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Protospiel - Day 1 Impressions, including Pandemic Legacy

Chris Fraasch
United States
San Jose
California
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Just got home from day 1 of the Protospiel gathering at Game Kastle in Santa Clara, CA, and man, what a blast. I got to play quite a few prototype games in my day there, and wanted to share some of my impressions of my favorites. I did play a few clunkers and outright bad games, but I won't rag on them publicly- they are all still prototype and subject to change (which goes for the good games as well), and I wouldn't want to speak ill of aspiring designers just trying to put their games out there.

Pandemic Legacy - Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau - Whoah boy. When I saw Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock's names on the list of attendees, I thought for sure we'd be seeing Pandemic: The Cure and Seafall. To my surprise, the two brought a prototype of their collaboration, Pandemic Legacy (name sounds like it will almost certainly change), previously only discussed for a brief time on the Plaid Hat podcast.

Play starts off like normal Pandemic, with players trying to treat diseases across the world, but gameplay quickly evolves into a wholly new experience. Now, I won't spoil any of the contents of the packets that can be opened, but it does feature stickers and a persistent campaign world just like Risk Legacy. Player roles can be upgraded with new powers and possibly scars, and there is spots on the role cards for "Relationships", which I did not get to see. One thing that you do see from the get-go is that each city has circles around that get filled in whenever an Outbreak occurs. Too many filled in and the city riots, prevent you from traveling directly there. Even more and the city can be completely devestated.

If you like Pandemic even a little, this game is going to appeal to you. If you don't like Pandemic, the Legacy elements of this game may change your mind. Very excited for this one.


Overflow - by Phong Tram - A compact game from new designer Phong Tran of Thumb Tack Games (http://thumbtackgames.wordpress.com/), this game was a great surprise for me. The rules are available on his website, so I won't go too in depth with them here, but the premise of the game is that it is a card game that seeks to emulate the spirit of match-3 puzzlers like Bejeweled, and it does a very good job of doing just that. Turns are quick - you draw cards depending on the number of players and add them to the play area, then you add one card from your hand of cards, trying to match three in a row. You can then play an action from your hand (all cards all multipurpose both as "gems" on the field and actions, and many have a come into play effect when they are added from the deck in the "ante" ). When you clear rows, your charge your power meter, and when its completely full you can unleash an attack on an opponent to drop their HP. Last man standing wins. I played 1-on-1, but given the speed of the game, player elimination doesn't seem like much of an issue. We finished our game in about 20 minutes or so and I would have gladly played another.

Temple of Feng Shui - Bezier Games - This was a pretty low-key, abstract game from Ted Alspach and Bezier Games, and I had quite a bit of fun playing. Each player has a set of large colored blocks (think alphabet block sized), and is trying to stack them 1 or 2 at a time around a board and on top of other players cubes, with the board being sprinkled with various point tokens and player powers. Vertical area control might be a good way to describe this- the players can win the tokens on a space by having the most contiguous cubes in a tower, with ties broken by height. You can also link two towers of equal height that adjacent to one another by placing a block straddling the two, and each player has a meeple that they can place on a tower they control to prevent other players from placing on the chosen tower, though when you do this action, you may not place any cubes that turn. The scoring conditions are pretty interesting as well - there are points for having the most blocks on the bottom level of the towers, for the most on the top level, for having the majority of a token color at the end of the game, and a few others. I should note that the theme is razor thin on this one, so it may not appeal much to fans of American-style games, but Euro and Abstract player should find something to like here.

Name TBD - by Bezier Games - Lastly I played a game that I was told was a re-implementation of To Court the King, an older, out of print, dice-based game. This game was also very fast, and very fun. Players start off with a small pool of 3 dice with which they try to roll certain combinations to purchase certain upgrades; you can unlock additional dice that start off at a fixed number, or one time power ups, or powers that add pips to your rolled dice - there is a ton of variety. Each roll you have to lock one or more dice, and then you can re-roll your remaining dice, Yahtzee style (except you aren't limited to 3 rolls - as long as you lock 1 dice each turn you can have as many rolls as you have dice). Later on when you have additional dice you might be trying to go for things like 3 pairs, or 4 1s and a pair of 6s, or trying to get face values over 25, or having all odd numbers. There is definitely a lot to go for, and you can earn re-roll tokens by being the first person to purchase an upgrade. Game end triggers when 1 player gets 7 of a kind, and then each other player has an opportunity to try and beat their last. All together the game lasted about 20 or so minutes including explanation, and in that time, there were many tough decisions I had to make when determine what powers/upgrades I wanted to go for, and which dice I needed to keep or re-roll or use my tokens. I look forward to purchasing this one when it comes out.

All in all, I had a great time, and I got to meet a lot of designers whose games I adore, and I got to play with them and give them feedback! I wish I could spend the next two days there as well, but alas, it corresponds to Mothers Day so I will have to wait til next time. If anyone has any questions about the games I played, I will do my best to answer them (but no Pandemic Legacy spoilers).
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