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Relive the Dark Ages, Explore Medieval Baghdad, Control Medieval Tuscany, and Train Your Samurai

Candice Harris
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• In late April 2022, UK publisher PHALANX announced Bretwalda, a game of strategy, diplomacy and conquest for 1-4 players set in early medieval England, from designer Leo Soloviey, who is also behind the excellent artwork for the game.

Board Game: Bretwalda


The publisher's description below for Bretwalda should give you a rough idea of what it's all about, but I'm sure more details are coming since it's going to be launched for crowdfunding on Gamefound on June 15, 2022:
Quote:
Britain. 796AD. King Offa of Mercia exhales his last breath. A new Bretwalda must be crowned.

Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex and East Angles. The four largest kingdoms of Britain. All vie for supremacy. Take control of one of these kingdoms. Subdue the Viking raiders. Use diplomacy, coercion and, if necessary brute, military strength to overcome your rivals. Claim the crown. Become the Bretwalda.

From gallery of candidrum
Bretwalda is a game for 1-to-4 players that plays in around 2 hours. Each player takes charge of one of the kingdoms of England. Each kingdom has unique leaders and abilities. Victory is achieved through a combination of control of key areas, completing Chronicles, and constructing Abbeys to support the spread of Christianity across the land.

Play is fast-paced. Over 12 seasons players compete by taking collection, development, mobilization and movement actions. With only 2 actions permitted per season, each decision is critical. Each season will see new events, and the armies of Vikings or independent Kingdoms may arrive or be bribed to attack rivals. Bartering and alliance-building are essential to success, but, with conquest critical to victory, betrayal is never far away.
Wayfarers of the South Tigris is an upcoming release from The West Kingdom Trilogy designers Shem Phillips and S J Macdonald and Garphill Games, which is at the tail end of its successfully funded Kickstarter campaign (KS link).

Wayfarers of the South Tigris plays with 1–4 players in 60–90 minutes and features a unique mix of worker placement, dice placement, and tableau building, and is all about exploring medieval Baghdad. Here's a bit more on the setting and what you can expect from Wayfarers of the South Tigris:
Quote:
Wayfarers of the South Tigris is set during the height of the Abbasid Caliphate, circa 820 AD. As brave explorers, cartographers and astronomers, players set off from Baghdad to map the surrounding land, waterways, and heavens above. Players must carefully manage their caravan of workers and equipment, while reporting back regularly to journal their findings at the House of Wisdom. Will you succeed in impressing the Caliph, or lose your way and succumb to the wilderness?

Board Game: Wayfarers of the South Tigris

The aim of Wayfarers of the South Tigris is to be the player with the most victory points (VP) at the game's end. Points are primarily gained by mapping the land, water, and sky. Players can also gain points from upgrading their caravans, by gaining inspiration from nobles, and by influencing the three guilds of science, trade and exploration. As they make discoveries, players will want to quickly journal their progress. The game ends once one player’s marker has reached the far right column of the journal track.
Board Game: Almoravid: Reconquista and Riposte in Spain, 1085-1086
• In the spirit of Volko Ruhnke's Almoravid hitting the streets in late April 2022, I wanted to put the word out on Inferno: Guelphs and Ghibellines Vie for Tuscany, 1259-1261, the next title in GMT Games' Levy & Campaign Series, designed by Enrico Acerbi and Ruhnke, which is available on GMT's P500 pre-order system.

In Inferno, 1-2 players represent factions from the republics of Firenze and Siena and vie for control of medieval Tuscany. Depending on the scenario you play, a game of Inferno can be played in 60–360 minutes.

Here are more details on the history Inferno introduces to the Levy & Campaign Series:
Quote:
Tuscany, 1259. As wealth from crafts and foreign trade elevated northern Italy’s urban families above the landed lords, rivalries within and among their cities hardened into conflict between two great parties. The Ghibellines aligned with the Hohenstaufen emperors who ostensibly ruled Italy, while the Guelphs backed rival imperial claimants and the greatest challenger to the Emperor’s authority, the Pope. Should any faction gain advantage, others coalesced to resist.

The comuni (republics) of Firenze (Florence) and Siena dominated inland Tuscany at the head of competing alliances. As Guelphs sealed their control of the more populous Firenze, Ghibelline Siena turned to the Hohenstaufen King Manfredi of Naples for help. Local rebellions and reprisals escalated on each side, as political exiles stirred the pot. After Manfredi dispatched German knights to protect his loyal Tuscans, Firenze mustered its people and allies to march on Siena, which responded with its own great army. Pisa and Lucca, Lombardia and Umbria joined in. Guelph and Ghibelline faced off en masse at Montaperti in September 1260, in what turned out a bloody Florentine defeat. As Ghibelline exiles returned to grip Firenze, its Guelphs rallied to Lucca and Arezzo, portending an eternal inferno of fighting.

From gallery of candidrum

Inferno—the third volume in Volko Ruhnke’s Levy & Campaign Series—visits the conflagration that was 13th-Century Tuscan warfare, factional conflict fueled by the money and burgeoning population of the region’s well-to-do cities and mountain valleys. Veteran Italian wargame designer Enrico Acerbi applies his deep knowledge of the age to bring it to life within Volko’s accessible medieval-operational system. Gathering enough transport and provender may not so much be the challenge here as the sudden impediment of rebel towns and castles along key roads. Tuscany’s unruly berrovieri horsemen, famed elite crossbowmen, and distinctive palvesari shield bearers are just a few of the unique features of this volume. Muster, mount up, and find out whose blood will make the Arbia run red!
From gallery of candidrum
• If you're interested in learning more about Inferno and/or GMT's Levy & Campaign Series, San Diego Historical Games Convention (SDHistCon) is hosting Levy & Campaign Fest on June 4, 2022. Levy & Campaign Fest is an online convention focused on learning and playing the Levy & Campaign Series, with full teach-and-play sessions of ten different titles!

I've had a wonderful time attending SDHistCon's online conventions since the pandemic started, but I'm especially looking forward to this one, considering Nevsky and Almoravid sit on my "shelf of opportunity" in desperate need of my attention. I'm looking forward to being schooled by the Levy & Campaign designers and making some new friends along the way.

Board Game: Small Samurai Empires
Rise of Tokugawa is the first expansion for Archona Games' 2020 release, Small Samurai Empires, designed by Milan Tasevski. Rise of Tokugawa was successfully funded on Kickstarter in March 2022 (KS link) and is open for late pledges.

Small Samurai Empires is an action-programming, area-control game for 2-4 players that plays in 45-90 minutes, where players fight for control of Japan with their armies of Samurai. The Rise of Tokugawa expansion adds a solo mode, components for a 5th player, and introduces some new twists to the base game, as briefly noted below by the publisher:
Quote:
Rise of Tokugawa is an expansion for Small Samurai Empires, including a 5th player, solo mode, training grounds, a playmat and more!

As house Tokugawa rises to power, many of the daimyos prepare for the inevitable – an all-out war between the houses. No-one is safe, not even within the great castle walls.

Board Game: Small Samurai Empires: Rise of Tokugawa

Train your Samurai to be invincible warriors. Deploy archers, elite units and generals and use your unique tactics to bring an advantage to the battlefield. Prepare for siege and glorious battles. For glory and honor!
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Fri May 6, 2022 1:00 pm
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Command German Aerial Squadrons, Lead A Convoy Across the Atlantic, and Fight for Richmond

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• In April 2022, Dan Verssen Games (DVG) launched a Kickstarter campaign (KS link) for Stuka Leader, a new solitaire, Leader game from designer Chuck Seegert, which plays in 45-120 minutes, and expands upon the gameplay of DVG's Corsair Leader and Zero Leader.

In Stuka Leader, you take command of a huge selection of German aircrafts in World War II, and work through a variety of campaigns with a unique blend of targets and goals. In addition, there are a few expansions available as add-ons that allow you to explore the Eastern Front, the Mediterranean, the Spanish Civil War, and more.

Here's a brief summary Stuka Leader from the publisher:
Quote:
Stuka Leader is based on Corsair Leader and Zero Leader, expanding gameplay from the previous games. You are in command of a German aerial squadron in Europe in World War Two, with aircraft including the Messerschmitt Me 109 and Me 262, Heinkel He 111, Focke-Wulf Fw 190, and the eponymous Junkers Ju 87 Stuka.

Board Game: Stuka Leader

You will need to select the right mix of pilots and aircraft under your command in order to carry out the different types of missions. Each aircraft has its advantages and disadvantages.

This game also expands additional aspects of German operations such as fuel barrels, wounds, and bail outs. There is also a new campaign sheet and tactical display, which will present a different feel to the well-established Leader gameplay.
• For an exciting, nautical World War II solitaire experience, keep your eyes peeled for Atlantic Sentinels, an upcoming 2023 release from Compass Games and designer Gregory M. Smith, which is available for pre-order.

Atlantic Sentinels plays in 120 minutes and challenges you to command a convoy across the North Atlantic with the goal of protecting Allied shipping and destroying U-boats. It's also worth mentioning Atlantic Sentinels was designed to be integrated with Smith's 2013 release The Hunters from GMT Games.

Here's an overview of what you can expect as described by the publisher:
Quote:
Atlantic Sentinels is a solitaire, tactical level game placing you as the Senior Officer of the Escort, shepherding a convoy in the North Atlantic from the attacks of U-boats, both singly and in wolfpacks.

You are in command of a convoy escort group, composed typically of 4-10 escort vessels guarding a convoy on its way across the Atlantic. Your mission is to protect as much Allied shipping as possible while simultaneously destroying as many U-boats as possible during the height of the U-boat threat – 1942 to early 1943.

Board Game: Atlantic Sentinels: North Atlantic Convoy Escort, 1942-43

Atlantic Sentinels provides players with a host of decisions as he is assigned to protect merchant convoys, typically ranging from 40 to 60 ships. The placement of escorts to offer front, rear, and flank protection to the convoy is complicated by the size of the convoy and available assets. Additional decisions must be made on where to place the escorts, which are equipped with Type 271 radars, the key to your defense.

As the game progresses, a player’s Escort Group may receive upgrades in the form of additional radars, HF/DF (High-Frequency Direction Finding) equipment, and possibly additional ships. Air support can be key, but until the CVE “jeep carriers” arrive, the “Black Pit” in the center of the Atlantic remains a high threat area.

Players will find it highly challenging to minimize convoy losses and keep them to an acceptable level.

Players may choose any of 9 historical Escort Groups (five British, four Canadian) armed with historical destroyers and corvettes.

These ships include:
B/C/D/E Classes DE
F Class DE
H Class DE
V&W Class DE
Town Class DE (American Lend Lease)
River Class FF
Flower Class Corvettes

Gameplay moves quickly, following a set sequence of events that are repeated until the end of the game. Once your initial Escort Group is set up, play proceeds by rolling for a convoy and escorting it across the Atlantic. Enemy forces range from single U-boats (typically a type VII, but possibly a Type IX) to entire wolfpacks. Wolfpacks increase in size (as they did historically) and will be your primary challenge. Encounters are randomly generated, ensuring no two careers will ever be the same. Weather can impact operations, as well as air support and crew upgrades due to experience. A logical but reasonably simple set of instructions bring the U-boats in to attack you from random directions, making your initial defensive array very important.

Of particular note is the game is designed to integrate with The Hunters if players wish to combine the games.

Atlantic Sentinels: North Atlantic Convoy Escorts, 1942-43 is meant to be a highly playable and interesting solitaire game covering the actions an Escort Group would have to deal with in fighting the U-boat peril during convoy escort.
Board Game Publisher: Hollandspiele
Board Game: Our God Was My Shield: Jackson's Valley Campaign
• In April 2022, Hollandspiele announced Mac and Lee, the second game in John Theissen's American Civil War Operational Series. Mac and Lee is a 2-player, American Civil War game which plays in 180 minutes and is a follow-up to Theissen's 2021 release, Our God Was My Shield.

Here's a brief overview of the tense experience that awaits you in Mac and Lee:
Quote:
Mac and Lee is the second game in John Theissen's American Civil War Operational Series. Specific units and their strengths are hidden from your opponent as you perform a tense dance of cat-and-mouse maneuvers. This is especially important when modeling George McClellan’s ill-fated Peninsula Campaign, where doubts about enemy numbers and positions exacerbated the extreme caution that saw the promise of “the young Napoleon” give way over the course of these operations to his reputation as a passive, bewildered commander who was hopelessly outmatched by his Confederate counterparts.

Board Game: Mac and Lee

If they want to succeed, the Union Player will need to be bolder and more decisive than Mac; the Confederate Player, for their part, must use a skillful mix of maneuver, bluff, and nerve to stymie the enemy’s advance on Richmond. Knowing when to attack and when to hold back, when to run and when to make a stand, are paramount, and as ever, subject to the fortunes of war.
Board Game: Antietam 1862
Board Game: Shiloh 1862
• For another take on the American Civil War, Worthington Publishing's Old School Wargames division launched a Kickstarter campaign in April 2022 for Grant Wylie's Seven Days Battles 1862 (KS link), the third volume in the Civil War Brigade Battle Series which is targeted to deliver in Q4 2022.

Seven Days Battles 1862 is a 2-player game which includes eight scenarios which can be played in 2-8 hours, depending on the scenario. The Kickstarter campaign also includes reprints of Antietam 1862 and Shiloh 1862 as add-ons, if you're interested in checking out the first two volumes in Worthington's Civil War Brigade Battle Series.

Here's brief excerpt on what Seven Days Battles 1862 is all about:
Quote:
SEVEN DAY'S BATTLES 1862 is Volume III in our Civil War Brigade Battle Series. It is an old school style hex and counter wargame that allows gamers to refight battles from the 1862 Seven Days Battles that occurred outside of Richmond, VA. One player will play the Confederate side, and one player will play the Union side. The victory conditions are the destruction of the enemy army and capturing key terrain objectives. The game include 8 scenarios over 4 separate battles. 2 of the scenarios allow the linking of 2 of the battles.

From gallery of candidrum
Box cover art is not final

The battles included are Beaver Dam Creek, Gaine's Mill, Glendale, and Malvern Hill. Beaver Dam Creek and Gaine's Mill may be joined in one of the scenarios to cover two days of the batttles, while Glendale and Malvern Hill may be joined in another scenario to cover two other days of the battle.

The 6 single day scenarios can be played in 2 to 4 hours, while the 2 two day scenarios can be player in 6 - 8 hours.
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Fri Apr 29, 2022 1:00 pm
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Make Wine Around the World, Experience Cosmic Odyssey, and Defeat Vampire Hunters

Candice Harris
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• In April 2022, Stonemaier Games announced Viticulture World, an exciting new, co-operative expansion for Viticulture Essential Edition, from designers Mihir Shah and Francesco Testini, and developed by Jamey Stegmaier.

Viticulture World: Cooperative Expansion will be available for pre-order in early June 2022 and creates a new, co-operative Viticulture experience where 1–6 players (winemakers) work together to compete against asymmetric continents on a new board. Here's a small taste of what you can expect:
Quote:
Cooperate with members of your extended winemaking family in various asymmetric regions around the world in Viticulture World: Cooperative Expansion as you try to achieve global recognition. Balance the management of your individual vineyard with the combined effort of your fellow players to gain influence within the region.

Board Game: Viticulture World: Cooperative Expansion

Using the new game board, tiles, tokens, and event cards combined with the original vineyard mats and game cards, you have six years to achieve the two conditions necessary for victory in the selected region: (1) Each player must reach 25 victory points and (2) the shared influence token must reach the end of the influence track. The cooperation, objectives, and asymmetry in this expansion are similar to that of Spirit Island and Orleans: Invasion.

The Viticulture core game is required to play the Viticulture World expansion. Other expansions are compatible with this expansion.
Board Game: Cosmic Encounter
Cosmic Odyssey is another exciting new expansion which was announced in April 2022, from Fantasy Flight Games and designer Jack Reda. Cosmic Odyssey is the seventh and biggest expansion yet for the galactic hit Cosmic Encounter, introducing a campaign mode, in addition to a slew of other new content briefly described below by the publisher:
Quote:
You've conquered the stars in Cosmic Encounter. You've weathered storms, defended against incursions, forged alliances, engaged in countless conflicts, and established dominion for eons. Or perhaps you've done none of those things, and Cosmic Encounter has only recently entered your life. Either way, there is still the ever-burning question: what comes next?

Well, dear friends, this comes next. And it's going to be epic.

Board Game: Cosmic Encounter: Cosmic Odyssey

Cosmic Odyssey is a massive expansion bigger than anything Cosmic that came before it (aside from the base game, of course), and it packs enough wallop to enhance your wild and wonderful space shenanigans for countless games to come. Even if you don't own any of the previous expansions, Cosmic Odyssey brings loads of aliens, variants, and a brand-new campaign mode to the table. It has more of everything Cosmic Encounter has to offer, and lots of things that have never been seen in the game before. It's a never-ending odyssey, and one that no Cosmic fan will want to miss!
Board Game: The Hunger
Board Game: The Hunger: High Stakes
The Hunger: High Stakes is a new expansion for Richard Garfield's The Hunger, which is due out in Q3 2022. The Hunger was a Gen Con 2021 release from Renegade Game Studios, and if you're not already hip to it, I recommend checking out Eric's detailed overview from October 2021.

The Hunger: High Stakes adds 180 new cards and introduces new options and variety to The Hunger, as noted in the summary below from the publisher, which is hopefully enough detail to sink your teeth into:
Quote:
The stakes have been raised!

The Hunger: High Stakes expansion features exciting new twists for hungry vampires. The Event Deck creates random starting options. Vampires can now Attack allowing them to defeat new Threats, improve your Hunting abilities and attack other vampires.

The Hunter: High Stakes expansion box is designed to store all your cards and tokens for both The Hunger base game and High Stakes Expansion.

Features:
---• New Threats bring new strategies and excitement to the game.
---•Events create unique hunt nights and spawn the threats.
---•Powers that fight new dangers like Vampire Hunters and Werewolves, and even other Vampires.
---•High Stakes is an expansion for The Hunger. Base game required.
Board Game: Flamme Rouge
• Finland-based publisher Lautapelit.fi has a new expansion on deck for bicycle-racing game Flamme Rouge called Flamme Rouge: Grand Tour, from designer Asger Harding Granerud. The Grand Tour expansion includes a campaign mode and additional new content for 2-4 bike racers, and plays in 30–210 minutes.
Quote:
Flamme Rouge: Grand Tour introduces multi-stage campaigns, varying from short 3-stage Tours all the way up to full 21-stage Grand Tours.

Board Game: Flamme Rouge: Grand Tour

In addition to the campaign mode, this expansion also includes new track tiles, special stages and specialist riders that allow you to customize your decks.

Each of these additions can be used both in single-stage races and in the campaign mode.
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Fri Apr 15, 2022 1:00 pm
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Earn the Most CrypCoin in Alexander Pfister's Skymines

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In April 2022, Berlin-based publisher Deep Print Games announced its upcoming release, Skymines, from designers Alexander Pfister and Viktor Kobilke, which is due out in Q3 2022. Skymines plays with 1-4 players in 75-150 minutes, and shares the majority of its DNA with Pfister's 2015 hit Mombasa, re-themed with additional, new content.

Board Game: Skymines

Here's a high-level overview of Skymines from the publisher:
Quote:
Fifty years ago, humanity began mining the Moon and the asteroids, and for decades that task was firmly kept in the hands of the World Government. But the turmoils of recent years have caused this enterprise to collapse. Now, adventurous companies and private investors take to the sky to revive this mining network.

As investors, you try to earn the most CrypCoin over the course of seven rounds. You do this by investing mined resources in companies and by spreading outposts of these companies across the Moon (or the asteroids of the Belt) to increase their value. You can improve your earnings by supporting your scientists’ research and by having them collect precious helium-3.

The heart of Skymines is a unique card programming and hand management system that requires careful and clever planning. It provides deep player interaction by letting you invest in any of the four companies as you see fit. And as the combination of company abilities changes each game, there are endless synergies and strategies to explore.
In slightly more detail, players start Skymines with a similar hand of starter action cards, but can acquire new and more powerful cards from a rotating card market display throughout the game. Each round players choose action cards from their hand, place them face down in action slots (beneath the player board), and then reveal them simultaneously to perform the corresponding actions. At the end of the action phase, each card is moved to a resting slot (above the player board), where it is inactive until it's recovered. Before you move the each action card to a resting slot, you recover all cards from exactly one resting slot. This makes hand management crucial since you want to make sure you have flexible options with the action cards in your hand.

There are a variety of actions you can take in Skymines:
---• You can use resources on your cards to acquire new cards or advance on one of the four company tracks.
---• You can use energy points on your cards to expand a company by placing outposts onto new sectors on the Moon, which increases the value of a company's shares.
---• You can research scientist cards and upload your research by advancing your upload marker on your research track, which functions similarly to the bookkeeping track in Mombasa.
---• You can use field scientist cards to store helium-3 by advancing your helium-3 marker on your tank track, which functions similarly to the diamond track in Mombasa.
---• Plus there are bonus actions you can claim for majority bonuses, standard bonuses, and bonus tiles if you can beat your opponents to them.

Most of the actions in Skymines give you some rewards, which always feels good. While the heart of the game revolves around the market manipulation -- increasing your shares in different companies while also influencing the value of each share -- there are many ways to make CrypCoin, thus many paths to victory. Again, when it comes to the core gameplay, there's nothing super new mechanically for Mombasa connoisseurs. But there's more...

Aside from its refreshing new theme, Skymines stands apart from Mombasa with its campaign mode and modules. The campaign has four chapters, and each chapter spans one game with a specific setup that includes one or more of the modules. Although, you can also play any of the modules independently from the campaign.

There is a mission cards module which features six mission cards which don't change the normal rules, but instead provide additional options. With the mission cards, you have special tasks you can complete throughout the game, and when you complete a set of three tasks, you unlock a personal bonus space that only you have access to.

The game board for Skymines is double-sided. One side features the Moon side which you use for the core game, and appears almost identical to the Mombasa game board flavored with the new theme. The other side is the Belt side which introduces another module you can play with.

The Belt side map changes up the way you expand companies, and presents a new layer of variety and different challenges. On the Belt side, you place company outposts onto asteroids and company shuttles onto flight paths between the asteroids. Outposts of different companies can even share the same asteroids. This sounds like a really cool twist to incorporate into the gameplay.

Board Game: Skymines

Lastly, there are threat cards you can add to the mix. If you play with the threat cards module, you randomly choose one of the six threat cards and place it face up between shuttle spaces 11 and 16 on the Belt side of the board. Each threat card has a specific consequence that affects all players at the end of the game if it's not dealt with. During the game, players can deal with the threat by spending energy, meeting the threat card's requirement, and expanding a company whose shuttle is on space 11 or 16. The player that manages to deal with it gets to remove the threat card from the game board and keeps it for themself as a wild share, which is denoted on the back side of the card.

Skymines sounds super cool. I dig the theme and how it's incorporated with the unique combination of mechanisms. Plus, the campaign mode and modules sound like they'll add some real fun twists and turns to the core game.

Mombasa is one of few games that got me super excited when I initially read the rulebook, then even more excited as I taught my first game, and then even more excited every moment of playing my first game, and every game of it thereafter. Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to playing Skymines and exploring the new theme, campaign, and modules.
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Fri Apr 8, 2022 2:04 pm
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Embrace Your Inner Viking with Pax Viking and Standalone Prequel Vendel to Viking

Candice Harris
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Board Game Publisher: Ion Game Design
In February 2022, Ion Game Design announced a pre-order for Vendel to Viking, an upcoming standalone prequel to Pax Viking, from Ion's lead designer Jon Manker. Vendel to Viking sets 1-6 players in the 250-year Vendel period of Viking history, with each turn representing an entire generation where the family you represent competes against others to collect the strength needed to claim victory.

Here's a brief overview of Vendel to Viking from the publisher:
Quote:
Vendel to Viking is a standalone prequel expansion to Pax Viking, inspired by its mechanics but with some significant differences in the game system. In Vendel to Viking you represent a family in the Nordic culture prior to the Viking era. The game takes place between 550 to 800 CE.

Board Game: Vendel to Viking

You represent a family in one of the Nordic cultures that evolves into one of the prominent families of the Viking era. Each turn represents a generation and you seek to include the best formidable persons in your family as you evolve from generation to generation. You place family members on the map and use them for accessing effects in various locations, for worker actions or for elevating them into a formidable person. When elevated the family member is linked to a character card taken from a market and moved to an achievement tree. The Character goes to your family board and both the presence in the achievement tree and on the family board affects your family’s opportunities onwards.

The first to hold two Future-level achievements in the achievement tree wins. If no player manages to do so before a set number of turns, the one with the most points wins.

The end state of Vendel to Viking will interface with the starting state of a game of Pax Viking making it possible to play the two games as a campaign.
From gallery of candidrum
Vendel to Viking is targeted for a Q4 2022 release, but in the meantime, allow me to give a quick overview of Ion Game Design's 2021 release, Pax Viking, which I had the opportunity to play a few times on a review copy provided by the publisher.

In Pax Viking, 1-6 players take on the roles of 10th century Jarls (powerful leaders in the Norse culture), and compete representing different families seeking to unite many Jarldoms into a unified country, leveraging trade networks in the east, powerful allies in the west, along with some clever tactics.

The large, beautifully illustrated game board (by Madeleine Fjäll) features a map comprised of several sea, river, and harbor regions which are color-coded based on wind groupings: West (purple), North (blue), East (green), and South (orange). Within each region are circles representing posts which are either empty, filled with a venture card, or trade centers and powerful allies which are pre-printed on the board.

Two key areas on the right side of the game board are the saga track for the saga tile/card market, and the victory conditions area which is where victory condition cards are placed during setup. Pax Viking features four different difficulty levels of a variety of different victory conditions. Each game, you randomly select four out of five different victory conditions for your preferred difficulty level. You can also mix and match victory conditions for different difficulty levels as a handicap when playing with a mix of new and experienced players.

Much of the historical record of the Vikings is told through sagas, written down centuries after the events took place. Pax Viking integrates this concept with a massive deck of (220?!) saga tiles, which are unique, circular cards. Similar to other Pax games, the saga cards and corresponding card market drive a lot of your actions and strategies throughout the game.

From gallery of candidrum
Game board mid-game

In Pax Viking, there are four different types of saga cards: venture, god, advocate, and event. Each saga card has a variety of information, such as the location you need to have one of your longships in to play it, special abilities, and thematic, historical flavor text. In addition, the saga cards each include one of four follower icons indicating which type of follower you place when the card is played. This represents you gaining and establishing followers, which can lead to special influence actions during the game.

Each player starts the game with one randomly selected Jarlboard (player board) out of nine different options, representing different Jarls, each with their own special ability. The Jarlboards are very functional for gameplay since you can keep track of your followers, have a hub for your longships, and a convenient place for your god and advocate saga cards. It also serves as a helpful player aid since the actions and turn phases are summarized at the bottom.

From gallery of candidrum
A Jarlboard with poppin' pink components

Pax Viking is played over a series of rounds, where each player takes a turn in clockwise order until at least one player achieves one of the revealed victory conditions. Each player's turn is divided into three phases: influence, action, and winter solstice.

In the influence phase, you check to see if you have more established followers for any of the four follower types (Jarldom, Sweden, Theocracy, or Rus). If you do, you get to take the corresponding influence marker(s), each of which gives you access to a different special action. Conversely, if you no longer have more followers of any type than all of your rivals, you have to return the corresponding influence marker(s).

Then, in the action phase you select four actions you want to perform this turn, one at a time, by placing one of your action markers on the action on your player board. There are five standard actions to choose from, and if you have any influence markers, you also have access to the corresponding special, influence action(s). You are free to take the same action multiple times, but you only ever take four actions on a given turn.

As an action, you can invest to take a saga card into your hand. You can either draw the top card of the deck for free, or buy from the saga card market, paying the corresponding price. If you opt to get a card for free, the cheapest card in the market is discarded, then all of the remaining cards slide down, and you immediately refill the uppermost space with a new saga card from the deck. However, if you buy a card, the market is not refilled immediately, but instead at the end of your turn.

Once you have some saga cards in hand, you'll eventually want to play them, which leads me to the play action. If you have one of your longships in the location matching the saga card you wish you play, with no rival longships present, you can play the saga card.

From gallery of candidrum
Saga card examples

If it's a venture card, you place it onto an empty post or replace an existing venture, then establish it by placing one of your followers on it, as specified by the follower icon on the venture card. Advocates and gods are placed on your Jarlboard in the designated spaces, along with an established follower. They each give you access to a special ability.

Event cards can either have immediate effects, or trigger a vote which all players get to weigh in on in clockwise order. In the case of the latter, if 50% or more agree, you resolve it, and then you check victory conditions regardless of the outcome of the vote.

On your turn, you can also take the journey action to move one of your unexhausted longships up to three steps, and then exhaust it. Each longship can only journey once per turn. The large map and movement in Pax Viking sets it apart from most games in the Pax series.

From gallery of candidrum
Heavily guarding my Iron Trade venture post in Svea...
As part of the journey action, before or after any step you move, you also have the option to trade with rivals (opponents) in the same region as you. You can trade saga cards, followers, money, or non-binding promises. Considering you need to be in the matching location to play saga cards, trading with opponents is super helpful and adds an interesting dynamic to the game.

As a Jarl in Pax Viking, journeying is so important. You have to have a longship in the specific locations to play saga cards, which is one of the main ways you can establish followers. Beyond venture posts, you can also move to trade centers and pay money to establish followers there, in addition to gaining special abilities. Plus, there are powerful allies (neutral ships) you can gain control of at certain locations. Thus, movement is very important, and thankfully you have six longships you can use, in addition to any powerful allies, which gives you lots of flexibility.

The activate action allows you to perform the ability on a venture post if you have a follower and an unexhausted longship on the post. After activating the post's ability, you exhaust a longship there. Venture post abilities give you ways to gain extra money, get free cards from the saga track, move ships (your own and rival ships), and more. There are a ton of them and plenty of variety to keep things interesting.

The fifth standard action is parley, and this is how you can boot your rival's longships out of a post and take over, or establish a post that has no rival ships.

There are also four special influence actions, which can be very powerful, should you have the opportunity to access them. This is one of the reasons it's important to play saga cards and establish more followers.

Another benefit to gaining followers is to help you generate income during the winter solstice phase, which comes after you perform your four actions. For each type of follower that you have placed at least one of, you gain one silfr (money). Then you refresh any exhausted longships, refill the saga track, and then discard down to your hand limit of four cards, factoring in any modifications from gods or advocates you have in play.

You continue taking turns in clockwise order until the game ends as a result of one or more players achieving one of the revealed victory conditions when victory is checked, typically when an event card is played. The game also ends when the last saga card is taken, and the saga deck and track are both empty. If there is a tie, or the game ends from depleting the saga deck and no one has achieved a victory condition, there are a couple of tiebreakers, starting with having the most established followers, which further proves the importance of establishing followers.

From gallery of candidrum
Examples of victory conditions

I certainly did not delve into every bit of detail, but I hope to convey the point that Pax Viking is not only a unique and interesting addition to the Pax series, but it's also very accessible, enjoyable, and relatively easy to get into. It plays in less than two hours, and with only five main, straightforward actions to choose from, plus a ton of variability from the different Jarlboards, saga cards, and victory conditions, there are always fresh strategies to pursue without getting bogged down by complex rules.

Pax Viking comes with great player aids and an appendix with rules for solo play, and several pages of historical background details for the events, gods and Jarls. Plus, as an unexpected bonus, we discovered some awesome new music (Danheim and Heilung) that really set the mood.

I'm a big fan of Pax games, and games that have multiple victory conditions, because it's often not so obvious which victory condition each player is aiming for. Also, it allows you to explore different options and pivot if one direction isn't working out well for you based on the cards you're getting, or how your opponents are playing.

There was one game I played where one player was close to winning, and we all knew it, so we started to collectively try to stop him. In this particular game, I played poorly and didn't think I set myself up to achieve any of the victory conditions anytime soon. I felt like a lost cause, but I was still having fun. Then, as I scanned the board, and re-read the victory conditions, I discovered I was surprisingly close to achieving one. While everyone was focused on that player who was obviously about to crush us, no one noticed that I was one action away from a different victory condition. On my next turn, before anyone noticed, I was able to take actions to seal the deal, then play an event card to trigger a victory check, and won the game. It felt sneaky and awesome. I love games like this, where you have to pay attention to what your opponents are doing, and at the same time, you have to set yourself up for victory, without being too obvious, intentionally or unintentionally.

I'm looking forward to exploring more of Pax Viking, and I'm very curious to see how it fits with Vendel to Viking as a campaign. Pax Viking nails it as a solid entry-level Pax game and I recommend checking it out if you're curious to try one. Or, if you're already a Pax fan like me, you might enjoy it as fresh spin on the series.
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Fri Apr 1, 2022 1:00 pm
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Keep 'em Rolling to the Rhine, Levy Your Forces in Agincourt, and Vie for the Crown in 1066

Candice Harris
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Board Game Publisher: PHALANX
• UK publisher PHALANX is launching a "WW2 Games Redux" Kickstarter campaign (KS link) on April 4, 2022, including euro-wargame hybrid Race to the Rhine: Keep'em Rolling, along with a reprint of their award-winning, World War II submarine warfare co-op, U-BOOT: The Board Game, targeted for delivery to backers in Q4 2022. Each game will be available to back individually, or you can go all-in if you're interested in backing both games.

Race to the Rhine: Keep'em Rolling is a new edition of 1944: Race to the Rhine, from designers Jaro Andruszkiewicz, Waldek Gumienny, and Yves Roig, which includes new artwork and components, new modules and content for adding a 4th player and for solitaire play, in addition to the Red Ball Express mini expansion.

Here's a tad more detail from the publisher on what you can expect in the new Keep'em Rolling edition of 1944: Race to the Rhine:
Quote:
Keep’em Rolling is a game for 1-4 players set in the summer and autumn of 1944, during the Allied offensive against German-held France and Benelux countries. It’s a eurogame with a strong wargame flavor, focused on the logistical aspects of war, supplying units with fuel, ammunition and food, and then moving them through enemy territory. The aim of the game is to reach the German border on the Rhine before any other player.

From gallery of candidrum

Keep’em Rolling contains the complete 1944: Race to the Rhine game and:

Red Ball Express, a mini-expansion that reduces randomness in the gameplay and introduces new elements to the game: bad weather and the much-feared threat of a German counteroffensive.

Anvil, a module introducing a 4-player game. The fourth player takes on the role of Generals Jacob L. Devers and Alexander M. Patch, commanders of the Allied landing operation and invasion of Provence in Southern France in the late summer of 1944. He has to face new challenges and threats, including the withdrawal of undermanned and underequipped but still very formidable German Army Group G and the alteration of operational goals with the joint Franco-American liberation of Alsace in mind. The module also contains new intermediate goals for the three original commanders.

Bretagne, an independent solo game played on a separate board. The player takes on the role of General Troy Middleton, commander of the U.S. VIII Corps. His race is not to the Rhine, but to the ports of Brittany, which he has to capture before Germans can fortify their positions and destroy the harbor facilities. Heavily fortified cities of Brest, Lorient, Saint-Malo, and Saint Nazaire will not be easy to overcome, and the mobile and dangerous German Kampfgruppe won’t just stand idly in the face of an American advance into Brittany. Fortunately, the French Resistance is nearby to render its assistance.
U-BOOT: The Board Game is a fully co-operative, real-time, World War II submarine warfare game for 1-4 players, originally released in 2019, from Iron Wolf Studio designers Bartosz Pluta and Artur Salwarowski.

Here's a detailed overview of U-BOOT: The Board Game from the publisher:
Quote:
U-BOOT: The Board Game is a fully cooperative, real-time tabletop game of WW2 submarine warfare, designed by Iron Wolf Studio. It allows 1 to 4 players to assume the roles of the Captain, the First Officer, the Navigator, and the Chief Engineer on board of a type VIIC U-boat. The game is driven by a companion app, allowing for an unprecedented level of realism, as well as a challenging enemy A.I. which will push your skills to the limit. The action unfolds both on the strategic and the tactical scale, always demanding teamwork, efficient crew management, and quick situation assessment.

Each of the four roles entails unique responsibilities, encouraging the players to develop an efficient communication scheme and use genuine navy terminology. The Captain oversees the completion of mission objectives, supervises action point costs, and is responsible for the crew's morale. The First Officer operates the companion app, manages the flow of information, and takes care of the crew's health. The Navigator steers the submarine by setting its course and depth, but also updates all the essential information on the strategic, and the tactical map. Last, but not least, is the Chief Engineer, who is responsible for the engines, repairs, as well as other mechanical implements on board of the U-boat (such as the ballast tanks, weapon systems, etc.). At the same time, each of the four officers commands his own group of crew members by issuing orders within a worker placement system.

Board Game: UBOOT: The Board Game

The idea behind the companion app is to deliver a real-time, realistic gameplay experience. To that end, the app features the most essential instruments of the u-boat (such as the periscope, the hydrophone, and the Enigma, among others). Rest assured, however, that the vast majority of gameplay traditionally takes place on the game board, with the instruments revealing otherwise hidden information, and the app requiring only certain data (such as the U-boat's course, speed, etc.) in order to generate an adequate A.I. response of the enemy force. It is also responsible for all the ambient sound effects, thus immersing the players even deeper into the claustrophobic interiors of the type VII C. But fear not! With open & play being a design priority, you will be launching torpedoes in no time, thanks to streamlined rules, video tutorials, and variable difficulty levels for each player.

From quick skirmishes, through full combat missions, to an all-out campaign, UBOOT: TBG will let you conduct submarine operations in all major naval theatres of the 2nd World War. Success of these missions hinges on the completion of various tasks delegated to the crew by the Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine (German Navy HQ), which include patrol duty, ambushing convoys, laying mines in enemy waters, and many more! Each mission will require the players to adopt various strategies and different play styles in order to successfully complete it, and the companion app will generate a detailed report at the end of each game session (evaluating player efforts, and possibly awarding decorations, promotions, etc.). That is, if the U-boat makes it back home...

The stage is set and the crew is awaiting your orders. Do you have what it takes to command the Kriegsmarine's finest? Hunt or be hunted, as you brave the stormy seas of the greatest conflict in history!
• When thinking of games like Race to the Rhine: Keep'em Rolling, that tackle the logistical aspects of war, I can't help but think of the ever-growing and evolving Levy & Campaign Series from GMT Games and Volko Ruhnke. Joe Schmidt's Henry: The Agincourt Campaign, 1415 (Volume 5) was announced as a new P500 pre-order addition in GMT's March 2022 newsletter, and sounds like an interesting, new addition the Levy & Campaign Series.

In Henry: The Agincourt Campaign, 1415, 1-2 players, representing English and French forces, levy their forces, manage logistics, and clash in the legendary Battle of Agincourt.

Here's an overview from the publisher describing the historical background and elements of the gameplay:
Quote:
In Henry, the fifth game in Volko Ruhnke’s Levy & Campaign Series, players will bring to life all of the drama of the famous Agincourt campaign. Players will lead either the English forces of King Henry V or the French nobility in the levying of forces, management of logistics, and campaigning through Northern France. Designed by Joe Schmidt, Henry aims to create a more streamlined version of Levy & Campaign that is equally suitable for someone’s first experience or a quicker lunchtime gaming session.

Board Game: Henry: The Agincourt Campaign, 1415

The English player will build their army at the outset of the game, and in doing so set their victory conditions based on these choices, and then begin their campaign. While the English march through Normandy, the French Nobles will need to rapidly respond by levying their forces and navigating the internal court politics of their ongoing civil war between the Armagnac and Burgundian factions. Then, once ready for battle, the French will attempt to hunt down and prevent King Hal and his happy few from returning home.

The Levy & Campaign system offers us something more focused on the human element. Humans need to be fed, and that food needs to be both secured and transported. Without that, even the greatest of armies will fail. Henry endeavors to lift the veil of the mythology of the Battle of Agincourt to offer a more detailed look into the circumstances that created the legend.
• For another take on medieval warfare, 1066: Year of Destiny is an upcoming 2023 release from Legion Wargames and designer Geoff Noble, which is available for pre-order from the publisher.

In 1066: Year of Destiny, 3 players take on the roles of historical figures vying for the crown following the death of Edward the Confessor in January 1066. In more detail from the designer:
Quote:
1066 is a three-player game covering the various claimants to the crown of England following the death of Edward the Confessor in January 1066.

The players fulfill the roles of Harald Harada, Harold Godwinson and William of Normandy. The game is split into 4 phases each of which is designed to illustrate a key component in determining who takes the crown.

Firstly, there is a Pre-Invasion Political Event phase (PIPE) which is designed to showcase the political intrigue that took place prior to the death of Edward. During this phase the players can gain additional support from other leaders and regions and, crucially, they can gain additionally legitimacy from various monarchs, religious bodies and events. Many events are outside their control; death of the Aethling, Scandinavian Wars and the activities of Tostig but they will also be crucial. This simple game preamble will provide an infinite variety of starting points to be played out on the map itself. In addition this phase can be a time of acquiring operational and tactical chits to use advantageously later.

Legitimacy is central to the game. Unless a player gains an automatic victory, then a players legitimacy level will be key in determining who has won the war. As well as during the PIPE phase it can also be changed by winning and losing battles and by taking controlling of areas on the map.

Board Game: 1066: Year of Destiny

However, before the Operational phase there are the perils of the sea crossings. When to sail is a crucial decision by both William and Harada. Go early and the weather should be kinder, go later and you can recruit more troops. Lady luck, in the form of stormy seas can destroy the best laid plans, in addition the prevailing winds can prevent you invading, even when you are ready to go (as occurred to William). If a crossing goes badly wrong, or you lose an early decisive battle your claim lies in shreds. Don’t despair – ‘Become a Dane’. A player can abandon their attempt, as William or Harada, and instead take up the cause of Sweyn of Denmark and try and gain the throne for the Danes (they historically invaded in 1069). It won’t be easy winning as the Danes but it means you are still in the game.

The first week in September is a dangerous time for Harold as the Fyrd stand down to collect the harvest. Is this the time to strike? Will the weather conditions be in your favour?

In the operational phase, players move around the map of England to gain control of areas and improve their legitimacy, as well as deciding when to strike to win a decisive battle against one of the two opponents. The operational phase is a real ‘rock, paper, scissors’ problem. How to square the problems of keeping your forces concentrated to win battles, spreading them out to take control of areas whilst keeping them feed without turning areas into wastelands.

When battle is joined them the action is transferred to a battle board where the individual characteristics of the differing armies is highlighted. The longer you stay on the battlefield the bigger the loss if you are defeated; often the losses from pursuit are greater than the losses from the battle itself. Winning and losing battles result in big legitimacy swings which can decide the game.

Never before has this iconic campaign been gamed with all four key facets illustrated (politics, invasion, operational campaign and battles).
There are a number of very good battle games, but not much for the operational phase and nothing showing the political interplay or the perils of the sea crossings themselves.

The victory conditions for each player differ slightly, requiring differing strategies for each side. Sweyn of Denmark is waiting in the wings. If no one ‘Becomes a Dane’ then the system takes over the game system and will determine if he arrives or not. Leave London inadequately protected and he will take it, and without it, neither William or Harold can win a decisive victory.

The game is easily playable in a single session (4-5 hours)
4 Kings 1 Crown – have you got what it takes to become the undisputed King of England.
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Mon Mar 28, 2022 1:00 pm
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Build a New Small City, the Best Planet, the Greatest Roman City, and an Otherworldly Theme Park

Candice Harris
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Alban Viard's Small City is one of many games that I discovered when it was out of print, yet I had to have it. I ended up paying a premium to get it, knowing full well that a new edition was coming. What can I say, the scarcity bias has my number and calls often.

Alas, AVStudioGames launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter (KS link) in March 2022 for the long-awaited Small City: Deluxe Edition, a spiffy new version of Viard's 1–4 player city-building gem. Small City: Deluxe Edition features a revised rulebook and solo mode, new variants, and fresh new artwork from the esteemed Kwanchai Moriya.

From gallery of candidrum

Board Game: Small City
If you're not already familiar with Small City, here's a description of how it works from the publisher:
Quote:
You are the mayor of one borough of Small City, and you have eight turns to secure enough votes to be re-elected. To do this, you have to attract more citizens, encourage the growth of residential areas for them to live in, and aid the expansion of both the commercial and industrial sectors – though the latter sector also brings pollution with it, and you need to deal with that, too, as high pollution levels will have a negative effect on your score at the end of the game.

If you build suitable infrastructure, your citizens will undoubtedly vote for your re-election, but beware of false promises! Votes can be earned over the course of the game by placing citizens in the residential spaces, by erecting cultural buildings, by keeping commercial buildings in suitable areas, and also by making good on the promises that you made to the citizens at the beginning of the game.

The player with the most votes (i.e., victory points) after eight turns wins.
As part of the Small City: Deluxe Edition, you can also pick up its first expansion, Small City Deluxe: Winter Expansion. The Winter expansion features eight modules for playing a Winter season version of Small City: Deluxe Edition, with new player and city boards, new building tiles, new action cards, and more.

Board Game Publisher: Archona Games
• Do you have what it takes to build the greatest Roman city? Find out with Magna Roma, a new competitive, tile placement, city-building game for 1-4 players that plays in 30-90 minutes, from designer Matteo De Nardis and Archona Games. Magna Roma was successfully funded on Kickstarter (KS link)in April 2021 and is now available for pre-order.

Here's the gist of it from the publisher:
Quote:
You are summoned by the Roman emperor to hear about his great plans for expansion. He wants you to found the next great Roman city and bring glory to the Roman Empire!

Carefully plan your city and efficiently connect neighborhoods to gain valuable resources! Spend coins and employ population to build magnificent monuments! Use legions to conquer distant lands for the Emperor! Produce valuable luxuries to use for scoring points! Gain the Will of the Gods and use it to empower your city! Glory is within your grasp!

Build the greatest Roman cities and bring glory to Rome in this tile-placement, city builder board game for 1-4 players!

Board Game: Magna Roma

In Magna Roma, the objective is to make the most points at the end of the game by building your city efficiently! To do so, players take turns to place city tiles in their city. A newly placed tile must be connected to at least one of the previously placed tiles. When a player places a tile, the connection with the adjacent tiles will result in producing one or more resources for the player. For example, connecting two half-circles found on the tiles produces a coin, a rectangle and triangle produce population, a rectangle and half-circle produce a legion etc. What's more, if the connected shapes are of the same color, the game rewards the player with double the resources.

With these resources, players will be able to play the other actions in the game, such as: build different monuments in your city, gain a Luxury Good, gain the Gods' Favor tiles, conquer new provinces for the Emperor all serving the same goal - to gain the most points at the end of the game and build the greatest Roman city that ever existed!
Board Game: Planet Unknown
Planet Unknown is a unique, city-building game with an interstellar flair from designers Ryan Lambert and Adam Rehberg, and Adam's Apple Games, a publishing company who strives to create games with unique components and new play patterns combined with a rich theme.

In Planet Unknown, 1-6 players compete to build and develop the best planet by placing polyomino resources tiles. Planet Unknown plays in 60-80 minutes and was successfully funded on Kickstarter in April 2020 (KS link). Here's an overview of how it works from the publisher:
Quote:
Our planet has run out of resources, and we are forced to move. We have discovered a series of planets and sent our rovers to test their environment with the hope of colonization. Our rovers have confirmed 1-6 viable colonization options. Planet Unknown is a competitive game for 1-6 players where players build and develop the best planet to win!

From gallery of candidrum
Photo from GAMA Expo 2022 courtesy of W. Eric Martin

Each player has a goal of developing the best planet in Planet Unknown. Each round, each player will place one dual resourced tile on their planet, which is a polyomino shape. Each resource represents the infrastructure needed to support life on the planet. Every tile placement is important to cover your planet efficiently and also to build up your planet's engine. After placing the tile, players do two actions associated with the two infrastructure types on the tile. Be careful because some tile placements will trigger "meteors" that make all planets harder to develop and prevent it from scoring points in its row AND column.

Planet Unknown innovates on the popular polyomino trend by allowing simultaneous yet strategic turn-based play via the Lazy S.U.S.A.N. space station in the center of the table. The game also condenses a 3-hour medium weight game into about 70 minutes for 1-6 players no matter the player count.
Curious how we do it, follow along until launch!
• For another otherworldly city-building experience, you can try your hand at building a Cthulhu creature-filled theme park with Jacob Lindborg's Cthulhu Island, an upcoming release from Luudos Studio, which is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter (KS link) in March 2022.

Here's a brief description of what you can expect from Cthulhu Island, a competitive game that plays in 60-120 minutes, and has 1-6 players competing to collect fear:
Quote:
Summon creatures, build attractions and entice visitors to your otherworld theme park.

In Cthulhu Island, Cultist travel the world to create the best and most grotesque theme park, filled with creatures and elder gods from other dimensions and realms beyond this world.

During your turn, you expand the map. Then you either explore, enlist or exterminate cultists, taking actions based on your available control in an area. Each area has an associated action, that will grant you favors based on the amount of cultist available and if you can pay the elemental cost.

Board Game: Cthulhu Island

Throughout the game, you will face many options on your travel; gaining power from magical sources, summoning creatures, building attractions, entice visitors or destroy your opponents. It's all for the greater good (or the greater gods)!

In the end, you win by publicity. Explore, enlist, entice and exterminate in Cthulhu Island!
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Fri Mar 18, 2022 1:00 pm
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Game Overview: Red Flag Over Paris, or Card and Cube Tension Galore

Candice Harris
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From gallery of candidrum
Card-driven games (CDGs), such as Twilight Struggle or Watergate, have always hit a sweet spot in my gaming brain. They made me realize, and constantly remind me, how many tough decisions can stem from a deceptively simple hand of cards. Plus, well-designed CDGs crush it when it comes to nail-biting tension in board games. Enter Red Flag Over Paris.

Red Flag Over Paris is a 1-2-player, strategy card-driven game from designer Fred Serval and GMT Games, which portrays the intense confrontation between the Paris Commune and the French government in Versailles in 1871. As a spiritual successor to Mark Herman's Fort Sumter, Red Flag Over Paris offers a quick-playing, tense, and challenging gaming experience where players use cards to place cubes representing political influence/military presence to take control of key spaces needed to achieve their respective victory conditions.

The Versailles player (blue components) represents the government in Versailles trying to find a diplomatic end to the 1870 war against Prussia and take back control of Paris. To win the game, they need to have more military points than the Commune player has political points when the game ends.

Meanwhile, the Commune player (red components) represents the people of Paris rising up against the bourgeoisie and the government of Versailles. Their goal is to expand their political influence over France and have more political victory points than the Versailles player has military points at the end of the game.

Red Flag Over Paris hit the streets in late 2021 and is a new addition to GMT’s Lunchtime Games series, which features games that play in 20-60 minutes. As a fan of CDGs and quick-playing board games that I can play with anyone, I was very interested in playing Red Flag Over Paris. Thankfully the kind folks at GMT Games hooked me up with a review copy so I could check it out and share how it works, along with some of my initial impressions.

The game board for Red Flag Over Paris is good-looking and functional. The core area of the board is divided into two sections, Political and Military, and within each section there are six spaces split into two different, color-coded Crisis Dimensions -- Institutional (green) and Public Opinion (orange) on the Political side, and Paris (purple) and Forts (blue) on the Military side. Each Crisis Dimension also has a different shape associated with it, making it color blind friendly.

At the top of the board, you'll find Crisis tracks filled with wooden cubes for both players at the start of the game, a tug-of-war score track with two different cylinders for keeping track of military and political VPs, and Momentum tracks for each player -- Revolutionary Momentum for the Commune player, and Prussian Collaboration for the Versailles player.

From gallery of candidrum

Red Flag Over Paris is played over up to three rounds followed by a Final Crisis phase, which represents the “Bloody Week” in May of 1871. Each round follows a nine-step sequence of play, starting with dealing four Strategy cards and two Objective cards to each player (1). After players carefully review their cards and the state of the game board, each player secretly chooses one Objective card to keep, and removes their other Objective card from the game (2).

There are total of twelve Objective cards in the game and each represents one of the twelve map spaces on the game board. At the end of the round, players reveal their secret objectives, and whichever player controls the corresponding spaces gains victory points. Each time you secretly choose an Objective card and throw one away, you gain some useful data since you know your opponent doesn’t have the card you removed from the game (or the one you secretly picked), and they never will for that particular game. This becomes helpful when you’re trying to figure out what your opponent’s Objective card might be.

From gallery of candidrum
Objective card examples
Next comes the Initiative phase (3). Players calculate their initiative level by subtracting their Player Momentum value from their Political VPs. Whoever has the highest initiative level decides the player order for the round, with the Commune player deciding in case of ties.

The player who has the initiative plays the first Strategy card each round, and decides the order in which the Pivotal Space bonus actions, Crisis Dimension scoring, and Objective cards scoring will be resolved at the end of the round. It's great that there are pros and cons to having the initiative and when you get to choose player order, it’s often a tough decision, especially in later rounds, deciding whether to take the initiative yourself or pass it to your opponent.

If you have the initiative, your opponent gets to play the last Strategy card for the round, which can leave them in an advantageous position when it comes to bonus actions and end-of-round scoring, and nobody wants that, besides your opponent, of course. On the other hand, having the initiative allows you to decide the order in which Pivotal Space bonus actions, Crisis Dimension scoring, and Objective cards scoring are resolved, which can also be very powerful in certain situations. So there's definitely a lot of thought that goes into this decision, should you be in the position to decide.

Having the initiative at the end of the game is also one of the final score tie-breaker elements, which makes it especially hard to decide on the Final Crisis phase. Regardless of who starts a round with the initiative, next comes the meat and potatoes of Red Flag Over Paris as players get the opportunity to play Strategy cards to dig into the action on the game board.

Players alternate playing one Strategy card at a time, starting with the initiative player, until each player has played three of their four cards (4). A Strategy card can be played for its event, for operations, to use a discarded event, or to advance Player Momentum.

To play a card for its event, the background must be neutral (gray) or match your faction’s color (red/blue). Then you simply resolve the event text and place the card on top of your discard pile. Events give you juicy ways to add and/or remove cubes from various spaces on the board, manipulate Player Momentum, add barricades (Commune) and fortifications (Versailles) in Military spaces, and more. Since the Strategy card deck is shuffled and dealt randomly, you’ll often have a mix of neutral cards, your faction’s cards, and your opponent’s faction cards, so you might not always have the opportunity to play a Strategy card for the event, which is why it’s cool that you have other options.

From gallery of candidrum
Strategy card examples

You can discard a Strategy card to use the operations points on the card to remove and/or place cubes on the board. Whether you’re removing cubes, placing cubes, or both, operations can only be conducted in spaces where you have presence, or in spaces adjacent to spaces you control. You have presence in spaces that have at least one of your pieces, and you control a space if you have more pieces in it than your opponent.

If you’re planning to remove and place cubes in the same turn, always remove first, then place. You can remove a cube in Political spaces for each operations point you spend. However, removing cubes from Military spaces is not always guaranteed and requires one or more attempts to be successful. The reason behind this is to represent how both factions were ineffective at combat due to the lack of motivation for Versailles troops and the lack of organization by the Commune.

To remove a cube from a Military space, you need to spend one operations point per attempt, or two if the space has an opponent’s barricade/fortification. Then you assess your military strength which starts at a base of zero, but can be increased by a few different factors including having control in adjacent spaces or having presence in the target space. If your military strength is three or more at this point, the attempt succeeds. Otherwise, draw a Strategy card and if your military strength is greater than or equal to the operations points on the drawn card, your attempt succeeds and you can remove a cube.

If you got a wisp of Combat Commander vibes from the military cube removal process, you're spot on. In his designer notes, Serval mentions his tribute to the late Chad Jensen's classic CDG hit as an influence on this, as well as the initiative card in Red Flag Over Paris.

From gallery of candidrum
Jake is stressing over where to place his blue cube...
When placing cubes, you spend one operations point per cube, or two operations points if the space has an opponent’s barricade/fortification. When adding cubes to the map, you must first use any cubes in your cube pool. Once that’s empty, you remove cubes from your Crisis Track, one at a time from the middle of the board outwards.

As cubes are removed from the Crisis Track, zones (Starting, Escalation, Tension, and Final Crisis) will become breached, often giving players bonus cubes to add to their cube pools. However, the player who breaches their Final Crisis zone first loses one political VP and gains two bonus cubes, whereas the second player to breach their Final Crisis zone doesn’t get the penalty, nor the bonus cubes. In addition to carefully managing your hand of Strategy cards in Red Flag Over Paris, you also really have to watch how you use/spend your influence cubes.

The Versailles player has an infinite cube pool, so there is always a place to store removed cubes and bonus cubes. However, the Commune player does not start the game with a cube pool at all. They have to increase their Player Momentum to unlock a limited number of cube pool spaces. Here lies some of the asymmetry between the two factions and something the Commune player should strive to unlock early on in the game so their precious influence cubes aren’t completely removed from the game. This brings me to the next thing you can do when you play a Strategy card.

On your turn you can remove (not discard) a Strategy card from the game to advance one space on your Player Momentum track. For the Versailles player, each advancement unlocks bonus cubes you add to your cube pool, whereas the Commune player unlocks spaces to build their cube pool with each Momentum advancement. On either track, when you advance to spaces two and three, your opponent gets an opportunity to place an influence cube in a Political space. I really like how this offsets the benefit you're receiving by letting your opponent get a little treat too. It's something minor that makes you really question if it makes sense to increase your Momentum, especially in a game where timing can be everything.

Once the Versailles player hits gets to space three, they gain control of the Prussian Occupied Territory space, which significantly helps them spread their military influence. Also, at the end of the game, players gain a victory point, political VP for Commune and military VP for Versailles, if they made it to space three.

You can also discard a Strategy card to use a discarded event on your opponent's discard pile if it was discarded this round and matches your faction. The card you discard to trigger it must have an equal or greater ops value.

This adds an interesting layer to the game and contributes even more to tough decisions you have managing your hand of only four cards. If you discard one of your opponent's cards early in the round, you're practically welcoming them to leverage that event, which you typically will want to avoid. That's another reason it's great that you have the option of removing cards from the game when you choose to advance Player Momentum. There are trade-offs with everything, so this game can be a real thinker.

Another factor that makes the hand management so spicy in Red Flag Over Paris, is that after you each play three cards, you set the remaining Strategy card aside for the Final Crisis (5), which is a special round where you only play the events of your Final Crisis cards to close out the game. Therefore, you typically want to pick one of your own strong event cards to save for the Final Crisis, but that means you might have to discard more of your opponent's cards during the round, giving them the opportunity to use the events. Such tough decisions, I tell you! I love it.

After you set aside a card for the Final Crisis, you perform Pivotal Space bonus actions (6). Each Crisis Dimension has a special star-shaped space, which is the Pivotal Space. If you control a Pivotal Space at this point, you can take a bonus action to shift some cubes around in the corresponding Crisis Dimension. The player with the initiative decides the order these bonus actions are resolved.

From gallery of candidrum
The Commune player has Paris locked down for Crisis Dimension scoring
There are three different Pivotal Space bonus actions you can take if you control a Pivotal Space. You can de-escalate and either remove up to two of your cubes, or one of yours and one of your opponents. You can spread influence and move up to two of your cubes between any of the spaces in that Crisis Dimension. Or, you can turncoat and swap an opponent's cube for one of yours.

After performing all bonus actions, players gain one political VP for controlling all spaces in a Political Crisis Dimension and one military VP for controlling all spaces in a Military Crisis Dimension (7). I'm sure you can see how strong it is to not have the initiative so you can be last to play a Strategy card before all this pops off. But trust me, there are definitely advantages to calling the shots when it comes to deciding the order in which the bonus actions are resolved.

After scoring the Crisis Dimensions, both players reveal and score their Objective cards (8). The player controlling the space on either Objective card gains a VP, political or military depending on the space. Then, players who controlled their own objective get to perform the event on their Objective card in the order that the initiative player decides.

It might not be obvious, but deciding the order in which this happens and the bonus actions can be awesome. You can arrange to have your event resolve first, which might prevent your opponent's event from even happening. Timing is everything in this game, so again, there are strong advantages and disadvantages to having the initiative, which keeps the game tense throughout every phase.

The last phase of each round is to check if it's time for the Final Crisis phase (9). This happens if both players have breached the Final Crisis zones of their Crisis tracks, or if it's the end of the third round. If not, you deal out four new Strategy cards and two Objective cards and play another round.

From gallery of candidrum
Final Crisis cards
When it's time for the Final Crisis round, both players gather the cards they set aside plus their Final Crisis card, and discard down to a hand size equal to the number of rounds they played so far. Then you conduct an initiative phase as usual, and then alternate playing Strategy cards only for their events until all cards are played. If you play an opponent's event , they get to decide if it's executed. This is why I was saying you want to avoid setting aside your opponent's events for the Final Crisis.

After playing the remaining card events, players perform Pivotal Space bonus actions and Crisis Dimension scoring in the order decided by the initiative player, then players with their Player Momentum on space three gain a VP (military for Versailles, political for Commune).

The Versailles player wins if they have more military VPs (0+) than the Commune player has political VPs. Conversely, the Commune player wins if they have more political VPs (0+) than the Versailles player has military VPs. If neither of these conditions are fulfilled, then there are some tiebreaker conditions that are evaluated.

Red Flag Over Paris also includes solitaire rules where you can play against either side. I've been so immersed with the 2-player mode that I haven't gotten around to checking out the solo mode yet, but the player aids for each side seem clear and there are only two small pages of rules to learn how it works, so I'm sure it will be smooth to get into when I have time to try it.

I have been enjoying my plays of Red Flag Over Paris. It's quick to play, very tense, and packed with tough decisions throughout. Sure, there are some typical tug-of-war moments where you might do something, then your opponent immediately undoes it, but there are also plenty of strategic layers that will unfold as you familiarize yourself with the game over time. Plus, for such a short, relatively easy to play game, it has a lot of depth.

There is a good mix of strategy and tactics in Red Flag Over Paris. Each side needs to plan ahead to position themselves well for scoring the victory points they need, but you also have to constantly react and respond to what your opponent is doing. Or maybe not. Sacrifices will need to be made. There were many moments where I was sweating inside, nervous about what my opponent might do, and the tension always felt mutual.

Juggling two different victory point tracks (political and military) adds a fresh twist to Red Flag Over Paris, especially with each faction having different victory conditions. You have to decide if and when it makes sense to be defensive and hold your opponent back versus going heavier on the offensive side to try to gain a lead by earning the points you need to win. I don't know the right answer, but every time I play, I want to try to figure it out.

From gallery of candidrum
End of a tie game where I won the tiebreaker

Considering the secretly selected Objective cards can be scored by either player, there are all these mind games you and your opponent can get caught up in, which amuses me. In this game, every victory point matters. How much effort do you want to devote to trying to achieve your Objective, or trying to guess your opponent's Objective, versus doing other things that all feel equally as important. Let's admit though, when you do prevent your opponent from scoring their Objective, or even better, you win their Objective...it feels good...it feels really good.

I really dig that Red Flag Over Paris covers a unique historical topic, and I appreciate how well the mechanisms tie in, especially with the asymmetry between the factions based on how they operated historically. In addition to the rulebook, there's also an awesome playbook with not only examples of play for both the 2-player and solo modes, but also detailed historical notes to give you context on all of the game's events, the history behind the cards in the game, and even pronunciation tips for those of us who don't speak French. It's really well done.

Even though, Red Flag Over Paris is a short, straightforward game, modeled after Fort Sumter the decision space feels innovative, therefore it might take you a game or two to wrap your head around. At least that's how it was for me. For example, it wasn't until after my first game that I realized how important the cards you set aside for the Final Crisis can be.

I'm very impressed with Red Flag Over Paris and look forward to playing it more, in addition to Serval's upcoming release, A Gest of Robin Hood, in GMT's Irregular Conflict series. If you're a fan of CDGs, or tense 2-player games with tough decisions that play in less than an hour, be sure to check out Red Flag Over Paris.
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Fri Mar 11, 2022 1:00 pm
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Save Earth from Aliens, Explore the Mysteries of the Loop, and Revisit Post-Apocalyptic Worlds

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Earth Under Siege: Flashpoint
Earth Under Siege: Flashpoint is an upcoming, 1-4 player co-operative, sci-fi themed, dungeon crawler with miniatures, which is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter (KS link) in March 2022, from designer Steve Kozlowski and Dark Horizon Games.

Earth Under Siege: Flashpoint plays in 60–90 minutes and offers a thematic and cinematic experience as players take on the role of operatives working together to complete a series of covert missions against enemy alien forces.

Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay from the publisher:
Quote:
Earth Under Siege: Flashpoint is a 1-4 player, co-op, sci-fi dungeon crawler where players complete covert missions against an invading alien force bent on subjugation of the entire Earth.

Setting:
The world is in chaos. Alien enemies are assaulting military bases all over the globe, obliterating any resistance before them. They attack indiscriminately and they show no mercy. They call themselves the Xethan, but where they come from is a complete mystery. They were simply not here one moment and initiating global conquest the next. If they came from space, there are no signs of it. None of the expected indicators of aliens traversing the stars, such as starships in orbit, have been observed. Indeed, the Xethan seem to possess no vehicles in their assaults at all. Instead, they rely on short range portal technology far beyond anything we’ve ever seen, which allows them to teleport short distances bypassing many of our defenses.

But the situation is much worse than just that. These Xethan are being aided by an insurgent faction of human terrorists that call themselves the Vormacht who seem to be working with these alien invaders and betraying their own species.

It has only been six months since the Xethan first appeared and they have already conquered large numbers of military bases all across Europe. If their momentum is not halted, the human race may well fall to these alien invaders. Someone must stop them.

We are that someone. Now is the time. While the world is still reeling from this unexpected assault, we have not been idle. We have come together, as a species, in recognition of this greater threat to our existence. We are no longer just splintered factions of rival groups; no longer separated by our differences. Humankind has never stood so together, united, arm in arm, moving together towards this one mission. We have become AEGIS, an allied force drawn from countries all over the Earth to stand against this threat. No longer will we stay on the defensive. Now is the time we stand up and show these Xethan that humankind will not fall so easily. Now, at this flashpoint in history, we fight back.

Gameplay:
Earth Under Siege: Flashpoint missions are heavily focused on stealth, covert actions, and sabotage. Players are Operatives of AEGIS, and their missions are focused on infiltrating enemy facilities, using every method available, such as cutting the power, using the ventilation shafts, making use of silenced weapons, and hacking into the enemy database.

Players develop their Operatives and HQ over the course of a 30+ mission campaigns as they follow the story deeper and deeper until they uncover the true nature of the Enemy and where they came from.

Each round, players perform actions with their Operatives by exhausting one of their six action tokens until they run out of available tokens, or choose to pass. But players must be judicious in their use of their action tokens, because they normally only recover three of them each Refresh Phase.

Each Operative comes with a unique deck of Tactics cards which gives them access to powerful actions and effects. Each Player will develop these decks over the course of the campaign allowing them to tailor their gameplay to a particular style or focus on specific combos.
• For another otherworldly co-operative game, be sure to check out Rickard Antroia and Martin Takaichi's Tales From the Loop - The Board Game from Free League Publishing. Tales From the Loop - The Board Game was successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter in 2020 and is now available at retailers.

In Tales From the Loop - The Board Game, 1-5 players solve mysteries as kids in a strange world set in the 80s, which was inspired by the Tales From the Loop roleplaying game and the retro sci-fi world created by acclaimed artist and author Simon Stålenhag. Aside from the underlying Stranger Things vibes, here are some details on what you can expect from Tales From the Loop - The Board Game:
Quote:
In the Tales From the Loop – The Board Game, you take the roles of local kids and play cooperatively to investigate whatever phenomena that threaten the islands (or perhaps just the local video store), and hopefully stop them. Each day starts at school, but as soon as the bell rings you can use whatever time you have before dinner and homework to go exploring! You can either play through one of the branching scenarios – ranging from alien plantlife to visitors from the past – or choose a more sandbox experience using the game’s Mystery Islands mode.

Scenarios vary in length from 90-120 minutes and you can play solo, by controlling two Kids, all the way up to five players. Each turn in the game represents a day in the life of the Kids and starts with them meeting up at school. There they will pick up new rumours and plan their actions for the coming day. Once the bell rings and school’s out, they are free to roam the islands, either investigating the mysteries and rumours available, or simply taking care of chores (or both!).

Board Game: Tales From the Loop: The Board Game

Each Kid has a certain amount of Time available to them as they take their turn, which they can spend freely and in any order desired. In effect all player turns are integrated: you don’t have to sit and wait for your turn to come around, but can move about together with the others. And sticking together is wise when facing tougher challenges as you can help each other out and even combine your items for new abilities that can completely bypass a challenge!

At the end of the day it’s important to be home in time for dinner and homework. You can stay out longer, but that could mean losing some privileges (like getting that critical car ride!) or even becoming grounded…

Bring your best friends and go out and explore the mysteries of the Loop!
Board Game: Waste Knights: Second Edition
• Polish publisher Galakta is slated to launch a Kickstarter campaign in Q1 2022 for Beyond the Horizon, a new expansion for Waste Knights: Second Edition from designer Marek Mydel. In the Beyond the Horizon expansion, 1-4 players build upon their post-apocalyptic, story-based adventures from Waste Knights and set sail to explore unknown lands with a ton of new content.

Here's an overview of the new adventures that await you in Beyond the Horizon:
Quote:
Beyond the Horizon is a massive expansion for Waste Knights: Second Edition, a post-apocalyptic game of adventure and survival. Now is the time to leave the continent, embark upon a ship and sail to places you only know from legends and myths.

Board Game: Waste Knights: Second Edition – Beyond the Horizon

Explore a new map enabling you to visit Tasmania, Solomon Islands or New Zealand altered by the Apocalypse. Learn the truth behind the infamous Project X, while battling deadly sea monsters and experiencing strange weather phenomena.
Seek for fresh water – a new resource that will make the game even more realistic and challenging both for sea-farers and continent dwellers.

Play as one of new Knights armed with unique abilities and expand your base game using tens of new cards, tokens, and adventures to experience a setting of enormous proportions however you like – solo, cooperatively or competitively.

Choose your ship, set the course and see where the winds shall take you!
Board Game: The Reckoners
Brett Sobol and Seth Van Orden's The Reckoners: Steelslayer is a new modular expansion for The Reckoners, from Nauvoo Games, which was successfully funded on Kickstarter (KS link) in October 2020.

In The Reckoners: Steelslayer, 1-6 operatives continue to work together to assassinate super-villains in a post-apocalyptic world based on young adult fantasy novels by Brandon Sanderson, with additional content for more variety and new challenges as briefly described below by the publisher.
Quote:
David Charleston, now known as “Steelslayer,” and the rest of the Reckoners attempt to bring human governance back to Newcago and continue on their quest to liberate the oppressed peoples of the Fractured States. However, the Epics will not be so easily stopped. With new allies and challenges ahead, can you live up to the Steelslayer name?

Board Game: The Reckoners: Steelslayer

The Reckoners: Steelslayer is an expansion to The Reckoners board game containing four new modules. These elements can be added separately or together in any combination.

Module 1: New Reckoners
Module 2: New Equipment
Module 3: New Epics
Module 4: New Boss Epics & Cities
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Fri Mar 4, 2022 1:00 pm
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Advance to the Rhine, Recreate the Mexican-American War, and Gain Support in the South China Sea

Candice Harris
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From gallery of candidrum
Board Game: Battle of the Bulge 1944
• In February 2022, Old School Wargames, the hex and counter division of Worthington Publishing, launched a Kickstarter campaign for Dan Fournie's latest release, D-Day to the Rhine 1944.

D-Day to the Rhine 1944 is a 1-2 player, Western Front World War II game which follows from the allied landings to the Rhine, and is a follow-up to Fournie's popular 2020 release, Battle of the Bulge 1944. Using the same streamlined mechanics as its older sibling, D-Day to the Rhine 1944 is full of tense gameplay from start to finish and plays in 1-2 hours.

Here's a brief description from the publisher:
Quote:
D-Day to the Rhine, 1944 is the follow-up to Battle of the Bulge 1944. D-Day to the Rhine, 1944 follows WWII on the Western Front from June of 1944 until March of 1945.

As the German player, you will set your defenses to meet the Allied landings. As the Allied player you will land and try to break out and drive across France as quickly as possible. Can you cross the Rhine and break through the West Wall before Christmas?

The game includes variable objectives that are picked before the game begins creating a great sense of tension as neither player truly knows his opponents objectives before the game begins.

Optional rules are included for landings other than in Normandy, and hidden German units.

Most of the objectives for victory are the elimination of enemy units and for the Allies getting into Germany before 1945.
The Halls of Montezuma from Fort Circle Games and designers Kevin Bertram and Gilberto Lopez is another upcoming 1-2 player wargame to put on your radar. The Halls of Montezuma will be coming to Kickstarter in Q3 2022, plays in 60-75 minutes, and uses the same core system of Bertram's 2020 hit, The Shores of Tripoli, with some new twists, and covering yet another more rare historical topic.

Here's a small taste of what you can expect from The Halls of Montezuma:
Quote:
Following the annexation of Texas by the United States in December 1845, war between the United States and Mexico became inevitable. From 1846-1848, the two countries fought a bloody and bruising war culminating in Mexico surrendering significant territory to the United States.

The Halls of Montezuma tasks two players to recreate this pivotal war in American and Mexican history. As the United States, you will be tasked with taking California and invading Mexico while facing mounting political opposition at home. As Mexico, you will be forced to fight a defensive war of attrition against the better trained and led American troops.

Board Game: The Halls of Montezuma

The Halls of Montezuma is a low complexity, card driven game for two players (with solitaire rules). Players relive the decisions and dilemmas of this crucial period in history. Fast setup and a playtime of 60-75 minutes.
Board Game Publisher: GMT Games
Flashpoint: South China Sea is an upcoming modern warfare and political game for 1-2 players, which plays in 30-60 minutes, from Liberty or Death designer Harold Buchanan and GMT Games.

Flashpoint: South China Sea is targeted for a 2022 release and lets players determine how the more recent geopolitical conflict between the United States and China will play out in a tense, quick-playing, accessible game, which is part of is part of GMT's Lunchtime Series.

Here's a high-level overview of the gameplay from the publisher:
Quote:
Flashpoint: South China Sea is a two-player strategy game that simulates the complex geopolitical contest currently taking place between the United States and China in a disputed region of the South China Sea. The game is driven by a card deck that captures developments ripped straight from today’s headlines, bolstered by cards with a context-setting reading of recent history, and a set of speculative cards capturing a diverse range of potential future events.

Board Game: Flashpoint: South China Sea

The Chinese player works to influence other countries in the region, establish territorial claims and regional hegemony, and improve its world standing. The U.S. player works to maintain influence with allied countries in the region, secure freedom of navigation, and keep China in check. Success for both players hinges on the support and allegiance of non-player countries in the region. The game stops short of dealing with a potential full-scale military conflict. Rather, it requires the nuanced exercise of political, economic, and military resources, in a form of prima facie diplomacy – on the waters, in the air, and ultimately in the minds of the people – to achieve victory.
Board Game: Enemy Action: Ardennes
• In 2015, Compass Games introduced John Butterfield's Enemy Action series of card-driven games simulating pivotal military operations and campaigns in the twentieth century with Enemy Action: Ardennes.

Next in the series is Enemy Action: Kharkov which sets 1-2 players in the action of Third Battle of Kharkov, and is targeted to release in March 2022. Here's the gist of Butterfield's Enemy Action: Kharkov and the Enemy Action series if you aren't familiar with it:
Quote:
Enemy Action: Kharkov is the second game in John Butterfield’s acclaimed Enemy Action series of card-driven games simulating pivotal battles in World War II, playable by two players or one player controlling either side in the conflict.

Enemy Action: Kharkov portrays the Third Battle of Kharkov, the key Eastern Front battle in which the German Army ended a string of Soviet victories begun at Stalingrad. In the late winter of 1943, Soviet Operations code-named Star and Gallop drove the Germans from the city of Kharkov and threatened a complete breakthrough, only to be driven back by the German counteroffensive known as Von Manstein’s Back Hand Blow.

Board Game: Enemy Action: Kharkov

Each volume in the Enemy Action series features:
Two-player competition with low complexity and constant decision points for both sides;
Solitaire play of either side with systems governing all aspects of enemy command and tactics;
Card-driven impulse system, with multi-purpose cards played to activate formations, implement command events, or gain tactical advantages in combat.
Diceless and chartless combat system – players draw combat chits that build a narrative of each combat.
The solo games add fog of war to the experience. Many enemy unit locations in the solo games are unknown until your forces move to contact. Enemy units behind the front line often disappear to reappear elsewhere, within realistic movement limitations.

Features specific to Enemy Action: Kharkov include:
• Soviet partisans
• Offensive command quality
• Withdrawal under fire
• Armor depletion
• Von Manstein’s Rochade (rapid redeployment)
• Soviet forward support
• Spring thaw and mud conditions
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Fri Feb 25, 2022 1:00 pm
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