W. Eric Martin
• North Star Games has two items in the works related to its popular Evolution board game. First, as noted on the iOS Board Game blog, North Star is working on a digital version of the game and is taking sign-ups for alpha testers of a desktop-only version through April 22, 2017 (with tablet and phone versions to come). North Star had a test version of digital Evolution at PAX East in March 2017, and I played a few rounds, finding the system quite intuitive, despite me having next-to-no digital gaming experience.
Second, former North Star employee Nick Bentley is working on a standalone spinoff game that bears the working title Evolution: The Oceans. As Bentley explains in his introduction to the game, Evolution players have long been interested in exploring deep waters with their card-created creatures, but (1) North Star first wanted to create expansions for the existing game, which it did with Flight and Climate, and (2) they couldn't figure out a good way to integrate oceanic creatures with land-based ones given that their evolutionary traits would not mesh in any meaningful way.
After leaving North Star, however, Bentley crossed paths with marine biologist Brian O’Neill, and they melded minds to figure out what Evolution: The Oceans should be look should such a game exist. They now have a licensing agreement with North Star to make the game happen and plan to deliver the design to the publisher by Gen Con 2017 in August so that North Star can develop it ahead of a Kickstarter in Q2 2018 and a scheduled release at Gen Con 2018. Time to start that convention preview!
• Zug um Zug: Deutschland, first released in 2012 in Germany and Austria by Days of Wonder as a replacement for Alan R. Moon's Ticket to Ride: Märklin, is finally coming to the U.S. and the rest of Europe. What's more, Ticket to Ride: Germany will include the extra tickets and the passenger tokens from the Deutschland 1902 expansion for Zug um Zug: Deutschland.
To clarify, Ticket to Ride: Märklin used the basic Ticket to Ride formula of collecting cards to claim train routes and score tickets when you connect certain cities. To that vanilla cake, it added a passenger mechanism in which three times during the game you could move a passenger token along routes that you had claimed to collect city tokens which decreased in value as more passengers visited a city. The mechanism added tension to the base game since you wanted to build up long connected routes in order to hit as many cities as possible, but at the risk of having others move passengers first and taking more valuable tokens. The drawback was that you had to set up stacks of wobbly tokens all over the board prior to play.
Zug um Zug: Deutschland stripped out the passenger mechanism and left only the map of Germany and accompanying tickets. Deutschland 1902 then added passengers back in, but in a new way. At the start of the game, players added one colored passenger to most cities and up to five in others. Whenever a player places a route on the board, they claim a passenger from the two cities that form the endpoints for that route (assuming that the passengers have not already been claimed). At the end of the game, whoever has the most passengers of each of the six colors scores 20 points for that color; whoever has the secondmost passengers in a color scores 10 points. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.
The ticket count of Ticket to Ride: Germany doesn't seem to exactly match that of the Deutschland base game and expansion, but it's close. In any case, Ticket to Ride: Germany is scheduled to be available in June 2017 in Europe and to debut at Gen Con 2017 in August, with a €44/$50 MSRP.