previous post I mentioned Blitzkrieg! was one of my favorite filler games, but another great filler game that has always been a crowd-pleaser at my game nights is Bruce Glassco's combotastic Fantasy Realms from WizKids. Needless to say, I was curious and excited to play its first expansion, Fantasy Realms: The Cursed Hoard, which is targeted for retail release in May 2021. WizKids was kind enough to send me a copy to check out, along with some of its other new early 2021 releases.
The Cursed Hoard expansion adds some refreshing flair to Fantasy Realms. There are two parts — Cursed Items and three new suits — that can be added to the base game separately or combined.
When you add Cursed Items, you add a separate new deck of cards to the mix. At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt a Cursed Item card face up. On your turn, you have three options with your face-up Cursed Item: 1) Do nothing, 2) Discard it at the end of your turn and draw a new one face-up in front of you, or 3) Use it.
There are 24 different Cursed Item cards with some that will replace your normal turn and others that you can play anytime during your turn. Each one grants you a unique action that alters the normal rules of play to give you a leg up on your opponents, but using these abilities comes at a price since the majority of them will give you negative points — they are cursed, after all.
Some Cursed Items let you interact with the other players, such as the Larcenous Gloves that allow you to steal a face-up Cursed Item from another player which you must use immediately, after which they draw a replacement, or the Crystal Ball that lets you name a suit and all other players must reveal all cards they have in their hand of that suit.
After you use your Cursed Item, you flip it face down and grab a new one from the deck to put in front of you face-up, so if you choose to play with the Cursed Item cards, everyone will always have one face-up Cursed Item throughout the game, and some players may have one or more face down that will impact their score at the end of the game.
The Cursed Hoard expansion also adds three new suits to Fantasy Realms: Buildings, Outsiders, and Undead. Since the new suits dilute the main deck and make it harder to draw combos, there are some slight rule changes to maintain balance. You start and play the game with an eight-card hand instead of the usual seven, and the game end is triggered when twelve cards are in the discard area, not ten.Examples of the new suits
The new suits function similarly to the base game cards for the most part, but also add some new twists. For example, the Undead score with cards in the discard area, instead of your hand like normal. These cards make the discard area much more appealing throughout the game for those who possess Undead cards. You're no longer scavenging the discard area to pick up measly scraps your opponents leave, but instead you're anxiously hoping to turn those scraps into a high-scoring combo with your Undead cards in hand at the end of the game. Of course, if you're also playing with Cursed Items, you could have more control over what ends up in the discard area to help you strategize.
Fantasy Realms is easy to teach, plays quickly, and is all about creating satisfying card combos. If you enjoy it, it's not unlikely to want to play back-to-back games every time you break it out, and it's also not unlikely to want to break it out often. Depending on how much you've played it, over time it'll eventually feel a bit same-y, even with the variety of cards and suits in the base game, so the added spice and variety The Cursed Hoard expansion brings to the realm is gladly welcomed. Plus, I really appreciate the fact that expansion is modular and therefore gives you more options for your Fantasy Realms games.
Serge Macasdar's Seeders from Sereis: Exodus which was originally released by French publisher Sweet Games in 2017.
Seeders from Sereis is a sci-fi themed strategy game for 2-4 players featuring a mix of card drafting, area influence, tableau building, and some engine building as players compete to build the highest-scoring ark using cards in their tableaus. Here's the backstory and high-level overview of gameplay as described by the original publisher:Quote:Seeders from Sereis is a trans-media science-fiction universe that's been created over five years by Serge Macasdar and Charbel Fourel and which contains post-humans, space opera, extensive journeys on space arks, lost empires, exo-biology, genetic evolution, android developments, and more.In more detail, Seeders from Sereis: Exodus is played over four rounds and each round has five phases, with each game taking about two hours to play:
Seeders, Series 1: Exodus is the first game of a serial of ten set in this universe. When an unknown force threatens to render their home uninhabitable, the Seeders must build arks — giant colony ships — to ensure their survival. Players work to create the most promising design to be chosen for production. Each turn players draft cards into their hands as cards are laid out on the board. Players strategically place negotiator chips between the cards they want, using their alignment and position to determine who has the most influence over a desired card. Once all negotiators and tokens are placed, influence is calculated and the winners of each card is determined.
Once obtained, cards can be played for points, adding value to your ark, or discarded for resources. Each card represents a different component of the ark — locations, items, personnel — and players will find unique synergies between cards as well as their player color's unique power. Asymmetry and complex interactions add layers of strategy that lead to a unique experience each time you play.
1) In the Preparation phase, you un-tap your once-per-round cards and update turn order.
2) In the Foundation phase, you receive four new Ark cards and draft them, rotating the direction each round. I'll mention that drafting in this phase is considered a variant, but if you're an experienced gamer, you'll more than likely prefer drafting.
3) Next is the Negotiation phase in which the "Wing of Whispers" game board comes into play. You place twelve Ark cards in the appropriate spaces on the game board, then players place their negotiator discs in turn order to bid for Ark cards. Each negotiator will impact the two spaces adjacent to it, so you are bidding on two cards with each disc placed.
Each player has six negotiator discs, each representing a different caste, and the amount of influence cubes you place depends on the negotiator's level of influence and the caste. At the beginning of the game each caste's influence is -, meaning you can put one influence cube on each adjacent side when placing the corresponding negotiator disc. Over the course of the game, you can increase the amount of influence of your various negotiator discs, plus you can always add a bonus influence cube(s) whenever the caste of your negotiator disc matches the caste of either card it's placed adjacent to.
After each player has placed five of their negotiator discs and influence cubes based on the caste, then you resolve each card space. The player with the most influence cubes surrounding the card takes the card into their hand and takes one of their adjacent negotiator discs back. If there's a tie, the card is discarded. After all cards are removed from the game board, negotiator discs still on the board can be leveled up: a - becomes a -, a - can become a - or a -, etc. This allows you to place more influence cubes in future rounds with that particular negotiator disc. If you place a negotiator disc with -, for example, you can place three influence cubes on one side and one influence cube on the other.
4) Next in the Integration phase, players use the ark cards they gained from drafting in phase 2 and from using their influence in phase 3. There are two types of ark cards in Seeders from Sereis: units and crews. Units can host up to two crew cards by default and need to be hosted by at least one crew to score during phase 5. There's a variety of ark cards that have different special abilities; some are immediate effects when played, and some you can use once per round. Some cards will grant you prestige points (victory points) when they're played and others will grant you other special effects.Example of a unit card
During the Integration phase, in turn order you can recycle/discard cards to gain resources, spend resources to add new ark cards into your tableau, activate special abilities, and rearrange your ark by moving crews from one unit to another. You can perform one or more of these actions on your turn and in any order that you want. Since you can't do this phase simultaneously, there may be some downtime depending on how long each player takes.Example of a crew card
5) Finally in the Prestige phase, you gain prestige points based on the prestige abilities of the cards in your ark/tableau. Pretty much everything you are doing in the phases leading up to this is to maximize the amount of prestige points you'll score. Some cards will score based on the number of cards you have in your ark of a specific type, while others score if you have a majority of a specific type of card.
The game ends at the end of the fourth round, and the player with the most prestige points wins. If you enjoy tableau builders and/or sci-fi themed games, you should definitely check Seeders from Sereis: Exodus out. My favorite part of Seeders was the influence bidding and negotiator disc placement in the Negotiation phase. There are so many interesting decisions that stem from the clever mechanism of placing the negotiator discs and dropping influence cubes. You'll be figuring out ways to get bonuses by matching castes, but also trying to set yourself up to win cards you can combo with others you already have, or trying to defensively deny your opponents from certain cards, then also deciding which negotiators to leave on the board so you can level them up influencewise. WizKids also knocked it out the park with the components here, too; everything from the negotiator discs to the cards to the dual-layered player boards are top notch.
• Did you ever say to yourself, "There aren't enough games with cute little penguins?" Me neither, but after playing Waddle, another early 2021 release from WizKids, I feel like I need more cute penguin games in my life.
Waddle is a light, filler game from designers Raph Koster and Isaac Shalev that plays with 2-4 players in 30 minutes:Quote:Penguins are curious creatures. Flighty though flightless, they move about quickly towards things that appeal to them.In more detail, Waddle is played over a certain number of rounds depending on player count: eight rounds with two players, seven rounds with three players, and six rounds with four players. During set-up, each player starts with four yellow and four red penguins, and an individual deck of 13 scoring cards, which you shuffle and draw four cards from to start the game. Then you lay out a certain number of coaster-looking "places" to create one or two "neighborhoods" depending on player count.
In Waddle, ever-curious penguins visit different places, sometimes in different neighborhoods. Each turn, you move the penguins around the city or bring some new ones in from out of town. Get the penguins to move into the patterns matching your cards to score points. The player with the most points at the end of a set number of rounds wins!Four-player layout posted by the publisher
On your turn, you play a scoring card from your hand onto your scoring/discard pile. You cannot play the same card that is currently on the top of any opponent's score pile unless you have no other cards in your hand that you can play. Then you perform a standard action or a special action if the scoring card you play has one.
When taking a standard action, you have two choices: Either you add any number and combination of penguins from your supply to one neighborhood, which is considered the active neighborhood for your turn, or you empty a place of all of its penguins and redistribute the penguins as you wish in the other four places in that neighborhood, or in any places in the other neighborhood. Again, the neighborhood where the penguins are placed is the active neighborhood for your turn.
Then you draw a card and end your turn. Players continue taking turns placing, moving, and scoring penguins until the final round is completed, and whoever has the most points wins.
Waddle is one of those games that you can play very casually and not overthink your moves for a mellow game, or you can make it more competitive and get really thinky with it. It's cool that you won't ever play all of the cards in your deck in a single game, too, so you don't always know what you'll have to work with or what your opponents have. Plus, there's also a single deck variant to change things up a bit where you shuffle all cards together, instead of having individual decks, and you have the option of drawing cards from the deck or from three face-up cards.
Waddle is a solid filler to play with gamer and non-gamer friends because it's super easy to learn, each game will vary because of the cards, and... it has adorable wooden penguins!
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Archive for Candice Harris
05 Mar 2021
- [+] Dice rolls
Get a Relief Column to Peking, Resolve Russian Civil War Crises, and Battle in World War II in Twenty Minutes
26 Feb 2021
Worthington Publishing launched a Kickstarter campaign (KS link) for a new deluxe edition of John Welch's solitaire gem Keep Up The Fire!: The Boxer Rebellion, which was originally released by Victory Point Games in 2011.
Keep Up The Fire!, the tenth game in the States of Siege series, plays in 45 minutes and is getting a fresh coat of paint with updated artwork, all mounted boards, thick counters, and more.
Here's a brief overview of the setting and challenges you'll face:Quote:Keep Up The Fire! is a solitaire States of Siege series game set in 1900 Peking (modern day Beijing), China where Foreign Legations (areas assigned to Imperial powers including ambassadors, business people, and a handful of troops to provide security) are besieged in their compound by Chinese anti-imperialist forces. The Chinese "Boxers" (Society of the Harmonious Fists), with the Imperial Manchu forces of the Qing Army, are angry and determined to expel these foreigners from China.Darin A. Leviloff's Soviet Dawn, which was originally released in 2009 from Victory Points Games as another solitaire game in the States of Siege series, will be available in March 2021.
Note that this game can also be enjoyed in teams working together (just as the Eight Nations had to), deciding how best to defend the Legation Compound and get the Relief Column to Peking in time!
A set of five standards-based lesson plans are also available for classroom teachers should they wish to use this game as a teaching tool.
The game is a race against time as the Chinese forces besieging the Legation Compound are attacking relentlessly while the Relief Column battles its way to the rescue. With limited time and relentless attacks on the Compound, will you manage to keep up the fire?
Soviet Dawn (Deluxe Edition) was successfully funded on Kickstarter (KS link) in late 2020 and has also been spruced up and upgraded with new-and-improved components thanks to Worthington Publishing. In more detail:Quote:Soviet Dawn (Deluxe Edition) brings Darin Leviloff's novel States of Siege game system back for a much larger storytelling adventure covering the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1921. Upgraded with a bigger, hard mounted game board, beautiful linen finish cards, large counters, full color rules, and more!GMT Games, Gene shared some excitement for a new P500 addition: a reprint of Vietnam 1965-1975, Nick Karp's award-winning, classic Vietnam game of the 1980s.
With several enemy "Fronts" converging on Moscow, the fate of the revolution and the prestige of international communism rests on your ability to manage and resolve every crisis that the "Whites" can assail you with. As the headlines unfold, you draw upon military and political resources to help you, or try to reorganize the Red Army for special abilities that can greatly enhance your position. Who knows? You might even capture the Imperial Gold Reserve!
Can you deal with the great crises of that time and defend the revolution? Will you withdraw from the Great War (WW1) or exercise the Bukharin Option and fight on? Can you execute the Czar in time, or will the Whites rescue him? Will you fortify Petrograd or press your offensives home? How will you deal with internal and external dissent? Play Soviet Dawn and see!
This Deluxe Edition includes the expansion set.
Vietnam 1965-1975, originally released by Victory Games in 1984, is a two-player game considered to be quintessential grand operational Vietnam game. There are no major rules changes expected, and GMT's primary goal is to modernize the components and clean up any ambiguity in the rules.
Vietnam 1965-1975 has a jaw-dropping (for some) playtime range of 360-6000 minutes because it can be played as scenarios or you can strap in for the entire campaign as briefly described below from original publisher, Victory Games:Quote:This simulation game re-creates one of the longest, most complex, and least understood conflicts in U.S. history in all of its military and political aspects.Paolo Mori's 2019 release, Blitzkrieg!, from PSC Games has a new "square edition" coming in Q2 2021. Not only will you save some shelf space, but this version also includes the Nippon expansion as an added bonus.Non-final P500 cover image from GMT's website
The rules include detailed treatment of movement, terrain, search and destroy operations, special operations, firepower, air mobility, riverines, brigade-level formations, limited intelligence and auxiliary units in each scenario. The scenarios start out small with Operation Starlite, and slowly build in complexity, introducing more rules, until the entire Campaign Scenario which covers the entire war from 1965 to 1975 and introduces South Vietnamese politics, morale and commitment, strategic bombing, reinforcements, and pacification.
If you're not familiar with Blitzkrieg!, it's an excellent, WWII-themed filler game for 1-2 players that's packed with fun, exciting, and tense moments and even features a solo mode designed by Dávid Turczi, who probably has a doctorate in solo game design at this point. It's also easy to learn and can be played quickly, true to its tag line: "World War Two in 20 Minutes". Here's a brief description with more details from publisher:Quote:The perfect wargame for non-wargamers, Blitzkrieg! allows two players to battle across the War's most iconic theaters, winning key campaigns and building military might.Blitzkrieg! is one of my favorite filler games, and I feel it is a hidden gem that deserves to be more widely known, so I'm glad that's it going to be available again for folks to check out!Original rectangular box cover
Players draw army tokens from a bag to determine their starting forces and to replenish their losses. Rather than "fighting" battles with dice or cards, players allocate their military resources to each theater's campaigns, winning victory points, further resources, special weapons, and strategic advantages as they play. Refight World War Two several times in one evening!
- [+] Dice rolls
In 2020, Friedemann Friese and his publishing company 2F-Spiele invited us all to relax with his uniquely-themed, "after"-worker placement game Finishing Time — but now it's time for us to get back to work in ancient Egypt during the reign of Amenemhet III to impress the pharaoh and develop Faiyum!
Faiyum is a deck-construction and hand-management strategy game fused with route-building elements in which 1-5 players take on the role of pharaoh's advisors in ancient Egypt, competing to earn the most reputation (victory points) by creating the best card combo-engine for harvesting resources and gaining money to build roads and structures, to gain the respect of the pharaoh.
I picked up a copy of Faiyum for myself the minute I read that it featured "a card mechanism reminiscent of deck-builders and the market mechanism successfully used in Power Grid". I'm generally a fan of board games that include any flavor of deck-building, so it seemed right up my alley. [Disclosure: BoardGameGeek sells Faiyum through the BGG Store to provide distribution for the game outside of Germany. —WEM]
When I unfolded the game board for Faiyum before my first game, I instantly loved its look and feel, and I was anticipating a pleasant gaming experience because of it. The colors are great and it's very well designed and illustrated by Harald Lieske. It also has this charming vintage appeal to it that I dig, which I'm assuming is a result of Lieske's history of contributing artwork to several older classics such as The Castles of Burgundy, La Granja, Arkwright, and many others.
The game board is a map of Faiyum with a channel dividing two separate peninsulas which are connected only by a dam, with both peninsulas being surrounded by a lake. There are resource spaces for wheat (yellow), grapes (purple), and stone (gray), clearly identifiable by color and graphics. All three types of resource spaces are considered "undeveloped" at the start of the game. Additionally, the wheat and grape resource spaces are swampy, and therefore covered with adorable, wooden crocodiles. (Googly eyes not included, but highly recommended!) There are also four building sites (brown) and one starting settlement space (red) on the board which are considered "developed" areas in Faiyum.
Off to the left side of the game board is the card market that demands your attention if you want to impress the pharaoh and stand a chance at winning Faiyum. In the vein of Friese's popular classic, Power Grid, Faiyum's card market has four spaces for the current card market where players can buy cards, and four spaces for cards that will be available later in the game so that you can plot and plan accordingly.The current market (i.e., four lowest) cards with discount tokensThe four highest cards can't be purchased until they slide into the current market
During set-up, you shuffle the main deck of cards into a draw pile, then prepare a "final turns" stack which is seeded with four natural disaster cards that will trigger the end of the game. Each card has a unique, even number on it, and the card market is always sorted in ascending order such that the four lowest cards form the current market and the flour highest cards cannot be purchased until they slide into the current market slots.
The cards in Faiyum are action cards, and they are the heartbeat of the game. You don't have a personal deck of cards from which you're randomly drawing, but instead your cards will either be in your hand or in your discard pile reminiscent of Concordia. There's a variety of different cards you can purchase throughout the game, which keep things interesting — but can also look a little crazy and complicated when you initially skim through them. Even though there are a lot of different action cards to familiarize yourself with, they will click and make sense faster than you'd expect thanks to a few key features in the game.
First of all, there's an awesome card glossary that comes with the game, and it explains every card really well with plenty of excellent examples. I would be very surprised if anyone had a question after checking the card glossary, but regardless, there's more. [Second disclosure: I edited the rulebook, so this is nice to hear! —WEM]
The iconography on the cards is excellent. After you learn what the action is from the card glossary, the images on the card make sense and more often than not, you won't need to look up a lot of cards after a game or two. For example, there's always the main action graphically represented and then at the bottom of each card you'll see the cost for playing the action always has a red background and the benefit always has a green background, which makes the cards easy to parse at a glance. I've played Faiyum only with gamer friends, and they picked it up quickly due to the clear iconography, but I get the impression that even non-gamers can pick it up fairly quickly especially with a good teacher.
On top of the wonderful card glossary and iconography, each card falls into one of four types of actions, and when you understand how one type of action works, I found it easy to grasp how different cards of the same type worked. There are harvest actions to help you gain resources; build actions which allow you to develop Faiyum with settlements, roads, bridges etc.; commerce actions to help you earn money; and "other" actions the feature some different gameplay effects.
For example, everyone starts the game with three Farmer cards, which are harvest actions. Farmer cards allow you to place a worker on an undeveloped resource space adjacent to another space that has a worker on it and gain one matching resource based on the space where the worker is placed.Examples of harvest action cards
Other harvest actions look and function similarly as you can see above from the following examples: The Senior Farmer works the same, except you gain two matching resources, the Grower allows you to gain two roses (a wild resource) when you place a worker on any undeveloped space adjacent to the channel, and Harvest Hands follows the Farmer rules, but allows you to spend $1-$3 to place 1-3 workers and gain 1-3 resources depending on where you place the worker(s).
Along with gaining resources, if you place any workers on a space that has a crocodile on it when taking a harvest action, you remove the crocodile from the game and gain $1 since you're draining the land and opening it up for development opportunities. There are even cute little crocodile icons on the top corners of harvest action cards as a reminder.
A key thing to note is that everything built on the board does not belong to a specific player; it is all common property for all players to interact with. This, combined with the card market variation, lends itself to a great deal of variety and some interesting player interaction.
Faiyum has a smooth flow to it and moves at a decent pace. It doesn't have any rounds or phases, but instead players simply alternate taking turns, in turn order, until the end of the game is triggered. Continuing with the vibe of simplicity, there are only three actions you can take on your turn, which I found makes it fairly easy to teach and get into for your first game:
1) You can play a card from your hand, either using it for its action or to get money for it.
2) You can buy a card from the current card market, placing it directly in your hand after paying the cost.
3) You can take an administration turn and do admin-y things such as gaining income and refreshing your hand and the card market.
Everyone starts the game with a hand of five cards (three Farmers, Settlement, and Two Roads) and some amount of money depending on turn order. When it's your turn, you can play a card for its action or discard it to gain $2. Regardless of the type of action card, you'll typically be playing cards to gain resources, money, and reputation (victory points) in some form, whether it's from harvesting, building, or taking some other late-game scoring cards. There are also "other" cards mixed in that allow you to do fun different things like take cards from the market at a set price or copy the action on the top of your discard pile.
After you take your newly purchased card, you draw a card from the main deck to refill the market. Remember whenever you add cards to the market, you shift them to ensure all cards are in ascending order from the start of the market. This could shift existing cards in the current market making them cheaper in some cases, and more expensive in other cases. Again, it is important to pay attention to the card market and try to catch good deals before your opponents. Of course, there will be many occasions where you unfortunately won't have the funds you need to seize the opportunity, so money is also important to have on hand.
I found the key to doing well in Faiyum is all about gaining cards that can be comboed with your existing cards so you can build the best money, resource, and reputation engine. For example, one game I had a card that allowed me to gain roses, then I was able to get another card that let me convert roses into reputation. Another time, I had the Plantation card that let me build a workshop on a grape resource space to gain grapes and reputation, that I comboed with the Vintner, which let me place a worker on a space with a grape workshop to gain reputation and money.
Eventually after buying cards and playing cards from your hand into your discard pile, you'll be wanting to get your cards back into your hand. That's when you should plan to take an administration turn. Administration turns have three main steps to them for gaining income, buying back cards from your discard pile, and replacing cards in the current market.
For income, you first (potentially) gain money based on the amount of cards remaining in your hand. It's always $3 minus the amount of cards in your hand, so if you have three or more cards in your hand when you take an administration turn, you won't earn any base income. Then you can remove 0-2 workers from any spaces on the game board earning $0-$2 accordingly. Sometimes this decision doesn't matter too much, but it mostly does. The reason is that if you remove a worker from, let's say, a settlement space, and your opponent has a card in hand that allows them to place a worker on a settlement space to get some goodies, you probably don't want to help them with that — but on the other hand, you may need to clear some workers for your own sake, and it ends up being a tough decision. Finally, you gain the top three cards back from the top of your discard pile (for free).
Next you can optionally buy back additional top cards from your discard pile by spending $1 per card. Your discard pile is never shuffled, and this makes it very important to consider the order in which you play your cards in Faiyum. Buying cards back from your discard pile can get expensive, so if you don't consider the order when you play your cards, you might not be able to afford to pick up some of your best cards, and that would be sad. With this in mind, it's also a good way later in the game to bury weaker cards towards the bottom and just never pick them back up. Although, there's no hand limit, so you could always hold onto the weaker cards and cash them in for $2 by discarding them towards the end of the game, and that might help you buy some juicy, late-game scoring cards.
The last step of your administration turn is to replace 1-2 cards in the current market based on player count. You'll always remove the lowest card(s) with discount tokens on them first, then the lowest cards. The remaining cards in the current market get discount tokens, then you refill the market, always shifting cards into ascending order.
Players continue taking turns, playing cards, buying cards and retrieving cards from their discard pile until eventually, the fourth natural disaster card makes its debut appearance in the card market. When this happens, players can no longer take administration turns, which can be rough if you're not planning for it. In most of my games, I was the one to trigger the end of the game by strategically timing my final administration turn well. This allowed me to swoop up all of my cards one last time and the others were stuck with whatever they had in hand. If you try this at home and make your friends bitter, you didn't hear it from me.Natural disaster cards in a four-player game
After the end of the game is triggered, players can only play cards, buy cards, or bow out by taking the natural disaster from the card market with the most reputation. In a four-player game, the first player to quit gains 10 reputation, the next player gains 6, then 3, and 0 if you are last. This often adds a bit of tension since it becomes a race to snag the extra bonus points before the end of the game. The player with the most reputation wins the game and is considered the pharaoh's most cunning advisor!
I didn't get to play Faiyum with five players, but I'd imagine it would be a bit wild since the card market would likely change a lot in between each of your turns and therefore it would be harder to plan out your turn. It could be totally fun, though! I'm sure I'll give it a try at some point, but alternatively, I was pleasantly surprised how well Faiyum plays with two. It was quite enjoyable, and there were plenty of moments of tension with the card market. Plus, I really like that you use the full deck of cards for every player count, but with the timing of administration turns, you never really know which cards will end up getting removed from the game and this adds to the variation of Faiyum.
The solo mode is similar to the multiplayer gameplay, so there aren't a lot of new rules to learn if you plan to play Faiyum solo. You can play one-off games and try to beat your best score, or for something a bit more interesting, they've also included campaign challenges. You have seven different goals to achieve, starting with gaining at least 150 reputation in a game, and each time you fulfill a goal, you can unlock a variety of achievements that change the solo rules slightly in your favor.
It's not a very thematic experience, but the cardplay is where it really shines. I appreciate how each game I played evolved completely differently depending on the timing of when different cards appeared in the market, which ones got purchased, and how different players chose to execute the card actions relative to the state of the game board. Plus, creating those rewarding card combos always felt very satisfying. The more you play, the more you'll know the potential of the cards, which could seem like it'll eventually get boring, but when you have no clue when different cards will be available or when they'll be removed from the market from an administration action, you have to be flexible and prepared to readapt your strategy each game.
Then you have the game board being built up differently each game, too, which helps keep each game feeling fresh. For example, one game I placed the first worker on the smaller peninsula and we were off to a tighter start and had a different experience than when the first worker was placed on the larger peninsula.
I appreciate the simplicity of Faiyum. It's awesome that there are only three main actions you can take on your turn, and you can explain the cards as they appear in the market, so it ends up being a straightforward teach and quick to get into with new players. Don't get me wrong, though, because while the game structure is relatively simple, the decision space gets deeper and more complex, the more cards you acquire.
If you enjoy strategy games with awesome cardplay opportunities, player interaction, and/or adorable wooden crocodiles, then Faiyum is worth checking out.
- [+] Dice rolls
Welcome New Factions to the Woodland, Survive on Mars, Prepare for a Siege, and Return to the West Kingdom
12 Feb 2021
Patrick Leder, Cole Wehrle, and the creative team at Leder Games have cooked up yet another savory Root delight: Root: The Marauder Expansion, which I'm thrilled to announce is coming to Kickstarter (KS link) on February 23, 2021:Quote:Root: The Marauder Expansion introduces two new factions and new gameplay options:In true Leder fashion, Cole, Patrick and Joshua Yearsley have already posted a few designer diaries (Designer Diary 1, Designer Diary 2, Designer Diary 3) sharing Root's backstory and fascinating insight on the development of the The Marauder Expansion. I'll try to contain my drool as we await updates from Leder Games.
• The Warlord is both charismatic and terrifying. He rules over a vast horde of warriors recently arrived to the woodland and is interested only in its domination. To help speed his conquest, he lights massive fires which can spread throughout the woods and destroy the buildings of other factions. The Warlord also interacts with crafted items, which he can plunder from players. These items increase his strength, but also cause him to develop an increasingly fearsome monomania.
• The Stone Seekers are strangers to the Woodland, here only to recover the scattered and lost relics of an ancient civilization. The Seekers work to establish way-stations across the woodland and form alliances with other factions in hopes of recovering their relics more quickly. They will often find themselves deep within enemy territory as they search for their relics. Thankfully their finely crafted armor makes them difficult to dislodge.image posted by Cole Wehrle
Both of these factions are suitable to Root's two-player game, bringing the total number of two-player factions up to five without the use of bots.
Root: The Marauder Expansion also introduces a new level to the conflict for the woodland: minor factions! These small factions can be used at any player count and introduce surprising new power combinations as well as a chess-like tension to lower player count games of Root.
Finally, The Marauder Expansion also includes a new set-up draft system suitable for both casual and competitive play.
Vital Lacerda and Eagle-Gryphon Games are sending us back to Mars with a new co-operative expansion for On Mars called Surviving Mars, which is targeted for a Kickstarter campaign around May 2021.
There aren't too many details available yet as you will notice from the brief description below, but I love the idea of having more heavy co-operative game options to play. It also seems like a great way to ease players who might otherwise be intimidated into Lacerda games. Here's what we know:Quote:Surviving Mars is a short story expansion to On Mars made in four chapters with four different modes of play, and it uses elements of the Paradox digital game by the same name.Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson's Undaunted releases (Undaunted: Normandy and Undaunted: North Africa) from Osprey Games. In true Candice-fashion, I ended up ferociously digging around BGG to see what else they designed, which led me to discovering the abstract, bag-building strategy game War Chest from AEG and the same dynamic designer duo, which also became an instant hit with me.Draft cover posted by the publisher
The short story is called "Alien Invasion" and contemplates the following Chapters and modes of play:
Chapter 1 - The Invasion - 1 vs All - 3 to 5 players
Chapter 2 - Outbreak - Co-Op - 2 to 4 players
Chapter 3 - Power Shortage - Co-Op - 2 to 4 players
Chapter 4 - Monolith - Solo - 1 player
Naturally, I was pumped to hear that War Chest: Siege, the second expansion for War Chest, is available for retail pre-order and will be released in March 2021. Here's the description of the Siege expansion from the publisher:Quote:Not all battles are fought on the open field. In many cases defenders hide behind the thick walls of mighty castles. Now is the time to prepare for siege! As castles grew larger and stronger throughout the middle ages, new ways evolved to scale, knock down, and even undermine their walls.In more detail, the Siege expansion comes with four new units (shown below), fortification coins, and fortification map cards. During set-up, you randomly select one of the six map cards to determine where the initial four fortifications will be placed. The fortifications aren't units, but can be attacked like units.
In War Chest: Siege, you will be confronted with fortified locations. Fear not, though, as you have siege towers and trebuchets at your disposal and hardy sappers to both build your own fortifications and undermine your opponents'. Can you successfully return to the battlefield with your war engines in this ingenious and engaging game of tactics and strategy?
The Sapper, one of the new units, allows players to build additional fortifications throughout the game. The other three new units (Siege Tower, Trebuchet, War Wagon) introduce siege weapons and tactics to War Chest to further spice things up.New unit card images provided by David Thompson
From reading the Siege expansion rulebook, I can already tell the addition of siege weapons/tactics and fortifications will add a lot of variety and refreshing, new choices to War Chest — and with the added bonus of minimal, additional rules to learn. I'm very much looking forward to playing this!
West Kingdom Trilogy games — Architects of the West Kingdom and Paladins of the West Kingdom — from designers Shem Phillips and S J Macdonald and publisher Garphill Games.
In the Works of Wonder expansion for Architects of the West Kingdom, players compete to build wonders as described below by the publisher:Quote:In Architects of the West Kingdom: Works of Wonder, builders from far and wide have travelled to partake in the King's latest endeavor: five glorious monuments to beautify the city. However, not just any architect can be entrusted with such a task. Only those of influence and charitable reputation shall receive this great honor. Will you accompany the Princess as she surveys the projects, or rally support from the elusive Profiteer?In the City of Crowns expansion for Paladins of the West Kingdom, players will seek support from noble allies as described below:
Works of Wonder introduces an extension to the main board to hold the new Contribution/Consequence Cards and keep track of players' Influence. Players compete to construct the five Wonders, while gaining support from the new Princess and Profiteer tokens moving about the main board. Also included is an entirely new solo system with six unique opponents against which to compete.Quote:In Paladins of the West Kingdom: City of Crowns, noble allies have responded to the recent attacks against our borders. Only through careful negotiation and diplomacy will these dukes, barons, counts, and margraves offer the aid we so desperately need. Will you be able to muster enough support to once again defend this great city, or will you crumble beneath the weight of indecision and apathy?In either case, I'm looking forward to hearing more about both of these expansions since I've enjoyed my plays of the base games!
This expansion adds new extensions for both the main board and player boards. Players have a new attribute to manage and new actions available on each turn.
- [+] Dice rolls
Game Brewer Invites Us to Adventure Through Multiple Themes, Collect the Best Furs in Siberia, and Save Patients in Ancient Greece
05 Feb 2021
mentioned Game Brewer's Kickstarter campaign for Arkwright: The Card Game, a streamlined, smaller box version of Stefan Risthaus' beasty, brain-burner Arkwright. Its Kickstarter fulfillment is targeted for August 1, 2021 and will be followed by a regular retail release. In the meantime, Game Brewer has shared more of its 2021 line-up with a lot to look forward to.
• Stroganov is a new medium-heavy euro from Andreas Steding, the designer of Hansa Teutonica and Gùgōng, which will be launched on Kickstarter in mid-February 2021 with an October 2021 release date.
Stroganov plays in 60-90 minutes and allows 1-4 players to compete for the most victory points while journeying through Siberia in the 17th century. In more detail from the publisher:Quote:In the 17th century, Russia began to expand eastwards to develop the vast expanses of Siberia. This phase in history is closely associated with the name "Stroganov".• I previously mentioned the upcoming 2021 release Galenus from Ion Game Design and designer Harry-Pekka Kuusela, a game in which players compete to become the best doctor in Ancient Rome. Now it seems we'll get the opportunity to lead a team of doctors in ancient Greece in Hippocrates from Alain Orban (Troyes, Black Angel).
In the game, players try to collect the best furs to gain wealth and fame as they move across the vastness that is Siberia. They will journey through Siberia in spring, summer, and autumn before returning home each winter. After four years (rounds), the player who has best utilized their actions and collected the most victory points wins.
Each year, the players must move eastward across the landscape. They can spend horses if they wish to travel further. Once they have advanced, they may take a basic action, such as trading or collecting furs or coins. Lastly, they may take more advanced actions such as visiting a village, setting up a yurt, taking a Tsar's wish (card), setting up a hunting lodge, or buying a landscape field. All of these actions — combined with exploring and some storytelling along the way — earn players victory points at the end of the game.
Every winter, players return home to Tyumen to prepare for a new year.
After four years, the game ends, then players score victory points based on having collected the right landscape tiles, fulfilled the Tsar's wishes, built hunting lodges, collected furs, and more.
Hippocrates plays with 1-4 players in 90-120 minutes and is going to Kickstarter in April 2021. Here's a high-level overview from the publisher of what you can expect to experience in Hippocrates:Quote:Travel back to Greece in 370 BCE on the island of Kos. Hippocrates has just passed away and that leads to a lot of doubt regarding the durability of his medical activities. As one of his successors, you lead a team of doctors with the goal of perpetuating the treatment of patients in the temple of Asclepios, later known as the first hospital in history. Be the right successor of Hippocrates and increase your notoriety, so that patients from all around the Mediterranean will come with the hope of receiving the best treatment ever.Paris from designers Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer, and the Kickstarter for that reprint will include a new, small expansion: Paris l'Étoile, which will include a new set of tiles to spice up your strategies, along with variations on the bonus tiles in a package that will fit in the original box.
The game lasts four rounds, with each round divided into five phases:
1. Kalosorisma — Each player welcomes up to three patients in their hospital. You need to select your patients carefully as all patients need urgent help, and some may be easier to treat than others, but make sure to help the most in need or you will lose notoriety as a doctor.
2. Pliromi — You have to remunerate your doctors or risk their departure.
3. Stratologisi — In this phase, players try to hire new doctors and purchase medicine kits. If a player obtains both, they receive a bonus.
4. Therapeia — Now is the time to treat patients. Players have to carefully puzzle and link the right patients to the right doctors to maximize their assets.
5. Exis — Players count victory and notoriety points, and prepare the board for the next round.
Hippocrates combines auction bidding, tile placement, resource management, and more to create an exciting mix that will challenge each player to best manage their patients and try to become Hippocrates' worthy successor.
• After a successful Kickstarter campaign in November 2020, Tom Vandeweyer's innovative-sounding game Rulebenders is planned for a late 2021 release, and there may still be time to snag a late pledge before Game Brewer caps the print run.
Rulebenders plays with 2-5 players in 45-75 minutes and seems like a clever solution when gaming with people that have varying interests in themes:Quote:Embark on a fascinating adventure through multiple themes like pirates, sci-fi, fantasy, prehistoric, zombies, and more in Rulebenders, a time-traveling game that twists the rules of the game (literally and figuratively) and will create a unique game experience every time you play!
In the game, players choose a number of themes out of the available six, changing the character of each round as the game progresses. Players fight for control over the different rules aspects of the game, bending the rules of the game to their advantage. You have to use your wits in this unique game where the rules change as you play.
- [+] Dice rolls
Explore Space, Invade Tarawa, Complete Missions Against Nazis, and Defeat a Slasher...All By Yourself!
29 Jan 2021
GMT Games caught on to this growing demand for solo gaming options and announced "GMT One" in its January 2021 Monthly Update Newsletter, which is a new in-house development studio dedicated to enabling solo gamers to enjoy the wide variety of multiplayer games that GMT publishes. In more detail:Quote:GMT One will help bridge the gap in knowledge and experience between our multiplayer designers and the skills and techniques used to craft Solitaire experiences and support these designers in creating top-notch designs. Our design group includes the designers who built the Solitaire systems in Tank Duel and Gandhi, and we will partner with designers like John Butterfield, Mark Herman, Volko Ruhnke, Harold Buchanan, Mike Bertucelli, and others to create best-in-industry Solitaire experiences for you.In addition to the ever-growing and improving multiplayer solo options, there are a lot of exciting games coming out designed specifically for solitaire play, featuring a wide variety of mechanisms, themes, and complexity levels. There's really no better time to check one out if you've ever been curious.
mentioned the 2021 solitaire release Final Girl from Van Ryder Games and designers Evan Derrick and A. J. Porfirio.
Final Girl is a reimplementation of Porfirio's Hostage Negotiator that plays in 30-45 minutes, but instead of negotiating with abductors to save hostages, you'll be trying to survive and defeat a horror movie killer:Quote:Playing on a famous horror movie trope, Final Girl is a solitaire-only game that puts the player in the shoes of a female protagonist who must kill the slasher if she wants to survive.I kept hearing good things about Hostage Negotiator, but I was initially hesitant to try it because the theme didn't really jive with me. I'm so glad I did finally pick it up and try it though! It really surprised me how much I enjoyed it, and I love how the mechanisms and theme are so well-implemented together. I ended up loading up on all of the expansions and I'm especially looking forward to trying the Hostage Negotiator: Career expansion that was released in 2020. This is all to say, based on Hostage Negotiator pleasantly surprising me, I want to play Final Girl — even though the theme, once again, has me hesitant.
The Core Box, when combined with one of our Feature Film Boxes, has everything you need to play the game. Each Feature Film Box features a unique Killer and and iconic Location, and the more Feature Films you have, the more killer/location combinations you can experience!
In game terms, Final Girl shares similarities with Hostage Negotiator, but with some key differences that change it up, including a game board to track locations and character movement. You can choose from multiple characters when picking someone to play and multiple killers when picking someone to play against. Killers and locations each have their own specific terror cards that will be shuffled together to create a unique experience with various combinations of scenarios for you to play!
• On the historical wargame front, Worthington Publishing LLC launched a Kickstarter (KS link) on January 23, 2021 for Tarawa 1943 a WWII solitaire, card-driven game on the invasion of Japanese controlled Tarawa by the 2nd Marine Division that plays in 30-60 minutes, from designers Grant Wylie and Mike Wylie:Quote:TARAWA 1943 is a solitaire, card-driven game on the invasion of Japanese controlled Tarawa by the 2nd Marine Division. Each turn the USMC player will activate one of their eight battalions. During its activation, it can move, attack, and attempt to regroup. The USMC player further has a three-card hand (out of a deck of thirty cards) that gives additional resources to the player (naval support, air support, engineers, tanks, etc). The USMC player can play one card during their turn and one card during the Japanese turn.From the videos I've checked it out, Tarawa 1943 seems like it'll be a fun and challenging solitaire wargame, and with a 30-60 minute playtime, it seems like I'll be able to get it to the table more easily than some of my beefier wargames. The Player's Aid also posted a great interview with Grant Wylie if you're interested in learning more about the background and mechanics for Tarawa 1943.
As a battalion is activated, it reduces its cohesion (reflecting wear and tear and exhaustion). Battalions are further reduced in cohesion due to Japanese attacks and the marines "pushing their attacks".
After the USMC player finishes their activation, the Japanese turn begins with the flip of a card. From this, the USMC player will face fire attacks, banzai attacks, bunkers, cross fires, infiltration, and more. The card engine will ensure an ever changing game and no two will play the same.
The game will give the historical starting invasion site. However, we have included the alternate "south beach" landing possibility that the Japanese had expected and prepared.
Victory is achieved by taking the island as quickly as possible while minimizing casualties. This was the first invasion of the U.S. island hopping strategy and high losses or a prolonged fight could have led to a cancellation of the island hopping campaign.
Journey's End, the latest expansion and final chapter to Chris Taylor's highly thematic Nemo's War (Second Edition), was launched on Kickstarter in late November 2020 and is open for late backers. The Nemo's War: Journey's End expansion was designed by Alan Emrich, who also designed the Nautilus Upgrades Expansion Pack which was the first expansion for Nemo's War.
If you're not familiar with the game, Nemo's War is a deep sea, adventure, exploration game based on Jules Verne's classic novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in which players assume the role of Captain Nemo and travel across the seas on missions of science, exploration, anti-imperialism, and war! It's primarily a solitaire game, but also includes rules for 2-4 player fully co-operative and semi-competitive variants.
Here's what you can expect from the Journey's End expansion as described by the publisher:Quote:In addition to the Journey's End expansion, Victory Point Games is releasing an "Ultimate Edition" of Nemo's War that includes the second edition of the base game with all of the expansion content.
A COMPREHENSIVE OPERATIONS MANUAL & BETWEEN VOYAGES GUIDE: The new Operations Manual shows how to run the ship turn-by-turn and includes many useful appendices at the end, while the new Between Voyages Guide features instruction for setup, ending the game, scoring, epilogues, variants, and more!
A NEW TWO-PLAYER VERSUS VARIANT: Joining the riveting solo and cooperative modes where players command the Nautilus, in this game variant one player will play as the Imperialists, bent on its defeat. Includes special cards and two Imperial Squadron Miniatures!
A NEW CHARACTER TILE: Entering our story is Nemo's son, Nadeen Dakkar, who crosses paths with his father after hearing news of mysterious events at sea!
NEW FINALE CARDS: Spice up your endings with The Trap, Imperialists' Catspaw, Scientific Espionage, and The Kraken!
NEW STERN MOTIVES, ADDITIONAL NAUTILUS UPGRADES, AND EVEN MORE TOKENS & MARKERS!
Nemo's War happens to be a top 5 solo game for me after playing only a single game. I highly recommend checking out Nemo's War if you're looking for an excellent, narrative-driven, solitaire game and you're not turned off by dice rolling. It's challenging, is very thematic and immersive, and features some gorgeous Ian O'Toole artwork, which all adds up to an awesome solitaire gaming experience.
Side Room Games is launching a Kickstarter campaign (KS link) on February 1, 2021 for the second edition of Jake Staines' 2013 solitaire worker-placement game Maquis.
Maquis plays in 20 minutes and the new edition will also include new missions for some fresh challenges. Here's a brief overview of Maquis from the publisher:Quote:Engage the Nazi occupation of France in la petite guerre to throw off the yoke of the oppressors and free your homeland!I haven't played Maquis yet, but I did recently score a copy of John Kean's Black Sonata, which is a solitaire hidden movement game from Side Room Games that's in my queue to check out. I was so fascinated by the fact that someone designed a solitaire hidden movement game that I had to get myself a copy, and now I'm also curious to try Maquis.
Maquis is a solitaire worker-placement game with variable goals and a play time of approximately twenty minutes. The player places their resistance agents on spaces around town to achieve their goals — e.g., blowing up trains, publishing underground newspapers — but at the same time Milice collaborators and Wehrmacht soldiers patrol the area. Agents who can't make it back to the safe house at the end of the day are arrested and never seen again.
After reading Neil Bunker's interview with Morten Monrad Pedersen, the founder and lead designer of the Automa Factory, it was also cool to find out the worker-placement solitaire system in Maquis is what inspired the AI opponent in Viticulture!
Mark Chaplin, who co-designed the sci-fi, horror, survival game Lifeform from Hall or Nothing Productions, has two upcoming solo game releases that sound mighty interesting and their descriptions have me already enticed.
The first, Where Humans Don't Belong,, is a suspenseful, space exploration game that plays in 45-90 minutes and is targeted for a mid-2021 Kickstarter launch:Quote:Where Humans Don't Belong is a single-player, deep space exploration game in which you are trying to escape the unknown galaxy into which your damaged starship has been thrust. The fate of your ship and her crew lies in your hands!Then there's Deepwater, which plays in 45-60 minutes and is slated for a 2022 release:
Explore uncharted space, board derelict freighters, and land on ringworlds and other amazing locations — all while being hunted by an alien dreadnought intent on your destruction.Crew art - not finalized
Where Humans Don't Belong is a standalone game in which you get to name your ship, choose its load-out, and pick your own bridge crew. They will encounter awesome galactic horrors and fight battles in space as well as on the surfaces of strange alien planets.
Featuring innovative combat and exploration systems, the game presents a unique, suspenseful adventure unlike any you've seen before.Quote:Deepwater is a solo game set in the year 2047 in which the player assumes the role of a tech billionaire taking over a loss-making, underwater, deep-sea research and farming facility, six months after an industrial accident at the base released a crystalline, genetically-engineered mutagen named "Zenobia" into the sea.Both games will be published by Chaplin's company, Giant Spider Games, which is focused on releasing thematic, narrative-driven games tackling genre aspects that are typically unexplored or overlooked. I have subscribed to both game pages, and I'll be eagerly awaiting updates.
During each game, the player has to recruit marine biologists, deep-sea engineers, offshore operations staff, and security personnel. As the game progresses, the player also has many opportunities to build onto their facility and develop superior underwater tech and submersibles to help achieve their character-specific goals. Will the player be a philanthropist, or a greedy business magnate, for example.Concept art
Many dangerous situations will arise throughout the game, which the player will have to make tough decisions to overcome, including underwater earthquakes, superstructure fails, flooding, intrusions by eco-terrorists, and shark attacks. The multiple choice nature of these hazards will lead to the player having to sacrifice resources, cash, crew, and moral standing — with potentially devastating environmental impact.
Deepwater presents a tense, suspenseful, narrative-focused adventure with each and every game.
- [+] Dice rolls
22 Jan 2021
Carnegie is an upcoming 2021 medium-heavy economic game inspired by the life of Andrew Carnegie from Xavier Georges (Ginkgopolis, Carson City, Troyes, Black Angel) and Quined Games that features beautiful, clean, signature artwork from the esteemed Ian O'Toole. Carnegie plays with 1-4 players in about 40 minutes per player, launched on Kickstarter in mid-January 2021 (KS link), and has been successfully funded with an estimated September 2021 release date.
Here's an overview from the publisher of what you can expect:Quote:Andrew Carnegie, who was born in Scotland in 1835, emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1848. Although he started his career as a telegraphist, his role as one of the major players in the rise of the United States' steel industry made him one of the richest men in the world and an icon of the American dream.Good news! Carnegie is already available on both Board Game Arena and Tabletop Simulator for folks to try it out. Big kudos to Quined Games for making it available on BGA the same time as the Kickstarter launch. I'm not sure whether any other publishing company has ever achieved this, but it's awesome that they're making it easy for everyone to play it in a streamlined, rules-enforced platform before deciding whether or not they want to back/buy.
Andrew Carnegie was also a benefactor and philanthropist; upon his death in 1919, more than $350 million of his wealth was bequeathed to various foundations, with another $30 million going to various charities. His endowments created nearly 2,500 free public libraries that bear his name: the Carnegie Libraries.
In Carnegie, you recruit and manage employees, expand your business, invest in real estate, produce and sell goods, and create transport chains across the United States; you may even work with important personalities of the era. Perhaps you will even become an illustrious benefactor who contributes to the greatness of their country through deeds and generosity!
The game takes place over twenty rounds, with players each having one turn per round. On each turn, the active player chooses one of four actions, which the other players may follow.
The goal of the game is to build the most prestigious company, as symbolized by victory points.
I had an opportunity to play a game of Carnegie in Tabletop Simulator with Steph and Matthew from BGG, then I played a half game a few days later on BGA with friends who were interested in checking it out. The only reason we didn't finish my second game was because we started late and a couple of people had to bow out early to get some sleep. Of course I was doing wayyyy better my second game and didn't want it to end.
From my wee bit of experience playing Carnegie, I really dig it. There are some interesting mechanisms that all work together smoothly and make it feel fresh. I find the elegance of Carnegie's design to be reminiscent of the What's Your Game? releases I love, such as Nippon and Madeira. One of my friends was noticing some Troyes and Black Angel influence as well.
Carnegie is packed with lots of awesome decisions and rewarding moments with the way the income events work and how you manage your workers on your player board and on the game board. It really makes you think and plan, but it didn't burn my brain too hard where I felt drained after. In fact, I couldn't stop thinking about it the next day and wondering what I would do differently in future games, considering I made some mistakes that jammed me up my last few rounds of my first game. I'm looking forward to digging into this one more and would recommend checking it out if you're a fan of medium-heavy euros.
Flowar is a new flower business-themed worker placement, hand-management game for 1-4 players that plays in 40-90 minutes, and is targeted for a 2021 release from the Llama Dice design-duo, Isra C. and Shei S. and Spanish publisher Ediciones Primigenio.
Not a whole lot of details are out yet, but the brief description below from the publisher — and knowing Isra C. and Shei S. were also the design team behind The Red Cathedral and 1987 Channel Tunnel — already gets me excited to check it out:Quote:Do you know that the flower fair in Aalsmeer (Netherlands) is the biggest cut flower fair in the world? Every day is a frantic workday of buying and shipping flowers all around the globe!Banker of the Gods is a worker placement, "friendly" stock market game from designer A. Gerald Fitzsimons and his Ireland-based publishing company FountainStone Games.
The four days prior to St. Valentine's Day are busy in the market, so go to buy — whether expensive but early, or cheap but too late — the flowers that will fulfill the contracts you've already taken. Manage your workers and don't send too many of them to the unemployment queue because they will go on strike! Be careful with your reputation as it will influence on your stock value!
In this worker placement and management game, you represent a flower businessman that will work with companies trying to raise their stock value the four days prior to St. Valentine's Day.
In 60-90 minutes, 1-5 players compete as superstitious stock traders in an Ancient Japanese-inspired world illustrated by Fitzsimons. In more detail:Quote:Banker of the Gods is a game about superstitious civilizations competing on a friendly stock-market set in an ancient Japanese-inspired world. It has a unique stock-market mechanism that allows for deduction of market trends before you invest for the next round. There are over a million different kinds of markets to be generated. The market may booming during one playing of this game, while other games will confront you with a depression to survive or thrive in.Hegemony is an asymmetric, card-driven game with an intriguing blend of politics and economics designed by Varnavas Timotheou and Vangelis Bagiartakis (Among the Stars, Fields of Green, Kitchen Rush, Freedom!).
In this alternate universe, China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome have been attracted to a lucrative stock-market on Oki island in ancient Japan. Besides stocks, you may also try to succeed at having other players honor your Gods and harnessing their powers, or dabbling with products like sake (linked to the price of rice), or helping islanders by giving them home-loans for the best locations, or even trying your luck with tea-leaves at the geisha house, among other things.
Traditionally stock market games have unfriendly take-that elements, but Banker of the Gods doesn't.
Targeted for a 2021 Kickstarter launch, Hegemony will be the first release from Cyprus-based start-up gaming company Hegemonic Project Games, whose vision is to inspire gamers and non-gamers to learn more about the politico-economic dynamics of their societies playfully. Hegemony plays in 90-180 minutes and puts 2-4 players in the role of different citizen classes in a fictional state who are competing to lead their class better than their opponents, as described here below by the publisher:Quote:The Nation is in disarray, and a war is waging between the classes. The working class faces a dismantled welfare system, the capitalists are losing their hard-earned profits, the middle class is gradually fading, and the state is sinking into a deep deficit.
Amidst all this chaos, the only person who can provide guidance is...you. Will you take the side of the working class and fight for social reforms? Or will you stand with the corporations and the free market? Will you help the government try to keep it all together, or will you try to enforce your agenda no matter the cost to the country?
Hegemony is an asymmetric politico-economic card-driven board game for 2-4 players that puts you in the role of one of the socio-economic groups in a fictional state: The Working Class, the Middle Class, the Capitalist Class and the State itself.
The Working class controls the workers. They work in companies, earning money which they spend to cover their basic needs: Food, health, education and if possible, entertainment. They can apply a lot of political pressure, and they can also form unions to increase their influence.
The Capitalist class controls the companies. Workers work there, and the Capitalist sells the goods/services produced. Deals can also be made with foreign states, and pressure is also applied to the State when it comes to matters like taxation and tariffs. The goal of the Capitalist is very clear: Maximize the profit!
The Middle class combines elements from both the Working class and the Capitalist. It has workers who can work in the Capitalist's companies, but it can also build companies of its own, yet smaller. It also struggles to cover the basic needs like food, health and education, while trying to keep a balance between producing, selling and consuming.
Finally the State is trying to keep everyone happy, providing benefits and subsidies when needed but trying also to maintain a steady income through taxes to avoid going into debt. At the same time, it has to deal with a constant flux of events requiring immediate attention or face grave consequences.
While players have their own separate goals, they are all limited by a series of policies that affect most of their actions, like Taxation, Labor Market, Foreign Trade etc. Voting on those policies and using their influence to change them is also very important.
Through careful planning, strategic actions and political maneuvering, you will do your best to increase the power of your class and carry out your agenda. Will you be the one to lead your class to victory?
Hegemony is heavily based on actual academic principles such as Social-Democracy, Neoliberalism, Nationalism, and Globalism, and it allows players to see their real world applications through engaging gameplay. There are many ways to achieve hegemony: Which one will you take?
- [+] Dice rolls
15 Jan 2021
Cuba Libre (Volume II), designed by Jeff Grossman and Volko Ruhnke and published by GMT Games.
In anticipation of playing Cuba Libre, I set it up, ran the playbook, and learned the rules. I even watched The Cuba Libre Story documentary series on Netflix because I was so excited to be fully immersed in its history and theme. I was eager to play it, but could not seem to get it to the table. Months flew by, and I continued to try to play Cuba Libre, but it just never worked out, so I'd continue to think, "One day….one day."
Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917–1947 (Volume IX), designed by Bruce Mansfield...but then those plans got pushed to the back burner because of the global pandemic. Once again, I thought, "One day….one day."
A little over a year after I bought Cuba Libre, I FINALLY got to play it! Even better, I played it twice in back-to-back weeks with the same group of friends — but I played staring at my laptop on Tabletop Simulator. It was not how I envisioned my first COIN game going down, but nonetheless, it was a blast, especially having the opportunity to play it again with the same group. We all understood everything much better the second time and didn't need to refer to the rulebook nearly as often.My first game of Cuba Libre!
At this point, some of you may be wondering what a COIN game actually is. GMT describes the COIN series as follows:Quote:This series features Volko Ruhnke's game system presenting guerrilla warfare, asymmetric warfare, and COunterINsurgencies around the world — in both historical and contemporary conflicts.
Colonial Twilight (Volume VII), designed by Brian Train, which I spontaneously played with my friend Drew one random Saturday night when the two of us were looking to sneak one more game in for the day. I don't think it's typical to hear "spontaneously played" followed by any COIN game. That made it all the more memorable a night.
Colonial Twilight is the first two-player game in the COIN series, and historically it covers the French-Algerian War from 1954-62. Neither of us had played it or fully read the rules, but since we both had some COIN experience at this point and a whole lot of COINthusiasm, we were able to just set it up, skim through the rules and playbook, and start playing it in less than an hour.
I had already seen the The Battle of Algiers movie, which someone on BGG or Reddit had recommended, so I was loosely familiar with the history — which helped with diving into the game without reading the historical background details in the rulebook and playbook.My spontaneous game of Colonial Twilight
The gameplay for Colonial Twilight felt very tense, like Ruhnke's award-winning, two-player card-driven wargame Labyrinth: The War on Terror, but it also felt undeniably like a COIN game with its map, mechanisms, and event cards. I was impressed with how the eligibility system was revamped for two players in Colonial Twilight, so I was naturally curious when I read about GMT's latest COIN release: All Bridges Burning: Red Revolt and White Guard in Finland, 1917-18 (Volume X), the first three-player COIN game. I reached out to Gene at GMT, and they graciously hooked me up with a copy so that I could check it out.
All Bridges Burning is a COIN game for 1-3 players designed by VPJ Arponen that's focused on the Finnish Civil War of 1917-1918. The game allows players to recreate the military and political affairs leading up to and during this historical conflict, and it features gorgeous artwork from Chechu Nieto. Nieto has contributed art for several other games in the series, including Andean Abyss (Volume I), Cuba Libre (Volume II), A Distant Plain (Volume III), Fire in the Lake (Volume IV), Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar (Volume VI), Colonial Twilight (Volume VII) and Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain (Volume VIII), but the pastel textured box cover and beautiful, snowy-looking map in All Bridges Burning especially stand out to me.
Off the bat, I knew nothing about the Finnish Civil War, but GMT, as always, goes above and beyond to include a wealth of historical background details that set the tone and help create an enriching, deep gaming experience. In addition, design notes are sprinkled throughout the rulebook to further demonstrate how the game mechanisms are tightly interwoven with the theme/history. They also go the extra step to include detailed historic notes for every single event card, so there's no shortage of learning opportunities. It's fantastic!
In All Bridges Burning, three asymmetric factions — the Reds (red), Senate (white) and Moderates (blue) — compete to define the shape of Finland after the collapse of Russian Tsarist rule. The Reds represent the Finnish working class and their military support, the Red Guard militias, who are seeking to stage a successful revolt to establish socialist rule in the country. On the other side, the Senate White Guard, acquiring political support from the bourgeoisie and nobility, is trying to suppress the leftist revolt and establish bourgeoisie rule in the country. While the Reds and Senate duke it out, you also have the non-violent Moderates in the mix working to secure the political survival of parliamentary democracy and trying to keep national sentiment even keel enough for post-conflict settlement.
The factions are represented by (hexbox) cells of their corresponding color, and the Moderates and the Reds have discs representing networks and administrations, respectively. The cells are considered either active if star-side up or inactive when star-side down. In previous COIN games, it's usually bad when your cells are active because they're more susceptible to being attacked, but in All Bridges Burning active cells play a crucial role in gameplay in a different way. Depending on which faction you are, you usually want to have as many active cells as you can dispersed on the map.
You'll also have cubes representing non-player external powers — German troops (gray cubes) friendly to the Senate, and Russian troops (brown cubes) friendly to the Reds, seeking to further their geopolitical aims in Finland while providing some additional military muscle to their respective sides.
Core to all COIN games is the event deck. The event deck in All Bridges Burning is divided into two halves — 1917 event cards on the top half and 1918 event cards in the bottom half — and the entire deck is seeded with four propaganda cards to form a 40-card deck. The deck is prepared such that the first ten cards have a propaganda card seeded in the bottom five cards, stacked on top of another ten cards with another propaganda card shuffled into the bottom five cards, and so on.
When the event deck is good to go, you reveal the top card as the current event and reveal a second card on top of the deck as the upcoming event so that everyone knows which event is up next...with a slight caveat. After four rounds, when you're shifting the fifth event card to be the current event, there's a chance a propaganda card might be revealed. When that happens, you immediately pause "normal" gameplay and resolve a propaganda round, for which you're hopefully prepared.
The event deck not only brings some extra historical flavor and context to the table, but also adds an element of excitement to the game and gives players some enticing options when it comes to making decisions from turn to turn. I'll note that after you set up the event deck, there will be six unrevealed cards leftover (three each from 1917 and 1918) that won't be in the game, so if you ever get to a point that you're familiar with all of the events, this will add some mystery since you won't know which ones are out of play.
In a round of All Bridges Burning, players choose and take actions or pass in eligibility order, spending resources for commands, then eligibility is adjusted and a new event card is drawn. Play continues this way until a propaganda card is revealed, at which point a propaganda round is triggered in which victory conditions are checked, followed by a politics phase, with players gaining resources and support and resetting some things on the board.
All Bridges Burning is divided into two phases, starting with the pre-war build-up and shifting into the actual war. The shift to phase 2 can happen in two ways, either when Reds and Senate cells on the map total 27+ or after the second propaganda card is resolved.
Eligibility (turn) order is decided randomly during set-up, but after that it's based on what players choose. The first eligible faction gets the pick of the litter when choosing their move. They can execute a limited command, a command with special activity, trigger the event, or pass. Depending on which option they choose, the next eligible faction will have three choices, then the third eligible faction will have two choices. For example, if the first eligible faction decides to take the event, the next eligible can either execute a command (w/ special activity), a limited command, or pass. The only action that moves your marker to the ineligible box is when you take a command w/special activity. In four-player COIN games, the event cards themselves have faction icons in a certain order which dictates when you'll get to choose an action or pass, but when you take any action, you're ineligible for the next event. In All Bridges Burning, you could potentially take the event back-to-back turns, although I doubt your opponents would just let that happen.
After all players have taken a turn or passed, eligibility is adjusted based on the letters on the actual boxes. This is what determines eligibility order for the next round.
With this eligibility system, challenging choices arise. If you're first up, maybe you pass because you really want dibs on the upcoming event card? But then that leaves the current event open for one of your opponents, which could be harmful to you. Sometimes you have to sacrifice what you wanted to do to protect yourself from something else. Or what if the current event is way too juicy for the next eligible player, so you decide to defensively take the limited command to make sure no one gets to trigger the current event this turn. Or what if you really need to take a full command with a special activity because you know the propaganda card is likely to appear soon, but doing so makes you ineligible for the next turn. There are so many interesting decisions that spawn from this innovative eligibility system. I think it's awesome how the COIN eligibility system was adapted for three players in All Bridges Burning; it feels balanced and flows seamlessly.
Only one player can choose the current event each round. Event cards will have one or two options you can leverage to change the state of the game without needing to spend resources. There is plenty of variety when it comes to the events in All Bridges Burning, and depending on which faction you are playing, certain events could be extremely beneficial to you, while others won't pertain to you at all. There are events that allow players to gain resources and capabilities, or take resources away from opponents, execute commands, update Opposition/Support, add or remove cells from the board, and so on. I find it to always be exciting when a new upcoming event is revealed so that you can weigh your options and plan accordingly, and of course, anticipate when the next propaganda card might be coming.Event card examples
When you're not jumping on an event card, most of your turns will be spent executing commands. Usually commands cost one resource per space and you use plastic pawns to mark which spaces you're "activating". When taking the standard command, you can optionally execute a special activity as well. Because of this and the fact that you can impact multiple spaces and potentially have a big turn, you will be ineligible on the next turn. Whereas if you take a limited command, you'll be able to perform a command in only one space with no special activity, so you will be eligible on the next turn. Again, this is all super clean and easy to keep track of in the Sequence of Play area of the game board.
To give you a little more insight on the commands, all factions have a Rally command which allows you to put more cells (dudes) on the map and build up your forces. The Reds and Senate have an Activism command which mainly allows them to either reduce Polarization (which is helpful for victory conditions) or activate/deactivate enemy and friendly cells, which will help execute other commands, prevent your opponents from executing certain commands, in addition to helping gain support during the propaganda rounds. During an Activism command, the Reds can also potentially Agitate to create more opposition in spaces they control with an Administration disc, which is helpful for their victory conditions.
The Reds and Senate have a Terror command which helps remove enemies in addition to increasing Polarization. You'll place terror markers of your faction's corresponding color on the space and this makes the Rally command more expensive for your opponents, but applies to the Reds and Senate only. The Moderates just don't have time to be bothered with the Reds and Senate's petty terror antics.
The Reds and Senate have Attack and March commands, but these cannot be used until the game hits phase 2, so there's a lot of build up in phase 1, then as soon as phase 2 hits, gloves are dropped and it's on. These two commands are pretty common in COIN games from what I've seen, and they function exactly as they sound. March lets you move cells into an adjacent space and Attack lets the Reds and Senate battle each other to remove enemies. When it comes to the Attack command, there's a whole procedure to follow to determine the attack strength and it will feel a bit tedious initially, but after you go through it a couple times and follow the handy player aid, it isn't very complicated at all — just lots of different modifiers to consider. I'll also note that German and Russian troops in the battle location will fight, too, and impact the attack strength.
When it comes to the Moderates, in addition to the Rally command, they have a Message command that allows them to move and hide their cells while optionally carrying either News or the Personality token. The News tokens represent important pieces of information and are placed on the board in phase 2 by German landings and when attacks send defenders to prison. The Moderates really want to grab news and take it to their personality to benefit their cause via the Personality special activity, which helps the Moderates resolve political issues and in turn, help meet their victory conditions.
Regardless of which faction you are, never underestimate the power of passing in a COIN game. Passing lets you gain a resource, which is helpful and sometimes absolutely necessary so that you can fund future commands, but more importantly (in most cases) it will give you an eligibility advantage for the next turn which can be powerful and critical at times based on an upcoming event or other happenings on the board.
Once you get into the 1918 event cards, the Germans begin taking actions when an event card has a "German Action Phase" banner. There's a straight-forward flowchart you use to determine what action the German troops will take; they'll either land on random Landing Sites on the board, attack, march, or do nothing. However, if the Senate player takes the Coordinate special activity, they get to place the Coordinate marker on the German eligibility cylinder and decide all the details for the German action phase.
I mentioned Polarization above a few times, and I feel it's important to hone in on the Polarization track since it's something unique to All Bridges Burning. The Polarization level represents the level of national unity between the factions, and all factions can manipulate the Polarization level when executing various commands and events throughout the game. This is something all players have a vested interest in considering since Polarization impacts events, commands, and special activities, in addition to each faction's victory conditions.
As with all COIN games, each faction in All Bridges Burning has its own unique victory conditions tied thematically to their historical motivations. The Reds need to build up enough opposition to the bourgeois rule, keep Polarization on the lower side, and make sure they're not over-leveraging the support of Russian troops. The Senate need to gain enough town populations back under Senate Control and similar to the Reds, they need to keep Polarization on the lower side in addition to keeping their German vassalage level down. Meanwhile, the Moderates need to gain an abundance of resources and accumulate political will by organizing into networks and resolving political issues, while also keeping Polarization at a moderate level.
Timing is everything in COIN games. Each time a propaganda card is revealed and resolved, the first step is checking to see whether any faction meets its victory conditions, and if so, the game ends. If not, the game will definitely end after the fourth and final propaganda card is resolved. In either case, if a single faction has met its victory conditions, it wins. In a tie, the faction that reached the highest victory margin wins the game. There's even a chance that Russia and/or Germany will come out as the winners, so be careful! The fact that you have to set yourself up to be winning at the time a propaganda card reveals keeps every player engaged with what their opponents are up to. You'll often have to work together to hold someone back, and it creates a three-way tug-of-war at some moments in All Bridges Burning. You have to strategize smartly, keep your plans to yourself, and think a few steps ahead of your opponents.
If you're planning to play All Bridges Burning solo or with two players, you'll be happy to know the game includes slick non-player decks that are way more streamlined than the older, intimidating flowchart non-player system. I fumbled my way through a solo game after playing multiplayer only once and got crushed. Even with the added efficiency of having the non-player decks, it's still a complex game and you'll probably make mistakes like I did until you get familiar with the game and how each faction works. I will admit, I took the shortcut and bypassed the non-player examples of play in the Playbook, and that probably would've primed me better. Regardless, I would definitely revisit All Bridges Burning anytime if I'm looking for a heavy, thematic solo experience packed with tough decisions and plenty of complexity to stimulate my mind — but realistically, I'll probably mostly play with three players because I thoroughly enjoy the player interaction.Me getting whooped in my solo game as the Senate
I've played only a couple of games of All Bridges Burning, a couple of games of Cuba Libre, a game of Colonial Twilight, and a half game of Liberty or Death and I am by no means anywhere near an expert when it comes to understanding COIN games — but from what I have experienced so far, I think they're awesome!
I won't sugarcoat it; they definitely all require a decent amount of time and energy, as well as several plays to fully grasp, especially if you're new to the series/system. But I find the experience of learning and playing these games so fulfilling and fun, that the time and energy investment is 100% worth it. Of course, due to their complexity, they are a bit challenging to get to the table, especially during pandemic times, but All Bridges Burning is pretty accessible with its smaller scale map and the fact that you need to learn only three factions instead of four.
I think that gamers, especially heavy gamers who love or are curious about asymmetrical gameplay should give one of these games a whirl. Most of my friends who love COIN games don't come from a wargame background; they're eurogame game fans like me — and if you're into Root but haven't explored the COIN series yet, I suspect you'll dig it, especially if you enjoy historical board games. After all, Root was inspired by the COIN series.
In 2020, I dipped my toes into 18xx and the COIN series for the first time. Having played multiple games in each, I appreciate how much easier it is to get into other games in their respective series after you've played one. After I finally played Cuba Libre, for example, I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to jump into Colonial Twilight.
From a design perspective, I'm fascinated by how the eligibility system, the event cards, and the asymmetric factions all work together, blended with mechanisms that are tied so well to the historical themes. I also love that all the COIN games share familiar elements, but no two games are the same. There's always some variety and twists on mechanisms, and of course each game has a completely different setting.
The COIN series is continuously evolving in terms of gameplay, but also in terms of themes, historical or otherwise. I'm stoked to check out the upcoming releases which I'm sure will continue to bring fresh edge to the series: People Power: Insurgency in the Philippines, 1983-1986 (volume XI and the second three-player COIN game), China's War: 1937-1941 (volume XII) from COIN guru Brian Train, and the highly anticipated, Red Dust Rebellion (volume XIII) which is the first futuristic-themed game in the series.
I mentioned how Joel Toppen's Comanchería came onto my radar and got me into historical board games in my Zenobia Award post from November 2020. Well, it is also the reason I initially discovered the COIN series. I told my friend Hector about Comanchería when I was learning it, and he asked me whether it was a COIN game. I had no clue what a "COIN" game was at the time, but I'm glad my curiosity led me to this series and I'm looking forward to exploring it further!My most recent Tabletop Simulator game of All Bridges Burning, where I won as the Moderates
- [+] Dice rolls
J.B. Howell has been building a diverse catalogue of solid games. I think it's obvious when you explore some of his more recent releases such as Reavers of Midgard, a viking-themed worker placement in the Champions of Midgard universe from Grey Fox Games, or his eye-catching, butterfly-themed tile-drafting and area-majority game Papillon from Kolossal Games...and we certainly cannot forget Flotilla from WizKids, where he and Michael Mihealsick made a big splash with some fresh and innovative mechanisms combined with an engaging theme, drenched in Waterworld vibes.
Just at the tail end of 2020, WizKids released Howell's latest creation: Gates of Mara, a fantasy-themed strategy game featuring a compelling blend of layered area influence and upgradeable worker placement. I had a demo of Gates of Mara in August 2020 and got the opportunity to play a round on Tabletop Simulator. I went in with low expectations since I wasn't particularly excited about the theme, and I honestly did not know what Mr. Howell had to offer as I hadn't played any of his releases at that point — but I walked away from the demo pleasantly surprised from my experience.
After eventually playing Flotilla and being captivated with the interesting design choices there, I was looking forward to revisiting Gates of Mara. WizKids graciously sent me a physical copy so that I could finally see what it had to offer outside of my brief TTS demo.
In Gates of Mara, 2-4 players lead one of four factions — the reptilian dragonkin, the amphibious goblins, the insectoid antids, or the arboral elves — over four rounds, commanding the elements and controlling realms, with the classic goal of scoring the most victory points.
The set-up for Gates of Mara is a bit unique since there's no actual game board, but instead, a series of smaller boards, with some being randomly selected and positioned each game for increased replayability. There's an enchantment board, and then in the center of the table, the Chaos Realm board, the central gate, and standard gates placed between a varied selection of realm boards based on player count, all positioned in circle as if a ceremony of the elements were about to kick off.
When it's all set up, Gates of Mara has an eye-catching table presence, from the arrangement of the boards and all the different figures on standees featuring beautiful artwork from Nastya Lehn. It almost appears slightly intimidating initially as you're churning through all your first move options, but once you dig in, it's quite intuitive and features clean, tasteful graphic design which helps.
Each round, players spend energy (action points) to place their workers on either one of the realm boards, the enchantment board, a standard gate or the central gate. Depending on which type of worker you place and where you place them, you can potentially gain influence in one or more of the realms and activate special abilities.A few of the goblins
Everyone leads their own tribe with five different types of workers, each having their own energy cost that must be spent to place them on one of the boards. The workers mainly function the same across factions at the start of the game, with the exception of a specialist worker that has a tribe-specific innate ability, making the factions ever so slightly asymmetric. As the game progresses, players can acquire banner cards and enchantments (upgrades) to customize their workers with juicy special abilities and bonuses.
Each space where you place workers has a specific shape or shapes associated with it that matches the shapes on the bases of your various workers. For example, only leaders (triangle base) and champions (square base) can be placed on the standard gates between the realm boards because those spaces show a square and triangle.The antids champion placed on a standard gate gains 1 influence in each adjacent realm
I mentioned gates and realm boards, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of Gates of Mara is how your different types of workers interact with these components to secure your influence in the realms. As an example, your leader figure is the most expensive worker to place (3 energy), but offers a variety of placement options for crafting your strategy.
You can place your leader in any realm and gain 3 influence in that realm, which is huge! Or you can place your leader at a standard gate (between two realms) and gain 2 influence in both adjacent realms, which is also huge, especially when timed right. Orrrr you can snag the one and only spot at the central gate and gain 1 influence in all realms, which is also huge because you'll have even more options for winning claims at the end of the round. Plus you'll gain any keys stacked on the central gate when you land there, and having a majority of keys is another way to score a healthy chunk of points at the end of the game. You have many awesome choices with placing this one worker alone. I will warn you, though, the central gate spot tends to go fast, so don't sleep on that one.
For example, two spaces on each of the regular realm boards (not the chaos realm) are seeded with banner cards at the beginning of the round. One of the abilities you may activate when placing a worker on these spaces is spending 1 energy to take the banner card and attach it to one of your workers. These banner cards are pretty awesome, especially the ones that let you gain victory points and place one of your caravans for extra influence, points, or resources. Some banner cards even allow you to place a worker in an occupied space, which I found came in handy on many occasions for me to gain the extra influence I needed to win two claims. These all sound great, but I quickly discovered my personal favorite banner cards are the ones that let you gain energy. Think about it — you'll stack these on some of your workers, so when you spend energy to place them, you immediately gain some back, which will allow you to take more actions!
Along with the Wanderer figure, each game you play with two of the four elemental lord figures that each grant a different benefit when you place your workers into their corresponding realms. They add a bit of spice to the game, and players will generally want to follow them to gain their benefits. They can also be moved to different realm boards at the end of each round, in addition to boosting the replay value of the game since you play with only two each game.
If you place a worker in the realm occupied by the Earth lord and place one of your caravans, you gain an extra influence in that realm. Placing a worker in the Air lord's realm allows you to gain one of any type of element gem. When you place a worker in a realm occupied by the Water lord, you can activate the Wanderer and optionally trade any influence gained that turn for victory points.The Elemental Lords
The Fire lord works a bit differently from the others as it has no ability when you place your workers in its realm. Instead it competes with players in its realm with its own influence marker set to 4. If you don't gain at least four influence in the Fire lord's realm, you cannot place any claims there at the end of the round. However, if you do manage to gain at least four influence and place a claim, you gain a special Fire banner card that you can attach to any of your figures. The Fire banner cards are mighty juicy, too, as you gain an extra influence and victory point whenever you place the worker to which it's attached. My friend went heavy Fire lord strategy one game and ended up attaching three of those Fire banner cards to his workers, and I suppose it worked out well since he won the game — but only by 3 points...I'm not bitter at all about it.
Most of your workers will interact with the elemental lords and the Wanderer throughout the game as you place them on the various realm boards, but never your enchanters. The enchanters are a bit different and can be placed only on the enchantment board. When placing an enchanter, you can gain up to two enchantment cards by paying the cost on the card. You immediately gain some victory points, then you can attach your newly acquired enchantment(s) to your workers as another type of upgrade, giving you more special abilities when placing your different workers.
To recap a bit, players take turns spending energy to place one worker at a time. Depending on which worker you place, you may activate innate abilities (listed on player board), the Wanderer and/or elemental lord abilities, any abilities on the location you're placing your worker, and any banner/enchantment card upgrade abilities on attached to the worker. You can really set yourself up with a wonderful array of rewarding choices.
After all players have passed or depleted their energy, you evaluate each realm to award claims. As I mentioned earlier, whoever has the most influence places two claims, with the player in second placing one claim. Any players with three or more figures or caravans on or adjacent to a realm board with an elemental lord gain one key. Two public objectives are placed on the enchantment board each round, and you score 4 points for each objective you complete this round.
Finally, you update turn order and reset the board, pulling back your workers, refilling your energy, setting influence markers back to 0 in each realm, refilling banner cards, placing new objectives, etc. The Wanderer wanders clockwise to the next realm board, then the new first player gets to move one of the elemental lords to a different realm board, and the new second player gets to move the other.
Even though I'm not in love with the theme, Gates of Mara does a solid job when it comes to its mechanisms and ends up being a fun, tight game. Every single time you place a worker, you get something. As the game progresses and you upgrade your workers, you get even more goodies and trigger special abilities, and it all feels really satisfying. Plus I dig the fact that you can use one worker to gain a card that immediately upgrades another worker that you haven't placed yet that round.
There's a great deal of player interaction with the blend of area influence and worker placement...and with no score track, it's not always easy to tell who has the most points, which makes for some nail-biting experiences when you're scoring things at the very end. I love that there are so many choices and it becomes all about making the most optimal choices to earn more victory points than your opponents. With Gates of Mara and Flotilla under my belt, I'm planning to keep an eye out for upcoming releases from J.B. Howell, and I'm hoping to play some of his other existing games, too.
- [+] Dice rolls
Venture into the Galaxy with ISS Vanguard, Galactic Era, Sidereal Confluence, and Space Empires: All Good Things
25 Dec 2020
I'm sure many of us have a game (or several) on our shelves that we just can't wait to play when it's safer for larger group gatherings. For me, one of those games is Twilight Imperium, which for some reason just plopped onto my radar recently and has really resonated with me. After reading the rules and watching a
n obsessivedecent amount of videos, I'm beyond pumped to play my first game. My TI4 hypeness has shifted me into a major sci-fi and space board gaming mood lately, so I'm sharing some related releases that sound pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good (my Larry David voice).
ISS Vanguard is the big new sci-fi, co-op, campaign game from Awaken Realms, which has gotten a ton of buzz lately since Awaken Realms decided to bypass Kickstarter and launch ISS Vanguard using GameFound as a new crowdfunding platform. After checking out the first game to be crowdfunded on GameFound (ISS Vanguard GF link), I'm already loving how much easier it is to navigate the entire project because of the menu on the left side of the screen — what a concept! It's funny how such a minor thing can be such a huge improvement.
But let's shift the spotlight to the game itself. ISS Vanguard is designed by a talented blend of Awaken Realms designers — Michał Oracz, Paweł Samborski, Krzysztof Piskorski, and Marcin Świerkot — who were also involved in their previous hits Tainted Grail, This War of Mine: The Board Game, and the most recent sensation, Etherfields.
Here's what you can expect gameplaywise from ISS Vanguard:Quote:ISS Vanguard is a 1-4 player co-operative, campaign board game that will bring players into an epic sci-fi adventure as they play as four sections — security, recon, science, engineering — onboard the first human ship with the possibility to reach outer space.Jim Krohn's sci-fi 4X classic Space Empires: 4x from GMT Games, along with the Close Encounters and Replicators expansions. Even though I haven't even played the base game yet, I've done my research and already know I'm eXcited to eXplore and eXperience all of the eXtradordinary Space Empires content that eXists (5X!).
The campaign introduces the unique story written by Krzysztof Piskorski (Tainted Grail), which is full of hard player choices, twists, and branching storylines.
Gameplay is divided into two main stages: Ship phase, and landing on planets. During the ship phase, players manage their ship (a binder with printed sleeves) where every section has to make gameplay decisions.Prototype photo from the publisher
Then, you prepare your crew for landing on the next planet in search of answers to humanity's biggest questions. Together you pick a lander and customize it with modules, then each section chooses a crew member to take on a mission (with more experienced crew members having better ranks ), deck-builds a skills deck, takes equipment, and choose dice for their character.
The game comes with more than one hundred crew members, each with unique characteristics.
During all phases of the game, players will be directed to a log-book that consists of story encounters, often written in the form of action-packed dialogues between the characters.
So I was pretty stoked to read about the upcoming third and final Space Empires expansion, All Good Things, which was announced in GMT's November 2020 monthly update newsletter as a new P500 (pre-order) addition:Quote:All Good Things, the last expansion for Space Empires: 4X, provides:Space Empires:4x is at the top of my holiday gaming menu, and I already can't wait to dig into it and all its expansions!
Master Rule Book and Scenario Books: Since this is the last expansion and completes the system, it will come with a Master Rule Book that encompasses all the goodness in all the expansions. Likewise, it will include two Master Scenario Books: one for solo/co-op, and one for competitive play.
Two new, alternate empires: Similar to existing empires, but different, with fighters that don't need carriers. If the original game had fighters that were like TIE Fighters, these are more like X-Wing. They don't have boarding ships or Titans, but have a new class of ships. The other ships have slightly different stats/costs.
Variable, but balanced home systems: Everyone has the same home system for balance reasons. However, knowing what you are going to find is something that has always bothered many people. This will fix that.
Scenario cards: About thirty total, and one or two could be flipped to change the overall galaxy conditions for the game. A couple of these are from the scenario book, but most are new.
Missions: Missions are resource cards that can't be just played, but require a player to complete something on the map to gain a larger benefit. Think of the plot of a simple Trek episode.
Deep space planetary attributes: The NPA planets in deep space will now have a bit of personality. Some will be harder or easier to take. Some will really be worth fighting over.
Crew cards: Not everyone will always want to play with these, but they will bring even more personality into the game.
Facilities game: Two new facilities are added. This will really complete the facilities game.
Everything else: Extra cards of every type, Starbases, Defense Satellites, Cyber Armor, New Terrain, more terrain to support larger scenarios (more terrain is needed anyway to support larger scenarios so new terrain types are also included).
post, I mentioned the new Remastered edition of TauCeti Deichmann's Sidereal Confluence, a sci-fi trading and negotiation game with asymmetrical alien races from WizKids.
I've since received a copy of it from WizKids, and it looks stunning! I'm really itching to play, and while realistically I won't be able to optimally play it anytime soon, that didn't hold me back from punching it, organizing it, and checking out the rules and components. I am impressed with the changes I've seen so far, so I wanted to share some photos to showcase a few of the new and improved components.Beautiful new box cover art by Kwanchai Moriya
The card and tile layout was revamped with clearer iconography and color schemes.First edition (left), Remastered edition (right)First edition (left), Remastered edition (right)First edition (left), Remastered edition (right)First edition (left), Remastered edition (right)
The resources were updated so that it's easier to differentiate between the different sized cubes. I'm sure some folks may prefer wooden cubes over plastic ones, but the plastic ones in the Remastered edition are actually pretty legit. They look and feel great in my hands, though I am tempted to eat the translucent ones...and most importantly, it is indeed much easier to differentiate between the large and small cubes.Large and small gray cubes — first edition (left), Remastered edition (right)
The different ship tokens for each faction were replaced with common ship tokens to avoid unnecessary confusion.First edition ship tokensRemastered edition ship tokens
The Remastered edition also includes a nice insert tray to keep everything organized and minimize set-up and tear-down time.
Between the rulebook and teaching aid improvements and the significantly improved card iconography and resources, I can definitely see how this Remastered edition of Sidereal Confluence will create a much better, more enjoyable overall gaming experience for new players and experienced ones.
Galactic Era is a new, heavy, 4x space game to be released in 2021 from designer Channing Jones and his publishing company Seajay Games. Galactic Era introduces some innovative mechanisms, has ton of replay value packed in, and plays in three hours with 1-6 players. Sounds like a recipe for fun to me! In more detail from the publisher:Quote:Galactic Era is an epic space strategy board game with a focus on exploration, expansion and combat.
The most innovative feature of the game is that you can choose to play as the "dark" or the "light" side with the appropriate consequences. You can switch your alignment during the game though, too.
The amount of luck involved in this game is very low. Combat is deterministic with hidden information (no dice are used).
----• Many paths to victory, from peaceful to warlike.
----• Alignment determines how you can interact with other players: "Light" (STO) factions can ally with advanced civilizations encountered but may not interfere with primitive civilizations, are peaceful towards other STO players, are peaceful with STS players unless attacked first. "Darkness" (STS) factions can be as peaceful to aggressive as they wish, and are able to subjugate primitive planets.
----• Develop your civilization in across five different technology fields: Military, Spirituality, Propulsion, Robotics and Genetics. Those who are committed a single area of specialty are rewarded with epic powers, at the highest level.
----• Cooperate with other players by trading technologies.
----• Choose from fifteen unique factions, each with a unique power, sometimes even two (one for each alignment).
----• Fog of war creates uncertainty by hiding fleets with their tactical options and advantages. Fleets have advantages over others in a Rock-Paper-Scissors fashion.
----• Secret objectives give each player a surprise power, while encouraging different avenues of play.
----• Highly variable game setup that influences objectives.
----• A detailed and rich background story, based on testimony from secret space program whistle-blowers, UFO/ET witness accounts and channeled material.
- [+] Dice rolls