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News from BGG.CON 2011: Escape from Queen Games, Article 27 from Stronghold & a Merchant of Venus Update

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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Have I played any games at BGG.CON 2011, which runs to Sunday, November 20? Yes, I have – Taluva twice with friend and old gaming buddy Evil Bob.

But you probably want to hear about new stuff, right? Kevin Nesbitt from Stronghold Games dropped word of a new release coming in 2012 from designer Dan Baden. Here's the game description for Article 27: The UN Security Council Game from the listing that I just created in the database:

Article 27: The UN Security Council Game gets its title from – yes, you guessed it – Article 27 of the United Nations Charter, which includes these two provisions:

1. Each member of the Security Council shall have one vote.
2. Decisions of the Security Council on procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members.

In this negotiation game, each player represents one member of the UN Security Council and will both present and be presented with different proposals.

In each round, one player acts as the UN Secretary General, presents a proposal to the Council and presides over a negotiation period that lasts no more than five minutes. The proposal will affect five issues – military, currency, etc. – in various ways, and each player has a secret document for the round that tells him how a change in each issue will affect him. All players openly negotiate on what they need in terms of points and bribes in order to vote for that proposal.

After at most five minutes, the Secretary General closes negotiations by banging his wooden gavel, then players vote yes or no on the proposal. Any "no" vote kills the proposal, as in the United Nation's actual Security Council – but vetoing a proposal costs a player points, so he might prefer to look for deals that will enable him to say "yes". The Secretary General scores a bonus when his proposal succeeds, so he and others who will benefit might be willing to negotiate to make the proposal sweet for all.

After each player has served as Secretary General once (twice in a three-player game), each player scores based on bribe money on hand, points scored from proposal cards, and how well the player fulfilled the secret agenda card he received at the start of the game.

Nesbitt says that one way to think of this game is similar to Sid Sackson's I'm the Boss!, but without any of the power cards that put players in uneven positions of power. Instead everyone must rely on their own powers of persuasion to bend others to see things their way. "In my opinion, this is the best pure negotiation game I've ever played," says Nesbitt.

Nesbitt also gave me an update on the Merchant of Venus situation regarding efforts by both Stronghold Games and Fantasy Flight Games to bring the title to market again, with Stronghold aiming to reprint the Richard Hamblen design in pretty much its original form and FFG intending to "[kick] it into hyperdrive with several new enhancements", as noted on the game page on the FFG website. (See this BGG News item for more details.)

Nesbitt acknowledges that Fantasy Flight has been gracious in its dealings with Stronghold to resolve this issue, while also noting that FFG essentially has no say in the final resolution since Stronghold must negotiate with Hasbro, which licensed Merchant of Venus to FFG. "We're still hopeful for some kind of resolution," he says, mentioning that he expects the issue to be settled by the end of 2011. "Any agreement we hope to get depends on finding something to make us all happy." Given that FFG has announced a March 2012 release date for its version of MoV while Stronghold had been aiming for a Q2 2012 release, he doesn't expect a delay in the release one way or the other.

One thing that is clear, however, is that "while there is room in theory for two versions of the game, that doesn't make good business sense", says Nesbitt, so don't expect to see competing versions of the design on game store shelves.

Frank Thyben from Queen Games is demoing a few 2012 releases at BGG.CON, one of which is by Norwegian designer Kristian Amundsen Østby. The working title is Escape: The Curse of the Mayan Temple, and Queen hopes to present the game formally at the Nuremberg toy fair in February 2012. Here's a rundown of the game from the listing I created for the BGG database:

Escape: The Curse of the Mayan Temple, which is possibly not the design's final title, is a cooperative game in which players must escape (yes...) from a temple (yes...) before the temple collapses and kills one or more explorers, thereby causing everyone to lose.

The initial game board consists of a row of three square tiles, each showing a combination of two symbols, say, two feet or one foot and one blue power symbol in one corner of the tile. All of the explorers start in the center tile – the safe room – and each player starts with a hand of five dice. Each die has five symbols:

• A wound – this die is set aside when rolled, indicating the player has had an accident while exploring the temple.
• A healing symbol – each such symbol heals two wounds, either your own or those of another explorer in the same room or a combination of both.
• A red or blue power symbol – these are used to enter rooms, access treasure, or (most importantly of all) discover special gems.
• A foot, which appears twice on the die – you need feet to move from room to room; feets, don't fail me now!

Escape is played in real-time, with all players rolling dice and taking actions simultaneously. You must roll the right symbols to enter a room, and if you're at an open doorway, you can roll to reveal the next tile in the stack and add it to that doorway. Some rooms contain treasure, and when you reveal such a room, you place a face-down treasure chest on the tile. Roll the symbols on that chest tile, and you claim the treasure for use later: a key lets you teleport anywhere, a path lets you connect two rooms that otherwise have no door between them, and a medic kit heals all players instantly (putting black dice back into play).

Some rooms contain combinations of red and blue symbols, and if you (possibly working with other players in the same room) roll enough red or blue symbols, you "discover" special gems, moving them from a supply card off the game board onto that tile.

The real-time aspect is enforced by a soundtrack to be played during the game. At certain points, a countdown starts, and if players aren't back in the safe room when time is up, they lose one of their dice.

Once the exit tile is revealed, players can attempt to escape the temple by moving to that tile, then rolling a number of blue dice equal to the special gems that ''haven't'' been removed from the supply card. Thus, the more gems you find, the easier it is to escape the temple. When a player escapes, he gives one die to a player of his choice. If all players escape before the third countdown, everyone wins; if not, everyone loses, no matter how many players did escape.

The game adjusts to different player counts by starting with varying number of supply gems. In addition, in the advanced version of the game, some tiles "curse" players by forcing them to place one hand on their head, keep mute during play, or otherwise do what you wouldn't want to do while escaping a temple!

Holy smokes, that's a long description – and I didn't even get to play the game! It sounds like a late night blast, but Frank was on an even-later night than me since he was still on German time and it was effectively 5 a.m. for him. Next time!
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