stand-alone expansion for Astro Knights, which re-implements the innovative deck-building mechanisms introduced in Aeon's End.

Here's the publisher's high-level description of this sci-fi, co-operative deck-building game for 1-4 players, which plays in 45 to 60 minutes:
Quote:
Many generations after the events of the original Astro Knights setting, a group of rag-tag intergalactic scrappers find great power and responsibility forced upon them! Astro Knights: Eternity is a stand-alone, cooperative deck-building game with several scenarios connected by a single, ongoing narrative.

Continuing the gameplay lineage of Aeon’s End, player decks are never shuffled in Astro Knights, with the collective goal of defeating that scenario’s Boss before it destroys that mission’s Homeworld, or all the players seeking to defend it.

Board Game: Astro Knights: Eternity

In addition to the familiar structure of the first Astro Knights game, players will be introduced to all-new mechanics throughout the narrative campaign, along with refreshed elements from the Aeon’s End series.

Can your team of unlikely heroes adjust their strategies to overcome the powerful and unpredictable enemies that threaten the stability of the galaxy?
Board Game: Shards of Infinity
• If deck-building is your jam, you should also keep an eye out for the Shards of Infinity: Saga Collection, which Stone Blade Entertainment announced is coming to Kickstarter in Summer 2023. Shards of Infinity is a sci-fi, deck-building game originally released in 2018 from Ascension Tactics: Inferno designers Gary Arant and Justin Gary, which has since been expanded with a slew of additional content and promo cards. The Shards of Infinity: Saga Collection is set to include all of the expansions and promo cards, as well as new features and mechanics, upgraded components, and more.

Board Game: The Pirate Republic
• Looking further into the future, Green Feet Games plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign in Q3 or Q4 2023 for The Pirate Republic: Africa Gambit, a pirate-themed, deck-building, sandbox adventure game designed by Tom Butler (Unforgiven: The Lincoln Assassination Trial) and Sam Hillier. The Pirate Republic: Africa Gambit is a reimplementation of Tom Butler's 2018 release The Pirate Republic, which plays with 1-5 players in 60 to 90 minutes.

Here's an overview from the publisher describing the setting and how the game works:
Quote:
Return to 1713, the dawn of the Golden Age of Piracy. After a decade of war, a rare peace comes to the Spanish Main. With thousands of demobilized sailors, pirating explodes in the West Indies and across the Atlantic.

One crew of pirates, calling themselves the Flying Gang, seek fame, fortune, and self-governance by building their own Republic free from the constraints of kings, queens, and imperialism. Will you work together to build the Pirate Republic? Or will you betray your brethren in pursuit of greater riches? The sea is your territory; anyone on or near it, your prey.

The Pirate Republic: Africa Gambit is a second edition to the original The Pirate Republic. It is a thematic deck building, sandbox adventure game for 1-5 players which also adds West Africa riches, new Pirates, the Portuguese, and a campaign mode into the mix. Set in the early 18th-century, each player is an infamous pirate captain weaving their own tale by performing daring feats and plundering on the high seas.

It's a time of conquest and the lure of riches, indomitable spirit and fat treasure galleons, pirate utopias and watery graves!

Are you ready to get your Pirate on?

Board Game: The Pirate Republic: Africa Gambit

How does it play?

You start with a deck of 12 cards, 2 of which are unique to your Pirate while 10 are shared. As you acquire cards and build your deck, your decisions will shape your Pirates’ personality.

Using your cards you will sail across the map, strike fear on enemies, recruit crew, attack, defend, form a pirate haven, sack forts, complete global missions, or build infamy (which lets you gain even stronger cards). Each turn you will draw a hand of cards and take actions with them. Once you are out of cards, play goes to the next Pirate, and this continues until everyone has exhausted their decks.

Individually you are amassing Swagger as quickly as you can while collectively completing the global missions. The game ends when the global mission (chosen by the players before the game begins) is completed Alternatively, whoever reaches 120 Swagger first is the winner.
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Fri May 12, 2023 7:00 am
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Pollinate Flowers, Attract Customers to Your Stalls, Make Glass in Venice, and More!

Candice Harris
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I recently attended a private gaming event where I was able to finally try a few games I've been wanting to play for a while such as Cerebria and Shakespeare, but I also had the opportunity to play some newer releases, upcoming releases, and even a few prototypes that were very promising and worth mentioning.

• I played a three-player game of Reiner Knizia's Pollen, which is a new 2023 release from Allplay, featuring gorgeous art by Beth Sobel. Pollen is reimplementation of the 2009 release Samurai: The Card Game, which Eric initially mentioned in October 2022.

In Pollen, 2-4 players place garden cards to create a beautiful, lush garden to attract pollinators (bees, butterflies, and beetles) and pollinate flowers for area majority scoring. When you connect to an opponent's garden card, you add a pollinator token to it, which will have one or more of the different pollinators on it. Then when the pollinator token is surrounded, area majority scoring is triggered and players are awarded pollinators they won the majority for. The gameplay is thinky like an excellent abstract strategy game, the components are lovely, and the table presence is stunning as the garden grows over the course of the game. I'm pretty sure this is the prettiest Reiner Knizia game I've ever played.

From gallery of candidrum

Board Game: Stationfall
• I backed Stationfall, but hadn't had the chance to play it, so I was pumped to jump into a game with two other new players and two experienced players. Stationfall is a 2023 release from Matt Eklund (Pax Transhumanity) and Ion Game Design. The premise is, you have this crazy mix of characters on a station that is going to be destroyed in 15 minutes (15 game rounds). The characters are asymmetric and have their own unique scoring conditions. Each player has a hidden role as one of the characters in play, but on your turn, you can take actions with any of the characters. You can move around the ship, picking up different items and interacting with special rooms, and knock out different characters. Your goal is to gain as many victory points as you can, while trying to deduce who your opponents' characters are so you can prevent them from scoring points.

I had a great time playing Stationfall. It was super fun and I can't wait to play it more. Whoever initially described it as a "party game for heavy gamers" was spot on.

From gallery of candidrum

• Speaking of heavy gamers, I got to play a secret new game designed by Dávid Turczi and Simone Luciani, which will be an exciting SPIEL '23 release from Board&Dice. I can't say much, but I think fans of Brass, Barrage, and Imperial Steam will dig it, as it shares some similar DNA, but plays differently. It also has some Concordia vibes, with action selection tiles instead of cards. I wasn't allowed to take photos, but I enjoyed it quite a bit and look forward to the official announcement in the coming months.

Board Game: Taiwan Night Market
• After becoming a fan of night markets on my recent trip to Asia, it was a pleasure to sit down and play Taiwan Night Market, a new auction game about building night market stalls and attracting customers, from designer Zong-Hua Yang and Tawain-based publisher Good Game Studio. Taiwan Night Market is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter (KS link) through May 5, 2023 and is targeted to deliver to backers in August 2023.

In Taiwan Night Market, 2-4 players are competing to earn the most money after a number of rounds based on the player count. Each round, players bid on different locations to build different types of stalls (food, drinks, dessert, or snacks), while customers who demand a particular type of stall are placed at different entry ways. As the customers flow in, they stop and buy from the first matching stall they hit on their path. Of course, there are certain things that can bend this rule, but either way, you're trying to attract as many customers as possible to your stalls so you can make the most money. I really enjoyed Taiwan Night Market and it felt like a lighter version of Food Chain Magnate in terms of positioning your stalls to respond to customer demand and gain a competitive edge on your opponents.

From gallery of candidrum
Prototype components

Glass of Venice is an upcoming, heavy release from Living Forest designer Aske Christiansen, featuring a triple rondel with a unique dice action activation system. At its core, you are gaining resources to fulfill recipes to make different types of glass, which you can sell to advance on one of three different tracks. You have basic recipes on your player board, but you can also gain and fulfill more advanced recipes, and when you do, you can tuck them into your player board to make the corresponding basic recipe more juicy, so there's some engine building to have fun with.

From gallery of candidrum
Main game board (prototype components)

Meanwhile, the triple rondel is divided into multiple pie slices, and each player has a foreman on each of the three layers. Each turn you move one of your foremen forward and perform the corresponding action. However, you must always keep all of your foremen within two pie slices of each other, so you have interesting decisions to make when you're figuring out which one to move and when to move them. After you move a foreman to pick an action, you determine the strength of the action based on your dice pool(s) and how the levels are set for each action on your player board.

At the start of each round, you'll roll all of your dice and leave them in the leftmost space towards the top of your player board. Then you'll slide a portion of them forward and perform the action corresponding to the foreman you moved. At the beginning of the game, the red block dividers are in the middle, so any actions shown at the bottom use dice values of 1, 2, and 3, and any actions at the top use dice values of 4, 5, and 6. Throughout the game you can adjust the position of the red blockers to make certain actions pull a different amount of dice, and you can also do things to manipulate the value of your dice.

From gallery of candidrum
Player board (prototype components)

For as busy as Glass of Venice looks, the actions seemed pretty straightforward. For example, there's an action to move your ships and sail around different parts of Venice, and then a different action to trigger the location where your ships are located and then bring the ships home. You can build buildings on different locations for various benefits. You can also take an action to rotate the wheel your resources are on, and add better perks around the resource wheel, which you'll gain when you spend resources.

There's a lot more at play here, but it's very interesting and challenging to manage your dice pool(s) in conjunction with your foremen around the rondel. This is definitely one to keep an eye out for if you like heavy games.

Board Game: The Glade
• I also played The Glade, a deceptively thinky new game from Richard Breese and R&D Games, which Eric posted an overview of in April 2023. In The Glade, you place sets of animal tiles Scrabble-style on your individual board to place mushrooms on the central board, which unlock victory points for you. There are also ways to make enclosures to give yourself bonus actions.

It's an interesting game, and it takes a minute to wrap your head around it. It was one of those games I immediately wanted to play again as I was gradually figuring out how to play more optimally.

From gallery of candidrum

• Last, but certainly not least, I really enjoyed playing Simon Weinberg's colorful prototype of his game Xanadu. In Xanadu, players represent Kublai Khan's family members who are doing various deeds to help build his wealth. On the surface, Xanadu appeared very busy with a lot going on, but Simon taught the game starting with the history and theme, and then all of the actions were intuitive, and I found the gameplay to be very smooth and thematic with unique mechanisms.

From gallery of candidrum
Xanadu prototype

In Xanadu, your goal is to gain the most victory points by the end of the game. At the end of each round, you give all of the money you earned to Kublai Khan, which is converted to a varying amount of victory points depending on the round. You start each round with some income, which you'll spend to recruit workers via dice drafting. Depending on the color and value of a die you draft, you'll gain a certain amount of action points for the corresponding action. For example, yellow dice help you build the palace walls, purple dice help you construct the palace, green dice help you build farms, and black dice help you build routes to different areas where you can establish trading posts and sell silk. As you add trading posts to the board, you unlock horses which are available to you. If you're able to connect to red areas representing theaters of war, you can conduct military campaigns to earn money based on the number of horses you have. The idea is, you have to find opportunities to earn money, then reinvest money to make more money before it's time to score.

A lot of what you're doing and the timing of your actions is driven by the star-shaped imperial offices board. The strength of your action allows you to move the meeple that many spaces on the board and gain the corresponding benefit of the space you land on. For example, if I was taking the construct palace action at a strength of 5, I could move the meeple up to 5 spaces away. In the photo on the left, you'll notice there are dice placed on the tips of the star. If you land on a space in a section and your action strength meets or exceeds the value of the die, you get a little special bonus. However, there's a balance to it. You can't trigger this effect on the same die back-to-back, so if your disc was already under a die, you would need to trigger the effect on the opposite side. There's almost a little mini game here with the imperial offices board, but it ties well into the rest of the game.

From gallery of candidrum

Xanadu was very interesting and did not feel like any other game I've ever played, which was refreshing. I also really appreciate that it's historically based, and the history connects to what you're doing in the game. I'll be keeping an eye out on this one, and whatever Simon cooks up next.
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Fri Apr 28, 2023 7:00 am
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Game Overview: Hickory Dickory, or When Things Get Micey in Your Cuckoo Clock...

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Hickory Dickory
Every so often a game comes along where the theme, mechanisms, art, and components are interwoven so seamlessly, you can't help but smile as you play it. A recent example that triggered a smile like this for me is Hickory Dickory, a new 2023 release from designer Sawyer West and Plaid Hat Games, which I had the pleasure of playing on a review copy provided by the publisher.

In Hickory Dickory, you and up to three other players control your own team of mice competing in a royal scavenger hunt hosted by Lord Cuckoo. Your mice ride around the minute hand of a cuckoo clock collecting tiles that can be delivered for points, while trying to prioritize tiles that also match their hunt board. Whichever player manages their team of mice best and scores the most victory points wins.

Hickory Dickory's table presence is lovely. The main game board looks like a cuckoo clock and there's even a chain board below it. During setup, you place action space tokens at each number around the clock. A few are always placed at the same number, but majority of them are randomly placed so you have some variation from game to game. At each number except for 12, there's an inner ring space and an outer ring space. Each outer ring space gets randomly seeded with a tile at the beginning of each round, and those tiles are up for grabs for the first mouse to take the action at each space.

Each player gets 4 mouse cards for their mice meeples that'll be rummaging around the clock. Each mouse card has a number of storage spaces indicating how many item and relic tiles that mouse can carry. You'll also get a random Hunt board which indicates the starting positions around the clock for 3 of your mice (your Scavenger, Scurrier, and Spotter). However, there's also an advanced setup variant where players choose their starting mouse positions in priority order, one mouse at a time. You also have a Scamp mouse which doesn't start on the board, and a Scaler mouse which stays on the the chain board of the clock. That's your team!

Hickory Dickory is played over 5 rounds, and each round the minute hand makes a full rotation around the clock stopping at each number so the mice there can jump off the hand to perform that action or onto the hand to ride to a different one. The cuckoo clock's hour hand starts at 7, and at the end of the 5th round, the clock strikes midnight and the player with the most points wins.

From gallery of candidrum

Each round is divided into 12 clicks. When resolving a click, first you move the minute hand to the next number on the clock. Then you activate each mouse on the minute hand in order, starting with the mouse at the front of the minute hand. When you activate a mouse on the minute hand, you can have the mouse stay where it is on the minute hand, or it can jump off the minute hand to the outer ring space and perform the current action. If there's a tile on the outer ring space, the mouse can claim it before taking the action.

Whenever you claim a tile, you place it in an empty space on the corresponding mouse card. If that mouse doesn't have an empty space, you can still claim the tile and discard it, or discard a different tile to keep the new one. If any of your other mice are at the same number as the minute hand, they can freely trade tiles, regardless if they're on the minute hand, or on the inner or outer ring.

From gallery of candidrum
Looks like someone's about to get bumped...
After the mice on the minute hand have been activated, you activate each mouse on the current inner ring space in order according to the priority track. A mouse activated on the inner ring space can either move to the outer ring space and perform the current action, or jump on the minute band behind any other mice that are already on there. In some cases, this will bump off the mouse that's at the front of the minute hand. When bumped off, a mouse activates and can jump to the current outer ring space or jump backwards to the previous outer ring space. When your Scurrier mouse jumps or is bumped off the minute hand, it can jump normally or it can leap to either of the next 2 outer ring spaces.

In a 4-player game the minute hand has 5 spaces to hold mice, and at smaller player counts, you add blockers to reduce the amount of spaces. Most mice only take up 1 space, however, the Scavenger mice are larger and take up 2 spaces. So if you end up with 2 Scavenger mice on the minute hand, there's only room for 1 regular-sized mouse before mice start getting bumped off.

This bumping mechanism adds an interesting layer of player interaction to Hickory Dickory and amplifies the logistical efficiency puzzle of managing your mice. You'll be trying to figure out the best time to jump on and off the minute hand with each of your mice for whatever you're going after, but you cannot ignore what your opponents might do since there's a chance they'll bump your mouse off the minute hand and foil your plans, regardless if it's intentional or not. It's fun player interaction that keeps you on your toes without being excessive. From my experiences, there are usually more occasions where there's a low chance, or no chance that you'll be bumped off, but I like that that it gives you something extra to mull over as you plan your actions. You should especially beware of being bumped if there's an action space with lots of mice on the inner ring space, because odds are, most of those mice probably want to go for a ride to a different action space.

From gallery of candidrum
Priority track
The priority track is another thing to factor in when you think about mice jumping on the minute hand and bumping mice off, since the order each mouse activates matters. There is a priority track to the left of the clock to determine the activation order when there are multiple mice on an inner ring space. You start with the color the priority marker is on and that player activates one mouse of their choice, if present. Then you continue clockwise, until all mice on that space have been activated. The key point is that if you have multiple mice on an inner space, you only activate one at a time in priority order.

Now that you have an idea for how your mice move around the clock to perform actions, let's go over some of the actions and how you score points in Hickory Dickory, noting some actions have a cost and you might have to spend some tiles to perform them.

• You can search to claim tiles from the bag and add them to the corresponding mouse card. When searching with your Spotter mouse, you draw an extra tile and then return one to the bag. The main way you score points in Hickory Dickory is by delivering sets of item tiles, so searching is a great way to get them, and with your Spotter, you improve your odds of getting tiles that are better for you to score.

From gallery of candidrum
Mouse cards w/ some goodies

• You can visit the market to either claim 2 tiles from Itsy Bitsy's discount bin or take 1 wild item. There are 4 tiles in the discount bin at the start of each round and they are not refilled until the end of the round, so there's some scarcity to factor in. The wild tiles are awesome because when scoring, they're considered to have every color and every symbol.

From gallery of candidrum
Itsy Bitsy's Market

From gallery of candidrum
Racing up the chain for points...
• You can draw a favor card, which are juicy little cards you keep secret from other players and then you can use them during one of your mouse's activations. You can't ever hold more than 2 favor cards, but trust me, you'll want to use them often, so that shouldn't be a problem. Favor cards have a bonus action and/or bonus tile which you can use when delivering items. In some respects, they remind me of the intrigue cards in Dune: Imperium. You can have your eye on an action space with a free tile that you need and think you have it in the bag, then your opponent plays a card on their turn that lets them leap ahead and they grab it before you. You just never know what favors people have or when and how they'll use them. This another aspect of that game that makes you pay attention, or perhaps be suspicious, of what your opponents might be up to.

• You can gain/teleport your Scamp mouse. This is the only mouse that doesn't start on the board, so you need to trigger this action to place it on any outer ring space on the clock. After you perform this action for the first time, you have a 4th mouse on the clock for the rest of the game. After your Scamp is out and you take this action, you can teleport it to any outer ring space. Your Scamp can't hold many tiles, but that teleport ability is really sweet. At least 1 favor card has this action, besides the action space on the board. So again, you never know what your opponents might be planning and conversely, you can set yourself up for a really cool turn if you play this action on a favor card at the right time. It's especially satisfying when your opponents are least expecting it.

• With the climb chain action, you can move your Scaler mouse up the chain a number of spaces, and if you land on or pass any point spaces, you score that number of points. When your Scaler reaches the leaf at the top of the chain, it stops and scores points listed above the pinecone weight token on the right chain. Then you move the pinecone token up to cover that number, unless it was the 4-point space which is never covered. Finally, you move your Scaler back down to the starting pinecone at the bottom of the left chain. This is an excellent way to score a chunk of points early on since it starts at 9 points if you reach the top first, and decreases gradually to a mere 4 points. It's also worth mentioning that you can't land on another mouse; instead, you'll stop at the next empty space. Timing this right, you can get some free advancements on this track by leaping onto other mice.

• Aside from the climb chain action, just about everything you do in Hickory Dickory is to strategically set your mice up to deliver items and score victory points. When you perform the deliver action, you score 1 point for each item and bonus tile (on favor cards) that you deliver, plus 1 point for each item in the largest symbol group, and 1 point for each item in the largest color group. In addition, Lord Cuckoo has specific quests for players to complete. At the start of each round there will be 2 quest cards revealed that can give you extra points when delivering items if the items you deliver match the items on an available quest card. If you're able to score a quest card, it's discarded after you score. Then after you score points for delivered items and potentially a quest card, you place matching tiles on empty spaces of your hunt board, which might be worth points at the end of the game. The tile placement on the Hunt board is definitely reminiscent of Azul. Any tiles that you can't place on your hunt board are returned to the bag.

From gallery of candidrum
Quest card examples

• Besides item tiles, you might be able to claim special relic tiles throughout the game. There are only 3 unique relic tiles, so they are very rare and they can't be delivered like item tiles. Instead, you take them directly to Lord Cuckoo at the action space at 12 o'clock. When you deliver relics to Lord Cuckoo, for each relic tile, you score 5 points and gain a favor card. Then you have to leap to the 1, 2, or 3 outer ring space. This special relic delivery space is always at 12, and does not have an outer ring space like all of the other action spaces.

• There are two other actions to help your mice along which you'll find on favor cards. There's a throw action where you can have one of your mice at a different location "throw" tiles to your active mouse and vice versa; it's a way to trade remotely which can be super helpful in a game where you're trying to make the most optimal deliveries for scoring. With the leap action, you can have an active mouse leap clockwise to an outer ring space up to 3 numbers away.

After the clock tick at 12 is resolved, that's the end of the round, but there are a few end-of-round steps you complete before jumping into the next round. First, you roll the cat die twice and place an adorable cat paw over the action space at each number. These action spaces are blocked on the upcoming round, and none of the mice on the minute hand can activate at a number with a cat paw. Then you'll advance the hour hand to the next number on the clock. If the hour hand moves to the 12, the game immediately ends, otherwise, you move all mice that are on outer ring spaces to the corresponding inner ring spaces, and refill the quest cards, and the tiles on the outer ring spaces and in the discount bin at the market. Finally, you move the priority marker to the next space on the priority track following the arrows.

From gallery of candidrum
These cat paws tickle me

When the clock strikes midnight, the game ends and you score additional points for completed rows and columns on your hunt board. In addition, you gather up all of the item tiles remaining on all of your mouse cards and score them collectively as a final delivery, but without scoring quest cards or adding tiles to your hunt board.

From gallery of candidrum
Hunt board w/ a completed row and column

Hickory Dickory is an absolutely adorable, whimsical game, but don't let the cutesy theme and art mislead you; there's definitely a solid game here which can appeal to experienced and new gamers alike. Since the theme is so well integrated with the mechanisms, I think less experienced gamers will catch onto this in no time. With the logistics of managing your mice and trying to make optimal moves to score as many points as you can with deliveries, people who mostly play medium-heavy games are also likely to enjoy it. Plus, a 4-player game can be played in about 90 minutes and it doesn't overstay its welcome.

There's a decent amount of player interaction and plenty of interesting choices as the minute hand moves around the clock and you decide when it makes most sense to have your mice jump on and jump off. When possible, you'll also want to leverage each mouse's special ability too. There's scarcity from tiles on the action spaces, the quest cards, and discount bin items, so you'll be rushing to beat your opponents to those. Meanwhile, you can't ignore your opponents' Scaler mice moving up the chain to score points, especially earlier in the game. There really are a lot of things to consider when you take your turn, but it didn't bog the game down. It feels like it moves at a good pace, since there's really no set turn order and also because I'm invested in what my opponents are doing on their turn, especially when it comes to hopping on the minute hand.

From gallery of candidrum

The cat paws blocking actions after the first round keeps things interesting too. One of my games, we kept rolling a 6 for 3 rounds in a row and blocked one of the two delivery action spaces. If we wanted to make any deliveries, we had to have a mouse move all the way to 11, and so then you have to also make sure that one mouse is loaded up with as many good tiles as possible. Again, it sort of feels like a logistics puzzle. Besides the fact that I just love the cat paw tokens, I really like how they change up the dynamic of the game depending on which actions are blocked for the round.

I have had some rounds of Hickory Dickory where I felt like I didn't accomplish much, but I can't tell if it's me not playing optimally or if that's just the nature of the game. It could also be the result of the cat paws blocking spaces that would've been helpful to me. Either way, I do enjoy the decision space of figuring out when I want to have a mouse jump off the clock and take an action versus riding further ahead for something else, at the risk of getting bumped off.

If you're a fan of unique, thematic games that you can play with new or experienced gamers in less than 2 hours, be sure to check out Hickory Dickory. I've certainly enjoyed my plays of it and look forward to playing it more.
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Fri Mar 31, 2023 7:00 am
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Balance Your Military and Economics, Vie for Control of Sicily or Ancient Greece, and Lead Your Civilization in the Middle East

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Scharz
• On my last day at SPIEL '22, I spotted a unique-looking game titled Scharz, that I had to stop and ask about. Scharz is a hybrid area control game for 2-4 players from designer Jakub Kunčík, which blends the economics found in eurogames with the conflict and historical settings found in wargames. As Kunčík described it to me at SPIEL while I gazed at the map and slew of unique components, I was intrigued and I couldn't help but get Feudum vibes. At the same time, it also seemed like it was inspired by mix of Agricola, civilization-building games, and wargames, which sounded really cool.

Scharz is a three-part series of games, and when combined you can play an epic game with up to 12 players. Kunčík is crowdfunding Scharz: Part I on Kickstarter (KS link) through March 30, 2023. Scharz: Part I comes with 2 maps and features a mix of combat with logistics, with sandbox-style gameplay inspired by history. You'll construct buildings, manage your agriculture, and fight in battles, all with the goal of establishing yourself as a nation with either military or economic force since there are multiple victory conditions.

Here's a high-level description of Scharz from the designer, but you can also learn more on its Kickstarter page:
Quote:
Symmetrical War-Euro, a game about balance and efficiency. Playable in any number of players without waiting (simultaneous play). No cards. Sober planning and maneuvering. Controllable element of luck. Multiple ways to win. A feel-good classic computer RTS on the cycle of the seasons as the board game (gain the upper hand within five years in the area of power fragmentation). Complex, but not complicated.

Board Game: Scharz: Part I

In this area control game, the player must master the management of their own empire, its development and conflict with other players. Time in each year, resources and human capacity are limited. Expanding the economic base, building more footholds, improving them, buying better livestock and soldiers, developing trade and fleets - all this is possible and beneficial, but it also requires expensive military protection. Because even those who feed their large army on the snowball principle from the resources of others can win.

Game time 15 - 40 minutes per player, recommended for ages 10 and up.
Board Game: La Famiglia: The Great Mafia War
• If you're looking to battle in Sicily, La Famiglia: The Great Mafia War from Maximilian Maria Thiel, Feuerland Spiele, and Capstone Games is available at retailers. Eric originally mentioned La Famiglia in a SPIEL '22 preview post. La Famiglia plays in 2-3 hours with exactly 4 players in 2 teams of 2 players each. Each player represents a head of a mafia family vying for control over Sicily.

Here's a little more about how it works from the publisher:
Quote:
In the 1980s, a merciless battle raged in Sicily that would later go down in history as "The Great Mafia War". Different mob families fought with and against each other for supremacy in southern Italy.

Board Game: La Famiglia: The Great Mafia War

In La Famiglia: The Great Mafia War, you play against each other in teams (2 vs. 2) to take control of Sicily. Six different mafia families, each with special abilities, are at your disposal. The game rounds are divided into two phases: In the planning phase, you develop your abilities and bring fighters as well as secret orders to the board. In the combat phase, these orders are revealed and executed. Here, you use your fighters and bombs to dominate as many regions as possible. The combat system is both simple and innovative, making every fight an exciting psychological duel. The team that best combines and coordinates its abilities will finally dominate Sicily.

La Famiglia is an extraordinary team game that provides lasting excitement through asymmetric abilities and a variable game set-up.
Board Game: Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea
Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East is a new standalone civilization game for 1-6 players from GMT Games, designed by Mark McLaughlin (The Napoleonic Wars, War and Peace) and Chris Vorder Bruegge, the designer-duo behind the 2019 release Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea.

Here's the lowdown from the publisher on what you'll experience in this, big, yet accessible civilization game:
Quote:
Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East (ACME) is brought to you by the same team that created Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea — designers Christopher Vorder Bruegge and Mark McLaughlin with developer Fred Schachter. ACME is not a sequel nor an expansion but a standalone game using the same multiplayer and solitaire systems as its predecessor with many new and exciting features to intrigue its players.

Board Game: Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East

ACME is a game of the chaos-inducing wrath of gods & men—a chaos each player does their utmost to manage, survive, and guide their civilization through to triumphant victory. Spanning the ancient world from the Hellespont to the Indus, from the Caspian to the Red Sea, and from the early Bronze Age to the Hellenic Age, Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East allows you to command not just 10 but 17, SEVENTEEN CIVILIZATIONS!

A War Game Only If And When You Want It To Be
If you want a War Game, you got it. If you want a friendly game, this is it too! As in Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea, Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East can be all about war, but it doesn't have to be. It can be a friendly game of exploration, city building, trade, and faith. Players (solitaire, a group of up to six, or even a mix of live players with a system-driven civilization of two or more) can make of ACME what they wish or imagine. Competition can be martial or cultural, warlike or friendly, or a combination of both—how the game unfolds depends entirely on how the players want it to play. The duration of the game is also up to the players: from a multi-hour odyssey of all four Epochs to a pre-arranged shorter contest of an hour or two or to an agreed Sudden Death Victory Point threshold.

For Those Who Want A War Game, There Is Plenty Of War To Be Gamed
Historical War Game Scenarios are just that—fun and entertaining scenarios that recreate wars from the dawn of civilization to the conquests of Alexander the Great (and more!). Take on the role of Agamemnon as he sacks Troy, Solomon as he builds the Temple, or Ramses as he leads his chariots on the plains of Kadesh. Become the great law-giver, Hammurabi, the inspiring Persian empire-builder, Cyrus, or the legendary hero, Rostam (and more!). There are even double-sized (twice the usual number of disks) civilization options for those who want to conquer the world of Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East and become—as Assyrian kings Akkad and Sumer claimed—the king of the four corners of the world.

Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East is suitable for players of all ages, offers great family fun, and is easily and quickly teachable. It can serve as a kind of gateway to the more complex games our wonderful hobby has to offer.
SPARTA!: Struggle for Greece is an upcoming asymmetric historical area control game on the Greek Wars for 1-2 players from Kris Van Beurden (Europe in Turmoil, Barbarians at the Gates), and publishers Plague Island Games (English edition) and Draco Ideas (Spanish edition). SPARTA! plays in 2-3 hours, was successfully funded on Kickstarter (KS link) in October 2022, and is open for late pledges.

Here's the publisher's description of what you can expect as you battle in Ancient Greece:
Quote:
In SPARTA! command Athenians or Spartans in a battle to rule the Greek world. Achieve dominance and control valuable regions that grant unique benefits - be it the wealth of Sicily, the fleets of Corinth, or alliances with larger cities like Thebes or Syracuse to provide fresh recruits for battle. You might even rally the Persians and Macedonians to your side.

Board Game: SPARTA!: Struggle for Greece

Command The Conflict!
March armies and sortie fleets to raid enemy territories. Siege valuable cities, and engage your foes in fierce battles. Steel your nerves when you enter the fray of battle, as it is bloody and swiftly resolved using an elegant card-based system.

Who Will Head Your Efforts?
Lead your forces with legendary characters such as Pericles and Cleon. Each leader has a unique ability, be it combat prowess or cunning diplomacy.
Characters may become experienced— flipping the leader to their upgraded form with a more powerful ability.

Meet your foes on the bloody battlefield
Balance diplomacy, economy, and military might in this card-driven game of historic conflict!

The Splendour Of Greece Is Yours For The Taking!

SPARTA! is for 1-2 players (SOLO bot is included) & plays in 2-3 hours.

Includes all of these historical scenarios:
- First Peloponnesian War
- Second Peloponnesian War
- Theban/Spartan War
- Cleomenian War
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Fri Mar 24, 2023 7:00 am
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Great Western Trail: New Zealand, or Sheep, Ships, and Gold, Oh My!

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Great Western Trail: New Zealand
Great Western Trail: Argentina was an exciting release for many, including myself, in 2022. It introduced some really cool, fresh new twists to Alexander Pfister's fan favorite Great Western Trail, which I covered in detail in a SPIEL '22 Preview post. Playing and loving Argentina had me beyond excited and very curious about what to expect with Great Western Trail: New Zealand, the final release in Pfister's Great Western Trail trilogy, which Eric originally announced in February 2021.

In February 2023, my face lit up with a big smile when I read that Plan B Games (eggertspiele) "shared a smidge of detail" about Great Western Trail: New Zealand in one of Eric's posts. I was on vacation at the time, but as soon as I returned, I jumped at the opportunity to chat with Isabelle from Plan B Games to get a rundown of what to expect in Great Western Trail: New Zealand, one of my most anticipated releases of 2023.

Coming in at a similar complexity level to GWT: Argentina, GWT: New Zealand adds even more new twists than we saw in Argentina, but still retains the essence of Great Western Trail. In GWT: New Zealand, you and up to three other players take on the role of runholders (owners of sheep stations) on the South Island of New Zealand. You'll move your runholder along a trail up to the top of the board to Wellington. Along the way, you'll perform actions that give you various ways to earn victory points. Each time your runholder reaches Wellington, you deliver sheep to a local or foreign trading post, which may also be worth victory points. Then your runholder continues movement back at the start of the trail at the bottom of the board. At the end of the game, you’ll score victory points from a variety of components you acquired during the game and any points marked with your color on the game board and the sea routes board. The player with the most victory points wins the game. If you’re already familiar with GWT, all of this should sound very familiar, aside from the sheep and lack of cattle, so allow me to highlight some of the new elements you’ll experience in GWT: New Zealand.

From gallery of candidrum
Since deck-building is a core mechanism in GWT, let's start with the new cards. In addition to sheep cards, which function similarly to cattle cards in the previous versions, you'll have a supply with new deck-building cards in GWT: New Zealand. In this special deck-building supply you’ll have Romney sheep cards, Sheepdog cards, Ferry cards, and Kōtare bird cards, which you can gain in different ways throughout the game. You can play these cards from your hand on your turn to take a special action on your turn. Plus, there are also ten sets of bonus cards and you’ll randomly choose four to include in each game. You can spend gold, which is a new type of resource, to buy these bonus cards and add them to your deck as well. These new types of cards add a lot of variety and will open up new strategic options for how you build your deck and choose to use the cards in it as you play.

Great Western Trail: New Zealand has four types of workers you can hire in the game. You have shepherds to help you acquire better sheep cards, craftsmen to help you build those glorious private buildings, sailors to move your ship on the sea routes board, and sheep shearers which help you shear your sheep and earn money based on their wool value. This is basically a second delivery option you’ll have since the sheep cards not only have a breeding value, but they also have a wool value. Now you’re probably wondering where the engineer is in all this. Surprise! There are no engineers, trains, or train stations in GWT: New Zealand. I'll let that sink in for a minute...

From gallery of candidrum
Above the main game board, there's a new sea routes board, reminiscent of the additional board in the Rails to the North expansion. Now you can sail your ship around on the sea routes board with the help of your sailors. Along the routes, there are several harbours, each of which either allows you to place a storehouse or one of your player discs if your ship is on its associated water space. As always, when you place one of your discs, you unlock some cool treat. Storehouses are also on your player board and can be unlocked in any order, but you only unlock storehouse bonuses when you’ve removed two storehouses next to each other on your player board.

Delivery in Wellington seems to be more streamlined in GWT: New Zealand compared to Kansas City and Buenos Aires. As usual, you'll gain income and place one of your discs onto a trading post based on the breeding value of your unique types of sheep cards, but when it’s time to choose tiles from the foresight area, things are a little different. There are only four foresight tiles: two "A" tiles which will either be workers or hazards (rockfalls or floods), and two "B" tiles, which are new bonus tiles.

Speaking of bonus tiles, another big change in GWT: New Zealand is the way the game ends. It's no longer triggered by the worker market filling up. Instead, the end of the game is triggered when you place a bonus tile onto the last space of the bonus tiles market during a delivery in Wellington.

Another interesting new twist is that mid-way through each game, you'll flip half of the neutral building tiles over and they'll have a different action/effect. Plus, there's a new pathfinder track you can work your way up to unlock beneficial bonus abilities. For example, you can increase your movement one step, which is helpful because you'll only be able to unlock one additional step of movement on your player board in this version. Also, if you hit a certain level on the pathfinder track, you ignore paying black/green hand fees on hazard tiles and your opponent’s private buildings.

These are just some of the exciting new changes you can expect in Great Western Trail: New Zealand, in addition to the adorable sheep cards, and lush green game board. I haven't played it yet, so I can't comment on how it feels and plays out, but I am loving the sound of all of these changes and I can’t wait to play it!

From gallery of candidrum
The adorable sheep cards
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Mon Mar 20, 2023 7:00 am
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Game Preview: General Orders, or The Spicy Two-Player Worker Placement War

Candice Harris
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Board Game: General Orders: World War II
As a big fan of War Chest and the Undaunted series, I consider David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin to be a top notch designer duo; I'm automatically interested in anything with either of their names on it, and it's an insta-buy when I see both of their names together on any board game. Thus, I'm incredibly excited to share some details on General Orders: World War II, a new, two-player, worker placement wargame, which will be available from Osprey Games in Q4 2023.

General Orders: World War II combines the dynamic tactical gameplay of a traditional wargame with the cut-throat decision-making of worker placement games. As an added bonus, it's very accessible and plays in under an hour. Let's face it, they had me at "worker placement wargame", but I'm appreciative that I got the opportunity to virtually hang with David and Trevor to actually play a game of General Orders on Tabletop Simulator.

In General Orders, you and your opponent each take on the role of a general competing in two different World War II theaters – the alpine terrain of Northern Italy and the islands of the Pacific. Each game is played over a series of rounds, where you alternate deploying/placing commanders (workers) on the board to take actions, and then after both players are out of commanders and/or have passed, you recall your commanders from the board and move on to the next round. You win the game immediately if your opponent loses control of their HQ land area. Otherwise, at the end of the fourth round, the player with the most victory points on land areas they control and supply wins.

General Orders includes a double-sided game board, beautifully illustrated by Alex Green, which allows you to play two different game modes, either Alpine or Island. The Alpine side of the board represents the mountains of Italy, and the Island side represents the islands of the Pacific. The Alpine game mode is recommended for your first game, so that's what David set up for our game together. Meanwhile, Trevor watched from the sidelines and provided some entertaining commentary as we played.

The map on the board has a bunch of land areas – hex spaces and a few double hex spaces – separated by solid black borders. Each space has one or more icons representing actions you can take there, and some spaces have pink star icons which are victory points you score at the end of the game if you control that land area. There are also spaces with a section to place an area bonus token, which gives the controlling player access to some helpful special ability.

Players start the game with a bunch of troops (discs) and five commanders (hexagonal cylinders) in their reserve, along with troops on the board. The game is fairly abstract considering we don't represent specific countries, but instead we are simply the blue faction and yellow faction duking it out in a tug-of-war struggle to control a crucial World War II battlefield. Therefore, players can come up with whatever narrative they feel as the play each game.

Before you start the game, you flip the round marker to determine which player starts with the initiative and gets to go first. On your turn, you place one of your commanders from your reserve into an unoccupied action space and resolve the action based on its symbol. Then your opponent does the same, and you alternate taking turns until both players pass, typically from not having any commanders left in your reserve.

Control and supply are important concepts in General Orders and should be defined before delving into the actions. You control a land area if you have troops in it, and a land area is in supply if you control it and it's connected to your HQ land area through an unbroken line of areas you control. In order to perform most actions, you must have a supply path back to your HQ, so a key strategy is to try to interrupt your opponent's supply line, while you also protect your own.

From gallery of candidrum
The start of our game in TTS

The Advance action, which is available on just about all spaces of the Alpine map, is how you move troops into a space where you don't already have troops. When you Advance, you place one of your available commanders into the area you wish to move into, and then you can move one or more of your troops from adjacent/linked areas that you control and supply. However, you cannot take the last troop from a land area, so at least one will have to hang back. If you moved your troops into an area controlled by your opponent, you resolve a land conflict.

The Barrage action allows you to bombard an area up to three areas away by rolling two dice and then removing troops based on all of the hits you rolled. There are custom six-sided dice in the game that have a blank side, four sides with 1-hit, and a 2-hit side. Don't worry though, there's actually minimal randomness in this tense, "little" strategy game. This is only one of two occasions where you actually roll dice.

When playing on the Alpine board, there's also a Paradrop action where you can place two troops from your reserve into any area on the board except the 2 lake areas that have a "no-paradrop" symbol. Similar to the Advance action, if you end up with your troops in an area controlled by your opponent, you resolve conflict.

Resolving land conflict is very straightforward, just like the actions in this game. First, the defender rolls one die and removes a number of attacking troops equal to the total rolled. Then, if any attacking troops remain, both players simultaneously remove troops from the area until at least one player has no troops in the area. There are occasions when the attacker will swoop in and take over an area, other times when the attacker is unsuccessful and the defenders hold the area, and even some battles when both players are completely annihilated and that area is left uncontrolled. I'm sure you're wondering why the attacker wouldn't just bring in enough troops to make sure they control the space even if the defender rolls a 2 and kills two troops before the battle attrition occurs. Sounds like this is a good time to mention something spicy about General Orders.

In addition to the map actions I've mentioned so far, there are also two actions available on the support board, which is a small board next to the main game board. The Reinforce action allows you to place a number of troops from your reserve into land areas you control and supply, such that there are no more than five troops per land area. There are two action spaces for reinforcing: one allows you to add six troops, and the other allows you to add five. Each player can only take each support action once per round, so in this case it's always best to take the "six troops" space if it's open. It seems like such a slight difference, but placing that extra troop can be crucial. This is an action you'll want to do every round, and hopefully beat your opponent to the optimal action space too.

From gallery of candidrum
Yikes, David (yellow) had so many troops on the board!

The Plan action is also available on the support board, and it also comes in two flavors. The first Plan action space allows you to draw two cards from the operation deck, while the other space only allows you to draw one card, but you get the initiative, if you don't already have it. This is the only way initiative changes throughout the game, so it's always a tough decision whether you want to go for two cards, or gain/maintain the initiative. After all, this is a worker placement game, so turn order can be super important.

When I mentioned the spice, I was referring to the operation cards in General Orders. I think this game would be great if it didn't have these cards, but it's so much spicier with them! There are thirty cards included in the game, some are specific to the game mode you're playing (Alpine/Island), but the bulk are played in every game. Each card clearly explains its effect and when it can be played. Or alternatively, you can discard any operation card to re-roll all dice whenever you're doing something that involves dice rolling. Not only is the variety of cards awesome, but it's also great that the operation cards are flexible and give players more than one way to use them.

There are Ground Assault cards that allow you add up to two troops from your reserve after the move in step of the Advance action. There are Mobilize cards that allow you to place up to two additional troops when you take the Reinforce action. I had a lot of fun surprising David with Anti-air cards when he paradropped his troops into spaces I controlled. Anti-air cards allow you to roll two extra dice for your defensive roll before battle attrition when resolving land conflict. If I recall, he dropped in four troops to an area I controlled with only one troop, and I surprised him playing an Anti-air card, then I made what I'll refer to as a "skilled roll" and rolled 2-1-1, which killed all four of his troops before the battle popped off. It was a glorious moment!

There are also Blitz, Ambush, Artillery Strike, and Counter Attack cards which all have different, useful effects. Perhaps what's even better than the cards themselves, is your opponent not knowing which cards you actually have and conversely, you not knowing what they have. It lends itself to lots of mind games and moments where you'll be stressed and sweating, or trying to make your opponent feel that way.

From gallery of candidrum
Mobilize card art
I briefly mentioned the areas on the board for bonus tokens. The bonus tokens add an additional layer of spice to General Orders. During setup, you shuffle them and randomly place one into each area bonus space on the board. If you have control and supply for a space with a bonus token, you have access to that particular special ability. As an example, one of them allows you to have an additional commander, which means you can take more actions. Another allows you to draw an extra card when you take the Plan action. These are really awesome bonuses, so you're constantly trying to position yourself to hold the space if you already have it, or take it from your opponent to prevent them from having access to it.

I also mentioned some spaces have victory points on them. Some of the VP spaces have bonus tokens too, so there is lots to fight over. If you don't manage to force your opponent out of their HQ within four rounds, then it's all about points. Our game ended after four tense rounds and it was anyone's game until a pivotal moment at the very end where I was able to prevent David from trying to take my victory points away from me while I was in the lead. We had such a fun time playing, and that was on Tabletop Simulator. I can't wait to play the physical version in person!...and I'm sure David will be looking for a rematch.

There aren't many worker placement games specifically designed for two players, and there certainly aren't many worker placement wargames to my knowledge. This makes General Orders stand out off the bat. After playing a game, I was really impressed with what I saw and how I felt.

First off, David explained the rules in about five minutes and we were off and running. All of the actions are straightforward and easy to understand, which makes this game very accessible. You can play it with just about anyone and have them into the game in no time. The excellent graphic design by Gareth Clarke helps a lot too. Then once you get going, it takes less than an hour to play, which is another nod to its accessibility.

The game itself feels tense and thinky. As we were starting our game, and I was thinking through what I wanted to do for my first turn in response to what David did since he had the initiative, Trevor said "the opening can feel chess-like", and I completely agree. If I do XYZ, my opponent may respond with ABC. You're always trying to think about what your opponent is going to do and it feels tense as the game develops. Then you also have the worker placement struggles. I need to do "this" and "that", but I can't risk them blocking that space. There's so much you want to do, but it's tricky figuring out the timing of when to do it because you don't want to miss out on an opportunity.

There were many moments when I felt my forces were weak, and I was nervous David was going to march his troops in, so I struggled with the tough decision to reinforce then, when I really wanted to secure another space. Then you are also always trying to find clever ways to cut off your opponent's supply, while also trying to protect your own. There is a lot at play here for a game with such simple rules.

I took a peek at the Island board too, and that game mode opens things up a hair more complexity wise and makes the game slightly asymmetric, plus it adds a few different actions, as well as aircrafts. So in addition to troops, you have aircrafts you'll be flying around and managing on the board. I feel like there was a lot of game to be explored with the Alpine mode, and the included Island mode is sure to beef up the game even more. It seems like it'll really have its own feel while packing more variety into the game box.

From gallery of candidrum
Me, awkwardly capturing a screenshot of my Discord video chat with David & Trevor after my first game of General Orders

I think it's safe to say, the Undaunted duo has done it again. First they successfully created an awesome hybrid deck-building wargame with Undaunted: Normandy in 2019, and now they've created an awesome worker placement wargame. General Orders really evokes the feeling and tension of playing a 2-player wargame, with an added layer of tough worker placement choices. I thoroughly enjoyed my first play of General Orders: World War II and I'm already hype to play it more.

Here's the official announcement video from Osprey with some additional info and visuals on General Orders:
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Wed Mar 15, 2023 7:00 am
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Revisit Yellow & Yangtze, Command the Flying Tigers, Return to Deofol, and Develop Your Subway

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Board Game: HUANG
• In late February 2023, Polish publisher PHALANX launched a crowdfunding campaign on Gamefound for Reiner Knizia's HUANG, a sleek, new version of the 2018 Grail Games release, Yellow & Yangtze, which is a sister game to Knizia's highly acclaimed classic, Tigris & Euphrates. Eric originally announced this in one of his September 2022 posts, but now that the campaign is live, there are additional, exciting details to share.

Board Game: Yellow & Yangtze
Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates

Here's a brief overview of the gameplay for HUANG, if you're not already familiar with its predecessor Yellow & Yangtze:
Quote:
In HUANG, players build civilizations through tile placement. Players are given five different leaders: Governor, Soldier, Farmer, Trader, and Artisan. The leaders are used to collect victory points in these same categories. However, your score at the end of the game is the number of points in your weakest category. Conflicts arise when civilizations connect on the board. To succeed, players' civilizations must survive these conflicts, calm peasant revolts, and grow secure enough to build prestigious pagodas.
This new edition of Yellow & Yangtze has a Standard version with cardboard stands for leaders and pagodas, but there's also a fancy, Deluxe version available with high-quality premium miniatures. In addition, PHALANX is offering special Gamefound exclusives for HUANG, including the Dragon Dynasty 5-player expansion, which is free for backers and allows you to play it with 2-5 players. There's also a new Royal Palace additional module available as part of the crowdfunding campaign, and other expansions being announced during the campaign, which ends on March 9, 2023 at 5 PM EST.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Sample set-up image

I never got the opportunity to play Yellow & Yangtze, but I loved Tigris & Euphrates when I played it, so I'm pumped to for HUANG.

From gallery of candidrum
The Leader Series of solitaire World War II air warfare games from Dan Verssen Games (DVG) continues to grow with Russ Lance's Flying Tigers Leader, which was launched for crowdfunding on Kickstarter in early March 2023.

In Flying Tigers Leader, you command the Flying Tigers in the air war against Japan as briefly described below by the publisher:
Quote:
In this game, you will be able to try to blunt the Japanese thrust into China and SE Asia. The campaigns will cover the fighting in Burma (particularly Rangoon), China and Indochina. There will be new pilots and targets, as well as new events and campaigns. The core game is based on the whole of the AVG with each squadron's pilots being identified by the squadron emblem.

There are also new rules governing starting skill levels and abilities of some pilots created. There are also rules for replacing the pilots or rotating the squadron out based on casualties. The event cards are based on actual events that the Tigers experienced in their short sojourn in defending SE Asia.
Board Game: Ascension Tactics: Inferno
• In my PAX Unplugged '22 round-up post, I mentioned that I checked out Ascension Tactics: Inferno, a new standalone version of Justin Gary and Ryan Sutherland's Ascension Tactics from Stone Blade Entertainment. Ascension Tactics: Inferno is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter through March 9, 2022.

Here's what you can expect from this miniatures deck-building game for 1-4 players from designers Justin Gary and Gary Arant:
Quote:
In Ascension Tactics' final battle for Deofol, the Champions defeated both Samael and Xeron. With Samael destroyed and Xeron now in hiding, the arch-devil Kythis has taken control of the infernal realm, forcing its people to submit to his might.

It is up to the Champions of Vigil, alongside a few rebellious monsters, to bring peace to the twisted lands, and set Deofol on a path to redemption in Ascension Tactics: Inferno!

From gallery of candidrum
Prototype components

Ascension Tactics: Inferno is a stand-alone expansion to the hit game, Ascension Tactics. Ascension Tactics: Inferno includes all of your favorite gameplay mechanics found in the original game and introduces some new features to take gameplay to a whole new level:

---• Four player co-op! In addition to solo, campaign, a team-based play, Inferno includes the ability for you and three friends to take on the game in the new four player co-op mode!
---• A new faction: The Fallen. For the first time in the history of Ascension, a new, fifth faction is being introduced to the game!
---• Transforming Champions! If you complete the requirements to transform a Champion during the game, both its card and miniature will be replaced with a stronger version and new abilities!
---• Quests! Each player will be given a Quest to complete during the game. Once completed, it transforms into a powerful Construct that can be equipped to your Champions!
• Dual-faction Champions! Discover Champions that have abilities from not one, but two factions!
If you're interested in learning more about Ascension Tactics: Inferno, be sure to check out the designer diary Justin Gary posted for it.

Board Game: Terminus
• In their February Newsletter, the folks from Inside Up Games mentioned an upcoming Kickstarter campaign for Terminus, a subway-building, resource management game for 2-5 players, designed by Earl Aspiras and Thomas Volpe.

Here's what we know about it so far, based on the publisher's description:
Quote:
You and your competitors’ transit companies have been hired by the city to build new subway lines and commercial developments to improve the city's bottom line.

Manage assets such as time, money, & resources to build your subway line. Gain prestige by completing objectives and fulfilling the city’s transit demands. Focus on individual projects, open Agendas or a little of both in an effort to earn more prestige than the competition. Can you stay on track to deliver on the cities many needs?

Terminus is a subway planning, developing and construction game for 2-5 players, aged 14+, taking 30-40 minutes per player.
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Fri Mar 3, 2023 7:00 am
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Struggle with Insurgency in Somalia, Command the US 29th Infantry Division, and Battle in the Balkans

Candice Harris
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Family: Series: COIN (GMT)
GMT's COIN Series continues to expand and evolve with Yann de Villeneuve's A Fading Star: Insurgency and Piracy in Somalia, which is a newer addition to GMT's P500 pre-order system, and sounds very intriguing. A Fading Star sets 1-4 players in Africa for a more modern look at insurgency struggles as detailed below by the publisher:
Quote:
A Fading Star: Insurgency and Piracy in Somalia is Volume XV of the COIN Series originally designed by Volko Ruhnke. The year is 2007. We reach the climax of the several decades of civil war that have ravaged Somalia since the fall of dictator Siad Barre in 1991. An African Union coalition, assisted by the Ethiopian army, enters Mogadishu to support a nascent but corrupt Transitional Federal Government. They face a relentless and violent insurgency waged by Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, an Islamic group seeking both to expel the "invaders" and to transcend the traditional clan-based government structure of Somalia. In the middle of this power vacuum, minor clans and warlords organize themselves to administrate otherwise ungoverned regions, while others engage in large-scale piracy operations, painting their acts as a fight against foreign trawlers pillaging Somali fishing resources.

Board Game: A Fading Star: Insurgency and Piracy in Somalia
Prototype box cover

Highlights:
----• An updated take on contemporary aspects of insurgency and peacebuilding. The Al-Shabaab insurgent enjoys intelligence supremacy that allows them to conduct deadly out-of-turn ambushes, while facing a slightly less pronounced asymmetrical disadvantage than insurgent factions in previous volumes (due to the comparative weakness of the Transitional Federal Government). On the other hand, the African Union Mission's logistical, kinetic, and peacebuilding capacities will evolve as contributing countries join or leave the coalition throughout the game.
----• Intense urban warfare is depicted in more detail through the struggle for control of the capital city Mogadishu. Controlling a majority of districts will provide the ruling faction with further legitimacy and enhanced capabilities. However, limited operational effectiveness, mobility restrictions, and the looming threat from a major Al-Shabaab offensive will greatly slow the COIN factions' progress toward stabilizing the city.
----• A new ‘Clan Struggle’ interphase draws out some of the conflict's unique uncertainties. All sides bid to forge new alliances with local clans, bringing new blood to the battlefield, while the African Union must deal with the consequences of delayed reinforcements or unilateral withdrawals by member countries, and the Pirate warlords collect lucrative tolls from roads and ports that they control.
----• A unique piracy subsystem debunks the Somali pirate mythos and explores how piracy stakeholders' interests actually intersected with other local actors during the golden age of Indian Ocean hostage-taking.

Each turn eligible players will select from a faction-specific menu of Operations and Special Activities in an order determined by the current Event card, or choose to trigger the Event text. Typical Operations include Sweep, Assault, March, and Attack, with more unique Operations and Special Activities reflecting the specific nature of this conflict and the factions involved. Regular play is periodically interrupted by Propaganda rounds, during which early victory is possible and some upkeep is conducted; and by Clan Struggle rounds (unique to this game), during which all players have the opportunity to bid for the loyalty of an unaligned regional clan. If nobody achieves an early victory then the winner will be determined by comparing victory thresholds in the final Propaganda round. Each faction has unique victory conditions relating to their aims and objectives during this period of history.

Faction descriptions:
----• Al-Shabaab wages a deadly Islamist insurgency against the African Union ‘occupiers’ and their dependent Transitional Federal Government allies. A clear edge in media warfare provides them with significant recruiting capacities that will help them build a Somali caliphate transcending the customary clan system.
----• Ugandan and Burundian troops serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) aim to enforce peace, build support for the Transitional Federal Government, and train the weak federal army. Neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya may also enter the scene to stabilize their respective borders while interfering in Somali politics.
----• An abysmally weak Transitional Federal Government seeks to survive in a besieged Mogadishu while reaching out into the rest of the country to advance the federalization process. Unprecedented embezzlement capacities and partnerships with like-minded clans may offer the consecutive administrations an opportunity to survive the conflict unharmed and more prosperous than ever, and a new kind of militia unit emphasizes the opportunistic nature of the Somali clans' agendas.
----• Pirates, minor clans, and unaligned warlords pursue their enrichment projects by raiding the high seas or setting up roadblocks across unruly parts of the country. They'll settle for a "customary" Somalia, neither rooted in sharia law nor totally anchored to the liberal world order.
Board Game: Fighting Formations: Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division
• Another GMT P500 game to check out is Fighting Formations: US 29th Infantry Division, which is a tactical World War II game for 2 players designed by the late Chad Jensen, and developed by John Foley and Kai Jensen. US 29th Infantry Division is the second volume in GMT's Fighting Formation Series after Fighting Formations: Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division, which was released in 2011.

Being a fan of Chad Jensen's prior releases, Combat Commander and Dominant Species/Dominant Species: Marine, and after reading the publisher's detailed description below, I'm very curious to explore this system.
Quote:
Fighting Formations is intended to be an ongoing series of wargames covering WWII tactical combined-arms combat at the platoon and squad levels. Each game in the series will feature a distinct combat unit, highlighting battles in which that unit participated as well as its particular order of battle and fighting characteristics. In this second volume of Fighting Formations, we feature the US 29th Infantry Division—“Blue and Gray”—as it fought from just after D-Day in June of 1944 to the end of the year.

GAME FLOW: In each scenario, one player will take command of elements of the featured unit while the other assumes control of the opposing forces. These two players will alternate giving orders, activating their units on the map for various military functions. Players attempt to achieve victory by moving their combat units across the game map to attack their opponent’s units and to achieve as many scenario objectives as possible. The degree to which a player succeeds or fails is measured by a scenario’s specific victory conditions—be it the destruction of enemy units, the taking of vital mapboard objectives, or the exiting of friendly units off the opponent’s map edge.

From gallery of candidrum
P500 box cover

ORDERS & INITIATIVE: Each game turn is divided into ten orders, with each player performing a variable number of these orders. In each turn, the sequence of play is fluid—with orders being given by the active player and reactions being taken by both players—depending upon the relative initiative level at any given moment. Fighting Formations is also not the typical Igo-Yougo fare with a strict sequence of play. Instead, the base game engine is an impulse-type back and forth mechanic whereby the various Orders carry with them a certain cost in Initiative. The game has a “pool” of 40 Initiative that is “spent” to give orders and then to activate units for those orders. At the end of every order, the player with the most Initiative is able to give the next order. In response, the opponent can also spend Initiative to conduct both Opportunity Fire (at moving units) or Reactive Fire (at firing units).

ASSETS: The game has Asset cards—including smoke, artillery, air support, man-portable support weapons and demolitions—but is not card-driven. Each Asset will either take the place of a standard order or provide the player with some form of reactionary capability during an order.

SPECIAL RULES: FF:29 is a stand-alone game in the Fighting Formations game series. While utilizing the basic rules, FF:29’s playbook includes specific terrain, fortification, and unit special action rules in order to more accurately portray tactical warfare as experienced by the participants in France, Holland, and Germany during this time period.

SCALE: The scale of the game is 75 meters per hex with turns representing about 5 minutes of real time.

UNITS: Units represent infantry squads, guns with their inherent crews, and individual vehicles. Platoons are also employed. Leaders are abstractly represented by Command markers, each one coordinating the actions of friendly units within a scenario-defined radius.
Board Game: The Doomsday Project: Episode 1 – The Battle for Germany
The Doomsday Project: Episode 2 – The Battle for the Balkans is a Q1 2023 release from Adam Starkweather and Compass Games, which is at the tail end of its rapid Kickstarter campaign (KS link), targeted to deliver next month (March 2023). The Battle for the Balkans can be played with 1-4 players and introduces political rules to this unique series focused on hypothetical wars. It is a follow-up to The Doomsday Project: Episode 1 – The Battle for Germany, which was released in 2021.

Board Game: The Doomsday Project: Episode 2 – The Battle for the Balkans

Here's a a very brief description of the series and what you can expect from Episode 2:
Quote:
The Doomsday Project is a subseries of the Operational Scale System featuring wars that never happened. There will be games on the Persian Gulf, the Balkans, the far north, the Far East, the strategic naval war, and of course, a game of total nuclear war. Episode Two, The Battle for the Balkans game, as you will see in all additional games in The Doomsday Project, will add another facet to the mechanics of the system. Sophisticated political rules will make their appearance. Players will have to contend with heads of state and their positives and negatives in play. Rules to retrofit these rules into the Germany game will be provided as well.
• For the solo players, and those who enjoy nautical World War II games, Die Seehunde from designer Simon Kohlruss is another 2023 release to check out from Compass Games. Die Seehunde looks and sounds super cool, and plays in 30-45 minutes.

Here's a high-level overview of how it works from the designer:
Quote:
Die Seehunde is a solitaire nautical wargame set in the last months of World War 2. You, the player, will be in command of a two crew midget submarine Type XXVIIB called “Seehund” (Seal; plural “Seehunde, die”) or simply “Hund” (Hound) by its crews. Equipped with two G7e Torpedoes, the Seehund was designed as a short range commerce raider for deployment in the North Sea.

Board Game: Die Seehunde

The game play is divided into two games, which are connected to each other. You will start with the Strategic Game, which is played on a geographic map of the British Channel and it surrounding coasts. Here you will be at risk of encountering different events and challenges while searching for convoys to attack. Once you find a convoy, the Strategic Game pauses, and you switch to the Tactical Game, which is played on a large map, which is centered around the encountered convoy. You will try to maneuver as close a possible to identify the individual vessels
and pick the biggest fish. For torpedo simulation, the game uses a simplified mechanism, which allows you to attack from any angle and any range with minimal restrictions. Once there is no more to achieve against this convoy, you will try to escape the scene by grounding your submarine on the seafloor and hoping for the best.

After your escape, play will continue with the Strategic Game, where you can now choose to continue your journey, or head back to the home harbor of IJmuiden. Once you reach harbor, the game comes to a happy ending. But don’t be fooled, as there is only one happy end, and a dozen ways to die in the cold waters of the North Sea.
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Fri Feb 10, 2023 7:00 am
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Game Overview: Federation, or Spicy Space Politics and Worker Placement

Candice Harris
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From gallery of candidrum
At SPIEL '22, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Anne-Catherine Perrier from Explor8 to get a gameplay rundown of Dimitri Perrier and Matthieu Verdier's 2022 release Federation, an innovative worker placement game all about space politics. Worker placement games, by default, have player interaction, but Federation pushes the needle further in an exciting way, which I experienced firsthand on a review copy provided by the publisher.

In Federation, 2-4 players compete to gain the most prestige points and become the planet worthy of joining the Federation. Federation features a unique double-sided worker placement mechanism combined with what feels like multiple mini-games, making for a highly interactive eurogame.

Federation was successfully funded on Kickstarter in October 2021 and available in Europe in Q4 2022. However, in January 2023, Eagle-Gryphon Games announced they partnered with Explor8 to bring the deluxe version of Federation to the North American market and launched a pre-order, which is targeted to release at Gen Con 2023. As a pre-order bonus, Eagle-Gryphon Games is also including an exclusive, full-color wooden President of the Senate first player pawn.

The version I played is the deluxe version with dual-layered player boards, upgraded ambassador tokens and components, whereas the retail version from Explor8 would have all cardboard components.

The first thing you'll probably notice when you see Federation sprawled out on the table is a large, busy-looking board with a lot of different components. It may appear intimidating initially, but once you understand the flow of the game, you'll appreciate the excellent art and iconography by Miguel Coimbra. It not only makes the game easier to teach and play, but it's also fully language independent, which is a nice bonus. In addition to the main game board, each player has their own player board for managing their ambassadors (workers), resources, special missions, and more. The setup for your first game may take a while because you need to sort through and place several tokens and tiles around the board. However, once you have your first game under your belt, you can easily divide and conquer to speed up setup if other players are down to help.

Federation is played over 5 rounds, and each round is split into 2 phases. In the Ambassador phase, players take turns in clockwise order, placing their ambassador tokens on action spaces within the Senate, then performing the corresponding action. After the Ambassador phase, there's an end-of-round Executive phase where players may gain income and score prestige points for political influence in the Senate.

From gallery of candidrum

On your turn during the Ambassador phase, first you must play an ambassador token on an available action space of the Senate, either on its voting side or its funding side. You have two ambassador tokens with a voting value of 1, one with a value of 2, and one with a value of 3. On the opposite side of each ambassador token, there's a funding icon which looks like a coin, and a checkmark in a green circle, which represents you gaining access to a special mission (on your player board). The 2 higher-value voting tokens also give you a resource when played on their funding side. That added bonus of gaining a resource is often very tempting, and often necessary, so it's nice to have that option. Of course you have to decide if it's more important to play those tokens on their voting side though.

The Senate area of the game board is divided into a left wing and a right wing. Most of the actions are available on both wings, but there are a few that are slightly different. Each wing has a 3x3 grid of action spaces, and at the top of each column are funding tracks. Each round, there will be 2 different law (scoring) tiles under each wing, which will factor into your decision of which action space to choose. There are also 5 different planet actions available on both sides which correspond to the matching planet actions around the board. Every section is color-coded, but there are also different shapes and icons to differentiate for clarity. The other action spaces represent rooms of the Senate, as well as an action space on both wings that allows you to spy, or spend a resource to copy another action space, which comes in handy since only 1 ambassador token can occupy a given space.

From gallery of candidrum
Close-up of the Senate w/ Ambassadors placed

During the Executive phase, after all players have placed all 4 of their ambassador tokens, whichever player has the most voting strength for each floor (row) in the Senate gains prestige points. Any columns that have ambassador tokens funding side up increase the corresponding major project funding track(s). Then you'll see which side, left wing or right wing, has the most total votes (all players), and all players score prestige points according to the law tile on the corresponding side.

This worker placement system has so many interesting decision points to wrestle with. There are pros and cons to placing your ambassador token on the voting side versus the funding side at different points throughout the game. The voting side could lead to more immediate prestige points, but if you push the funding tracks where you have more influence than your opponents, you can score some big points at the end of the game. So you have to decide which side to place your token on (voting or funding), then you also need to decide which wing of the Senate to place your token on based on which laws might score at the end of the round. It's a worker placement game, so your opponent's may be blocking spaces you're desiring and you often won't have the option to choose which wing of the Senate you want to place your ambassador token on if you are hard-pressed to take a particular action. Ultimately, you're playing this area influence game with the voting side of your ambassador tokens, while also trying to take the actions you need (and want) to, and support the wing of the Senate that's going to score you the most prestige points if a particular law is passed.

As I mentioned above, there are planet actions and Senate room actions. Each planet action works a little differently and feels like a mini-game within the main game, but they're pretty straightforward and can be executed quickly. Each planet action is going to increase your influence for the corresponding planet and give you a helpful benefit, but in its own way.

From gallery of candidrum
Blue planet w/ Alteration tokens
When you take the blue planet action, you move your mage pawn 1 moon space forward, and choose an alteration token from the space you moved to. Alteration tokens are really cool because they allow you to temporarily modify/upgrade your ambassador tokens. They are discarded after you use them, but they are increasingly more juicy as you move to further moons and increase your influence on the blue planet.

The pink planet allows you to gain Erudite tiles that have special immediate or one-time use effects. Each tile you gain increases your influence by 1 for the pink planet.

At the yellow planet, you can carry out trades in different stalls. The first level stalls are each worth 1 influence, but if you trade at the same stall more than once, it'll push your marker to the second level which has a better trade rate and is worth 2 influence.

There are 4 different types of resources in Federation: lavendium (pink), coppernium (green), oceanium (blue), and gold diamond (yellow). The blue resource can always replace pink or green, and yellow is most precious since it's harder to get, and it can help you score points with the yellow planet action; in addition, it's required to build megastructures on the green planet, which can be worth a lot of victory points.

The orange planet is a mining planet where you'll move forward each action, similar to the blue planet, but instead of snagging alteration tokens, you gain resources. There are some randomly placed asteroid tokens which can be very tempting and lucrative, but instead of stopping to grab one, you can move 2 steps forward in some cases to increase your influence faster.

From gallery of candidrum
Yellow planet trading stalls

Last, but definitely not least, is the green planet where you can spend resources to either build a production structure which gives you an immediate benefit as well as end of round income, or you can build a megastructure to immediately score a chunk of victory points.

Your influence in these 5 different planets matters a lot for a few reasons. For one, you are racing your opponents to gain medals of honor. You can only have 1 medal for each planet, and they become increasingly harder to get the slower you are at getting your influence up. For example, in the 4-player game, the first person to have 3 influence for a planet gains the corresponding medal, then the next player would need 4 influence to gain a medal, the next would need 5, and so on. The more unique medals you have at the end of the game, the more points you'll earn from them. The game incentivizes you to get there before your opponents, but you can't do it all.

The other reason planet influence is important is because that is how the laws score during the Executive phase. The higher your influence for the planet that scores, the more prestige points you'll gain. As an example, if the left wing has more votes in the Senate at the end of the round and there's a green law token, it means all players score 2x their green planet influence level. The end-of-round scoring in Federation really fuels so many tough decisions during the worker placement phase.

From gallery of candidrum
Green planet Production Structures

Besides the planet actions, the Senate room actions are important too. There's one that allows you to take the President of the Senate pawn to become the first player for the next round, and you also get a medal of honor of your choice from a planet that you don't already have. When you get the medal, you take the one placed on the highest level of influence. Being first player didn't feel tremendously critical in Federation and there are sometimes advantages to being last, since you might have the final say in which law is passed. Either way, the free medal is a nice perk when choosing this action.

There are Senate room actions that increase your accreditation level on your player board and some that help you gain spaceships into the hangar on your player board. At this point, you're probably wondering why spaceships and your accreditation level even matter, so allow me to explain.

On your turn, in addition to placing an ambassador token and performing the corresponding action, you may optionally send 1 spaceship to accomplish a special mission on your player board, assuming you meet a few conditions. You must have an available spaceship in your hangar, the special mission must be accessible, and you must have the required accreditation level. If you meet all of these conditions, you can take a spaceship from your hangar, put it on the corresponding space and perform the action of the special mission. It's basically a bonus action on top of your normal action, so while your brain is processing every other decision in this game, you'll also be trying to set yourself up with as many special mission bonus action opportunities as you can.

On the left side of your player board, you'll keep track of your accreditation level. As you bump up to the next accreditation level, you open up more special mission opportunities that are in the corresponding row, in addition to being qualified for any special missions below. The special missions are almost identical to the action spaces on the Senate board, but you have to make them accessible before you can send a spaceship. Earlier I mentioned an icon with a checkmark in a green circle, which you can find on the funding side of your ambassador tokens. When you place an ambassador token on the funding side, you can add a checkmark token to the special mission matching the action space where you placed your ambassador token. Then assuming your accreditation level meets or exceeds it, you can send a spaceship there after your main action to gain a bonus action, which can lead to some cool combos on your turn.

From gallery of candidrum
My player board w/ some completed special missions and lots of medals!

There's also a Senate room action that allows you to increase your assistant die by 2, and make it available to you if it's not already. During the Ambassador/worker placement phase, your assistant die can be placed with your ambassador token on its voting side to boost that token's voting strength. This can be a tremendous help for winning majority scoring of each Senate floor at the end of the round, as well as influencing which wing's law passes.

At the end of the round, after all players have played all 4 of their ambassador tokens, you begin the Executive phase. First, each player receives income for every production structure they built. Then players with an accreditation level of 3 or higher must pay a resource corresponding to their level. If you can't, you have to lower your accreditation level back down to where you can pay the matching resource, or drop all the way back to the first space of level 2.

Then you increase the major project marker for each ambassador token on its funding side in the corresponding column. There's a joint major project that increases based on any excess funding, and that track has player markers to keep track of who contributed the most, which might factor into final scoring.

After adjusting funding tracks for the major projects, you score each floor of the Senate. The player with the most votes on each floor scores as many prestige points as their level of accreditation. This is one of the main reasons you'll want to focus some of your attention on increasing your accreditation level, besides the special mission bonus action opportunities.

From gallery of candidrum
The final push to fund projects before final scoring...

Finally, you determine which law is passed depending on which wing (left or right) had the most total votes and all players score prestige points according to their level of influence for the corresponding planet. There are 2 sets of 5 different tokens corresponding to each of the 5 planets, so you can expect to potentially score each planet twice, but you won't know the timing of when exactly each law tile will appear, or which will be passed. Either way, you'll always want to be ahead of the pack or push for the law that will benefit you most. I love that this votes mechanism lends itself to politics around the table. You may want to work with another player to help push the vote in a direction that's favorable for both of you, or push it away from a player who's in the lead.

At the end of the 5th round, the game ends and you proceed to final scoring. First, everyone scores points for their medals of honor, based on the lowest uncovered value. Then you score points for your remaining resources, followed by majority scoring for any major projects that funded, meaning the marker got to the last space on the track. In a 4-player game, whoever has the most influence for each funded major project scores 16 prestige points, the player with the second most scores 8, and the 3rd most scores 4. It's a significant amount of points so be sure to pay attention to these funding tracks, on top of everything else.

Board Game: Federation
I have been really digging Federation. It's the kind of eurogame that's right up my alley because it's oozing with awesome, tough decisions and there's so much player interaction from the unique worker placement combined with the scoring/votes mechanisms, and all of the competition for influence and medals on the different planets. Plus, I found the political theme actually shines through well as it leads to politics around the table as you're deciding which funding tracks to influence, or which wing of the Senate deserves your votes. I felt this constant (good) pressure playing Federation, as I was trying keep an eye on my opponents, and at the same time, always eager push ahead of them.

I would say the rules make the game feel medium complexity wise, but all of the strategic decisions you're faced with makes it feel more complex, and to me, more interesting. Besides the fact that you're racing to beat your opponents to everything, from action spaces to medals, each planet action is very satisfying. You're always getting something cool, and it's a matter of figuring out what cool thing is going to help you most each turn. Sometimes you'll try to increase your influence for the planet which seems like its law will pass, but other times you'll march to the beat of your own drum and try to push harder for the law you want passed.

From gallery of candidrum
EGG Pre-order bonus pawn
(subject to change)
Federation is a blast with 4 players, and when you play with less players, there's a neat, easy-to-run, neutral player(s) which blocks action spaces, and influences the voting strength based off of blocking and voting tiles you place at the beginning of each round, which was designed to keep things tight and interesting at lower player counts.

There should be a decent amount of replay value from the variation of tiles and tokens on the different planets, in addition to the varied combination of law tiles that appear each round, but there's also an advanced setup variant where you can change up the green planet from game to game by placing production structure tiles and megastructure tokens for even more variation.

If you're a worker placement fan and thrive on heavy, indirect player interaction, be sure to check out Federation. I'm definitely looking forward to playing it more and I'm happy that it'll be more widely available in the U.S. soon enough.
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Fri Feb 3, 2023 7:00 am
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