W. Eric Martin
• In April 2017, I wrote about the Hasbro Gaming Crate, a quarterly release from Hasbro that would contain three party or family-themed games (depending on which you choose) for $50. My write-up included this line: "Hasbro Chairman and CEO Brian Goldner referred to the Hasbro Gaming Crate as 'profitable experimentation' since those who buy the Crates are encouraged to give feedback on the titles, which might then make it into general distribution depending on the results."
Given the recent emphasis by Hasbro on viral video-inspired releases such as Pie Face, Egged On, Flip Challenge, and Speak Out, I didn't expect much, but some details on the first two crates have now been released, and some of the items are completely unexpected. To begin with, the main title of the Family Crate is an English-language version of Takashi Hamada and Kenji Shimojima's Mask of Anubis, which debuted in 2016 from GIFT10INDUSTRY before being brought to SPIEL 2016 by Japon Brand. This new version is renamed Mask of the Pharaoh and will reach subscribers in August 2017.
For those not familiar with the game, here's a short description:
Mask of Anubis is a mixture of "VR (virtual reality)" and a board game, with a free application included that converts your smartphone into VR goggles!
The purpose of the game is for players to cooperate to create a map of the maze. On a turn, one player lands on one point of the maze and gets a 360º view of the maze by wearing VR goggles with a smartphone inserted. This player explains to the team members what they see and their teammates attempt to use this description to create part of the map of the maze.
Each player gets one minute to explain what they see, then the play passes to the next player (who will be presented a different view of the maze). Repeat this seven times, then players win the game if the complete map is connected from the entrance to the goal correctly!
Another title in the Family Crate is Leo Colovini's Leo Goes to the Barber, this being an English-only version of the Kinderspiel des Jahres nominee that ABACUSSPIELE released in 2016. The third title is Tricky Wishes, which sounds from the description like a repackaged version of Chris Castagnetto's 3 Wishes from Strawberry Studio: "To win this card game, players will need to find three kinds of wishes: one Superpower, one Gift, and one World Harmony. Players can take turns swapping, shuffling, and peeking at card wishes to collect the highest-scoring set." Amazing to see these three titles that originally appeared from publishers in Japan, Germany, and Romania be aimed at mainstream gamers this way!
As for the Party Crate, well, that one appears to be more typical as it contains Speak Out: Joe Santagato (with Joe Santagato apparently being a YouTube celebrity of some sort), Box of Rocks (this being a new edition of the Joe and Dave Herbert design released by Haywire Group in 2016), and Judgmental, which sounds familiar in a Who Would Win kind of way:
Historical figures, fictional characters, and celebrities go head-to-head in this crazy "judgmental" tournament-style game. Choose a contender but keep it a secret, then have fun arguing who should win ridiculous contests before passing judgement! Get your contender all the way to the final round to win!
• Spanish publisher Ludonova has unveiled a pair of titles that it will feature at SPIEL 2017 in October. At first glance, Yves Tourigny's Cosmogenesis sounds and looks somewhat like Exoplanets from Przemysław Świerczyński, but the complete rules are available for download on BGG for those who want to go beyond this overview:
In a game of Cosmogenesis, each player creates their own planet system, starting from a star and an asteroid belt. To do this, they use the elements available on the different sections of the central board. In each round, players obtain one element from each of the four sections over four turns and with these elements players form planets and moons. These then collide with each other, causing them to increase in size, develop rings, form atmospheres, and of course create life. Players do all of this in order to fulfill their own objectives, which like the rest of the elements of the game, are obtained from the central board; at the end of the game, these provide the victory points that determine the overall winner.
• The other Ludonova title is also an Yves Tourigny design, this being the solitaire card game Arkham Noir — more specifically, Arkham Noir — Case File 1: The Witch Cult Murders, which bears this description:
Walpurgis Night, May’s Eve, is always a nightmare in witch-haunted Arkham. There are bad doings, and a child or two frequently goes missing. This year, Miskatonic University students engaged in occult studies have been turning up dead. Arkham Police, in deference to your unusual expertise, have asked for your help to get to the root of the matter. Time is of the essence because after Walpurgis Night, the trail will grow cold and the culprits will retreat to the shadows until the next Witches' Sabbat, when the next cycle of deaths will begin.
As private investigator Howard Lovecraft, you will investigate events based on the stories "The Dreams in the Witch House" (1933), "The Thing on the Doorstep" (1933), and "The Unnamable" (1923).
Arkham Noir is inspired by the interconnected stories of H. P. Lovecraft and other authors, re-imagined as noir detective stories. Each case stands alone. Gameplay consists of adding cards to open cases, creating lines of investigation in an effort to solve them. The ultimate goal is to score five "puzzle" clue cards in order to piece together the big picture before running out of time or mental stability. Each newly shuffled deck is the start of a unique challenge, with adjustable difficulty levels to accommodate all level of players.