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New Game Round-up: Gen Con 50 Edition — Clank! In! Space!, Stuffed Fables, Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn, and Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition)

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• Lots of game announcements have been coming forth in the week prior to Gen Con 50. Well, no more than normal actually, but the games being revealed (1) tend to be of higher profile and (2) are being demoed or sold at the convention that opens Thursday, August 17, so they're jumping into the spotlight.

The newest contender for the stage is Clank! In! Space!, a standalone game that uses the same game system as in Paul Dennen's Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure, one of the hits of Gen Con 2016, but with player now trying to escape an alien spaceship instead of an underground dungeon. Makes sense to me — space is a vacuum, so noise wouldn't travel there and you could clankity-clank-clank all you want, but put yourself on a spaceship with, say, a xenomorph-type of thing, and you now have a gaming recipe. Here's the setting of this new title from publisher Renegade Game Studios:

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The evil Lord Eradikus has all but conquered the galaxy and is now on a victory lap across the sector in his flagship, Eradikus Prime. He may rule with an iron grip, but his most prized artifacts are about to slip through his cyborg claws. You and your fellow thieves have challenged each other to sneak aboard his ship, hack your way into its command module, and steal from him.

Along the way, you'll recruit allies and snatch up extra loot. But one false step and — Clank! Careless noise draws the attention of Lord Eradikus. Hacking into his command module and stealing his artifacts increases his rage. You'd better hope your friends are louder than you are if you want to make it to an escape pod and get out alive...

Beyond that, we have only a couple of images to share, but soon we'll see a lot more of the game because Renegade is selling "a limited number of copies" of Clank! In! Space! at Gen Con 50, with the game due to hit retail stores in Q4 2017.




• A competitor for the spotlight is Stuffed Fables, a new design from Mice and Mystics' Jerry Hawthorne and publisher Plaid Hat Games. This title will be available for demo games at Gen Con 50, with a release due to happen before the end of 2017. Here's an overview of the game from the publisher:

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Stuffed Fables is an unusual adventure game in which players take on the roles of brave stuffies seeking to save the child they love from a scheming, evil mastermind. Make daring melee attacks, leap across conveyor belts, or even steer a racing wagon down a peril-filled hill. The game delivers a thrilling narrative driven by player choices. Players explore a world of wonder and danger, unlocking curious discoveries. The chapters of Stuffed Fables explore the many milestones of a child's life, creating a memorable tale ideal for families, as well as groups of adults who haven't forgotten their childlike sense of wonder.

Stuffed Fables is the first "StoryBoard Game", a new product line from Plaid Hat Games in which all of the action takes place in the unique storybook — a book that acts as your rules reference, story guide, and game board, all in one! Each adventure in the game takes place over several pages of the immersive StoryBook. The book opens flat onto the table to reveal a colorful map or other illustration central to playing the game, with choices, story, and special rules on the opposite page.

On their turn, a player draws five dice from the bag. The colors of the dice drawn determine the types of actions and options available to the player. White dice can re-stuff stuffies injured in battle. Red dice perform melee attacks while green dice perform ranged attacks. Yellow dice search while blue dice are used for special actions and purple dice can be used as any color. Most dice can always find a strategic use, including moving, using items, or contributing to group tasks. Players can store dice for later, combine dice for stronger actions, or use them one-at-a-time for multiple activations. As turns go by, black dice are also drawn, and after enough appear, minions emerge or attack, and the dice bag is reset!

Players can encourage each other by sharing dice or their precious stuffing. In addition to fighting minions, each page of the storybook offers numerous points of interest, charming characters to interact or trade with, as well as many unusual challenges. And each page is but one chapter that folds into a branching, overarching story with a multitude of items and a special discovery deck full of surprises.




• The day before that was announced, Fantasy Flight Games unveiled Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn, a design by James Kniffen for 2-4 players that bears a 60-120 minute playing time — which is half the length of FFG's 2010 title Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game, which was from designer Kevin Wilson. Here's a summary of this Q4 2017 release, with far more details in the FFG announcement of the game:

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Sid Meier's Civilization: A New Dawn is a strategy board game in which two to four players act as the rulers of history's most memorable empires. Over the course of the game, players will expand their domains, gain new technologies, and build many of humanity's greatest wonders. In the end, one nation will rise above all others to leave its indelible mark upon history.

This new game presents players with an undiscovered country to conquer, built from beautifully illustrated map tiles. These would-be conquerors construct and populate the map with barbarians, natural resources, and city-states, then formulate their plans for how they will shape this world to their vision. Their exact goals, however, change with each game. Agendas are detailed on victory cards, three of which are drawn during set up. Players race to become the first to accomplish one agenda on each of these victory cards, spreading throughout the world and ensuring their civilization’s place as the greatest world power.




• The weekend prior to that saw the announcement of Christian T. Petersen and Fantasy Flight Games' Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition), which is scheduled for a Q4 2017 release, but which (as it turns out) will be for sale at Gen Con 50. Surprise!

The game remains much the same as TI3, which was released in 2005, but with various changes that are summarized halfway down the FFG product page. Here's an overview of the game:

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Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition) is a game of galactic conquest in which three to six players take on the role of one of seventeen factions vying for galactic domination through military might, political maneuvering, and economic bargaining. Every faction offers a completely different play experience, from the wormhole-hopping Ghosts of Creuss to the Emirates of Hacan, masters of trade and economics. These seventeen races are offered many paths to victory, but only one may sit upon the throne of Mecatol Rex as the new masters of the galaxy.

No two games of Twilight Imperium are ever identical. At the start of each galactic age, the game a board is uniquely and strategically constructed using 51 galaxy tiles that feature everything from lush new planets and supernovas to asteroid fields and gravity rifts. Players are dealt a hand of these tiles and take turns creating the galaxy around Mecatol Rex, the capital planet seated in the center of the board. An ion storm may block your race from progressing through the galaxy while a fortuitously placed gravity rift may protect you from your closest foes. The galaxy is yours to both craft and dominate.

A round of Twilight Imperium begins with players selecting one of eight strategy cards that both determine player order and give their owner a unique strategic action for that round. These may do anything from providing additional command tokens to allowing a player to control trade throughout the galaxy. After these roles are selected, players take turns moving their fleets from system to system, claiming new planets for their empire, and engaging in warfare and trade with other factions. At the end of a turn, players gather in a grand council to pass new laws and agendas, shaking up the game in unpredictable ways.

After every player has passed their turn, players move up the victory track by checking to see whether they have completed any objectives throughout the turn and scoring them. Objectives are determined by setting up ten public objective cards at the start of each game, then gradually revealing them with every round. Every player also chooses between two random secret objectives at the start of the game, providing victory points achievable only by the holder of that objective. These objectives can be anything from researching new technologies to taking your neighbor's home system. At the end of every turn, a player can claim one public objective and one secret objective. As play continues, more of these objectives are revealed and more secret objectives are dealt out, giving players dynamically changing goals throughout the game. Play continues until a player reaches ten victory points.


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Wed Aug 16, 2017 5:05 pm
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Game Preview: Photosynthesis, or The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Tree

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In January 2017, I received the cover for Photosynthesis from the European branch of Blue Orange Games while preparing for the Spielwarenmesse fair and was stunned: "Whoa, this thing is fire!"

At Spielwarenmesse 2017, designer Hjalmar Hach gave me a runthrough of the game (video here), but a brief runthrough doesn't give you a good feeling of how the game actually plays out. You can understand the gist of things — collect light with your trees in order to plant and grow new trees, eventually harvesting them for points — without understanding how mean this game can be. It's the most pacific mean game I've played in years. Everything about the graphic design is inviting and joyous, yet you're all meant to embody cruel nature, block everyone else from the light, and see them shrivel to nothing in the forest while you reign as the oakest with the mostest.

That's the hope anyway. Sometimes, of course, you're the one doing the shriveling, especially since you can block yourself as easily as others. In some ways, though, you have to block yourself, just as you block yourself in your regular non-tree life as a human, taking on more responsibility than you should or agreeing to a project that you know you'll regret or just wanting to do more than you'll ever have the time for (which is a common refrain in the Martin household come convention time).

If you're going to be at Gen Con 50, you can check out Photosynthesis yourself at the Blue Orange Games booth. I hear that they're offering a discount for those who cosplay as an sycamore, but that might have been something I made up right now.

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Fri Aug 11, 2017 5:55 am
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Fantasy Flight Games Welcomes Fallout in 2017

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U.S. publisher Fantasy Flight Games loves to unveil surprises prior to Gen Con, the largest board game convention in the U.S., and it's unleashed a doozy in the form of Fallout, a "post-nuclear adventure board game" based on the popular video game series from Bethesda Game Studios, specifically Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 and their downloadable expansions. Here's a short description of this design from Andrew Fischer and Nathan Hajek:

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Fallout is a post-nuclear adventure board game for one to four players. Based on the hit video game series by Bethesda, each Fallout scenario is inspired by a familiar story from the franchise. Survivors begin the game on the edge of an unexplored landscape, uncertain of what awaits them in this unfamiliar world. With just one objective to guide them from the very beginning, each player must explore the hidden map, fight ferocious enemies, and build the skills of their survivor as they attempt to complete challenging quests and balance feuding factions within the game.

As they advance their survivors' stories, players come across new quests and individual targets, leading them to gain influence. Who comes out ahead depends on how keenly and aggressively each player ventures through the game; however, if a single faction is pushed to power too quickly, the wasteland will be taken for their own, and the survivors conquered along with it.

The game announcement from FFG has more details on the set-up and how gameplay unfolds in this 120-180 minute game. You start the game with a single Influence card and will likely acquire more during play, with these Influence cards providing points based on how you meet the goals listed on them or how well one in-game faction does against the other one. Each scenario has two factions, representing the opposing poles of "Security" and "Freedom", and while you're mostly functioning on your own, you probably want to align yourself with other players and one of these factions to have a larger impact on the game.

Each scenario has distinctive landmarks — e.g., The Capital Wasteland, The Pitt, The Commonwealth, and Far Harbor — but otherwise the map is variable, with players exploring the terrain and (ideally) avoiding radiation to uncover equipment and do whatever it is they want to do to gain influence.

FFG lists a release date of Q4 2017 for Fallout, but perhaps the game will be on a few demo tables at Gen Con to give attendees a first-hand taste of how the game plays out.

(Note that this is the second Fallout title due for release this year as in April 2017 UK publisher Modiphius Entertainment announced the Nov. 2017 release of Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, a minis-heavy design from James Sheahan. Modiphius has confirmed that title as being available for demos during Gen Con 50, so perhaps we'll have head-to-head Fallout fever to see which games best survives the fire and fury of fans.)
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Wed Aug 9, 2017 3:16 pm
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New Game Round-up: After Centuries, A Golem Emerges Through the Desert

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• With Gen Con 50 opening in just over a week, publishers are flooding out game announcements — or teasers of game announcements — ahead of that show. Plan B Games, for example, has revealed that it will sell Emerson Matsuuchi's Century: Golem Edition at that show, with the first fifty people who show up at the Plan B Games booth on Thursday and say, "I came for the golems!" getting a copy for free. (Everyone who says, "I came for the golems!" after that will receive only a funny look and a request for $40.)

Mike Young from Plan B Games has stated that currently this edition is planned as a one-off, so don't expect to see all three titles of the Century trilogy in this golem-filled universe. (At Spielwarenmesse in early 2017, Plan B's Sophie Gravel had told me that all the artwork for the golem edition of what was originally Caravan had been completed, which makes this edition relatively easy to produce. Creating all new artwork for two additional games would be another matter.) Plan B Games has also stated that Century: Golem Edition and a matching playmat for the game would be sold only via its webstore and at conventions.

• In March 2016, Fantasy Flight Games announced the debut of Windrider Games, an internal studio that would publish non-FFG-style games to which FFG held the rights. Windrider Games released new versions of Ra and Citadels in 2016, then FFG owner Asmodee bought Z-Man Games and Windrider Games became redundant since the Z-Man Games brand has been around for more than a decade and already publishes titles similar to those released by Windrider.

Thus, it should not be a surprise that when a reprint of Reiner Knizia's Through the Desert was (finally!) announced after being out of print for years, the announcement came from Z-Man Games, which has adopted the "Euro Classics" brand from FFG and Windrider.

Through the Desert is an exceptional game, one in which 2-5 players take turns placing two camels on the board to extend their caravans, with caravan lines never crossing and with lines of the same color never even touching since no one would be able to tell who owns which camels. You want to claim watering holes, reach oases, and create a camel fence to claim land for yourself. This new version of Through the Desert has a double-sided game board with the Niger River running across the Sahara on the new side; players naturally want to cross the river to claim water, but there isn't room for everyone. New gameplay variants are also included in this version.

As for a release date, Z-Man Games writes only "arriving soon", so perhaps this game will show up at Gen Con without announcement, just as FFG's new version of the "Euro Classic" Samurai (also from Knizia) did at Gen Con 2015.

Days of Wonder will have copies of Alan R. Moon's Ticket to Ride: Germany on sale at Gen Con 50 ahead of the game's scheduled U.S. release date of September 2017. (BGG will have Moon in its booth on Friday, Aug. 18 at 17:45 EDT (GMT-4) to chat about game design on camera. I plan to publish our Gen Con 50 broadcast schedule on Wed., Aug. 9 since it's now mostly complete.)

Days of Wonder will also have copies of Five Tribes: Whims of the Sultan and Quadropolis: Public Services for sale.

Vice Games will have published copies of Bruno Faidutti's Kamasutra, which was previously available only as a print-and-play game. In the game, teammates reproduce positions in the Kama Sutra while trying to pop a balloon placed between themselves. I don't expect to see this game demoed much during exhibit hall hours, but in the evening...absolutely. Vice Games will be located in the back of the Japanime Games booth, presumably behind a black velvet curtain.

• In late July 2017, I shared this teaser image from Pandasaurus Games, an image related to a game due out at SPIEL '17 that will be demoed at Gen Con 50:



That game is named Coaster Park, with Scott Almes being the designer and Kwanchai Moriya and Peter Wocken supplying the art and graphic design. The only description we have right now is that "Coaster Park is a board game", but if you look at the image and put two and two together, you might guess that in the game you'll put two and two together.
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Tue Aug 8, 2017 4:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: Students Make Calls in Zendo and Bricks Make Walls in Amun-Re While Night Falls in Dominion: Nocturne

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• U.S. publisher Looney Labs has been working on a new version of Kory Heath's well-loved and long out of print Zendo, and now the company has finally spilled the beans on the new edition. What's more, it's already going into production, with a mold for the pieces having been approved and the finished item expected to appear on retail shelves in late 2017 or early 2018.

Wait, a mold? Doesn't Zendo use the familiar pyramid pieces that you can now find in abundance in Pyramid Arcade and other Looney releases? Yes and no — the pyramids are one of three shapes of pieces to be included in Zendo, with the other two being a rectangular prism and a triangular prism.

What is Zendo anyway? A tool for teaching the scientific method, according to designer Nick Bentley, in addition to being a game in its own right. One player, the Master, creates a rule, then presents all of the Students with one arrangement of pieces that follows this rule and another arrangement that doesn't. The Students must create arrangements of their own, which the Master then labels as following the rule or not. If a Student attempts to guess the rule, the Master can build a counterexample that demonstrates why that guessed rule is not correct or congratulate the Student on winning.

I believe that Looney Labs will be demoing this new version of Zendo at Gen Con 50 in late August 2017. The publisher is also asking interested parties to complete a survey about this new version of Zendo should you care to share your opinion.




Donald X. Vaccarino and Rio Grande Games have sprung another addition to the Dominion empire on gamers: Dominion: Nocturne, which RGG expects to release in October 2017. As usual, Donald X. kills it on the exposition:

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You've always been a night person; lately you've even considered becoming a vampire. There are a lot of advantages: you don't age; you don't have to see yourself in mirrors anymore; if someone asks you to do something, you can just turn into a bat, and then say, sorry, I'm a bat. There are probably some downsides though. You always think of the statue in the town square that came to life and now works as the tavern barmaid. The pedestal came to life, too, so she has to hop around. The village blacksmith turns into a wolf whenever there's a full moon; when there's a crescent moon, he turns into a chihuahua. That's how this stuff goes sometimes. Still, when you breathe in the night air, you feel ready for anything.

Dominion: Nocturne, the 11th expansion to Dominion, has 500 cards, with 33 new Kingdom cards. There are Night cards, which are played after the Buy phase; Heirlooms that replace starting Coppers; Fate and Doom cards that give out Boons and Hexes; and a variety of extra cards that other cards can provide.

• At SPIEL '17 in October, French publisher Super Meeple — which released a new version of Reiner Knizia's Amun-Re in 2016 — will debut Amun-Re: The Card Game, about which I know nothing more than these facts for now. Look, a picture!



• Other pictures of forthcoming releases include these shots of Pioneers, an Emanuele Ornella title coming from Queen Games at SPIEL '17 about which I also know nothing:




• And there's this beauty shot of another Queen Games title for SPIEL '17: Merlin, designed by Stefan Feld and Michael Rieneck:

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Fri Aug 4, 2017 3:45 pm
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For Late 2017, AMIGO Spiel Prepares Greed, Druids, Beans, Fish, and More Fish

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German publisher AMIGO Spiel has unveiled its line-up for the second half of 2017, and as you might expect if you are familiar with the company, many of the new titles are pocket-sized card games, such as Gier from Alexander Pfister, a 2-5 player game in which you must steal cards from others in order to win. An overview:

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In Gier ("Greed"), players steal cards from one another to build their own collection, and once you start clawing at others' goods, it's hard to stop — but whoever wants too much will go home empty-handed.

At the start of player, each player takes one crook card and seven number cards, with the number cards being dealt face down from the deck. Players will build up a personal collection turn by turn, with these collected cards being face up.

On a player's turn, they play a card from their hand into their collection, then they're allowed to go on a card raid. They choose an opponent, then draw a card from their hand and place it face up on the table. They can stop and keep that card, or they can draw again from the same player; if two stolen cards have the same number, then the player's turn ends, and the cards return to the victim's hands. If the active player has drawn a crook (and stopped voluntarily), they can take a card of their choice from the opponent's collection.

Some cards have a special action on them that takes effect as soon as they're drawn from someone's hand, such as looking at an opponent's hand or placing cards from the deck into a collection.

Whoever first collects six cards of the same value wins!



• The trick-taking card game Druids comes from the design team of Günter Burkhardt and Wolfgang A. Lehmann, previously responsible for the delightful trick-taking game Potato Man. AMIGO bills Druids as the fifth title in its Wizard-series of games, a series that seems connected mostly by art from Franz Vohwinkel in addition to their shared use of trick-taking. As in Potato Man, players in Druids need to keep an eye on which colored cards have been played during a round:

Quote:
Knowledge is power, but with power must come control. In Druids, the novices of the Stonehenge Academy must collect experience points in various knowledge domains, but you don't want knowledge from just any domain because if you enter a domain not intended for you, then you lose all knowledge previously gained that round.

In more detail, each player is dealt a hand of cards, with the deck containing cards in five colors, numbered 1-12 in each color. Players then play a trick-taking game, and whoever wins a trick must place the cards sorted by domain (color) in front of themselves; if they receive multiple cards of a color in the same trick, the lowest-valued card must be placed on top. The tricks continue until either all cards have been played or one player collects cards in all five colors. In this latter case, that player receives negative points for what they've collected while everyone else scores positively for their topmost card in each color. (If all the cards have been played, then all players score.) Whoever has the most points after five complete rounds wins!

In addition to the regular cards, Druids contains special cards that allow a player to avoid an unwanted trick or remove cards of one color from a player's holdings.



• The components and game board in Haim Shafir's Memo Dice give off a Liar's Dice vibe, but the two games actually have nothing in common once you get past the exterior. Here's how this game works:

Quote:
Memo Dice demands the full attention of players right from the start because they must remember which die faces have been hidden underneath the colorful cups.

The game includes nine six-sided dice that show 54 images across their faces with the sides being colored black, blue, or red. The starting player for the round rolls a die, gives everyone a chance to memorize the topmost face, then covers it with a die cup that matches the color of the face. The next player then rolls a die, and so on. As soon as no die cup remains that matches the face of the current die, the current player covers this die with the gold die cup, ending the round.

This player then has the first chance to guess the first die in the line. If correct, the player scores 1 point, then guesses the next die; if wrong, the next player gets to guess. Whoever guesses the die under the gold die cup scores 2 points. Players play multiple rounds until someone reaches a total of 20 points, winning the game.



Reiner Knizia's Schollen Rollen is a press-your-luck dice game for 2-6 players that is possibly already in the database under another name as Dr. K has designed many such games in the past, but I looked various titles over and didn't spot anything that matches exactly, so here goes:

Quote:
In Schollen Rollen ("Stolen Rolls"), players take turns rolling dice to capture different colored fish from a central pool in their net, with yellow fish being worth 1 point and red fish 5.

On a turn, the player rolls the dice, then may collect a fish for each die rolled. Special effects on the die faces may augment what happens, with the player possibly doubling (or quadrupling or even octupling!) how many fish they collect, perhaps stealing fish from an opponent's net, or locking the dice from being re-rolled. After each roll, the player may choose to end their turn and keep their catch, or re-roll the available dice in an attempt to catch more. However, if you roll and don't catch anything, all the fish escape your net and your turn ends.

Once all the fish have been caught, the game ends and whoever has the most points wins!




• Other titles coming from AMIGO Spiel in the latter half of 2017 include German editions (or new German editions) of previously released games:

Paaranoia: This new German edition of Pairs from James Ernest and Paul Peterson includes the original game as well as four other games that can be played with the same deck, a deck that contains one 1, two 2s, etc. up to ten 10s.

Sam Bukas Bande: This is a German edition of Tomohiro Enoki's Dungeon Busters, a game in which 3-5 players attempt to take down monsters by pooling their strength. Unfortunately those who play the same number get removed from play, possibly foiling the attack and punishing the person who played a low number and therefore didn't help much toward victory.

Schöne Sch#!?e: Thorsten Gimmler's No Thanks! receives a new German title to replace the Geschenkt of old.

Ladybohn: Manche mögen's heiss! ("Some like it hot!"): On its ten-year anniversary, this standalone edition of Ladybohn from Uwe Rosenberg gets a new cover and no other apparent changes.

• The final title in this round-up is another reprint, but of an obscure Alex Randolph game that was released in 1993. Here's an overview of Tief im Riff, which is for 2-6 players, ages five and up:

Quote:
In Tief im Riff ("Deep in the Reef"), players work cooperatively as fish swimming through a coral reef to turn over 28 sea animal tiles placed around the game board. The fish start in one location, then travel through a series of paths — following the arrows as they move — to reach openings in the reef.

On a player's turn, they roll a die, then choose one of the four fish and move it along paths a number of spaces equal to the number rolled. After they finish moving, if they're on a space all by themselves, they can reveal a tile that has only one bubble on it. If they share a space with other fish, they can reveal a tile with as many bubbles as the number of fish on that space. Thus, players need to keep their school from wandering too far apart as they travel through the reef.

If the players manage to reveal all 28 tiles before all four fish have swum out of the reef, then they win!

The interesting thing about this new edition is that the original game from Herder Spiele was titled Der Rattenfänger von Hameln — literally "The Ratcatcher from Hamelin", although the English title on the box is The Pied Piper of Hamlin. This game differs from the new one in two ways. First, in Tief im Riff you can reveal certain tiles only if you gather enough fish in a clearing, whereas in Der Rattenfänger von Hameln you placed fifty tokens on the side of the board and you removed a number of tokens from the pile equal to the number of player pieces in the space where you stopped moving.

Second, the tokens in Der Rattenfänger von Hameln represented kidnapped children, so if you failed to win the game, some number of children would never go free. How's that for a burden on young players?

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Thu Aug 3, 2017 5:04 am
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New Game Round-up: Queendomino to Reign at SPIEL '17, and Is Friese Finished?

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• I've already written about three forthcoming titles from Friedemann Friese due out from his 2F-Spiele at SPIEL '17 in October — FLEE, FEAR, and FORTRESS — but believe it or not, he still has more in the works for release in 2017!

Finished! is a solitaire game in which you're trying to finish your work so that you can go home. Be sure to bring the game to the office and play endlessly so that you're fired and really can go home. Victory! (Sort of.) Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
It is a typical day at work. Your working schedule is chaotic as always and it‘s time to focus on the task at hand. Start sorting files and do not fall asleep. If you require a jolt of caffeine or rush of sugar, there is a limited supply of coffee and a small stash of sweets to help complete your tasks and get finished!

You start Finished! with a shuffled deck of 48 cards and try to sort these cards by cycling through the draw stack during eight rounds. You may sort cards only in your "present" area, but helpful actions will let you manipulate your cards in many different ways. If you sort all cards starting from card 00:01 up to card 00:48, you win the game! If this is too easy for you, the game offers four difficulty levels.

I played Finished! once in prototype form and can provide a bit more detail, while noting that the design might have changed in the meantime. You're kind of reliving the same day over and over again, Groundhog Day-style, but to make it stop you must sort all the cards in the deck into their proper order. You're presented with a few cards at a time in your "'present' area", while other cards lie in the "past" and still others might lie in the "future". Some of the card actions allow you to manipulate time (as it were) to move cards into different zones, and you can rearrange the order of cards only in the present, if I remember correctly. You can draw additional cards and hide things, spending candy all the while and possibly getting more to keep you working on a sugar high and therefore able to do more things than you might otherwise.

• The other two titles coming from 2F-Spiele (and its publishing partners such as Stronghold Games) are expansions. Fabled Fruit: The Lime Expansion adds twenty new locations to the game, along with gambling tokens and "the mysterious camouflage coat". How did this game not have limes in it already? And how I did I miss that omission in 2016?!

Power Grid: Fabled Expansion spreads Friese's Fable Game system to Power Grid and Power Grid deluxe, with players getting two presorted Fable Decks that allow them to play campaigns of three consecutive games on any of the base game maps. In each game, players reveal Fable Cards as their conditions are met, and these cards add new rules to the gameplay.

• Two other SPIEL '17 releases that have been recently revealed come from the European branch of Blue Orange, with one of them coming from the Danish design team of Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen, with Panic Mansion seemingly pitting 2-4 players against a three-dimensional mansion stand-in. To explain:

Quote:
The mansion up the hill has always had a reputation…of being cursed. After dark, villagers keep seeing strange things moving behind the windows as the house seems to be "tilting" and "rocking". It is said that the only way to break the mansion's curse would be to gather in one specific room some of the ghoulish ghosts, wandering eyes, slithering snakes, crawling spiders, and other objects that have been inhabiting its dusty walls. Will you be the first to break the curse…and flee the mansion?

To win Panic Mansion, you must be the first to complete five challenges by gently tilting and shaking the box to place the correct objects into one room, following the information on the cards.

• The other Blue Orange title has been mentioned a few times in passing. Having won the 2017 Spiel des Jahres award with Kingdomino, for October 2017 designer Bruno Cathala will release Queendomino, which serves as both a standalone game and an expansion. Some details:

Quote:
Build up the most prestigious kingdom by claiming wheat fields, forests, lakes, grazing grounds, marshes, and mountains. Your knights will bring you riches in the form of coins — and if you make sure to expand the towns on your lands, you will make new buildings appear, giving you opportunities for new strategies. You may win the Queen's favors ... but always be aware of the dragon!

Queendomino is a game completely independent from Kingdomino, while offering a choice of more complex challenges. Two to four players can play Queendomino independently, but also in connection with Kingdomino, allowing for games with 7x7 grids for four players, or for up to six players if you stick to 5x5 grids.

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Preview of BoardGameGeek's New Convention Preview Tool — Now Live!

W. Eric Martin
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When I joined BoardGameGeek in 2011, one of my responsibilities was to continue assembling convention previews for SPIEL, something I'd done on BoardgameNews.com since 2007. In that first year, I also created a preview for Spielwarenmesse, with Gen Con being added to the roster in 2012 and the Origins Game Fair and Tokyo Game Market in 2015. For all of these previews, the idea is to highlight new games that will be shown or sold at these conventions, both to alert those who plan to attend and to let those at home know what they might see in their local stores (or not see given the size of many publishers).

The convention preview format on BGG was a unique creation usable solely for me to do what I needed to do — but having been assembled on the back of the GeekList infrastructure, the preview had some restrictions for both me and users because people wanted to do things with it that GeekLists were not designed to do.

Thanks to several intense weeks following the 2017 Origins Game Fair by Scott, Jordan and Dan, that situation is about to change, and the image below highlights much of what's new about our new convention preview tool:




To start, while the games in the convention preview are sorted alphabetically by publisher by default, you can also sort the games by title, by thumbs, by price, by playing time, by rating, by which were most recently added to the preview, and by priority.

Priority is a new status created for this preview format. You can click one of the four buttons by each game to tag it for yourself as "must have", "interested", "undecided", or "not interested". When you sort the list by priority, all the titles will be sorted in that order, with the games appearing alphabetically by title within each group. (When you sort by anything other than publisher, look for the publisher's name underneath the cover image.)

Priority also comes into play through the use of filters. Click on the "Filters" button, and you'll see this:




So many filters! You can apply one or more filters, and the results will be spit back at you with around 25 titles visible and the rest hidden under a "Show More/Show All" link. (This is how the games are shown without filters as well. We don't automatically show all the titles so as not to kill our servers. Similarly, we're keeping the name, game description, etc. under a "more details" link.) If you highlight "much have", "interested", "undecided", then everything you've tagged as "not interested" will now be invisible for you; if you highlight only "not prioritized", then you'll see only those games you haven't yet classified.

Expansion status is noted on game listings, so you can use filters to show only standalone games should you not care to see expansions in the list. Alternatively you look at nothing but expansions should you want to prioritize all of them relatively quickly. The availability status of a game is also noted within the listing, and you can use the filter to show only those games for sale at the con or those available solely for demo.

This might have been the most common request for convention previews over the years, so I'll highlight this fact: You can use a filter to hide from view games available at a convention solely for demo. Please clap.

You can segment out trick-taking games that include animals or nautical. You can look for games from favored publishers that support five players. You can exclude games from the preview that you already own or have preordered. What's more, by clicking on "Add To", you can interact directly with your existing game collection on BGG. Add something to your wishlist! Take it off the wishlist! Leave a comment for yourself! Change the title! (I'm not sure how changing the title interacts with things that sort by title. I'm guessing that the system will "see" the actual title instead of your placeholder, but I don't know for sure. We're still discovering things as we go along...)

If you click on the arrow underneath a game's thumb count, you'll see different sharing tools, including a grey permalink that when visited shows only that sole title, along with a link that allows a user to see all titles on the convention preview.




Click on the arrow to the right of a publisher listing (when the preview is sorted by publisher), and you'll have a link that shows only games from that publisher. In the current (i.e., soon-to-be-old) convention preview format, each publisher had a listing, but it had no link to share and it was a pain in the butt to edit. So happy to have this option!

Once you start prioritizing titles, you'll have a line at the top of the preview that reads "You have prioritized TK titles in this GeekPreview", along with a "View My Picks" link. Click on that link, and you'll see a list solely of those titles you've prioritized, complete with your name up top:




In essence, "View My Picks" creates autofilters that leave out all "not interested" titles, presenting all the games in a thumbnail format with the "must have" titles coming first. Your username is included in the headline, along with sharing tools should you want to tell your friends what you're thinking about getting at the next con. A link at top of the header lets folks go to the full convention preview should they want to see what you're not getting and make choices of their own.

Did I mention thumbnail format? I did — click the buttons underneath the search box in the preview, and you can alternate between the full list and a thumbnail summary of games showing only cover images, thumbs, and your priority status. (Some people might also use this format to search for games lacking images or saddled with 3D images instead of the more aesthetically pleasing 2D images that tile like a dream and allow me to create thumbnail images for videos. Some...)

Other general notes about this preview tool:

• This tool will not replace the existing Gen Con 2017 Preview. This new convention preview tool will go live on Wednesday, July 26 (if no issues arise in the next few hours), and I'll update both lists over the next three weeks. It's extra work for me, but many of you are already doing stuff on the existing preview, so I'm not going to abandon that.

Instead this window gives us a chance to stress test this new tool before the SPIEL 2017 Preview goes live on Monday, August 21, the day after Gen Con 2017 ends — and at that time, I'll be using only the new tool, not the old. (I'll need to move everything from my WIP SPIEL 2017 Preview, but using this new tool is quicker than what exists now, so that's a plus in the long run.)

• Currently comments cannot be placed on the game listings in the new preview tool. I believe the comments system is being worked on right now, so rather than try to mix old systems with new, we opted to launch this without comments right now. Again, it's a test to ensure the framework is in place, and we'll get a comment system in place later, possibly along with other things, with the biggest item on the wishlist being a preorder system integrated with the BGG marketplace.

• If a game's cover image has a triangle on it, click that triangle and a video will pop up within the preview. BGG attends a lot of conventions and shoots hundreds of game overview videos each year at these shows, with many of these videos giving an early look at games that will be released in the future. This format gives us another way to highlight the material that we've created, including the preview videos that I record at home. (After the video opens, click on the square on the cover image to hide the video and make it stop.)

• In the next couple of weeks, Scott plans to add the ability to print out portions of this preview, thereby allowing you to bring a list customized to your choices to the show in question.

• Filter choices are not persistent. If you create filters, leave the page, then come back, your filters are not remembered. You can bookmark a link to the URL that saves all of your filters. We did this so that people are not surprised to revisit the preview and discover a truncated list or something other than the full boat of what's there.

• You can subscribe to this tool, and you should receive notices when new items are added to the list. We're not sure whether you receive a notice when I update something. Subscribe and find out!

I'll update this post with a link to the new Gen Con 2017 Preview when this tool goes live (and I'll tweet it and post it on Facebook). Please use the feedback link in the bottom right corner of the tool to submit bugs, and please comment on this post with suggestions or feedback. I am super excited about this tool, and I hardly ever get excited about anything, so you can intuit that I think this is a big deal. Scott's already thinking up other ways this tool can be used, some of which he talks about in the demo video below.

Many thanks to Scott, Jordan, and Dan for making this happen!



Update, July 26, 2017: The new Gen Con 2017 Preview is now live! Looking forward to your comments and feedback so that we can fix anything that needs to be fixed in the next three weeks.
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Wed Jul 26, 2017 4:03 pm
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Game Preview: Sonar, or Battleship for a Brand New Era

W. Eric Martin
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In 2016, as part of an effort to introduce exclusive new games for its customers, the U.S. retail chain Target partnered with Days of Wonder and its owner Asmodee to produce Ticket to Ride: First Journey, which aimed to give players as young as six something akin to a Ticket to Ride experience. While the games share the same core — collect cards to place trains on tracks between cities — they play out quite differently, with First Journey being a race game that ends in 10-15 minutes while Ticket to Ride is a (relatively) more involved points game in which players have more time to deduce what others are doing and block them or can shoot for the moon by drawing tons of tickets and hoping to luck into completed routes.

For 2017, Target has another such simplification heading to its shelves, but the tricky thing is that while the rules for this new game are simplified, the gameplay itself is not. Sonar from Roberto Fraga, Yohan Lemonnier, and Matagot is a new take on their Captain Sonar, which debuted in 2016. Both games function as a more advanced version of ye olde Battleship, a game already known by millions. In Captain Sonar, which can be played with teams of up to four players, you attempt to be the first to cause four points of damage to the opposing submarine; in Sonar, which is for 2-4 players and therefore limited to teams of two, you need to damage the opposing sub only twice. Here's a rundown of Sonar in detail:

Quote:
Time for an underwater game of cat-and-mouse, with each of the two teams in '''''Sonar''''' competing to be the first to deal two points of damage to the other. Do that, and you win the game instantly.

In detail, ''Sonar'' includes four pairs of maps, and each team takes the same maps in their color. A team can be one or two players, and with two players on a team, each player takes a different role: Captain or Radio Operator. (A one--person team handles both roles.) A divider separates the teams, and each Captain marks their starting location on the map.

On a turn, the Captain calls out an action, typically moving their sub one space north, south, east, or west. When they do this, they call out a direction, mark their new location, and add one energy to their ship's register. The Radio Operator on the other team notes the movement of this sub on a plastic sheet, and through deduction and trial-and-error tries to determine exactly where the opposing sub might be on the map.




Quote:
Instead of a moving, a Captain can also:

• Use sonar: Erase two energy from your register; the opposing team must reveal their row or column.
• Go silent: Erase three energy from your register; move your sub, but don't gain energy and don't tell the opponents which direction you're moving.
• Fire a torpedo: Erase four energy from your register; call out coordinates in your quadrant (e.g., F6); if the opponents are on that space, they take a point of damage.
• Surface: Announce your location to the opposing team, then erase your previous path on your map; you can't cross your own path during the game, so sometimes you need to surface in order not to box yourself in.

You can have at most four energy in reserve, so you need to manage movement and the other actions carefully so that you'll be able to fire at the opponents once you know where they are — ideally without being torpedoed in response!

If you've played Captain Sonar, you can recognize this game immediately; it's the same, yet not. The two boring roles — First Mate and Engineer — have been removed, which is a good idea as I'd never recommend someone learn Captain Sonar in those roles anyway. Being Engineer is like being the dad in a group of kids who's always telling them "No": "No, you can't go play in the river." "No, you can't throw rocks at that propane tank." You're just a bummer, bringing everyone else down with what they can't do and only occasionally allowing them to do stuff that feels natural. "Okay, fine, now you can launch a torpedo at the bad guys. Are you satisfied?!"

With Sonar, the game is focused solely on moving and hunting. You've lost a few of the special abilities in the original game, but you've gained a trickier timing conundrum. After all, once you use sonar to gain information about the opposing team (or clarify what you already suspect), you're down at least two energy and must move at least twice to get back to full torpedo strength. Will those extra turns help you nail down exactly where the enemy is located, or will it allow them to sneak into an adjacent quadrant, thereby putting them out of range.

Sonar has lots of little changes that make the game easier to learn (and teach!), but that doesn't mean the gameplay itself is easier. Torpedoes now require a direct hit to deal damage instead of doing two points of damage on a direct hit and one point when landing on an adjacent space. The sonar ability gives you one piece of information (out of two) instead of two (out of three); yes, one of those intel bits was a lie in Captain Sonar, but sometimes that detail still helped you.

In the end, you have two games — Captain Sonar and Sonar — that seem like mirror images of one another. It's not Bizarroworld weird, mind you, but more like Earth A and Earth B versions of the same game design that was developed down different paths. I appreciate the efforts created to simplify Captain Sonar for a more casual audience and look forward to more such experiments in the future!

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Mon Jul 24, 2017 4:00 pm
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Game Preview: The Chameleon, or Hiding in Plain Sight, Sometimes Terribly So

W. Eric Martin
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In recent years, a number of hobby titles have made their way into mainstream markets, whether directly through distribution deals as with Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Pandemic or indirectly through a licensing deal or some kind of exclusivity arrangement. In 2016, for example, the U.S. retail chain Target released Codenames: Deep Undercover (based on Codenames) and Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City (based on Machi Koro), with both of the original games appearing on Target shelves as well. In mid-July 2017, I wrote about the Hasbro Family Gaming Crate, the first example of which will contain versions of games that originated in Germany (Leo Goes to the Barber), Romania (Three Wishes), and Japan (Mask of Anubis).

One of the titles that has won the mainstream lottery in 2017 is The Chameleon, with this new version of Rikki Tahta's self-published game Gooseberry from UK publisher Big Potato being destined to appear exclusively in Target (and at conventions) for the time being.

This party game falls into the "clueless player" genre, something that includes A Fake Artist Goes to New York and Spyfall. All players but one know what they're trying to do, and Clueless Joe needs to tag along and fake it 'til he makes it. (God, it's like being back in high school again.) In The Chameleon, everyone but the chameleon knows the secret word or phrase from among the sixteen listed on the topic card, and everyone — including the chameleon — needs to think of a single word to say related to this word or phrase. After everyone is ready, you blurt out the words one after another, then vote on who the chameleon might be.

If you fail to guess the chameleon, this player wins the game; if you guess the chameleon, but this player identifies the correct word or phrase on the topic card, they still win! Thus, you need to be sneaky when choosing your word, selecting something that those in the know will recognize as being legit while leaving the chameleon dumbfounded.




Doing this is sometimes trickier than you might think! How do you reveal that you know the secret word "economics" from among a list of school subjects without blurting out something obvious like "money" or "budgeting"? I've had two play sessions on a review copy in which we just played over and over again — not keeping score, which is optional in the game — and all too often the chameleon knew what we were talking about. You have to do your part not to get called out as the chameleon (because then the team loses), but you also can't be open. Tricky!

One other issue with the game is that sometimes players look at the wrong word or phrase on the topic card, so they make up a non-sensical code word. When the topic was "board games", one player thought the secret word was "chess" when it was actually "Clue", so his clue word of "touching" threw everyone for a loop. (He was the first person to speak for the round, and he looked horrified as the rest of us gave our code words, so he then tried to give another word, which then made it obvious he wasn't the chameleon. You just have to own your mistakes in this game! No backsies!)

Another time one of the players read the number on the d8 as 1 instead of 7, despite me reading out the numbers. Oops. She ended up saying "grass" for the word "beef", but it wasn't totally off as the woman right after her said "milk" for the actual hidden word "chocolate" — and you need grass to make milk, right? It all fit together, but only by chance and some still called her out as the chameleon.

I give more examples of gameplay and this "omega player" problem in the video below:


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Sun Jul 23, 2017 8:43 pm
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