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New Game Round-up: Reliving the Middle Ages in Twenty Minutes, and Reading the Path of Light and Shadow

W. Eric Martin
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• German publisher Hans im Glück has (at least) two items on its release schedule for SPIEL 2017 in October, with one of them being an expansion for The Voyages of Marco Polo from designers Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini. Moritz Brunnhofer, the HiG representative I spoke with, gave no details other than that an expansion is coming, but BGG users are speculating on what it might contain should you care to join them.

The other item coming from HiG is a Marc André design tentatively titled Middle Ages, with this game bearing the distinctive micro-action hallmark of earlier André designs such as Splendor, Barony, and Sail Away.

In this game for 2-4 players, each player has a set of eight tiles that represent their city. A deck of cards is shuffled, then six cards laid out in a row, with each card showing one or two symbols that match seven of the city tiles. (The eighth tile is a graveyard of sorts, and no one puts anything in there willingly!) On a turn, a player takes one of the cards in the row, paying for each card they skip, then they add this card to their city, earning a benefit based on the matching tile where the card is placed. Some cards give you money (which equals points at the end of the game), some let you attack everyone else, some give you defense against attacks, some pull cards from the graveyard, and some give you more buying tokens so that you can take the card you want and not whatever is at the front of the line.

Players take twelve cards total, then the game ends and players score points for having the most of a card type for each of the seven types as well as a diversity bonus for having lots of different types of cards. Majority vs. variety is the basic tug-of-war at play in many games, and it works well here, with the desire for variety having you look inward while the need for a majority has you look at everyone else — not to mention the need for defense.

I played Middle Ages twice, and I wish that Brunnhofer hadn't told me the designer's name as I'm sure that I could have guessed it given how streamlined and bite-sized everything was. One explored aspect of the game during those plays is that the city tiles are double-sided, so once you have experience with side A, you can try side B to relearn the game all over again. Brunnhofer stressed that players use all side A or side B tiles and don't mix-and-match them, but once you take the game home, you can do as you like, of course. Just don't expect Hans im Glück to answer any rule questions about your illicit set-up...

Travis R. Chance, co-designer of Path of Light and Shadow from Indie Boards & Cards with Nick Little and Jonathan Gilmour, has started posting a series of articles about the origins of the game, its central choice between being cruel or merciful (which drives your interaction with those you recruit from the provinces), how culling works, and the nature of the nomadic Hordes of Zurd, which "drag with them the Mother Stone, a massive black rock that fell from the sky before their time".

Tasty Minstrel Games has picked up Jesse Li's The Flow of History, first published by Moaideas Game Design in 2016, with a Kickstarter funding campaign planned for April 2017. Jesse Li stopped by the BGG booth at SPIEL 2016, where we recorded an overview of this card-based civilization-building game.

• TMG is also releasing a new edition of Hisashi Hayashi's Okey Dokey, a cooperative card game first released by the designer's OKAZU Brand in which players try to assemble a music festival by placing the fifty performers in the ten available columns.
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