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Reinforcements Arrive and Evolve the Undaunted Series

Candice Harris
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From gallery of candidrum
David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin’s Undaunted series from Osprey Games kicked off in 2019 with the release of Undaunted: Normandy, a hooky, 2-player deck-building game that places you and your opponent in command of American or German forces, fighting through a series of missions critical to the outcome of World War II. A year later, Undaunted: North Africa was released and featured additional gameplay elements, along with a new setting in the North African Theater of World War II where players command the British Army's Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) or the Italian forces opposing them.

As I eagerly await the arrival of Undaunted: Stalingrad, the next standalone game in the series which is due out later in 2022 per Eric's announcement in January 2022, I have been enjoying my plays of Undaunted: Reinforcements on a review copy David Thompson graciously hooked me up with.

Undaunted: Reinforcements is a modular expansion for Undaunted: Normandy and Undaunted: North Africa which continues to evolve the Undaunted series with new rules, scenarios, and units. Reinforcements comes in a big chunky box that holds all of the content for both base games and the expansion which is very handy for consolidating shelf space. That being said, I’m still holding onto the base game boxes. Roland MacDonald’s artwork on the box covers is way too good to simply toss them.

Undaunted Gameplay Overview
For those who aren't familiar with the Undaunted series, allow me to briefly describe how these games work and what they're all about before delving into the new additions in Undaunted: Reinforcements.

From gallery of candidrum
Scenario 1 of my Normandy campaign with Jake 08.06.20
Undaunted: Normandy and Undaunted: North Africa are 2-player deck-building games where you command soldiers across a series of scenario-based missions on a modular game board. Each scenario features a different landscape of tiles with different objectives which presents players with a variety of fresh challenges to play through.

The scenario booklets have details for a number of different scenarios that can be played in any order as standalone games, or multiple scenarios can be strung together for a campaign experience. Each scenario includes a historical briefing, each side's victory objective, and a list of different unit cards for each player to create their starting deck and supply.

In your deck and supply, you have combat cards which represent soldiers in your platoon, command cards which represent officers in your platoon, and fog of war cards (deck cloggers) which represent the breakdowns in communication caused by the chaos of battle. For each of the different types of combat cards in your deck/supply, you have a matching combat counter which you control by playing matching cards.

Undaunted is played over a series of rounds where both players play cards to move units, attack opposing forces, and take control of key objective locations. Each round consists of three phases: 1) Draw cards, 2) Determine initiative, and 3) Player turns.

At the start of each round, both players draw four cards from their individual decks into their hands. Then players secretly select one card from their hand and reveal it simultaneously to determine initiative, which goes to the player who played the card with highest initiative number.

The initiative process is very simple rules-wise, but is often an excruciatingly hard decision for both players. Whichever card you choose for the initiative bid is discarded, so you won't be able to take actions with it that round. Thus, you strain your brain thinking about how much you want and need the initiative, but you also don't want to sacrifice a good card that has an action you really want or need to play. The hand management struggles are real in this game.

From gallery of candidrum
Scenario 2 of my N. Africa campaign with Matt 12.10.20
Sometimes it's critical to have the initiative so you can attack before your opponent, which might make or break the game for you. Sure, if you have a fog of war card in your hand, you can toss it in for the initiative bid so you're not losing a better card with actions, but there are many times where having the initiative is extremely important, so that's a gamble. There are also moments where you think through this decision so much and end up playing a higher initiative card, only to discover your opponent played a fog of war card and you could've gotten away with putting a lower initiative card in. Oof! Either way, it's always a fun moment in the game and an exciting reveal when both players flip over their initiative card.

Whoever wins the initiative gets to take actions first with the remaining three cards in their hand, followed by the other player. Each card you play, aside from the fog of war cards, has multiple actions available which gives players flexibility each round. When you a play a card, you choose one action on the card to perform.

There are a variety of movement actions that allow you to move around the board. There are a slew of support actions that let you build your deck, draw more cards, trash fog of war cards or add them to your opponents deck, take control of tiles with objective points, and more. Then there are also a few of combat actions where you can attack your opponents or suppress them to temporarily put one of their combat counters out of commission.

When you decide to attack in Undaunted, you choose a target and determine their defense value, which is the sum of the defense on the counter itself, the cover bonus from the tile it's on, and a range bonus based on the number of tiles away the attacker is from the defender. Then you roll a number of ten-sided attack dice (based on the attack action strength). If any of the die results are equal to or higher than the defense value, the attack is successful. The defender has to find a card matching the attacked unit and remove it from the game. When looking for the card to remove, they start with their hand, then their discard pile, and then their deck. If no cards for that unit are found, then they have to remove the counter from the game board.

Each scenario has a specific victory objective for each side, which most commonly involves controlling a number of objective points, but in other cases you'll need to take down (pin/neutralize) some your opponents forces to win. In any case, you play round after round until one player wins by completing their victory objective.

From my experience, each game/scenario usually runs 45-90 minutes. Undaunted: North Africa adds vehicles, structure markers, and a few additional actions which makes it a hair more complex than Undaunted: Normandy, but both games are very accessible and have excellent rulebooks, keeping the barrier to entry low.

Undaunted: Reinforcements Modules
• In Undaunted: Reinforcements, the Armour and Armament module introduces vehicles, specialists, new actions, and four new scenarios to Undaunted: Normandy. Each of these new elements add some interesting variation and flavor to Undaunted: Normandy, while being easy to integrate if you have experience with the base game.

Normandy gets a dose of North Africa treatment with the addition of vehicles, however they work differently than the vehicles in Undaunted: North Africa. They function more similar to regular combat units except they have armored defense and cannot be targeted by normal attacks, so you'll need to load up your antitank weapons to take them down.

From gallery of candidrum
German Panther and U.S. Sherman tank battle 'bout to go down

The new Reinforcements Normandy scenarios include new units for controlling the vehicles, as well as Rifleman specialists that have unique combat actions compared to the base game Rifleman units, which tie into some of the new actions Reinforcements brings to the table.

There’s a new Advance action which allows you move a group of counters onto an adjacent tile occupied by at least one friendly combat counter. More movement options are always welcomed in a game where you're trying to beat your opponent to a particular goal. There are also new combat actions that allow you to target vehicles and attack all enemy units on a tile by tossing a grenade (Grenade action).

From gallery of candidrum
The Light Truck and Scout units should tread carefully with these mines...
• In the Under Cover of Night module, you get some similar spice added to Undaunted: North Africa with the addition of mines, new unit types, new actions, and four new scenarios.

Mines are only used in the new Reinforcements scenarios for Undaunted: North Africa. Units that have a Mine action can place mines between two tiles so the mine token overlaps both tiles, or remove mine tokens. The mine tokens are double-sided so you have a choice of placing them on the anti-personnel side which targets enemy soldiers, or the anti-armour side which targets enemy vehicles. In either case, when an enemy moves over a mine, you immediately resolve an attack against the unit that triggered it.

Mines add a whole new strategic layer to Undaunted: North Africa since you can use them to interfere with your opponent trying to move and control tiles with objective points. It's an interesting defensive tool which your opponent will have to strategize around, or ignore them and accept the risk.

There is also a new Air Support action that allows you to take Recon Aircraft and Assault Aircraft units from your supply directly into your hand. The Assault Aircraft unit includes a new Bomb action which lets you choose any tile and and attack all enemy soldier combat counters (including your own!). When you do this attack, similar to Grenade attacks, you perform a separate attack against each targeted combat counter. It can be very effective considering your targets do not receive any defensive range bonus.

• The Joint Operations module includes rules for playing Undaunted: Normandy and Undaunted: North Africa with four players in teams of two with the eight new Reinforcements scenarios. When you play two-versus-two, each player has their own starting deck and supply, and teammates share fog of war cards for their side. From there, the gameplay is almost identical to a 2-player Undaunted game with a few changes and a wee bit of extra downtime in between your turns.

One player on each team, the player who starts the game with the Lieutenant/Platoon Sergeant card is designated as the commander and gets the command token. When you draw cards at the start of a round, the two commanders draw four cards, while the other two players instead draw three cards. Then the two commanders bid for initiative. The team whose commander wins the initiative takes actions first, followed by the commander of the other team, then the other player on the team with the initiative, and lastly, the other player on the team without the initiative.

From gallery of candidrum
A 4-player game of Normandy: Scenario 101: Barenton

Each player has their own units that they control (i.e. Player 1 has Rifleman A and Rifleman B, while Player 2 has Rifleman C). Whenever you would move the Lieutenant/Platoon Sergeant card to your discard pile, you instead move it to your teammate's discard pile and pass them the commander token. In this way, the commander role alternates between players throughout the game.

In a 4-player game of Undaunted: Reinforcements, you can freely communicate with your teammate, but anything you communicate must be open so that your opponents can hear. I found it really fun having a partner to discuss tactics and strategies with, in addition to throwing our opponents some collective trash-talk here and there.

I enjoyed playing Undaunted: Reinforcements as a team game and I love that we're no longer limited to enjoying Undaunted solely as a 2-player game. The 4-player game can be a bit tedious to set up since you have to set up the modular board and build four different decks and supplies before you can get started. Playing with teams changes up the dynamic and feels different than the tense 2-player game. The team experience felt more fun-forward, like a good beer-and-pretzels game with lots of laughs and high-fives.

From gallery of candidrum
U.S. Scout solo card for Scenario 2
• For a more intimate Undaunted experience, the Enemy Unknown module, designed by Dávid Turczi and David Digby, allows you to play any scenario from Normandy, North Africa, or Reinforcements against a bot opponent driven by solo cards.

During setup you choose whichever scenario you want to play, decide which side you want to play, and then set up the game board and your deck and supply as per usual. There may be some minor changes to the normal 2-player setup for the scenario, but in most cases it's the same.

When it comes time to set up the bot, you build a deck for the bot, gather the solo cards for the applicable scenario, and then you create and shuffle bolster decks with the cards in the bot's supply. Instead of bolstering from a supply of face-up cards, the bot takes cards randomly from these facedown bolster decks when taking a Bolster action.

Gameplay for the solo mode of Undaunted follows the same flow as a 2-player game, where you play a series of rounds until one side wins. Your turns are the same as usual, and the bot's turns are driven by the solo cards matching the cards in the bot's deck.

To determine initiative, you choose a one of your four cards as usual, and then you reveal the top card from the bot's deck to compare initiative numbers. If the bot wins the initiative, the bot's initiative card is added to the bot's play area, then you draw three additional cards and place them in the bot's player area, ordering them from highest to lowest initiative level. Then you resolve all four cards as directed on the corresponding solo cards. However, if the bot didn't win the initiative, the bot's initiative card is discarded, then you would take your turn. After, the bot would only resolve three cards.

When it's the bots turn, you resolve one card at a time from highest to lowest initiative. Each card in the bot's deck has its own corresponding solo card, with conditions and instructions you need to follow, similar to flow charts found in many solo wargames. To resolve a solo card, you start with the top condition, and if it's true, you do what it says. Otherwise, you move to the next line and evaluate the same. After you resolve an action for a card in the bot's play area, you discard it.

From gallery of candidrum
LRDG bot cards for Cooperation in Destruction scenario #203

Undaunted: Reinforcements comes with a thick stack of 150 different solo cards! There is a different solo card for each type of card in the bot's deck/supply for each different scenario and for either side. Some of the solo cards are filled with lines of text which may appear daunting, while others are only one or two lines and quick to resolve. In addition to understanding how to interpret the solo cards, there is new terminology and bot-specific rules you'll need to familiarize yourself with. So there is a learning curve here, especially if you're not used to playing solo games with a bot opponent that has a conditional decision process. That being said, once you play a few different scenarios solo, you should be able to zip through the bot's turns very smoothly, since assuming you have the rules down, the flow of the bot's turn is very simple -- draw cards, then resolve them based on the matching solo card's specifications.

Considering you can play any scenario from Undaunted: Normandy, Undaunted: North Africa, or Undaunted: Reinforcements solo, there is so much to dig into with the Enemy Unknown solo module. There are also adjustments you can make to increase or decrease the difficulty level as you experiment with different scenarios and get used to how the bot works.

From gallery of candidrum
All set up to play a N. Africa scenario solo

The Undaunted series continues to impress me with the Undaunted: Reinforcements expansion. It's packed with tons of awesome new content and rules that add so much variety without bogging down a super smooth game system. Plus, the added solo and 4-player team modes give players flexibility to get Undaunted to the table more often, with each player count having its own feel.

The Reinforcements components, rulebook, and scenario books are great too. I really like that the rulebook includes an example of play for the solo mode since it's more complex than the other modules. On the components front, I do have a minor gripe with the new cards though. The colors on the backs of the new cards do not exactly match the original cards. It's not a huge issue, but if it does bother me or interfere with gameplay, I may just sleeve the cards with colored backs so you can't tell which cards are from the expansion versus the base games. This brings up another minor gripe.

While I love and appreciate that the Reinforcements box has room for all of the cards and components for both base games and the expansion, the card trays are already pretty tight with unsleeved cards, so I might have to get creative with fitting everything and keeping things organized with sleeved cards. Again, these are minor gripes that seem insignificant compared to all of the positives aspects of this expansion.

If you're already a fan of this series and you're hungry for more, the Reinforcements expansion is a no-brainer. However, there is tons to enjoy and experience in either base game (Normandy or North Africa).

For a deeper look into the origins of the Undaunted series, check out my Cardboard Creations interview with David Thompson on Undaunted: Normandy:
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Tue Jun 21, 2022 1:00 pm
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Manipulate Stock Markets and Lay Tracks Around the World and on the Moon

Candice Harris
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Board Game Publisher: All-Aboard Games
As an enthusiastic newbie to the 18xx scene, it's very exciting to see the wide variety of upcoming 18xx titles on the horizon. Holding true to their core as railroad-themed stock market and tile laying games, each game brings its own flavor and twists along for the ride.

In a previous BGG News post, Eric mentioned the highly anticipated new edition of 1880: China coming from Lookout Games in Q4 2022. Now I'm happy to share upcoming 2023 releases from All-Aboard Games (AAG) which are being launched on Kickstarter for crowdfunding on June 14, 2022.

Ken Kuhn's 1822PNW is a new release in the 1822 series set in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. 1822PNW plays with 3-5 players in 180–300 minutes and builds upon existing 1822 series games with fresh new concepts in a new setting as highlighted below in the publisher's overview:
Quote:
Set in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, this is an 18xx game about the ragtag minor railway startups in the PNW laying the groundwork for the Major Eastern Giants as they expanded West.

Based on Francis Tresham's 1829, and more specifically inspired by Simon Cutforth's 1822: The Railways of Great Britain, this 18xx title features multiple auction rounds throughout the game, distributing the minor companies and private companies in a randomized order, ensuring each game will play out quite differently.

Board Game: 1822PNW

1822PNW builds upon previous games in the 1822 family by including a handful of community favorite private companies while adding in a variety of new regionally inspired private companies that give players a vast array of options to consider for end game route building. One of which is the addition of transporting lumber—a huge export from the region—that can't be carried by E-trains, but by engineering the right 7-train route you can add a significant amount of revenue to your bottom line.

Finally, one big departure from the '22 family is that 1822PNW does away with concessions and instead features a merger mechanic that more closely mirrors the way in which the major companies staked their claim in the PNW.

All of the features combine for a refreshing and exciting take on the genre-defining 1822 series.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ken Kuhn at GMT's Warehouse Weekend event in October 2021, and though I don't know all that much about him, I do know he is a die-hard 18xx fan and one of the biggest train-game aficionados I've ever met. Thus, it's great to see all of his train-game love, passion, and energy channeled into a new 18xx design.

Board Game: 21Moon
21Moon is a new space-themed 18xx game from designer Jonas Jones, where 2-5 players compete running mining corporations on the moon. 21Moon features new mechanisms, a random setup to make each game different, and plays in 150-210 minutes.

Here's the backstory, setting, and a high-level overview of what you can expect in 21Moon:
Quote:
The story so far – exploration of mineral resources on the moon

The year is 2117. Climate change has taken its toll on Earth and new resources are needed to fuel a very technically advanced society gathered into ever growing megacities around the globe. Research during the last 50 years has shown that the Moon has several very pure and effective mineral resources that are needed on Earth. This year, mining corporations has established bases on the Moon with the purpose of building a transportation network to mine valuable mineral resources. As these resources are of global interest, the top 20 nations on Earth have invested in a freight rocket “Future One” scheduled to fly to the moon and transport minerals back to Earth.

From gallery of candidrum
Game board (artwork not final)

When the game starts, the corporations got eleven months to gather as much minerals as possible before the rocket leaves the moon.
Players are opportunistic investors –most wealth at the end of the game wins!

The players (referred to as “investors” in this game) see an excellent opportunity to make credits (=money) by investing in and running private companies and mining corporations on the moon. The corporations establish bases on the moon and build road networks to valuable mining resources, mining as much resources as possible until the freight rocket leaves the moon with its cargo of minerals.

The winner is the wealthiest investor when the rocket leaves. An investor's wealth is made up of personal credits and current market value of owned shares in the seven corporations.
I originally stumbled upon 21Moon and mentioned it in a post back in May 2020. Its uniqueness grabbed my attention before ever playing my first 18xx game and becoming hooked. I'm glad to see it'll be available so there are more 18xx options, besides Poseidon, for people who aren't into train games, but otherwise enjoy the stock market and tile laying aspect of 18xx games.

Örjan Wennman transports us to Sweden and Norway in 18SJ: Railways in the Frozen North, which was originally self-published in 2021, and plays with 2-6 players in 120–300 minutes.

Board Game: 18SJ: Railways in the Frozen North


Here's a brief taste of what you can expect from this 18xx set in snowy Northern Europe:
Quote:
18SJ is a game in the 18xx-series set in the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway and pits two to six players as investors in railroad corporations in the formative years of Nordic railways. It features a simple mechanism for the nationalization of public corporations and simulates the construction of the mainlines of Swedish rail. The nationalization means that each game will be completed with a varying number of corporations ultimately available. Shareholders need to be careful in stock investment and the timing of train purchases to maximize personal profit.
18NY is an 18xx game set in New York from designer Pierre LeBoeuf, which features minor companies that merge into the New York Central Railroad and takeover mechanisms. 18NY plays with 2–6 players in 300 minutes and was originally released in 2014 by Deep Thought Games.

The second edition of 18NY includes an updated map and rebalanced trains. Here's a high-level breakdown of it works:
Quote:
18NY is an 18xx railroad game set in New York State and surrounding areas. The game is a stock, train, and track building game that uses the 18xx system. Two to six players compete to have the largest net worth in cash and stock at game end.

Board Game: 18NY

Game play is divided into Stock Rounds and Operating Rounds. During Stock Rounds, players and share companies may buy or sell stock in minor and share companies, open new companies, or take over existing ones. During Operating Rounds, each minor and share company conducts business (laying track, placing stations, and buying trains). At first, stock and operating rounds alternate, but as the game progresses, the number of intervening operating rounds increases.
Dave Berry's 18GB: The Railways of Great Britain is another new edition of an 18xx game which was originally released by Deep Thought Games. 18GB plays with 2–6 players in 120–300 minutes, and has elements from a variety of 18xx games as described in the high-level overview below:
Quote:
18GB is a member of the 18xx family of games, set in Great Britain. Players invest in railway companies, which build routes and run trains, with the aim of ending the richest player.

18GB combines elements of 1825 and 1860 on the one hand with features of 1830 and its descendants on the other hand. When setting up the game, the railway companies are randomly grouped into two tiers, so each play will see the map develop differently. Players may buy up to 100% of ten-share companies and may sell any number of shares into the open market, even including the directors' certificate. Each share sold depresses the stock price of that company, but the stock price will recover several places if the company's income is double, triple, or four times its stock price.

Board Game: 18GB: The Railways of Great Britain

The number of railway companies scales with the number of players. The two 2-player scenarios play quickly, while the game becomes longer and more complex with more players.

18GB has an unusual mix of city tiles and associated rules for upgrading them, which makes the engineering side of the game more challenging than many in the 18xx family.
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Fri Jun 10, 2022 1:00 pm
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Gather Your Coven, Duel as Witch and Witch Hunter, and Add Mythological Creatures to Nidavellir

Candice Harris
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• In May 2022, Mindclash Games announced Septima, an upcoming, competitive witchcraft game from designer Robin Hegedűs, which is coming to Kickstarter on June 16, 2022. In Septima, 1-4 players compete to impress the High Witch, building their covens, healing townsfolk, and more, in hopes to become her successor.

Board Game: Septima

Septima is Mindclash's most accessible game to date and clocks in at 50–100 minutes. Based on the publisher's description below, Mindclash Games continues to stay true to its roots producing unique, highly thematic games:
Quote:
Only in a few corners of the world is the memory of magic still alive, even though a few centuries ago its healing power permeated everything. Witches, its last remaining practitioners, have always been outcasts and could help human society only in strict secrecy. The leader of their people, the Septima, has always been the wisest, most knowledgeable witch. Now, as her time is coming to an end, witches from all over the world gather at Noctenburg to leave their mark on the hostile town and prove to the Septima that they are her worthy successor.

Board Game: Septima
The first official prototype of Septima posted by the publisher

Septima is a competitive, highly interactive strategy game of witchcraft. As the leader of your coven, you must prove your worth in the town of Noctenburg to become the successor of Septima, the High Witch. Practice your craft and gain wisdom by collecting herbs, brewing potions, healing the townsfolk, mastering charms and rescuing your fellow brothers and sisters from the trials. But beware: magic, even if used for good, invokes suspicion in the townsfolk...

Simultaneous action selection with positive player interaction: Septima’s central mechanism revolves around the simultaneous, secret selection of one of nine Action cards each turn: Move, Collect, Brew, Heal, Recruit, Plea, Chant, Rite and Remember. Each Action gets a powerful bonus if it is chosen by multiple players, but performing them together also raises suspicion in the townsfolk and attracts the attention of the Witch Hunters. Decisions of when to do a shared action (and who to do it with) adds a fresh, semi-cooperative touch to a competitive game, and lots of player interaction.

Rescue witches to build your Coven: Heal, enthrall or convince the townsfolk and amass enough support to sway the periodic Witch Trials in your favor. If the hostile witnesses are outvoted, the convicted witch is absolved and joins the coven that rescued them. You start small but you can grow your coven to up to four witches this way, each with their own personality and special ability to help your cause. Reckless Witches caught by Witch Hunters are also put to trial, so with enough support from the townsfolk, even witches from other, less careful players’ coven can end up in yours.

Accessible, intuitive and familiar: Septima is Mindclash Games’ most accessible title to date, with beautiful, hand-drawn art style by Villő Farkas and with the character art of Barbara Bernát, wooden components and intuitive, theme-inspired mechanisms. It is very quick to teach and set up, and takes less than 2 hours to play, even with four players.
Pagan: Fate of Roanoke is a 2-player, asymmetrical, expandable deduction card game from designers Kasper Kjær Christiansen and Kåre Storgaard, and German publisher Wyrmgold GmbH, with a French edition published by Super Meeple. Pagan: Fate of Roanoke was successfully funded on Kickstarter in March 2021 and is now available directly from the publisher, and appears to be making it's way to some U.S. retailers too.

In Pagan: Fate of Roanoke players duel for the fate of Roanoke as a witch and a witch hunter, competing to complete their individual objectives. From what I've read, Pagan has a hint of Netrunner influence, which makes me even more excited to try it. Here's an overview of how it works from the publisher:
Quote:
Pagan: Fate of Roanoke from Kasper Kjær Christiansen and Kåre Werner Storgaard is a deduction expandable card game set in colonial America of 1587. The essence of the asymmetrical game is the witch's struggle against the witch hunter. As the witch strives to complete a ritual, the hunter tries to track her down and find out her true identity. Both players access variable card decks with 50 cards each and use different resources to defeat the other side. Many tactics and strategies are possible and necessary to survive in this fight between the two powers. Embedded in the dark graphics of illustrator Maren Gutt the fictional story of the lost colony of Roanoke comes to life.

Board Game: Pagan: Fate of Roanoke

Pagan is an asymmetrical card game for 2 players taking on the roles of witch or witch hunter. The witch tries to carry out a ritual of renaturation before being exposed by the witch hunter and terminated. Nine villagers are under suspicion and only the Witch player knows who is the real witch. Each turn the two players use their action pawns on active villagers to draw cards, play cards, and gain influence. Moreover, the witch can brew powerful potions, improve their familiar, and cast enchantments and charms, while the witch hunter enlists allies, claim strategic locations, and ruthlessly investigates the villagers.

In Pagan, two players compete to be the first to complete their individual objective. As the Witch, your objective is to collect enough secrets to perform a ritual so potent, that the entire region will fall under your spell and Mother Nature will reclaim the Island. As the Hunter, you gather all the allies and support you can muster, to bring the Witch to justice before its fatal ritual comes to fruition.
Board Game: Nidavellir
Board Game: Nidavellir: Thingvellir
Idavoll is an upcoming expansion for Serge Laget's 2020 release Nidavellir, which masterfully blends bidding, set collection, and dwarfs into a crowd-pleasing game. French publisher GRRRE Games is targeted to release a French edition of this expansion in Q4 2022.

Here's a quick breakdown of the new additions you can expect in Idavoll, the second expansion for Nidavellir, which plays with 2-5 players in 45 minutes:
Quote:
During the 3 first rounds of the Age 1, the second tavern offers Mythical Animals, Aesir, Valkyries, and Giants, which adds an additional round to the game. Each new type of card also adds never-before-seen effects.

Gods: When you recruit a God, put the card in your Command Zone with 1 Power token on it. Discard this token to use the God's power.

Board Game: Nidavellir: Idavoll

Giants: When you recruit a Giant, put the card in your Command Zone and place 1 Capture token at the bottom of the column of the matching class. Each Giant lets you capture a Dwarf of the matching class.

Valkyries: When you recruit a Valkyrie, put the card in your Command Zone with 1 Strength token on the highest notch. Whenever you meet one of the Valkyrie's requirements, move the token down a notch. At the end of the game, earn victory points depending on the position of the token.

Mythical Animals: When you recruit a Mythical Animal, place it in your army in the matching class. Each animal has its own unique ability.
• In one of Eric's Gen Con 2021 round-up posts, he mentioned Gordon Alford's co-operative, story-driven, exploration game, Lost Ones from Greenbrier Games, which was Kickstarted in November 2020 and is now available at retailers.

Lost Ones is centered around map tile exploration with story encounters and plays with 1-4 players in 45–90 minutes. Check out the otherworldly experience you can expect in Lost Ones based on the publisher's overview below:
Quote:
Lost Ones is a “Choose Your Own Path” story utilizing map tile exploration. Each player takes on the role of a Lost One, a kidnapped youth taken to the Otherworld, home of the Fae. Thankfully, a conflict between warring Fae factions has created enough distraction for the Lost Ones to escape. Now you must explore this magical realm of dreams and nightmares and hopefully discover a way home while the remaining Fae hunt you down.

Each player takes between 1 and 3 actions in a round. Once a player completes their action, any player who hasn’t taken their turn can take their actions. Repeat taking rounds until the game ends.

Each player has access to these actions.

• Explore a new area by placing a map tile, moving there, and reading the introduction of an encounter in the Story Book
• Perform an action in a story encounter
• Move to an adjacent map tile that has already been placed
• Activate Boon cards

Board Game: Lost Ones

When investigating a map tile, you experience a story encounter and usually make decisions that will impact the rest of the game. These encounters often require you to use Ability cards from your hand. Success could mean learning more valuable information, overcoming obstacles, or even gaining Boon cards that grant magical powers and mythical relics. However, exploring this realm of dreams may result in experiencing a terrifying Bane, which will hinder progress and potentially lead to the character’s doom. You may also find a new phase of the moon and the passage of time…

You must find and open a magical Gateway to escape before another New Moon, having an empty hand, or being caught by the Fae. Careful use of resources, piecing together clues, and acquiring special Boon cards are crucial to winning the game. Based on the choices made by the player, there are also a dozen different story endings with their own epilogues.
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Fri Jun 3, 2022 1:00 pm
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Check Out Upcoming Legion Wargames and GMT Releases and Vote for the 2021 Charles S. Roberts Awards

Candice Harris
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• The voting process has officially kicked off for the 2021 Charles S. Roberts Awards for Excellence in the Conflict Simulation Game Industry. The Charles S. Roberts (CSR) board has implemented a few changes this year, including a new two-tier voting process.

The first round of voting runs through June 30, 2022 and will determine the nominees list. During the first round, you can cast a vote for up to three nominees per category, then up to the top five vote recipients per category will become the CSR nominees list.

The second round voting starts right after the nominees are announced and runs through August 31, 2022. In the second round, voters may cast one vote per category. The top vote recipient in the second round of voting will be named the CSR Award winner.

Based on last year's feedback, there are fewer and more refined categories for the 2021 CSR Awards as noted below in the official press release provided by Tim Tow, the Director of the CSR board:
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We are pleased to announce voting is now open for the 2021 Charles S. Roberts Awards for Excellence in the Conflict Simulation Game Industry. These awards have been annually given to board, computer games and individuals for excellence in the design, development, and production of war or conflict simulations of historical, hypothetical, science fiction, or fantasy conflicts.

Eligible games and publications are those released or published in the calendar year 2021 and for the Clausewitz Hall of Fame award, any individual who has made significant contributions to the wargame industry who has not been previously awarded. Released for a game means received physically by a purchaser.

This year's categories are:

Milieu Awards
Ancients to Medieval Era (Before 1453)
Early Gunpowder Era (1453-1793)
Napoleonic
Late Gunpowder to pre- WW1 (Excluding Napoleonic and ACW) (1793-1913)
American Civil War
World War I to Pre-WW2 (1914-1935)
World War 2 Era (1936-1945)
Modern Era (post 1945)
Science-Fiction or Fantasy

Publication Awards
Wargame Magazine
Historical, Scenario Analysis or Book
Game Review or Analysis website, webcast or podcast

Format Awards
Solitaire/Cooperative Board Wargame
Magazine Board Wargame
Expansion or Supplement
Playing Components
Map Graphics
Rules
Cover Art
Computer Wargame

Overall Awards
Wargame of the Year
James F Dunnigan Award for Playability and Design
Charles S. Roberts Best New Designer
Clausewitz Award HALL OF FAME
In addition to the new voting process, it's also worth mentioning Joanne Roberts, daughter of Charles S. Roberts, has joined the CSR Awards board. For more details on the CSR Awards and to submit your votes, be sure to visit the CSR Awards website.

• In the spirit of the CSR Awards, here's a quick peek at a few upcoming wargame releases to keep an eye out for, starting with Fire on the Mountain: Battle of South Mountain September 14, 1862 from designer John Poniske and Legion Wargames. Here's a brief overview of this American Civil War hex-and-counter game for 2 players, which is due out in June 2022:
Quote:
During Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North, Lee learned of a threatening Federal advance East of Hagerstown, Maryland. Because Stonewall Jackson was besieging Harper' Ferry, he instructed Daniel Harvey Hill to hold the South Mountain passes in the rugged Blue Ridge, just East of Boonsboro. It was essential to delay McClellan’s progress so Jackson would have time to take Harper's Ferry and reunite his scattered divisions before the Army of the Potomac caught him unprepared.

Despite strong defensive features the numerically superior Federal forces should have overwhelmed the rebels but the inaction of Pleasonton and Burnside squandered their advantage. In the end Lee's defense of the South Mountain passes cost him 2800 casualties as opposed to the Federal losses of 2300 and led directly to the fearful slaughter at Antietam.

Board Game: Fire on the Mountain: Battle of South Mountain September 14, 1862

Fire on the Mountain concentrates on the action around Turner's Gap and Fox Gap, emphasizing the difficulty of mountainous terrain and the seesaw nature of the battle into which reinforcements continue to trickle and the effects of officer casualties. The game uses simple mechanics to simulate movement, artillery, cavalry, leaders, and difficult terrain, with a unique combat system that allows the game to move quickly while still simulating the tense nature of the battle.
Board Game: The Road to Cheren
Kim Kanger's La Primogenita is another upcoming release on deck from Legion Wargames. La Primogenita is a World War II East African Campaign game for 2 players which follows the same subject as Kanger's 2013 release Road to Cheren, which was published by Revolution Games.

While Road to Cheren and La Primogenita share the same historical topic, La Primogenita is its own beast with its own unique battle chit mechanic as described below by the publisher:
Quote:
LA PRIMOGENITA is a game about the East African Campaign in 1941. It covers the Allied invasion into Italian Eritrea in the north where the most intense fighting took place, especially around the town of Cheren. The Allies invaded Eritrea with two Indian Divisions and some Free French units. The defending Italians consisted mostly of colonial Brigades, recruited among Ethiopians and Eritreans. They also had two metropolitan Divisions in reserve among which several elite battalions from the ”Grenadiers of Savoy” Division were sent north to Eritrea. These battalions (Alpini and Bersaglieri), together with loyal Eritrean colonial troops held both Allied Divisions at bay for eight weeks at Cheren before the survivors were finally forced to retreat towards the Eritrean capital Asmara. The battle of Cheren is seen as an hour of glory in the Italian army.

Board Game: La Primogenita

The game introduces a dynamic battle system where players through the use of battle chits give orders. A major battle zone not only includes the defending hex/units, and the attacking units. It also includes any defending units adjacent to the defending hex, plus any attacking units that are adjacent to them as well. You give orders to counterattack, move units, bring forward extra ammo etc., and so does your opponent. All battle chits have a priority value that decides in what order they are executed. After executing four orders each, another set of orders are chosen and played. You will have to chose wisely depending on what forces you have at hand, in what order you wish things to happen, and depending on what you suspect your opponent will choose.
• In the May 2022 newsletter from GMT Games, two exciting new P500 additions were announced -- Rebellion: Britannia and Zheng He: Admiral of the Ming Voyages.

Rebellion: Britannia is an Ancient Rome card-driven wargame from designers Daniel Burt and Maurice Suckling, which can be played by 1-4 players in 60-90 minutes. Suckling is no stranger to card-driven wargames based on his previous well-received releases Chancellorsville 1863, Freeman's Farm 1777, and Hidden Strike: American Revolution.

Here's a high-level description of what Burt, Suckling, and GMT Games are cooking up with Rebellion: Britannia:
Quote:
Rebellion: Britannia is a game about the Roman military campaigns to suppress the Silures, Brigantes, and Boudica Rebellions (47-61 CE) and the relationships between the key British tribes.

In this game, 1-4 players take control of one of the powerful factions of the time: either Rome or one of the key British tribes—the Iceni, Silures, or Brigantes. Over the course of 12 game rounds (lasting 60-90 minutes), players attempt to gain the most victory points by controlling land, burning Roman infrastructure, and reducing enemy forces.

Board Game: Rebellion: Britannia
Box cover art is not final

Rebellion: Britannia is a card-driven wargame. Each player’s available actions are largely dictated by the cards they currently have available to them, and, following a simple Sequence of Play, players use these cards to recruit and move pieces on the board, secure control of regions, engage in diplomacy, form alliances, and battle against their rivals.

Rebellion: Britannia is fast to learn—it’s a low complexity asymmetric game with few rules, a simple sequence of play, and a high quotient of strategic choices. The game depicts a dynamic military and political situation in first-century. Britain, distilled into 60-90 minutes of play time.
Zheng He: Admiral of the Ming Voyages is an upcoming solitaire game from designers Geoff Engelstein and David Thompson. Between the publisher's description below, the rare historical topic, and the collaboration of these two excellent designers, my curiosity is piqued.
Quote:
Zheng He: Admiral of the Ming Voyages is a solitaire game that recreates the voyages of the Ming treasure fleets in the early 1400s. In the game you take the role of Zheng He, commanding the fleet as it sails the Indian Ocean, earning glory for the emperor, and keeping favor with the ministers of the court so the voyages can continue.

Board Game: Zheng He
Box cover art is not final

Your goal is to score as many Victory Points as possible before the political will to continue the voyages runs out. Victory Points are earned by visiting ports, gaining envoys, winning battles, and completing special goals. You also earn Minister Points during each voyage by trading and having good relations with ports, which determine whether the game continues with another voyage, and also allow you to upgrade and repair the fleet, and recruit and train officers.
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Fri May 27, 2022 1:00 pm
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Game Overview: Crescent Moon, or Bribing Friends for Area Control

Candice Harris
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From gallery of candidrum
Crescent Moon, an upcoming 2022 release from designer Steven Mathers and Osprey Games, had me at “an ambitious asymmetric area control game of tense negotiations.” Based on that description, how could this game not be my jam?!

I had been looking forward to playing Crescent Moon since it was originally announced in late September 2021, so I was thrilled to receive a review copy from Osprey to get a feel for how it plays.

Crescent Moon is an asymmetric area control game for 4-5 players where players perform actions, often negotiating with one another, to affect a shared map striving to achieve their unique victory objectives. Some players aim to gain military control of certain hexes on the map, while others might be more focused on gaining political control of hexes. Suffice to say, each player has their own motivations, and there's lot of action and intrigue that unfolds on a relatively small map.

The setting of Crescent Moon is based on the dramatic rise and fall of powers across the Midddle East from the 10th century forward, and this is tied together artistically with the beautifully illustrated box cover, cards, and map by Navid Rahman. The art direction was primarily inspired by Middle Eastern art history, as well as Persian traditions that had influence across the region. There are historical notes on the front page of the rulebook which provide a bit more context and also mention that Crescent Moon is more an abstraction of this period rather than an approximation.

Before you jump into a game of Crescent Moon, each player chooses a character to play and takes the corresponding player aid booklet and components (buildings, unit, and influence tokens). The game comes with nifty cloth component bags for each character, which is a nice upgrade included instead of the common plastic bags.

The character player booklets are integral for easing new players into Crescent Moon, and I can see them being helpful even after you've played several games. Each one highlights the corresponding character’s motivations in the world of Crescent Moon and includes strategy tips for new players, details on their available actions, along with unique attributes and scoring objectives. In addition, there are also helpful reference tables for calculating income and summarizing player components which are placed on the board.

In games with asymmetric factions like Crescent Moon, it's important for all players to understand how their opponents score points. While the breakdown of each player’s scoring objectives is clear in the player booklets, it would’ve been super helpful to have a summary of all the characters’ scoring objectives, similar to the faction menus in GMT's COIN games. It also would’ve been great to have these player aids on card stock for better durability. The booklets are already weathered after only three games. In spite of these minor nitpicks, the player booklets are solid player aids and essential for smoothly teaching and learning Crescent Moon.

From gallery of candidrum
Character player booklets

After everyone has selected a character, you create the map for your game by arranging a variety of terrain hex tiles and placing starting pieces on the map. There are five different types of terrain hexes (fertile land, wilderness, mountain, quarry, and desert) and some terrain hexes include a feature (holy site, river, or river crossing). The various terrain types impact income, card effects, and victory conditions.

There are five different map setups for each player count, plus there are variable map setup rules for players to create custom maps. I haven’t tried the variable map setup yet, but it reminds me of how you build custom maps in Twilight Imperium since each player gets to place a hex in turn order, after starting with the river crossing hex in the center. For what it's worth, controlling/influencing the holy site hex in Crescent Moon is on par with controlling Mecatol Rex in TI4.

Each of the three preset map setups that I tried had its own feel and offered different strategy options for different characters, noting I did play each game with different players, so that also naturally changed up the feel of each game. Regardless, having the option to use different map setups each game presents fresh challenges for players and cranks up the replay value of Crescent Moon.

From gallery of candidrum
Fresh Meltwater map setup

Crescent Moon is played over three years (rounds) for the standard game, or four years if you prefer to play a longer game. Each year is divided into three phases:

---Preparation, which includes maintenance activities such as income and certain characters adding units to their reserve,
---Action phase, where players take four actions, one at a time in character order (Warlord, Murshid, Sultan, Caliph, Nomad),
---• and Scoring, where players earn victory points for completing objectives.

Then, after the scoring phase of the final year, the player with the most points wins.

In the Preparation phase, all players collect income from hexes they control that have cities, towns, Sultan influence, or fertile land or quarry terrain. On top of this, the Sultan player gets extra income for all towns, cities, and Sultan influence on the map, regardless of who controls the space. This is one of the unique perks of playing as the Sultan.

After income, the Warlord, Caliph, and Nomad players calculate their reserve value to determine how many units they can add to their reserve card, which is the main way these characters get units onto the map. The Warlod and Caliph player add ordinary units (wooden discs, blank side up) to their reserve, and the Nomad adds mercenary units (wooden discs, camel side up).

Following the reserves step, there’s an upkeep step where players take character and battalion cards back into their hands, and the two power cards from the near market are discarded and the card market is replenished.

In the Action phase, starting with the Warlord, each player takes one action, until all players have taken four actions. There are several common actions, but each character also has one or more unique actions available as well. I'll summarize the more common actions first, then highlight some of each character's special actions and attributes.

From gallery of candidrum
Example of control, influence, and presence
Before diving into specific actions, I should explain how control, influence, and presence work since they are important concepts to understand when it comes to playing Crescent Moon. Only one player can control a hex. Only one player can influence a hex. The player who influences a hex can be different from the player who controls the hex. Controlling a hex means you have pieces in it that have a combat value (strongholds and units). Influencing a hex means it has your influence token in it. Multiple players can have presence in a hex since presence is any of your pieces.

As an example, the hex pictured on the left is controlled by the Warlord (black mercenary unit discs), influenced by the Nomad (camel influence token). The Warlord, Nomad, and Sultan (town/settlement) all have presence since their pieces exist in the hex.

Moving is a straightforward action that you can perform to facilitate spreading influence and gaining control of hexes, as well as better positioning yourself to score objectives. You simply move any number of units from one hex to an adjacent hex where no other player has control. Most characters can do this up to two times, but the Warlord can do it three times. It’s also worth noting there is a limit of five units per hex (or seven if you’re the Warlord).

All characters except the Warlord have a build action available where you can build up to two buildings (or three if you’re the Sultan) on the map following location placement restrictions and paying the applicable cost. For example, you can only build forts in hexes where you have presence, no other player has control, and that do not contain a fort or castle. Whereas if you’re building a castle, you’re actually replacing one of your existing forts on the board and essentially upgrading it to a castle. The Sultan not only has the ability to build three buildings at once, but they also are the only player that can build settlements (towns and cities). Each building has a cost for the different characters, and an additional cost for certain terrain types.

The buy power cards action is the main way you get cards into your hand, and having some cards seems very important in Crescent Moon. When you perform this action you can buy up to four cards – one from the near market, one from the middle market, one from the far market, and one from the Sultan’s market. While the near, middle and far markets have a default associated cost (2 coins, 4 coins, and 6 coins respectively), the cost of the cards and who you pay for the cards varies.

From gallery of candidrum
The near market and 2/3 of the middle market

When you buy power cards, if the card is in the near, middle, or far market you pay the required number of coins to the player aligned with the card. However, if you buy a card from one of the main markets aligned with your own character, you instead pay half the price to the bank. Alternatively, when you buy a card from the Sultan’s market, you agree on a price, and then pay the agreed upon amount of coins to the Sultan, regardless of which character is aligned with the card.

After you buy power cards, they go into your hand and then you replenish the market by sliding all cards to the right and refilling the leftmost empty slots. The indented market boards look nice and fit the theme, but I (and everyone I played with) found they make refilling the card market more tedious than it should be. You have to pick up each card one-by-one and place it in the rightmost empty slot. In the future, I probably won't use the main market boards or I'll place the cards further down below the slots so that we can slide cards for more efficient refilling.

The Sultan’s market is not automatically replenished, however the Sultan has a unique conspire action they can take to refill the entire Sultan’s market. With the conspire action, the Sultan player looks at the top ten cards of the deck and chooses one to fill each empty slot in the Sultan’s market. Then the cards they didn’t select are shuffled and placed at the bottom of the deck.

From gallery of candidrum
The Sultan’s market

The Sultan’s conspire action is slick because the Sultan gets to choose the cards that are in their market. The Sultan is incentivized to pick enticing cards so that players will want to buy them. The better the cards are, the more negotiating leverage the Sultan has to hopefully make good money from the other players so they can build a bunch of towns and cities for victory points. The Sultan can always buy/take a card from the Sultan’s market at no cost, which is another reason for them to pick juicy cards.

There are a variety of power cards – most of them help with combat and/or influence contests, some have actions you can take instead of the ones listed in your player booklet, and others have anytime actions which you can play anytime during the action phase and doesn’t count as one of your actions.

Cards are very helpful in Crescent Moon, especially when engaging in combat and influence contests, which I’ll get into shortly. In a game where you only have twelve total actions (in the standard game), timing when and how often to take the buy power cards action is just about always an important decision. I really appreciate that you can at least buy up to four cards as a single action to be as efficient as possible (assuming you have the money). Also, certain types of cards (character and battalion) can be used once per year/round, whereas event cards are discarded after they’re resolved.

From gallery of candidrum
Examples of power cards

In Crescent Moon, the influence and assault actions are how you gain influence or control of a hex (respectively). Move any number of your units to an adjacent hex that is controlled by another player to perform an assault action, then resolve combat. For the influence action, you can freely place one of your influence tokens in a hex adjacent to where you have presence if no other player has presence and there is no Murshid influence adjacent to the target hex. Otherwise, you place the challenge token and resolve an influence contest, which has some similarities to combat that occurs from the assault action.

Both combat and influence contests have a handful of steps that you need to resolve. Thankfully reference cards are included for both, so you likely won't need to consult the rulebook after you have some experience with the game. In both cases, all involved players secretly select any number of power cards to contribute, then you resolve the cards after they're simultaneously revealed, calculate the combat/influence strength, and determine who wins. In both cases, if the attacker is successful, they gain control or influence of the space.

From gallery of candidrum
The Warlord moved in to sack the Caliph's palace and castle for 4 VPs
When combat is resolved, both players may have to remove units as casualties, and if the winner is the attacker, they get to take over control of the hex in most cases. If the winner has one or more units that survived and there's a fort, castle, or Caliph palace in the hex, the winner may capture it to swap out the building with one of their own. This is a great way to establish your newfound control and make sure you have some muscle in the event that someone tries to take the hex from you on a future turn. Alternatively, you can pass on capturing the building and instead sack it, which removes it from the hex and puts some money in your pocket. In addition to money gained from sacking buildings, the Warlord also gains victory points. This is typically the biggest source of victory points for the Warlord, so watch out and protect your buildings accordingly.

In an influence contest, any player with presence in the targeted hex can participate by contributing power cards, then declare whether they are supporters or defenders against the attacker before the cards are simultaneously revealed. Influence strength is calculated differently than combat strength, but it's the same idea. You tally up the attacker's (plus supporters) and defenders' strength including card modifiers, and determine who wins. If the influence contest is a success for the attacker, they get to place their influence token in the hex, removing anyone else's when applicable.

When it comes to combat and influence contests, there's one little wrinkle I haven't mentioned yet...the Murshid. The Murshid character's victory conditions are centered around spreading influence and their unique attributes allow them to interfere and influence combat and influence contests, which folks referred to as "Candice's BS" (to keep it PG) when I played as the Murshid in my first game.

Ordinarily, if there's a tie in combat or influence contests, the attacker wins. However, if the Murshid has an influence token in the space, they get to decide who breaks the tie. The Murshid also counts as a participant in all influence contests if they have an influence token adjacent to the hex where an influence contest is going down. Other players can make deals with the Murshid for their support in exchange for up to five victory points. Let's say you offer the Murshid two points if they help you in a combat and they agree. Whether the Murshid actually puts in cards to help you or not, you have to give them the two points if you win. The Murshid player might not even have cards that can help, but they are incentivized to do their best to help you win because that's how they can gain some extra points. Thus, there's lots of wheeling and dealing going on in Crescent Moon with this character alone.

My game as the Murshid was filled with many laughs towards the end because everyone knew I didn't have helpful cards, but they still wanted my support in the case of ties. I learned the importance of having a variety of cards in hand, and also that the Murshid spreading too much influence too fast can be dangerous for other players.

Now that you have taste of what makes the Murshid unique, allow me to highlight the other characters special abilities and scoring objectives.

From gallery of candidrum
The Warlord's special Warfare power card
The Warlord player is all about attacking as you'd expect. Unlike the other characters who score objectives during the scoring phase, the Warlord gets the bulk of their points during the action phase when they win combat and sack buildings. The Warlord has a special mass action that helps them build up their military forces on the board, and they get three moves instead of two, to more easily spread their units and set up for attacks. Plus, they have a special Warfare card that they can use in any combat which can beef up their units' strength at the cost of sending them back to the supply after the combat is resolved.

The Caliph's goal is to gain control of as many hexes as possible and assert military dominance. They start the game with a palace on the board which can be moved around with a special move palace action. In addition, building forts and castles is cheaper for the Caliph than the other characters.

The Sultan is the local ruler who has grown powerful and rich from building cities. As I mentioned before, the Sultan has their own card market, is the only player that can build settlements (towns and cities), makes extra income, and can build three times in a single action where others can only build twice. The Sultan scores majority of their points from having cities on the board, preferably under Sultan influence and control.

Finally, we have the Nomad who leads a bunch of independent local tribes, which are represented by mercenary units in Crescent Moon. Unlike other characters that can recruit units (Warlord and Caliph), the Nomad can recruit units where they don't have presence and no one has control. The cool thing is, as an action, other players can bribe the Nomad for mercenary units or hire them from the Nomad at an agreed upon price. The Nomad player scores the bulk of their victory points from spending money, so strategically they're motivated to place mercenary units in enticing locations so that other players want to bride them to convert them into their own mercenary units. In fact, this is the only way the Sultan and Murshid can get any units onto the board. The Nomad can also earn some cash-for-points by positioning themselves well for income phases. Either way, the more money they make, the more they can spend for victory points during the scoring phase.

I didn't get a chance to play a 4-player game, but the Nomad is not played in a 4-player game. Without the Nomad, the hire mercenaries action is slightly different. In that case you pay money to the supply to hire mercenary units, but you have to place them where you have presence and no other player has control, so you lost some of the neat flexibility you can get from the presence of a Nomad player. It sounds like it'll play fine that way, but I definitely like the dynamic of having a Nomad player that has their own motivations intertwined with the other four characters since it adds another layer to the negotiations in Crescent Moon.

After players complete four actions, the action phase ends and there's a scoring phase. During the scoring phase, players score points for any objectives they completed. You announce how many points you earn, then you take victory point tokens and put them facedown.

From gallery of candidrum
The Warlord and Murshid battling for control of the holy site just before the scoring phase...

In the player booklets, each character has primary and secondary objectives which score every year. Additionally, there's a year-one objective everyone has which is not only achievable, but it gives players something to aim for as they are learning the game. I found it to be super helpful for learning and teaching the game.

In my few games of Crescent Moon, the hidden victory points kept the gameplay very interesting. You usually had a good idea for the players that were in the lead, but you can't really recall everyone's exact total. This led to mind games, and players pointing fingers at each other claiming so-and-so has the most points, don't help them, or I definitely don't have more points than them, so please help me.

In the end, most of my games were surprisingly close. There was one game where the Murshid won with 36 points, and the Warlord and Caliph tied for second place with 35 points. The crazy thing is, the Nomad paid the Murshid one point in the last year to help win a combat, and had they not done that, there would've been a three-way tie for first, and the Warlord would've won instead since the tiebreaker is most money. It was wild!

Not knowing exactly where people are with victory points creates opportunities for people to bluff and talk their ways into shifting alliances. As the player with the most experience, I really enjoyed monitoring the social experiment that resulted from players not knowing exactly how many points anyone had. Plus, scoring up at the end of the game was always exciting.

So far I've thoroughly enjoyed all three of my plays of Crescent Moon and I'm excited to play it more. Mistakes were certainly made, and like any game with asymmetric factions, there's a learning curve. Naturally, there are going to be comparisons to Root since Crescent Moon has asymmetric factions, but it didn't really feel like Root to me. The character actions are more similar in Crescent Moon and there is a lot more happening on the negotiations front than Root. I also think it's also easier to teach and for new players to grasp than Root because there are many common actions.

From gallery of candidrum
Things heating up on the map at the start of year 3...

In my post-game discussions, there were also some comparisons to Pax Pamir and Dune, which makes total sense. I get Pax Pamir vibes from the way you're working with other players to manipulate the state of the board, while trying to be clever and sneaky as you focus on your own motivations. Sadly, I have yet to play Dune, but I am familiar with how it plays, and I think that might be the closest comparison.

Similar to games like Pax Pamir, I think Crescent Moon is going to shine when you play with experienced players. If people play their character poorly due to lack of experience, it may impact the whole game. Fortunately, this wasn't a big problem for any of the groups I played with, especially for the second and third games where I could teach it better and help people understand not only their own goals, but what to look out for with other players. Plus, when everyone knows their faction and how the others work, you can play more strategically on the offensive and defensive side.

Thematically, Crescent Moon felt mostly abstract to me, but I think they nailed it with the play style of the different characters. It allows players to get into their characters and create their own stories. I loved the dynamic of how the different characters relied upon each other, making and breaking deals, secretly trying to outscore each other.

From gallery of candidrum
Fertile Valley map setup

I played the standard 3-year game for all of my games, and they all ran just about 3 hours which felt fine, but I do want to try the longer game at some point as well. With only twelve actions you really have to carefully plan your moves and it creates an interesting decision space as you figure out what you want to do with each of your actions -- I really need to get cards, but should I wait so I have more money so I can buy more cards to be efficient?, or I really need to build in that space before someone takes it over, but if I don't take an influence action now while that other space is empty, I might have to fight someone for it later. Decisions, decisions.

I appreciate the variability that comes with different map setups too. It was interesting to make observations how different people played different characters on different maps and I'm looking forward to experimenting with custom map setups too.

One friend I played with commented that there wasn't enough variation when it came to the card powers/effects. Initially I agreed, but then I thought about it more and I think it works great the way they are. I don't think you need or want a huge variety of card types and effects in a game like this. It reduces randomness and adds a dose of predictability, which makes it more about bluffing and mind games when it comes to deciding how many cards you want to commit for combat and influence contests. I know they bought card XYZ, so they could potentially play it. In that case, maybe I should play card ABC. But if I play card ABC now, then I won't have it if someone else attacks me. I really love the emphasis on negotiations, bluffing, and mind games that stem from playing (or not playing) power cards in combat and influence contest.

Board Game: Crescent Moon

It's too soon to say if I'll be loving Crescent Moon more or less after 10-20 more plays, but based on how much I enjoyed my first few beginner games with newbies, I suspect it only gets better from here. Plus, at the end of all of my games, multiple people wanted to play again and just rotate characters. That says something about the Crescent Moon experience.

Crescent Moon is not going a hit for everyone. It's the kind of game you want to play with the right group of people to create the right dynamic. If you have players that don't enjoy negotiating with other players, you probably won't get into this. However, if you enjoy asymmetric area control games, and/or games full of negotiation opportunities where you not only get to play the game, but also get to play the players, definitely check out Crescent Moon.
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Fri May 20, 2022 1:00 pm
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Relive the Dark Ages, Explore Medieval Baghdad, Control Medieval Tuscany, and Train Your Samurai

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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

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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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