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New Game Round-up: Count Crops in Catan, Connect Animals in Eco-Links, and Do...Something in Scientia

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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Catan is the Little Engine That Could in the hobby game world. I rarely hear long-time gamers talk about playing Catan at game night, yet it keeps chugging along in the background, with thousands of people still learning about the game for the first time decades after its debut, getting addicted to it, then telling someone else about it.

Thus, it shouldn't be a surprise that KOSMOS and Catan Studio keep releasing the game in new settings and with new scenarios to provide twists on the familiar formula. At Gen Con 2018, we got a preview of the next such title in the series: Catan Scenario: Crop Trust, a 3-4 player expansion from Klaus and Benjamin Teuber that's meant to do more than just entertain players. Here's an overview, followed by the demo we recorded at Gen Con 2018:

Catan Scenario: Crop Trust is an engaging and fun game experience for the family that may lead to thoughtful understanding about the importance of crop diversity to our food supply. Here, we introduce simple, semi-cooperative rules that enliven and educate the Catan experience. Players must weigh their need to harvest crops against a collective goal to store and preserve seeds in the seed vault.

This scenario was developed in collaboration with the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an independent international organization whose goal is to preserve crop diversity in order to protect global food security.

• Another ecology-themed game in the offing, with this one due out at SPIEL '18 in October, is Eco-Links from Günter Burkhardt and Korea Boardgames, although the ecological element seems to be solely in the name once you start examining the gameplay:

Environmental changes have forced animals out of their natural habitats and separated them from each other. Restore their habitats and help them reconnect with their families! You can earn more points if you create your path before anyone else.

Eco-Links is played in several rounds, and all players play simultaneously. Every round, six number tiles are revealed. Players then place their animal markers to the corresponding numbers on their board. The aim is to connect them all together using your path tiles. However, only the first and second player to successfully link all markers can get points. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

• Can we find an upcoming game with a scientific link that's even more tenuous? Of course we can! Scientia from designer Evan Song and publisher BoardM Factory will be demoed at SPIEL '18, but not available for purchase at the show, no matter how much you want to take this Vincent Dutrait-created cover home with you. The game sounds fun and twisty, although I think we need to see card samples to really understand how it will work. Here's an overview:

Scientia is a tactical game for 2~4 players who compete to develop in four scientific fields: physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy. The game includes three different cards from each field, and each card has two different sides, so there are 24 effects for a game. On a turn, a player can choose one of two options:

• Take a card and place it in front of their personal board as long as it does not exceed its slot limit. There are two slots at the beginning of the game, and more can be added during the game.
• Rotate one card twice (180º) or two cards once (90º each).

If a card is fully rotated (360º), that card is moved to the completion area. As soon as a card moved to the completion area, do this process:

1: Advance the research marker of that card's field.
2: If the research marker has reached the rightmost space of a track, take the score tile.
3: Apply the card's effect.
4: Put the card back in the center's appropriate position. If that position is empty, flip it before placing it, making a new effect available.

The game ends if all flasks (cubes) run out or all scoring tiles run out. Then calculate various scoring factors: cubes, research markers, fields, scoring markers, etc. All cards are always visible to all players.

So, wait? The entire game has only twelve cards? Or does each player have twelve? Or are multiple copies of the cards included, but only twelve types? Given my love of Innovation and other involved card-manipulation designs, I'll definitely be checking this out in Essen.

Update, Sept. 18, 2018: BoardM Factory just uploaded this image, which makes the gameplay much clearer!

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