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Revisit Old School World War II Tactics, Conquer the Streets of Bastogne, and Command German Submarines with Your Team

Candice Harris
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Board Game Publisher: Flying Pig Games
Flying Pig Games launched a Kickstarter campaign (KS link) on January 13, 2022 for Old School Tactical: Volume 1 - Second Edition, a new version of Shayne Logan's 2016, 2-player, tactical wargame hit, Old School Tactical: Volume 1 (OST).

The second edition of Old School Tactical: Volume 1 features new artwork illustrated by the game designer on soldier and vehicle counters, along with updated rules and player aids, and two new tutorial scenarios. With the second edition enhancements, it sounds like this is a great time to get check out the OST system if you've been wanting to try it out. If you're not familiar with Old School Tactical, here's a brief overview from the publisher:
Quote:
Old School Tactical is the first in a dynamic series of fresh, tactical war games. OST simulates, through an easily-learned game system, small unit engagements on the Eastern Front during 1941-42.

Two players contest each scenario using counters representing the soldiers, guns, and vehicles that fought these desperate battles. On each turn play goes back and forth between the sides as Impulse Points are spent to enable a player's forces to act. When the battle is over, casualty and victory points are tallied and a victor is declared.

Board Game: Old School Tactical: Volume 1 – 2nd Edition

Infantry target other soft units and attack using their Firepower value against the target’s Defense value. The attack can be modified by Leadership, support weapons and terrain effects. And when things get intense, Assault moves into enemy hexes result in deadly Close Combat. Dice rolls are made using the Infantry Combat Table and results are implemented. Attacking armored vehicles requires a roll to Hit the vehicle at range. If a Hit is scored, the Firepower value of the attacker’s gun is used against the target’s front or flank Defense value. Dice rolls are made using the Vehicle Combat Table and results are enforced. Vehicles may also use their HE Firepower value and secondary armaments directly against soft targets using the Infantry Combat Table.
Also, let it be known that this is definitely not a straight-up reprint, if it wasn't evident from the box cover image above and Kickstarter title ("Old School Tactical Vol I NOT-A-REPRINT 2nd Edition").

• If you're interested in more maps and scenarios off the bat for the new, second edition of OST, you can snag a copy of the Red Blitz expansion, which is available as part of the Old School Tactical: Volume 1 – Second Edition Kickstarter campaign. Here's a taste of what you can expect from Red Blitz:
Quote:
In the vein of Old School Tactical Vol 2's Phantom Division we present Red Blitz. To be sold during the Kickstarter for Old School Tactical Vol I 2nd Edition, this boxed expansion will add more scenarios that occur during the vicious fighting of Operation Bagration in the summer of 1944.

Board Game: Old School Tactical: Volume 1 – 2nd Edition: Red Blitz

Specifically, there are 6 challenging new scenarios, and an extended battle to be gamed on Vol I's Map 1. The extended battle is a multi-part legacy scenario, where the day's gains remain in your hands and reinforcements are fed into the battle. A running score is kept and the winning side is determined at the end of all the rounds.

The "one-off" scenarios are fought on 4 new pocket maps, depicting summer and winter terrain. Additionally, Red Blitz presents new combatants, including the SU-76M, SU-85, OT-34, PT34, ISU-152, IS-2StuH-42 and the Nashorn.
Clash of the Ardennes is a unique and accessible, 2-player, tile-laying, tactical wargame designed and self-published by Elwin Klappe. After a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign (KS link) in April 2021, it is now available for pre-order.

Clash of the Ardennes features wooden unit pieces, pits players against each other as the Allies (Americans) and the Axis (Germans) during the Battle of the Bulge, and plays in 30-90 minutes. Here's a brief description of how it works:
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During one of the toughest battles fought in World War 2: the Battle of the Bulge, you face the difficult task to conquer important streets in the Belgian city of Bastogne.

Board Game: Clash of the Ardennes

In Clash of the Ardennes you have control over the Allied or Axis forces and you have to obtain your goal, which is described on your 'Objective card' (drawn at the beginning of the game).

Use all of your (special) units wisely, because you will run out of units very quickly. Place them strategically and tactically on 1 of the 7 streets, always think ahead and try to reach your objective a little bit sooner than your opponent.
Tank Duel designer Mike Bertucelli created a new, 1-4 player solitaire/team, World War II submarine game called Wolfpack, which is currently available for P500 pre-order from GMT Games.

Wolfpack features a campaign system where players track the progress of their crews, linking multiple patrols together to gain as much experience as possible from sinking allied merchant ships. Here are some more details from the publisher on the setting and a tidbit on what you can expect gameplay wise:
Quote:
Wolfpack is a tactical, historical game depicting the struggles between the German submarine Wolfpacks and the allied merchant convoys of WWII. Wolfpack is set in the vast North Atlantic from late 1941 to early 1943.

Wolfpack is a 1-4 player solitaire/team game. When playing solo, the player will command 2 - 4 submarines. In a team game, players will command 1 - 2 submarines depending on the number of players. The convoy merchant ships and escorts will be controlled by an AI system. In Wolfpack, players will assume the role of a German WWII submarine commander. Players will need to work together to achieve victory.

Board Game: Wolfpack: The North Atlantic Convoy Struggles October 1941 - March 1943

In a game of Wolfpack, players will start by approaching the Allied merchant ship convoy while trying to make it through the escort's screen undetected. If successful, your submarine will make an attack run on the convoy. As the commander, you will make many decisions like maneuvering your submarine to the best firing angle while making TDC (torpedo data computer) calculations for each of your torpedos, trying to achieve your best shot. You will issue orders to your crew to deal with any damage that your submarine may have sustained. Should we run silent? Do we press the attack? The decisions are up to you. Do all of this while trying to sink as much allied merchant ship tonnage as possible and avoid being detected and sent to the bottom by the allied escort ships.
I have had a blast with my handful of plays of Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs, so I'm eager to see what Bertucelli has cooked up for us with Wolfpack.
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Fri Jan 14, 2022 1:00 pm
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Become the Greatest Scholar of the Ming Dynasty, Compete Inside a Plant Cell, Run an Asteroid Mining Corporation, and Build Monsters, Potions, and Devices

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Board Game: Jiangnan: Life of Gentry
• In January 2022, Moaideas Game Design is re-launching a Kickstarter campaign (KS link) for Jiangnan: Life of Gentry, worker placement, bag-building game designed by DuGuWei, which can be played as through multiple campaigns or as a single scenario.

In Jiangnan: Life of Gentry, 1-4 players take on the roles of literati and artisans to curate works better than their opponents, in hopes to be declared the greatest artist of the Ming Dynasty. Here's a brief description from the publisher to hold you over until the Kickstarter launches with more details:
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It is the height of the Ming Dynasty. Literati artists hike and sail across the land searching for inspiration to compose the greatest works of the age. Those seeking the greatest fame present their work at the capital city of Nankin. However, aristocracy is fickle. Will you follow the latest trends, or start them?

Jiangnan: Life of Gentry is a worker placement and action tile bag building game for 1 to 4 players. Jiangnan can be played as a single scenario or through multiple campaigns. Players are literati and artisans of the elite gentry class living in Jiangnan, the prosperous region to the south of the Qinhuai River, and are highly skilled in literature, calligraphy, brush painting, and the musical and performing arts.

But you'll need the skills of bureaucracy to drive and guide aristocracy to evolve your work from today's latest trend to an everlasting classic to be sung and studied for thousands of years.
CoLab is an upcoming worker placement game from Portal Dragon, which is also being re-launched on Kickstarter (KS link) in January 2022. CoLab is a worker placement, engine-building, dice resource game for 1-4 players, from designers Jonathan Gilmour (Dead of Winter, Dinosaur Island) and Jon Mietling (Palm Island, Planetoid).

In CoLab, players utilize their minions and mad scientists to collect resource dice and compete to build monsters, potions, and devices. In more detail from the publisher:
Quote:
The dawn of a new age approaches and we stand at the precipice. The unbridled power of nature awakens something within. Mysteries demand to be explored and the results are not always what we expect. Creepy creatures, dangerous devices, precarious potions, CoLaboratory Incorporated provides a shared laboratory space that is the perfect home for your and your outlandish creations.

Build interesting devices that open new possibilities. Brew potions that grant you fantastic on-demand abilities. Create strange monsters and earn great renown. All while keeping an eye on your fellow scientist and their minions. Scientists bring research into the lab to use on their experiments but they are not the only ones who benefit. Occupy a space adjacent to the research dice held by any minion and you can use it for your own creations.

Collect monster, device, or potion dice to generate more research that can be used on your creations.

Expand the laboratory giving everyone new opportunities.

With each new creation, your collection grows and the placement of each creation in your grid can create new opportunities or gain more renown. Once a player builds their 12th creation the end of the game is triggered and the player with the most renown (points) wins.

Board Game: CoLab

CoLab is a worker and dice placement game with dice collection. Players compete to gain the most renown through building monster, device, or potion cards over the course of the game. Each turn you send a minion to a tower space to gather resources or return a minion. Your minions also hold your resource dice. This resource can be used by players at either adjacent laboratory location. Then you place your player miniature on a laboratory location and either put the adjacent minions to work collecting more resources or build cards according to what is available at that lab. As the game progresses the board expands giving new opportunities for all players who visit that location.

Build a wide variety of monsters, potions, and devices or focus on one type to gain the most renown and win the game.

CoLab employs a series of '“take this”' mechanics where players provide resources, minions, or other opportunities to their opponents in exchange for resources or points. Balancing how much you give away with the opportunities your opponents may create is the real trick to becoming the most renowned scientist in CoLab.
Board Game Publisher: Genius Games
Cellulose: A Plant Cell Biology Game is a new worker placement game from educational board game aficionados Genius Games, and designers John Coveyou and Steve Schlepphorst. Cellulose was successfully funded on Kickstarter (KS link) in May 2021 and is now available for pre-order.

Cellulose plays with 1–5 players in 45–90 minutes and is a standalone sequel to Coveyou's Cytosis: A Cell Building Game, which was released in 2017. Cytosis had players competing inside a human cell, and now Cellulose sets us inside a plant cell.

Here's a high-level overview of what you can expect to be schooled on in Cellulose:
Quote:
Cellulose: A Plant Cell Biology Game is a worker placement game that puts 1-5 players inside a plant cell, where they will compete over limited resources in order to undergo photosynthesis, produce carbohydrates, and build the cell wall. With everyone vying for the same actions, players must time their use of proteins, hormones, and cell component cards in order to diversify their strategies and outplay the competition.

Board Game: Cellulose: A Plant Cell Biology Game

Cellulose is the standalone sequel to Cytosis (2017). It has some of the same DNA, but Cellulose expands familiar game systems, allowing players greater control over available resources, strategic paths, and even game length.
Board Game Publisher: Artipia Games
Artipia Games is launching a Kickstarter campaign (KS link) in January 2022 for Ceres, a sci-fi worker placement game from designer Gustaf Sundström, where 1-4 players compete as asteroid mining corporations on Mars. Here's more on the setting and what you can expect from Ceres, which plays in 90–120 minutes:
Quote:
YEAR: 2219

The days of Earth being the center of humankind’s attention has ceased. The time of interplanetary spaceflights, space exploration and exploitation is already upon us.

MARS, having been terraformed and colonized for more than 50 years, facilitates, among others, the headquarters of the Asteroid Mining Assembly of Corporations (A.M.A.C.), a regulatory and corporate instrument of authority overseeing all issues that concern the Asteroid Mining Corporations.

CERES, the largest object in the asteroid belt stands as the last resort before the outer planets, a trading port established as the ultimate sign of stability within the chaos of the asteroid belt. Ceres is now the home of the Asteroid Mining Complex and its great establishment.

Take up the role of one of the Asteroid Mining Corporations. Plan and execute your company’s agendas, construct facilities, deploy mining probes in the asteroid belt, research for new technologies and exploit your power in the council of Mars.

CERES awaits you!

Board Game: Ceres

Ceres is a 1-4 player Sci-Fi worker placement game where players take the role of an Asteroid Mining Corporation in the near future and try to outplay their opponents and rule Ceres! The game consists of 3 rounds that represent 3 years in Ceres and the respective full business cycles of the corporations. Players can choose among a variety of actions including launching mining probes to the Asteroid Belt, trading raw materials, constructing and upgrading their core facilities as well as expanding the colony of Ceres, improving their technology through research and liaising with the Mars council in order to exploit their power even more!

Ceres has been co-developed with an astrophysicist for the best possible thematic applications and brings a couple of innovative twists to the worker placement genre!
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Mon Jan 10, 2022 1:00 pm
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Defend Lanzerath in World War II, Explore More Empires of the North, Design a Submarine, and Take Down Crime Bosses in the Wild West

Candice Harris
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For the past several months, I had been looking forward to having a wee bit of downtime around the holidays so I could dive into my ever-growing solitaire game collection. I had visions of learning and playing a new game each day, but I ended up starting with Joel Toppen's Navajo Wars from GMT Games, which fascinated and consumed me as I learned and played gradually over a multiple days. Then, before I knew it, I was sucked into other conflicting holiday plans and back to gaming with friends.

As much as I love playing games multiplayer, I also really love and appreciate the calming, immersive, and challenging experience of playing games solo. It's awesome that more and more multiplayer games are being released with solo modes, but there are also so many amazing games designed specifically for solitaire gameplay. Here are a few coming in 2022 that sound very interesting.

Board Game: Lanzerath Ridge
• On December 16th, the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, David Thompson posted a timely announcement on Twitter about his upcoming solitaire wargame Lanzerath Ridge, where you lead an American platoon against 500 German paratroopers at the start of the Battle of the Bulge. Lanzerath Ridge is the newest addition in Thompson's Valiant Defense series (Pavlov's House, Castle Itter, Soldiers in Postmen's Uniforms) from Dan Verssen Games (DVG) and is targeted to launch on Kickstarter in January 2022.

Here's a brief overview of what you can expect from Lanzerath Ridge:
Quote:
Lanzerath Ridge is a solitaire wargame that takes places on the first day of the Battle of the Bulge, during the Second World War. In the game, you take control of a small group of American soldiers. Under your command, the Americans must fend off the relentless attacks from German paratroopers and fusiliers. Your goal is to recreate the incredible historic accomplishment of the American soldiers by defending the town of Lanzerath, Belgium and delaying the advance of an entire SS Panzer Division.

Lanzerath Ridge is the next design in the Valiant Defense series, following the critically acclaimed Pavlov's House, Castle Itter, and Soldiers in Postmen's Uniforms. The Valiant Defense series allows you to play amazing stories of courage, with small forces holding the line against unimaginable odds. Games in the series focus on the individual defenders and are deeply rooted in history, while providing a quick play experience with a light complexity rule set.

Board Game: Lanzerath Ridge
Game board

Lanzerath Ridge is divided into four attack periods, each of which is represented by a deck of enemy cards. Each attack period is divided into a number of turns, and each turn consists of two phases:

The game ends immediately if the defenders’ morale drops to 0 or if a German attacker takes over an American defensive position. Otherwise, the game ends after the last attack. Your level of success is based on the Americans’ morale, intelligence gained during the defense, and any objectives you accomplish.
I continuously hear great things about Thompson's Valiant Defense series and ended up going all-in on DVG's last Kickstarter campaign for Soldiers in Postmen's Uniforms. I'm looking forward to playing them all, and I'm already pumped for Lanzerath Ridge based on the setting and that beautiful, snowy game board created by Nils Johansson.

Board Game: Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North
Wrath of the Lighthouse is a new story-driven, solo campaign expansion for Ignacy Trzewiczek's Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North, from designer Joanna Kijanka and Portal Games. The Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North base game includes a solo mode, but based on the description below from the publisher, Wrath of the Lighthouse offers a more in-depth experience with more variety and new challenges for solo players:
Quote:
Empires of the North: The Wrath of the Lighthouse is a story-driven solo campaign for the award-winning engine-building card game: Empires of the North.

The expansion comes with 15 unique solo scenarios played in the order corresponding with the story included in the Campaign book. When playing the campaign mode, players gain access to the new type of cards including Event cards, Legacy locations cards that last from one game to another, and Lighthouses cards that are shuffled to Island decks. Additionally, each of the scenarios can be played individually, just like the scenarios in the base game.

Board Game: Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North – Wrath of the Lighthouse

In story mode, you will play alongside a Campaign book and slowly discover how the plot unfolds. Why is the number of lighthouses on the coast increasing? Why do the people so strongly oppose the cathedral being rebuilt? And those seas constantly assaulted by storms…

Empires of the North: The Wrath of the Lighthouse is designed by Joanna Kijanka, co-designer of the base game and all previously released expansions to the game. The expansion includes 55 cards, a Scenario booklet with 15 unique scenarios, and a Campaign book with more than 50 story branches.
Board Game Publisher: GMT Games
• In their December 2021 newsletter, GMT Games announced Ed Ostermeyer and Jeremy White's new solitaire game, Infernal Machine: Dawn of Submarine Warfare. Infernal Machine is a new addition to GMT's P500 pre-order system, and had me very intrigued from its title alone, and then even more interested after reading the highly-detailed description below from the publisher:
Quote:
The time: late evening
The date: 17 February 1864
The Place: Breach Inlet, South Carolina

Standing in the submarine’s forward hatch, Lieutenant George E. Dixon pulled his cap down and tightened up his oilskin watch coat. The February sea cut through to his bones. This was the third night he ventured from behind Battery Marshall on Sullivan’s Island, and his seven-man crew was grumpy from having had no luck spotting, let alone attacking even one of the Yankee warships blockading Charleston harbor.

Dixon fingered the dented $20 gold piece in his trouser pocket. It was a gift from Queenie, his sweetheart, a keepsake that already earned its place aboard ship. A few months earlier at a wooded tangle of a place called Shiloh, the coin stopped a minie ball from shattering his leg. The dent reminded him how fickle fate and fortune are in this war, and it reminded him of home. He had that coin engraved “Shiloh April 6th, 1862. My life Preserver” and added his initials “G.E.D.”, so sure was he of the coin’s power.

Well, tonight that power was napping. Frustrated and cold, Dixon took one last look to the southeast through his telescope. The weather wasn’t likely to improve and he hoped that this would be the night he and the crew of the “CSS Hunley” would strike a blow against the Yankee blockade.

Here now… was that a light?
There!
And once again, low and to the south-southeast. A light!

He rapped the coin against the hull to startle the men. “Look sharp,” he muttered. Then, in a voice low and tense, he said “Look sharp and prepare to crank!”


Game Overview
Infernal Machine: Dawn of Submarine Warfare is a solitaire board game that casts the player in the role of inventor/entrepreneur in mid-19th century America. The game is set during a historical moment when the business environment has gotten rather dynamic – it is the tumultuous landscape of the American Civil War. The player’s task is to design, build, and put to use a submarine during that war.

Board Game: Infernal Machine: Dawn of Submarine Warfare
P500 cover image

Infernal Machine can be played either in scenario form or campaign. In a campaign, you can choose the city or port where the project’s machine shop will be located. Since construction materials and labor costs money, your role as entrepreneur comes into play as you seek out Investors to join your team; their cash will provide the funds that help your Fishboat take shape. As Inventor, your design gives form and substance to the size and shape of your submarine, and to its capabilities. Will it carry a snorkel? Will its prow be an armored ram? Will it have dive planes? Will it push a spar torpedo? Will it be powered by the muscle strength of a crew cranking the propeller or will you install a boiler engine?

To bring blueprints to life, you will need to hire Mechanics, whose engineering expertise keeps the machine’s construction on schedule. Once assembly is complete, your Mechanics can join the crew, using their repair capability to keep the machinery and the vessel running smoothly. Journeymen can also lend a hand on the shop floor and inside the Fishboat, while Sailors bring nautical know-how as well as sheer brawn.

While that machine shop is busy with the submarine’s construction, the game reminds you that the war drags on and it is an unstable business environment. Prices for materials and labor fluctuate. Current events can affect your construction schedule and your machine shop’s performance. Public, and even personal circumstances may force your hand. You may decide to push your Fishboat into the water before you feel it is optimal, or push your crew into battle with little training.

In this game you assign crew, taking their characteristics into consideration, such as morale, strength, engineering expertise. Your first mission will most likely be a simple affair, propelling the infernal machine forward, submerging, turning about, and returning to the surface. It will garner valuable experience that improves your crew’s Training Level. But even that simple affair could prove treacherous. Will the Fishboat drift? Will it sink and become irretrievable? Will your crew panic in the dark as they breathe in the exhalation of their comrades in that cramped machine? Will you be forced to evacuate the crew and salvage the Fishboat later? Will the crew survive the ordeal?

Later missions will be directed at the enemy. In this game, you may play either side, Union or Confederate. There are a variety of missions and targets. Will your Fishboat be aimed at the Federal blockade? Will it pull a mine at the end of a rope, or push a torpedo at the end of a spar? Will the crew survive contact with the enemy? Will they survive their own weapon’s detonation? Perhaps the nature of the mission will be quite different. Will you carry a spy into enemy territory? Will your Fishboat unload a raiding party?

Secrecy is vital. Will you send your machine out under a moonless sky? That will help conceal crew and machine but it will make navigation difficult. Will you limit the number of machinists and investors, thereby reducing the chance of rumor or gossip leaking out? Too few and you compromise your machine’s capabilities. Your Fishboat’s chances are much better if that machine is kept a secret, but it is a cantankerous machine that will punish mistakes.

A successful mission means your coffers will be filled with prize money. This is a capitalist’s war, and the War Department is offering juicy bounties. In contrast, there are many ways to fail. Coming back without making contact with the enemy is one way, but it could be far worse. Will you add the names of your crew to the Rolls of the Missing?

Scenarios and Campaign
Historical scenarios use only part of the rules to present such events as the CSS Hunley’s successful attack outside Charleston Harbor in 1864. It was the first time a submarine sank its target, a landmark event in military history. The heart of the game is the campaign, which allows you to design and build your Infernal Machine, select a crew, train that crew, and perform missions against the enemy. You manage funds and personnel, and navigate the fortunes of war as well as the waterways in enemy territory. A scenario will take approximately two hours to play while a campaign can last several gaming sessions as it spans the calendar from 1861 to the end of the war in 1865.

Sequence of Play
Each monthly turn gives you an opportunity to recruit personnel (Investors, Mechanics, Journeymen, or Sailors), each represented by a deck of cards. Each recruit comes with one or more benefits as well as costs or drawbacks. An Investor, for example, may be a generous provider of funds, but he may insist on being the captain of the ship. Does he know what he’s doing?! A Sailor may prove to be strong and cool under pressure, but he may be clumsy. Will that clumsiness jeopardize his crewmates?

Each turn also provides you an opportunity to work on your Fishboat. You purchase Bulkheads and other major sections of the submarine, each represented by tiles. They cost funds and require engineering expertise to incorporate into a seaworthy vessel. You also purchase a variety of mechanisms as you make decisions about the capability of your Fishboat.

Recruitment and Building is followed by the passage of time when the Month marker is moved forward on the calendar. Debts must be paid, if you have any, and you must check the Fortunes of War table to see if something unexpected happens that month. Will prices rise? Will one of your Journeymen get engaged and leave your shop? Will the enemy shell the wharf where your Fishboat is waiting to go into action? Will you get an offer to use your machine shop to make parts for the War Department, giving you a contract and additional funds? Will the enemy capture the town, forcing you to move to another location? Each month has its own table of random events, and there is one set used when playing Union and another when playing Confederate. This adds to the feel of the historical experience while also increasing replayability. The Confederate experience is quite different from playing the Union. The latter is an industrial business environment while the Confederacy’s economy gradually spirals into oblivion.

Each month you have the option to finish the turn by taking your seaworthy Fishboat into action. There are four Action Boards in the box, each providing its own unique historical and nautical conditions (Charleston, Mobile, New Orleans, and the James River from City Point to Richmond).

You set up a mission by establishing meteorological conditions on the Action Board (drift direction, drift intensity, visibility, and weather), and assign each crewman a position inside your Fishboat. Will you call off the mission because the current is too strong? Will you wait for a better opportunity, or will you push ahead despite the risk?

Your submarine will move from one space to the next as it executes its mission. During a mission you assign jobs to each crewman (crank, repair, rally, or operating a mechanism). This is new technology and the submarine is an untried machine, so malfunctions are likely and you will assign crew to manage and hopefully repair them. In many cases, just getting out there and locating a target is a victory of sorts, and getting the crew back home can feel like a triumph. Of course, your mandate is to do more than make contact with the enemy and survive. To gain prize money, you will have to prove your machine’s efficacy against the enemy. It’s an old story: higher the risk, greater the reward.

If you manage to navigate your machine and crew to make contact with its target, action shifts to the Tactical Board. There, the Fishboat closes in and you hope conditions are right so that it remains concealed. Decisions you made leading up to this tense moment have put your crew in a good position, or maybe in a bad one. In either case, history is watching.
Board Game Publisher: Button Shy
Deadeye Dinah is a small and compact, quick-playing (5 to 15-minute) solo game designed by BGG user Onthewayover, where you take on the role of a bounty hunter attempting to bring down a ring of crime bosses over the course of eight unique missions.

Deadeye Dinah was originally self-published as an entry in the 2021 "9-Card Nanogame Print and Play Design Contest", where it won several awards including Best Solitaire Game and Best Cards-Only Game. It has since been picked up by wallet-game publisher Button Shy, who specializes in pocket-sized games (Sprawlopolis, Circle the Wagons, Tussie-Mussie).

Here's how Deadeye Dinah works, as described by the designer:
Quote:
In this in-hand solitaire Western campaign game, bounty hunter "Deadeye" Dinah Reeves is taking down a ring of crime bosses as a favor for her lawman little brother. Aim impossible shots, brave fearsome perils, and stretch scant supplies in your hunt to bring in each crime boss, dead or alive (most likely dead). As you progress, your legend will grow, striking fear into your enemies and granting you an edge...which you'll need, 'cause you've set your sights on the toughest, meanest pack of varmints this side o' the Wild West. Good thing you never miss.

Deadeye Dinah features an in-hand, cards-only microgame campaign with 8 unique missions, each lasting 4-6 encounters, and persistent character progression through each mission. Each mission, or "job," is hunting down 1 crime boss.

Board Game: Deadeye Dinah

Players start a job by setting up the deck for the boss they want to pursue. To track down the boss, they play kit cards (Dinah's equipment) to overcome each scene card (the trials she faces) stacked on top of the boss card. A scene card can be an environmental peril or a shootout with hired thugs. Each kit card is played as either a bullet to shoot or an item to use for special effects, but playing kit cards also leaves Dinah open to being shot and losing cards. If Dinah overcomes a scene, the player adds the scene card to Dinah's kit cards. If she can't overcome the scene, she must escape and lose cards. If Dinah ever runs out of kit cards, and the player can't add any more, she fails the job and must start over.

If Dinah overcomes all the scenes and reaches the boss, she must duel the boss by playing a bullet to shoot the boss while avoiding getting shot herself. If she doesn't fulfill both those conditions, the boss slips away and Dinah fails the job. But if both conditions are fulfilled, Dinah wins the duel, captures the boss, and completes the job, earning reputation in the crime ring's new territory. As Dinah earns reputation, the player upgrades her legend effect, a passive benefit she carries into each job.
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Fri Dec 31, 2021 1:00 pm
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Game Overview: Imperial Steam, or The Struggle of Building Track is Real

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I left Gen Con 2021 buzzing with excitement, mainly because it was my first time attending Gen Con and I had a blast, but also because Clay Ross from Capstone Games gave me an enthusiastic overview of Imperial Steam, a new route-building, economic, and logistics game from Lignum designer Alexander Huemer. While I have yet to play Lignum, I have played a few games of Imperial Steam on a review copy from Capstone Games, so I can share how it plays along with some of my initial impressions.

In Imperial Steam, 2-4 players compete to earn the most money in Austria during the Industrial Age. Players are tasked with carefully managing their workers, money, and resources needed to build railroad tracks and expand their railway networks. As players expand their railway networks and build factories, they can deliver goods that are in high demand and fulfill potentially profitable contracts. Before I describe how the Imperial Steam plays, allow me to explain how it ends first so you understand why I say "potentially" profitable contracts.

A game of Imperial Steam will either end at the end of the 8th round, or at the end of a round when a player has connected their railway network from the starting city of Wien to the final destination of Trieste, way at the bottom of the game board. A key thing to note is that if no player has connected Wien to Trieste, all contracts are worthless. Alternatively, if anyone has connected Wien to Trieste, then you earn money for completed contracts, and you have to pay money for any unfulfilled contracts. This is something crucial to be aware of in a game that’s all about making the most money (guldens).

After you set up Imperial Steam, your table will be filled with a variety of really nice quality boards and components that will probably appear intimidating initially. Once you get rolling, it’s smooth train-riding from there…well, aside from a bunch of hard decisions you’ll be hit with, like a surprise pie-in-the-face from a clown.

Before the game begins, there’s a blind bid for influence. Influence determines turn order, affects certain actions, and can score you money at the end of the game. Turn order is super important, but so is having money on hand. There lies your first tough decision in Imperial Steam, with many more to follow.

From gallery of candidrum
Influence track

Imperial Steam is played over a series of rounds, and each round consists of 8 phases. With the exception of the Perform Actions phase, all of the phases are really quick, and fall under the maintenance umbrella -- i.e. retrieving your action markers, collecting income, determining turn order -- so let’s focus on how the actions work.

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When it comes time to take actions on a given round, in turn order, you simply place one of your action hands on an action tile and take the corresponding action. Players start the game with 2 action hands, but gain additional action hands in later rounds. Thus, at the beginning of the game, you can only take 2 actions, but then in rounds 4+, you can take 5 actions.

If any opponents have taken the action you choose, you can still take that action. However, if you have already taken that particular action this round, you must decrease your influence 1 step for each of your action hands already there. Decreasing your influence is generally not great as it impacts turn order, your flexibility for hiring workers, and eventually end game scoring.

Imperial Steam is a big game and fittingly has a whopping 11 different actions you can choose from on your turn. It seems like a lot, and it definitely can be a lot to soak in when you’re initially learning the game, but thankfully the actions are not complicated. In fact, 2 of the actions, pass and fundraise, are incredibly simple, with the latter being very common and helpful as you quickly discover how tight money is in this game.

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Considering players are racing to connect their railway networks to Trieste, the build tracks action is arguably most important. With this action, you can spend resources/goods and exert workers to build up to 2 tracks on the map to expand your railway network to new cities.

At the beginning of the game, your network is nothing but a train station in Wien, so your first track must connect Wien to an adjacent city. Each connection between a pair of cities requires only 1 track, and multiple players can build a track between the same 2 cities. However, if other players beat you to connecting a pair of cities, you have to pay each player who already has track laid there 10 bucks.

In addition to spending resources, you have to assign workers on your player board to meet the effort level of each city you’re connecting to. Each city tile has an effort number you must meet or exceed by assigning workers.

Your player board has 2 areas with 3 different levels to manage your workers. When your workers are not being utilized, they stay at the bottom of your player board in the training area. When you put them to work to build tracks, you move them up to the working area. In the leftmost training area each worker can exert 1 effort, which increases 1 effort per column to the right. Therefore, each worker in the rightmost training area can be exerted for 3 effort. However, the only way to get them to gain more experience (shifting to the right) is by not using them for a round.

One of the maintenance phases before you perform actions allows you to shift any workers one space to the right that are still in the training area (bottom) from the previous round. Then you shift all your workers in the work area down to the training area. It’s often a tough decision in Imperial Steam determining when to leverage your workers and knowing they won’t level up versus holding off and not using them to allow them to train and level-up.

For example, in the photo below, if the red player does not put the 2 workers in the training area (bottom) to work this round, they will both slide one space to the right in the Train Your Workers phase, prior to the next Perform Actions phase. Then instead of being able to work for 1 or 2 effort, they can be exerted for 2 or 3 effort, respectively. Meanwhile, the workers in the work area (top) have already been exerted for a total of 8 effort and will drop down in the upcoming Train Your Workers phase.

From gallery of candidrum

When you connect to a city, depending on the city tile, there are a variety of opportunities and benefits available, so it’s not always just about taking the most direct route to Trieste. Sometimes it's worth taking a detour to take advantage of some other opportunities.

Some cities have business tokens which are placed during setup. Business tokens range in value from 1 to 3, and the higher valued tokens are always placed on top, rewarding the players who snag them first. These tokens can be spent to increase your influence, increase your share price, or permanently convert a freight car on your player board to a passenger card. If you pick up a 3-value business token you can do any combination of these actions.

Some city tiles have spaces for you to build train stations and factories. Train stations allow you to connect more than 2 tracks to a city, increase your income, and give you more storage space for resources. On the other hand, factories allow you to produce and deliver goods to cities with demand, which is an excellent way to make money. I can't stress how tight money is in this game, but let's just say, creating opportunities to deliver goods is really important.

There are 4 hub cities that each want the same goods at the beginning of the game: 1 wood, 1 stone, 1 iron, and 2 coal. If you have a factory with goods connected to a hub city, as a free action, you can deliver a single good per turn from one of your factories spending a coal from your player board. These are one-time demands, and they are first come, first serve. So if someone already delivered a stone good to a city, no other players can deliver stone to that city. Delivering to these hub cities is the epitome of ‘get it while it’s hot’ in Imperial Steam.

The Imperial Steam map has 25+ cities connected with 3 different types of connections: regular (white), bridges (gray), and tunnels (orange). In order to build tracks on bridge and tunnel connections, you need to hire special workers, bridge (orange) and tunnel (gray) engineers. I bet you're now wondering how to hire workers.

From gallery of candidrum
Worker board
As an action, you can hire any number of workers and/or bridge and tunnel engineers from the worker board. Each column on the worker board represents a source of workers from the hub city of the same color. You can only hire from hub cities whose city influence marker is at or below your own influence level.

To hire workers, you choose one column, then for each worker you hire, you pay the price in the row where the worker hiring price marker is, then move the cube up 1 space. Therefore each worker you get in the same action is increasingly more expensive, and you’re also jacking up the price of workers in that particular column going forward. Then you place each worker you hired in the training area at experience level 1 on your player board.

Hiring engineers always costs 30 guldens and there’s a special space on your player board for each type of engineer. During setup, the bridge and tunnel engineers are randomly placed in each hub city column. While there are always 1 of each type of engineer available to all players, you still have to factor in your influence level to get access to them, which is interesting and always ends up being another thing players are racing each other to get.

If you want to build a train station or a factory in a city you’re connected to, take the build a building action. When you build a train station, you pay the cost indicated to the right of the train station construction site. As I previously mentioned, building train stations is a way to increase your income, and it also allows you to connect more than 2 tracks to the corresponding city.

Alternatively, you can take this action to build a factory, which is typically a lot more beneficial, but it comes at a cost. Not only do you have to spend the amount of money listed to the left of the factory you want to build, but you also have to permanently take a worker from your player board and place it on the factory site, thus no longer being available to help you build tracks. The cool thing is, you can take the worker from either the training area or working area. This is extremely helpful in a game where taking actions efficiently and in the right order is essential to make ends meet.

From gallery of candidrum
Factory board

Depending on the experience level of the worker you assign to your factory, you take the same amount of goods matching the factory and place them by the worker on the game board. Taking a level-3 worker is great because you get 3 factory goods, but the tradeoff is that you’re losing an experienced worker that you spent a chunk of time training.

Having a factory is very beneficial because you can hook yourself up with goods, you can fulfill contracts, and you can deliver goods to cities to make money. As more factories are built and removed from the factory board, the more expensive they become, and the less money you’ll make when you deliver matching goods from them.

With the produce goods action, you can tap into all of your factories that have goods available. You are allowed to take 1 good per factory and immediately store them on empty spaces on your player board.

From gallery of candidrum
Shipment market
You can also buy or order goods as an action to gain resources needed for building tracks. You can instantly buy 1 good from the Shipment market, paying the price in its row, and then storing it on an empty good space on your player board. The more goods you buy, the more expensive they become, similar to hiring workers and the cost of building factories.

If you're seeking out multiple goods, you can order goods, but they won’t be available until the next round on the Take Ordered Goods phase. While it’s awesome to get as many goods as you can, whenever you can, there are also some challenges with ordering goods.

First of all, you always want and need access to those resources immediately, but you’re forced to be patient and wait until the next round to be able to actually use your precious goods. Also, each round there’s a maximum amount of goods you can order per round, so you’re often limited and unable to get everything you need unless you plan super carefully. This makes getting factories built crucial so you can also gain goods by producing from your factories.

The other challenge you may run into with ordering goods is making sure you have enough empty storage spaces available for the goods when you’re able to access them. That’s important to remember so you don’t end up having to discard any goods. They are too expensive and hard to get, so be sure to keep tabs on your inventory situation often.

Having space for goods is another important aspect in Imperial Steam, which is why you’ll eventually want to buy or upgrade trains. Everyone starts the game with a measly 30-train which comes with 3 freight cards and storage space for a coal, and 3 of any type of good. Of course, if you end up turning any of these cars into passenger cars, you’ll have more income, but you’ll be limiting your storage space.

On your player board you have 3 rows available for up to 3 trains. You can buy new trains, or you can upgrade existing trains by paying the difference. As the game progresses better, more expensive trains will become available.

If you upgrade your 30-train to a 50-train, you pay 20 guldens and add 2 freight cars, giving you more storage space. Alternatively, if you buy a new 50-train, you place it on an empty train row and it comes with 5 freight cards plus a coal. Remember, in order to deliver goods from your factories as a free action, you have to also spend coal. So sometimes it’s worth it to spend more money on a new train (versus upgrading) specifically for that handy coal.

When it comes to your trains, there’s so much to balance and think about. On one hand you’ll be trying to create extra storage space for resources and reserved tokens from contracts, and then on the other, you’ll want to convert freight trains to passenger cars which reduces your storage capacity, but also increasing your income. Knowing how much of which to do is always a struggle, in addition to deciding when to upgrade versus buying a new train.

As an action, you can secure a contract, and then hopefully earn a chunk of money from it at the end of the game. Each contract card shows the number and types of factories required to fulfill it, and the amount of money you’ll earn or lose at the end of the game if anyone’s railway network connects to Trieste. You'll also take a number of reserved tokens which eat up your precious goods storage spaces on your freight cars, which isn't great.

On the brighter side, you get some investor meeples which are placed on your share board. There’s nothing like having investors available when you’re low on cash and this is the only way to get them.

From gallery of candidrum
Player board w/ 2 trains and a Share board w/ 2 investors available

In addition to increasing your influence by connecting to new cities, you can also take the philanthropize action, where you can pay as many guldens as you wish to increase your influence at a cost of 10 guldens per step. Considering how many things you’re racing to beat your opponents to in Imperial Steam, this is a great way to boost your influence along with improving your turn order position.

Taking the manipulate share value action allows you to either increase your share value 1 step by decreasing your influence a certain amount, or you can decrease your share value as much as you’d like. Besides your player board, each player also has a small share board to keep track of their share values and investors. You start the game with a share value of 40 guldens and 1 investor meeple.

As a free action on your turn, you can sell a share if you have an investor on the same row as or higher than your share value marker. This is a quick way to convert demand for shares in your company into cash. Your shares can range from 40 to 240 guldens. The only caveat is, by doing this, you’re essentially promising to pay the investor dividends at the end of the game. For example, if you end up selling shares to 2 investors in the game, you will lose 20% of your total earnings at the end of the game. If you do it right, it can be totally worth to gain access to money mid-game and hopefully not lose too much at the end.

I really think investors and shares system is an awesome feature in Imperial Steam. You have to take more contracts to gain more investors, which can be risky, and you also lose influence to increase your shares, but if you can do it well and sell your shares at the right time, for the right price, it can be pretty powerful. I find it more interesting than simply taking out loans when you need money in many other economic games.

The last 2 action options are to fundraise and take 10 guldens from the bank, or you can pass. You'd be surprised how often taking 10 bucks is such a helpful action for you. There are also moments where the best thing to do is simply pass. Remember, if you take the same action multiple times in the same round, you lose influence.

A game of Imperial Steam ends if you finish 8 rounds, or if a player's railway network has connected Wien to Trieste at the end of a round. The player who has the most money after end-game scoring and paying shareholders is the winner of the game.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple other spicy reasons players are rushing to connect to Trieste in Imperial Steam. First of all, as soon as you connect to Trieste, you immediately gain 10 guldens for each track in your network. Plus, any players who didn’t connect to Trieste have to pay 20 guldens per track to share the track of another player who made it to Trieste, so they can essentially make it there via the shared tracks.

I really dig Imperial Steam and I find myself appreciating it more and more with each game I play. Personally, I find it to be such a challenging game, mainly from a strategy perspective. The rules are not complex or hard to learn, especially if you’re used to learning and playing heavier games. With all the planning, logistics, and money and resource management involved, it’s a really deep, enriching game.

From gallery of candidrum
There are some bits and pieces I didn’t really touch on, but I definitely want to mention that Imperial Steam has a lot of replay value packed in. There’s a fixed setup for your initial plays, and a normal setup for more experienced players. With the normal setup, you use one of the 15 normal setup cards to determine where the city and hub tiles are placed. There are few other aspects of the normal setup that randomize other parts of the setup process too. It seems like this variety in setup will keep players on their toes game after game. Heck, I’m still playing the fixed setup and each game already feels different depending on who I’m playing with. Either way, I’m really stoked to eventually experiment with the varied setup options after I feel I’ve graduated from the fixed setup.

The teach can be long because there are a lot of actions to cover, but again, they are all straightforward actions, and once you know them, you rarely need to consult the rulebook. I found that new players felt slightly overwhelmed initially, but by the first round or so, mostly everything clicked. Playing optimally, on the other hand, will take a bit longer.

Even when you’re struggling to make ends meet, it’s still a fun game with awesome challenges to overcome. When you’re broke and you make a sweet delivery that gives you a bunch of cash, it feels so good. Of course, then you immediately spend it all 2 minutes later. The rulebook even encourages you to not worry about playing your first game perfectly, but just jump in and make mistakes. Your mistakes and bad decisions will help you learn and improve faster. I totally agree.

I found myself wanting to play it again immediately after the first game I played. I did end up playing it back-to-back nights, and I felt like I improved, which is great. It’s the kind of challenge that excites me and makes me want to keep coming back for more.

The opening blind bid for influence is cool too. You could go big and lock in 1st player status, but then you’re likely starting the game with less money than your opponents. Whereas, you could hold back your money and buy a 2nd train earlier than other players, then get to the juicy business tokens so you can convert some freight cars to passenger cars early on, and get a better income engine going faster than your opponents. There are lots of different ways you could play that opening influence bid.

I also really like that it feels like you’re racing to do almost everything. You want to connect to different cities faster than your opponents to get business tokens first, and lay your track first. You want to hire workers first, so you can get them cheaper. You want to buy goods first, so you can get them cheaper. You want to build factories first, so you can build them cheaper. And you want to deliver goods first, so you can make more money.

From gallery of candidrum
You also have to keep an eye on which type of factories your opponents are building so you can make sure they’re not delivering the same good to the same hub city you’re hoping to deliver to. Plus, you’re wondering if they’re going to snag that juicy contract before you. You want to connect to Trieste first, so you can end the game before your opponents make it there and they’ll have to pay you money to use your network. All of this racing makes for an exciting game with lots of great player interaction, on top of the fact that you’re also trying to play optimally with all of these logistical challenges built in.

As far as player count goes, I've only played 3 and 4-player games so far and both player counts played great. There are different worker boards, factory boards, and city tiles you use for different player counts, so I suspect it'll be decent with 2 players too. You might miss out on some of the player interaction on the map, but there's still plenty to chew on.

If you like heavier economic and logistics games, Imperial Steam is definitely worth checking out. I also think fans of Brass would especially enjoy Imperial Steam. They’re definitely different games, but they share some common DNA. I’m really looking forward to playing more Imperial Steam, and who knows, I might even win a game at some point.
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Fri Dec 17, 2021 1:00 pm
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Game Overview: Brian Boru, Or the High King of Area Majority Awesomeness

Candice Harris
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Brian Boru: High King of Ireland, is a new release from designer Peer Sylvester (The King is Dead, The Lost Expedition) and Osprey Games, which features a unique and interesting blend of mechanisms: area majority, card drafting, and trick-taking.

In Brian Boru, 3-5 players compete to become the High King of all Ireland by fending off Viking invaders, forming political alliances through marriage, building monasteries to increase influence, and gathering support in towns and villages throughout the land. Through trick-taking, players perform actions and strive to outsmart and outmaneuver their opponents in the spirit of the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru.

The game board for Brian Boru has a beautiful, vintage vibe and features a map of Ireland divided into eight different regions with multiple colored spaces representing towns that players are striving to populate and spread their influence. In the center of each region, there’s a threshold number to indicate how many towns most be populated before the town is available for scoring victory points. There are also designated areas surrounding the map for the marriage track, battle area, church area, and claim tokens, which are all key to the gameplay and laid out in a logical order which is appreciated.

Also core to the game are twenty-five large action cards of four different suits: battle (red), church (blue), courtship (yellow) and royal/wild cards (white). Each card has a unique number, unlike most common trick-takers where each suit has the same breakdown of values on all of the cards.

Kudos to Irish artist and illustrator Deirdre de Barra for her lovely illustrations which make Brian Boru a real pleasure to look at, both on the table and on the shelf.

From gallery of candidrum

Brian Boru is played over a series of rounds depending on player count. In 4 or 5-player games, you play four rounds, whereas in a 3-player game, you only play three rounds. Each round is divided into four phases: preparation, draft, action, and upkeep.

In the preparation phase, you reveal a new card from the Viking deck and place the corresponding number of Viking raider tokens in the battle area of the game board. The Viking deck has cards with invasion strengths ranging from nine to thirteen, which represents the number of tokens you place in the battle area for the round.

From gallery of candidrum
After you’ve placed the Viking raider tokens, you reveal the top card of the marriage deck and place it at the top of the marriage track. The "Princess of Denmark" is always the final (and juiciest) marriage card, so during setup you shuffle the other marriage cards and place a number of them face-down on the "Princess of Denmark" card so that there’s one per round and the "Princess of Denmark" card is at the bottom.

In the draft phase, you shuffle all the (25) action cards and deal each player a certain number of cards, again, depending on player count. Then players draft their hand of cards, keeping two, passing the rest of the cards left, and repeating until they have the same number of cards they were originally dealt.

When playing Brian Boru for the first time, it’s not obvious how to strategically draft for the game, but the action cards are designed such that you’ll still have decent options, regardless of which cards you end up with. Before you start drafting cards on round one, I think it’s important to mention to new players that the action phase has trick-taking elements to it, but it's not a game where winning more tricks is the key to winning the game. Thus, it’s usually better to have a variety of card options (colors and values) and not necessarily just go for the highest value cards you can get.

In future rounds and future games, when you grasp how the game can play out, it becomes way more obvious how important the draft phase is. Also, the more experience you have playing Brian Boru, the harder and more thinky the draft phase becomes. After you’ve drafted your hand of cards, it’s time for the main event – the action phase.

In the action phase of Brian Boru, players resolve a series of tricks using the action cards they drafted in the draft phase. The tricks are always led by the player who currently has the active town marker. At the start of each trick, the player with the active town marker places it on any town that doesn’t already have a disc on it, distinguishing it as the active town. Then that player plays a card from their hand that either matches the color of the active town or is a royal (wild) card. In clockwise order, each other player plays any card they’d like from their hand, regardless of the color or value. Even though you can follow with any card you’d like, there are definitely reasons to play or not play certain cards at certain times.

The player who played the card with highest value matching the color of the active town (including royal/wild cards) is the winner of the trick, and all other players lose the trick. Regardless of who won the trick, each player then resolves the action card they played, one at a time, starting with the player who played the card with the lowest value, and continuing in ascending order based on the card values played.

The action cards are laid out such that there is a primary action at the top of the card, and secondary actions on the bottom of the card. The players who lost the trick choose and perform one of the secondary actions, whereas the player who won the trick performs the card’s primary action which always, at a minimum, involves taking control of the active town.

From gallery of candidrum
Action card examples

Each primary and secondary action shows one or more icons which players resolve from left to right. Every action card has a secondary ability which allows players to gain money and then optionally spend five coins to expand into a new town that is directly connected by a road to a town they already control. This can be expensive, but it’s a great way to get more of your influence discs out if you’re unable to or choose not to win tricks.

Each of the main (non-wild) action cards also give players options to make progress in their respective areas of the game board:
---• The courtship cards (yellow) help you arrange political marriages by allowing you to advance on the marriage track.
---• The battle cards (red) are used to fight Vikings by allowing you to take Viking raider tokens from the battle area.
---• The church cards (blue) are used to gain favor with the church by placing your discs in the church area.

From gallery of candidrum
Marriage track
A key thing to note about the marriage track is that no two discs can end their action on the same space. So if all players are at the bottom of the marriage track, and in the same trick, two players play courtship cards that allow them to move three spaces up the marriage track, whoever has the lower numbered card is going to perform their action first. If they end up taking a secondary action because they lost the trick, and they choose the marriage track action, they’re going to occupy space three on the marriage track. Then later in the trick, the other player goes, and they get stuck a space behind since the third space is already occupied. The timing of when you play which particular action card is extremely important in Brian Boru, but it also leads me to explaining another option available that keeps things interesting.

For each of these specialized action areas (marriage track, battle area, and church area), the amount of action icons dictates how many times you can do something for by default, but you can always spend any number of coins to do more of that particular action (two coins per addition). In the example I mentioned above, if the player who played second had a few coins to spare, they could spend two coins to go up four spaces, instead of three, and be ahead of the player who's occupying space three.

Similarly, when taking Viking Raider tokens, you can spend money to take more, and when placing your discs in the church area, you can also spend money to place more. When I explain the upkeep phase, it’ll be more obvious when and why you might want to pony up a few extra bucks to boost your action, in addition to when and why you might want to play this card or that card.

From gallery of candidrum
A tempting trick w/ active town marker in 6-VP Northern Uí Néill
The winner of the trick gets to place one of their discs on the active town which is great, because after all, Brian Boru is an area majority game rewarding players with scrumptious victory points for regions they have the most influence in. Another perk of winning the trick is that you get to choose the next location to place the active town marker. Even when it's an easy decision, it feels like a tough decision. You could be thinking about the implications of winning or losing the upcoming trick and control of the corresponding active town. You could be trying to avoid playing a certain colored card even though you want to place the active town marker in that particular color town space. You could be trying to purposely bait your opponents to fight over a desirable area, while you pull some other shenanigans that they lose sight of. You could be thinking all of these things and more when looking at your hand of cards and deciding which region and which town to place the active town marker in. There are so many tough and interesting decisions that stem from placing the active town marker based on the state of the board and the cards in your hand.

Regardless of whether you win the trick or lose and choose to gain money, spend money to expand your influence, or compete at church, on the marriage track, or fighting Vikings, the point is, you will simply be play a card and take an action for each trick. Each action is easy to learn thanks to excellent iconography and straightforward rules behind it.

After a player performs a card action, they discard the card face-down into a common discard pile and the next player with lowest-value card takes an action. Once all players have taken an action, the trick is over. At that point, if players only have one card in hand, then that card is discarded and that is the end of the round. Otherwise, the player who has the active town marker starts a new trick.

At the end of each round, there is an upkeep phase where you work your way around the game board resolving four steps in order: marriage, battle, church, and claim regions.

The player who is highest on the marriage track, takes the marriage card and immediately gains the benefits shown, usually victory points and control of a town in a particular region. Then their disc is moved all the way back to the first space of the track. Then each player gains the benefit shown on the space of the marriage track that their disc is on. This means they are already ahead of the game for winning the marriage card on the next round (assuming it’s not the last round already). The higher you are on the marriage track, the better the reward and the closer you are to winning the marriage card the next round.

From gallery of candidrum
Just look at the way Aodhán feeds his horse an apple...who wouldn't want to marry into his family??

Next, you resolve the battle step.If there are no Viking raider tokens in the battle area, the players managed to repel the Vikings. However, if there is at least one Viking raider token, the player(s) with the fewest Viking raider tokens loses a town to the Vikings. What’s worse is the player with the most Viking tokens gets to decide which town is lost. If multiple players are tied for most tokens, then the impacted player(s) choose.

Then the player with the most Viking raider tokens gains a renown token and scores one point for each of their renown tokens and returns all of their Viking raider tokens to the supply. Next, the player or players who now have the most Viking raider tokens each gain one point and return one Viking raider token to the supply. As you can see, this works similar to the marriage track, where the person who does the best, resets back to zero, and other players can gain a benefit and carry over their progress to the next round.

From gallery of candidrum
Viking raider and renown tokens FTW

One rookie mistake that we made in most of our first game was almost always taking all of the Viking raider tokens instead of leaving some to let certain players sweat a bit at the risk of losing a town. Once we were a few rounds in, it totally clicked and we all played much differently with that in mind.

Winning the battle step multiple times and gaining a renown token then scoring them all is so juicy, especially in a game where a winning score can often be thirty to forty points. Brian Boru definitely has that element where you want to do many things offensively that conflict with what you may need to do defensively, so you have to make tough choices and sacrifices often.

From gallery of candidrum
In the church step of the upkeep phase, you are competing to have the most discs in the church area. If there is a clear majority, the player with the most discs places a monastery which are awesome, takes the active town marker, and retrieve all of their discs. Then the player with the most discs (including ties) gains one point and retrieves one disc. Finally, any players with four or more discs in the church area place a monastery and retrieve all their discs.

Monasteries, besides being cool blue doughnuts around your towns on the map, count as two towns for the purposes of flipping claim tokens and claiming regions. In the example pictured on the left, the orange and green players are tied in Leinster with three towns each since the orange players monastery counts as two towns. Depending on the timing of when the discs and monastery were placed, both players could be preventing each other from controlling those six points.

There are so many benefits to going hard on the marriage track or when fighting the Vikings or in the church scene, but you really can't do it all. Well, you can, but it's incredibly hard to do it all well so you really have to choose your battles. Meanwhile, you can't ignore the area majority scoring.

The final step of the upkeep phase is the claim regions step. This is when players claim regions where they have the most towns. For every face-down claim token on the board, you count how many towns are controlled in the corresponding region, including Viking-controlled towns and monasteries. If the number equals or exceeds the region's threshold number, then you flip the claim token face up. Otherwise, it stays face down.

From gallery of candidrum
Claim tokens for each region at the start of the game...desperately waiting to be claimed

For every face-up claim token, check who controls the most towns in the corresponding region. The player with the most towns in the region takes the claim token and places it in front of them. If multiple players are tied for the most towns in a region, the token stays where it is. This means, you must beat another player and take the claim token from them. Ties do not change claim token ownership. Speaking from experience, this is one of those rules that is very important to make sure all players understand before you get deep into a game of Brian Boru.

If there are no marriage cards left at the end of the upkeep phase, the game ends and final scoring occurs. The player with the most most money scores one point, and the player with the active town marker also scores one point. Then all players score one point for each of their renown tokens and all of their face-up claim tokens. For every face-up claim token still on the board, players tied for the most towns in that region score half the number of points (rounded down). Lastly, players score zero to ten points for having their towns in different regions. The more regions you have presence in, the more points you score. The player with the most points winner of the game.

From gallery of candidrum
Round 3 of Game 1

At this point, I’ve played Brian Boru three times, once at each player count, and I think it scales really well. I had just as much fun and tension playing with three players as I did with four and five. At the lowest player count, you play less rounds, but you play more tricks per round than you do at higher player counts, so the map fills up similarly. In all cases, there were new players and the game lasted about 1.5-2 hours, but it never outstayed its welcome.

Being a fan of Peer Sylvester’s The King is Dead and Polynesia, I went in expecting to like Brian Boru. Then as I read the rulebook, it quickly became one of those games I was really excited to play, and then even more excited the deeper I got into my first game.

The more games I play, the more I realize how much I love games that have simple rules with a lot of depth and interesting decisions from start to finish. Brian Boru nails this for me. The player interaction is fun, and I expect the tension and thinkiness of it to grow exponentially as you gain more experience and play with more experienced players.

The options you’re presented with from drafting and playing various types of cards is super interesting. It really flips the idea of trick-taking on its head because you want to have options in your hand to lose tricks just as often as you may want to win them, so you have to draft wisely to create flexibility so you can adapt your strategy based on what your opponents are or aren’t doing.

Another interesting aspect to the actions cards is that the lower the card value, the better the primary action is for you if you win a trick with it. If you're lucky, you can hold on to a lower-value card and hopefully get the opportunity to lead a trick late in the round when players all only have a couple cards left in hand. Your odds of winning with a lower number at that point are much higher. When you win with a low number you get some extra perks, whereas when you win with a higher-value card, you often have to pay money. Similarly, the secondary actions are also usually better with the lower-value cards, but the tradeoff is that you'll likely have to take your action before your opponents, giving them time to respond to whichever action you took.

I also really dug how the marriage track, battle area, and church area tied into everything. There are many cool things you can do and there are many advantages to being ahead in each of those areas, while also trying to stay competitive with area majority scoring too. It's a real tug of war at times, but again, I think it comes down to drafting cards wisely and adapting your strategy around your opponents. This is not a game where you can just sit back and do the same thing with the same cards each game. You have to constantly stay on your toes and do what makes sense based on your opponents' actions and reactions.

I definitely recommend giving Brian Boru: High King of Ireland a whirl if you are a fan of The King is Dead or if you dig area-majority games with multiple ways to win besides having the most influence in the most areas. I'm looking forward to playing Brian Boru more and I'll be on the lookout to try whatever Peer Sylvester puts out next!

From gallery of candidrum
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Fri Dec 10, 2021 1:00 pm
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Vital Lacerda's Weather Machine on Kickstarter & Highlights of Kanban EV

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Weather Machine
In an August 2021 post, I mentioned Vital Lacerda's latest big, heavy release, Weather Machine, was coming to Kickstarter. Eagle-Gryphon Games officially launched Weather Machine on Kickstarter in November 2021 (KS link), so be sure to check it out if you're curious to see what Lacerda has cooked up for us now.

Whenever Vital Lacerda has a new heavy game on Kickstarter, backers (and prospective backers) often inquire about his other games when considering add-ons. While I have yet to play Weather Machine, I have enjoyed several plays of Kanban EV thanks to Eagle-Gryphon Games graciously hooking me up with a copy of it. Considering Kanban’s history, I’m sure many people are already familiar with it. However, I'm sure there are also plenty of people out there who are either unfamiliar with Kanban or flat-out intimidated by it, so I wanted to highlight some of the features the new deluxe edition brings to the table.

From gallery of candidrum

Board Game: Kanban: Driver's Edition
Board Game: Kanban: Driver's Edition
Kanban: Automotive Revolution was originally released by Stronghold Games in 2014, followed by its second edition, Kanban: Driver’s edition, in 2018. In February 2020, Eagle-Gryphon Games successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign for Kanban EV, an updated deluxe edition of Kanban, focused on electric vehicles (EV) and featuring incredible artwork and graphic design from Ian O’Toole. With Kanban EV, O'Toole continues to master the art of making Lacerda's complex games more accessible and functional gameplay wise.

Kanban EV is a challenging worker-placement game where 1-4 players compete as EV-factory workers, carefully managing their time and resources to produce cars as efficiently as possible, while trying to impress factory manager, Sandra, and stand out at board meetings. At the end of a series of rounds, the player with the most Production Points (victory points) is the winner of the game.

Kanban EV, as with previous editions of Kanban, shines with its unique theme and clever, puzzly worker placement and time management system, which works in conjunction with Sandra who moves around to block spaces and judge evaluate you as you try to outperform your opponents in each department's corresponding training track.

From gallery of candidrum
Assembly department in action
There are five departments you take actions in to help yourself gain (and avoid losing) precious Production Points:
• There's a Design department where you can grab design tiles that can be used in Research & Development to upgrade specific parts or to move cars into your garage for testing.
• You can stock the warehouses with kanban orders and collect car parts in the Logistics department.
• In the Assembly department, you provide the parts needed to complete the assembly of cars and watch them roll down the line.
• You can also micromanage other departments from the Administration department.

Factory manager Sandra gradually makes her way down the departments and when she gets back to her desk in the Administration department, the week comes to an end and end-of-week scoring occurs. As the game progresses, meetings will periodically occur giving players the opportunity to claim objectives and score points using wooden speech bubbles they've collected.

As someone who’s played the original edition, the updates in Kanban EV are really well done. The new game board layout and art alone make Kanban EV more functional and smoother to play, thus more enjoyable. Between the art and graphic design updates and the new-and-improved rulebook layout, it is a lot more accessible for new players to jump into. Let's not forget, underneath all its deluxe components, art and graphic design, it’s still a total brain-burner Lacerda game, so anything that contributes to making the gameplay more accessible is welcomed.

The large Kanban EV box is filled with high-quality components all well-organized in insert trays. There are really nice, dual-layered player boards and tons of wooden components including painted wooden cars. Eagle-Gryphon Games also offers a set of metal cars an upgrade, but I think the painted wooden ones look great, so this will come down to personal preference.

From gallery of candidrum
Metal cars

While all the components are excellent, the standout, to me, is the massive, new-and-improved game board. The game board is laid out with a center alley that has worker placement spaces with the factory department areas on either side of the center alley. It is a lot to look at initially, but once you understand the layout, you'll quickly discover how clean and easy it is to navigate when you're playing the game.

From gallery of candidrum

From gallery of candidrum
SpeedCharger & Special Garage Tile Mini Expansions
Besides all the updates to the components, art, and graphic design, there's also an upgrade pack available for Kanban EV that includes two mini expansions, which were included as stretch goals in the Kickstarter edition. The upgrade pack includes the SpeedCharger and Special Garage Tiles expansions.

I found the new SpeedCharger expansion to be a great addition to Kanban EV. It gives players an opportunity to unlock permanent special abilities and offers a new way to score points. I’m sure many will think, why add more stuff to an already complex game? I would usually ask the same, but in this case, I believe it adds an interesting dose of variety and spice to the game, while being easy to integrate.

During setup, you build a limited supply of charger tokens based on the player count, and then each player gets a special charging player board. When you work shifts in the Administration department, you can spend one shift taking a charger token from the supply and placing it on an open space on your personal charging board.

The special abilities are easy to understand and the perks are great. For example, if you unlock the R&D ability, every time you work in R&D, you can upgrade a design with a car part from the supply. Likewise, when working in the Logistics department with that charger ability unlocked, you can bank two shifts instead of one when placing a kanban card.

In addition to unlocking helpful special abilities, each charger token on your charging board is worth 1 point for each car in your garages at the end of the game. This can be a nice little boost to your score at the end of the game and it makes the Administration workstation spaces very competitive in a good way.

The Special Garage Tile expansion includes seven special garage tiles that can be used as a gameplay variant to give each player a different bonus for their 5th garage. This is yet another minor change that adds more variety and also adds a wee bit of asymmetry to each player's player board.

From gallery of candidrum
Plan and Selection decks
Solo Mode by Dávid Turczi
Kanban EV also features a solo mode designed by Dávid Turczi. What a great way to beef up your skills in between multiplayer games!

In the solo mode of Kanban EV, you compete against 2 AI opponents appropriately named Mr. Turczi and Mr. Lacerda. The bots are driven by two decks of cards: Plan cards and Selection cards. There aren’t a tremendous amount of rules for the solo mode, but there’s definitely a bit of a learning curve when you’re just getting started with it. The good news is, the overall system flows smoothly once you get used to it and familiarize yourself with the crazy-looking iconography on the Plan cards. Here’s how it works…

During setup, you’ll designate separate player areas for Mr. Turczi and Mr. Lacerda. At the beginning of a round, three Plan cards are revealed in a column. When it’s Mr. Turczi or Mr. Lacerda’s turn to choose a department, flip the top Selection card to determine which Plan card to take (top or bottom). Then you place both the Plan and Selection cards in the corresponding bot’s player area in preparation for the work phase.

During the work phase, the bots first advance once on the training track of their current department. Then perform additional actions for the department as specified on the Plan card chosen in the department selection phase.

For each department's actions, Mr. Turczi and Mr. Lacerda perform the same action slightly differently. For example, in Logistics, Mr. Lacerda issues a kanban order, then collects parts once (or twice if certified). Alternatively, Mr. Turczi simply collects parts once when working in Logistics. These variances make the bots feel more like human opponents which keeps things unpredictable and challenging.

From gallery of candidrum
Player area for Mr. Turczi (left) and Mr. Lacerda (right)

Speaking of challenging, there are also Difficulty cards you can throw into the mix if you’re a Kanban expert, or a glutton for punishment like me. You randomly select two of the nine Difficulty cards before you start the game, or you can choose any number of them to play with. The Difficulty cards are varied and can change the way the bots take certain actions, increase the amount of points they score, and more.

As far as scoring goes, Mr. Turczi and Mr. Lacerda do not score points. Instead, you lose points anytime they would gain points. End game scoring is pretty much the same for you as a normal multiplayer game, but then you subtract points the bots score for cars, parts, design tiles, and their training track progress. If your score is positive, you win the game. There’s also a five-tier ranking system which you can evaluate yourself on assuming you don’t let Mr. Turczi and Mr. Lacerda crush you.

From gallery of candidrum
...that time I convinced Matt & Jake to play candlelit Kanban EV with me when our neighborhood lost power all day

Kanban EV has a lot to offer long-time Kanban fans while also being an accessible entry point for new players who are looking to get into a heavy, highly thematic, euro game that will not only look great on your table, but will also give your brain a workout for years to come.

I still have yet to play Lisboa and a few of Lacerda's other beasty gems. I'm also very much looking forward to checking out Weather Machine. If you're looking to get a better feel for Weather Machine, my friends Monique and Naveen from Before You Play posted an excellent playthrough video that's worth checking out:

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Mon Dec 6, 2021 1:00 pm
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Lead Civil Rights Organizations, Rule the Assyrian Empire, Roleplay as Napoleon, and Check Out the 2020 CSR Awards Winners

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Free at Last
• Non-profit publisher The Dietz Foundation is crowdfunding Free at Last on Kickstarter. Free at Last is a card-driven, co-operative and competitive game from designer Ted Torgerson (1989: Dawn of Freedom), where 2-6 players explore the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Here's a high-level overview of Free at Last from the publisher:
Quote:
Free at Last is a game for 2-6 players. Players take on the role of civil rights organizations (SNCC, CORE, etc) as they fight for equal rights and the end of segregation in the Deep South, circa 1960-1964. It is not about Washington, DC, but the efforts of the people on the spot, whether that is Claiborne Parish, Louisiana or Mobile, Alabama.

Free at Last is a card-driven game where each card has a number (used to activate special individuals) and an event, but uniquely, the color of the number also matters and affects the type of project (voting rights, accommodations, school desegregation) that can be attempted.

Multiple-length versions can be played: 3 turns (ending with the Freedom Rides), 6 turns (ending with the March on Washington), or a 9 turn game covering this entire period in American history.
The Dietz Foundation aims to help teachers learn alternative means of education in the classroom by endowing scholarships at high schools for students going into education, endowing scholarships at the collegiate level for students pursuing teaching certificates, and teaching the general public through the play of games.

It's also worth noting that as part of efforts to make people aware of the history of the fight for Civil Rights, Torgerson is contributing his royalties from the game to the Reverend John H Scott Memorial Fund.
Board Game Publisher: Ion Game Design

Ion Game Design is crowdfunding Besime Uyanik's new co-operative game, Sammu-ramat, on Gamefound, along with Bruss Brussco's DerrocAr.

In Sammu-ramat, 1-5 players rule the Assyrian Empire as Queen Sammu-ramat in the 9th century BCE. With an estimated playtime of 60 minutes, here's a bit more detail on Sammu-ramat from the publisher:
Quote:
Sammu-ramat ruled the Assyrian Empire at a time of political uncertainty, which is one of the possible explanations for why Assyrians may have accepted her rule (as normally a woman as ruler would have been unthinkable). Her reign lasted between 811 BC – 808 BC. In this collaborative game you the players are Sammu-ramat, together with advisors surrounding the royal court and vassal states, you try to keep the Empire strong and protected against internal unrest, external threats, natural disasters and much more. All players win or lose together.

Board Game: Sammu-ramat

In this 1-5 player co-op board game, you will be one of the advisors surrounding the Assyrian royal court. Each Advisor has its own abilities and strengths. Players spend actions to play action cards and move from region to region along the paths printed on the board, trying to balance the needs of the regions (Military, Supplies, Health, and Religion). In battle with the enemy units are removed 1:1, i.e. combat is deterministic.

On each Empire card, there is a Scenario, with one or more win conditions. The specific setup of the Scenario is on the back of the Empire card. Multiple victory scenarios increase the game's replayability.
• In DerrocAr, 1-5 players compete as senators and governors to become the President of the República Argentina. In more detail from the publisher:
Quote:
DerrocAr is a game published by Ion Game Design that focuses on a short period of history with political turmoil. Derrocar, designed by a native Argentinian Bruss Brussco, is a card game about the several weeks in which Argentina had five presidents.

Are you ready to take a role in some of the most peculiar weeks in political history? Be one of the provincial governors trying to reach the presidency of Argentina in the middle of the political and economic crisis of 2001.
Board Game: DerrocAr: The Five Presidents Week

In this 1-5 player board game you play as the Senators and Governors of the provinces, all seeking to outmaneuver the others and become the next President of the República Argentina. In a country tired of politicians, you need to prove that you are the least bad option, by making sure that the provinces of the other governors are full of conflicts. By making it look like your opponents cannot even manage their own provinces, they will be even less able to manage the country. The game
ends when a player is declared President

The rounds are divided into two phases:
First, you have to choose one of the options on the board (propose a Laws, Decrees, Debt Payment, Embezzlement Fund, etc) and then buy cards from the Market. At the next phase, you play a set of cards from your hand (Make Operations, Lobby, create conflict with the Establishment, create bad campaigns with the press, etc). Meanwhile, you handle your economy, the events (Lootings, Floods, a Bush's call, more) and negotiate short alliances.

To win, you must be the player with the most Support when the game ends because other players are full of conflicts.

The game comes with a modular system that allows the players to choose the complexity level that best suits their tastes.
Board Game Publisher: GMT Games

• Two new and interesting P500 additions were mentioned in the November monthly update newsletter from GMT Games. The first, I, Napoleon, is a solitaire role-playing card game from Paths of Glory designer Ted Raicer, where you can change the course of history playing as Napoleon Buonoparte. Here's a high-level overview from the publisher:
Quote:
I, Napoleon is a solitaire historical role-playing card game in which you step into the boots of Captain Buonoparte (as he still was) in the year 1793. Louis XVI has just gone to the guillotine, the brothers Robespierre control the destiny of France, and all Europe has joined French Royalists to take down France, end the Revolution, and restore peace and safety for the hereditary principles that have underlain society for 1000 years.

As an ambitious but unknown young artillery officer, who speaks French with a Corsican accent, you would seem to be an unlikely agent of destiny. Can you harness a brilliant mind, titanic energies, and a sometimes terrifying charisma to leave your mark on history? Or will you die a minor footnote in the story of France?

Board Game: I, Napoleon
P500 cover image (not finalized)

GAMEPLAY
In I, Napoleon, your fate lies in 220 beautifully illustrated cards, divided into three decks: Commander, First Consul, and Emperor. Overlaying a map of early 19th Century Europe are a series of Card Boxes, where you play out the events of your life and career, along with various tracks and tables to record the yearly passage of time and the events affecting yourself and France. The choices you make with the cards you are dealt will determine success or failure. You will have to manage politics, military campaigns, diplomacy, and the domestic well-being of the French while pursuing the Glory that lures you on. You will also have to manage your family, your wives, your mistresses, and your children, legitimate and otherwise.

Your path may lead you from the Americas to the Near East, from Spain to Russia, from a throne to exile. You will be the target of assassins, coups, and coalitions. You will deal with bad harvests and plague, face Wellington and Nelson, Kutuzov and Blucher. You will rely on—and perhaps be betrayed by—the slippery Talleyrand and unleash the secret policemen Fouche on your opponents. As you progress, your options will increase, along with the stakes.

Lead your men into battle and risk an early end to your life? Sail to Egypt or Ireland? Sell Louisiana or send an army to hold it? Marry a Habsburg or a Romanov? Create the Duchy of Warsaw or revive the Kingdom of Poland? Invade Russia or try to pacify the Tsar? Every choice will affect your legacy.

But there is not one version of a life here, but many. Every game will provide a different narrative, based on both luck of the draw and the decisions you make. In addition, you can start the game as a Commander, as First Consul, or as Emperor, each with its own starting situation and challenges. The story is yours to discover, and the decisions you make may just change the course of history.
• Designer Francisco Gradaille's Plantagenet: Cousins’ War for England, 1459 - 1485, is not only a new GMT P500 addition, but it's also the newest addition to Volko Ruhnke's Levy & Campaign Series.

In Plantagenet, 1-2 players create and maintain a network of allied lords and nobles obtaining money and resources needed to supply and pay their armies in 15th-century England as described below by the publisher:
Quote:
England, 1459. The son of the great Henry V has not lived to fill his father's shoes. England has lost the Hundred Years War, and mighty lords amass lands and wealth rivaling the King’s own. Henry IV left the door open for any such powerful lord with good pedigree to reach for the throne, and the best candidate is Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York.

Mounting tension over the Crown leads to armed clashes, under the excuse of freeing the king from his evil counsellors, and finally ignites the Wars of the Roses that William Shakespeare would immortalize in his plays:

---• A Yorkist rebellion that succeeds in placing Edward IV on the throne and exiling the Lancastrians to Scotland and France.
---• A civil war pitting Warwick the Kingmaker and King Edward’s brother Clarence against the King and his other brother Richard Gloucester.
---• The reinstatement for a few months of Henry VI and the invasion from France by his son and wife leading to a final contest between Richard III and Henry Tudor (later known as Henry VII) and the Battle of Bosworth that ends the Plantagenet dynasty.

Treason, bravery, political maneuver, and a cast of memorable characters mark one of the most intense and divided periods of English history.

From gallery of candidrum
P500 cover image (not finalized)

In Plantagenet—the newest volume in Volko Ruhnke's Levy & Campaign Series—players lead one of the two factions across the three main periods of war, as individual scenarios or the entire Wars of the Roses.

Designer Francisco Gradaille adds overall and local political influence to Volko’s medieval operation system to reflect the ever-changing loyalties of the time while keeping play familiar to fans of the Series. Players will create and maintain a network of allied lords and nobles in order to obtain the provender and coin needed to supply and pay their armies. As ravaging and looting will damage each side’s reputation, each faction will strive to convince cites to join its side. Great battles will seek to kill or capture enemy lords—perhaps even a king. Two kinds of operational moves will be in play: the military and the political.

In the end, when the dust settles and all arrows have flown, one rose will sit on the throne. White or Red, York or Lancaster, gather your troops and banners and join the fight.
Board Game: Verdun 1916: Steel Inferno
• Lastly, the 2020 Charles S. Roberts Awards winners were announced in November 2021. You can check out all of the nominees and winners on the official announcement video posted below from No Ememies Here, or on the CSR Awards web site.

Congratulations to all of the winners, including the new Clausewitz Hall of Fame recipient Walter Vejdovsky! Vejdovsky's 2-player, card-driven WWI game Verdun 1916: Steel Inferno, from French publisher Fellowship of Simulations, won Wargame of the Year and WWI Board Wargame categories, as well as the Dunnigan Award for Design Excellence.

Verdun 1916: Steel Inferno has been on my "shelf of opportunity" for a couple months now, and I'm really looking forward to playing it soon!

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Fri Nov 26, 2021 1:00 pm
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Game Preview: Defeat Monsters in a Shifting Labyrinth in Pathfinder Arena

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Pathfinder Arena
Italian publisher Giochi Uniti is launching a Kickstarter campaign on November 23, 2021 for their upcoming big release, Pathfinder Arena, from designers Flavio Anzidei, Giorgio Serafini, and Roberto Tibuzzi.

In Pathfinder Arena 2-4 players compete as heroes in a labyrinth-style arena to gain the most glory and be declared the Champion of the Arena . Pathfinder Arena is set in Pathfinder RPG's "Age of Lost Omens" setting and will not only will include highly-detailed miniatures of the most iconic monsters of Pathfinder, but also features awesome artwork from the prolific fantasy RPG artist Wayne Reynolds. The publisher kindly sent me a prototype copy so I could check it out and provide context on how it plays.

When you set up Pathfinder Arena, the first thing you do is assemble the game board with a variety of arena tiles. There are eight summoning tiles, four rune tiles, and four trapdoor tiles which are randomly placed in their designated starting spaces. Then the remaining arena tiles are randomly placed on empty spaces, leaving the central space, the Doom Area, open.

From gallery of candidrum
Arena tiles at setup (prototype components)

Each player chooses a hero sheet and takes the corresponding figure, card decks, and components to set up their player area. Hero sheets allow players to keep track of physical and mental abilities which can be improved over the course of the game.

From gallery of candidrum
Player area set-up for Kyra (prototype components)

The first player rolls the summoning die (d8) to determine which summoning tile the level-1 monster starts on, and then you place a number of ability tokens, element tokens, and item tokens on summoning tiles as well.

Pathfinder Arena is divided into four summoning phases which are played through a series of rounds where players take turns in clockwise order. Each turn begins with a hero phase where you spend action points to collect tokens, defeat monsters, move in the arena, and change its structure. After the hero phase, there's a monster phase where monsters attack all heroes within their reach. If there are no monsters left in the arena at the end of any hero phase, a summoning phase happens instead of the monster phase, spawning new monsters and allowing all players to level-up their heroes.

At the start of the hero phase, the first thing you do is reset your marker tokens. Your marker tokens could be on other players' hero sheets giving them temporary immunity from certain monsters, or they can be on cards you've activated, or on monster sheets. You take them all back at the start of your hero phase.

Then you reallocate your ability tokens to optimize your hero before performing actions. Over the course of the game you'll gain more ability tokens, either from collecting them on the game board, or from leveling up during each summoning phase. At this point on your turn, you have to carefully decide how you want to allocate your ability tokens, which is rarely an easy decision.

From gallery of candidrum
Ability tokens allocated on hero sheet and cards (prototype components)

On one hand, building your ability tracks up with a a lot of tokens is very helpful because you unlock other benefits with every two ability tokens you place on a given track. For example, the more constitution ability tokens you have, the more your base defense improves. On the other hand, your hero's special feat/spell cards and item cards require certain tokens in order to be activated and they can be very powerful too. This part of your turn can be really fun because you're customizing your hero, but it's usually a tough decision to figure out the best way to allocate your ability tokens for the upcoming round since you are thinking about preparing offensively for your turn, but also need to be prepared defensively for your opponents' turns.

After you've allocated your ability tokens as you see fit, you can spend action points to perform actions. Each player has a base of 4 action points, which can be increased by collecting and allocating more dexterity ability tokens. You can perform the same action as many times as you'd like as long as you have the action points available to spend.

You can spend an action point to move your hero to an orthogonally adjacent arena tile. By default, you cannot move through walls or into the Doom Area, but any number of heroes can stay on a tile at the same time. Moving your hero isn't the only way to get around the arena though. There are two different actions that allow you to manipulate the structure of the labyrinth.

From gallery of candidrum
(prototype components)
First, you can spend an action point to rotate the tile your hero is on, 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise. Even more impressive, you can spend an action point to magically, and more dramatically, change the arena's structure by choosing an arena tile orthogonally aligned with the Doom Area. You choose a tile and then shift all tiles between the chosen tile and the Doom Area toward the latter, so the Doom Area essentially replaces the chosen tile. Both of these labyrinth-shifting actions help create movement opportunities, block other heroes, bring monsters within a hero's reach, or heroes within a monster's reach.

Aside from enabling more flexible movement options for your hero, one of the ways you gain glory points (victory points) in Pathfinder Arena is having monsters attack your opponents on your turn. Therefore changing the arena's structure strategically can have many benefits, in addition to being a unique feature of the game.

Another key action in Pathfinder Arena is simply collecting a token. You can spend an action point to collect a token from the arena tile your hero occupies. When you collect a physical ability token, you also get to take any mental ability token and add them both to your hero sheet. When you collect an item token, you get to draw three cards from your hero's item deck and play one face-up in your player area to be used going forward.

From gallery of candidrum
(prototype components)
You can also collect element tokens which can be spent to modify damage from monsters (+/- 2), or modify a hero's action points (+/- 1). It's worth noting, the element tokens can be spent anytime, even during other players' turns. Meaning, you could have a whole plan for how you are going to spend your action points and then at the start of your hero phase, an opponent could play an Earth token making you lose one of your action points. You definitely have to keep an eye on which element tokens your opponents pick up and factor that into your turn decisions.

Pathfinder Arena is all about defeating monsters, so naturally, you'll want to attack monsters. You can spend an action point to strike a monster in the same arena tile as your hero. In this case, you deal damage based on your hero's strength, which can be increased with more ability tokens. You cannot attack other heroes though, only monsters.

The rest of your action choices are based on your cards. Assuming you have the required tokens allocated, you can activate a card by spending the required number of action points. Cards have very different effects, such as special movements or attacks, and each hero has their own deck of feat/spell cards.

For example, had the player allocated a strength ability token on their Powerful Leap card in the photo below, they could spend two action points to move through a wall. They can use their Sly Striker card to apply x2 damage to an attack this turn since they allocated the required ability tokens on that card.
From gallery of candidrum
card examples (prototype components)


From gallery of candidrum
Monster sheet for Ettin (prototype components)
After you perform actions in the hero phase, there is monster phase where all monsters attack all heroes within their reach. The current player gains glory points when monsters attack other heroes.

There are four different levels of monsters based on the summoning phase. The game starts with one level-1 monster, then two spawn on the 2nd summoning phase, three on the 3rd summoning phase, and four on the 4th summoning phase. For each level, there are more monsters available than you will use in a single game, so you shuffle monster sheets to randomly determine which monsters will be in play and assign their initiative order accordingly.

After any hero phase, if there aren't any monsters on the board, a summoning phase follows, instead of the monster phase. Each summoning phase, more monsters appear and they are increasingly more difficult to defeat as the game progresses. Monsters have base stats such as life points, melee and range attack values, but most of them also have a variety of special attacks and abilities that make them even more challenging.

As the monsters get increasingly more difficult, your heroes also level up each summoning phase. Players are able to choose a new feat/spell card in addition to gaining an extra ability token. Then you also reseed the board with more tokens similar to how it's done during setup.

In Pathfinder Arena, heroes and monsters fight each other repeatedly. Both heroes and monsters can attack only if their target is within the reach of their attack. In order to defeat a monster, you must inflict enough damage equal or higher than the monster's life points in one turn. Each monster grants glory points at the end of the game. If you are attacked by a monster on your own turn, you get as many misfortune points as unblocked damage you suffer from the attack. As I mentioned earlier, you can also gain glory on your turn when monster's attack your opponents.

From gallery of candidrum
Glory point & Misfortune point tokens (prototype components)

When you gain glory points and misfortune points in Pathfinder Arena, you take the corresponding tokens (value-1,3, and 5) from the supply and place them facedown in your player area, so all players can see the amount of tokens your have, but don't necessarily know the value of the tokens until you score up at the end of the game.

A game of Pathfinder Arena ends when a player defeats the last level-4 monster. When this happens, players sum up all the glory points obtained and subtract their misfortune points from the total. The player with the most points is declared the Champion of the Arena and is the winner of the game.

From gallery of candidrum
Deity card example with its corresponding shrine tile (prototype components)
In addition to each hero's unique decks of feat/spell/item cards, the game also includes five special deity cards which you can claim when you have at least 2 ego and your hero occupies a shrine tile. By collecting charisma ability tokens, you can gradually increase your ego to meet this requirement. The deity cards provide another way for players to gain special abilities in Pathfinder Arena.

Deity cards are double-sided and can be powered up and flipped to the other side by further increasing your hero's ego. In addition, the deity cards also may grant glory points at the end of the game, depending on your ego level.

If you enjoy games with miniatures where you can customize heroes and fight monsters, you should definitely check out Pathfinder Arena on Kickstarter.

It's interesting and unique how players can manipulate arena tiles to position their heroes and monsters strategically to get an edge on other players. There also seems to be a decent amount of variety between the different monsters and each hero's special feat/spell/item cards which should keep things interesting over time.

While not necessarily thematically accurate, I really liked that when other players "take damage" from monsters on your turn, you gain glory, but the other players don't actually lose anything per se. So even though it has a take-that spirit, it doesn't really feel bad when it happens to you.

I would hope that they include player aid in the finished game so that you don't have to dig through the rulebook to remember how the different element and rune tokens work. I did not mention rune tokens above, but they are a different type of token you take (not as an action) when you land on or move through rune tiles that modify damage and defense values. Between these and the element tokens, it can be a lot to remember how each one works, so it'd be very helpful to have a player aid.

The Pathfinder Arena BGG page has an estimated playtime of 60-80 minutes, however my couple of 4-player games ran well over 2 hours. I'm not sure if others who have played it were able to complete a game in 80 minutes, but I would plan for a longer game depending on how fast and aggressive players are with defeating monsters. Also, as the game ramps up, it can take an increasing amount of time for players to decide how to reallocate their tokens, so that could slow things down as well.

Even though there weren't sample miniatures included for all of the monsters and heroes in the prototype I received, the ones that were included looked solid. I suspect the finished version of the game will be pretty epic-looking, and there may even be stretch goals for more monsters, so be sure to check it out!

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(prototype components)
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Fri Nov 19, 2021 1:00 pm
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Build Your Deck and Lead Your Civilization to Victory in Imperium: Classics and Imperium: Legends

Candice Harris
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From gallery of candidrum
Imperium: Classics and Imperium: Legends are two fully-compatible, stand-alone, civilization deck-building games from the creative minds of ​​Nigel Buckle and Dávid Turczi. Turczi enthusiastically hipped me to these games just ahead of their release in late May 2021.

Considering how much I love deck-builders, I was really excited when the publisher, Osprey Games, sent me a copy of Imperium: Legends. After receiving Imperium: Legends and preemptively assuming I’d get into it, I also bought myself a copy of Imperium: Classics so I could check them both out.

In Imperium: Classics and Imperium: Legends, 1-4 players compete as different, asymmetric nations using deck-building as a core mechanism to develop their civilizations. The game rules are the same for both games and the only difference is that both games include a different set of nations you can play. Since they are fully compatible with each other, you can mix and match nations from both games.

While various nations have varying difficulty levels, Legends has more complex nations than Classics, so Classics is usually the best place to start if you want to ease into this series. Since both games use the same core rules and just a different set of asymmetric nations, I am going to refer to Imperium: Classics going forward.

From gallery of candidrum
Player area setup for the Romans
Before you begin a game of Imperium: Classics, each player chooses a nation and sets up their player area. Your player area includes your starting deck, a state card (usually starting on the barbarian side), your development card deck, your nation deck, and your power card, which gives you a scoring condition and a special ability.

Players also start the game with a variety of tokens: 3 resource tokens, 2 population tokens, 1 progress token, 5 exhaust tokens, and 3 action tokens. The resource and population tokens are used primarily to gain cards, but also can be used to trigger card effects, and may help you score victory points at the end of the game. Progress tokens are worth one victory point each at the end of the game, but can also be spent to trigger card effects. They're also great because they're flexible since you can spend 1 progress token as 2 resources or 1 population as needed.

After players are set up, you set up the card market area which involves sorting a variety of cards to form multiple decks. Then you reveal cards in the market row below the market board.

Each nation's starting cards are completely different which allows each nation to play completely differently which is one of the coolest features of the game. Outside of the nation-specific cards, Imperium: Classics includes a variety of different types of cards you can add to your deck during the game:
---• Region cards, representing areas under your nation’s control
---• Uncivilized cards, representing ancient technological and cultural developments
---• Civilized cards, representing modern technological and cultural developments
---• Tributary cards, representing peoples under your nation’s control
---• Fame cards, representing memorable deeds of your nation
---• Unrest cards, representing internal strife and disorder in your nation

With the exception of region cards, you’ll need to tuck an unrest card under cards in the card market row, which you might end up taking along with a card you gain, depending on how you get it. More on that later.

From gallery of candidrum
The opening card market for one of my first games

Imperium: Classics is played over a series of rounds. Each round players take turns in clockwise order until either scoring or collapse is triggered, which ends the game. If the game ends with scoring being triggered, the player with the most victory points wins. Otherwise, if the game ends due to collapse triggering, the player with the fewest unrest cards wins.

When it’s your turn, there are three different types of turns you can take: activate, innovate, or revolt. Then after you take your turn, there’s a cleanup phase where you do some maintenance and then draw back to your hand size of five cards.

When you activate, which is the most common type of turn, you can take actions and use exhaust abilities in any order and in any combination. When you take an action, you remove one of your action tokens from your state card, play a card from your hand into your play area and resolve its effect. Then you place the played card into your discard pile, unless it indicates otherwise.

Imperium: Classics doesn’t feel like a traditional deck-building game. It feels fresh. There are lots of different card effects with a lot of keywords to get used to, but once you know the lingo, it's not complicated at all to play.

From gallery of candidrum
My hand of cards as the Egyptians

For example, there are two different ways you can gain new cards for your deck: acquiring or breaking through. When you acquire a card, you have to choose a card from the market which often comes with an unrest card. Alternatively, when you break through to get a card, you can take a face-up card from the card market without taking the unrest card beneath it, and you’re also not limited to the cards available in the market row -- you have the option of taking a card from one of the card market decks.

Breaking through is just about always the better option, but usually comes at higher cost as you’d expect. It’s also worth noting the cards you gain go directly into your hand, not your discard pile like most deck-builders. This can open up some cool options as you’re able to gain a new card and play it in the same turn.

Most region cards can be played into your tableau thematically representing you taking control of that land. In addition, many region cards give you the option to garrison a card which allows you to tuck another card from your hand underneath it. This is a great way to thin your deck, even though it can be temporary depending on other card effects you or your opponents may choose to play causing you to abandon a region.

Some card effects allow you to put cards into your history, which means it goes beneath your power card and is no longer part of your deck, but you do score those cards at the end of the game.

Speaking of scoring, different cards you gain score differently at the end of the game. Some will score a flat amount of points, while others are based on having a certain amount of resources, or different types of cards.

There are some cards that allow you to attack your opponents. This could be taking resources from your opponents, making them recall cards from their tableau back into their hand, abandon cards from their tableau to their discard pile, making them discard a card from their hand, or even passing them a card you don't want. There are definitely some nations that are heavier on the attack cards, so if that's not your thing, you could always choose not to play with them.

I played one 3-player game with the Vikings, Celts, and Carthaginians and there was a lot of attacking, but we all found it to be fun and it never felt bad or ruined anyone's day when the attacks happened. There are also ways to protect yourself from it.

From gallery of candidrum

There are card effects that give you extra actions, free actions, and even exhaust effects. If you can build up an engine with cards in your tableau that have exhaust effects, it can sometimes feel like you have extra actions since you're able to trigger up to five exhaust effects per activate turn, in addition to your allotted three actions.

The cards are very interesting and I really dig how the cards in each nation's deck fit historically, thus thematically. You could really play so many games with the same few nations and not get bored from the variety of cards available in the card market and depending on which ones you end up getting to help your nation gain the most victory points. The variety of card effects combined with asymmetric-playing nations lends itself to some interesting gameplay.

In the cases where it may not be efficient to take an activate turn, you can choose to take an innovate turn by discarding all of the cards in your hand to break through for a card of your choice. Innovate turns were rare in my games, but it's definitely a legit option if you draw a mediocre hand of cards that wouldn't allow you to take fruitful actions.

From gallery of candidrum
Watch out for these little devils!
Then there’s also the revolt turn, where you simply return any number of unrest cards from your hand to the unrest pile. That's your entire turn, but if majority of your cards in your hand are unrest cards, it's totally worth it.Unrest cards are each worth -2 points at the end of the game, so ditching them in bulk is a great play.

After you take your turn, you perform a some cleanup steps. First you add a progress token to one card in the card market, then you clear your action and exhaust tokens, discard any number of cards, and then draw back up to your hand size of five cards.

Eventually your draw deck will be empty when you're drawing back to your hand size, and you'll need to shuffle your discard pile to form a new draw deck. In Imperium: Classics, you don't simply shuffle your discard into a new draw pile, instead you first take a card from your nation deck, which you set up at the beginning of the game, and add it to your discard pile. Then you shuffle and form your new draw deck.

Every time you cycle through your deck, you get to add one of your nation cards into your deck. The nation cards are pretty cool and generally better than the cards in your starting deck, so it opens up some new options as your civilization evolves. What's even more exciting is that after you add all of the cards from your nation deck into your main draw deck, eventually you'll get to add in your accession card. Once that happens, your state card flips and your civilization changes from barbarian to empire.

When your nation becomes an empire, you can start playing juicier civilized cards and then when you cycle your deck in the future, you get to add development cards into your deck, assuming you pay the resource cost. Development cards are usually worth a decent amount of victory points and they have really beneficial card effects.

There's this very satisfying progression as you cycle through your deck when you're playing Imperium: Classics. Also, when a player develops their last card in their development area, it also triggers the end of the game, so it often feels like a race to do it before your opponents. However, this is just one of a couple ways the game can end, and it was not the most common way based on my half dozen plays. Regardless, I think it's really unique and interesting how your civilization evolves and improves as you cycle through your deck.

From gallery of candidrum
The King of Kings card
Collapse is triggered if there are ever no cards in left in the unrest pile. When collapse is triggered the game ends immediately and the player with the fewest unrest cards wins.

If society hasn't collapsed, scoring is triggered when the main deck runs out of cards, a player develops their last development card, or after the King of Kings card is resolved. There are also a few nations that have additional ways the game end can be triggered.

When scoring is triggered, you finish the current round and play one final round. Then you go through all your cards, scoring them, and the player with the most victory points wins the game.

I enjoyed Imperium: Classics and Imperium: Legends best solo and with 2 players. In my 3-player games with new players, there was a tad too much downtime, but I'd imagine playing 3 players with all experienced players would be totally fine. I haven't played with 4 players and I likely won't because I'd imagine the downtime would be rough.

The solo mode is really well done. To play solo, you pick a nation to compete against and set up their play area. You also use these number tokens under the market cards to simulate the bot’s hand of cards. You take a turn as per usual, then the bot takes a turn that's driven by a reference table.

Each nation has its own reference table(s) depending on its state (barbarian or empire). It's very straightforward and plays fast once you play a few turns and get the swing of how it works. There are also multiple difficulty levels for solo play and a campaign mode included which I did not get a chance to try.

From gallery of candidrum
Resolving the bot's first card

I would've preferred if the bot reference tables for each faction were on separate player aids instead of on pages in the solo rulebook. I found myself having to flip back and forth a lot when I was learning the solo mode. I'd recommend printing them out for yourself to make it easier if you plan to play solo.

Overall, I really dig Imperium: Classics and Imperium: Legends. I’m a big fan of deck-building games to start, but I also really love when games feel unique and do a little something different. The Imperium games bring a fresh approach to deck-building and it really resonated me. Plus, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how much I enjoyed the top-notch artwork from Mihajlo Dimitrievski (Paladins of the West Kingdom, Architects of the West Kingdom, Raiders of the North Sea).

These games will definitely feel slightly intimidating and a tad confusing when you’re learning the rules from scratch for the first time since it’s different from the usual deck-building fare, and also has a quite a few keywords to learn. The good news is, the rulebook is well-organized and I found it easy to find anything I was questioning as I was familiarizing myself with the cards and the gameplay.

The asymmetric nations and their corresponding card decks are very impressive. I haven't even played them all yet, but from what I've tried so far, they're interesting and different. Strategically, there's lots to explore with each individual nation, and then it gets even more interesting when you play games with different combinations of nations. I also really appreciated how each nation's cards make sense historically which makes it feel thematic when you play.

If you enjoy civilization building games and/or deck-building games, be sure to check outImperium: Classics and Imperium: Legends. Classics is definitely the easier of the two to get into, but they both include a variety of nations with a range of difficulty levels to play with, so you can't go wrong with either.

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Fri Nov 12, 2021 1:00 pm
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The Rival Networks, or The Television Network Parody Duel

Candice Harris
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From gallery of candidrum
I’m a sucker for board games with unique themes. Considering that, and all of the laughs and smiles from humorous cards, Gil Hova’s 2016 television network game, The Networks, was a hit with me.

The Rival Networks is a new 2-player standalone version of The Networks from Gil Hova and his publishing company Formal Ferret Games, which has been streamlined to play in 30-45 minutes, in comparison to its predecessor which typically plays in 60-90 minutes. Having played both versions since Gil was gracious enough to send me a copy of The Rival Networks, I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts and impressions.

Here’s a rundown of how The Rival Networks plays as described by the designer/publisher:
Quote:
The Rival Networks is a standalone two-player version of The Networks. Much of the original's gameplay is preserved, but streamlined so that it plays in 30-45 minutes. You and your opponent each have a display of 3 Timeslots, and at the start of the game, they show your starting 3 (terrible) Shows. There is also a Goal Card showing for the current Season, with 3 Goals available to hit (like winning a particular Timeslot, or having more Stars on your Shows than your opponent).

On your turn, you will pick one new Show from a display of 3, and use it to replace one of your existing Shows, which moves to your Reruns. You'll score Ratings Points for the new Show, scoring higher ratings if you put the show in its correct timeslot.

Next, you select one Star and one Ad from their corresponding display. Stars and Ads are displayed as pairs, so when you take one, you must take its matching pair. These go into your Green Room.

Then, you may attach as many Stars as you want onto a single Show (usually the Show you got this turn, but not always), as long as the Star has an icon matching the Genre of the Show. Stars add to your Show's Ratings.

You'll track Ratings for each of the three time slots independently. There are various points on each Ratings track with Viewer icons (usually between 3-5 Ratings Points). Every time you pass one of these Viewer icons, you'll score a Viewer by placing a chip into your secret bank.

Ads are worth money depending on various situations - usually whether you're leading at a given time slot. You'll pay the Ads in order to buy Network Cards (which are now marked with costs). Network Cards are one-time use power cards, similar to the Network Cards in the original game.

If you ever get at least 3 Shows of the same Genre between your Lineup and your Reruns, you'll score a Genre Bonus. Genre Bonuses are different for each Genre, but usually get you Stars or Ratings Points.

The deck of Shows has one Genre of each Show per Season. Once these are all out, you'll see an "End of Season" card. A player may take this card on their turn to trigger the end of the Season when their turn is over. They won't get a Show, but they'll still get a full turn otherwise (taking a Star and an Ad, placing Stars on Shows, and buying Network Cards with Ads).

At the end of a Season, the player leading in more time slots scores 1 Viewer for each time slot they're leading in; the other player draws 1 random Star. Then you'll look at the current season's Goals. The winner of each Goal gets Viewers or Stars depending on the goal.

The game ends after 3 Seasons. The player with more cards in their Green Room scores 1 Viewer. Then, the player with the most Viewers wins.
If you’re already familiar with The Networks, you’ll feel right at home with The Rival Networks as it also features Travis Kinchy’s delightfully fitting, comical artwork combined with Heiko Günther’s clean graphic design.

From gallery of candidrum

While I’ve never played The Networks with only 2 players, I definitely think the overall gaming experience feels very similar between both games. However, there are some streamlined aspects of The Rival Networks I thought worked well, and perhaps enjoyed even more than the original game.

In The Networks, you choose one of six actions (i.e. develop a show, sign a star, land an ad, take a network card) per turn, whereas in The Rival Networks, you take three actions per turn, which not only allows the game to progress faster, but it also makes each turn feel more meaningful.

While The Rival Networks is a lighter game, it manages to offer a decent amount of interesting decisions throughout the game. First off, I think it’s really cool that you compete in each of the three different time slots. This is reminiscent of games like Twilight Struggle or Blitzkrieg!: World War Two in 20 Minutes where you constantly have to evaluate how much effort to exert in each area.

From there, deciding which show to develop can be a tough choice since it’s not necessarily just about choosing the show with the most ratings. You have to also consider where you want to slot the show, and if it’s worth canceling the show that’s currently in that particular slot since it’ll reset your ratings score in that particular time slot.

From gallery of candidrum

When deciding which show to develop, you’ll also be considering the set-collection genre bonuses, similar to The Networks, for having 3+ shows with a similar genre. The bonuses for each genre are pretty juicy, but there may be some you’re going for over others.

There are also different Awards cards that have multiple objectives that score at the end of each season. There are six different Awards cards for each season, but each game you only play with one card per season. This adds replay value to the game and also incentivizes players to vary their strategies from round to round, game to game.

In The Rival Networks, there’s also no actual money in the game and I dig it. Instead you spend/discard ad cards you’ve acquired to purchase Network cards. The value of the ad cards vary depending on how you’re doing in a particular time slot. For example, the Reflux Orange Juice ad is worth $4 million if you have the most ratings points in the 10 PM time slot, but if you don't, it's only worth $1 million.

From gallery of candidrum

From gallery of candidrum
At the end of the day, The Rival Networks is all about getting those viewers (victory points). I like that there are lots of different ways (i.e. Network cards, genre bonuses, Awards cards) to gain viewers and it's not solely based on the ratings of your shows. I also like that the viewers you earn during the game are secretly stowed away in your own little house, so it’s hard to tell who’s winning while you’re playing the game, and it has the added bonus of suspenseful scoring at the end of the game.

My only gripe with The Rival Networks is that each game you play with all of the same show cards, and I can see this getting stale over time, especially if you mostly play with the same opponent. Considering there are few expansions for The Networks, I’m hoping we’ll also see some expansion decks for The Rival Networks so we can keep our laughs and smiles fresh.

Whether or not you’ve played either version of The Networks, The Rival Networks is worth checking out if you’re interested in a fun, quick-playing, unique-themed 2-player game that feels competitive, yet doesn’t take itself too seriously. Plus, even if you don’t play the game, reading through the cards is likely to make you smile and chuckle if you ever need a laugh on a rough day.
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Fri Nov 5, 2021 1:00 pm
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