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New Game Round-up: Krahulik and Holkins Envision Thornwatch, Bauza Readies Samurai Spirit & Fowers Preps to Reprint Paperback

W. Eric Martin
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Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins from Penny Arcade are working on a large board/card/role-playing-ish crossover game titled Thornwatch that they expect to release in 2015. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Thornwatch is an adventure-based card game for 2-4 players and a Game Master. Players are Icons of the Thornwatch: scarred veterans of the Eyrewood who now live as ghosts that are summoned by the ancient ritual of tying a knot of thorns around a birch tree. The Icons summoned to a particular tree do not necessarily know each other or the true nature of the problem they've been called to resolve; all they know is that they've answered the call, and they're bound to see it through.

In game terms, through the play of Attack, Ability, Tactic, and Synergy cards, the Icons engage foes to resolve the "knot" that summoned them, with the knot giving players clues as to what their mission might be. Each player represents a character who fits in one of four classes — Guard, Blade, Sage, Greenheart — and each character has a deck that features moves and abilities specific to your character.

During the game, which lasts 2-4 hours depending on whether you're playing a single adventure or a campaign, you'll move characters on a map specific to the adventure and (most likely) encounter others that you must defeat in combat. When you suffer damage, you shuffle wound cards into your deck. Those cards stay in your hand once you draw them, and if you hold more wounds than your character's wound threshold, you die. You're a ghost, though, so death isn't permanent; instead you add a random Scar card to your deck, with each Scar having some negative effect on you.
Jonathan Bolding from The Escapist tried out the game at PAX East in April 2014, and his write-up of the game includes details of the game's development over the past couple of years, the RPG elements Krahulik was trying to avoid in his RPG-like card game, and how the game's momentum track represents the effects of an ongoing battle. Thornwatch isn't due out until 2015, and when it does debut, expect it to show up first at one of the PAX conventions.

Antoine Bauza's Samurai Spirit now has a listing on BGG, and publisher Funforge has provided some details of the setting and gameplay, as well as an estimated release date of August/September 2014. Here we go:

You and your fellow samurai companions are the only standing obstacle between one frightened village and a full horde of blood-thirsty villains. The fight seems unfair as the seven of you might not seem to measure up to the dozens of enemies who want to slice you to pieces — but this comparison doesn't take into account your strong combat skills and an efficient team spirit that binds your samurai squad enough to face the threat. Above all else, when everything seems desperate and lost, your enemies will discover that inside each of you lies a true beast, a warrior spirit ready to unleash its full power!

Samurai Spirit is a co-operative game in which each player is a fierce samurai defending a village surrounded by a horde of bandits. The game plays out over three turns during which each player takes turns drawing bandit cards, then choosing whether they want to fight the bandit, defend the village, or let the bandit pass in order to help the other samurai.

The challenge of the game consists of balancing your choices: Should you fight each enemy to quickly reach your beast capacities, while also coming closer to the death and risking further loss by not defending the village sufficiently? Should you mainly defend or help the other samurai, taking the risk of remaining human too long and therefore weaker, when you know that weakness will be a major problem when facing the lieutenant and the villain bosses? Each enemy presents a tough choice to you, your team, and ultimately the whole village! Each turn ends with farms and fences being destroyed, and since those aren't unlimited, you must do what's necessary to end the game with at least one undamaged farm and enough farmers to tend it. Do you have what it takes to stand against evil and become a true hero?

Fight with courage, smartly assist your teammates, defend the poor villagers, turn into a savage beast, and wreck havoc on the enemy lines — all of this is up to you!
Talisman expands yet again with the Q3 2014 release of The Woodland expansion from Fantasy Flight Games, with the expansion including a new corner board, five new characters, three new alternative endings, and more than 140 cards.

• Following the sellout of his word-building, deck-building game Paperback, designer Tim Fowers has started a personal P500 program to fund a reprint of the game. Interesting to see this funding model follow Fowers' successful Kickstarter campaign for the first edition of Paperback.

• Alliance Game Distributors notes that Firefly: The Game - Artful Dodger and Firefly: The Game - Big Damn Heroes, both first available only as promotional items in 2013 and now sold via the Gale Force Nine website, should be available via normal retail channels starting in June 2014.
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