W. Eric Martin
• Time to get away from the game previews and recorded game demonstrations for at least one post and do a good old-fashioned round-up focusing on upcoming games! Yeah! And what better title to start with than Die Staufer, an Andreas Steding design that is supposedly (possibly?) going to be available from Hans im Glück at Spiel 2014 in October despite the title not yet being listed by distributor Schmidt Spiele. We shall see, yes?
As for what the game is about, here's a summary description:
In Die Staufer, the players accompany Emperor Frederick Barbarossa on his travels through the Holy Roman Empire. Seats in the royal council, money, and action cards are auctioned off, with the players bidding simultaneously and hidden. Acquiring majorities in the council and using your action cards to their best will let you win this multilayered game.
Well, that doesn't tell you very much! Maybe this helps a bit more:
I played a prototype of Die Staufer with HiG's Georg Wild and Jasmin Weigand in mid-2014, and the short explanation of gameplay is "This is 100% a Hans im Glück title, one you could recognize even with no cover on the box". Okay, that doesn't describe the gameplay either, but it does convey the spirit of the game, just as you could tell that, say, Egizia or Helios were HiG releases just from the gameplay.
Not knowing what might have changed from mid-2014 to now (and realizing that I've forgotten certain details since that time), I'll keep my description at the 30,000 foot level: Six regions comprise the playing space, with players attempting to gain majorities in the regions — but only at particular times since not every region scores in each round. In fact, most regions don't score, but you'll still want to be active in them due to other gains that you can make, as indicated by the tiles placed next to the regions. Players draft tiles from the small board shown at right, with some incentives to take tiles that have been on offer longer than others. The large marker sweeps through the regions, returning meeples to their owners for use again on future turns.
Wow, my memory is really shot in my old age or I've just seen too many games in the past few years and they now obscure one another like multiple plastic films in front of a lens. I used to be able to recall every detail of every game, but that's what I have for now. Also, things might have and probably did change with the design as Georg and Jasmin were soliciting all types of ideas and trying to figure out everything beyond the core of the design. This is how you get a game to feel like a Hans im Glück release, after all: Work on a design endlessly until it presents the play experience that you want it to have.
• On September 18, 2014 HiG and English-language partner Z-Man Games announced a new look for Carcassonne: "With new amazing cover art by our very own Chris Quilliams and beautifully designed tiles by Anne Pätzke, Carcassonne will appeal to newcomers and die-hard fans alike. Fear not, the back of the tiles remain the same, so this edition is fully compatible with previously released expansions."
So the front of the tiles is different but not so different that it should make a difference during a game — that's the promise anyway, although it's unclear why you'd risk an uproar among fans of the game by making such a change unless you're really gaining something from it. Hmmm. A Carcassonne fan site on Facebook pasted old tiles into the new image to show what the game might look like should you combine old and new down the line:
This new version of Carcassonne, due out in time for Spiel 2014, includes both the River mini-expansion and a new expansion titled Der Abt (The Abbot).
• Other items coming from Hans im Glück include the second title in its "Carcassonne: Around the World" series of standalone games: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede's Carcassonne: Gold Rush. Here's a summary of gameplay:
In Carcassonne: Gold Rush, players return to the 19th century in the United States when cowboys drove cattle, trappers traded with Native Americans, the first railway routes appeared, and explorers — that is, the players — sent their henchmen to gold mines to laboriously search for gold nuggets. Depending on where you place your tent, you might be able to snatch a nugget from another explorer — but sometimes you'll be left holding fool's gold while someone else uncovers a rich gold find...
• Finally, to celebrate Russian Railroads' first-place finish in the Deutschen SpielePreises, HiG plans to release a small expansion for the game at Spiel 2014: