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New Game Round-up: Race to Dig the Chunnel, and Try Not to Die in the Forest

W. Eric Martin
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Yesterday's post featured a new title from AEG that folks will first see at SPIEL '19 in October, so let's continue along those lines with even more games that most people will first experience in Essen.

Spanish publisher Looping Games will continue its historical series of games that are named "[year] [event/place]" with two entries, with those games being funded on the Spanish crowdfunding site Verkami through May 24. Esteban Fernandez' 1942 USS Yorktown is a 1-4 player co-operative game that the designer first released inline in 2011 under the name Sink the Carrier. Victory Point Games flirted with its own version of the game for a few years, but never released it, and now Looping Games will bring it to print in this guise:

Quote:
On the stage of the Pacific battle, there was a concrete confrontation that marked a milestone in history, that of the American aircraft carrier USS Yorktown against the Japanese aircraft carrier IJN Shōhō. It is said that it was the first naval battle where the ships never saw each other, and they faced each other launching airplanes to locate their enemy and bomb them.

In 1942 USS Yorktown, you take the role of American pilots who take off from the USS Yorktown to try to locate and sink the Shōhō while you fight against the planes it throws at you. Time will be your main enemy since the whole game will be against the clock and there will be no time to prepare great strategies or for the dreaded "leader effect".

• The other title from Looping Games is 1987 Channel Tunnel, a two-player competitive game from designers Israel Cendrero and Sheila Santos that digs into a fascinating topic not previously covered in games as far as I know:

Quote:
For centuries, the relationship between Britain and France has been marked by wars and rivalries, but also by mutual alliances. Both societies have a markedly different conception of Europe, but an intense commercial relationship that allowed them to work together in a common interest: the construction of the Channel Tunnel.

In 1987 Channel Tunnel, you get to put yourself in command of a team of builders from Britain or France to unite the two countries under the sea! You need to lead your team of workers, develop technology, and seek funding to bring the tunnel boring machine to the meeting point at the heart of this epic engineering feat. When the center of the tunnel length is reached, players earn points based on how far have they developed their technology tracks, which cards they have, and whether they haven't deviated with their machines too much.

When taking an action during the game, players play part of their tower of colored discs to perform it. This action won't be available for the rest of the round unless someone plays a taller tower (with more discs) on it. As soon as both players pass, return the discs to the bag, then start a new round.

• Michel Baudoin, who designed and illustrated 2011's Space Maze from Wacky Works, is launching new publisher Cinnamon Games with the SPIEL '19 release of Oh, Fox!, a quick-playing game for 2-4 players from first-time designer Hurby Donkers. Baudoin plans to demo the game at the UK Games Expo, which is becoming a familiar statement from European publishers who have new releases for SPIEL. Here's what to expect:

Quote:
Only a few steps and those sweetly delicious berries you craved so much are yours to eat. They're right there, just take them! But you hesitate as things may not be as they seem. That vague shadow you spotted earlier could be anything and anywhere. It could be one of your forest friends, looking for food, as usual — or it could be something more dangerous, watching your every move, planning its time to strike...

In Oh, Fox!, players secretly take on the roles of animals of the forest, each with their own unique ability. Prey animals are gathering food while being hunted by the predator. Over seven turns, players move across the board by simultaneously playing one face-up movement card each turn. However, their figurines don't actually move until the end of the game! Until then, players try to hide their own identity while attempting to figure out who the others are before it is too late.
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Wed May 15, 2019 1:00 pm
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Reform the Earth, Then Raid Islands with John D. Clair and AEG

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• Designer John D. Clair and publisher Alderac Entertainment Group have worked together on several designs, starting with Mystic Vale in 2016, then continuing with Custom Heroes in 2017, Space Base in 2018, and Edge of Darkness, which was funded on Kickstarter to the tune of $636k in March 2018 and which is currently scheduled to debut at Gen Con 2019 in August.

Turns out that this duo has several other titles in the works. Ecos: First Continent is a simultaneous play game — a genre also inhabited by AEG's recently released Tiny Towns — for 2-6 players that will debut at SPIEL '19 in October. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
What if the formation of Earth had gone differently?

In Ecos: First Contient, players are forces of nature molding the planet, but with competing visions of its grandeur. You have the chance to create a part of the world, similar but different to the one we know. Which landscapes, habitats, and species thrive will be up to you.

Gameplay in Ecos is simultaneous. Each round, one player reveals element tokens from the element bag, giving all players the opportunity to complete a card from their tableau and shape the continent to their own purpose. Elements that cannot be used can be converted into energy cubes or additional cards in hand or they can be added to your tableau to give you greater options as the game evolves.

Mountain ranges, jungle, rivers, seas, islands and savanna, each with their own fauna, all lie within the scope of the players' options.

• Yet another design coming from Clair and AEG is Dead Reckoning, which features the "card-crafting" system seen in other Clair designs, along with a whole lot of other material. Dead Reckoning is for 2-4 players, bears a 90-120 minute playing time, and is due out at some point in 2019. An overview:

Quote:
Dead Reckoning is a game of exploration, piracy, and influence based in a Caribbean-eque setting. Each player commands a ship and crew and seeks to amass the greatest fortune. They do this through pirating, trading, treasure hunting, and (importantly) capturing and maintaining control over the uninhabited but resource-rich islands of the region. During the game, you can:

• Customize your ship: Your ship is represented by a token on the board. The board starts mostly unexplored and will be revealed as you venture into uncharted waters. You also have a ship board where you load cargo and treasure, and you can customize the guns, speed, or holding space of your ship.

• Card-craft your crew: You have a small deck of cards that will drive your actions in the game, with each card representing one of your crew members. This deck functions like one in a deck-building game, but the cards in the deck are sleeved, and rather than add new crew cards to your deck, you improve the skill and abilities of your crew cards by placing transparent "advancement" cards in those sleeves. Aside from the transparent advancements, your crew will also "level up" naturally during the game using a new card-leveling mechanism not seen in other card-crafting games such as Mystic Vale.

• Control the region: The region is filled with many deserted islands. These islands are a major source of treasure, and players will battle for control of these islands.

• Battle via a dynamic cube-tower: You can battle other players' ships or NPC merchant ships, and these battles are resolved via a new take on what a cube tower can be, with crew cards and ship powers increasing your chances of victory.

• Uncover secrets of the sea: Expansions for Dead Reckoning use a "saga" system in which certain content remains hidden and is discovered and added to the game organically only via playing. Rather than add everything at once, you gradually add it by playing and discovering. Depending on luck and player choice, less or more new content may get added each game.

• Aside from those two standalone games, in August 2019 AEG will release Clair's Space Base: Command Station, an expansion for Space Base that includes components for two additional players (allowing for up to seven players to be in the same game) as well as "pre-deployed" ship cards "to adjust for balance and gameplay with more than five players". Introduce a problem, then solve it in the same box — sounds like a plan!

Space Base: Command Station retails for US$40 and is packaged in a large box that can serve as storage for the Space Base base game, the Shy Pluto expansion, and additional future expansions.
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Tue May 14, 2019 1:00 pm
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Bézier Games Offers Silver Amulets, Bullets and More to Ward Off Werewolves

W. Eric Martin
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In how many game designs can Ted Alspach place werewolves? The answer, apparently, is all of them.

Alspach's Bézier Games has announced a new line of games that could be dubbed the "Silver line", with Silver debuting at Gen Con 2019 in August (ahead of a September 2019 retail release) and Silver Bullet arriving at SPIEL '19 in October. Each game is for 2-4 players, and the heart of the games is based on Mandy Henning and Melissa Limes' card game CABO, with Bézier not coincidentally having released a revised edition of this game in April 2019.

CABO is based on the public card game Golf, with players trying to have the lowest score at the end of a round. Most cards have only a numerical value, but a few of them have special powers, such as allowing the player who draws it to peek at cards and swap cards with an opponent to eliminate their high-valued cards. Silver and Silver Bullet build on this engine by having fourteen special-powered cards in each game. Oh, and werewolves, as explained below:

Quote:
Your village has been overrun by savage werewolves, which are represented by the number on each of the cards that make up your village. To get rid of these fanged fiends faster than the neighboring villages, use your residents' special abilities and your powerful secret weapon: a silver artifact awarded to the village's protector.

Call for a vote when you think you have the fewest werewolves, but be careful; everyone else gets one more turn to save their own village first...

Silver is a fast and engaging traditional card game with a werewolf twist! Everyone starts the game with five face-down cards, with everyone being able to see two cards of their choice. Cards are numbered 0-13, with the number showing how many werewolves the character on that card attracts, and each character (number) has a different special power.

On a turn, you draw the top card of the deck or discard pile, then either discard it to use the power of the card (but only if it came from the deck), discard it without using the power (ditto), or replace one or more of your face-down cards with this card; you can replace multiple cards only if they bear the same number, and you must reveal the cards to prove this, being penalized if you're wrong.

Silver can be played as a standalone game or combined with Silver Bullet or other Silver decks. Each version of the game has different card abilities.

I've played Silver three times, once at PAX Unplugged and twice more on an advanced review copy from Bézier. The game is reminiscent of CABO, as you might expect, but thanks to the special powers, the variety of gameplay each round is wider since more things happen beyond people just hoping to snag a 0 quickly.

In more detail, Silver is akin to CABO in that you're trying to have the lowest total on your face-down cards each round. Some choices are easy; if you draw a 1, you're going to keep it and throw away one of your other cards, placing the 1 face down so that only you know what it is. Ideally you discarded a high-value card, but you know only two of them at the start of the game, so sometimes you just gamble on throwing away something unknown.




Once a card is discarded, it stays face up for the rest of the round, even though it might be brought back into play, say by using the power of the witch. Some cards have a power only while they're face up in someone's village, perhaps allowing you to draw multiple cards, keeping the one you want and returning the rest, thereby giving you information about what others take. Another face-up power creates multiple discard piles (sort of), which gives players better choices and accelerates the pace of the game. The bodyguard (3) can be used to protect another card, keeping an opponent from swiping it or forcing you to discard it.

As in CABO, when you place a card into your village, you replace one or more cards already present there as long as they have the same number. The doppelgänger in Silver can match any other card, so you want to use it wisely to get rid of something high-valued, but it's worth 13 points on its own and points are bad, so don't wait too long.




As soon as someone thinks they have the lowest sum, they can call for the end of the round. Each other player gets one more turn, which means they get one final chance to lower their sum or mess with you, then everyone reveals their sum. If you called for the round to end and were correct, you score no points and receive a special token — a silver amulet in one game, a silver bullet in another — that grants you a special power in the next round; if you called and failed to have the lowest sum, then you score the sum of your cards plus ten penalty points. Each other player scores the sum of their cards, and whoever has the lowest total sum after four rounds wins.

To integrate Silver with Silver Bullet — or one of the other Silver games that will inevitably follow — you use all the cards of a number from the same set, and you create a deck with numbers 0-13, with two copies of 0 and 13 and four copies of everything else. Thus, you could simply swap the 6s from Silver with the 6s from Silver Bullet, or you could do something more complex, such as having even numbers from one set and odd numbers from another, or you could have players draft the cards they want to use.


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Mon May 13, 2019 2:15 pm
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Adventure Games: A Choose-Your-Own Designer Diary

Matthew Dunstan
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[1]

You find yourself back in Sydney, Australia, around Christmas in 2017. You enjoy being back home and escaping an English winter, as well as seeing your family. You have some spare time one day and are wondering what to do.

If you want to design a game by yourself, go to [5].
If you want to try to find a co-designer to generate some new ideas, go to [8].

[2]

In return for meeting up to discuss designs, you offer Phil a veritable horde of riches and wealth, an offer that in reality amounts to paying for a few drinks. Phil, being the extremely kind person that he is, turns the table and in fact invites you to his house to work — no bribes necessary! Go to [6].

[3]

Considering the rough state of the game, you decide to show the game to only a few publishers in Nürnberg. You get some interest — and even play a full scenario in one meeting — but no one quite sees the promise in the game that you and Phil see. That's not surprising considering how new the design is!

One of the final meetings you have is with Wolfgang Ludkte from KOSMOS, someone you have been meeting at fairs for the last eight years or so. It is always a pleasure to meet with Wolfgang, especially as he is particularly willing to be shown absolutely anything you are working on. He always wants to see designs — even if he will quickly say it is something KOSMOS is not interested in.


Brett Gilbert (center), Wolfgang Ludkte (right), and I at SPIEL '18


This is key as you had not really considered showing the Adventure Game to Wolfgang. KOSMOS publishes the already hugely successful Exit series, after all, and isn't this game just a bit too close to it? What do you do?

Leave the prototype in your bag — better not to risk it. Go to [17].
Take Wolfgang's encouragement and show him the prototype. Go to [15].

[4]

It starts with Phil's desire to make a system for an open adventuring game, something that acts as a scaffold for any type of story or mechanism, while offering interesting yet clear decisions. You quickly think about the old point-and-click video games — games, puzzles really, that relied on the myriad possible combinations between a few simple elements. Going straight from this inspiration, you think about having a deck of actions — Search, Talk, Take, or Use — and a set of cards laid out that represent different locations where you can perform these different actions. Players have a hand of action cards, and on their turn will move to a location and use a specific action there. Then they would draw a new card, and the game ends when the deck of actions is depleted.

Because each of the locations potentially has five different results based on which action you choose to use, we needed an easy way to access these results – it would be too difficult to list them all on the back of the card! Sometimes you don't need to reinvent the wheel, so in the tradition of games like Tales of the Arabian Nights, we turned to a paragraph book. Each action card has a specific number, as do the location cards, and to show the interaction between the two, you would simply add one to the other (a lá Unlock) and turn to that entry in the book. For example, you encounter a knight at a crossroads. Do you...

Search him? Go to [18].
Talk to him? Go to [16].


Cards from the first prototype; I'm not known for my artistic skills!


[5]

You enjoy some alone time, but can't seem to get any new ideas brewing. It's hard to concentrate when the weather is so good! But you still really want to make a new game, so you reach out to some friends. Go to [8].

[6]

One hot December day, you trudge through suburban Sydney to Phil's apartment. Once there, you undergo the usual meeting of design minds: seeing what each other is obsessed with playing at the moment, which games are in your collections, what it was like to work with publisher X. But the question that propels the discussion is this one: "What game are you really itching to make?"

"I want to make an easy-to-learn family game, maybe something with brightly colored pieces?" Go to [14].
"I want to make a crazy ambitious open-world adventuring game!" Go to [4].

[7]

You try to get started on an idea based on a deserted island and pirate treasure, but in the meantime Phil is so productive that he manages to finish a scenario with that same theme in only a few days! Cyberpunk it is, then! Go to [10].

[8]

While you haven't lived in Australia for almost ten years, you reach out to Phil Walker-Harding, having only met him a handful of times — fun side fact: you were the very first distributor of Sushi Go! in Europe, which in reality means posting a lot of parcels to the original Kickstarter backers — to see whether he is open to working on a game with you.

If you want to try to convince him by flattery, go to [13].
If you want to try to convince him with a bribe, go to [2].

[9]

This is the option you should have taken. It is certainly not recommended to show games to publishers that you haven't had time to playtest and iterate extensively. You don't want to waste their time, after all!

But in this case, well, you and Phil just instinctively know you have something here, even if it is still rough. You decide to show it to a few select publishers anyway. Go to [3].

[10]

You want a scenario that is a bit more sinister and dark. What better than a shadowy corporation in the near future that has developed a new wonder drug? And while Phil's excellent graphic skills are on display in his scenarios, your meager artistic skills lead you to rely on images from computer games with the required look. It's a tough slog, building a scenario from scratch, but you eventually have a first draft ready to send to KOSMOS.


Initial prototype location card from what would become Monochrome Inc.


But this is only the start. Over the coming months, you and Phil work with Ralph and Michael Sieber-Baskal, a role-playing expert at KOSMOS who takes the development lead for the project, going through iteration after iteration to find the best experience and story for the two scenarios. A lot of work is done to remove any elements not absolutely essential to telling a compelling story, and to reduce any overly mechanical experiences. You know that you couldn't have done it without Michael and Ralph (and indeed the rest of the KOSMOS team), and when the final product is ready to go to print, you are all extremely proud of what you've accomplished. Adventure Games: The Dungeon and Adventure Games: Monochrome Inc. will launch in German on May 16, 2019, and in English in October 2019, and you and Phil can't wait to see players making their way through the adventures!

The launch is imminent, and you consider writing a designer diary for BoardGameGeek. Do you...

Write a conventional kind of story, with a linear narrative? Go to [12].
Do something a bit different, more befitting the adventure games? Go to [19].

[11]

This system worked well and allowed a lot of surprising results, often from the fact we had to choose relatively generic actions that could work with people and inanimate locations — although even then it stretched logic a bit! For example, what would you happen if you "Interact" with that knight? What happens if you "Talk" to a lake?

But we also wanted a sense of progression, of discovery, of finding that key interaction that suddenly opens up all of these new options. Again turning to the source material of point-and-clicks, we remembered that these usually allowed you to pick up various items along the way, with these items then becoming a new way to interact with locations. It was relatively easy to implement new numbered items that you would receive at different locations, such as gaining an empty bottle when you Search the tavern. A player would keep items in front of them, and on their turn they could combine these with a location, or another item, again looking up the sum of the two numbers in the book. We also added new locations that were revealed if the players did certain actions, again opening up new options. Here we reached the same complexity of combinations from a small number of components that we were looking for!

You meet Phil a second time to work on the scenario in early January 2018, and before long it is time for you to travel back to the UK. With a little bit more writing, you have a full playable prototype, and Spielwarenmesse — the annual toy fair in Nürnberg — is only two weeks away! What do you do?

Work more on the game. After all, it's only about a month old and has barely been tested! Go to [9].
Playtesting — who needs that? Show it to publishers in Nürnberg! Go to [3].

[12]

Hasn't this story taught you anything about following your gut and taking a chance? Obviously it hasn't. You lose. Go back to [10].

[13]

You wax lyrical to Phil about the elegance and simplicity of his designs, from the moorish Sushi Go! to the chunky decision making of Imhotep. Despite him being extremely modest about his accomplishments, you sense your words have convinced him, and he invites you to visit him. Go to [6].

[14]

Phil takes out his enormous box of many colored cubes, and you start randomly moving them around on a piece of paper. Then a kind of slot machine mechanism starts to form, with you dropping pieces into different chutes and trying to get them to match colors where they land. Maybe the pieces are differently colored candies? But most importantly — there is something here with this idea...

You have designed a different game than what you were destined for. This is the end of this story, but it will be continued...! Go back to [6].

[15]

Here goes! You set up the game and start explaining it to Wolfgang. Within five minutes, he gets up and gets a colleague to join you at the table. This turns out to be Ralph Querfurth, the person at KOSMOS who had the original idea for the Exit series. Immediately they are both extremely excited by the game and start thinking about possibilities for the system. Rather than this idea competing with Exit, they think it could be a new line to follow it! They ask to be able to take the game back to their offices and test it further.

In the meantime, Phil has been working on another version of the system called "Trek" in which there are no specific action cards; instead the location cards simply show a series of numbers on different features of the card, and players can choose which thing they want to interact with by turning to that number. If, for example, you are in a dungeon, you can examine the window or the door, or perhaps look under the bed, and in each case you turn to a different number. You still have items, and these can be combined with any number present in a location or with another item; to do this, you place the smaller number in front of the larger number, then to that combination. In the example below, if you turn to entry 1011 this details your success in using the can opener on the can of cat food, and it gives you item 12 — an open can of cat food!


An example of how combining items works in the Adventure Games


Seeing as the game is still progressing, we send this version to KOSMOS as well, and they begin testing both versions. It is quickly apparent that the Trek system is superior. Gone are the strange combinations of action and place, and it more closely resembles the adventure games: You can look at a location and directly decide what you want to investigate more closely. Furthermore, you can control the rate at which new location cards are added to give a better sense of pacing. Finally, the game is simple. On your turn, you simply examine a location or use an item.

KOSMOS agrees as well, and within two months they sign the game for publication! But the work is now only just beginning: KOSMOS wants new scenarios to test, to see what works and what doesn't. Phil continues to work on his dungeon concept, as well as [redacted] and [redacted] scenarios. Now you get a chance to write your first scenario with Phil's new system — what type of story do you want to tell?

Pirates! Go to [7].
Cyberpunk! Go to [10].

[16]

(Real entry from the initial prototype) Hello, stranger! I am afraid I cannot let you pass. But I am extremely thirsty and would happily share a drink with you if you had one.

Hmmm...where will you find a drink for him? Go to [11].

[17]

In some adventures you have to take a chance...but this is not one of those times. You leave Nürnberg with no interest in the game, and your adventure ends here. Go back to [3], and maybe try taking a chance this time!

[18]

(Real entry from the initial prototype) "What are you doing?" The knight doesn't take kindly to a stranger attempting to search his person, and he "thanks" you with a punch to the head. Discard all of your action cards, then draw three new action cards at the end of your turn.

Well, that didn't go too well! Go to [11].

[19]

I hope you enjoyed your adventure! You have made it the end of this designer diary, and the Adventure Games have become a reality. You win!

Matthew Dunstan

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Mon May 13, 2019 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Claim Battlefields with Anthropomorphized Weapons, Then Participate in a Board Game Cafe Frenzy

W. Eric Martin
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• Let's look at another batch of games that will debut at Tokyo Game Market in May 2019, with these titles joining the others on BGG's TGM May 2019 Preview. For every game that I add to that preview, at least ten others are announced and will never be seen outside TGM. So sad, but I'm doing what I can to shine a light on some of the newness, such as Heiki Strike Alternative from Jesse Li, Afong Lee, and Moaideas Game Design.

Yes, Moaideas is a Taiwanese publisher, not a Japanese one, but for the past couple of years they've used TGM as a launching ground for new titles that will be available at SPIEL later that year, so it's good to take our previews when we can. Heiki Strike Alternative is a two-player-only game that works as follows, assuming that I've understood everything correctly in the Google-assisted translation:

Quote:
In Heiki Strike Alternative (兵姫ストライク オルタナティブ), the two players each build their own deck from the cards in the box, then deploy their princesses and anthropomorphized weapons to sea and air spaces in a fight to occupy the battlefields. To do this, a player must meet the "occupation conditions" for a battlefield, after which they take the battlefield card. Whoever claims three battlefield cards first wins.

Players will grow stronger over the course of the game through the playing of cards. If a player empties their deck, they shuffle the discarded cards in their reserve to create a new deck, rebuild their base, and now get more resources each turn — but if they run through their deck a third time, they lose.

The phrase "anthropomorphized weapons" was used a couple of times in the description, and one post about the game had what looked like a WWII airplane transformed into a manga-style princess — but with propellers and wings.

• Moaideas Game Design will have two other new releases at TGM in May 2019: Shadow Rivals, a 2-5 player design from Halifa in which everyone is trying to rob the same mansion, and マーダーミステリー~約束の場所へ~ (Murder Mystery: To the Promised Place), a six-player-only murder mystery game that plays in 2-2.5 hours and initially seems available solely in Japanese (whereas most Moaideas titles include rules in Chinese, English, and Japanese).

• Another Taiwanese publisher selling games at TGM in May 2019 is The Wood Games, with designer/artist Citie Lo featuring Board Game Cafe Frenzy, a trick-taking game for 2-5 players:

Quote:
You've opened a new board game café and want to earn as much money as you can — but others are doing the same thing, so you better figure out how to succeed better than them!

Board Game Cafe Frenzy is a tactical trick-taking game that consists of two phases, "Preparing" and "Opening the Door", with each phase lasting ten turns. In the "Preparing" phase, each player buys a card from the market each turn, and cards come in five types: board game, snack, clerk, store, and wi-fi. Each kind of card gives you different items that are important for managing your board game café.

During each turn of the "Opening the Door" phase, each player plays a card from their hand that they acquired during the first phase; players must play a different color than what's already been played, with higher numbers also being important. Hope that you prepared well! At the end of a turn, each player can use one action disk from their action bar to perform one specific action. After this phase ends, players undergo a final scoring, then add their coins to see who has the most money and has won the game.


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Sun May 12, 2019 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Fight for the Eternal Throne, and Stay Current with Dragon's Interest

W. Eric Martin
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Paul Dennen, designer of the Clank! line of games from Dire Wolf Digital and Renegade Game Studios, has a new title due out from that pair of publishers in August 2019. Here's a teaser description of Eternal: Chronicles of the Throne, which is for 2-4 players with a 30-45 minute playing time:

Quote:
The Eternal Throne sits empty as scions of the royal family struggle for control. Dispatch those who oppose you by recruiting allies to your cause, researching powerful spells, and acquiring valuable relics!

Eternal: Chronicles of the Throne combines deck-building games and strategy card battlers into an intense strategic experience. Summon powerful allies to attack your opponents, or build an unbreakable defense. Will you exhibit patience and seek the power of the Eternal Throne, or forgo such a risky path?

Dragon's Interest was released by designer Jesse Li's Bwunsu Games in 2018, and now Tasty Minstrel Games plans to run a crowdfunding campaign in May 2019 for a new version of this 3-5 player design that plays in 60-90 minutes. What is the dragon interested in, you might ask? Interest, as explained below:

Quote:
The war just ended. You spent almost every coin for the war, so now you need more funds to rebuild your kingdom. You have no choice but to beg the dragon for help. "Money for a new harbor? Interesting. I am happy to help you with all my treasure, but...", says the dragon, as she stares through tiny glasses on her nose, "...how much should you pay back?"

You don't have to worry about the financial crisis for now — but if you don't pay the debt on time, the flame from her mouth will bring an end to your kingdom!

In Dragon's Interest, players are going to borrow money from the dragon to build their own kingdoms. To pay the interest, players have to manage their money and knights carefully. Players are also able to activate their buildings' special abilities and buy buildings from their opponents. If someone cannot pay the interest, the game ends immediately. The player who can pay the interest in the last round and has the most victory points wins!

• U.S. publisher North Star Games plans to release Wolfgang Warsch's Die Tavernen im Tiefen Thal in English in Q4 2019. (For those curious to know more about this big box game, you can watch this overview video from Spielwarenmesse 2019 or await my personal overview video that I plan to publish on May 20, 2019, the day that the 2019 Kennerspiel des Jahres nominations will be announced. I'm not saying that I know anything about these nominees in advance — only that I suspect this title might be on that list. We'll see.)

• Ahead of the May 16, 2019 retail release of two Adventure Games titles in Germany by designers Phil Walker-Harding and Matthew Dunstan, KOSMOS has announced that a third such title will be released in the second half of 2019. (For more about these titles, check out Dunstan's designer diary on BGG News on Monday, May 13, 2019. The English version of these titles is due out in October 2019.)

• Ahead of the 2019 UK Games Expo, Board&Dice is teasing two announcements: a deluxe reprint edition of a game originally released in 2012 and a new design from Daniele Tascini that will be delivered with a cat on top of it.

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Sat May 11, 2019 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Manipulate Dice, Find Insects, Create Towns, and Create Tricky Lines

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Let's sample another batch of games that will debut at Tokyo Game Market in late May 2019, with all of these titles and a few more appearing on the Tokyo Game Market May 2019 Preview that I've put together. This list barely scratches the surface given that hundreds of new titles will be released at TGM — check out the vendor list here! — but I do what I can. I also appreciate the efforts of Saigo, Jon Power, James Nathan, and Rand Lemley to dig a few scoops out of the mountain and add more titles to the BGG database!

• We'll start with DAZZLING DICELINE from Masaki Suga and analog lunchbox, who have created waves before with Airship City and passtally. Here's a short description:

Quote:
In DAZZLING DICELINE, use your red, green, and grey dice to perform dice actions while creating horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines with the bonus tiles you collect in order to score the most victory points. You need to anticipate what the other players will do and use your bonus tiles to perform bonus actions if you want to efficiently perform dice actions and score victory points.




• Suga also has a second title coming from new publishing brand POLAR POND GAMES, with this being a 2-6 player game for younger players that plays in 10-15 minutes. An overview of insect inc.:

Quote:
In insect inc., a game that combines puzzles, cards, and picture searches, you are a researcher for a company of the same name that's developing colorful insects as art. A new kind of insect has fled to the forest thanks to a minor mistake by one of your colleagues, and because it is a new undiscovered species, it needs to be recovered quickly.

You must be careful when collecting insects for if you surprise them, they will mimic nature through camouflage. Can you safely recover the insects that fled?




Oink Games has a new tiny title from Jean-Claude Pellin — designer of Oink's 2015 release Nine Tiles — and Jens Merkl, a frequent design partner of Pellin's. Like Nine Tiles, Nine Tiles Panic is a real-time game in which players race to place tiles in a 3x3 grid; aside from that, the games are not similar:

Quote:
In Nine Tiles Panic (ナインタイル パニック), each player has a set of nine double-sided town tiles.

At the start of a round, three scoring cards are revealed, such as most aliens on a single road, most dogs visible, or longest road. All player then race to assemble their town in whatever pattern seems best, trying to score points for one, two, or three of the scoring cards as they wish. As soon as the first player decides that they're done, they flip the sand timer and everyone else has 90 seconds to complete their town, then players determine who scores for which cards, with ties being broken in favor of whoever finished first. Players score points based on the number of players in the game, and players track their score on a chart over multiple rounds.




• We'll close for now with カラーギャングルズ (Color Gangsters), a trick-taking game — a popular genre among JP designers — from designers Takafumi Asano, Emi Hirano, and Yuya Hirano of BREMEN Games. This 3-5 player has a fair amount of Japanese text that is crucial to gameplay, so I can't even give you examples of the scoring conditions in the description below, but as is often the case with these games, I add something to the BGG database with the hope that others will add more information later:

Quote:
In カラーギャングルズ, players attempt to meet certain conditions while playing through their hand of cards.

To set up the game, shuffle the sixteen tiles, then lay out nine of them at random in a 3x3 grid. Each tile has a different condition on it that a player must meet in order to claim the tile. Players each receive a hand of nine cards from a fifty-card deck, with the deck having five suits of cards, each numbered 1-10. These cards show the color of the suit on their back, revealing that information to all players.

The game includes six color trump cards (one for each color and one for no color) and eleven number trump cards (ditto).

As players complete tricks, if they meet the condition on a tile, they mark it with one of their markers. If a player places three of their markers in a line, they win the game.


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Fri May 10, 2019 4:53 pm
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Game Preview: Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game, or Welcome to the Party, Pal!

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At long last our final game overview video recorded at the 2019 GAMA Trade Show in mid-March can be published. The game in question is Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game, a design by Sean Fletcher and Patrick Marino that's due out in Q2 2019 from The OP (née USAopoly).

Die Hard is for 2-4 players and bears a playing time of 60-90 minutes, with one player taking the role of John McClane and everyone else acting as a terrorist. The game plays out over three acts, mirroring the events of the Die Hard movie, with the actions taken in acts one and two carrying over into the final standoff. I had posted a written overview of the game in mid-March 2019, but now The OP's embargo on our video preview has ended, so take a look:




As a bonus, here are a trio of promotional images from The OP showing miniatures for John McClane and Hans Gruber, along with one of cards from the game:



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Thu May 9, 2019 9:08 pm
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The Origins 2019 Preview Is Live — Now With Publisher Preorders

W. Eric Martin
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After a couple of days delay, the Origins 2019 Preview is now live on BoardGameGeek, kicking off with 120 titles, which is nearly half of what was listed in 2018 (263 titles), so it seems likely that we'll hit three hundred listings by the time that the 2019 Origins Game Fair opens on Wednesday, June 12.

As in years past, BGG will be at Origins to livestream interviews with designers and publishers for five days — June 12-16 — about their new and upcoming games. Given that we have five days of coverage without a huge number of Origins-debut titles, you'll likely see a lot of prototypes for games due out in the second half of 2019 or in 2020. We'll start putting together that demo schedule in mid-May 2019 with publication of it scheduled for Monday, June 10.

One big addition to this convention preview — and the reason for its delayed arrival — is that we have added a preorder system to this list and now publishers can take preorders from you for titles that they will have on hand at Origins 2019. Here's an example of what those preorders look like within the Origins 2019 Preview:




Yes, you can place a preorder and pay for a new release from Renegade Game Studios now, then pick it up at Origins 2019. Why would you want to do this? Multiple reasons:

• You know you want to get something, and you don't want to have to rush the doors to get it before it sells out. (Not sure whether that's really a thing at Origins, but at Gen Con and SPIEL...)
• You hate waiting in lines to buy games and just want to be able to show a receipt and get the game.
• You want to have a better idea of how much you're spending or you want to budget your spending.

I imagine that other publishers will set up preorders on the Origins 2019 Preview in the future, and I've sent instructions on how to do so to the 130+ publishers that I wrote to for information about their new and upcoming games. (If you're a publisher who will have new titles and prototypes at Origins 2019, and I haven't contacted you, please Geekmail me or write to me at the email address in the BGG News header.) Setting up preorders in the Origins 2019 Preview is voluntary for a publisher, but we know that it's a pain to manage such things, so we implemented this system to (ideally) streamline the process.

One of the biggest reasons that a publisher might decide to take preorders this way — aside from having a better idea of how much inventory to bring to the con — is that they'll have to handle less cash at conventions. This isn't a big deal at Origins and Gen Con given how much those in the U.S. use credit cards, but it could be a huge deal for publishers at SPIEL. Multiple publishers had thousands of Euros stolen at SPIEL '18, and if they can instead complete a decent percentage of their sales via preorder ahead of time, they will be a less attractive target in Essen. (Scott Alden has told me that the thefts at SPIEL '18 were the primary motivator to get this preorder system in place after years of me having on my wish list.)

BGG earns a 5% commission on these preorder sales, so I won't pretend that we're doing this entirely for altruistic reasons, but I think this preview preorder system offers positives for both publishers and players, especially when we look ahead to Gen Con and SPIEL where the lines are much longer, publishers worry about whether they're bringing too much or too little stock, and players want to know they can get something without having to buy a VIP badge. The Origins 2019 Preview is our test case, and if all goes well, this preorder system will be in place in the Gen Con 2019 Preview, the SPIEL '19 Preview, and many other such previews in the years to come.
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Wed May 8, 2019 10:06 pm
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Game Overview: Nagaraja, or It Didn't Have to Be Snakes, But It Is, So Get Over It

W. Eric Martin
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Because of the number of conventions that I attend, I sometimes feel like I'm previewing the same games over and over again — and sometimes I am.

We first recorded an overview of the two-player game Nagaraja at Spielwarenmesse 2018 in the Hurrican booth, but the presentation was not ideal, so we never published that video. At Gen Con 2018, co-designer Théo Rivière showed off the game in the BGG booth (video), then at the FIJ fair in Cannes in February 2019, co-designer Bruno Cathala and illustrator Vincent Dutrait got their turn in front of the mic (video).

What's more, Nagaraja was actually released at FIJ 2019! Yes, the game was available, and I went home with a review copy courtesy of Hurrican. Now the game is available on the U.S. market as well, and in case you need one more video about the game, I've posted one below from my perspective.

The gist of the game is that you want to find 25 points worth of relics in your individual temple before a competing archaeologist finds that amount of points in their temple. I'm not sure whether we're competing in mirror universes or side-by-side temples or in mock temples set up by our university sponsors to determine who they should put on staff. It feels odd us competing in this way, somehow having nearly identical temples, but at a certain point, you wave it off as game logic and get on with things.

Each player starts with a hand of five cards, and cards can be used for their bidding power — that is, access to fate dice that come in three types — or their special ability, which can be used on yourself, your opponent, or either player depending on how the card is labeled. Each round starts with players revealing one temple tile, then simultaneously bidding for that tile with one or more cards from their hand; cards come in four families, and all the cards you bid must come from the same family.

Once you reveal the cards, you roll the dice shown on your cards, with brown dice giving 3-5 fate points, white dice giving 2-3 fate points or a naga (snake), and green dice giving either 1 fate point or a naga. After rolling dice, players can spend nagas to play cards from their hand for their special abilities. Whoever ends up with the most fate points claims the tile, adds it to their temple, then reveals any relics they've reached with the paths that they've constructed. Relics are worth 3-6 points, but the three 6-point relics are cursed, and you lose the game if you reveal all three of them at once.

The player who didn't win the tile draws three cards, keeps two of them, and passes the third card to the opponent. Rounds continue until someone loses, someone reaches 25 points and wins, or someone fills their temple with tiles, at which time the player with the most points wins.




Nagaraja is simple at heart, but features delicious tension in its choices. You want to win temple tiles since those allow you to reach relics and score points — but if you just place lots of tiles, you might lose due to curses. You can use special abilities on cards to peek at your relics or swap them or rotate tiles or swap tiles in order to stay away from curses or hide relics previously found, but each card you use this way is one you can't use for bidding. You want to bid high for tiles (mostly by bidding brown dice), but if you overbid, then you've effectively wasted bidding power or cards, and cards are precious since you receive only one of the opponent's choice when you do win a tile. You might then bid more conservatively and hope to use nagas to play special powers if needed to beat the opponent, but you then roll no snakes despite having four green dice.

I've played three games to date, and each has been tense from beginning to end. Every choice seems important, but you also have to deal with fate in terms of the dice you roll. You have some say over how fate will treat you given that a brown die at worst ties a white die, and a white die always beats a green die, yet you don't know what your opponent will bid as you'll rarely know all of the cards in that player's hand. All you can do is make choices, then see how things play out, you and your opponent in a tug-of-war turn after turn for tiles and cards as you race one another for points in twin temples...


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Tue May 7, 2019 5:20 pm
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