PLAY Modena, April 5-6, 2014
Gunther Schmidl
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I attended PLAY Modena again this year after my first foray in 2012.

Last time I went, I played several prototypes of games: some are still being made, some vanished without a trace, and some are currently in 11th place on BGG.

So, what was different this year?

- I took the buses. They cost €1,20 for one trip and are every Italian stereotype condensed into a single event. The timetables are impenetrable even to natives. They're crowded, loud, late, and the ticket machines often don't work, whereupon you simply don't pay at all, unless ticket inspectors come aboard and fix them while the bus is still going. Yes, this happened. They also think it's a great idea to have one bus per hour to and from the fair and are surprised when there's more demand than the bus can fulfil. I couldn't help laughing at it all.

- many, many more Italian-language board games. Two years ago, lots of vendors were selling English games; almost none were available this year, and an astounding number of new games are being released in Italian. It also seems like most FFG, RGG and SJG games, at least, are available in Italian versions.

- even more Italian talent with interesting new game ideas.
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1. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2240]
Gunther Schmidl
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The first game I played was Dungeonpig, by Luca Cazzani, illustrated by Angelo Porazzi.

This is a family game influenced by the likes of WizWar and Kragmortha: two teams of heroes explore a dungeon and try to be the first to catch the magic pig and return it to their base. But each room carries silliness and/or dangers, the heroes' abilities backfire as often as not, and the pig has a mind of its own... and soon, everyone is pinching their nose while disco-dancing and trying to avoid saying the word "dice" lest they be forced to return to their base. Stay away if you can't stand the type of game that forces you into physical comedy; otherwise, get it ASAP.
 
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2. Board Game: Heroes of Normandie [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:713] [Average Rating:7.58 Unranked]
Gunther Schmidl
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I had a test play of the Italian version of this re-implementation of Frontiers, and it looks really good. It's getting a simultaneous, localized release in multiple countries at once, as everyone probably already knows. I really liked Frontiers, and this is pretty good as well.
 
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3. Board Game: Imperial Settlers [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:126]
Gunther Schmidl
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The prototype for Imperial Settlers was available to play, so I dove right in. I was asked not to go into detail, so I'll just say I'm pretty sure Ignacy has another top seller up his sleeve.

I also checked out the 3.0 version of Neuroshima Hex and an upcoming game whose Polish name I was unable to remember that is a mixture of Clue and Dixit: one player, as the "ghost", tries to give hints to all the other players using a Dixit-esque mechanism until they have each discovered a murder weapon, location, and suspect, or all fail together. Looked like an intereresting yet casual take on murder mystery.
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4. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2240]
Gunther Schmidl
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Next was Zulf, a tactical combat game for two to eight players. The prototype was entirely laser-cut, with the figures' forms dictating how much players can fit on a single square. The goal is to destroy opponents' castles with an array of weaponry ranging from fast and weak to slow and strong. Each destroyed enemy piece can add to the conqueror's strength, and four additional territories not directly in the main combat arena allow for additional conquests that aid a player's attack, defense, speed or unit replication.
 
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5. Board Game: Scendincampo: Corri la tua Campagna Elettorale [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Gunther Schmidl
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Finally, taking up multiple hours of my time (and I was glad it did) was Italian politics satire Scendincampo. Displaying Italy as a bunch of unconnected and hotly contested "islands" and thinly veiled caricatures of current and happily-no-longer-current Italian politicians, the game is a deceptively deep contest for votes fought via televised duels and using every trick in the book (like owning the TV stations in question). Eventually, I won as Gianfranco Fini by droning on and on about public security and overfull jails. Much like actual politics. Hopefully the guys from AMI Cube Studio will find a way to make the game accessible to the rest of the world.
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6. Board Game: Krosmaster: Arena [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:926] [Average Rating:6.90 Unranked]
Gunther Schmidl
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Those were the actually-new games I had a look at, but my biggest surprise was the insane number of Krosmaster players even outside of the Italian finals that took place over the weekend. Who'd have thought a blind-buy €5-a-pop chibi miniature game would still sell this well in 2014? I sure didn't.
 
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