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Giochi Uniti Signs Distribution Deal with Asmodee USA

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From gallery of W Eric Martin
Giochi Uniti International, which represents the Giochi Uniti board game line on the global market, has signed a distribution deal with Asmodee USA Distribution.

Here's an edited excerpt from the press release announcing the deal:
Quote:
Giochi Uniti is well known in the U.S. market for the Kingsburg and Letters from Whitechapel game lines. Giochi Uniti is excited to bring new board games to American players, including Bar Barians, Smiles & Daggers, Royal Wedding, Midnight Brunch, and Guilds.

Moreover, American Kingsburg's fans will soon have the opportunity to play Kinsgburg: Roll & Write, a new standalone game based on the famous long-selling game.
Kinsgburg: Roll & Write is the title listed in the press release and the Giochi Uniti catalog, but the game depicted is Kingsburg: The Dice Game, so perhaps this title is being re-branded for a new edition.

Most of these titles have already been released in Italy (and perhaps elsewhere), but Smiles & Daggers from Gianluigi Giorgetti and Andrea Marchi was just announced at the start of July 2020. Here's an overview of the game:
Quote:
Smiles & Daggers is based on one of the most famous dilemmas of game theory. The term counter-competition, a neologism invented by the authors, describes the main mechanism of the game. It is a competitive game in which victory is more achievable through co-operation, but there can be only one winner. In other words, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer!

The Lady kills the Knight, the Lord kills the Lady but gets killed by Knights. You have to choose one card to put face down in front of you. Your opponent will do the same, whilst other players are betting on the outcome. Each card has two sides: one smiling that gives you money, the other kills (if possible) the opponent.

Which side will you choose? And most importantly, which side is under your opponent's card?
Board Game: Smiles & Daggers
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Tue Jul 7, 2020 8:06 pm
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Southern Rails Rides Again Courtesy of Rio Grande Games

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Board Game: Southern Rails
First edition cover
U.S. publisher Rio Grande Games has announced the next title in its Winsome Games reprint line following the release of Gulf, Mobile & Ohio in April 2020 and the impending release of Trans-Siberian Railroad with this third title being Southern Rails from Winsome's own John Bohrer under the pseudonym "Harry Wu".

Southern Rails is a 3-5 player game that was first released by Winsome Games in 2015. Here's an overview of how it works:
Quote:
The game is played on a map of the southeast United States and is similar in style to many of the stock-based, cube-rail games released by Winsome Games since 2007. During set up, players spend two rounds selecting stocks from two of the six available companies, then the game begins.

Board Game: Southern Rails

Each turn, a player must place a track cube for one of the companies in which they have stock. The first cube of a company can be placed on any hex, while each subsequent cube for that company must be placed adjacent to another of the same color. Hexes (other than Atlanta) can have 1-3 cubes placed on them, and when a cube is placed in a city — with cities coming in four colors — that railroad's revenue increases by $1-4 depending on the color of the city.

When the tenth cube of a company is placed, railroads earn points based on certain criteria — highest revenue, fewest shares owned, most cubes on the map, and most cities of a color in its network — with ties resulting in no points being awarded for a category. (If, for example, both the purple and black railroads have the most red cities in their networks, then no railroad scores the points for having the most red cities in its network.) Each player then scores points equal to the points scored by the railroads in which they have stock.

Board Game: Southern Rails

Player order is then reassigned, and players get to select an additional stock after which they again take turns placing cubes on the board. After the fourth scoring round, the game ends and whoever has the most points wins.
In April 2020, Rio Grande Games announced that Trans-Siberian Railroad — the second title in its Winsome Games series — would be a mid-2020 release. The game is nearly ready, but Rio Grande is reprinting the rules to correct an error, so those new rulebooks need to be inserted into the boxes prior to shipment.
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Tue Jul 7, 2020 1:00 pm
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Teaser for Pandemic Legacy: Season 0

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• On Sunday, July 5, 2020, Reddit user u/arankas posted the following image, writing "I stumpled [sic] upon the Pandemic Legacy season 0 box art on the z-man games website" and "I believe a CMS error/goof lists the product on Pandemic-related articles."

From gallery of W Eric Martin

That listing can no longer be found on the Z-Man Games website, but that revelation was followed by the publication of this teaser trailer today, July 6:


Yes, the final title of the Pandemic Legacy trilogy from Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau will be Pandemic Legacy: Season 0. I've contacted publisher Z-Man Games and learned that more info will be forthcoming before the end of July 2020.
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Mon Jul 6, 2020 4:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Use Magic Beans, Capture Monsters with Dice, and Hunt Spies in Harsh Shadows

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Board Game Publisher: Wonderspell
Board Game: To Catch a Spy
Wonderspell is a new publisher founded by designers Jason Greeno and Jason Tagmire that plans to release 54-card games (submission form here), and its initial release will be Harsh Shadows, a one-player game by Rachel Bruner that she originally submitted to the 2020 54-Card Game Design Contest on BGG under the name To Catch a Spy, which is a 1-2 player game.

You can explore the evolution of the game in this WIP thread by Bruner, or read this summary of how the game currently works:
Quote:
As a secret agent, you've been assigned to catch an elusive spy before they get away. Search for clues and find evidence while you track the spy, but watch out for dangerous explosives!

To set up, place nine location cards in a 3x3 grid, then place discovery cards under each location. Place three file cards near the locations, then place case cards under each file. Place decks for arrow cards and additional discovery cards nearby, along with two agent tool cards. The spy and agent cards start in different locations.

From gallery of lovemyfire
Set-up with Bruner's placeholder art

In the solo game, you are the agent and go first, moving to an adjacent location and revealing a discovery card, which could be an item, clue, or bomb; item and clue cards go in hand, while bombs force you to discard. You can use a location's special ability and clues to reveal case cards under files. You might be able to place a tracking bug on the spy.

For the spy's turn, the arrow cards move the spy to an adjacent location, where a new discovery card is placed at random. If the spy moves to your location, discard a card. If you can't discard a card or discover you've discarded an item matching a case card, you lose immediately.

When the discovery deck is empty, the spy attempts to escape. You must have placed a tracking bug on the spy, have the three item cards in hand matching the case cards, and make it to the spy's current location before the spy escapes.

Board Game: Harsh Shadows
Art from Harsh Shadows by Ben Flores

In the two-player game, which will likely be included only in To Catch a Spy, one player is the spy while the other is the agent. At the start of a round, each player chooses and reveals an arrow card, then the agent takes their turn, followed by the spy. Gameplay takes place as described above, with the spy needing to place all cards in the discovery deck before trying to escape, while the agent needs to collect the three items matching the case, bug the spy, then reach the spy's location.
Board Game: Excalibohn
• Aside from L.A.M.A. Party Edition, which I covered the other day, German publisher AMIGO has revealed information about a couple of October 2020 releases, with one of those being the newest title in Uwe Rosenberg's long-lived Bohnanza series of card games.

In the standalone game Excalibohn, which is for 3-5 players, gameplay is much like it is in Bohnanza, except that most types of bean now have a special "magic power" associated with them. Each player starts the game with one magic card and can earn more. After planting one or two cards at the start of your turn, you now have a magic phase during which you can use potions and other special powers.

• In 2019, AMIGO debuted Richard Garfield's Carnival of Monsters at Gen Con 2019 — and you can check out extensive written and video coverage here — and for 2020 AMIGO is expanding the world of that game with a standalone design from Alexander Pfister titled Monster Expedition. Here's a summary of gameplay in this 1-4 player game that plays in 30 minutes:
Quote:
As the newest members of the Royal Monstrological Society, players embark on an expedition to hunt for legendary monsters, which have been spotted in the cloudlands, in the deep sea, and in the haunted forest. With ideal dice combinations, players can improve their camps, catch new monsters, and use the abilities of previously captured monsters.

At the start of Monster Expedition, players each receive a set of three supply camps, and a wilderness display is formed from ten cards. Create a draw pile based on the number of players, then place this deck in the center of play, along with the game board and dice.

Board Game: Monster Expedition

On your turn, you choose one of your three camps, then goes monster hunting, with your camp level determining which dice are available. At the start of the hunt, you roll all the dice, and after each roll, you set aside all dice of a chosen value that you haven't yet set aside. If you can't set any dice aside, the throw counts as a miss and you lose the best dice you laid out previously.

When you stop, use the set-aside dice to capture monsters from the wilderness and improve your supply camps, possibly calling on abilities from monsters already in your collection. When the draw pile is exhausted, complete the round so that all players have had the same number of turns, then tally the points to see who took the biggest haul.
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Mon Jul 6, 2020 3:00 pm
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Links: Diplomatic Computing, Modern Games in Mainstream Media, and Gaming Easter Eggs

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Board Game: Diplomacy
• DeepMind, the AI research and development company behind the AlphaGo AI that mastered Go, is now attempting to train an AI how to play Diplomacy. Here's an excerpt from an article on TechRepublic by R. Dallon Adams:
Quote:
AI systems have proved to be far superior to even the best human beings at zero-sum games like chess and Go. In this type of gameplay, there can only be one winner and one loser. Dissimilarly, Diplomacy requires agents to build alliances and foster collaboration.

"On the one hand, it is difficult to make progress in the game without the support of other players, but on the other hand, only one player can eventually win. This means it is more difficult to achieve cooperation in this environment. The tension between cooperation and competition in Diplomacy makes building trustworthy agents in this game an interesting research challenge," said Tom Anthony, a research scientist at DeepMind.

The ability to expeditiously vanquish a human player in a zero-sum game is certainly impressive, however, a richer layering of skills opens up another world of AI potential. Our day-to-day lives involve an intricate patchwork of balanced synergies; our individual needs often packaged within a larger group effort. That said, this research could enhance agents' ability to collaborate with us and one another, leading to a vast spectrum of real-world applications.

"In real-life, we often work in teams and have to both compete and cooperate. From simple decisions such as scheduling a meeting or deciding where to eat out with friends, to complex decisions such as negotiating with suppliers or clients or assigning tasks in a joint project, we constantly reason about how to best work with others. It seems likely that as AI systems become more complex, we'd need to provide them with better tools for effectively cooperating with others," said Yoram Bachrach, a research scientist at DeepMind.
From gallery of W Eric Martin
• Starla and Miklos Fitch from the YouTube channel Our Family Play Games were featured on the U.S. morning television show Good Morning America in late June 2020, highlighting a few games — Ticket to Ride, Catan, and The Great Heartland Hauling Co. — and talking about the value of modern board games.

• In The Strategist, a section of New York magazine, Jenna Milliner-Waddell spoke with Liz Davidson, Eric Yurko, and Scott McNeely to highlight the best one-player games for folks who happen to be socially distancing on their own.

• Game blog For Chits & Giggles details dozens of easter eggs hidden in game boards, cards, covers, and other components.
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Sat Jul 4, 2020 1:00 pm
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The Return of the King: Knizia's The Lord of the Rings Being Released in Q4 2020

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Board Game: The Lord of the Rings
U.S. publisher Fantasy Flight Games has announced that in Q4 2020 it will release a twentieth-anniversary edition of Reiner Knizia's classic co-operative game Lord of the Rings under the new title The Lord of the Rings: Anniversary Edition.

For those not familiar with what is arguably the second most influential co-operative game of all time, Pandemic being the first, here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:
Quote:
Lord of the Rings is a co-operative game in which the object is to destroy the Ring while surviving the corrupting influence of Sauron. Each player plays one of the Hobbits in the fellowship, each of which has a unique power.

Over the course of the game, you make your way across four conflict game boards, representing some of the most memorable conflicts from the entire trilogy: Moria, Helm's Deep, Shelob's Lair, and Mordor. Each conflict board tests your small Fellowship to the utmost as you must play your quest cards to advance along multiple tracks. These tracks represent fighting, hiding, traveling, and friendship, and by playing quest cards from your hand with matching symbols, you can keep moving forward and push closer to victory.

Board Game: The Lord of the Rings
Cover of the anniversary edition

The master game board indicates both the physical progress of the fellowship across Middle Earth and the corrupting influence of Sauron on the hobbits. If you're able to slip past your foes, you can hope to escape with minimal corruption, healing your hurts at safe havens along your path, such as the forest kingdom of Lothlórien. By playing your cards right and advancing quickly, you can collect powerful runes, unlock legendary cards to aid your journey, or find life tokens to help stave off corruption — not to mention advancing quickly through the conflicts. As you travel, the One Ring can be a crucial tool in your journey, allowing you to hide from sight, but repeated use will draw the attention of Sauron and corrupt the heart of the Ring-bearer.

Your journey leads you deeper into the darkness with each passing conflict, and safe havens become few and far between. You must carefully watch the corruption track because if the Sauron miniature ever meets a Hobbit, that player is eliminated — and if the Ring-bearer is eliminated, all players lose as Sauron reclaims the power of the One Ring. To win, throw the One Ring into the volcanic fires of Mount Doom.
FFG notes that the gameplay of this new edition hasn't been altered from the original release, but some of the punchboard components are being replaced by miniatures:
Quote:
The Hobbits setting out on their journey are shaped with careful attention to detail, from their hairy feet to the top of their sturdy walking stick. The Sauron token has now been replaced with a menacing Black Rider figure, racing forward at a dead gallop and representing the constantly growing threat of corruption. The threat die now represents Sauron's power in a menacing black. And finally, the One Ring is now a beautiful miniature, graven with Elvish script and perfectly sized to fit over the Ring-bearer's miniature when they choose to use the One Ring.
Board Game: The Lord of the Rings

FFG doesn't mention whether any of the expansions — Friends & Foes, Sauron, and Battlefields — will return to print. I'll update this post if I receive a response to my question about their status.
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Fri Jul 3, 2020 5:39 pm
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New Game Round-up: Undaunted Awaits Reinforcements, Powerwolf Hunts Again, and a Llama Turns Pink

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Board Game: Undaunted: Normandy
Board Game: Undaunted: North Africa
• In 2019, UK publisher Osprey Games released the two-player, deck-building game Undaunted: Normandy from Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson. In November of that year it announced a sequel game taking place on a different continent — Undaunted: North Africa.

Now one week ahead of the delayed release of that second game, which was originally due out in May 2020, Osprey has announced an expansion for both games — Undaunted: Reinforcements, with this title due out in August 2021. Yes, that's more than a year away, but you haven't even touched North Africa at this point, so ideally you'll have plenty of time to prepare for this modular expansion. Here's what's coming:
Quote:
In North Africa, the Long Range Desert Group is a thorn in the sides of the Italian forces, disrupting vital lines of communication and striking at strategic targets ranging far and wide. In Normandy, U.S. forces brace against German counterattack, determined to maintain their foothold in the region. The fighting is intense, and the outcome hangs on a knife's edge. With everything at stake, you desperately need reinforcements!

Board Game: Undaunted: Reinforcements

Undaunted: Reinforcements introduces a range of new rules, scenarios, and units. Unleash the might of the German and American tanks and see how your new squad options fare against them in Undaunted: Normandy, or make use of mines, assault aircraft, and other new units as you attempt to outfox your opponent in Undaunted: North Africa. Whether you have one Undaunted game or the other, with Reinforcements you can play for the first time in a four-player mode, or test your mettle in a solo mode by Dávid Turczi.
Board Game: L.A.M.A. Party Edition
Board Game: Steven Universe: Beach-A-Palooza Card Battling Game
• As part of its fortieth anniversary celebration, German publisher AMIGO is releasing special editions of various titles in its catalog, with the newest such announced title being L.A.M.A. Party Edition, a new version of Reiner Knizia's 2019 Spiel des Jahres-nominated card game L.A.M.A.

This version of the game includes a single pink llama card that can be played on top of any card, but which is worth -20 points in hand at the end of a round; number cards with pluses, e.g., 4+, that allow you to take another turn immediately when played; and pink tokens worth 20 points, which means your luck can turn around quickly if you win a round and ditch one of those! For details on how to play L.A.M.A., check out my wildly enthusiastic overview video.

Cryptozoic Entertainment had announced Steven Universe: Beach-A-Palooza Card Battling Game from Erica Bouyouris and Andrew Wolf as a Q1 2020 release, but plans changed for what is likely to be any number of COVID-19-related reasons, and instead the game will now be Kickstarted starting on July 14, 2020, with the game being advertised as a "Kickstarter exclusive".

Board Game Publisher: Scribabs
• German publisher Pegasus Spiele has picked up the Paolo Vallerga and Marco Valtriani design Armata Strigoi — which debuted at SPIEL '19 from Italian publisher Scribabs — for release worldwide, with the second edition of the game hitting the market in September 2020.

Armata Strigoi is inspired by and set in the world of German power metal band POWERWOLF, which co-designer Valtriani explained in detail in a BGG News designer diary in October 2019. For an overview of the setting and gameplay, you can watch this overview video recorded at SPIEL '19 or read the following:
Quote:
The eternal struggle between vampires and werewolves is coming to an end. The last Vampire Master and his Apprentice, Strigoi from Wallachia, are dwelling in the ancient fortress of Tismana: a stronghold haunted by evil undead creatures. Nevertheless, the POWERWOLF — sons of the Legends of the Night and the Armenia Savage Army — the defenders of the "Real Truth", prepare for a last frantic assault knowing there are no alternatives to victory!

Armata Strigoi is a game in which the Powerwolf win or lose as a team, but each player makes their own decisions about their actions and movements. Each player represents one of the Powerwolf heroes which assault the Strigoi's fortress as a single pack. In order to win they have to defeat both Vampires. However, the two foes are initially invulnerable and their vitality is intrinsically linked to their dwelling fortress, thus, upon the demise of the first vampire the whole structure will start to crumble and collapse on itself, making the victory a race against time!

Board Game: Armata Strigoi

The Powerwolf act collectively, but a pack of werewolves during a furious assault is not known to be a highly organized band that can devise and set up high-profile strategies and tactics. Hence, the players are forbidden from sharing details about their cards, though they can talk to each other, propose joint actions, or heal a comrade.

Victory is achieved by defeating both Strigoi. To make them vulnerable, the Powerwolf must first collect Blood Points by decimating the fellow Creatures of the Night who haunt the fortress. During their quest, they can also collect weapons and magical artifacts.

If one Strigoi perishes, the other immediately turns into a Supreme Master Vampire, making them even more lethal. At the same time, the fortress starts to crumble and collapse room by room. If both Strigoi are defeated, the Powerwolf pack wins the game. It is not an easy task, but let the hunt begin!
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Fri Jul 3, 2020 1:00 pm
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BGG Will Livestream Game Demos and Interviews during SPIEL.digital 2020

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BoardGameGeek to Broadcast Game Demos Galore for SPIEL.digital

Travel to Essen online to check out new board and card games


Dallas, Texas, July 1, 2020 — Tabletop gaming site BoardGameGeek (BGG) will partner with Friedhelm Merz Verlag — which runs the annual SPIEL game convention in Essen, Germany — to livestream demonstrations of dozens of new board and card games from publishers around the world during SPIEL.digital on October 22-25, 2020.

Each year, tens of thousands of gamers travel to Essen to check out the 1,500 or so new tabletop games that debut at that fair, and each year since 2009 BGG has been livestreaming interviews with designers and publishers about the games they're debuting at SPIEL.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

For 2020, however, the worldwide COVID-19 situation has made it impossible for gamers to gather at Essen like normal, so Merz Verlag is instead hosting SPIEL.digital, an online event that will feature hundreds of exhibitors showing off their new releases. As part of SPIEL.digital, BGG will once again livestream game demos and interviews, bringing together designers and publishers to show off their new games to all players worldwide.

Expect more than thirty hours of game demos from BGG, with details to be announced as to with which games and which publishers that will be taking part in SPIEL.digital. You will be able to check out the broadcast schedule — not to mention watch and comment on the livestream — on BGG here. Get ready to bring the world of games to your home on October 22-25, 2020!

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Wed Jul 1, 2020 6:00 pm
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Stephen Buonocore to Retire from Stronghold Games; Sydney Engelstein to Become Stronghold's Director of Game Development

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Board Game Publisher: Stronghold Games
Stephen Buonocore, founder and president of Stronghold Games, has announced that as of August 1, 2020 he will exit that role and take on a new role with far different challenges: retirement.

Here's the publisher's press release on this change:
Quote:
Hobby game entrepreneur, game media personality, and game industry veteran Stephen Buonocore will be stepping down from his role as President of Stronghold Games, effective on August 1, 2020. Buonocore, 59, founded Stronghold Games in 2009 and served as its President for most of that time.

Board Game Designer: Stephen Buonocore
Buonocore in 2011
Stronghold Games and Indie Boards & Cards merged in mid-2018 to form Indie Game Studios, where Buonocore continued in his role as President of Stronghold Games, as well as in the role of Spokesperson for the merged company.

Stephen Buonocore is also the cohost of Board Games Insider, one of the most popular hobby game podcasts, and he has appeared in interviews on television, radio, and numerous game media outlets to promote both the company and the game industry. Buonocore also serves on the Board of Directors for the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund, the purpose of which is to provide financial assistance to members of the gaming community who have suffered personal hardship.

"After over ten years with Stronghold Games and the merged company of Indie Game Studios, I have seen incredible growth and change in this fantastic industry", said Stephen Buonocore. "Even through the adversity that has been this year, our small industry remains strong. Let us all focus, both from within the industry as well as through the grassroots of gamers, on the growth of an inclusive, diverse community. This must be the future of gaming for us all."

Board Game Designer: Stephen Buonocore
Buonocore in 2020
"It is now time for me to hand the reins of the Stronghold Games brand to a new generation of amazing people within Indie Game Studios. I look forward to playing the games that are made by these great people as they manage the brands of Stronghold Games and Indie Boards & Cards."

"Please make no mistake, my retirement has been in the making for years as I worked through a smooth transition with the CEO of Indie Game Studios, and my good friend, Travis Worthington. Under his guidance, the company will continue to achieve great things in the future."

"I leave to focus on family, friends, interests, and the enjoyment of life. I will continue to produce the Board Games Insider podcast, where I share my knowledge, views, and love of the hobby game industry. I plan to be involved in additional game media outlets as well in the future."

Board Game Designer: Sydney Engelstein
Sydney Engelstein
"I cherish the wonderful relationships that I have forged through Stronghold Games, both with industry people and fans of the company. Rest assured that you all will most definitely see me at many future game conventions and shows. I greatly look forward to that for years to come."

While President of Stronghold Games, Stephen Buonocore provided vision and guidance for hundreds of game titles, both developed within the company and in partnership with publishers around the world. Indie Game Studios CEO Travis Worthington will continue to direct the merged company. Sydney Engelstein will become Director of Game Development for Stronghold Games.
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Discover the Lost Ruins of Arnak with Czech Games Edition

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Board Game Publisher: Czech Games Edition
In addition to Under Falling Skies, a solitaire game by Tomáš Uhlíř due out in Sep/Oct 2020 that BGG previewed at GAMA in March 2020, Czech Games Edition has one other title due out in 2020, a 1-4 player design from newcomers Elwen and Mín titled Lost Ruins of Arnak.

Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay in Q4 2020 release:
Quote:
On an uninhabited island in uncharted seas, explorers have found traces of a great civilization. Now you will lead an expedition to explore the island, find lost artifacts, and face fearsome guardians, all in a quest to learn the island's secrets.

Lost Ruins of Arnak combines deck-building and worker placement in a game of exploration, resource management, and discovery. In addition to traditional deck-builder effects, cards can also be used to place workers, and new worker actions become available as players explore the island. Some of these actions require resources instead of workers, so building a solid resource base will be essential. You are limited to only one action per turn, so what will benefit you most now and what can you wait to do under the assumption that someone else won't do it first?

Board Game: Lost Ruins of Arnak

Decks are small, and randomness in the game is heavily mitigated by the wealth of tactical decisions offered on the game board. With a variety of worker actions, artifacts, and equipment cards, the set-up for each game will be unique, encouraging players to explore new strategies to meet the challenge.
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Wed Jul 1, 2020 2:00 pm
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