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Ride Whales, Collect Artifacts, and Sail Northwest with Reiner Knizia

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: Grail Games
Australian publisher Grail Games has had a steady partnership with designer Reiner Knizia for years, starting with a new version of Circus Flohcati in 2015 followed by a new version of Medici in 2016.

Artist Vincent Dutrait was responsible for the look of that second title, and at this point the Knizia/Dutrait/Grail team has also worked on King's Road, Medici: The Card Game, Yellow & Yangtze, and the still-to-be-released Medici: The Dice Game.

Now they're coming together again for two new titles, the larger of which is the 2-6 player game Whale Riders, which bears a 30-45 minute playing time and this description:
Quote:
You are a whale rider. For generations, your people have known and lived with the ice whales and together you've bought and traded at the busy ports along the fabled Ice Coast. You are honored to be the latest in your family to sail with the whales — but the ice is thickening and the glaciers are moving. A deep winter is coming, the fiercest for centuries. You decide to ride your mount one final time before the snows come to buy and sell as much as you can...and maybe even collect some precious pearls along the way.

Whale Riders is a new design with a classic feel, with players racing to the end of the Ice Coast and back, buying and selling as many resources as possible to make the money needed to acquire the richest prizes. Will you skip opportunities to gain the greatest treasure, or will you make your money slowly along the way?

Board Game: Whale Riders

Each player has two actions per turn, but a lot they want to accomplish. Sail? Buy? Sell? Draw more order cards? All the while, your opponents might be sailing past and beating you to what's on offer down the coast! Once all the precious pearls have been purchased, the game ends and the player with the most pearls wins!
Grail Games plans to Kickstart Whale Riders in July 2020, along with a standalone companion game from the same team. In Whale Riders: The Card Game, which is for 2-5 players, you ride alongside others to buy goods along the Ice Coast, sometimes working together with others only to become competitors again when a better proposition comes along.

Board Game: Tutankhamen
Board Game: Tutankhamen
• In other Knizia news, U.S. publisher 25th Century Games plans to release a new edition of Tutankhamen — first released in 1993 by AMIGO, then republished in 2004 by Out of the Box Publishing — under the slightly different name Tutankhamun. The game will accommodate 2-6 players, and here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:
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The Great King Tutankhamun has passed, and arrangements are being made to fill his tomb with artifacts that will travel with him to the afterlife.

You are one of the priests and priestesses gathering artifacts for King Tut's tomb from all over Egypt. Once all the parts of each artifact have been located, that artifact is placed in the tomb, and the priests who took the most credit for acquiring it donate the funds needed for its procurement. Along the way, enchanted idols from the Gods may assist you in your journey. By acquiring artifacts, you rid yourself of your own wealth in order to pay the highest tribute to the late King Tut. If you can be the first player to completely disperse your wealth, you will so impress the new Pharaoh that he'll appoint you to the highest priestly office.

Prepare your offerings and invoke the aid of the mighty Egyptian Gods while you wind your way down the Nile toward the tomb of the great King Tut. Will you earn the favor of the new Pharaoh and be declared the next High Priest of Egypt?

Board Game: Tutankhamun

Tutankhamun features gameplay familiar from earlier versions of this game design, while adding new Egyptian god powers and implementing a modified scoring system.

To set up, shuffle the artifact and god idol tiles, then arrange them in a snake-like pattern that emulates the winding of the river Nile. Players start at one end of the line, taking turns choosing any tile from in front of them along the Nile while never being able to claim a tile they have already passed. Multiple sets of scoring tiles (three sets each of 8, 6, 4, and 2 points), along with ten 1-point scarab ring tiles, can be claimed, and when the last tile of any set has been claimed, the player holding the most tiles from that set scores the number of points listed, while the player holding the secondmost tiles scores half that amount. Whoever has the most scarab tiles when the last one is collected scores 5 bonus points.

Tutankhamun includes two copies each of five different Egyptian god idol tiles. When you collect one of these, you immediately trigger its ability to manipulate tiles on the path, tiles in player's collections, tiles in the Underworld (i.e., the collection of bypassed tiles), or scarab ring tiles in your collection.

When a player reaches zero on the score track at the end of their turn, the game ends and that player will be proclaimed the new High Priest of Egypt!
Board Game Publisher: SimplyFun
• When Knizia tweeted about the release of his game Phantom Seas in May 2020, I was surprised to discover not a design of his unfamiliar to me (since few people can keep up with all that he releases), but rather that the publisher of the game — SimplyFun — still existed.

For those not familiar with the company, SimplyFun started publishing educational games in the late 2000s, with its distribution of these titles being handled by sales agents who would host Tupperware-style parties during which they would show guests the games and take orders for them. I wrote about several SimplyFun releases in the late 2000s on Boardgame News, the site I ran prior to joining BoardGameGeek, but then I lost contact with the company and forgot about it — which is perhaps to be expected given that I never saw their games in stores or at conventions, much less at private home parties.

In any case, in April 2020 SimplyFun released the 2-4 player game Phantom Seas, which plays like this:
Quote:
In Phantom Seas, you want to claim as much treasure as possible without having it stripped away from you by the phantom ship that patrols the waters.

To set up, place the 22 treasure tiles face down at random on the designated spaces on the game board. These tiles are worth 1-3 points as indicated by the number of locks on them. Place the included compass on the game board, and orient the board so that the compass points north. Place your ship on one of the starting locations and the phantom ship in the center of the 13x13 game board.

Board Game: Phantom Seas

At the start of each round, reveal seven direction cards from the top of the deck. Players then take turns choosing a card and moving their ship in the indicated direction and distance, with most cards giving you choices for one or both of these values. If you finish your movement on a treasure tile, flip it over to see whether the phantom ship moves; if it does, the phantom ship moves directly toward you, and if it reaches you before ending its movement, then you throw that treasure away instead of keeping it.

Some tiles have you rotate the game board (and the compass), which means that the direction cards will now have you moving in different ways.

After all the cards have been played, reveal seven new cards from the deck. After seven rounds or after all treasures have been claimed, players count their scores to see who wins.
Board Game: Phantom Seas
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Tue May 26, 2020 1:41 pm
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Scooby-Doo and Jack Torrance Hit the Game Table — Again

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion
• In February 2020, U.S. publisher The Op announced Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion from Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim that was labelled as the company's first "Coded Chronicles" game.

The second such title has now been revealed: The Shining: Escape from the Overlook Hotel is by the same designers, and it's for one or more players, ages 17 and up, with a playing time of at least two hours and a release date of Q4 2020. Here's an overview of what you're doing in the game:
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The Shining: Escape from the Overlook Hotel puts one or more players in the roles of unhinged writer Jack Torrance's wife and son, Wendy and Danny, who must work together and find a way out of the mysterious resort!

Driven by the "Coded Chronicles" mechanism, which requires you to unlock clues and solve puzzles for unique storytelling codes, the game allows you to use psychic abilities like "the shining" to get through more than two challenging hours of escaping the threat of homicidal Jack and the paranormal hotel itself! Since every Coded Chronicles game is enriched with thematic details and objectives, escaping captivity makes this edition's difficulty level as hard as a dizzying hedge maze (minus the time limit)!

Board Game: The Shining: Escape from the Overlook Hotel

Players can anticipate being engaged with every unpredictable turn, thanks to Wendy and Danny's heightened abilities, which allow their characters to investigate with double the intuition as characters from the previous Coded Chronicles game, Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion. Use Wendy's skill of looking and using surrounding objects to get a better hold of helpful items or tap Danny's supernatural "Shining" to reveal hidden clues.
The year 2020 is the fortieth anniversary of the film The Shining, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised to find a second game being released this year to mark the occasion, with Prospero Hall and Mixlore's The Shining having been released in March 2020.

Board Game: The Shining
• Or maybe given the current growth of the board game market, we just have to anticipate that many licensed properties will have associated games released by multiple publishers. In March 2020, for example, I wrote about Back to the Future: Dice Through Time and Back to the Future: Back in Time, with each being a co-operative dice-based game due out in mid-2020, the former from Ravensburger and the latter from Funko Games.

And just as The Op is following Mixlore onto the market with its own game about The Shining, CMON Limited is following The Op with its own take on Scooby-Doo, with Scooby-Doo: The Board Game — due out "soon" — being a co-operative design for 1-5 players from Guilherme Goulart and Fred Perret. Here's an overview of the game from CMON:
Quote:
Ruh-roh, Shaggy! There's a monster on the loose, and it's scaring everyone out of town! It's up to the Mystery Inc. gang to stop them! Scooby-Doo: The Board Game is a co-operative family game for 1-5 players that brings the beloved cartoon series to life with amazing miniatures of the whole gang.

Players take on the role of Scooby-Doo, Fred, Velma, Daphne or Shaggy, and ride the Mystery Machine around town, building traps to catch the villains before they frighten all the citizens away — but just like in our favorite episodes, even the best plans can go awry as the monster, which is controlled by the game itself, may make a move the players never expected!

Board Game: Scooby-Doo: The Board Game

Each member of Mystery, Inc. has their own unique, special ability to help them during the game, and they'll need all the help they can get because the villains all operate differently as well! The gang can succeed only if they coordinate together as a group.

Scooby-Doo: The Board Game has three levels of difficulty (easy/medium/hard) and special rules for playing as a two-player game or a solo game.
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Mon May 25, 2020 4:42 am
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"New" Game Round-up: Two-Player Sequels & Second Editions

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Board Game: Royal Visit
Board Game: Schotten Totten 2
Board Game: Twilight Struggle: Red Sea – Conflict in the Horn of Africa
Let's face it — sometimes it's much easier to get two-player games to the table, especially nowadays as we all continue to distance ourselves from larger social happenings.

Eric gave us a sneak peek of a couple of two-player sequel and second edition 2020 releases with Reiner Knizia's Schotten Totten 2 and Royal Visit in one of his Spielwarenmesse 2020 trade fair posts. I suppose Schotten Totten 2 was not a huge surprise after the release of 2019's Battle Line: Medieval, a rethemed version of Battle Line that's part of GMT's new "Lunchtime Games" series — with another title in that series being Twilight Struggle: Red Sea, a sequel to the highly acclaimed Twilight Struggle that I covered in this March 2020 post.

Here are a few more 2020 two-player sequels and second editions to check out...

Board Game: The Institute for Magical Arts
School of Sorcery is a dice-rolling, area-control game from Steve Finn and his publishing company, Dr. Finn's Games. Finn is probably most known for his games Biblios (which I love!) and Herbaceous (which looks beautiful, but I've never played).

School of Sorcery is a reimplementation of Finn's 2015 release The Institute for Magical Arts, a game in which two players compete as student wizards who use dice rolls to place crystals in an attempt to win cards that grant special powers, victory points, or both. Yes, there's dice rolling, but don't run away just yet — there are re-roll tokens and cast cards that allow players to manipulate their dice and mitigate some of the randomness.

Board Game: School of Sorcery

School of Sorcery features many of the same mechanisms as The Institute of Magical Arts, but with some new rules, upgraded components, revamped card powers, and new cards with a variety of powers. Considering how much I enjoy Biblios, I'm really curious to try School of Sorcery.

Christopher Moeller's Napoleon's Eagles: Storm in the East – The Battles of Borodino and Leipzig from Compass Games is a cards-only, Napoleonic wargame that reimplements Moeller's 1995 original release, Napoleon's Eagles.

The new version of Napoleon's Eagles is a more mature design, yet maintains the essence and core ideas of the original version. Here's an overview of the historical setting and battle scenarios you can expect:
Quote:
The events of Autumn 1812 to Autumn 1813 marked a pivot point in the history of 19th century Europe. Despite ominous setbacks in Spain, Napoleonic France before 1812 was at the height of its expansion. The continental system was holding, if imperfectly. Monarchs friendly to the Empire — several being members of Napoleon's immediate family — ruled in every capital of the continent. Only Britain remained unbowed. By the end of 1813, the story had changed dramatically...

Board Game: Napoleon's Eagles: Storm in the East – The Battles of Borodino and Leipzig

Napoleon's Eagles is a highly playable, action-packed card game set during the wars of 19th century Europe. Two battles are featured: Borodino, the sanguinary clash before the gates of Moscow featured in Tolstoy's famous novel War and Peace, and Leipzig, the great "Battle of Nations" which marked the beginning of the end of the French Empire.

Two smaller battles are included (Shevardino and Lieberwolkwitz), as well as two campaign games that cover multiple days of battle: September 5-7, 1812 at Borodino and October 14-18, 1813 at Leipzig. The game includes rules for cavalry charges, artillery bombardment, army morale, and army commanders. Emphasis is placed on the role of reserves and the judicious commitment of infantry and cavalry. Key terrain pieces are featured, such as the city of Leipzig and the famous Great Redoubt at Borodino.
Board Game: The Fox in the Forest
Foxtrot Games' The Fox in the Forest Duet, co-published by Renegade Game Studios, was released in the U.S. in January 2020.

Duet features a trick-taking mechanism, theme, and vibe similar to 2017's The Fox in the Forest, which landed a recommendation from the Spiel des Jahres jury in May 2020 following its release in Germany, but flips the competitive element on its head to create a two-player-only, co-operative trick-taking experience:
Quote:
To set up the game, place gem tokens on the designated spaces of the game board and the team tracker token in the center of the movement path. At the start of each round, shuffle the deck of thirty cards — which contains three suits, each numbered 1-10 — and deal each player a hand of eleven cards. Reveal one card as the "decree" card to determine the trump suit. For each trick, one player leads a card, and the other must follow suit, if possible.

The winner of the trick moves the team tracker toward them a number of spaces equal to the number of fox footprints on the cards played. If the tracker lands on a space next to a gem, the players collect one gem. If the tracker would move off the end of the path, return the tracker to the center of the path, then add a forest token to one end of the path, reducing the number of spaces upon which you can move (with you sliding gems next to this covered space next to the new end of the path).

Board Game: The Fox in the Forest Duet

The odd-numbered character cards have special abilities when played, allowing the trick winner to move the tracker in the direction of their choice or to ignore the footprints on one of the played cards so that you can land on just the right spot. One character allows players to exchange one card with each other, while another allows a player to change the decree card.

At the end of a round, you add five gems to designated spaces, add a forest space to shorten the path, then receive a new hand of eleven cards from a freshly shuffled deck. Collect all 22 gem tokens, and you win. Run out of time or head off the end of the path with no forest spaces in reserve, then you can just keep running in defeat or shuffle the cards and start the game anew.
From gallery of candidrum
Board Game: Ascension: Apprentice Edition
• Coming from Ultra PRO, Ascension: Eternal is Justin Gary and Jared Saramago's new two-player introduction to the world of Ascension, replacing the 2013 Ascension: Apprentice Edition.

Ascension is a fairly well-known, quick-playing, deck-building game in which 1-4 players acquire more powerful cards for their deck, while spending power to defeat monsters and gain honor/victory points. Ascension: Eternal retains the same core rules and includes everything two players need to play the game, as opposed to the standard format for most Ascension sets that allows for play with up to four people. The Eternal set was designed with the intention of having a good entry point for people getting into the hobby, while also serving as a solid introduction to Ascension for more experienced gamers.
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Fri May 22, 2020 3:24 pm
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Seven Fruits + Seven7s = Quatorze from Eagle-Gryphon Games

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Mercado de Lisboa
Board Game: GYÜMI Géniusz
• U.S. publisher Eagle-Gryphon Games has announced a September 3, 2020 Kickstarter launch date for Mercado de Lisboa from Vital Lacerda and Julián Pombo, a title that Candice Harris previewed in detail on BGG News in early May 2020.

• Aside from that title, EGG announced an August 2020 preorder campaign for two other titles, with delivery of these games taking place before the end of 2020. The first title is Fruit Passion, a 1-4 player game from Hungarian designer Péter Szöllősi that he first released as GYÜMI Géniusz in 2015 through his own company Vagabund. Here's an overview of that original game:
Quote:
Try to remember all the fruit you've grabbed in GYÜMI Géniusz to maximize your score!

To set up the game, shuffle the fruit cards, then create three face-down decks of approximately equal size, then turn one card face up to start a discard pile. The deck contains fruit cards of seven types, with six types of fruit (coconut, papaya, fig, avocado, pineapple, and pomegranate) being numbered from 1-5 while passion fruit is numbered 1-7. The ratio of identical cards differs by fruit type.

On a turn, you take one of two actions: Draw the top card from one of the decks, or draw the top card from the discard pile. If you draw from a deck and don't want the card, place it on the discard pile. Otherwise, start a pile with that type of fruit or place that card on top of any other cards of that type that you already have. (Thus, you can have at most seven piles.) Splay the cards in each pile upward so that you (and everyone else) can see how many cards of each type you've collected, but with the number of only the topmost card of each pile being visible. If the discard pile is emptied because people keep taking the cards, flip over one card to start a new discard pile.

Board Game: Fruit Passion

When all three decks have run out, the game ends once the player holding the final card discards it or adds it to their collection. Players then score points for each type of fruit they've collected, but fruits score only from 1 up in consecutive order. If you have 1-2-3-4-5 of pineapple, for example, you score 11 points, whereas if you have 1-2-4-5 of fig, you score only 3 points since only the 1-2 count. If you fail to get a 1 in a fruit or you duplicate a number in a fruit sequence, then you score 0 points for that fruit!

Some cards have special colored numbers on them, and with these you can create a cross-fruit sequence as the coconut has the 1, the papaya the 2, and so on. As long as these "genius" numbers are in valid fruit sequences, then you'll score points for this genius sequence, too. Whoever scores the most points wins.
Board Game: Seven7s
• The second EGG title is Quatorze from U.S. designer Jason Tagmire, this being a sequel to his 2015 title Seven7s, which was also from EGG, while also containing the cards needed to play Seven7s. Here's a summary of the game:
Quote:
The magic number "7" conjures up meanings, powers, and coincidences dating back to the dawn of time. In Quatorze, you establish seven columns that utilize the powers of these powerful 7s. Players take turns adding cards to these columns, while trying to retain high-value cards in their hand. When the game ends, the highest combined value of cards in hand wins.

However, the powers of cards played to the columns during the game can drastically change the way cards are scored, and each player is trying to maneuver these powers to their advantage! Can you best harness and use these powerful 7s?

Quatorze is a sequel to Seven7s and includes the original game within it as well. Thus, instead of seven suits, the game now includes fourteen!
Okay, that description was somewhat nebulous, so let's turn to this more concrete one for Seven7s:
Quote:
The goal of Seven7s is to have the most points at the end of the game by having the highest total value of cards in your hard when endgame scoring is initiated. During the game, all players together build a community tableau with seven columns corresponding to the seven different types of cards in the game: 7 Ages of Man, 7 Colors of the Rainbow, 7 Deadly Sins, 7 Holy Virtues, 7 Lucky Gods, 7 Seas, and the 7 Wonders of the World.

Board Game: Quatorze

To begin, deal each player a starting hand of three cards, and place one card face up in the tableau to start the first column. On your turn, play a single card from your hand to the tableau to a column that matches that card. If no such column exists for that type of card, start a new column. Next, activate that card's ability, then draw back up to three cards in hand. Each of the seven different types of cards has a unique ability that offers lots of strategy and replayability.

The game ends when the seventh card of a column is played. This card is played sideways and counts towards the hand of whoever played it for endgame scoring. Whoever has the most points in hand wins.
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Sun May 17, 2020 1:00 pm
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Friedemann Friese Wants You to Fight Monsters at Home

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: 2F-Spiele
In May 2020, designer Friedemann Friese of 2F-Spiele started a new blog on BoardGameGeek: "Game Designer Lockdown". As he notes in his first post, "To be a game designer without the regular game nights, meetings and without having different gaming partners is hard."

Friese, like many designers, now has more time on his own to design games, but lacks the infrastructure to test them and the market partners to bring them to others:
Quote:
We just finished the new game and gave the printing files to the manufacturer. This is a game we wanted to show at BerlinCon. Whatever happens, we decided to make it in an English/German small print run to have it published. All partners we were publishing with have their own situations now, so we can look if this game is well accepted and have hopefully an international print run later this year. It is better for us all.

A big gamer's game is in the pipeline for Essen. We will work on that and try to finish it in time, but as nobody knows right now, if Essen will take place or how it will take place, we will see if we have to start this with a smaller print run, too.
[Disclosure: I edited the English rules for the first title mentioned. More details once the game is officially announced.]

Aside from these two titles, Friese has designed two smaller games, including one that involves simultaneous card play. Says Friese, "Impossible to test this by my own. I have a family with two kids and we played this already 20 times, but I need more and different opinions. In a few days I will post this as print-and-play game and hope to get feedback from you and you and you....." That game is The Fight: We gonna fight them all! Here's Friese's short description of this design:
Quote:
This game is in the tradition of The Game, The Mind and The Crew. It is cooperative, it has cards with numbers, it has short game rounds, it has 50 missions to fulfill, and it is difficult to be found in computer searches because of the stupid name. So we need an extra line to be found search engines: "The Fight: We gonna fight them all!" in german "The Fight: Wir werden euch alle kriegen!" Both of these lines are loosely connected to songs.
Board Game: The Fight: We gonna fight them all!
The Game, The Mind, and The Crew?! Man, that's catnip for my ears! In any case, Friese has now placed English and German files for the game — both rules and cards — on BGG, and he's inviting feedback from you about this design since he can't test it easily otherwise. Here's an summary of what's going on:
Quote:
Welcome to The Fight!

You and your fellow crew have heard of an abandoned dungeon with rumors of great treasures inside, yet nobody else but you has dared to check the truth about these rumors — and now you know why: A horde of monsters inside the dungeon got bored and now they crave a good fight.

There is no time for a long strategy session. Use the weapons at hand, making the right combined decisions of how to fight against the various monsters without revealing too much information to them as blind trust in your crew may be the best chance you have to coordinate your strengths.

The Fight is played in fifty levels. Each level takes only a few minutes, with you fighting against a certain number of monsters. Typically, one monster lies face up in the center of play, and your crew needs to beat its strength value in one attack to win the fight. For each attack, you all place one card from your hand face down in front of you. If your revealed fighting total matches or exceeds the value of a face-up monster, you beat it; otherwise, the monster remains face up and keeps fighting.

To win a level, you can discuss your strategy with your crew. You can never talk about your card values in hand, but can debate whether you want to "strike fast" or "take it slow". You can also use available special actions to gain the most benefits from them.
Board Game: 5x15
• The other new title Friese has released is 5x15, a solitaire patience game based on the patience game "Montana", with him describing the development of 5x15 in this blog post.

The game 5x15 consists of 75 number tiles, with five colors of tiles with 1-15 appearing in each color. You shuffle the tiles, lay them out face up in five rows of fifteen tiles, remove the 1s from the layout, shuffle the 1s, then lay them out in a 0th column to the left of the five rows. The playing area is the 5x15 space, and on a turn you can take one of two actions:

—Move a matching number tile into a gap. The tile you move must be one higher than the tile to the left of the gap or one lower than the tile to the right of the gap, and the tile must be the same color as its number neighbor.

—Shift to the right a group of three or more adjacent tiles that are all the same color with numbers in consecutive order and with a 15 at the right.

If you can use these two actions repeatedly to place all of the cards in order in the five rows, you win. If you get stuck in a loop repeating actions, then you don't. The rules and number tile files can be downloaded from the BGG page, and Friese is looking for feedback from players in this blog post.
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Sat May 16, 2020 4:59 pm
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New Game Round-up: Go Deep for Red Raven Games, and Whet Your Pen for New Cartographers

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Board Game: Deep Vents
Ryan Laukat has dropped a teaser video for Deep Vents, the next release from Red Raven Games, which is co-designed by Laukat and T. Alex Davis — but the full rules for this 2-4 player game are available as well, so I've summarized them for you here:
Quote:
Along cracks in the ocean floor, plumes of black and white superheated water pump relentlessly into the depths. They provide precious heat to the near freezing abyssal waters of the deep as well as a bounty of minerals. Microscopic archaea and other extremophiles live off the heat and minerals to form the base of a unique food chain that hosts a variety of exotic deep sea creatures.

In Deep Vents, players each control their own hydrothermal ecosystem to which they add new life and geological features each turn, competing to survive in the unforgiving depths by being efficient and preying on nearby systems with a host of strange and deadly predators.

Start each turn by drafting a tile from the five on display — placing one archaeon, the currency of the game — on each tile you skip. Place this tile adjacent to each other tile in your ecosystem, then either grow or trigger each tile in your ecosystem, moving through them from top to bottom, left to right, and growing or triggering them individually as you like. When you grow a tile, you place archaea on it, whether a set amount or a varying number depending on other tiles in your ecosystem; when you trigger a tile, you remove archaea from it to carry out its unique effect: attacking opponents, gaining shells to defend against attacks, moving archaea to your personal supply, and decimating tiles, which leaves them as nothing but a heat source for the remainder of the game.

If you ever need to discard archaea due to an attack and cannot do so, you must take a shortfall token and ten archaea, then discard archaea as needed. On your turn, you can pay ten archaea to remove a shortfall token — which you want to do because as long as you have one, you can draft only the first tile on display. If you end your turn with two shortfall tokens, you're out of the game.

The game ends if only one player remains in play (with that player winning) or after eight rounds, with players scoring points for archaea and shells in reserve and archaea on tiles. In this case, whoever has the highest score wins.
The official release date for Deep Vents is August 5, 2020, but Laukat notes that copies will be available in advance through Red Raven's website starting before the end of May 2020. "The catch is that we have to limit available copies to fifty per week because of warehouse limitations due to COVID-19," says Laukat, "and at this time we're shipping only to U.S. addresses. Every Monday we plan to update available quantities on the store."

Studio71, best known for The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls and Half Truth, is currently working on a card game for the Netflix series The Umbrella Academy, which originated in 2007 as a comic book series from Gerard Way. The card game is scheduled to launch in 2020.

Board Game: Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale from Jordy Adan and Thunderworks Games has been a huge success since its debut in the second half of 2019, and Thunderworks has more map-drawing coming your way.

Cartographers Heroes will be a standalone expansion with new scoring cards, discovery cards, and ambush cards that you can play on their own or mix with the components of the original game for greater variety from game to game. What's more, players will discover heroes as they map the landscape, and these heroes can help destroy monsters.

Cartographers Heroes will be hitting Kickstarter in Q4 2020, along with three map packs that can serve as expansions for either standalone base game: Map Pack 1: Afffril: Plane of Knowledge, Map Pack 2: Nebblis: Plane of Flame, and Map Pack 3: Undercity: Depths of Sabek. Each map pack has a unique map, mechanisms unique to itself, and a few new cards themed to this setting.

Pegasus Spiele, which debuted the German version of the game (Der Kartograph) at SPIEL '19, notes that it's sold out two print runs of the game so far, with the third printing due out in May 2020, with these newer titles additions to the Cartographers family scheduled for release in 2021.
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Fri May 15, 2020 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Cats Control the Weather, Reverse Scoring, and Explore Dungeons

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Board Game: Major Arcana: The Tarot Game
• Time for another round-up of game creations from Japan, starting with Major Arcana: The Tarot Game, which appears to be a straightforward memory game from Kenichi Tanabe of COLON ARC.

The game includes the 22 major arcana cards from a tarot deck — all bearing fetching cat illustrations by Nekoya Houjyudou — and to set up, you deal the cards out evenly among the 3-6 players. (Games with two players have special rules.) On a turn, you name a number, and whoever has that card (if anyone) places it face down in the center of the table. If you have only one card in hand, you may give two consecutive numbers instead of a single number, and both of those cards are discarded. If you run out of cards, you're out of the game, and whoever last has cards in hand wins.

That's it! Is there more to playing than remembering which numbers have been called? I don't know as I haven't played, but I love the cover art, so I wanted to highlight the game anyway.

Board Game: あ~した天気にニャ~れ!! (Wishing for Fine Weather!!)
あ~した天気にニャ~れ!! (Wishing for Fine Weather!!), which debuted at the Tokyo Game Market in November 2019 from designer Dice-K and publisher ビストロ怪談倶楽部 (Bistro Kaidan Club), is a trick-taking game in which the players are cat gods who get to play with rain, snow, and other weather conditions. Some details:
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The game consists of a deck of fifty cards, with five suits of cards each numbered 1-10. Lightning is the trump suit, except that when snow (normally a losing suit) is played with lightning, then snow trumps lightning.

At the start of each of the three rounds, players reveal one of the eight scoring conditions to determine how many points positive or negative each card of a suit is worth in this particular round (-3 to +3). Players then play out the round, trying to collect tricks — or dodge them! — to maximize their score.
Board Game: Pandora Cat
Pandora Cat is, as far as I know, the first release from designer わけん (Reason) and publisher Nukenin合同会社, with the members of this group previously designing smartphone app games. This title was scheduled to debut at the Osaka Game Market in March 2020, but since that show was cancelled, the game is instead available through the Arclight shop set up to make doujin games available to a wider audience. (Note that this shop does not ship outside of Japan.)

Here's an overview of this 3-6 player card game:
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In Pandora Cat, a.k.a. パンドラの猫, you're racing to reach a points threshold before any other player can, but in each round you never know whether you want to score high or low until it's almost over.

Each round, each player is dealt four cards from the 24-card deck. Each of the eight types of cards has a value on it as well as a special ability. Each player chooses one card from their hand, then they reveal these cards in clockwise order from the starting player. Players then do this again two more times, leaving them with one card in hand.

Board Game: Pandora Cat

Your score for the round is the sum of the value of the card in your hand and the value of the cards you played. Normally the player with the highest score earns 5 points, with the players in second and third earning 3 and 1 points respectively — but if a player has played two "Pandora Cat" cards, then the player with the lowest score earns 5 points! If two players have each played two "Pandora Cat" cards, then scoring is normal, whereas three players having done this reverses the score once again.

Rotate the start player position each round, and complete multiple rounds until a player has scored at least 12, 14, or 16 points in a three-player, four-player, or five- or six-player game.
Board Game: Scaredy Cat Dungeon
• This entry is a cheat in this themed news item, but I'm running with it anyway. Scaredy Cat Dungeon from designer npckc and publisher yuzu labo is a press-your-luck game for 2-5 players in which you try to grab as much treasure as possible at the risk of losing it all. In more detail:
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There are two dungeon piles, and from the back of the cards you can tell which dungeon level they belong to. The deeper the level, the more treasures there are but also the more monsters there are. Each turn you decide whether to draw a card or go home. If you draw the third monster in a round, then everyone runs home and you lose all you collected this round, while other players who haven't gone home yet lose only one treasure.

Can you make it home with piles of loot, or will you just be another scaredy cat?
Board Game: Scaredy Cat Dungeon
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Thu May 14, 2020 1:00 pm
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Dominate Azeroth in Small World of Warcraft

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Small World
Video Game: World of Warcraft
In November 2019, I posted pics from BlizzCon 2019 that showcased an upcoming crossover between video game publisher Blizzard Entertainment and board game publisher Days of Wonder.

Now that crossover has been officially announced, with Small World of Warcraft — a 2-5 player game from Philippe Keyaerts that plays in 40-80 minutes — debuting in mid-2020 in North America and Europe. Here's an excerpt from the press release:
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Days of Wonder worked closely with Blizzard to create a game that seamlessly brings together both universes. Small World of Warcraft features a variety of new and exclusive artwork that captures the feel of the colorful and vibrant Warcraft universe, with races and special powers designed to be familiar to the millions of WoW players around the world who've explored the far reaches of Azeroth.

"Working alongside Blizzard has been an amazing experience. Not only did our vision for the game quickly align, but the creative work we've done together has been intense and extremely satisfying," said Adrien Martinot, head of Days of Wonder. "Blizzard allowed us to deep dive into their rich Warcraft universe, and I'm eager to see this incredible cooperation come to light when the game releases."
Board Game: Small World of Warcraft

Small World of Warcraft carries a MSRP of US$59.99/€59.99 and versions of the game will be released in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Slovak, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.

Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:
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In Small World of Warcraft, players vie for conquest and control of a world that is simply too small to accommodate everybody.

Small World of Warcraft is set on the fantasy world of Azeroth, where the races of the Alliance and the Horde — including Orcs, Dwarves, Trolls, and Worgen — clash in a world-consuming conflict. In the game, players choose combinations of special powers and races from the ''Warcraft'' universe, such as Portal Mage Pandarens or Herbalist Goblins, and vie for control of Azeroth. To help them achieve dominance, players will occupy legendary terrains and seek control of powerful artifacts. However, all empires must eventually fall, so players need to be ready to put an overextended race into a state of "decline" and lead a new one to rule Azeroth.

Board Game: Small World of Warcraft

In more detail, on each turn either you use the multiple tiles of your chosen fantasy race to (normally) occupy adjacent territories, possibly defeating weaker enemy races along the way, or you give up on your race and let it go into decline. A race in decline is designated by flipping the tiles over to their black-and-white side. At the start of the game or after you go into decline, you choose a new race/power combination at the start of your turn, with the 16 races and 20 powers being paired randomly each game.

At the end of your turn, you score one coin for each territory your races occupy. You may have one active race and one race in decline on the board at the same time. Your occupation total can vary depending on the special abilities of your race and the territories they occupy. After the final round, the player with the most coins wins.
And here's a teaser video from Days of Wonder:

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Wed May 13, 2020 5:00 pm
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New Train Game Round-up: Mini Express, Colt Super Express, Station Master, & 18xx on the Moon

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Board Game: Mini Rails
There seems to be some kind of link between trains and board games, but I've never really understood the connection. Eric has already mentioned a full cargo of 2020 train-themed releases in previous posts, such as Ride the Rails, Traintopia, Maglev Metro, Ticket to Ride Amsterdam and Empyreal: Spells & Steam, but I didn't let that derail me from sharing a few more from the other side of the tracks. While they all share a common theme, they're all quite different, so don't be a-freight to check these out.

• In late April 2020, Moaideas Game Design launched a Kickstarter campaign for Mark Gerrits' track-laying, stock-buying game Mini Express, a sequel to Gerrits' 2017 release Mini Rails.

While Mini Express follows a similar, simple two-action structure, it's a whole 'nother animal and plays completely differently than Mini Rails. Here's an overview of the gameplay from the publisher:
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Mini Express is a strategic train game for 1 to 5 players in which you and other wealthy capitalists manage four railroad companies. Through careful planning and ruthless execution, players pioneer the western expansion of the 19th century, vying to be the most influential railroad baron and complete the transcontinental railroad.

Board Game: Mini Express

On a turn, each player takes one of the two available actions, although otherwise the games are not similar. Your action choices are to (1) lay track to expand a company's railroad or (2) take a stock from a company.

To lay track, you take train pieces from the company's reservoir on the game board and place them one per hex to expand that company's network to a new city. When you do this, you gain influence in the goods that are in demand in that city. (The game includes four types of goods, and each type of good is the same color as one of the railroad companies.) Each city can have at most 1-3 companies enter it, and when that limit is reached, you remove the demand tile from the game. When you build into a hex (whether landscape or city), any other train companies in that hex gain a train in their reservoir (to represent them profiting from how your efforts affect that area).

To take a stock, you must decrease your influence in that company equal to the number of trains in that company's reservoir. If you can't do so without going below zero, then you cannot take that stock.

Board Game: Mini Express

When all the shares have been claimed from two companies or two companies have no train pieces remaining, then you complete the round and the game ends. For each good/company, you multiple the number of shares you hold by a points multiplier that's based on how much influence you have in that good/company relative to other players. The higher your standing, the more valuable each of your shares will be. Whoever has the most points wins.
Board Game: Station Master
Calliope Games is releasing a new and improved version of Chris Bayliss' train-themed classic card game Station Master, which is currently available for retail pre-order. Station Master was originally released in 2004 by Mayfair Games and has withstood the test of time as a light game with interesting decisions and lots of player interaction.

Here's a brief overview of the gameplay:
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In Station Master, you have to compete with opponents to direct passengers to the proper trains while choosing the best place to assign your carriages. There are many unexpected things that can happen at the station, so be prepared for anything!

Board Game: Station Master

Station Master is a quick and highly interactive 2-6 player card game within which players attempt to influence the value of departing trains by assigning passengers and carriages in an effort to get the trains to depart on time and accumulate the most points.
The new version of Station Master features new artwork, upgraded components, and streamlined rules for modern audiences.

21Moon is a new 18xx game by Jonas Jones that recently grabbed my attention with its fresh and futuristic approach to 18xx.

Inspired by Francis Tresham's 1830, 21Moon allows 3-5 players to compete as opportunistic investors trying to earn the most money running and investing in private companies and mining corporations on the moon. In more detail:
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The year is 2117. Climate change has taken its toll on Earth, and new resources are needed to fuel a technically advanced society gathered into ever-growing megacities around the globe. Research during the last fifty years has shown that the Moon has several pure and effective mineral resources that are needed on Earth. This year, mining corporations have established bases on the Moon with the purpose of building a transportation network to mine valuable mineral resources. As these resources are of global interest, the top twenty nations on Earth have invested in a freight rocket, "Future One", scheduled to fly to the moon and transport minerals back to Earth.

Board Game: 21Moon

When the game starts, the corporations have eleven months to gather as many minerals as possible before the rocket leaves the moon. The players (referred to as "investors" in this game) see an excellent opportunity to make credits (money) by investing in and running private companies and mining corporations on the moon. The corporations establish bases on the moon and build road networks to valuable mining resources, mining as many resources as possible until the freight rocket leaves the moon with its cargo of minerals.

The winner is the wealthiest investor when the rocket leaves. An investor's wealth is made up of personal credits and current market value of owned shares in the seven corporations.
The release date for 21Moon is TBD, but it's currently available to play on Tabletop Simulator and BOARD18 if you're interested in checking it out.

Cédric Lefebvre and Christophe Raimbault's Colt Super Express is a new, stripped-down, faster-paced version of the award-winning Colt Express coming from Ludonaute. Colt Super Express maintains the essence of Colt Express, but plays with 3-7 players in 15-20 minutes! Wow, that is some serious "super express" gameplay. I'm sure the set-up is much speedier, too, since there's no 3-D train to build.

Here's a preview of the game from Spielwarenmesse 2020:

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New Game Round-up: Escape Volcanoes, Relive World War II, and Look at Penguins

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: The Wood Games
• Designer Citie Lo of The Wood Games has released info about the company's SPIEL '20 release — and should that event not take place, well, Lo plans to run a Kickstarter campaign for the title in mid-2020 (as with the 2019 release Board Game Cafe Frenzy), so you'll still have a chance to acquire the game should you be in the market for a game with adorable penguins on the cover.

Here's an overview of Neko Harbour: The Card Game:
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You have arrived at Neko Harbour and are planning to travel around the Antarctic Peninsula to see different kinds of penguins — and perhaps other creatures as well. Travel in the Antarctic is not easy, however, and for some trips, you even need a license to get in.

Neko Harbour: The Card Game is a strategy card game for 2-4 players. Each game lasts three periods, and each period comes with a mid-game scoring. Each period consists of two phases: the drafting phase and the action phase.

During the drafting phase, players take cards from the display until they have six cards in hand, then discard one card from hand for income.

Board Game: Neko Harbour: The Card Game

During the action phase, players take turns playing a card from hand to build a personal shipping lane until all cards have been played. With these cards, players can get resources, move ships, trigger special actions, and (probably) take free actions.

The most intriguing part of the game is that players need to build three shipping lanes with cards and create ideal combinations between the cards as two cards create a hub that provides players with a bonus when ships cross it. Additionally, players should acquire enough licenses for their journey to go smoothly. After three periods, the player who has the most penguin points wins and is clearly the one who saw the most penguins in the Antarctic.
Board Game Publisher: Ludonova
• Another SPIEL '20 title that we have first details of is Polynesia, a 2-4 player game from designer Peer Sylvester and publisher Ludonova. Here's an overview:
Quote:
The frequent tremors, the looming clouds over the crater, and the ever-increasing smell of sulfur make it clear that it is time to escape. Direct your tribe through the waters of the Pacific in search of a new home, safe from the impending eruption of the volcano. Explore new sea routes that lead to unvisited islands, collect resources on those islands to offer to other tribes in exchange for their knowledge, and continue sailing in search of a safe place — all this being done to save as many of your tribe members as possible and lead them to new lands where they can prosper. The most successful individual through this difficult mission will be appointed the supreme chief of the Polynesian tribal group.

In Polynesia, players must save their tribe members from the dangers of the volcano by taking them to the islands that will give them the most points. At the same time, players must try to reach the objectives set by the tide cards, which will vary from one game to another. To succeed, players must collect resources in the form of fish and shells that will allow them to explore new sea routes, use the routes of other players, and sail from one island to another.

Polynesia is played in rounds, and each round is divided into two phases. In the action phase, each player has three turns in which they can perform one of three actions: sail, explore, or populate and fish. In the maintenance phase, the volcano activity is checked for activity, and each player can collect resources depending on the islands where they have tribe members.
Board Game: Mini WWII
• A SPIEL '18 release — specifically Wei-Cheng Cheng's Mini WWII from Formosa Force Games — is getting new life thanks to an updated version from Polish publisher PHALANX.

PHALANX plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund Domination, which in its words "fixes all the important issues" about the original design. No details yet on what differs from the original Mini WWII, an overview of which you can watch here, but here's a summary of the new design, which will be released in 2021:
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How do you win a world war, a game in which the stakes are so high that your nation's survival is at stake? You shall harness your industries to craft new technologies superior to that of the enemy. You shall make alliances with the neutral forces. You shall attempt to soar to the edge of the atmosphere and build the biggest bomb the world has ever seen. You shall never surrender! And in Domination, you shall do it all in a mere 90 minutes.

Board Game: Domination

World War II was a diplomatic, military, and industrial "total war". Fought on the land, at sea, and in the air, it required mobilization of every imaginable resource. In Domination, a strategic, card-driven, area-control game playable with two players (or by three or four players in two teams), you shall harness your industries to develop new weapons, seek the support of neutral nations, form and fund massive partisan armies to resist hostile occupation, break the enigmatic enemy codes, and plan and execute military operations that will sweep across continents and oceans. Balance these tasks and make this your finest hour!
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Tue May 12, 2020 1:00 pm
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