• U.S. publisher Everything Epic Games has announced the October 2019 release of what it dubs the first "Mega Board Game". The game in question is Vampire: The Masquerade – Blood Feud — yes, yet another game based on V:TM! — and this Benjamin Kanelos design is for 4-32 players with a playing time of 2-3 hours, with both of those quantities sounding fairly "mega" on their own before you even find out what's going on in the game:
Vampire: The Masquerade – Blood Feud is a highly thematic, team-based, strategic game that plays 4-32 players and is run by 1-2 storytellers who also interact and play. You may play as one of the warring vampire clans such as Ventrue, Tremere, Gangrel, or Toreador, or perhaps you'll chaoose to become one of the human factions fighting for their own desires, such as City Hall, the Mafia, or the Arcanum, with many more from which to choose.
Additionally, the game integrates the story world of Vampire: The Masquerade by adding storyteller scenarios that add an optional narrative approach to the game. Players also gain disciplines, which give them powerful supernatural abilities unique to their character. Lastly, teams will choose their ambitions, which allow for multiple paths to victory, such as being bloodthirsty, manipulative, greedy, or somewhere in between.
Blood Feud is dubbed a "Mega Board Game" because unlike a traditional board game, it isn't played at a single table. Blood Feud requires a large room or two separate rooms with 2-4 tables. One game table features the Cityscape and Orders, the map where players move their forces around the city and order them to fight and take control of important territories. The other game table features the Council and Market, where players use their best diplomatic and resource management skills to make sly trades, buy upgrades and player level-ups, and make large political decisions that will shape the destinies of teams to determine whether they win or lose! In order to win the game, teams earn victory points through the completion of legacies, which are secret objectives that can consist of all sorts of tasks and achievements earned through gameplay.
In this culmination of the Hostage Negotiator series, you will play ten years in the life of a negotiator — that is, if you don't retire in shame sooner. In each "year" or campaign round of the game, you will resolve a career card that presents you with some narrative event that relates to or could impact your career based on the choice you make. Then, in most but not all years, you will be called to the scene of the latest hostage situation. Now, the result of each negotiation will impact the overall campaign and you'll be tracking your career stress, your personal stress, your merit level (for promotions), and your rank, among other things.
After the negotiation, you resolve a personal card and are once again faced with a narrative event to resolve and, based on the result of your negotiation in that "year", will be rewarded (or reprimanded) accordingly.
Hostage Negotiator: Career will hit Kickstarter on April 30, 2019 along with — how convenient is this? — two new Abductor Packs to bring the total number of such packs available to ten, one for each year of your career.
• What's more, Porfirio is partnering with Evan Derrick — designer of the forthcoming Detective: City of Angels, which is due out mid-2019 from Van Ryder — for a new solitaire game. Here's a first look at Final Girl, which will make its way onto Kickstarter in Q3 2019:
Playing on a famous horror movie trope, Final Girl is a solitaire-only game that puts the player in the shoes of a female protagonist who must kill the slasher if she wants to survive.
In game terms, Final Girl shares similarities with Hostage Negotiator, but with some key differences that change it up, including a game board to track locations and character movement. You can choose from multiple characters when picking someone to play and multiple killers when picking someone to play against. Killers and locations each have their own specific terror cards that will be shuffled together to create a unique experience with various combinations of scenarios for you to play!
• Finally, starting in mid-2019, Van Ryder Games will have copies of the semi-co-operative game Skull Tales: Full Sail! from designer David Illescas and publisher Eclipse Editorial, as well as the game's expansion, for sale at conventions. Interesting to see limited distribution deals like these come about, and limited distribution is almost always better than no distribution at all!
• April is the second-slowest month for game announcements — December being the slowest — so I find myself with time to catch up on some of the notes that I've sent myself since the beginning of the year, time to clear out a few dozen tabs that have been lingering on my browser, awaiting a return trip by my eyeballs.
Reiner Knizia's Babylonia from Spanish publisher Ludonova, which is due out in Q3 2019, has been in the BGG database since Dec. 2018, but I've only just run across it:
The Neo-Babylonian empire, especially under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 B.C.), was a period of rebirth for southern Mesopotamia. Irrigation systems improved and expanded, increasing agricultural production. Urban life flourished with the creation of new cities, monuments and temples, and the consequent increase in trade.
In Babylonia, you try to make your clan prosper under the peace and imperial power of that era. You have to place your nobles, priests, and craftsmen tokens on the map to make your relations with the cities as profitable as possible. Properly placing these counters next to the court also allows you to gain the special power of some rulers. Finally, the good use of your peasants in the fertile areas gives more value to your crops. The player who gets the most points through all these actions wins.
If you're like me, you might be left saying, "That's cool and well, but what's the game like?" Thankfully Spanish gamer Javi Santos offered this briefing in the game's forum: "It is a tile lying game which may remind us about Samurai, but it is quite different. In this game it is very important to make chains with your tiles, and scoring is continuous, instead of scoring just at the end. Very tense, with this great feeling of always having too many things to do, which of course you cannot do all."
Trivia note: "[T]his great feeling of always having too many things to do, which of course you cannot do" is printed on Knizia's business card. Kind of a life philosophy, doncha know...
• While looking into the new edition of 10 Days in the USA, as covered in this March 2019 post, I ran across Korean publisher Popcorn Games, which was previously unknown to me. Turns out that the company was originally an online retailer called "Popcornedu" that moved into publishing in 2017 in order to sell its own games in addition to the games of others.
Popcorn Games has licensed most of NSV's line from the past few years (The Mind, Qwixx, etc.), but it's releasing other titles as well, such as a new version of Juhwa Lee's betting game Dark Horse, which debuted in 2014 from Korean publisher Magpie Games, then was licensed by Bombyx and Moonster Games for release as Minuscule.
• Another title with a new edition from Popcorn Games is Yeon-Min Jung's 돌진소녀, which translates as "Rush Girl" or "Dash Girl". (The game first appeared in an envelope edition from 1979games.)
Each player has a hand of seven cards, with each card showing a situation on the bottom — cat attack, ice cream sale, etc. — and the resolution of a different situation on the top. You flip over one card in the center of play, then everyone races to resolve that problem by playing the correct card, which then presents a different situation that needs resolving. Zoom bang boom, empty your hand first to win.
• While this item is only a prototype, it caught my eye, so I thought I'd include it anyway. Pest is a design from Kai Starck and Thomas Nielsen in which players are princes during the Middle Ages who oversee the discovery of new landscapes and the construction of buildings despite the constant threat of plague, which complicates their ability to procure resources for various projects, in addition to, you know, killing off their residents. As such, controlling the plague is another part of their responsibility during gameplay.
Sanctum, once a great city, is now the last beacon of light in a world shrouded in darkness. The lands surrounding the city are home to the demon horde lead by the Lord of Demons. It's up to a handful of heroes to rise up, battle through the horde, banish the evil that plagues the world, and restore the realm to its former glory.
Sanctum is an epic adventure game for 2-4 players that's inspired by the hack & slash genre and converted into a modern board game. As one of the heroes, you embark upon a quest to rid the land of a demonic invasion, fighting your way through countless enemies and gearing up to face the Lord of Demons himself. In the process of venturing deeper into the land, ever so much closer to the Demon Lord, the heroes have to improve their equipment and adapt their combat tactics to face the increasing difficulty of combat.
The seemingly simple dice-throwing mechanism turns out to be a tactical delicacy once you realize that equipping the correct gear is a crucial part of surviving in these hostile lands...
Each monster card has an item on the reverse side; defeat it to claim it!
• Incubation is the first title from designer Carl Brière, founder of publisher Synapses Games, and this 2-5 player game will be released in North America via distribution from Luma Games. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:
An incredible discovery has been made that will change the world forever. High in the snow-capped mountains, explorers have come across a number of large, colorful dragon eggs! Now the whole world is clamoring to get their hands on what's inside. It's a good time to get into the egg-hatching business!
In Incubation, 2-5 players take on the role of entrepreneurial dragon breeders looking to make a fortune by collecting the required resources and feeding them into their special dragon egg incubators to hatch them. There are four different types of dragons, as well as hybrid and mystery eggs. As the dragons begin to emerge from their eggs, players can use them to fulfill objective cards, which earns them coins. The breeder who has earned the most coins through hatched dragon eggs, completed objectives, and collected tokens wins!
We had recorded an overview of the game at GAMA Trade Show 2019, but it had been tagged differently from all the other videos, so I've published it only just now:
Set in the titular city in the 16th century, Venice lets players take the role of wealthy, influential merchants as they ride their gondolas up and down the city's canals, train their assistants, complete contracts, and leverage their influence to gain political power. But business is anything but usual. As they broker contracts and flirt with crime, merchants must avoid arousing the suspicion of the Venetian Inquisition, lest they find themselves arrested and their businesses shut down.
In the game, players move their two gondolas around the board. When they move a gondola, they may activate the assistants they have placed previously on any building they pass, but they may train (and improve the capabilities of) only the one on which they end their movement. Assistants allow you to gain resources, trade, make money, and take an array of other actions depending on the buildings to which they are assigned. When resources are made, they are placed in the gondola, and these will be used to fulfill lucrative contracts.
Space is limited on the city's canals, however, and each time you pass another merchant's boat, gossip will spread, raising your suspicion level with the Inquisition. Lower your suspicion with visits and donations to the church, or academic institutions — or throw caution to the wind and engage in unsavory activities for money or information. During the game, being such a well-known merchant can be a boon to your political career, but at game end, the most suspicious player will be made an example of by the Inquisition — blocking your victory even if you have the most points.
• Twilight Creations is taking an unusual approach with Zombies!!! Sin City, the next title in its long-lived — some might say undying — Zombies!!! game line. The game is being funded on Kickstarter and has already reached its $10K goal (KS link), and the publisher includes a list of components that will be in the box, but what you'll do with those components is not yet known. From the KS description: "This next installment of Zombies!!! is a bit different than anything we've done before. The game requires players to complete mini games in order to be able to leave Vegas and win the game. The mini games will be created by YOU!" Yes, you can pledge for a tier that lets you design a game tile, name a casino, or submit a mini-game to be included in the box.
• Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker from Kevin Spak and Dire Wolf Digital is a social deduction game for 5-8 players due out in late May 2019, which means it can't ride all the initial hype before the launching of the final season of that television series on April 14, 2019, but perhaps after the final episode airs on May 19, fans of the series will be looking for something more along the same lines and find this waiting for them:
Who do you trust? If you sit on the Iron Throne, the wisest answer is "no one".
In the game, one player assumes the role of King (or Queen), while the others represent the great Lords and Ladies of the Houses of Westeros. Some are loyalists who want order in the realm, others are conspirators who seek to undermine the throne, and all of them have a secret agenda of their own. Who is truly loyal, and who is simply hungry for power, honor, and coin? It's up to the King to figure it out before it's too late.
In more detail, the game lasts seven rounds. In each round, players reveal a number of mission cards, each on which has an associated influence type: crowns, ravens, or swords. Each noble plays influence cards face down to one or more missions and places their House Sigil at the mission where they played the most cards. Then each mission is resolved by shuffling the influence cards there and tallying up successes and failures. If a mission succeeds, Order is generated; otherwise Chaos is generated. Nobles earn rewards (coin, honor, power) based on whether the mission with their House Sigil succeeded or failed.
The King can play decree cards during the game to grant favor to nobles who seem loyal, or cast suspicion on suspected conspirators. Decree cards award Order if the King was correct and Chaos if the King was wrong.
At the end of the game, if Order exceeds Chaos, the King wins and any loyalists who achieved their personal ambitions win. If Chaos has the edge, then any conspirators who achieved their personal ambitions win.
Hisashi Hayashi of OKAZU Brand, for example, plans to have two new titles at TGM, in addition to the MetroX: Sendai & Hakata & Nagoya expansion that debuted at the Osaka Game Market in March. Not much has been said publicly about these titles as best as I can tell, but the games in question are:
Both titles appear to be larger games given their price tags (¥3,000 and ¥4,500 respectively). Ideally OKAZU will drop rules in the future, and we'll get a better idea of what's involved with these designs.
• Another new title coming at TGM in May 2019 is みんなのお茶請け, which translates as something like "Everyone's Served" or "Tea Ceremony for All". I know nothing about this design from Hammer that will be released from Hammer Works beyond what I've just said. Sometimes you just have to look at a box and use your feelings for lemurs as a guide. Shun or subscribe?
• 三ツ星ショコラティエ (Three-Star Chocolatier) was actually released at the Game Market in late 2018, but I hadn't heard of it previously and I'm guessing the same is true for you. In this game from designer/publisher ななつむ (nanatsumu), players roll dice to produce chocolate according to the pips, possibly using topping cards to create chocolate flavored like strawberry, banana, and other flavors. Your goal is to sell chocolates to customers, who want particular arrangements and flavors of treats. Skill cards can help you gain additional abilities during the game. As you satisfy the demands from customers, you receive stars, and the first player to collect three large stars wins.
• Yet another late 2018 release that will again be available at TGM is Kanban Menu from Shogo Kuroda and ドイツゲーム喫茶B-CAFE, which is a "German-style board game coffee house" according to its logo, in addition to now being a game publisher. Sometimes when I look at a JP and (1) the publisher isn't already in the BGG database and (2) I can write at least a sentence or two about the game, I create database listings for everything just to put a stake in the ground and give everyone something to build on in the future. That's my hope anyway. As for the game:
In Kanban Menu, each player, as owner of a small café, tries to develop their specialty to establish the best café in town. Use material cards to make your specialties and gain good reputations (in the form of victory points, a.k.a. VPs). The player with the most VP at the end of the game wins.
• Many JP designs feel born out of experimentation, a desire to see whether something not previously in existence can work. Peter's Two Sheep Dogs from designer Shibu, which Suki Games released in late 2018, is one such example of this with the game being a two-player trick-taking game with a mancala mechanism, something that should not seem possible, yet here it is:
In the short summer of the Southern Alps, animals live in a corral. In Peter's Two Sheep Dogs, players act as two sheep dogs, calling the animals with a loud voice and chasing off the wolf. Compete to be Peter's best sheep dog by herding the animals from the grassland, into the fence, and finally to the hut.
The player aims to become a sheep dog and collect many animals into their navery. Three livestock animals — sheep, pig, cow — score points, while the wolf eats the livestock and eliminates points. As a result, players balance moving the wolves to threaten the opponent while also gathering livestock for themselves.
However, because both trick-taking and mancala rules are mixed together, it will not be easy. Basically winning a trick allows players to collect animals in their grasslands. The player who loses the trick picks one of their grasslands and performs the movement action. If you can chase animals perfectly toward your or your opponent's goal fence, you can gain additional action opportunities and an even better score.
During the game you have opportunities for scorings in spring and summer, and if the score obtained in summer is lower than the score obtained in spring, the summer score becomes 0 points. However, if the score obtained in summer is more than twice the score of spring, your spring score is doubled.
• In its quest to keep up with Renegade Game Studios' release schedule (see here), U.S. publisher WizKids has announced a new title for release in October 2019, and while comparable to Stone Age in terms of setting and gameplay, Johannes Krenner's Age of Dirt: A Game of Uncivilization has an interesting twist on it, with the solid and predictable stoniness of that former game's worker placement giving way to the crumbly unpredictability of soil, which often ends up in unexpected places. An explanation:
In Age of Dirt: A Game of Uncivilization, you control a small tribe at the dawn of civilization, sending out your workers in the hopes of collecting the resources you need to grow and thrive. Unfortunately, they won't always listen. Before collecting resources, you have to drop all the workers in that resource's space through "The Passage", a three-dimensional, mountain shaped tower where they will tumble and get stuck, leaving only a few to get out and actually collect that resource. The rest will have to wait to be knocked loose on a future turn.
So if you send a worker to the forest to collect wood and berries, they might end up in the mountains collecting herbs, on the plains hunting for fur, or in the "Love Tent" making...your population larger. They might also bring some predators out of The Passage with them — or not come back at all.
Players use the resources their workers end up with to arm their workers with spears and drums, to build a larger cave, or to create an invention, which earns victory points for their tribe. The first player to have 10 victory points wins!
• Not to be outdone by WizKids, Alderac Entertainment Group has announced two more titles in its 2019 line-up, with Atelier: The Painter's Studio hitting the U.S. market in mid-July 2019. In this 2-4 player game, players roll dice, manage assistants, collect paint, and complete works of art. In more detail:
Atelier: The Painter's Studio is played in rounds. During each round, players take turns using one or more of their dice to accomplish tasks. Turns proceed clockwise around the table until all players have used all four of their dice. Once the round is over, all players recover their dice, pass the starting player token clockwise, and start the next round. Players use their dice to collect students, paint colors, and ultimately complete paintings. The completed paintings contribute to their studio's reputation, which will in turn open up additional actions that can be taken.
When any player has completed their third painting with the masterpiece symbol, the game enters the final round. Players then total the victory points from their paintings, patrons, and "First Master" token to determine the winner.
• The second title newly announced by AEG is Curios, which is also the third title in its "Big Night" package for Gen Con 2019, with the other two games being Point Salad and Walking in Burano. Here's an overview:
You are a rogue archaeologist, traveling the world for history’s lost artifacts. But the market for artifacts can shift like the rains of Africa: One minute, treasures from a lost pharaoh’s pyramid are all the rage with collectors, and the next minute religious artifacts discovered in a remote temple are what’s in demand.
In Curios, players acquire artifacts from various treasure sites without knowing their worth. Using the cards in your hand and those revealed by others, you can deduce the possible value of your artifacts, allowing you to focus your efforts on the more profitable ventures.
Curios is a game of worker placement, deduction, and bluffing like no other. This simple and intuitive game is quick to learn and even quicker to play!
Who will take the title of most prolific U.S. game publisher? We have nine more months in which this battle will be played out box by box...
• In case games aren't enough of an attraction for you, apparently collectible pins will be a thing at Gen Con 2019. At right is the pin for Deranged, a gothic semi-cooperative adventure survival game in which you fight rivals, horrific monsters, and your own inner demons, with this game scheduled to debut from Russian publisher Hobby World in its first appearance at Gen Con. Here's more info about the game:
In Deranged, you must survive in a city for three days and nights, leaving this city uncursed as a human being in order to win. The game is scenario-driven, and you never know when a player — or which player — will turn into a monster (the deranged of the title). The only way to turn back into a human is to kill another player. There is no player elimination, but each death increases the level of doom, with the player receiving a curse or with other bad stuff possibly happening to the group as a whole. You might have better odds of surviving Deranged if you form temporary alliances, but good luck keeping those in place when you might have to kill one another...
Deranged includes deck-building elements, and each player has their own hidden objective. The game board is modular, and the game includes miniatures to represent the players, both as humans and as members of the deranged.
• As part of its continuing effort to release more games in a year than anyone thought possible, Renegade Game Studios has announced two new titles due out in August 2019, with one of them being Jonathan Woodard's Time Chase, a trick-taking game for 3-6 players that has a fascinating hook:
You've done it! You've cracked the code to unlock time travel! Your breakthrough invention has the potential to revolutionize the world as we know it, and undoubtedly your genius will be celebrated across the globe. However, it appears that some of your scientific colleagues within the laboratory are trying to use your invention to travel back in time and claim the credit for themselves. You must stop them and claim your rightful place in history!
Time Chase is a trick-taking game with a twist. You are allowed to travel back in time to previous tricks, known as events, and change their outcome. The first player to control three events in the timeline wins!
• The other Renegade release is ArtSee from the publisher's frequent design partner J. Alex Kevern, with this being a game for 2-5 players:
In ArtSee, you are the curator at an art gallery that is expanding. While you have fine tastes, it is important to be able to provide the experience that your customers are expecting. During the game, you will build out the art gallery with new exhibits among the four wings of your gallery. With enough prestige, you will earn the right to display prominent works, drawing in even more visitors. In the end, the curator with the most prestigious gallery wins!
• Dutch publisher Quined Games has licensed three titles for release in Europe, with one of those being City of the Big Shoulders from Raymond Chandler III. That game is due to reach Kickstarter backers from Chandler's own Parallel Games in August 2019, and Quined's "Masterprint" version of the game will feature all of the Kickstarter stretch goals but not the Burden of Destiny expansion. (Chandler presented the game on camera in the BGG booth during Origins 2017 should you want to see him talk about it.)
The other two Quined releases are new versions of two titles previously released by U.S. publisher Button Shy: Sprawlopolis and Circle the Wagons. Both titles are from the design team of Steven Aramini, Danny Devine, and Paul Kluka, and both follow the format of Button Shy titles by consisting of only 18 cards. Both titles have cards with multiple items on them, and you lay out these cards in a grid — creating a city in the former game and a Western boomtown in the latter — with three of the cards being flipped face down to determine the bonus scoring conditions for that particular game.
Quined plans to release these titles in Europe in English, and it hopes to partner with other companies to release the games simultaneously in other languages.
• Bâloise Holding AG is a Swiss insurance holding company, and its associated Baloise Group has just released its first board game: Sarah's Vision from Anthony Howgego, co-designer of the 2018 release NewSpeak. Here's an overview of this 1-4 player game that bears a 60-90 minute playing time:
Europe 2163 AD: Automated transport systems, flying cars, unlimited energy, seamless information flow...
The growth of technology continues to disrupt, amaze, and influence society. The human race is fast approaching a huge catalytic technological disruption that will democratize knowledge and systems, potentially enabling people to live truly fulfilled lives. This is a point beyond which we cannot imagine how human civilization might actually look like because it is a moment of "Singularity" — but one group opposes this, an elite few who want to see a return to the dark ages of the early 2000s when they held all the power.
Only the Agency stands in their way. You take on the role of Agency operatives, dedicated to keeping people safe in the future and enabling them to live their lives freely, surrounded by a sense of ease in this complex, constantly changing new world. The key lies in a few High Potential Individuals (HPIs). They have the ability to create a new technology called the MindNet that will move the world closer to "Singularity", but this also makes them targets. The Agency is responsible for ensuring the best possible outcome for society of the future by keeping these citizens safe.
Sarah's Vision is a story-driven, co-operative game of strategy and resource management set in a world beyond imagination in which powerful forces seek to undermine society and return us to the dark days of the early 21st century. Players take on the role of Agency operatives and have to work through a series of story-driven events. At the end of each round, the leading event triggers and danger builds on three special citizens unless the players can find a way to keep them safe. Players have to choose wisely which Agency HQ Tower resources to use and when to use them if they are to succeed.
The publisher notes that the game arrived in its warehouse in February 2019 and is currently being sent to a EU distributor, but with no U.S. distribution in place at this time. Sounds like a fascinating design, and the resources or actions appear to involve a Jenga-ish element in which you remove a block that bears stickers showing...something.
• At GAMA Trade Show 2019, Red Raven Games' Ryan Laukat showed off the second edition of The Ancient World (video), which is due out in June 2019, but Laukat has also announced two new titles that bear a 2019 release date (although they might be Kickstarted in 2019 for release in 2020 — that's unclear right now).
One of those games is Roam, which has callbacks to his earlier releases:
Welcome to Arzium, land of ancient civilizations, bizarre creatures, unexplained wonders, and vibrant characters.
A great sleeping sickness has spread across the land, sending every type of creature to roam for hundreds of miles in a dazed, incoherent march. It’s your job to seek them out and wake them from their sleepwalk, recruiting them to help you find even more lost souls!
In Roam, you and up to three friends compete to find lost adventurers. There are over 50 unique, tarot-sized adventurer cards in the game, featuring characters from Near and Far, Above and Below, and Islebound. The opposite side of each card depicts a landscape split into six squares, and two rows of three of these cards are placed in the center of the playing area to make the board.
Each turn, you may activate one of the adventurer cards in your party by flipping the card face down. Activating an adventurer allows you to place search tokens on the board in the shape depicted on your adventurer card. When every square on a landscape card has been searched, the player who did the most claims the card, finding the lost adventurer and adding them to their party. Each adventurer you add to your party gives you points and a new search pattern that you can use.
When searching, you also claim coins, which can be spent to use special actions or purchase artifacts with useful powers. When one player has ten adventurers in their party, the game ends, and the player with the most points wins.
• The second title is Sleeping Gods, and this 1-4 player game bears the unusual playing time of 60-2,500 minutes. Here's an overview:
"Are the stars unfamiliar here?" she asked, and the sky grew suddenly dark, the star's patterns alien and exotic. "This is the Wandering Sea. The gods have brought you here, and you must wake them if you wish to return home."
In Sleeping Gods, you and a friend become Captain Sofi Odessa and her crew, lost in a strange world in 1929 on your steamship, the Manticore. You must work together to survive, exploring exotic islands, meeting new characters, and seeking out the totems of the gods so that you can return home.
Sleeping Gods is a campaign game. Each session can last as long as you want. When you are ready to take a break, you mark your progress on a journey log sheet, making it easy to return to the same place in the game the next time you play. You can play solo or with a friend throughout your campaign. It's easy to swap players in and out at will. Your goal is to find at least fourteen totems hidden throughout the world. Like reading a book, you'll complete this journey one or two hours at a time, discovering new lands, stories, and challenges along the way.
Sleeping Gods is an atlas game. Each page of the atlas represents only a small portion of the world you can explore. When you reach the edge of a page and you want to continue in the same direction, you simply turn to a new page and sail onward.
Sleeping Gods is a storybook game. Each new location holds wild adventure, hidden treasures, and vivid characters. Your choices affect the characters and the plot of the game, and may help or hinder your chances of getting home!
I've been away from the game previewing scene for a month, but it feels like forever, seeing so many games pass me by while instead I've focused on packing my house for a move in early April, i.e. this week.
Finally, at the last moment possible, I cleared space among the boxes and filmed an overview of Heul Doch! Mau Mau, a card game from Leo Colovini and Ravensburger that debuted in Germany in January 2019. (At NY Toy Fair 2019 in February, I asked the North American branch of Ravensburger whether it planned to release the game in the U.S., and they had not heard of it yet, so assume not.)
Heul Doch! features two of the defining characteristics of a Colovini design:
1. Minimal rules. Boiled down, the game is Crazy Eights with a couple of twists — but those twists are what make the game not Crazy Eights and therefore something more enjoyable. Each player has their own discard pile and a hand of four cards. To play on your discard pile, you must match the color or number of the card currently on top of it; if you have a face-down card on top of your discard pile, you can play (almost) any card you want on that pile. At the end of the game, you sum the numbers of the cards in your pile and score that many points. Simple!
2. Player interaction. Colovini's designs could never be mistaken for multi-player solitaire. Your actions in one of his games always impinge on the actions of whoever follows you and usually all other players. In this game, if the card you want to play could be played on the discard pile of your left- or right-hand neighbor, then you can't play it on your own pile. For example, if my L neighbor has a green 6 and my R neighbor a yellow 5, then I can't play a yellow, green, 5 or 6 card on my pile. I can play such cards on their pile instead, and I can always choose to play a matching card on their pile even if I could play a different card on my own pile.
Heul Doch! over dinner, with the special action cards included
Why would I give them points? Because you have to play a card, and if you can't play a matching card on your own pile and can't or don't want to play on a neighbor's pile, then you must play a card from your hand face down on your own pile. Your neighbors can't mess with that card, which is effectively a joker, but at the end of play, you count the number of face-down cards in your pile, then discard all of that number from your pile. Collect six face-down cards, then you must discard all 6s in your pile before counting your score. In some games, I've lost nothing and in other games I've lost more than thirty points. Good luck winning in the latter situation!
You have minimal control over your fortunes in Heul Doch! — or at least you might think that you do, but you have more control than you initially realize. I've now played thirteen times on a review copy from Ravensburger, all with three and four players, and I've grown better at realizing how to play to my advantage: when to play face down, when to give cards away, and when to give someone points in a situation that will hurt them more than help them. That said, you're still greatly affected by the luck of the cards, and sometimes you have no choice but to reach for the tissue included in the box to dry your tears before taking what you hope is the least worst option...
Ticket to Ride: London plays similarly to Ticket to Ride: New York, which is a scaled-down version of the TTR base game. Here's an overview of the gameplay:
Ticket to Ride: London features the familiar gameplay from the Ticket to Ride game series — collect cards, claim routes, draw tickets — but on a scaled-down map of 1970s London that allows you to complete a game in no more than 15 minutes.
Each player starts with a supply of 17 double-decker buses, two transportation cards in hand, and one or two destination tickets that show locations in London. On a turn, you either draw two transportation cards from the deck or the display of five face-up cards (or you take one face-up bus, which counts as all six colors in the game); or you claim a route on the board by discarding cards that match the color of the route being claimed (with any set of cards allowing you to claim a gray route); or you draw two destination tickets and keep at least one of them.
Players take turns until someone has no more than two buses in their supply, then each player takes one final turn, including the player who triggered the end of the game. Players then sum their points, scoring points for (1) the routes that they've claimed during the game, (2) the destination tickets that they've completed (by connecting the two locations on a ticket by a continuous line of their buses), and (3) the districts that they've connected. (A district consists of 2-4 locations, and you score 1-5 points for a district if you link all of its locations to one another with your buses.) You lose points for any uncompleted destination tickets, then whoever has the high score wins!
Ticket to Ride: London will leave European stations in June 2019, with North America seeing the game in July 2019. Versions of the game will be released in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, and Portuguese/Spanish, with a separate Brazilian Portuguese edition, and the retail price is $20/€20. In the U.S., the game will be available exclusively through the Walmart retail chain "for a limited time".
The press release announcing this title includes this quote from Moon: "Ticket to Ride: London builds on the excitement of Ticket to Ride: New York. It's slightly bigger, but it feels more wide open, and the new Bonus balances the board and the tickets. Ticket to Ride: New York had taxis, so naturally Ticket to Ride: London has double-decker buses. Can you guess what the piece will be in the next city game?" In case you had any doubt, Ticket to Ride will travel elsewhere in 2020. My money is on gondolas...
Updated image from the publisher on April 3, 2019 here.