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Lava Flows in Tobago, Complicating Your Search for Treasure

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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Board Game: Tobago
• German publisher Zoch Verlag has announced its releases for the second half of 2020, with a highly unexpected title leading the billing — Tobago: Volcano, this being an expansion for Bruce Allen's 2009 release Tobago.

In the original game, players move around an island trying to discover treasure, and they hold pieces of treasure maps that — unlike normal maps — determine where the treasure might be. You might initially know, for example, that this particular treasure (one of four) is not next to a palm tree, then someone lays down a card that shows this treasure is on the beach, and another player's card identifies it as being within one space of a mountain.

Eventually these cards will pinpoint this treasure's location in a particular hex, and whoever first moves to that hex collects the treasure, after which another treasure will be available on the island...somewhere. (If you've played the 2018 game Cryptid from Osprey Games, then you might recognize the feeling of possible targets being winnowed over the course of the game.)

Here's what is going on with the expansion, which is due out in October 2020:
Tobago: Volcano, playable only with the Tobago base game, complicates your search for hidden treasure.

In the original game, treasure awaited under palm trees, next to huts, in forests, and in the mountains. Thanks to a volcano that takes up seven of the board's hexes and now towers high above the game board, lava comes into play. During set-up, each player places a triangular tile of three hexes near the island's perimeter, with one of these hexes being covered with lava; the player's ATV starts on another of these hexes.

Board Game: Tobago: Volcano

During the game, you can violate the normal rules of card playing by laying down an illegal card, e.g., "not in the mountains" when an "in the mountains" card was played earlier for this treasure, after which you immediately cover this card with one of the four new volcanic clue cards included in this expansion: next to/not next to the volcano and next to/not next to lava. Once this treasure is claimed, the volcanic card is returned to the side of the playing area for subsequent use.

Whenever a player collects an amulet, they add another hex of lava to the game board, whether adjacent to the volcano or lava already in play. This means that the island will transform dynamically throughout the game, possibly moving treasures to locations where no one suspected them previously. After all, the largest forest might not stay the largest if overrun by lava, and the forests themselves might even disappear completely!

Board Game: Tobago: Volcano

During a turn, an ATV can travel over lava — but not stop in lava — if the player spends an amulet or (if they have no amulets) discards their largest treasure card. Don't let your travel routes get cut off by the lava flow...
Board Game: Tasso
Kurz vor Knapp from Helmut Punke and Tobias Punke seems reminiscent of Philippe Proux's Tasso — which I covered in 2019 — so I'm curious to try this game given that you have a few simple differences in how it works, specifically (1) wooden sticks of various lengths, (2) the ability to steal another player's turn by building higher, and (3) pillars that you place in the building area, which means you get to designate the possible building sites.

In any case, here's an overview of the game:
Assess, connect, build higher!

In Kurz vor Knapp, you set up the playing area by placing the string in a circle, placing ten cylinders within this circle, then laying the wood beams out at random in a spiral around this circle. Each player starts the game with a number of cylinders based on the player count.

On a turn, you look at the wood beam on the end of the spiral — without touching it or measuring it — then identify which two cylinders you want to place this beam on. You want to place the beam so that its endpoints are contained (and not hanging over) the faces of these cylinders, and each cylinder can have at most two beams resting on it. After you identify these cylinders, each other player has a chance to steal your turn by identifying cylinders on a higher level where this beam could be placed.

Board Game: Kurz vor Knapp

If you — or the turn stealer — have correctly estimated the length of the beam and can make the connection, you then place one or more cylinders from your supply onto the playing area, with one cylinder on the newly placed beam and additional cylinders on beams at lower levels. The higher the beam, the more cylinders you can place! If you can't place the beam, then you return it to the end of the line, and if you had tried to steal someone's turn, they get to hand over the number of cylinders they would have placed.

Whoever first places all of their own cylinders wins.
Board Game: Silencio
Board Game: Eureka!
• Given my love of The Mind, I am eager to try César Gómez Bernardino's Silencio, a card game that seems to require a similar merging of spirits. Here's an overview of how it plays:
In Silencio, all players form a team together, a team that cannot speak to one another.

You each start with a hand of cards from four suits, and your goal as a team is to discard as many cards as possible — but each card played must have a higher value than the previously played card of the same suit. If a newly played card is the direct successor of the card last played of that color, then you orient the card to show its dark side and suffer the penalty from that card, with the green penalty, for example, forcing the next card played to be green while the blue penalty requires you to give another player one of the face-up cards available from the Oracle.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

If a newly played card is not the direct successor of the card last played of that color, then you place the card with the light side face up, taking the bonus depicted on that half of the card if you desire, such as ignoring the next penalty or placing a card from your hand face up in front of you so that anyone could play it.

Five shrines are play — one multicolor shrine and one of each color — and before or after your card play for the turn, you can choose to flip a shrine face down to use the bonus of that color.

If you can't play or have no cards in hand, you must pass, and if all players pass in turn, then the game ends. Your score is based on the number of cards in all players' hands, with 0 being the best score possible. If you find the game difficult, you can include the tavern card that a few times each game allows a player to give limited information about their hand; if the game is too easy, you can remove some or all of the shrines to eliminate those "extra" bonuses.
Silencio is a revised version of Bernardino's Eureka!, which was released in 2017 from Spanish publisher 2D10. Gameplay is mostly the same, albeit with shrines being added to the new design and small changes to other details.

• Finally in Zoch's quartet of new titles is Die Seher von Santiiba, a.k.a. "The Seers of Santiiba", a 2-4 player game from Leo Colovini and Teodoro Mitidieri that also has me wanting to see the rules after this short description:
In the far reaches of Santiiba, the Valley of the Hopeful, seers ply their occult trades.

Each turn in Die Seher von Santiiba, one player rolls the five dice, which correspond with five kinds of cards. The dice have 1-3 stars on three of the sides and the numbers 4-6 on the other three sides. Each other player then secretly selects a color, whether the color they think you'll choose or the color they themselves are interested in. You then name one of the colors, and if anyone else has selected that color, they reveal this information. If the matching die shows stars, they move their seer figure on the scoring track this many spaces, and if it shows a number, they take a card of this color. You either take the die (if it shows stars) or the card, placing this object in your "area of uncertainty". You then continue your turn by naming another color or end your turn.

Board Game: Die Seher von Santiiba

If no one choose your named color, then you pick either the die or card of this color, placing the object in your area of uncertainty. If you took a card when the die showed stars or took a die with a number, then you must continue your turn; otherwise, you can choose to continue or end your turn.

If all other players have revealed their color choices, then you lose everything in your area of uncertainty, receiving only a bowl card as consolation. If you end your turn — whether voluntarily or after successfully choosing four of the five colors — then you move all the cards to your oracle board and advance your seer a number of spaces equal to the sum of all the dice.

Board Game: Die Seher von Santiiba

Players take turns in this manner until the first player reaches 30 VPs. Only then are the victory points on the cards counted as well — but the player who has collected the fewest cards of any particular sort won't get to count the neighboring kind of cards at all. If you have the fewest herbs, for example, then your amulets are worth nothing. Ties are broken in favor of whoever has the most bowl cards. Once you've determined which cards (if any) you must lose, you sum the value of your remaining cards and advance your seer. All players who reach the Cloud Castle of Wisdom on space 75 win; otherwise, whoever has advanced the farthest wins.
Die Seher von Santiiba, like the other titles listed in this post, will debut in Europe in October 2020.
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