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New Game Round-up: Exploring New Land as Homo Sapiens, Collecting Gamey Eggs from Eagle-Gryphon & Uncovering a Murderer in Mysterium

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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Board Game: Sapiens
Catch Up Games is a new French publisher that plans to release its debut title — Sapiens from designer Cyrille Leroy — in March 2015. Here's an overview of the game:

The time has come for the tribe to leave its shelter and head for new lands. As the chief of your clan, it's up to you to guide your prehistoric people through the valley: Take advantage of the environment, pick and hunt for food, discover big and safe caverns for the upcoming winter, gather your tribe and discover the valley!

Sapiens is a short and easy-to-learn tile-placement game that can prove much deeper then it seems for gamers. Each player has a personal game board that represents the valley on which they will play tiles to determine the journey of their tribe through several prehistoric life scenes. Their aim is to gather food points on the plains and in the forests of the valley and to get shelter points for reaching caves in the mountains. A player's turn consists of two steps:

• Connect one new tile from the four in his personal pool to the tiles already in play on his board, with connected scenes needing to match. These placements earn food points when a connection is made, earns shelter points when a cave is reached, and sometimes provides a special ability based on the connected scenes.

• Choose a new tile from the five available in a common pool to re-fill his personal pool to four tiles.
Players score both food and shelter points during the game, but only their lower score counts when determining who wins. Here's a prototype version of an individual player board to help you visualize how the game is played:

Board Game: Sapiens

Family: Series: The E•G•G
Board Game: 12 Days of Christmas
• Clearly Eagle-Gryphon Games had more in mind than brand clarity when it recently announced a change in name. No, it chose that specific name so that it could inflict a world of horrible puns on us, puns that originate from the company's new acronym: EGG.

Okay, perhaps you're a fan of puns or a fan of eggs. Whatever the case, EGG has announced a new series of games in small boxes (5.75" by 4.25") with this series being dubbed The E•G•G Series. The first title in The E•G•G Series will be, most appropriately, Eggs and Empires, although it won't receive its #1 designation and E•G•G logo until it's reprinted at some point down the road. E•G•G #2 is 12 Days of Christmas from Dr. Gord Hamilton, which is on Kickstarter for the holidays but not due out until July — strange. (KS link) Here's a rundown of this rolling trick-taking game:

To play 12 Days of Christmas, deal out twelve cards to each player; the deck consists of 78 cards: one 1, two 2s, and so on up to twelve 12s. By following the lead established by the first player, each player attempts to give away all of her cards before the other players can. The first player can lead a single card, a set of at least two cards of the same value, or a straight of at least two cards. The next players either pass or play a similar combination of cards (although not necessarily the same number of cards) that includes at least one card that's as low or lower than the lead player's low card. Whoever has played the lowest card once everyone has passed becomes the new lead player.

Whoever runs out of cards first claims one of the available gift cards; whoever has the most cards left in hand must give a gift card to this round's winner! Whoever has the most gifts when the gifts run out wins.
Board Game: Eggs and Empires
Board Game: King's Kilt
Board Game: Krakatoa

Other titles to come in The E•G•G Series include King's Kilt (#3, Gord Hamilton, with players trying to place their clan members on positions of power), Krakatoa (#4, a new version of a Joli Quentin Kansil dice game), Dexicon (#5, a deck-building word game by Andrew Rowse), and Seven 7s (#7, a quick-playing card game designed around collections of 7 by Jason Tagmire).

From gallery of W Eric Martin
• I thought that I had already posted something about Tajemnicze Domostwo, the surprise hit of BGG.CON 2014 from Portal Games and designers Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko, but apparently I've only tweeted news about the game on BGG's Twitter feed — follow for fun links and occasional news! — so let's bring everyone up to date, starting with how to pronounce the game's name courtesy of Portal's Ignacy Trzewiczek: "'Tie-em-neetch-A' like in 'A-nything', 'DO-most-vo' with 'DO' like it 'DOts'."

Tajemnicze Domostwo was released in Poland in 2013, and versions have also been released in Italy, Ukraine and Russia. Designer Bruno Faidutti noted in April 2014 that the game was the hit of his annual game gathering, and the title was also available at Spiel 2014. It was known, at least by some, but not widely known. On the tables in front of 2,500 gamers in Dallas, though, everyone was playing the game and talking about it; Portal Games blew through their copies in no time, then held a special sale to try to satisfy demand from eager U.S. gamers.

Board Game: Tajemnicze Domostwo
Items at top, then locations and characters

So what's the game? Tajemnicze Domostwo plays somewhat like a co-operative version of Clue crossed with Dixit. One player represents a ghost, a spirit that's been trapped in a mansion after being unfairly punished for a murder. The ghost now understands who the real killer is and must try to transmit that information to the 1-6 investigators — the other players — now staying in the house and it has only seven days in which to do this, first by relaying information about everyone who was present at the time of the murder, then by identifying the murderer himself.

To set up, a number of item, location and character cards are laid on the table; the ghost then secretly selects one item, location and character for each player, and the identity of these cards is what the ghost must transmit to the players — but the ghost can do so only through dreams each night, with these dreams being represented by Dixit-style cards that include lots of details but very little in the way of concrete matches between the information that you actually want to transmit! Players talk about their dreams in order to help one another try to interpret the information, and if someone identifies her particular item, then the ghost tries to send her info about the location, then about her character. Once everyone has identified their characters, the ghost must send clues about one of them and the team of investigators must identify this culprit in order to win. All of this in only seven days time — that is, seven rounds!

Board Game: Mysterium

Portal Games appears to be out of copies of Tajemnicze Domostwo for now, although Ukrainian and Italian copies might be available, but for those who can (or must) wait French publisher Libellud is working on a new edition of the game titled Mysterium with some new artwork and a new cover by Xavier Collette (Seasons, Dixit, Abyss). Stephanie at Libellud notes that the publisher is making different versions of the game for different countries that don't already have a licensed version. She adds, "We will also make some improvements, like adding some components such as a screen for the ghost." Libellud plans to release the game worldwide at Spiel 2015 in October, but Asmodee — Libellud's distributor in North America — has noted that it expects to have copies for release at Gen Con 2015 in August.

I've included sketches from Collette below, and while I'm sure that some people will freak out at the idea of changing the artwork from what already exists, I imagine that the Libellud version will function somewhat like an expansion for those who already own Tajemnicze Domostwo. Every publisher has its own sense of what sells best in its market, and given that Libellud is the original publisher of Dixit, which feels like an ancestor of this design, I'm sure that it will make fine choices for the final look of Mysterium, too.

Board Game: Mysterium
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