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Build Your Deck While Negotiating with Mercenaries, Performing Improv Comedy, Investing in Railroads, and Racing to Early Flight

Candice Harris
United States
Los Angeles
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Last week a friend of mine introduced me to Ausonia, a snappy deck-builder with an innovative resource system from designer Zoltán Simon and Lycan Studio. It reminded me of how much I love deck-building games and inspired me to share a few interesting, upcoming 2023 releases featuring deck-building.

Board Game: Moonrakers
• In July 2022, IV Games launched a Kickstarter campaign (KS link) for three upcoming Moonrakers expansions: Binding Ties, Overload, and Nomad. Moonrakers is a sci-fi themed, deck-building negotiation game from designers Max Anderson, Zac Dixon, and Austin Harrison, which was released in 2020.

In Moonrakers, 1-5 players take on the roles of spacefaring mercenaries hiring crew, upgrading ships, and forming temporary alliances to complete contracts while racing to earn prestige points needed to win the game. The three new expansions can be mixed and matched to enhance your Moonrakers experience with more powerful deck-building, better negotiations, and more immersive theme as highlighted in the publisher's descriptions for each expansion below.

Board Game: Moonrakers: Binding Ties
Board Game: Moonrakers: Overload
Board Game: Moonrakers: Nomad

Moonrakers: Binding Ties:
As the UA consolidates power in the surrounding planet clusters, the Moonrakers have finally begun to rise above their petty conflicts and unite under one banner.

In the Binding Ties Expansion, players will gain additional rewards from allying with each other as they gain Faction Reputation with the great houses that each player represents.

Each player has a new Faction Reputation Terminal on which they track their relationship with the various factions, gaining Reputation when they complete a Contract with a great houses’ champion, or losing it if they fail.

The Reputation can mean the difference between completing a Contract or failing, as it can be spent for various rewards like gaining cards or actions, but if carefully saved throughout the game it can even mean gaining additional Prestige.
Moonrakers: Overload:
As the Moonrakers’ influence and population grew, so did the opposition from the Utopian Alliance. Backed into a corner, the Moonrakers entered a new wave of technological advancements. At the center of this innovation was the creation of the IOspheres: a powerful, albeit unstable, energy source that powered a new fleet of ship parts.

Armed with these advancements, the Moonrakers are once again emboldened to explore, defend, and even push back into UA territory.

The Overload adds new Advanced Action Cards, Contract types, and tokens called IOspheres. Overload also doubles the number of Ship Parts and Crew in the game. Players can discover new synergies and advanced mechanics, allowing them to gain more control of their deck composition.
Moonrakers: Nomad:
The Moonraker’s five factions have continued to grow roots throughout the system: establishing defenses, trade networks, and even a loose intergovernmental organization simply called the Council.

The Nomad expansion adds global events, overhauls the Contract system, and adds new prototype Ship Parts to the game.

Each turn a new Event card is revealed. These events can provide challenges, rewards, or even allow players to vote on policies that change the rules.

Each Moonrakers faction operates out of their own sector and offers Contracts that align with its goals. Players travel between these sectors to find Contracts that fit their strengths.
• Considering I'm a big fan of trick-taking games and deck-building games, I'm equally as excited and curious about Zip Zap Zop, a game that uniquely combines both of those elements with an improv comedy theme, from designer and trick-taking aficionado Taylor Reiner and Portland Game Collective.

Zip Zap Zop plays with 2–4 players in 35–85 minutes and is targeted to launch for crowdfunding in Q1 2023. Here's a brief overview of what you can expect, besides the giggles from trying to say the title multiple times as quickly as you can without messing up:
Zip Zap Zop is a unique combination of deck-building and trick-taking that allows players to play a trick-taking game where they decide what cards they get dealt. This new concept gives the agency and strategy of a deck-building game, while maintaining the quick-paced, tactical nature of a trick-taking game.

Board Game: Zip Zap Zop
Starter Card Back image posted the designer

The theme is integrated throughout, with players taking on the role of comedians in an improv show. The card play has the players interacting with each other in an improv scene and the new cards they buy are suggestions from the audience for the next scene.

Zip Zap Zop’s trick-taking follows the rules of a standard trick-taker, with a few differences:

---• You may be able to play more than 1 card to the trick.
---• Some cards are modifiers that modify a played card.
---• If a player ever plays the same number as the previous card, then that player may play an additional card to the trick. The played cards then add, forming a new number.
---• After playing tricks, players will buy cards using the number of tricks they won as currency.
Fallen Flags is new deck-building game with a unique, 18xx and cube rails twist from designers Jason Stone and David A. Lupo. Fallen Flags plays in 45–60 minutes and is being crowdfunded on The Game Crafter.

In Fallen Flags, 2-4 players compete to become the most successful at investing in and operating early American railroads. In slightly more detail from the designer:
The dawn of the railroad era is here! Great fortunes and legendary status await those who can successfully invest in and build the rails to Chicago and beyond. Will you become one of the great rail barons?

In Fallen Flags, a deck building railroad game, two to four players invest in the early American railroads, build track, and operate trains in a race to the finish line. But finishing first is not everything – a savvier investor may end up getting the glory! Do you have what it takes to become a transport scion?

Board Game: Fallen Flags

Fallen Flags is a medium-weight game that mixes elements of traditional deck builders like Star Realms and Dominion with those of heavier railroad board games, such as the “18XX” games.

Fallen Flags offers experienced players of deck builders a new challenge, because the play of cards is meaningfully impacted by the events taking place on the game's map board, and it offers a new take on train games for fans of that genre.
First in Flight is a push-your-luck, deck-building game for 1–4 players set in the race for early aviation from Artana, and Matthew O'Malley and Ben Rosset, the creators of Between Two Cities and The Search for Planet X. First in Flight plays in 45-75 minutes, was successfully funded on Kickstarter (KS link) in June 2022, and is now available for pre-order.

Based on the unique theme and brief description below from the publisher, I'm happy First in Flight popped up on my radar:
First in Flight is a push-your-luck, deck-building game about the race to early flight. Players take on the roles of the Wright Brothers, Samuel Langley, and other flight pioneers, racing to build and pilot the “flyers” that preceded modern airplanes.

Board Game: First in Flight

Each player’s flyer design is represented by a deck of cards that they can steadily improve and refine, and which may include unknown design flaws that threaten their success.

Flying is a blackjack-style challenge to test a design, break new records, and gain experience -- hopefully without crashing. Then, players head back to the workshop to refine their flyers and improve their chances on future flights. There are dozens of available technologies, pilot skills, and friends in the field available for players to customize their own play style and strategy.
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