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Designer Diary: Jekyll vs. Hyde

Geonil B
South Korea
서울특별시
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Board Game: Jekyll vs. Hyde
During the more than five years that I have been designing board games, I have submitted a card game (usually a trick-taking game) at Korean board game fairs almost every year. In the fall of 2018, I was also thinking about which new game to submit to a board game fair. Since I was quite happy with the two-player game that I had made before, I tried to make another two-player tug-of-war style game. At the subway station on my way home from a weekly meeting where amateur game designers tested games together, I overheard a student who was on the phone swearing about his homeroom teacher: "Oh, I'm so annoyed. My teacher is Jekyll and Hyde!" At that moment, I decided that the theme of my new game would be the struggle between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Since a game is much more than just a theme, I started to think about how it would work. A few months previously, I had played The Fox in the Forest and Claim, and I felt that two-player trick-taking games were very appealing, so I wanted my new game to be a tug-of-war style game with an object that could move back and forth across a certain line. Also, I thought it would be better to make the game asymmetrical because of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde's different dispositions.

While I had decided that it would definitely be a two-player trick-taking game with asymmetric roles, I was still thinking about the logistics of the scoring system. I didn't think that requiring that a player to earn a pre-set number of tricks, which is a common scoring system in many trick-taking games I've played, would be a suitable system for this game. I considered making the score dependent on collecting cards of a specific suit, like in Claim, but in the end I decided against it because I felt that it would make getting a good hand too important (and I didn't want to divide the game into two phases — collecting and playing — as in Claim). I finally opted for a scoring range based on the number of tricks taken, as in The Fox in the Forest.

Board Game: The Fox in the Forest
Joshua Buergel's The Fox in the Forest is one of my favorite two-player trick-taking games. It has many interesting features, but the one I find most interesting is that the more tricks you take, the better — but if you get too greedy, you have to give your opponent points. That means the stronger your hand, the better, but even if your hand is weak, you still have a chance to win. I wanted to push this a little further so that winning and not winning tricks was of equal value. As I thought about the idea of "the complete elimination of evil from Dr. Jekyll, who was a mix of good and evil", which was the reason why Dr. Jekyll made potions, I started to think about balance and inequity. I hit upon the notion of "advancing along the track based on the difference in the number of tricks each player had taken" and "the tussle between pushing your inner self to the extreme and exercising self-control".

However, this alone seemed insufficient. The second problem I struggled to solve was how to determine and vary the power of a suit. I had experimented a lot with this on my own over the past five years, but incorporating too many complex systems in a game always makes gameplay awkward. Finally, I came up with the most basic way of determining the power rank of a suit: the order in which it is played. In a trick-taking game, the trump suit or the strongest suit is the key factor in determining how the game will work out. If this is decided on the first trick, the outcome of the game will be determined too early, so I determined that the suit played earliest would be the weakest suit.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
At first, there were no potion cards with special effects. Instead, the game functioned so that Hyde could pick up one of three evils (pride, greed, wrath) each round, but this seemed fairly meaningless as only the player who was playing Hyde gained a further special ability each round. These abilities included increasing the number of tricks played in a round by two so that a nine-round game would finish in eleven rounds, the ability to mulligan three cards from the deck, and the ability to ignore the rules and play a card. However, when Hyde gained abilities one by one like this it didn't seem that advantageous for Hyde. Moreover, not only did it make the rules of the game needlessly more complex, but it also didn't actually change the way that the game progressed.

When I received feedback from people who tested the game, they often said that the concept was good but there was no "special card" that randomized the game. I kept on puzzling over this, then one sleep-deprived day when I was quite out of it, I suddenly realized that since this is a two-player game, if one player plays a special card, then only one suit — the one played by the opponent — will be present in the trick. What if the ability of the special card is determined by the suit of the card played by the opponent? It was then that the potion, one of the most important objects in the novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde made its way into the game.

The fact that the potion card doesn't have a fixed effect but is rather determined by the opponent — and that it also has a number like cards of the other suits — prevents the player with more potion cards from always having the upper hand. I wanted to make sure that when a player played a potion card it wouldn't decide the winner of the trick because in some situations the potion would benefit the opponent.

The potion card's effects were much more complex than they are now. When a potion card was played against a greed card, if the player who played the potion card won, the two players swapped their strongest cards; if the player lost, the players swapped their weakest cards. When a potion card was played against a wrath card, if the player who played the potion card won, the strongest suit was reset; if the player lost, the weakest suit was reset. After several rounds of test plays, those effects were changed to the players exchanging two cards and the resetting of the order of all suits.

But there was still a problem. Because the potion card could be played at any time and the winner of the trick that contains a potion card was determined by comparing only the card number, regardless of suit power rank, the person who had the potion card could more easily decide the winner of the trick. In many test games, the player with more potion cards had a much higher winning rate so the potion cards' effects urgently needed to be altered in order to balance the game. Therefore, I added the rule that players must exchange one and two, then three cards at the start of each round and that players with more than two potion cards must include at least one potion card in the exchange.

Board Game: Jekyll vs. Hyde
Image: sparkous

Many of the moments of joy and astonishment that I experienced as I made this game are vividly imprinted in my mind: when I signed a contract for Jekyll vs. Hyde thanks to Jerry at Mandoo Games, it was the first time I ever signed a contract for one of my designs with a game publisher; when I heard that Vincent Dutrait would be in charge of the artwork for the game; when I saw the awesome metal figures that had been made for the game; when my game was exported to France.

I would like to express my infinite gratitude to Mandoo Games for being the first to recognize the potential of this game, producing it so beautifully, and exporting it to the world.

Geonil

From gallery of W Eric Martin
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Wehrlegig Games at Work on Molly House, An Infamous Traffic, Sacred Band, Persuasion, and 1819: Singapore

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: Wehrlegig Games
In early February 2023, U.S. publisher Wehrlegig Games held a livestream in which owners Drew and Cole Wehrle reflected upon their work in 2022 — the release of John Company: Second Edition and the localization of same — then talked about various projects underway in the company, projects that may or may not emerge as published games under the "Wehrlegig" banner.

Cole Wehrle credited the generous licensing contract used by Sierra Madre Games for the brothers' ability to publish second editions of Pax Pamir and John Company on their own, and they've now decided to do something similar, working with designers of historical games that fit the Wehrlegig style, i.e., no hex-and-counter designs, to help bring those games to print, whether through Wehrlegig, the designers themselves, or someone else.

Board Game: An Infamous Traffic
• Let's start with the sure things: Wehrlegig Games is working on a new edition of Cole Wehrle's An Infamous Traffic, which debuted in 2016 from Hollandspiele. Here's an overview of the original game:
Quote:
An Infamous Traffic is a brutal economic board game for two to five souls brave enough to conduct the opium trade in the fracturing political landscape of 19th century Qing China. Initially, you will need to rely on smugglers in order to get your products into the interior, but, if Parliament can be swayed, perhaps an open war can make the trade more secure. At the same time, you'll want to be careful. If British aggression goes unchecked, the region may become a failed state, which could jeopardize your hard fought gains.

Of course, the massive wealth you'll earn won't be enough. Trade is still a dirty word among those in the top rungs of society. You certainly haven't forgotten how your business holdings were sneered at by some prodigal baronet during your brief stint at Oxford. They don't understand. The empire they enjoy was built on trade, not pedigree. So, you'll play their game, snatching up the precious symbols of nobility with your hard won cash. Perhaps you can restore a beloved castle and stuff it full of the latest luxuries. The right marriage or government post would certainly guarantee your place in society. You might even be tempted to rob your own firm to get that extra edge back home.

In any case, there’s demand for opium in China, and you intend to meet it.
Board Game: Molly House
Not the cover
• Next, Wehrlegig Games has signed Molly House, a design by Joseph Kelly that was a 2021 Zenobia Award finalist. Since that time, Kelly and the Wehrles have completely overhauled the design many, many times, changing the mechanisms while retaining the core idea:
Quote:
In Molly House, you play a group of gender-defying queers known as "mollies" who are regulars at a molly house in 1720s London. Your aim is to meet other mollies in secret and put on the best festivities in your molly house, but you need to do so while evading the notice of the moralizing constables of the Society for the Reformation of Manners.

Molly House is a competitive game with co-operative elements for 2-5 players in which you need to collect sets of resources like dresses, alcohol, and masks to plan festivities in the molly house, and visit cruising grounds to meet other mollies. In doing so, you'll be creating happiness for yourself and your community, represented as joy in the game.

However, you'll also be creating liabilities for yourself and others. Cruising or making your neighbors suspicious may lead to your arrest, which in turn may lead to a jail sentence — or even the death penalty. Putting on festivities will inevitably attract the attention of undercover constables, who may eventually raid the molly house, arresting all players.

To win, you have to balance your needs, represented by your personal joy, with the needs of the molly house community, represented by collective joy. If there's not enough collective joy at the end of the game, no one wins. If more than one player fulfills both needs, the one who is held in the highest esteem within the molly house wins.
Now we get into titles for which Wehrlegig is supplying some degree of development or logistical help, with publishing still being a possibility.

Sacred Band is a co-operative ancients game by Taylor Shuss and Joe Schmidt. The name (which isn't necessarily final) refers to the Sacred Band of Thebes, an elite unit of the Theban army comprised of 150 gay male couples. The game has deck-building and hand-management elements, with the players trying to match one another in blind bids — the couple working together as one — to achieve good effects.

Board Game: Persuasion
Persuasion is a design for 3-8 players by Xoe Allred and it has a BGG listing, so let me quote the creator's overview:
Quote:
Persuasion is the Victorian courtship card game of deduction, catfishing, and conceding power.

While attending a party, you meet some suitors, full of potential wealth, standing, and passion. You've detailed your desires in your diary, and now you must discern who meets your needs by reading the trait cards they mail to you.

Board Game: Persuasion
Image: tonytastey1

Your cards describe actions, but only the players you court will perform them. Each round, you share a card with a player, and they'll choose which of your cards to leverage. When you find the one, send them your ring! They must reciprocate for you two to become engaged, so you must persuade them you're compatible with their desires!
Space-Biff!'s Dan Thurot reviewed Persuasion if you want more details, or you can head to Xoe Allred's website where you can purchase a print-and-play copy for the price of your choosing.

1819: Singapore started as a mock game that was part of a 2021 art exhibition at Temenggong Artists-In-Residence, a non-profit arts charity in Singapore, with a "review" of this game by Shut Up & Sit Down being part of the exhibit.

Then the designers — Chng Xin Xuan, Scott Lee Chua, Andrew Kwan, Sonny Liew, and Roshan Singh Sambhi of Mosquito Games — received so much interest on their mailing list for this phantom design that they decided to make it a real game.

The game is in essence a city-building design centered on the Treaty of Singapore in 1819, when Britain obtained to right to establish a trading post in Singapore.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Image: Roshan Singh Sambhi

If you want more details about these projects and what Wehrlegig is doing, here's the livestream — although release dates are not set for anything right now:

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Mon Feb 6, 2023 5:47 pm
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Links: Celebrating Chicken vs Hotdog, Scaling Down Hasbro, and Looking Askance at Aubrey Plaza

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Chicken vs Hotdog
Chicken vs Hotdog, a 2022 release from UK publisher Big Potato Games, has been awarded the 2023 W.I.T.T.Y. (Winning Inventor Toy of The Year) Prize at the UK Toy Inventors' Dinner, an annual event for designers, product-pickers, and other toy business professionals that takes place during UK Toy Fair.

Attendees vote during the event for the product they find "the most exciting and/or inventive". In Chicken vs Hotdog, players — either individually or in teams — look at a challenge card, then bid high if they want to attempt it or bid low if they want the other team to attempt it. If a team succeeds at a challenge — which involves flipping the chicken or hotdog figure and having it land on its suction cup — they reveal one of their team cards; if they fail, the opposing team reveals a card. Whichever team reveals all six of its cards first wins.

The award announcement notes that Chicken vs Hotdog was created with the help of inventor and engineer Dominic Yard. If you're curious to see how an engineer applies their skills to the creation of games and toys, check out Yard's website, This Is Yard.

The W.I.T.T.Y. Prize isn't something I've covered in the past, but it gives me an excuse to post this charmingly ridiculous box cover on BGG News, so here it is.

Big Potato also won the W.I.T.T.Y. Prize in 2020 for the party game Blockbuster.

• The UK Toy Inventors group loves its acronyms! During its event, it also gives out the International Designer and Inventor of Toys (I.D.I.O.T.) Award "as a tribute to luminaries who have made outstanding contributions to the toy industry". At the 2023 event this award went to Tanya Thompson, who is Senior Director, Innovation Design and Inventor Relations, Games at Hasbro Inc.

Board Game Publisher: Hasbro
• Speaking of Hasbro, in late January 2023 the company announced that it would eliminate "approximately 15% of its global workforce" in 2023, which is roughly one thousand positions.

Hasbro's revenue in 2022 was approximately $5.86 billion, down 9% compared to 2021, with Wizards of the Coast and the Digital Gaming segment contributing revenue of approximately $1.33 billion, up 3% year-over-year and 22.6% of Hasbro's annual revenue.

In a press release, Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks said:
Quote:
Despite strong growth in Wizards of the Coast and Digital Gaming, Hasbro Pulse, and our licensing business, our Consumer Products business underperformed in the fourth quarter against the backdrop of a challenging holiday consumer environment.

We are focused on implementing transformational changes aimed at substantially reducing costs and increasing our growth rates and profitability. While the full-year 2022, and particularly the fourth quarter, represented a challenging moment for Hasbro, we are confident in our Blueprint 2.0 strategy, unveiled in October, which includes a focus on fewer, bigger brands; gaming; digital; and our rapidly growing direct to consumer and licensing businesses. Through this strategy, we are putting the consumer at the center of everything we do, and our Operational Excellence program is on track to drive significant cost savings across the business and improve our overall competitiveness. These strategic pillars helped to improve our results, particularly operating profit margin and revenue growth in key categories, in a challenging fourth quarter, and lay the groundwork for continued progress in 2023.
RPG: Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition)
I realize that the "we are putting the consumer at the center of everything we do" comment might sound odd given the recent hullabaloo about the Open Game License (OGL) for Dungeons & Dragons — summary here by Linda Codega on Gizmodo — but my knowledge of RPGs is minimal, so I've followed all of that only from a distance.

Having worked as a retailer decades ago, I can appreciate these comments by Paul Alexander Butler, owner of retail store Games and Stuff, on ICv2:
Quote:
There's a certain kind of customer who will want to complain and argue about how horrible Wizards of the Coast is. The big bad corporation is an easy target, and it feels kinda good to fight the man and talk about how awful they are.

I would whole-heartedly encourage you to not engage with these conversations...

I maintain that the vast majority of D&D fans are mercifully oblivious about the recent OGL drama. But guess what happens when those casual D&D players are in your store and you’re grumbling about how Wizards is awful and D&D is ruined? You've created an environment that is decidedly not welcoming to that person.
From gallery of W Eric Martin
• Did you know that the Pictionary game show has been renewed for a second season on FOX? Did you even know this show had a first season? I did not, but now that hole in my knowledge base has been filled.

The show is hosted by Jerry O'Connell, who I will forever associate with Sliders, no matter what else he does. In an August 2022 press release that announced that show, O'Connell said, "Growing up, this was a family favorite and something I continue to share with my kids today. It's a great privilege to help expand the reach of the experience, engaging contestants and fans of the game on a national scale."

I look forward to seeing Doja Cat host the Azul TV game show in 2046!

Taboo is always an ideal get-to-know-you game, right?

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Renegade Acquires Acquire from Prior Acquirer

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Acquire
In October 2022, Renegade Game Studios announced a deal with Hasbro to license and publish titles from four game lines in the Hasbro catalog: Axis & Allies, Diplomacy, Robo Rally, and Squad Leader.

Now, Renegade has announced an additional pick-up from Hasbro: Sid Sackson's Acquire, a game in which 2-6 players (caveat below) place tiles on a shared game board to increase the size of companies, ideally owning shares of companies that merge with large companies so that they can receive a payout that will fuel further share purchases.

Here's part of the press release announcing this deal:
Quote:
"Acquire is a timeless classic that we're excited to add to our line-up. The team has been working hard to make sure the latest version thrills old and new players alike. We can't wait for stores to have this category staple back on shelves this year." said Scott Gaeta, President of Renegade Game Studios.

First released in 1963 [see below], Acquire puts gamers in the shoes of a real estate mogul, vying for control of companies as they expand, merge, and gain value. Renegade's latest version will incorporate community feedback and feature much-desired features like a return to the 9x12 gridded plastic board, plastic tiles and buildings, and classic theming of the hotel chains, including one named for the late great designer Sid Sackson. The rulebook will also be updated to include clarifications and adjustments gathered from previous versions of the game.

Board Game: Acquire
Board Game: Acquire
Board Game: Acquire

Gamers can expect the new updated version of this classic game in 2023 with distribution in friendly local game stores as well as specialty retailers worldwide. Localized editions are in the works and will be announced at a later time.

Renegade will also be supporting the game with a Gen Con Championship held in Indianapolis this August.
As designer Joe Huber detailed in an excellent 2014 article on the development of Acquire, while "test marketing" editions of Acquire were released in 1963 in eight U.S. cities — Shreveport, New Orleans, Saint Louis, Kansas City, Des Moines, Madison, Milwaukee, and Denver — Acquire as we know it wasn't released until Q3 1964. In his article, Huber details some of the discussions between Sid Sackson and 3M product merchandiser Bill Caruson over suggested changes to the design, which Sackson had submitted under the name "Vacation", following the sale of the "test marketing" editions.

Board Game: Acquire
Board Game: Acquire
Board Game: Acquire

As for the player count, while some debate whether being last in a five- or six-player game is a disadvantage, I still recall a game in the late 2000s in which my friend Max had exactly one playable tile for several turns early in a six-player game — you can't place a tile that would start a new company if all seven companies have been started — and he was ready to burn my house down before the game was halfway over. He effectively had no decisions, so he couldn't direct the development of anything and was just along for the (painfully slow) ride.

Sure, you might get equally unlucky in a game with fewer players, but in that situation you typically have multiple chances to start companies and you play a greater percentage of the tiles being placed on the board, which means you (generally) have more of a chance to shape what happens.

In any case, nice to know that Acquire will be on the market once again!

HT: Calvin Wong Tze Loon and Daniel Wynter for prior headline inspiration and suggestion...
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Fri Feb 3, 2023 9:01 pm
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Designer Diary: Lofoten

sébastien dujardin
Belgium
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Board Game: Lofoten
Lofoten is the most family-friendly game I've had the chance to create and publish. I'm not just talking about its family aspect, but also because it owes a lot to my little family.

First, I wanted to highlight this magnificent Norwegian archipelago after I returned from the holidays we spent there.

From gallery of sebduj

Another great pillar at the origin of this project is a great two-player game by Sébastien Pauchon that has become a classic: Jaipur. In the same way that I like the intertwining of the elements, our stay in Lofoten and Jaipur are very linked; we played a lot in Jaipur with my big daughter in Lofoten. Yes, you have to follow...

From gallery of sebduj

Starting from these two postulates, I made quite quickly a pale copy of Jaipur that's a little different for fun. You should know that I start a lot of creations for fun, creations that either fall into complete oblivion (even in my own brain) or reappear some time later to be edited...or fall into oblivion again! That sorting is difficult but just as exciting!

So the idea was there: trade between Vikings using a central market and resources from that era. Obviously, the Viking museums on the island emphasize their commercial development more than warfare. (We made the same observation at the Titanic museum in Belfast, which talks more about its construction than its little accident with the ice cube of the seas.) But it turns out that the Vikings really developed mainly because they were skilled traders. Talking about them from this point of view seemed interesting to me.

This pale copy probably had some subtleties that made me want to go further, but I absolutely don't remember them. What I do remember very clearly is that there was still a wheel of Troyes Dice on one of our two work tables. While thinking about the future of this game, I was handling this wheel when suddenly I had the idea of slipping a card between the two superimposed parts of this wheel. Then I placed this wheel on the table before me and realized that it can turn. Swiping and jamming cards in a wheel, spinning the wheel to collect tiles from a central market, say, I like all that! We'll keep it! Not immediately forgotten!

From gallery of sebduj

Not bad...but all this still does not make a good game. I like card games, but I also like not having ten cards in my hand. Yes, those who know my games a little know that you can have ten cards in your hand in Deus. You start with five cards, and the first action of a beginner is to draw to have ten. Hello, discovering the game with these ten cards in your hand to decipher!

Deus has had a great reception, and I'm delighted with it, but these ten cards...it's not me. I allowed this to deal with the luck of the draw, but luckily I found another system upon which to build. Spoiler alert...

From gallery of sebduj

Let's go back to our sheep resource cards. (There are sheep in Lofoten, so they must be in the game!) You need them to place them in the wheel, a wheel to move them, but of course, let's pilot this wheel with the cards in your hand: the left one to go left, and the right one to go right, yes! Obviously, since we are talking about a wheel, playing a card allows you to turn this wheel, and the value of the card (from 1 to 3) corresponds to the number of moves. The gymnastics of this move requires a little practice at the beginning; it is important to correctly match the iconographs to the directions of movement and to remember that it works like in a car: You turn right to move right. Not to spoil anything, all of this corresponds well to the movements of a fleet of four longships under the orders of its Jarl. You have two cards in hand for left and right; that's not too much, is it?

Yes, it's not much...but of course! Let's use a central card to load the boat into dock! Yes, let's place an order card in the boat in front of the player that corresponds to the goods expected by the Jarl. Then, to add a little spice, let's draw a card that we have to place either on the left or on the right, making it fun to manage just two cards. Then, by moving the fleet of longships, the order card of a boat must face one of the four order tiles on the market. But of course! By making these loading and unloading actions automatic, we can chain actions in an exhilarating way because in addition, we can take the tiles coveted by the opponent.

From gallery of sebduj

Once I was satisfied with the heart of the game came the most complicated moment: how to manage the other aspects of the game without forgetting the most fun part, but while adding sufficiently exhilarating stakes. Storing resources made perfect sense. Resource tiles would have different values, and by forcing each player to store in the same warehouse as their opponent, a game of majority made sense given the war that players wage to recover these. This "simple" majority worked perfectly and allowed you to discover the game and the originality of its mechanisms at your ease.

Board Game: Lofoten

I like the idea of a version giving access to the mechanical heart of the game before discovering several modules that embellish the initial version. Once you have played, it is possible to give power to your boats, to add the services and therefore the power of a Jarl, or even to modify the game of majority to make it more complex.

Have fun in Lofoten...and everywhere else.

Sébastien Dujardin

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Fri Feb 3, 2023 1:00 pm
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Game Overview: Federation, or Spicy Space Politics and Worker Placement

Candice Harris
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At SPIEL '22, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Anne-Catherine Perrier from Explor8 to get a gameplay rundown of Dimitri Perrier and Matthieu Verdier's 2022 release Federation, an innovative worker placement game all about space politics. Worker placement games, by default, have player interaction, but Federation pushes the needle further in an exciting way, which I experienced firsthand on a review copy provided by the publisher.

In Federation, 2-4 players compete to gain the most prestige points and become the planet worthy of joining the Federation. Federation features a unique double-sided worker placement mechanism combined with what feels like multiple mini-games, making for a highly interactive eurogame.

Federation was successfully funded on Kickstarter in October 2021 and available in Europe in Q4 2022. However, in January 2023, Eagle-Gryphon Games announced they partnered with Explor8 to bring the deluxe version of Federation to the North American market and launched a pre-order, which is targeted to release at Gen Con 2023. As a pre-order bonus, Eagle-Gryphon Games is also including an exclusive, full-color wooden President of the Senate first player pawn.

The version I played is the deluxe version with dual-layered player boards, upgraded ambassador tokens and components, whereas the retail version from Explor8 would have all cardboard components.

The first thing you'll probably notice when you see Federation sprawled out on the table is a large, busy-looking board with a lot of different components. It may appear intimidating initially, but once you understand the flow of the game, you'll appreciate the excellent art and iconography by Miguel Coimbra. It not only makes the game easier to teach and play, but it's also fully language independent, which is a nice bonus. In addition to the main game board, each player has their own player board for managing their ambassadors (workers), resources, special missions, and more. The setup for your first game may take a while because you need to sort through and place several tokens and tiles around the board. However, once you have your first game under your belt, you can easily divide and conquer to speed up setup if other players are down to help.

Federation is played over 5 rounds, and each round is split into 2 phases. In the Ambassador phase, players take turns in clockwise order, placing their ambassador tokens on action spaces within the Senate, then performing the corresponding action. After the Ambassador phase, there's an end-of-round Executive phase where players may gain income and score prestige points for political influence in the Senate.

From gallery of candidrum

On your turn during the Ambassador phase, first you must play an ambassador token on an available action space of the Senate, either on its voting side or its funding side. You have two ambassador tokens with a voting value of 1, one with a value of 2, and one with a value of 3. On the opposite side of each ambassador token, there's a funding icon which looks like a coin, and a checkmark in a green circle, which represents you gaining access to a special mission (on your player board). The 2 higher-value voting tokens also give you a resource when played on their funding side. That added bonus of gaining a resource is often very tempting, and often necessary, so it's nice to have that option. Of course you have to decide if it's more important to play those tokens on their voting side though.

The Senate area of the game board is divided into a left wing and a right wing. Most of the actions are available on both wings, but there are a few that are slightly different. Each wing has a 3x3 grid of action spaces, and at the top of each column are funding tracks. Each round, there will be 2 different law (scoring) tiles under each wing, which will factor into your decision of which action space to choose. There are also 5 different planet actions available on both sides which correspond to the matching planet actions around the board. Every section is color-coded, but there are also different shapes and icons to differentiate for clarity. The other action spaces represent rooms of the Senate, as well as an action space on both wings that allows you to spy, or spend a resource to copy another action space, which comes in handy since only 1 ambassador token can occupy a given space.

From gallery of candidrum
Close-up of the Senate w/ Ambassadors placed

During the Executive phase, after all players have placed all 4 of their ambassador tokens, whichever player has the most voting strength for each floor (row) in the Senate gains prestige points. Any columns that have ambassador tokens funding side up increase the corresponding major project funding track(s). Then you'll see which side, left wing or right wing, has the most total votes (all players), and all players score prestige points according to the law tile on the corresponding side.

This worker placement system has so many interesting decision points to wrestle with. There are pros and cons to placing your ambassador token on the voting side versus the funding side at different points throughout the game. The voting side could lead to more immediate prestige points, but if you push the funding tracks where you have more influence than your opponents, you can score some big points at the end of the game. So you have to decide which side to place your token on (voting or funding), then you also need to decide which wing of the Senate to place your token on based on which laws might score at the end of the round. It's a worker placement game, so your opponent's may be blocking spaces you're desiring and you often won't have the option to choose which wing of the Senate you want to place your ambassador token on if you are hard-pressed to take a particular action. Ultimately, you're playing this area influence game with the voting side of your ambassador tokens, while also trying to take the actions you need (and want) to, and support the wing of the Senate that's going to score you the most prestige points if a particular law is passed.

As I mentioned above, there are planet actions and Senate room actions. Each planet action works a little differently and feels like a mini-game within the main game, but they're pretty straightforward and can be executed quickly. Each planet action is going to increase your influence for the corresponding planet and give you a helpful benefit, but in its own way.

From gallery of candidrum
Blue planet w/ Alteration tokens
When you take the blue planet action, you move your mage pawn 1 moon space forward, and choose an alteration token from the space you moved to. Alteration tokens are really cool because they allow you to temporarily modify/upgrade your ambassador tokens. They are discarded after you use them, but they are increasingly more juicy as you move to further moons and increase your influence on the blue planet.

The pink planet allows you to gain Erudite tiles that have special immediate or one-time use effects. Each tile you gain increases your influence by 1 for the pink planet.

At the yellow planet, you can carry out trades in different stalls. The first level stalls are each worth 1 influence, but if you trade at the same stall more than once, it'll push your marker to the second level which has a better trade rate and is worth 2 influence.

There are 4 different types of resources in Federation: lavendium (pink), coppernium (green), oceanium (blue), and gold diamond (yellow). The blue resource can always replace pink or green, and yellow is most precious since it's harder to get, and it can help you score points with the yellow planet action; in addition, it's required to build megastructures on the green planet, which can be worth a lot of victory points.

The orange planet is a mining planet where you'll move forward each action, similar to the blue planet, but instead of snagging alteration tokens, you gain resources. There are some randomly placed asteroid tokens which can be very tempting and lucrative, but instead of stopping to grab one, you can move 2 steps forward in some cases to increase your influence faster.

From gallery of candidrum
Yellow planet trading stalls

Last, but definitely not least, is the green planet where you can spend resources to either build a production structure which gives you an immediate benefit as well as end of round income, or you can build a megastructure to immediately score a chunk of victory points.

Your influence in these 5 different planets matters a lot for a few reasons. For one, you are racing your opponents to gain medals of honor. You can only have 1 medal for each planet, and they become increasingly harder to get the slower you are at getting your influence up. For example, in the 4-player game, the first person to have 3 influence for a planet gains the corresponding medal, then the next player would need 4 influence to gain a medal, the next would need 5, and so on. The more unique medals you have at the end of the game, the more points you'll earn from them. The game incentivizes you to get there before your opponents, but you can't do it all.

The other reason planet influence is important is because that is how the laws score during the Executive phase. The higher your influence for the planet that scores, the more prestige points you'll gain. As an example, if the left wing has more votes in the Senate at the end of the round and there's a green law token, it means all players score 2x their green planet influence level. The end-of-round scoring in Federation really fuels so many tough decisions during the worker placement phase.

From gallery of candidrum
Green planet Production Structures

Besides the planet actions, the Senate room actions are important too. There's one that allows you to take the President of the Senate pawn to become the first player for the next round, and you also get a medal of honor of your choice from a planet that you don't already have. When you get the medal, you take the one placed on the highest level of influence. Being first player didn't feel tremendously critical in Federation and there are sometimes advantages to being last, since you might have the final say in which law is passed. Either way, the free medal is a nice perk when choosing this action.

There are Senate room actions that increase your accreditation level on your player board and some that help you gain spaceships into the hangar on your player board. At this point, you're probably wondering why spaceships and your accreditation level even matter, so allow me to explain.

On your turn, in addition to placing an ambassador token and performing the corresponding action, you may optionally send 1 spaceship to accomplish a special mission on your player board, assuming you meet a few conditions. You must have an available spaceship in your hangar, the special mission must be accessible, and you must have the required accreditation level. If you meet all of these conditions, you can take a spaceship from your hangar, put it on the corresponding space and perform the action of the special mission. It's basically a bonus action on top of your normal action, so while your brain is processing every other decision in this game, you'll also be trying to set yourself up with as many special mission bonus action opportunities as you can.

On the left side of your player board, you'll keep track of your accreditation level. As you bump up to the next accreditation level, you open up more special mission opportunities that are in the corresponding row, in addition to being qualified for any special missions below. The special missions are almost identical to the action spaces on the Senate board, but you have to make them accessible before you can send a spaceship. Earlier I mentioned an icon with a checkmark in a green circle, which you can find on the funding side of your ambassador tokens. When you place an ambassador token on the funding side, you can add a checkmark token to the special mission matching the action space where you placed your ambassador token. Then assuming your accreditation level meets or exceeds it, you can send a spaceship there after your main action to gain a bonus action, which can lead to some cool combos on your turn.

From gallery of candidrum
My player board w/ some completed special missions and lots of medals!

There's also a Senate room action that allows you to increase your assistant die by 2, and make it available to you if it's not already. During the Ambassador/worker placement phase, your assistant die can be placed with your ambassador token on its voting side to boost that token's voting strength. This can be a tremendous help for winning majority scoring of each Senate floor at the end of the round, as well as influencing which wing's law passes.

At the end of the round, after all players have played all 4 of their ambassador tokens, you begin the Executive phase. First, each player receives income for every production structure they built. Then players with an accreditation level of 3 or higher must pay a resource corresponding to their level. If you can't, you have to lower your accreditation level back down to where you can pay the matching resource, or drop all the way back to the first space of level 2.

Then you increase the major project marker for each ambassador token on its funding side in the corresponding column. There's a joint major project that increases based on any excess funding, and that track has player markers to keep track of who contributed the most, which might factor into final scoring.

After adjusting funding tracks for the major projects, you score each floor of the Senate. The player with the most votes on each floor scores as many prestige points as their level of accreditation. This is one of the main reasons you'll want to focus some of your attention on increasing your accreditation level, besides the special mission bonus action opportunities.

From gallery of candidrum
The final push to fund projects before final scoring...

Finally, you determine which law is passed depending on which wing (left or right) had the most total votes and all players score prestige points according to their level of influence for the corresponding planet. There are 2 sets of 5 different tokens corresponding to each of the 5 planets, so you can expect to potentially score each planet twice, but you won't know the timing of when exactly each law tile will appear, or which will be passed. Either way, you'll always want to be ahead of the pack or push for the law that will benefit you most. I love that this votes mechanism lends itself to politics around the table. You may want to work with another player to help push the vote in a direction that's favorable for both of you, or push it away from a player who's in the lead.

At the end of the 5th round, the game ends and you proceed to final scoring. First, everyone scores points for their medals of honor, based on the lowest uncovered value. Then you score points for your remaining resources, followed by majority scoring for any major projects that funded, meaning the marker got to the last space on the track. In a 4-player game, whoever has the most influence for each funded major project scores 16 prestige points, the player with the second most scores 8, and the 3rd most scores 4. It's a significant amount of points so be sure to pay attention to these funding tracks, on top of everything else.

Board Game: Federation
I have been really digging Federation. It's the kind of eurogame that's right up my alley because it's oozing with awesome, tough decisions and there's so much player interaction from the unique worker placement combined with the scoring/votes mechanisms, and all of the competition for influence and medals on the different planets. Plus, I found the political theme actually shines through well as it leads to politics around the table as you're deciding which funding tracks to influence, or which wing of the Senate deserves your votes. I felt this constant (good) pressure playing Federation, as I was trying keep an eye on my opponents, and at the same time, always eager push ahead of them.

I would say the rules make the game feel medium complexity wise, but all of the strategic decisions you're faced with makes it feel more complex, and to me, more interesting. Besides the fact that you're racing to beat your opponents to everything, from action spaces to medals, each planet action is very satisfying. You're always getting something cool, and it's a matter of figuring out what cool thing is going to help you most each turn. Sometimes you'll try to increase your influence for the planet which seems like its law will pass, but other times you'll march to the beat of your own drum and try to push harder for the law you want passed.

From gallery of candidrum
EGG Pre-order bonus pawn
(subject to change)
Federation is a blast with 4 players, and when you play with less players, there's a neat, easy-to-run, neutral player(s) which blocks action spaces, and influences the voting strength based off of blocking and voting tiles you place at the beginning of each round, which was designed to keep things tight and interesting at lower player counts.

There should be a decent amount of replay value from the variation of tiles and tokens on the different planets, in addition to the varied combination of law tiles that appear each round, but there's also an advanced setup variant where you can change up the green planet from game to game by placing production structure tiles and megastructure tokens for even more variation.

If you're a worker placement fan and thrive on heavy, indirect player interaction, be sure to check out Federation. I'm definitely looking forward to playing it more and I'm happy that it'll be more widely available in the U.S. soon enough.
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Fri Feb 3, 2023 7:00 am
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Stonemaier Games Launches Expeditions, Offers Fantasies and Futures for Tapestry

W. Eric Martin
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Apex
North Carolina
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U.S. publisher Stonemaier Games has announced two new titles for 2023, with Jamey Stegmaier's Expeditions being a standalone game set in the world of Scythe. Here's an overview of this Q3 2023 release:
Quote:
Expeditions sends players on a new adventure into Siberia, where a massive meteorite crashed near the Tunguska River, awakening ancient corruption. An expedition led by Dr. Tarkovsky ventures into the taiga to learn about the meteorite and its impact on the land. Itching for adventure, heroes from the war privately fund their own expeditions to Siberia, hoping to find artifacts, overcome challenges, and ultimately achieve glory.

Board Game: Expeditions

Expeditions is a competitive, card-driven, engine-building game of exploration. Play cards to gain power, guile, and unique worker abilities; move your mech to mysterious locations and gain cards found among the tiles; use workers, items, meteorites, and quests to enhance your mech; and use power and guile to vanquish corruption.
Expeditions is for 1-5 players, and rulebooks for the multiplayer game and solitaire game are both available on the Stonemaier Games website.

• The other title, due out in Q1 2023, is Tapestry: Fantasies & Futures, a design by Chris Scaffidi and Mike Young that's dubbed the third and final expansion for Tapestry.

Tapestry: Fantasies & Futures contains ten new civilizations, 38 new tapestry cards, twelve new tech cards, and a comprehensive rulebook that organizes all rules for Tapestry and the three expansions.

Board Game: Tapestry: Fantasies & Futures
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Wed Feb 1, 2023 7:38 pm
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Designer Diary: Enola Holmes: Finder of Lost Souls

Phil Yates
New Zealand
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The original Enola Holmes movie from Netflix inspired me to read the books and, of course, develop a game for it, a game now on the market as Enola Holmes: Finder of Lost Souls.

I already had a concept for a Sherlock Holmes game so that's where I started. I wanted to give players a sense of being the genius detective seeking clues to unravel the schemes of a criminal mastermind. Since few of us are anywhere near as clever as Sherlock (or his precociously brilliant younger sister Enola), the trick was going to be making the game require enough deductive reasoning for the players to feel clever, without being sufficiently difficult to make them feel foolish instead.

Board Game: Enola Holmes: Finder of Lost Souls

The game that came to mind was the old Mastermind board game, the one in which one player selects four colored pegs and the other player has to deduce which ones they are. The game was simple, yet kept me and my little sister entertained for hours as we tried to outwit each other.

However, I didn't want a game as abstract as Mastermind; I wanted something more narrative, with the players traveling around London and its environs recreating moments from the show, and I wanted it to be playable with up to four players.

From gallery of Phil Yates
The hidden crime cards and revealed clue cards are the core of the game

After a bit of playing around with ideas and a bit of back-of-the-envelope calculation, I grabbed a deck of playing cards and tested a small game with my co-workers.

With a reduced deck, I'd secretly draw six cards, then get them to deduce what the cards were over several rounds. Each round I'd roll a die and use that to decide how many cards to deal them, then give them clues based on those cards. The number of cards and rounds it took to deduce the cards I held was nicely consistent, with just the right amount of variation. This became the core of the deduction side of the game: A criminal picking a scheme of some sort, and the detectives seeking clues to help them deduce that scheme.

From gallery of Phil Yates
The criminal combines puzzle cards with the map to challenge the detectives

The next part was to figure out how to get the clue cards into the detective players' hands. Here's where the narrative side would come in. The detectives would move around a map of London, investigating puzzling crimes to gain clues as to the criminal mastermind's overall plan.

To increase the variety of puzzles and give the criminal player agency in this phase of the game, I came up with the idea of having cutouts on the puzzle cards. These revealed an additional talent for the map location, increasing the difficulty of the puzzle.

From gallery of Phil Yates
The detectives play on the case cards to solve the puzzle, while the criminal's making trouble cards make it harder

The puzzle-solving part of the game matches the talents on the detective's card to the talents shown on the puzzle. The detectives play on the case cards to add to their talent or otherwise outsmart the criminal, while the criminal responds with "making trouble" cards to make their lives more difficult. Should the detective succeed in matching the required talents, they get a clue card, either revealing one of the hidden crime cards or showing that there are no matching crime cards in the criminal's scheme. Once they have solved (or failed to solve) their cases, the detectives gather to make their next deduction. If they fail to deduce the crime before the game ends, the criminal wins.

This basic concept survived contact with all of the playtesting, although the details have been refined many times since then. The highlight of this initial playtesting was a game I ran with the staff of another company that shared our office space. They weren't gamers, but quickly picked up the game and enjoyed it. However, soon after this, things got busy, and the game got sidelined as other things took my attention.

Things changed when I discovered a second Enola Holmes movie was in the works and Gale Force Nine had gained the license to produce a board game for it. Out came the old design for a revisit. The first thing I decided was that I'd made the game way more complicated than it needed to be. If it were going to appeal to an Enola Holmes audience, it needed to be slimmer, faster, and less daunting, while at the same time retaining the gameplay that the experienced gamers on the playtest team loved.

From gallery of Phil Yates
The revised game made a tidy package, with enough challenge but faster play

I slashed the number of turns from six to four, the number of cards in the crime from six to five, the number of spots on the map from twelve to eight, and the number of other components commensurately. When I put down my axe, I was pleased that further playtesting showed that this streamlined version of the game played much faster, without losing the charm and challenge of the original version.

The rulebook got a similar treatment, with all the complicated and hard-to-explain bits clarified, simplified, or simply removed as unnecessary. An example of this is the way the rules handled the criminal's first turn. Since the criminal's first turn was sort of a double turn, putting out twice as many puzzles, the old rules were quite messy. By moving the criminal's turn to the end of the round and adding the necessary parts of the criminal's turn to set-up, I managed to make things easier to understand for first-time players.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
The rules are split into the stuff you need to know and the details you can look up when you get stuck

I also split the rules into a quick start rulebook and the main rulebook. The quick start rulebook runs the players through the game without getting distracted by all the ifs, buts, and maybes. It uses illustrated examples so that players can follow through it, page by page, as they start their first game. The main rulebook then covers the same ground, but from a more technical viewpoint, answering all the questions that may arise and advising on the finer points of play.

As an all-against-one game, balancing it for two, three, and four players was one of the biggest challenges. One of the things that I'd done in my cleanup was to remove the previous attempts at balancing. Unsurprisingly, that didn't work, but it did make clear the exact extent of balancing needed. That way, the bits that I brought back balanced the game for any number of players, without unneeded complexity or making any player's task too difficult to manage.

Once I had everything working with the experienced gamers that I used to playtest, it was time to try it out on teenagers, especially fans of Enola Holmes. This went well, with the players picking up the game from the rulebook with little difficulty, despite an unfamiliarity with board games. The players enjoyed the game, loved the theme, but weren't so enamoured of the way the deduction process was working. One family asked to take the playtest version home so that they could play more games!

That took me right back to the beginning. Grabbing a pack of cards, I spent an afternoon with my (not at all competitive) wife tweaking the deduction game in all sorts of directions until we settled on its final and much more satisfying form. A little more playtesting confirmed the changes had solved the problem, and it was off to the graphic designers to make the whole thing look pretty.

Inspired by the color palette and style of the movies, the graphic designers have created a visual look that matches the style of the game, simple, accessible, fun, and an intellectual challenge.

Phil Yates

Board Game: Enola Holmes: Finder of Lost Souls
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Tue Jan 31, 2023 7:00 am
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Sébastien Dujardin on the Future of Pearl Games

W. Eric Martin
United States
Apex
North Carolina
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Board Game Publisher: Pearl Games
Sébastien Dujardin, founder of Pearl Games, has announced that the Belgian publisher is closing — or perhaps only changing hands.

The future is uncertain at this moment, as he explains in this press release:
Quote:
Pearl Games, located in Frasnes-Lez-Buissenal, in Belgium, has been publishing board games since 2010. The beginning of the adventure was just a simple hobby that gave birth to my first published game: Troyes, created with my friends Alain Orban and Xavier Georges. The success of this first game, especially during the Essen show, allowed me to continue the adventure with 11 games (Tournay, Bruxelles 1893, Deus, Bloody Inn, to name a few). That's 11 games in 13 years, a few by today's standards, but I am happy about it, my credo being to develop each title as best as possible.

Board Game: Troyes
Board Game: Tournay
Board Game: Ginkgopolis
Board Game: Bruxelles 1893

In 2014, the French group Asmodee bought Pearl Games and made it an Internal Studio of the company. The confidence associated with the new organization allowed me to work more calmly. My strength is as a creative editor more than a business manager, so this collaboration offered me many new tools: openings to new markets around the world, competence in quality and manufacturing, logistics, after-sales services, etc.

All good things must come to an end, and Asmodee has decided to end this collaboration. Asmodee will close the Pearl Games studio as of the end of March. Why? It seems to me that the most important reason is the evolution of Asmodee, which has become bigger and bigger, to the point that Pearl Games has struggled to keep its place by remaining faithful to its editorial line. Also, the game market has exploded in recent years, in quality and quantity. You have to take this into account and adapt to it, and that's what I will do!

Board Game: Deus
Board Game: The Bloody Inn
Board Game: Otys

At the end of this adventure, the most difficult part to manage is the human aspect and the dismissal of Anaëlle, Martin and me. The most important are the moments spent with the players, my direct colleagues (Renaud, Martin and Anaëlle) and those further away from Asmodee, but also with the designers, illustrators, graphic designers, translators, demonstrators, manufacturers, etc.

A question obviously arises: what about the future of Pearl Games? We are making arrangements with Asmodee so that I can retain the brand and catalog of Pearl Games, moving forward as an independent publisher. The challenge will be great, and it will take time to gather the funds, organize the new ideas, find new partners, finalize these game projects. For this project to be successful, a transition period without new releases and reprints will be necessary.

Board Game: Solenia
Board Game: Black Angel
Board Game: Troyes Dice

Managing to create, develop, and publish games as soon as possible is an extremely exhilarating challenge! Several games are already under development, at very different levels, and I will do what is necessary to ensure that these ideas come to fruition, regardless of the organization to be put in place. Let's continue to have fun creating and playing!
I'll note that Pearl Games' Time of Empires from David Simiand and Pierre Voye was released in November 2022 and Dujardin's two-player game Lofoten debuted in France in October 2022 and will be released in English, Spanish, Chinese, and German in February 2023.

Good luck to Sébastien Dujardin — ideally your longship takes you where you want to go...

Board Game: Lofoten
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Mon Jan 30, 2023 4:11 pm
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Game Overview: Tiletum, or To Let 'Em Stress over Which Die to Choose

Candice Harris
United States
Los Angeles
California
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Microbadge: Great Western Trail fanMicrobadge: The Great Zimbabwe fanMicrobadge: Battlestar Galactica - I am a CylonMicrobadge: COIN fanMicrobadge: Twilight Imperium (fourth edition) fan
Board Game: Tiletum
When I see either Daniele Tascini or Simone Luciani's name on a board game, I'm instantly curious to try it since they're both highly reputable designers and I've enjoyed many of their games in the past. When I see their names together on a board game, I know I'm in for a treat, considering this is the same designer duo behind Tzolk'in and The Voyages of Marco Polo. After I demoed their latest release Tiletum from Board&Dice at Gen Con 2022, I wasn't blown away, but I thought it was a solid, classic-feeling eurogame with mostly familiar mechanisms that worked well together. It wasn't until I played my first full game of Tiletum, where I got the full picture and my eyes and brain lit up.

In Tiletum, 1-4 players take on the roles of rich merchants traveling throughout Europe during the Golden Age of the Renaissance, gathering resources, fulfilling contracts, and competing for victory points at fairs in various towns. The gameplay for Tiletum is centered around a dice drafting, action selection mechanism where the dice have a dual function; the die you choose each turn informs which resource you gain and which action you perform.

Tiletum is played over four rounds and each round is divided into five phases: Preparation, Action, King, Fair, and Cleanup. The goal of the game is to have the most victory points by the end of the game. This is a point salad game where you get points for a lot of different things, and it's not unlikely for scores to be in the 200+ zone by the end of the game.

From gallery of candidrum
In the Preparation phase, you take a number of resource dice (based on player count) from the dice sack, roll them, and place them around the action wheel according to their number. There are a total of 20 resource dice in 5 different colors corresponding to the resources in the game -- gold (yellow), food (pink), wool (light gray), stone (dark gray), and iron (blue-ish gray). You get used to it, but there was often confusion with the different gray dice and the corresponding resource tokens. The action wheel has pie slices for each pip value, so when you distribute the dice, all dice with common numbers are placed in the same section of the action wheel.

In the Action phase, the heart of the game, players take turns taking a die from the action wheel, then gaining the corresponding resources provided by the die, and performing the associated action. The color and number on the die you take indicates which resource you get and how many. Then the amount of action points you get is always the difference between 7 and the number on the resource die you chose. For example, if I draft a pink "5" die, I gain 5 food tokens but, I only get 2 action points for the corresponding action. Alternatively, if I pick a yellow "1" die, I only get 1 gold token, but I get 6 action points. So already, you can probably see how there's a lot to consider when choosing a die on your turn. You might need a certain amount of a particular resource, and at the same time you need to take a particular action, but often the stars don't align, so you'll need to do one or the other. That decision is often very tough, especially because your opponents will have their eyes on everything you're considering as well.

On the action wheel, there are 5 different actions you can choose from, but there's also a joker action space, which allows you to take any action. In addition to the interesting choices that arise from the dice distribution and actions, there are also super juicy bonus tiles placed around the action wheel at the start of each turn. There's only 1 tile on each action space, and they're first come, first serve. Thus, they will also factor in your decision process when you're figuring out which die to take on your turn. As you can imagine, turn order is very important.

There are 5 main actions in Tiletum, in addition to tasks (free actions) you can take at any point during your turn. Most of the actions have a variety of ways you can allocate your action points. Again, the amount of actions points you gain depends on which die number you draft.

A big chunk of the game board represents a map of Europe, which initially gave me some Orléans vibes. Players start the game with a merchant (wagon) and an architect (pencil compass) in the Tiletum town space, and there are 2 actions that allow you to manipulate those pieces on the map. When you perform the Architect action, you can spend action points to move your architect around the map, to add a pillar from your personal supply to an empty pillar space in a town with your architect, or to take a bonus tile from the town where your architect is located. The Merchant action works similarly since you can spend action points to move your merchant, take a bonus tile, or you can place a house on an empty house space in the town where your merchant is located.

From gallery of candidrum

During final scoring at the end of the game, you'll multiply the number of houses you have on the map by the number of pillars you have on the map and gain that many victory points. Also, when it comes to pillars, having pillars in towns allows you to build cathedrals which are worth a decent amount of points. On the other hand, houses are very helpful especially at fair locations, since you either need to have your merchant at the fair location or a house placed there to participate and score points. Therefore, it's usually a good option to place houses and pillars when you can. There are limited spaces at each town, so it's always a race to beat your opponents there.

Before I explain how the Character and Contract actions work, it's important to note that each player has their own player board in Tiletum, which is where you'll be managing tiles you collect as well as juggling a set collection mini game. Your player board has a warehouse section to store 4 tiles, and a main section where you can place character and crest tiles in different rows and columns. Throughout the game you'll be picking up a variety of different bonus tiles (crests, resources, actions, etc.), as well as contract and character tiles. You can only ever have or take one type of each crest, and each column can only have one type of each character.

From gallery of candidrum
My player board

When you perform the Character action, you can spend action points to take character tiles from the character offer, which has 5 face-up character tiles to choose from. When you take a character tile, you immediately place it in your warehouse, so you must have an available empty space. With the Character action you can also spend an action point to discard all character tiles from the offer, and immediately refill it with new tiles. You can also spend action points to move a character tile from your warehouse into a room on your player board, noting you cannot have two different buildings (columns) with the same character. After you place a character tile, you'll also earn the bonus in the left corner of the tile. Each player starts the game with a house at the top of each column/building, which you can add to your supply once that column/building is filled with character tiles.

From gallery of candidrum
Character offer, Contract offer, and King track
When you perform the Contract action, you can spend action points to take a contract tile from the contract offer, or you can exchange your resources for different resources. The contract tiles cost a varying number of action points based on their position in the offer, and they need to be placed in your warehouse immediately, similar to character tiles. They are standard contracts where you need to spend a number of resources to fulfill them, then you gain a number of victory points. When you complete a contract, which is a task/free action, you place the contract tile in the completed contracts area of your play board, which unlocks a pillar that is added to your supply. Plus, you gain points from the contract and additional points printed on the space you placed it on.

The final action is the King action, where you can spend action points to advance on the King track. That is literally all you do action wise, so it may appear insignificant initially, but your position on this track relative to your opponents is important. During the King phase, you'll adjust turn order based on the King track and this is a game where turn order is extremely important. It's also worth noting that before the first player takes a die in the action phase, they will reveal the rightmost face-down corruption token under the King track and move all players markers back according to the number on the token (0, 1, or 2).

After the last player has taken their third die and has finished resolving their last action for the round, there is a King phase. In the King phase, the player whose marker is highest on the King track takes or discards the bonus tile next to the track. Then players score or lose points based on their position on the King track. Finally, turn order is adjusted so the player highest on the King track becomes the first player, the second-highest becomes the second player, and so on.

Then comes the Fair phase, where players have the opportunity to gain a decent chunk of victory points. The first fair is always in Tiletum, but the subsequent three fair locations (out of eight) are randomly selected at the beginning of the game, along with four (out of eleven) randomly selected fair tiles. The fair tiles have different scoring objectives such as scoring points for each pillar you have on the map, or for each contract you have fulfilled, or for each crest tile on your player board, or for sets of houses and pillars you have on the map, etc. The variety of combinations of fair locations and fair tiles forces you to change up your strategy each game; it makes Tiletum highly re-playable.

From gallery of candidrum
Everything you're doing each game is to try to score as many points as you can at as many fairs as you can. You have this variety of different objectives that relate to a variety of different locations on the map where you need to have either a house or your merchant present the round it's being scored to even score it. There are just so many different ways the game will push and pull you as you try to come out ahead of your opponents each game. With limited spaces for houses in each town, you have to decide when it's worth it to move your merchant across town to make sure you can participate in the upcoming fair. Or maybe you neglect an earlier fair to get ahead of everyone for a fair in a later round which might be more rewarding. It's really cool and very challenging!

After the Fair phase, there's a Cleanup phase where you'll replenish bonus tiles around the action wheel and on the King track. Then you'll return all dice to the bag and rotate the action wheel one step clockwise before starting the next round. Rotating the action wheel each round keeps things interesting as well.

At the end of the Fair phase of the 4th round, there's final scoring where you may earn additional points for the houses and pillars you have on the map, as well as completed buildings on your player board. You can also cash in your remaining resources and gain a point for every 4 resources. Then the player with the most victory points wins.

I glossed over crest tiles, but they also play an important role in Tiletum. You can gain crest tiles as bonus tiles or some may appear in the contract offer as well. To move them from your warehouse to the bottom of a column/building, you have to spend some amount of food, then you gain the bonus of the space you covered. You can cover up the crest spaces in any order you'd like, so if you have the right amount of food, you can strategically place one at the right time for a powerful, helpful bonus. For example, there's one space where you can immediately move your merchant anywhere on the map. There's also one that allows you to place a house from your supply onto any town on the map. Just imagine, your opponent could be gradually moving their merchant somewhere to be first to place their house, and you place a crest just before that and build a house where they were hoping to. The bonuses for placing crest tiles can be very powerful.

If you manage to fill a building on your player board with character tiles and you have a crest placed below it, you get to add one of your bonus action markers near the action wheel space indicated on your character tile(s). These bonus action markers give you 1-3 permanent extra action points for the corresponding action. Action points are valuable so this is an awesome bonus that's worth getting as early as you can. Of course, there are so many things you'll want to do, but you can't do it all.

Tiletum is an excellent, medium-weight eurogame that feels highly competitive. Everything you'll want to do, your opponents will be trying to do as well, whether it's drafting a particular die, or trying to build a house at the next fair location, or snag a particular contract or bonus tile. There is so much that everyone will be trying to do at the same time, which again, makes turn order very important...while also being another thing you'll be trying to beat your opponents on. It feels like there's always a tense race to do everything. Since your opponents will almost always be doing everything you'll want to do, it can be difficult to plan your turn in advance. You really need a backup plan to your backup plan's backup plan to keep the game moving along. There are so many satisfying options to choose from and exploring all of your options can be mentally taxing, so beware of analysis paralysis. If players are familiar with the game and aren't taking too long on their turns, you can play a 4-player game of Tiletum in less than 2 hours.

Tiletum also includes a solo mode designed by Dávid Turczi with Jeremy Avery where you compete against "The Cardinalbot", an automated solo opponent. You win if you have more victory points than the Cardinalbot at the end of the game. In addition to the solo rules, there are also 8 challenge cards you can play with to modify the rules of the Cardinalbot.

From gallery of candidrum

Because Tiletum is so competitive, clever, and highly re-playable, it feels like a classic already. I think part of that feeling comes from the classic eurogame theme as well, which is the weakest part of the game for me. As it stands, I really enjoy the gameplay and it's obvious that Tascini and Luciani are still going strong as a designer duo, but a stronger, more interesting theme would've made Tiletum pop even more for me.

If medium-weight eurogames are your thing, I highly recommend checking out Tiletum. It is a very satisfying and competitive game that provides fresh challenges from game to game, primarily because of the fair location and objective variability, but there are so many other contributing factors, such as the dice distribution around the rotating action wheel, and the variety of bonus tiles, which all really vary up the gameplay and make Tiletum shine.
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Fri Jan 27, 2023 7:00 am
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