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Rediscover Amun-Re, Santa's Workshop, and Reiner Knizia's Odd Socks

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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Board Game: Amun-Re
• One of the first games I played when I dove deep into hobby games in 2003 was Reiner Knizia's Amun-Re. I was already familiar with Lost Cities, but like many people I connected that game more with the publisher (Rio Grande Games) than the designer. Despite being someone who scoured used book stores to find every title from an author I admired, at that time I hadn't yet grasped the concept of game designers being akin to book authors and having a catalog of works to explore.

No matter — Amun-Re opened my eyes, and the Guy Stuff Gamers group I played with then introduced me to many other Knizia designs, such as Ra, Circus Flohcati, Trendy, Money!, and Stephenson's Rocket, hooking me for good.

Board Game: Amun-Re: 20th Anniversary Edition
Non-final front cover

With the 20th anniversary of that design on the horizon, UK publisher Alley Cat Games plans to use crowdfunding to release the appropriately named Amun-Re: 20th Anniversary Edition, with this edition featuring new art by Vincent Dutrait, a player count of 2-5 instead of 3-5, and four expansions for which Alley Cat's Caezar Al-Jassar has passed along summaries:

Statues: In each of the first three rounds, grand statues are added to certain provinces. These statues each grant unique powers to the player who controls the province in which they are built. This expansion adds extra interest to the auction phase and gives players their own player powers that may vary each time. The statues will be miniatures representing Egyptian gods.

Afterlife: A fourth purchasable item is added to the market phase: afterlife tiles. These tiles are then placed using the rewards granted to players in the offerings phase or by discarding unwanted cards and tiles. Players place the tiles into their own personal pyramid shape, starting with a base of up to five tiles. Each placed tile gives the player a bonus, and this bonus is multiplied if the tile is placed on top of matching tiles within the pyramid. At the end of the game, each completed row of tiles is worth points.

Pharaoh: This mini expansion adds tension to the auction phase by rewarding players for overbidding other players. The Pharaoh moves to each province that is overbid, and at the conclusion of the auctions the player who wins the province with the Pharaoh receives a token that grants extra rewards in the subsequent offerings phase.

Viziers: Viziers are added to the auction phase. Each player now bids on both a province and a vizier using the same bidding mechanisms. With 3-5 players, these viziers are placed off the main board, and a player must work out which combination they want to pursue. A variant allows two or three players to place viziers in the provinces themselves, bidding for two provinces but choosing only one province and one vizier. Each vizier grants an instant bonus, and combining these with your provinces becomes a key to success.

Board Game: Relationship Tightrope
• An even older Knizia title that acquired a new edition in 2021 is the card game Relationship Tightrope, which was first released in 1999 as Drahtseilakt. In the game, players each contribute one card to the table — either simultaneously or turn-by-turn — with the player of the highest card winning tokens of one color and the player of the lowest card winning tokens of another color. Your goal is to balance the two colors and have a score as close to 0 as possible.

Japanese publisher Korokorodou has released the game as Odd Socks, with the gameplay being the same and players now attempting to balance blue and red socks so that they can cover their feet evenly.

Board Game: Relationship Tightrope

• Korokorodou has also released a new edition of a minimalist design from Taiki Shinzawa, a game first released in 2013 as バベルの塔 ("Tower of Babel"), but now titled TOPPEN. Here's an overview of this two-player game:
TOPPEN is played with ten tiles — five of one pattern and five of another — with each player owning one set of tiles. During set-up, the second player places the ten tiles face down randomly in a square grid so as to form a continuous shape of their choice. The tiles are flipped color-side up, then the game begins. Taking turns, players take one of their tiles and place it on top of a neighboring tile/stack. The following restrictions apply:

—You can take only one tile, the topmost of a stack.
—You cannot split the tiles into two separate groups.
—You cannot move a tile to an empty space.

Board Game: TOPPEN

If you cannot make a legal move, you must pass until a legal move is available to you again. You cannot pass if a move is available. The goal is to have your own tile at the top of the last pile remaining when the game ends.
Board Game: Santa's Workshop
• Yet another title getting a fresh look is Keith Ferguson's 2017 game Santa's Workshop, which first appeared from Rio Grande Games. Here's an overview of this 2-5 player game:
Santa's Workshop is a worker-placement game, taking place over nine rounds, in which players use their elves to collect materials in order to build gifts, and tend to the reindeer. Players may customize their workforce by sending elves to be trained in certain aspects of the game, which provide a benefit for the rest of the game. For some gifts, plastic may be substituted for the standard materials of fabric, wood or metal. This will cause those gifts to score fewer "Christmas Cookies", but may allow a player to build more gifts in a shorter amount of time. This can be helpful when Santa comes around three times during the game for an inspection to see which team has made the most gifts.

Players will have to decide when to visit the mail room in order to pick which gifts to build, and when to tend to the reindeer. The reindeer accumulate points the longer they go untended — and each of the eight reindeer provides a unique bonus to the player.
U.S. publisher Elf Creek Games is overhauling the look of the game thanks to Andrew Bosley and Jacqui Davis, and the new Santa's Workshop will include two game modes: a standard game for players as young as 7 and an advanced game for players aged 10 and up. Elf Creek Games anticipates releasing this edition of Santa's Workshop in November 2022.

Board Game: Santa's Workshop
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