• With NY Toy Fair 2019 under way and game announcements flowing like taxis down 10th Avenue, let's look at a few more licensed designs coming out in 2019, starting with Jaws from Prospero Hall and Ravensburger, the same team that released Jurassic Park: Danger! in 2018. Here's a rundown of this 2-4 player game, which is due out in June 2019:
In Jaws, one player takes on the role of the killer shark off Amity Island, while the other 1-3 players take on the roles of Brody, Hooper and Quint to hunt the shark. Character and event cards define player abilities and create game actions for humans and the shark. Gameplay is divided into two acts — Amity Island and The Orca — to replicate the film's story:
—In the Amity Island phase, the shark menaces swimmers and avoids capture. Other players attempt to pinpoint the shark's location and save swimmers from shark attacks. —In the Orca phase, played on the reverse side of the game board, Brody, Hooper and Quint are aboard the sinking ship engaging in a climactic battle against the shark, while using additional action and strategy cards to defend the Orca from targeted shark attacks.
If humans kill the shark, they win; if the shark attack on the Orca succeeds, the great white shark wins.
Defeat the Batman to rule the city! Gotham City's coffers are ripe for the robbing, but one thing stands in the way of the city's supervillains: the reviled Batman. It's time someone finally took out that nuisance! Choose your favorite villain, then go on crime sprees, steal powerful upgrades, recruit nefarious accomplices, and race to complete your master plan and be the first to defeat the World's Greatest Detective!
Batman: The Animated Series – Rogues Gallery is a press-your-luck game for three to five players. Each player takes on the role of a devious Gotham City villain attempting to be the first to take down Batman, but beating him requires a sound strategy and a dash of good luck. Gather your forces, lay your traps, and claim the ultimate bragging rights as the villain who finally defeated the Batman!
• This design team is also behind Kingdom Rush: Time Rift, an adaptation of the popular tower defense app that's coming to Kickstarter from Lucky Duck Games, which has previously released tabletop adaptations of Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride.
Yes, the Villainous board game from Prospero Hall — a pen name for design agency Forrest-Pruzan Creative — and Wonder Forge won a prize that has traditionally gone to games aimed solely at children. Modern games for older players have rarely been nominated for TOTY; in 2017, for example, Imhotep lost out to Yeti in My Spaghetti, while in 2014 Settlers of Catan — which was nearly twenty years old at that time, mind you — lost out to Boom Boom Balloon, a game in which you repeatedly press wooden rods into a balloon until it finally bursts. (You can view all of the toy of the year winners and nominees from 2000 to 2017 here.)
I don't know whether such an award means anything in the grander scheme of things. After all, the other nominees for games of the year idd include Fryin' Flyin' Donuts and Dr. Biscuits' Radical Road Trip, so it's not like the mainstream toy industry has suddenly turned a corner in terms of which games deserve a place in the spotlight, but I find it promising that Villainous is in that spotlight right now.
What's more, the opening of NY Toy Fair 2019 brought the formal announcement of Villainous: Wicked to the Core, a standalone expansion from the same design team and now bearing the Ravensburger logo, Ravensburger being the parent company of Wonder Forge. (I'm not sure why they changed brands on the box, but I would guess that it has to do with global recognition and simplicity of branding. After all, Ravensburger demoed a German version of the original game at Spielwarenmesse 2019.)
Villainous: Wicked to the Core contains three new villains — Hades from Hercules (and not "Achilles" as I mistakenly say in the video below), Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog, and the Evil Queen from Snow White — and as in the original Villainous game, each of them has a unique victory condition related to their particular film: Hades needs to move three titans from the Underworld to Mount Olympus, Dr. Facilier need to have hold of his talisman while calling on help from the other side to rule New Orleans, and the Evil Queen must poison Snow White, which is far more complicated than it initially sounds. (I'm amused that "Evil Queen" is capitalized as if it's her name, but it's easier to spell than "Grimhilde", so she might have made the right choice by using that.)
This game is playable with 2-3 players, and the characters are interchangeable with those of the base game should you be masochistic enough to want to play with five or six players.
Each villain has a unique element to its 30-card deck. The Evil Queen, for example, has two copies each of four ingredients, with each ingredient having an effect when played. More importantly, the first time you play each ingredient, you place it below your board — adding it to your pot, as it were — and once you have all four ingredients, you unlock the Dwarves' Cottage location, which will let you get to Snow White (assuming someone else has played her from your fate deck or you've dug her out of the fate deck using your Magic Mirror) and possibly poison her, assuming that you've transformed enough power to poison, that is.
Yes, each villain in this game is highly customized, with both the character's deck and its fate deck working together to encapsulate the film's story in miniature. The trick is that cards in the fate deck are played only when an opponent chooses to visit a location on their board that includes a fate action. If no one does this, then you're all in a race to see who can put the pieces of their plan together first. You need players who want to mess with one another in order to see all that the game has to offer, and I haven't always had that in my playings. (I've played each character in this expansion only once so far on a review copy from Ravensburger.)
You need players who want to relive those movies rather than simply racing to the victory line — or maybe you don't. Depends on what you're looking for in a game, of course. Maybe you all just want to take the spotlight as the bad guy since they usually have the best lines. If so, Villainous: Wicked to the Core gives you new roles to play when you take the stage...
• Blue Orange Games plans to release Urtis Šulinskas' Planet in North America on April 22, 2019, a.k.a. Earth Day. The game debuted in Europe at SPIEL in October 2018, and you can check out an overview of this world-building game here.
• Village Pillage is a 2-5 player design from Peter C. Hayward, Tom Lang, and Jellybean Games in which players play one card in hand against each of their neighbors at the same time, after which those cards resolve: farmers produce turnips, walls block raiders, raiders steal turnips, and merchants either add new cards to your hand or help you purchase a relic. Cards then return to your hand, and you do it all over again until someone claims their third relic and wins.
• Mary Flanagan and Max Seidman's Visitor in Blackwood Grove, which debuted in the U.S. from Resonym as a Target-exclusive title in mid-2018, reaches regular distribution channels in Q2 2019. This game is a two-vs.-all affair in which an alien visitor creates a rule for which items can pass through the forcefield around its ship and the child that's befriended the alien must figure out this rule before secret agents can do so. We recorded an overview of the game at Origins 2018, and it gives a good idea of how the game works.
• The next title from Flanagan, Seidman, and Resonym — with co-design credit for Emma Hobday — is Mechanica, a 1-4 player game in which you acquire puzzle pieces to upgrade your factory to create more and better Tidybots, which earns you money, with which you will further upgrade the factory to earn even more. Speaking of which, Mechanica is being funded on Kickstarter through March 3, 2019, with an expected delivery date of Nov. 2019.
• In March 2019, U.S. publisher R&R Games will release Hanabi Deluxe II, which like the original Hanabi Deluxe from 2013 will replace the cards from the original Antoine Bauza co-operative game with Mah Jhong-style tiles, but this edition also includes six unique tiles that comprise the "Master Artisan" expansion.
• Ringmaster: Welcome to the Big Top is a quick-playing card game from Justin Gary and Stone Blade Entertainment in which players lay down circus stars and attractions in front of themselves; sideshows in front of opponents; and events in the discard pile after carrying out their effect. Each player's winning condition is determined by the cards that they play, with opponents likely messing up your acts during play.
Funko believes that everyone is a fan of something, and this acquisition allows pop culture enthusiasts to display their fandom through multi-player interaction comprised by their favorite characters and introduces Funko to an entirely new demographic, ardent board gamers.
"We've always been incredibly impressed with FPC's portfolio and have witnessed the company make a name for itself on a global level," said Funko President Andrew Perlmutter. "As we expand our product portfolio, we believe this acquisition is in line with what we are doing with apparel, accessories and Funko Animation Studios. The games category is another avenue to deliver pop culture to our ever-growing fan base. FPC's nearly two decades of experience in developing high quality games will provide us added expertise as we leverage our existing IP and licensor portfolio into this category."
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and the Company does not expect the acquisition to have a material impact on its financial performance in 2019.
Who doesn't love to display their fandom via multi-player interaction?!
• In late January 2019, Hachette Livre, the largest book publisher in France and the owner of the Hachette Book Group in the U.S. along with many other imprints, has "entered into exclusive negotiations with Jean-Christophe Gires and Stéphane Gires, the founders and directors of Gigamic, with a view to acquiring 100% of their company's share capital", according to a press release on the Hachette website.
Gigamic was founded in 1991, launching the company with the abstract strategy game Quarto, which I fondly recall demoing and selling at The Game Gallery in San Francisco. It was a different era then! Currently Gigamic publishes about fifteen new titles annually, with sales of more than €15 million. An excerpt from the press release:
Stéphane Gires, who is 56, will continue to manage the business that he has successfully built up with his brother.
For Hachette Livre, which already publishes party games (quiz games, etc.), and which added mobile games to its portfolio in 2016, this investment is part of a strategic decision to explore the leisure activity market that sits alongside publishing, in particular all the segments of the consumer gaming market.
"We are delighted to welcome Gigamic and its great team, whose skills are naturally closely aligned with our content creation activities for the consumer market. Like all the entities that have joined the Group in recent years, Gigamic will be able to pursue its development while retaining its creative autonomy", said Arnaud Nourry, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hachette Livre.
"Our many discussions have confirmed that our companies share the same DNA in terms of ethics, innovation, management and trust in our existing personnel. Gigamic is becoming part of a major French group and a market leader, which delivers a strong message to our employees, our customers and our suppliers. We feel very confident and motivated for the future", added Stéphane Gires.
• Stepping back one month further, in mid-December 2018, Greater Than Games acquired Nevermore Games, stating in a press release that "The acquisition of Nevermore Games is the culmination of several months of conversations between Nevermore Games and Greater Than Games. As our companies undergo this transition, Greater Than Games looks forward to supporting the Nevermore Games product lines and fan base."
• For an industry move in the other direction, we have this statement from Dutch publisher White Goblin Games in January 2019:
During the previous year, we signed a deal with the Chinese company Yoka Games to produce a new localized edition of our game Bali in China.
At the time that we signed the deal, we were unaware of the previous and current history of Yoka Games, but it was recently brought to our attention that Yoka Games has been plagiarizing famous games such as BANG! and Lost Cities for many years.
Yoka Games has proven itself to be disrespectful of intellectual property rights and the work of other companies and designers. We firmly condemn this attitude, and for this reason we have decided to end our partnership with Yoka Games.
Lincoln Damerst and I recorded about one hundred game preview videos at Spielwarenmesse 2019 — the annual toy fair in Nürnberg, Germany — and more than twenty of those videos are live for you now on our new BGG Express YouTube channel.
The most recent videos highlight several anticipated titles from Germany publisher Lookout Spiele, titles that you might not even have known were coming, such as Alexander Pfister's Newdale, which is a board game set in the world of Pfister's Oh My Goods! card game. This game is still in development, so it's hardly a thing of beauty right now, but you can at least learn the basics of the game (then update the placeholder game listing that I created in the BGG database earlier today):
• NY Toy Fair opens on Saturday, Feb. 16, and that show — being aimed at mainstream retailers — typically coincides with game announcements connected to licensed properties.
Along those lines, Looney Labs has announced a partnership with Cardinal Industries that will allow them to release Marvel Fluxx and Jumanji Fluxx, new versions of Andrew Looney's long-lived Fluxx card game. Two different versions of these games will exist, with the Cardinal versions aimed at mass market retailing for $15 and being released in August 2019; the Looney Labs versions each include seven additional cards, retail for $20, and will debut in July 2019.
• U.S. publisher USAopoly has adopted a new logo (shown at left) for its 25th anniversary. In a press release accompanying the logo, USAopoly's president and CEO John M. Davis said, "This updated look and logo reflect our forward progress as well as capture our perseverance and unwavering pledge to deliver great gaming experiences that bring people together."
More relevant for this post, the publisher has also announced two titles bearing the Harry Potter license, while teasing a third. The first title is Scrabble: Harry Potter, which may or may not be the same item as Mattel's Scrabble: Harry Potter Edition, which appeared in 2016 in the UK. (Mattel holds the Scrabble trademark everywhere other than the U.S. and Canada.) In Scrabble: Harry Potter, you can score points for playing character names, locations, spells, and potion names in addition to, you know, normal non-magic words. Players also have challenge cards that they can complete for extra points.
Aside from the these two titles, USAopoly said that it would release a "Wizarding World cooperative game" in 2019.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – Defence Against the Dark Arts
• Captain Marvel: Secret Skrulls is another licensed title from USAoply, this being a hidden identity game for 4-7 players based on the gameplay of BANG! The player with the Captain Marvel role is the sheriff, and they must identify their allies while taking out the skrulls and not succumbing to the skrull defector, which is this game's version of the renegade.
• USAopoly has also signed a deal with Laika Entertainment, LLC to release products based upon the 2009 movie Coraline, including a Coraline-themed Monopoly game. All of the player tokens are thimbles because losers must replace their eyes with buttons.
KeyForge: Age of Ascension follows the model of the original KeyForge: Call of the Archons: Each player has a unique deck of cards compiled via algorithms known only to the secretive forces housed in the nuclear-proof vault underneath the Fantasy Flight Games basement. Each deck contains a unique image and name, which means that cards cannot be swapped between decks to customize them. Decks are sold individually for $10 or in a two-player starter set (that contains two randomized decks as opposed to the fixed decks of Call of the Archons, along with tokens needed for play) for $25. Here's a summary of gameplay for those unfamiliar with the game:
KeyForge is played over a series of turns in which you, as the Archon leading your company, use the creatures, technology, artifacts, and skills of a chosen House to reap precious Æmber, hold off your enemy's forces, and forge enough keys to unlock the Crucible's Vaults. You begin your turn by declaring one of the three Houses within your deck, and for the remainder of the turn you may play and use cards only from that House. For example, if you take on the role of the Archon Radiant Argus the Supreme, you will find cards from Logos, Sanctum, and Untamed in your deck, but if you declare "Sanctum" at the start of your turn, you may use actions, artifacts, creatures, and upgrades only from Sanctum. Your allies from Logos and Untamed must wait.
Next, you must strive to gain the advantage with a series of tactical decisions, leveraging both the cards in your hand and those in play to race ahead of your opponent. If you wish to weaken your rival's forces, you may send out your allies to fight enemies on the opposing side, matching strength against strength. Otherwise, you may choose to use your followers to reap, adding more Æmber to your pool.
Notably, no card in KeyForge has a cost — choosing a House at the start of a turn allows you to play and use any number of cards from that House for free, leading turns to fly by with a wave of activity! Yet balance is key. If you simply reap more Æmber at every opportunity, your rival may quickly grow their team of minions and destroy yours, outpacing your collection and leaving your field barren. But if you focus on the thrill of the fight alone and neglect the collection of Æmber, you won't move any closer to your goal! If you succeed in finding a harmony within your team and have six Æmber at the start of your turn, you'll forge a key and move one step closer to victory. The first to forge three keys wins!
In its announcement for this set, FFG notes that the card pool for Age of Ascension contains 204 new cards as well as 166 cards that appeared in Call of the Archons, and that decks should be competitive across sets, with new decks not overpowering or replacing ones from the first release. Aside from the repeated cards:
Even cards that do not carry over from Call of the Archons to Age of Ascension have the chance to make an appearance as new Legacy cards. Like the player-favorite Mavericks (which continue to appear in Age of Ascension), Legacy cards are plucked from their normal settings and placed in new situations to unlock even stranger synergies. In KeyForge, any card that has existed in any previous set can be pulled forward to become a Legacy card included in a current Archon Deck.
The Spielwarenmesse toy fair in Nürnberg, Germany turned 70 in 2019, and after four days of recording game overview videos at the fair Lincoln Damerst and I felt seventy years old ourselves. So much walking! So little sleep! So many games seen and so few remembered!
Since we're already prepping for coverage of the Festival International des Jeux (FIJ) in Cannes, France — our livestream starts on Thursday, Feb. 21! — we're trying to publish the videos from Spielwarenmesse 2019 as quickly as possible in order to avoid getting backed up. What's more, for 2019 and beyond we plan to publish the convention overview videos on a new YouTube channel: BoardGameGeek Express. By doing so, we can present produced material such as GameNight! and The BGG Show on the existing BGG TV YouTube channel without flooding the zone with a hundred convention videos all at once, something we've done in the past to subscribers' regret. (When I tried to avoid flooding subscribers, I would end up spacing out the publication of videos for months, making that coverage less useful since it sometimes wouldn't appear until after a game was released.)
The first video on BGG Express is an overview of Era: Medieval Age, a game from Matt Leacock and eggertspiele that reworks the gameplay of Roll Through the Ages in a new 3D format. This title is the first in a trilogy, and company owner Sophie Gravel showed off a pre-production sample of the game ahead of its debut at Gen Con 2019:
We recorded about a hundred videos at Spielwarenmesse 2019, and I'll publish as many of them as I can in the next few days before heading to NY Toy Fair 2019. Yes, that's yet another show on the schedule!
• This week I'm doing final preparation for both NY Toy Fair and FIJ in Cannes, France, with the GAMA Trade Show poking its head up in the background and also demanding attention. Avalanche!
One of the companies that unveils its entire line for the year at NY Toy Fair is U.S. publisher Gamewright, which features mostly mainstream-friendly titles along with a few games that will also make a splash with the BGG audience. The splashiest title in Gamewright's 2019 line-up is undoubtedly Sushi Roll, a dice-based version of Phil Walker-Harding's Sushi Go!. Here's a quick take on this 2-5 player game that plays in 20 minutes and bears a Q2 2019 release date:
Rice and dice! Roll with your favorite Sushi Go! characters in Sushi Roll. Load up the conveyor belts with savory sushi dice — then pick one and pass the rest! Earn points for winning combos like two tempura or a set of sashimi. Grab a menu to re-roll your dice or use chopsticks to swap with an opponent. Be sure to save room for pudding at the end!
• Along similar lines, Gamewright is releasing Rat-a-Tat Roll in Q3 2019, this being a dice-based version of its long-lived Rat-a-Tat Cat card game, which is a souped-up version of the public domain card game Golf. An overview:
Roll around the world with Rat-a-Tat Roll. Move around the board trying to collect low cards (cats) while avoiding high cards (rats). Choose one, two, or three dice, keeping re-roll tokens handy in case you miss your mark. All along, look out for peeks, swaps, and especially the chancy "wild" spots where things could really get dicey! Get the lowest score and win!
• Gamewright typically releases one or two real-time pattern recognition games each year, and for 2019 there's Guju Guju from designer and artist Ariel Yi Chi Chang. We recorded an overview of this game at SPIEL '17 with the designer on the original version of the game, but if you want the description in words, here it is: Start with a number of fruit cards face up on the table, then divide the other cards equally among the players. On a turn, a player names one of the four types of fruit in the game, then flips over a card from their deck onto a face-up card of this type. If they reveal the same type of fruit that they named, everyone races to cover all of these fruits with cards from their personal deck. Whoever rids their hand of cards first wins!
Twin It! features 135 double-sided cards with 119 wild op art patterns on them, and with the front of a card never matching the back. You can play multiple games with the deck, and the basic one is a standard pattern-recognition twitch game. Divide the deck among all the players. Either taking turns or at whatever pace they wish, players flip cards into the center of the table. As soon as you spot a pair of matching images, race to place an index finger on each member of the pair to claim it.
Many images are close to one another, but not identical, so don't be fooled! You can form matches with the top card of a player's deck, so keep your eye on those as well because a matching card can be flipped out of sight if the deck-holder plays it to the table. Some patterns appear three times instead of only two, so even if you've claimed a pair, you might find it snatched away from you if the third image turns up and someone else spots the match first. Whoever claims five pairs first wins.
I've played Twin It! a half-dozen times on a review copy from Gamewright, and the images from Vuarchex, co-designer of Jungle Speed, add a lot to the game. Your eyes start bugging out from the psychedelic visuals! The game also has a team version in which you win a pair only if you place a finger on one of the cards and your teammates places their finger on the other one.
• Other titles coming from Gamewright include This Games Goes to Eleven, in which you ditch cards to a central pile, trying to hit a sum of 11 to pass off cards to others and empty your hand; Bloom, a dice-rolling game in which you collect flowers and try not to pass good dice to others; Punto, in which players try to create lines of 4-5 cards but are restricted in how they can play them; Whozit?, a party game in which you try to get teammates to guess a celebrity target based on how well certain people would do certain tasks; and Hello My Name Is, a party game in which you play trait cards, then race to name someone (whether real or fictional) who fits those traits.
Note that This Games Goes to Eleven premiered in 2018 as a title exclusive to the U.S. retail chain Target and is now receiving a wide retail release.
Take to the stars and become a living legend in Star Wars: Outer Rim, a game of bounty hunters, mercenaries, and smugglers for 1-4 players!
In Outer Rim, you take on the role of an underworld denizen, setting out to make your mark on the galaxy. You'll travel the outer rim in your personal ship, hire legendary Star Wars characters to join your crew, and try to become the most famous (or infamous) outlaw in the galaxy!
But it won't be easy since the warring factions of the galaxy roam the outer rim, hunting down the scum that have proven to be a thorn in their side, and other scoundrels looking to make their mark see you as the perfect target to bring down to bolster their own reputation. Do you have what it takes to survive in the outer rim and become a living legend?
In more detail, a game of Outer Rim takes place over a series of turns that sees players taking dangerous jobs, tracking down bounties, upgrading their ship, and more, all in service of gaining more and more fame. Regardless of the path you take to get there, your goal is to gain ten fame, which can come from a variety of sources, such as completing your character's personal goal, collecting on bounties and jobs, delivering illegal cargo, taking down patrols from the various factions struggling over the galaxy, and enjoying the finer things in life by purchasing luxury items with your hard-earned credits.
While the path to victory may be different for scoundrels finding their way in the Outer Rim, everyone starts from the bottom with a simple starship. Your player board not only tracks your fame progress, but also contains slots for your ship, your character card, gear, reputation, modifications, jobs, and bounties. Keep in mind that while doing a job for someone can earn you fame, it can also put a price on your head when a competing factions decides that you're causing them trouble — and one of the other players might try to collect that bounty!