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New Game Round-up: Revisiting the Dark Ages, Betraying Others, and Digging Graves

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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• Publishers, unintentionally or not, love to come up with new ways to test the BGG database. The latest example of this is Dark Ages, a pair of games from designers Adam Kwapiński and Andrei Novac and publisher Board&Dice that are playable by 1-4 players (with solo mode by Dávid Turczi) and are due out in 2020. Here's an overview of the settings and gameplay:
Dark Ages is a historically-based civilization-building game that features an innovative action selection mechanism. As long as your action markers remain on the board, you may be able to gain secondary bonus actions whenever you or another player repeat the action.

While Dark Ages features objectives commonly found in 4X games — encouraging you to explore nearby regions, expand your territory, exploit the resources, and exterminate your opponents — it does so featuring several Euro-centric mechanisms. Collect resources from lands under your control, using them to build up your cities and fortifications. Some building types provide several ways for you to gain important in-game advantages, while others enhance your military strength or simply score you victory points. As you expand your territory, you will lay claim to noble titles, acquire new technologies, and train your military units. Each region and leader offer asymmetrical choices with their unique abilities.

Dark Ages comes in two versions: Western Europe (subtitled Heritage of Charlemagne) and Central Europe (subtitled Holy Roman Empire). While both versions feature identical gameplay, each focuses its attention on a specific part of Europe during the Dark Ages (Western and Central, respectively). As a result, the game board maps differ between the two versions, as do the lands in which players vie for control over along with the flavor of the inhabitants and leaders of those lands. However, by combining both versions, you can enlarge the map into an epic battle for superiority for five or more players!
So is this one game or two?!

• Is writing about a game after its Kickstarter campaign has ended useful? I ask this question after discovering Mantic Games' League of Infamy from designers James M. Hewitt and Sophie Williams nearly a month after funding was achieved (KS link). On the assumption that the answer to that question is "Yes", here's an overview of this November 2020 release:
League of Infamy is an occasionally co-operative dungeon crawler for 2-5 players in which it pays to commit dastardly deeds and partake in foul thievery — often against your own party.

Join a rogue's gallery of misfits, ne'er-do-wells, and miscreants on a disgraceful mission to kidnap cute little baby drakons, steal their eggs, and viciously wipe out any irritating, goody-goody elves who try to stop your nefarious schemes.

But it's not just the elves you need to keep a wary eye on. Your fellow (mis)adventurers are just as likely to betray you and steal your loot, shove you into harm's way, or just leave you in a dungeon full of unbeatable foes. As they like to say in the League of Infamy, "keep your enemies close, but keep your friends at knifepoint".
• In November 2018, I interviewed designer Jeffrey D. Allers about his card game Rolnicy that had been released by Polish publisher Nasza Księgarnia. That game design will now have an English-language release, although with a quite different look and setting thanks to publisher Renegade Game Studios. Here's an overview of what you'll find in the Q1 2020 release Gloomy Graves:
In Gloomy Graves, you work as a gravedigger in a dark fantasy world in which epic battles rage continuously. The corpses of pixies, goblins, unicorns, cyclops, and dragons have begun to pile up, so you've got your work cut out for you. Manage your private crypt and the communal graveyard, each with different placement rules. Keep the place organized as you bury corpses in different areas of the graveyard, or it's your own grave you'll be digging!

You earn points based on how well-organized you keep your private crypt and the communal graveyard, grouping corpse types together. You also earn points at the end of the game for the number of different corpse types you've scored on during the game. Whoever collects the most points wins!
Portal Games has announced a Q1 2020 release for Empires of the North – Roman Banners from Joanna Kijanka, this being the second expansion for Empires of the North with two new Roman decks and additional island cards being added to the base game.

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