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Games for Groups: Become a Ghost Writer, Catch a Wolf, and Act Like a Mean Girl

W. Eric Martin
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Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but with COVID-19 vaccinations being more plentiful as the weeks pass, I thought I'd highlight a few new games for larger groups of players in case you're ready to gather with others once again.

• We'll start with the team game Ghost Writer from Mary Flanagan, Max Seidman, and Resonym, a design for 4-8 players that features Password-style gameplay with each team trying to guess the same secret word. Ghost Writer was Kickstarted in early April 2021 ahead of a Q4 2021 release date. Here's how it works:
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Renowned mediums are competing to figure out a secret object and prove they can connect with the "World Beyond". The first team to figure out the secret object wins!

Board Game: Ghost Writer

To set up Ghost Writer, divide players so that the Sun team and the Moon team each have one Spirit and up to three Mediums. The mediums on a team share a hand of seven question cards, and the spirits begin the game by choosing one of the five objects on a card as the secret object. On a turn, the mediums pass two question cards to their spirit, with sample questions like "What color is it most commonly?", "What fictional character has it or uses it?", and "If it were a musical instrument, what would it be?"

The spirit discards one question card face up, then returns the question card it's going to answer to their mediums, then slowly writes the answer one letter at a time for all to see. As soon as the mediums think they know what this clue word is, they yell "Silencio", and the spirit stops writing. The other team of mediums might see only the letter "Y", but if you know the question is "What color is it?", then you know the clue must be "yellow". To end your turn, draw two new question cards.

On a turn, instead of handing over question cards, you can attempt to guess the answer — and to do so you write like the spirits, one letter at a time. If you write an incorrect letter, the spirits will stop you, marking out your error, with your partial guess giving the other team more information. If you guess the entire word correctly, you win!
Board Game: Last Message
Last Message, a Q3 2021 release from designers Juhwa Lee and Giung Kim and publisher IELLO, features something of the opposite spirit of the previous title, with one player trying to deliver a secret message to almost everyone else, while another player tries to thwart this communication.

Here's an overview of this 3-8 player game, which is explained even more succinctly on the back of the box:
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A crime was just committed! The victim is unable to speak — but they can draw, and in doing so they will ideally help the inspectors guess who in the vast crowd is the criminal! This shifty character will do anything and everything to cover their tracks, though, so will you be able to stop them before the last message?

Board Game: Last Message

In Last Message, the victim of the crime gives clues over four rounds to help the detectives determine the identity of the criminal. To give clues in a round, the victim has 30 seconds in which to draw and write in a 3x3 grid — but before handing over these clues, the criminal can erase part of these drawings.

If the criminal is not identified by the end of the fourth round, they win the game; otherwise, the detectives and the victim win.
Board Game: Uly & Polly
• Another title that features the same spirit of one vs. all as the previous game — although round by round rather than throughout the entire game — is Uly & Polly from designer Roberto Fraga and publisher Blue Orange Games. Unlike Dr. Eureka and other titles this designer/publisher team has released in recent years, this is not a real-time game.

Here's how this tiny 2-5 player game that debuted in early April 2021 works:
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Uly & Polly is a semi-cooperative game in which each round one player competes against all others. This one player is Uly, the mischievous little wolf who likes to hide in the flock of sheep. Everyone else works together as Polly the sheepdog to find the little wolf's hiding place.

To set up for the round, lay out the sixteen sheep tiles. While all other players close their eyes, Uly then swaps the wolf token for one of the sheep. The Polly players then place the sheepdog token on a tile and reveal it. If they already found Uly, they win the round, but if not the Uly player chooses two tiles adjacent either orthogonally or diagonally (whether Uly is on one of those tiles or not) and swaps them. Polly then moves to any adjacent tile and reveals it.

Board Game: Uly & Polly

If Uly is still in hiding after eight tiles have been revealed, the Uly player wins the round and receives reward tokens; otherwise the Polly players receive rewards. After each player has been Uly once, whoever has the most rewards wins!
• For non-stop meanness instead of single-round meanness, I'll direct you to Mean Girls: The Party Game, due out on June 1, 2021 from designer James Vaughn and publisher Big Potato and designed to let you unleash your inner Regina:
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Get ready for a party game that's fresher than peppermint foot cream and filled with more secrets than Gretchen Weiner's hair.

Gather your friends, tear a page of the Burn Book, and pass it around as you take turns answering scandalous questions about each other. Oh, and the best part? It's all totally anonymous.

Board Game: Mean Girls: The Party Game

Well, most of the time it is anyway. At the end of the round, each player gets to pick an answer that they'd like to reveal. If you wrote it, you have to come clean in front of everyone — so maybe don't write anything that's too mean.
• We'll close with another June 1, 2021 release from Big Potato, this one being co-designed by Vaughn and Phil Walker-Harding with both games being playable by 4-8 people. Here's an overview of Snakesss, the cover of which can also be used as a torture device:
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The group has a multiple-choice question and only two minutes to work it out. The snakes amongst you already know the right answer — and they'll stop at nothing to keep you away from it.

In Snakesss, you deal out the cards and try to answer a multiple-choice question with the rest of the players. The more people who get it right, the more points you cash in — unless, of course, you get one of the snake cards. All the snakes already know the answer, so their job is a bit simpler. To score points, they have to sabotage the discussion and mislead the other players.
Board Game: Snakesss
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Transform Your Deck of Cards to Fight Decepticons, and Solve Mysteries with Friends

W. Eric Martin
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• In October 2020, U.S. publisher Renegade Game Studios announced an expanded partnership with licensor Hasbro to create role-playing and deck-building games based on the G.I. Joe, Transformers, and My Little Pony brands, and the first of those titles has now been announced.

The straightforwardly named Transformers Deck-Building Game is designed by Dan Blanchett and Matt Hyra, co-designers of the similarly named Power Rangers: Deck-Building Game that's due out from Renegade in May 2021. I asked whether these two titles could be combined, and a Renegade rep said that they could not, which Blanchett has confirmed in a comment on this post.

As for what this game is, here's what we know right now:
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Transform and roll out!

The Autobots are brave robot warriors hailing from the planet Cybertron. Their mission? To stop the Decepticons from enacting their evil schemes on Earth.

Board Game: Transformers Deck-Building Game

In Transformers Deck-Building Game, you take on the role of one of the mighty Autobots. Travel and explore the Matrix and transform between your different modes as you gain allies, find relics, and acquire technology to do battle with the Decepticons. But be warned! As your deck grows, more powerful Decepticons will rise up to challenge you.

Transformers Deck-Building Game can be played competitively or as a co-operative experience. This core set will begin your collection with everything needed to play, but the battle is far from over as playable Decepticons are on the way to expand your game.
• Two other titles recently announced by Renegade are Crime & Capers: Lady Leona's Last Wishes and Crimes & Capers: High School Hijinks. These two co-operative games, both designed by Juliana Moreno Patel and Ariel Rubin, are a blending of the classic murder mystery game genre with modern escape room games, and they're made to be "event" games similar to those designs, with the 4-6 players dressing up for the experience if they desire, although that's not required — unless the host of your event makes it a requirement!

Here's the short description of each title, both of which are due out in Q3 2021:
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It's 1919 at the Langford Estate. Lady Leona has died and absolutely no one is sad about it. She was forever threatening to write people out of her will. Now that she is finally gone, her closest family and favored servants have gathered for the reading of her will — but Leona always loved two things: puzzles and making life difficult.

Board Game: Crimes & Capers: Lady Leona's Last Wishes

Crimes & Capers: Lady Leona's Last Wishes is a co-operative game in which you and a group of friends take on the roles of polished high society folks and hard-working servants who need to collaborate to solve the mystery and find Leona's treasure. No special skills or prior knowledge are required. Read the notes, figure out puzzles, and unlock the answers to find out where Leona hid her fortune!
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Welcome to 1998, when Romi's been framed! As the senior leaders of Blair High School, you have gathered the passed notes from today to see whether you can figure out who framed Romi. If you don't figure it out, she will be expelled!

Board Game: Crimes & Capers: High School Hijinks

Crimes & Capers: High School Hijinks is a co-operative game in which you and a group of friends take on the roles of 1990s high-school students and work together to solve the mystery. No special skills or prior knowledge are required. Read notes and solve puzzles to unlock Romi's locker, then figure out who framed her!
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Tue May 11, 2021 8:00 pm
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Gain Prestige for Your Champagne in Dom Pierre, and Unite Ireland Through Might, Cunning, and Matrimony

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Yinzi designers Rôla and Costa are the creative minds behind the debut title from new publisher Pile Up Games, with the 2-4 player game Dom Pierre set to debut in Q4 2021 in a limited edition of 1,000 copies.

Here's an overview of the game, which features a gamified take on the production of champagne to give folks a change of pace from all the wine-production games already on the market:
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At the end of the 17th century, a French Benedictine monk in charge of the cellar at Hautvillers Abbey made an important contribution to differentiate wines from that region. As a result, it became possible to produce wines of superior quality, particularly in white wines made from black grape varieties. While Dom Pierre Pérignon initially felt the sparkling of the wine was a negative feature, the consequent increase in both quality and quantity created the path that lead to the appreciation and recognition of champagne.

Board Game: Dom Pierre

Throughout the 18th century, several "champagne houses" — or Champagne Maisons — were founded, and a new business dynamic grew in the region. These houses replaced small farm and monastery production in leading the evolutionary process of champagne, and by planting more vineyards or buying grapes from other producers or both, they mastered the specialization. To promote their product, the houses hired sales agents to take samples of their champagne wines to the Royal Courts of Europe, a crucial factor in generating the glamorous fashion of drinking champagne.

Despite production growth, improved quality, and increasing popularity, trade did not reach spectacular rates during the 19th century — which is why the game Dom Pierre is much more about winning prestige than earning money. In the game, you are responsible for one of the oldest Champagne Maisons, producing and selling wine all over Europe, not to mention the other side of the Atlantic. The local economy will be boosted, employment increased, and your brand will become universally recognized.

To make all this happen will require a chain of actions that starts in your vineyard. You will need to look for continuous improvement, constantly react to your opponents, and optimize your choices to build the most prestigious Champagne Maison. In game terms, on a turn you move up a disc on the winery game board and perform an action, with the actions become more powerful as the game progresses. You will plant in the vineyards, harvest crops, buy grapes from neighbors, make wines in your cellar (some more valuable than others), allocate salespeople on four market routes and workers in the vineyard and cellar, and acquire the necessary accessories to improve production.
• UK publisher Osprey Games has announced a new title from Peer Sylvester, designer of the previous Osprey releases The Lost Expedition, The King Is Dead, Village Green, and Let Them Eat Cake.

The new title is Brian Boru: High King of Ireland, a 3-5 player game due out in October 2021 that has a trick-taking element combined with game board elements that bring the design to a 60-90 minute playing time. Here's what Osprey has revealed about the game to date:
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In Brian Boru: High King of Ireland, you strive to unite Ireland under your domain, securing control through might, cunning, and matrimony. Join forces to fend off Viking invaders, build monasteries to extend your influence, and gather support in towns and villages throughout the land. To become High King of all Ireland, you need to navigate a web of shifting alliances, outmaneuver your enemies, and grab history by the reins.

Board Game: Brian Boru: High King of Ireland

The success of the historical Brian Boru rested on three pillars: his victories against the Vikings, the favor he managed to garner with the Church, and the alliances he forged through political marriages. This became the foundation of the game, with each pillar becoming a suit in the trick-taking that forms the core of the mechanisms. Win a trick and you gain influence in a town, which, in turn, gains you majorities in the regions; if you lose the trick, however (deliberately or otherwise), you instead take an action corresponding to the suit of the card.
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Tue May 11, 2021 1:00 pm
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Buckle, Turczi, and Mindclash Invite You to Prevent Voidfall in 2022

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Board Game Publisher: Mindclash Games
Hungarian publisher Mindclash Games aims large with its releases, both in the worlds that it creates and the games themselves, and it will continue that tradition with the 2022 release Voidfall from designers Nigel Buckle and Dávid Turczi.

Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay, with Voidfall taking 1-3 hours to play, with Ian O'Toole providing the art and graphic design, and with the game hitting Kickstarter in 2021:
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For centuries, the Novarchs, descendants of the royal House of Novarchon, have ruled with an iron fist over the feudalistic galactic empire of humankind, the Domineum. During this time, they brought stunning technological innovation and scientific advancements to their domain. This accelerated progression helped the Domineum reach — and eventually inhabit — even the farthest segments of the known galaxy, where new Houses emerged to govern the outer sectors of the empire. As the House of Novarchon grew in power, so grew the religious cult that surrounded them, proclaiming grim prophecies about an ancient cosmic being from another dimension: the Voidborn.

Many thought it to be only a myth, but in truth, it was the Voidborn's dark influence that granted the Novarchs the sheer knowledge to achieve rapid expansion for the empire. While the cult of the Novarchs envisaged eternal life through the otherworldly entity, the Voidborn's only intention was satiating its eternal hunger. And so, when the Domineum had achieved a vastness fitting the Voidborn's craving, interdimensional rifts opened at the heart of the Domineum to unleash cosmic corruption. As the House of Novarchon and its followers welcomed the Voidborn and sought their false salvation, the entity infected and spread and seized control over the inner worlds. Now, it is time for the remaining Great Houses to purge the galactic corruption, prevent the Voidborn from fully manifesting in our dimension, and to ultimately overcome the chaos as the new rulers of the Domineum.

Board Game: Voidfall

Voidfall is a space 4X game that brings the genre to Euro enthusiasts' tables. It combines the tension, player interaction, and deep empire customization of the 4X genre with the resource management, tight decisions, and minimum-luck gameplay of an economic Euro. Win by pushing back the Voidborn in the ''solo/coop mode'', or by overcoming your rivals' influence in restoring the Domineum in the ''competitive mode'' — both using the same rule set and game system. Variability is ensured not only by multiple playable houses with their own strengths and weaknesses, but also by many different map set-ups for all game modes.

As the leader of a defiant Great House, you play through three cycles (rounds), each with a game-altering galactic event, a new scoring condition, and a set number of focus cards that can be played. Focus card decisions and sequencing is the centerpiece of the gameplay. By selecting two of their three impactful actions as you play them, you develop and improve techs; advance on your three house-specific civilization tracks; manage your sectors' infrastructure, population, and production; and conquer new sectors with up to five different types of space fleets. Space battles are fought either against the Voidborn's infected forces (which are present as neutral opponents even in the competitive mode) or against other players. Instead of relying on the luck of a die roll, battles in Voidfall are fully deterministic and reward careful preparation and outsmarting your opponents.
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Wed May 5, 2021 4:00 pm
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Survive Stationfall, Fight the Machines, and Escape the Black Death

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Board Game: The Menace Among Us
Now that vaccinations are rapidly rolling out and in-person gaming is slowly but surely becoming a reality again, I'm looking forward to getting some higher-player count games to the table.

I've been eyeballing Jeff Gum's The Menace Among Us from Smirk & Dagger Games on my shelf the past year, eager to play it again after playing a fun and memorable eight-player game at the BGG team retreat in January 2020. It was my first time playing the game, and I was impressed that it gave me Battlestar Galactica feels yet played in an hour, so I've been eager to play it with my gaming group ever since. I bought a copy for myself which has been collecting dust as Among Us has been the only social deduction game I've played in the past year; that game is fun, but it's just not the same as being in the room not trusting your friends in person.

Here are some upcoming releases in a similar vein that feature deduction or hidden roles and sound like they'll be fun to play with bigger groups when it's safe to do so:

Stationfall is a sci-fi, deduction game with hidden roles from designer Matt Eklund, with publisher Ion Game Design crowdfunding (KS link) the game for an anticipated delivery in December 2021. Stationfall includes 27 characters with unique abilities and plays with 1-9 players in 90-120 minutes.

As a fan of Eklund's Pax Transhumanity — the intriguing, futuristic 2019 addition to the Pax series — I am very curious to see what he's cooked up now. When I saw the box cover image for Stationfall and read the description below from the publisher, my curiosity spiked:
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What is Stationfall? Well, imagine a dozen or so random humans, robots, and none-of-the-aboves — each with their own abilities, goals, and secret relationships — have been turned loose on a space station that is going to be incinerated in approximately 15 minutes. You are one of these weirdos, and you have collaborators on hand ready to assist you in achieving your goals. There's also definitely probably some sort of alien presence or murderous monster locked up on board, maybe.

Stationfall is unbalanced, inasmuch as certain characters have overlapping goals with others, not to mention overlapping conspirators. Opposing identities are unknown at the start of the game. Their actions may be unpredictable, violent, or disrupt your plans. Or most likely all of the above.

Board Game: Stationfall

Due to the actions of your opponents, seemingly simple victory conditions may be achievable only through complex means. Stationfall is a box full of creative solutions, but that box is going to morph, twist, and grow teeth over the course of play. Your best turns will exploit the unique tactical freedom of being a secret conspiracy, as well as deductions about your opponents' identities and motives. Stationfall is messy, intricate, and full of dangerous variables. Welcome to the Station.
Board Game: The Resistance: Avalon
Board Game: The Resistance
Quest is a social deduction game from Don Eskridge (designer of Avalon and The Resistance) and Indie Boards & Cards that's coming to retail in 2021 after delivery of the Quest: Avalon Big Box Edition to Kickstarter backers.

Here's what you can expect from Quest, which boasts playing well with as few as four players:
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In Quest, a new game in the Avalon universe for 4-10 players, all will show their true colors as Good and Evil struggle for the future of civilization. Hidden amongst King Arthur's loyal servants are Mordred's unscrupulous minions. These forces of Evil are few in number, but if they go unknown, they can sabotage Arthur's great quests.

Board Game: Quest

Players are secretly dealt roles that determine whether their allegiance is to Good or to Evil. Then, players debate, reason, and lie as they decide who to send on Quests — knowing that if just one minion of Mordred joins, the Quest could fail. Quest includes 25 different characters and many different ways to play the base game.
Board Game: Human Punishment: Social Deduction 2.0
Human Punishment: The Beginning is a new standalone game in the Human Punishment universe from designer Stefan Godot and Godot Games that was successfully funded on Kickstarter (KS link) in January 2021, but will be opening up for late backers.

Playing in 120-180 minutes, Human Punishment: The Beginning is a prequel to Human Punishment: Social Deduction 2.0 in which 3-6 players fight the Machine Revolution in a dystopian cyberpunk city:
Quote:
Human Punishment: The Beginning is a semi-cooperative, social deduction, and pick-up and deliver hybrid. In the game, 3-6 players try to avoid the secret Machine revolution, but Machine spies are everywhere and they try to corrupt the Human players. There are also Outlaws, Fallen, and Legion just as in Human Punishment, and every faction works for their own goals.

Board Game: Human Punishment: The Beginning

This game features a new mechanism called CWS (Connecting World System) that gives you the option to combine Human Punishment: The Beginning with Human Punishment: Social Deduction 2.0 to experience an epic theme night with YOUR OWN outcome!

Fight Machines, build Apex, avoid Deus X Machina and don't become corrupted by the Machines. Rewrite the history of Humanity!
Board Game Publisher: Facade Games
Bristol 1350 is the latest addition to Travis Hancock's Dark Cities series from his publishing company Facade Games.

Bristol 1350 plays with 1-9 players in 20-40 minutes and sounds like it'll lend itself to some very interesting gameplay based on the description below. Plus, as an added bonus, you can sneak it onto your bookshelf when your game shelf is already packed, and no one will notice you bought another game...
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The dreaded Black Death has descended upon the town of Bristol. You are racing down the streets in one of the three available apple carts, desperate to escape into the safety of the countryside. If your cart is the first to leave the town and it is full of only healthy villagers when you leave, you and your fellow cart-mates successfully escape and win the game!

However, some villagers on your cart may already have the plague! They are hiding their early symptoms from you so that they can enjoy their last few days in peace. If you leave town with a plagued villager on your cart, you will catch the plague. You must do whatever is necessary to make sure that doesn't happen!

Board Game: Bristol 1350
Image: Travis Hancock

On the surface Bristol 1350 is part co-operative teamwork, part racing strategy, and part social deduction. In reality, it's a selfish scramble to get yourself out of town as quickly as possible without the plague, by any means necessary.

The game comes in a magnetic book box and includes a rubber playmat, 9 wood pawns, 3 miniature carts, 6 rat/apple dice, a linen bag, and 64 cards. The deluxe version adds 6 coins, 6 cards, and 3 metal carts. This standalone game is Volume 4 in the "Dark Cities Series" by Facade Games following Salem 1692, Tortuga 1667, and Deadwood 1876.
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Fri Apr 30, 2021 1:00 pm
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Five from Flatout Games: TEN, Dollars to Donuts, Abstract Academy, Cascadia, and Verdant

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Board Game: TEN
Flatout Games — the game design collective comprised of Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Shawn Stankewich — has a new title coming in 2021 with publisher AEG, which has worked with Flatout previously for the card games Point Salad in 2019 and Truffle Shuffle in 2020.

This new title — TEN — is for 1-5 players, is due out in Q3 2021, and currently features this minimalist description:
Quote:
TEN is an exciting push-your-luck and auction game for the whole family! Players draw cards one-at-a-time, trying to add as many as they can without exceeding a total value of TEN, or they bust!

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Players may push their luck to draw more cards and use currency to buy additional cards in their attempt to build the longest number sequence in each color. When valuable wildcards emerge from the deck, players compete in auctions to obtain them in order to fill gaps in their sequences.
Board Game: Dollars to Donuts
• Two other titles designed by the Flatout team of Johnson, Melvin, and Stankewich will be released in 2021 by U.S. publisher Crafty Games.

Dollars to Donuts was funded on Kickstarter in August 2020 and is due out Q3 2021, and you have to live up to the title of this 1-4 player game because in the end dollars mean nothing and donuts are everything:
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Donuts must be made whole! That's the spirit driving your actions in Dollars to Donuts, mostly because the customers in your donut shop will not want to purchase half-donuts that will undoubtedly be stale on their open ends.

To set up the game, place four 1x1 starting tiles on the 6x6 game board that represents your donut shop and take five "dollar" tiles from the bag; on their back side, dollar tiles have either a half donut (plain, chocolate, sprinkle) or a set of donut holes (again in the three flavors). The starting tiles depict half donuts in these three flavors

On a turn, you can purchase a 1x4 donut tile that depicts half donuts along its edges from the six available tiles for a cost of $0-5. You then add this tile to your shop — with some of the tile hanging off the edge of the board if you wish — ideally lining up the half donuts on that tile with those already on your board. If you make a matching donut, i.e., putting two sprinkle halves together, then you take a sprinkle scoring token; if you make a non-matching donut, i.e. a plain half combined with a chocolate half, then you draw a dollar tile from the supply bag. Note, however, that jelly donuts give no dollar tile if paired with a non-jelly donut because who in the world would reward something like that?

Board Game: Dollars to Donuts

To end your turn, you can place a dollar tile on your shop board to complete a donut (and score) or fill a space with donut holes (which might also score). Additionally, you can serve a customer in line by offering them scoring tokens that match their desired donuts, which will earn you more points than the tokens on their own.

When one player has filled every space in their shop or the donut tiles run out, the game ends, with you scoring for satisfied customers, neighborhoods served, donuts still on hand, and donut hole pairs in the shop, while losing points for empty spaces in your shop. The player with the highest score clearly has the most popular shop in town!
Board Game: Abstract Academy
• The other Flatout title from Crafty Games is Abstract Academy, a game for two or four aspiring art students who must share a canvas for their creations:
Quote:
Abstract Academy is played over three rounds, with the players completing a new canvas each round.

At the start of the game, you lay out 2-3 scoring cards for each round, so you all know what you're trying to achieve to score. Additionally, at the start of each round, each player receives an inspiration card that shows a pattern they're trying to create on the canvas.

Board Game: Abstract Academy

In the two-player game, players take turns playing canvas cards into a shared 4x4 play area, and in the four-player game, they play in a shared 5x5 area. Canvas cards are divided into quadrants, and each quadrant is colored yellow, red, or blue. The canvas grows organically as you all play cards, and the edges aren't fixed until you have four (or five) cards in a row or column. The edge of the canvas closest to you is your home row, and once the canvas is locked in size, no one else can play in your home row (unless all other spaces are filled).

Once the canvas is filled, the two rows closest to you form your scoring zone. If the color patterns in your zone complete a scoring card better than the patterns in anyone else's zone, then you claim the scoring card. Additionally, if you've created the right pattern in your scoring zone, you can score your inspiration card. Whoever has the most points after three rounds is the star pupil of Abstract Academy and wins!
• Aside from designing and developing games, the Flatout team also publishes them, with Randy Flynn's Cascadia having been funded on Kickstarter in Q4 2020 with delivery expected in Q3 2021. Here's an overview of how the game works:
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Cascadia is a puzzly tile-laying and token-drafting game featuring the habitats and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest.

In the game, you take turns building out your own terrain area and populating it with wildlife. You start with three hexagonal habitat tiles (with five types of habitat in the game), and on a turn you choose a new habitat tile that's paired with a wildlife token, then place that tile next to your other ones and place the wildlife token on an appropriate habitat. (Each tile depicts 1-3 types of wildlife from the five types in the game, and you can place at most one tile on a habitat.) Four tiles are on display, with each tile being paired at random with a wildlife token, so you must make the best of what's available — unless you have a nature token to spend so that you can pick your choice of each item.

Board Game: Cascadia
Prototype copy

Ideally you can place habitat tiles to create matching terrain that reduces fragmentation and creates wildlife corridors, mostly because you score for the largest area of each type of habitat at game's end, with a bonus if your group is larger than each other player's. At the same time, you want to place wildlife tokens so that you can maximize the number of points scored by them, with the wildlife goals being determined at random by one of the three scoring cards for each type of wildlife. Maybe hawks want to be separate from other hawks, while foxes want lots of different animals surrounding them and bears want to be in pairs. Can you make it happen?
• Finally, we come to Verdant, a design by Johnson, Melvin, and Stankewich along with Aaron Mesburne and Kevin Russ that Flatout Games will Kickstart in 2021 ahead of a planned release in 2022. For now, we have only a general description of the game, which seems to fit in the same category of games as Dollars to Donuts, Cascadia, and Flatout's 2020 runaway hit game, Calico:
Quote:
Verdant is a puzzly spatial card game for 1 to 4 players. You take on the role of a houseplant enthusiast trying to create the coziest interior space by collecting and arranging houseplants and other objects within your home. You must position your plants so that they are provided the most suitable light conditions and take care of them to create the most verdant collection.

Board Game: Verdant
Art by Beth Sobel

Each turn, you select an adjacent pair of a card and token, then use those items to build an ever-expanding tableau of cards that represents your home. You need to keep various objectives in mind as you attempt to increase plant verdancy by making spatial matches and using item tokens to take various nurture actions. You can also build your "green thumb" skills, which allows you to take additional actions to care for your plants and create the coziest space!
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Thu Apr 29, 2021 1:00 pm
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Quacks Is Backs, Dream Machines Need Repairs, and Dragons Come to Catan...Again

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: The Quacks of Quedlinburg
Board Game: The Quacks of Quedlinburg: The Herb Witches
Board Game: The Taverns of Tiefenthal
• In late June or early July 2021, Wolfgang Warsch's The Quacks of Quedlinburg will return to print in North America from publisher CMYK, which has picked up the license previously held by North Star Games.

Asked how CMYK acquired the game's license, co-owner Alex Hague told me, "I'd say we got the license because: 1. We have a close working relationship with Wolfgang as co-designers and developers on Wavelength, The Fuzzies, and some upcoming projects — and he wanted to be more hands-on in the manufacturing and publishing side of his games. And 2. [originating publisher] Schmidt Spiele publishes Wavelength and The Fuzzies in the German language markets, and we've had a great experience working with them on those. So between those two things, it was a really good fit!"

At the same time, the game's first expansion — The Herb Witches — will be joined on the North American market by the game's second expansion: The Alchemists, which to date has been released only by Schmidt Spiele.

CMYK also plans to bring Warsch's The Taverns of Tiefenthal back to the North American market, although a release date has not yet been announced for that title.

Board Game: The Quacks of Quedlinburg: The Alchemists

• In 2009, Catan GmbH released Die Siedler von Catan: Schätze, Drachen & Entdecker, a set of six scenarios for use with Klaus Teuber's Catan and the Seafarers and Cities & Knights expansions.

This set was released in other languages, such as Dutch, Polish, and Chinese, in 2017 to coincide with a new German release from KOSMOS, but the English-language edition has taken a few more years to bring to market, with Catan Studio planning to release Catan: Treasures, Dragons & Adventurers in July 2021.

Board Game: Catan: Treasures, Dragons & Adventurers

Board Game: Catan: Treasures, Dragons & Adventurers

Board Game: Imaginarium
• In September 2021, French publisher Bombyx will release Nicodemus, a two-player game from designers Bruno Cathala and Florian Sirieix set in the world of their 2018 release Imaginarium. Artist Felideus Bubastis will provide entrancingly imaginative character illustrations for this game, as he has for the earlier Imaginarium releases.

Here's an overview of the game:
Quote:
Nicodemus Gideon is retiring! To take his place, two assistants of the Dream Factory — that is, you and one other — will face off in a duel in which you repair machines and complete projects as quickly as possible in order to score 20 or more points first.

In Nicodemus , you can return to the universe of Imaginarium in a game in which the two players must block one another repeatedly, with advantages swinging one way, then the other, with the slightest mistake possibly being fatal to your chances.

Board Game: Nicodemus

On a turn, you have a choice of two actions:

—Play a machine card from your hand to the Bric-a-brac to earn charcoalium, produce a resource, or apply the effect of the machine.
—Repair a machine from the Bric-a-brac to score points and place this machine in your workshop.

Each resource indicated in the production zone of machines in your workshop reduces the number of resources needed to repair subsequent machines. Additionally, repairing a machine can help you complete specific projects and win points.
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Wed Apr 28, 2021 1:00 pm
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Build Towers, Wreck Towers, Ride Tram 28, and Revisit Teothihucan

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Hurlyburly
• The 2019 release Hurlyburly from Rikki Tahta, Verbena Tahta, and La Mame Games has been picked up by U.S. publisher CMYK, which plans to Kickstart a new edition of this dexterity game. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay of the original release:
Quote:
In Armenia in 1901, you lead a team of scientists on an international expedition. In the remote mountains you discover a new element in the volcanic rock and realize that the first team to report the discovery will gain the credit (and everlasting fame). The fastest way to communicate is by flags, so a race starts to build towers and keep your flag flying long enough and high enough to stake your claim. Of course the other teams have the same idea...

Board Game: Hurlyburly
Promotional art from CMYK

Hurlyburly is a physical dexterity game of building and defending your tower while trying to demolish your opponents' towers and steal their resources. Imagine Rhino Hero with catapults! On your turn, you can take one action:

—Build (increase the height of your tower or build defenses),
—Prepare (upgrade your catapult or gather ammunition), or
—Attack (launch rocks at opponents' towers to knock them down)

Whoever has a five-level tower with their flag on top at the start of their turn wins.
• In mid-March 2021, Board&Dice tweeted a teaser about Founders of Teothihucan, a tile-lying game from Filip Głowacz that — as B&D's Rainer Ahlfors explains here on BGG — is a standalone game set in the same location and time as the publisher's earlier Teothihucan: City of Gods. Writes Ahlfors:
Quote:
It has been in the works since well before the final expansion was announced, and it has a different designer, uses different mechanisms, and so forth...

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Of course, due to the popularity and fan base of Teotihuacan: City of Gods, with us being the publisher of both games, we intend to make fans feel "at home" in this second game by utilizing some of the same artwork and iconography, none of which is, of course, our own creation, but rather based on murals and sculptures found in the city of Teotihuacan itself.
Board Game: Lisbon Tram 28
• Portuguese publisher MEBO Games has dropped a bit of information about its next release: a 2-4 player game from designer Pedro Santos Silva titled Lisbon Tram 28 — although the box bears only the numeral "28".

In case you are curious as to why "28" might be all that's necessary to make it clear what the game is about, here's an excerpt from the Essencial Portugal website about Tramway 28:
Quote:
Tram 28 is one of the jewels of Lisbon and the small yellow wagons representing the tramway appear in many souvenir shops in the Portuguese capital. The yellow tramway No. 28 is a must to visit Lisbon. The old tramway crosses the most famous districts of Lisbon such as Alfama, Baixa or Chiado.
As for the game, here's what we know for now:
Quote:
Lisbon Tram 28 is a game in which you travel through Lisbon with this famous tram, pick up passengers, and take them to visit some of the city's monuments.

Handle your tickets strategically so that you can move your tram around Lisbon's historical area. Set the best route so you can get the right passengers to the most valuable monuments. Optimize your tram's space, unlock bonuses that will improve the way you can play during your turn, and connect the tickets from the monuments you will visit.

Board Game: Lisbon Tram 28

You receive points via the cards from visited monuments and the connected tickets, and whoever earns the most points wins.
Pencil Nose is not a new game, having first appeared in 2018 from U.S. publisher Fat Brain Toy Company, but I greatly appreciate the ridiculousness of this promotional video from Piatnik to coincide with its release of the game in Germany in January 2021:

"You will believe that a nose can pencil..."
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Sun Apr 25, 2021 1:00 pm
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Open Banks in China, Slap Fish Like a Cat, and Don't Fall off the Ice

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Pingyao: First Chinese Banks
Now it's time for another round-up of "new games left open on tabs in Eric's browser for months", with titles featured here dating to January 2021:

• In early 2021, Chinese publisher Jing Studio ran a Kickstarter campaign for an English-language edition of Pingyao: First Chinese Banks, a game for 1-4 players from designer Wu Shuang that had debuted in 2017.

Here's an overview of the design, which is being co-published with Board Game Rookie and is due out in Q4 2021:
Quote:
During the Qing Dynasty, a time before coal-powered travel, citizens of Pingyao relied primarily on camels to cross through deserts, wilderness, plains, and cities to trade wealth and goods. The nation was divided, unable to operate an efficient economy. A national agency of bankers was established as a means to connect all of China. With a network of banking created, wealth began to accumulate, and the city of Pingyao became the financial heart of China.

Pingyao: First Chinese Banks is an economic dice-as-workers placement game in which players assume the role of famous Jin merchants in the Qing Dynasty. During the blossoming age of banking, players expand from Pingyao to open agencies across China, offering remittance services to businessmen in order to earn profits. The goal of the game is to build up money over eight rounds and be the wealthiest player by game's end.

Throughout the game, players must recruit reliable managers to oversee their agencies, which can grant powerful abilities. With cash in hand, players may deposit their earnings to gain interest or offer loans in exchange for government favors and fame.

Pingyao: First Chinese Banks also includes a solo mode in which you are challenged by a series of quests.
Board Game: Cat's Tsukiji
Cat's Tsukiji from Benjamin Leung and Homosapiens Lab is a tiny game from December 2020 in which each of the 2-6 players dons a cloth cat paw on one of their fingers.

During a round, on the count of 3 you all simultaneously point to the fish card on display that you want, and if you're the only player to point at a card, you take it; otherwise, you don't. Collect cards to score points, and whoever scores 6 points first wins.

Board Game: Cat's Tsukiji
Cat paws!

• A more recent title from Homosapiens Lab and designer Chen Chih-Fan is Mandora Fever, about which I know nothing other than what's depicted here. I can tell you, however, that a "mandora" is a cross of mandarin and orange grown on Cyprus. Now you know what I know.

Board Game: Mandora Fever

• Designer Tony Chen of Monsoon Publishing debuted in 2017 with two titles — Iberian Rails and Warriors of Jogu: Feint — and in February 2021 he noted that "we are almost ready to release the next five factions" for Warriors of Jogu. Aside from that, he's been working on a heavy Eurogame design titled "Quemoy" that he described in November 2020 as "One island, four workers, and many buildings."

Perhaps you can decipher some of the game from this image:

• We'll close with Rolling Dice, a 2-6 player dexterity game from Peter Wichmann, Karl-Heinz Schmiel, Albrecht Werstein, Klaus Zoch, and German publisher ABACUSSPIELE.

I'm a bit surprised not to have heard anything about this title yet, but I suspect that's due to events like Spielwarenmesse being cancelled. Otherwise we'd have video to share of lots of dice-chucking action. In any case, here's an overview of the gameplay:
Quote:
In Rolling Dice, the interior of the game box becomes a dice arena, with a cardboard ice floe stuck in place to give you a spot upon which to land your dice and one side of the box removed to make it easier to roll your dice.

Each round in the game, you roll three or four dice onto the ice floe. If you rolled four dice, then you choose one die to leave on the floe, removing the other three dice from play. If you rolled three dice — because one of your dice was on the ice floe from a previous round — then you must choose a just-rolled die that has a higher number than your previously-placed die or a just-rolled die that has gone farther on the ice floe than your previously-placed die. If you throw all your dice too hard and land in the "water" around the ice floe or you fail to roll higher or farther than a previously-placed die, then you place one die as a penalty on an ice block to the side of the board.

Board Game: Rolling Dice

Once all players have rolled in a round, whether with three dice or four, players score. Whoever has a die on the ice floe scores points equal to the sum of the pips showing on their die AND all the pips showing on dice that didn't go as far on the ice floe AND all the pips showing on dice out of play on ice blocks. Score bonus points if you're on a fish net and lose points if you're on an ice hole. (If you have a die on an ice block, you do not score this round.) Thus, the farther you roll on the ice floe, the greater your scoring potential — not to mention the potential of landing in the water.

After scoring, start a new round beginning with whoever was first to place a die on an ice block, with all players once again rolling either three or four dice. The game ends the round that a player reaches or exceeds a certain point threshold, then the player with the most points wins.
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Sat Apr 24, 2021 1:00 pm
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Manipulate Trajectories to Nab Targets, Prepare for Epic Sieges, and Survive The Battle of the Bulge

Candice Harris
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Board Game: The Deadly Woods: The Battle of the Bulge
• U.S.-based publisher Revolution Games recently released The Deadly Woods: The Battle of the Bulge from award-winning designer Ted S. Raicer, who's most well known for his grandiose World War I hit Paths of Glory from GMT Games.

The Deadly Woods is a campaign game that immerses 1-2 players in the action of the Battle of the Bulge from December 16, 1944 to January 15, 1945 using a chit-pull system similar to games from Raicer's "Dark" series he designed for GMT games. While The Deadly Woods was designed for two players, the chit-pull system makes the game solitaire friendly. Here's a detailed overview from the publisher of what you can expect from the gameplay:
Quote:
In December 1944, Hitler launched a massive offensive against the weakly held Ardennes forest section of the Allied front in Belgium. Achieving complete surprise, the Germans nevertheless faced tough resistance from the battle's opening days, and the offensive was virtually over ten days after it began. There followed a bloody Allied counterattack which gradually erased the bulge the Germans had created in the Allied line.

But you probably know all that. Yet another Battle of the Bulge game? Why yes. But one with a different approach. Specifically, award-winning designer Ted S. Raicer has taken a modified version of the chit pull system pioneered in GMT's The Dark Valley: The East Front 1941-45 and brought it west for an exciting new take on this classic wargame subject.

The scale of the map (which takes up about two-thirds of a standard 22" by 34" map sheet, the rest given to tracks, charts and tables) is at 3 miles to the hex. Allied units are mostly regiments and brigades, with most German armor and infantry divisions divided into two kampfgruppen (battle groups), German artillery, Greif commando teams, infantry trucks, and the Von der Heydte paratroop unit are included as Asset markers, as are Allied artillery, scratch units, and engineers.

The game runs from December 16, 1944 to January 16, 1945 when the Allies reunited their divided front by recapturing the key town of Houffalize. Each turn through December 31st equals two days, and the turns in January are three days long. The full campaign lasts thirteen turns, while a scenario for just the German offensive is six turns long. But with The Deadly Woods' chit system and its multiple Action Rounds, a lot can happen in only six turns.

Board Game: The Deadly Woods: The Battle of the Bulge
Photo of components posted by the publisher

Each side gets a number of Action Chits each turn, which vary both in number and type. These include multiple Reinforcement chits which determine the arrival Round (but not Turn) of Allied and German reinforcements. There are German Logistics Chits which introduce historical supply effects. There are Movement or Combat chits which allow a player to choose. There are also Movement chits and Combat chits which limit the Active Player to the capability listed on the chit. And there are special chits, such as the German 5th Panzer and Allied Patton chits that allow some combination of Movement and Combat.

After the Initiative Player chooses the first chit played, the remaining chits are drawn randomly from a cup. A player may draw up to two consecutive chits and then enemy player must get the next chit.

Armor is severely limited in moving through other units along roads and bridges and at projecting ZOC into woods terrain. Combat may result in losses, retreats, surrender, or stalemate.

Each turn should take roughly an hour for players who know the rules. The German Player can win an instant victory by exiting units off the north map edge west of the Meuse or by holding five objectives at the end of a turn. Otherwise the game is won on geographic Victory Points. (The Germans also gets Victory Points for crossing the Meuse in supply, even if they are forced back across the river, so they have a reason to push even when the arrival of the British makes an Instant Victory impossible.)
Board Game: Atlantic Chase
Atlantic Chase is a refreshing, new release available from designer Jeremy "Jerry" White and GMT Games. Atlantic Chase is a nautical, World War II game that can be played with 1-2 players in 30-120 minutes depending on the scenario. It uses unique mechanisms and a fresh perspective as players are removed from the battlefield and are challenged with making decisions based on information from various task forces.

Here's the lowdown as described by the publisher:
Quote:
Atlantic Chase simulates the naval campaigns fought in the North Atlantic between the surface fleets of the Royal Navy and the Kriegsmarine between 1939 and 1942. It utilizes a system of trajectories to model the fog of war that bedeviled the commands during this period. Just as the pins and strings adorning Churchill's wall represented the course of the ships underway, players arrange trajectory lines across the shared game board, each line representing a task force's path of travel. Without resorting to dummy blocks, hidden movement, or a double-blind system requiring a referee or computer, players experience the uncertainty endemic to this period of naval warfare.
A good friend of mine who's also been getting into wargames hipped me to Atlantic Chase. In true "board game enabler" fashion, he got me hype, then my interest got him hype, and we both ended up buying copies. The stars aligned, and we received our copies on the same day, and we've been geeking out and learning it in parallel so that we can play some scenarios together soon.

From gallery of candidrum
Working through tutorials in between chores last weekend

Atlantic Chase comes with excellent components and documentation: a thorough rulebook with tons of examples, a tutorial book that eases you into the mechanisms, player aids, and beefy two-player and solitaire scenario books and more. I am a little past midway through the tutorial book and have been finding Atlantic Chase to be super interesting already.

Bear in mind, I have no prior experience with any nautical WWII games, but Atlantic Chase already just feels way different than any type of game I've played to date. My only complaint is that I haven't had enough spare time to finish the tutorials and try one of the real-deal scenarios (which I'm very excited about). However, I'm finding the learning process alone to be enjoyable, engaging, and challenging. I can't wait to dive deeper in Atlantic Chase.

Board Game: 1759:  The Siege of Quebec
Worthington Publishing announced a Kickstarter campaign launching on April 24, 2021 for its Great Sieges series three-game bundle, which includes Dan Fournie's 414BC: The Siege of Syracuse, Maurice Suckling's 1565: The Siege of Malta, and the new, second edition of Mike Wylie's 1759: Siege of Quebec.

The Great Sieges game series highlights command decisions for players against a solitaire game engine opponent with easy set-up and quick gameplay. All three games use a common set of rules for gameplay, but each game has its own set of unique rules related to specifics of those individual sieges. While each game was developed for solitaire play, 414BC: Siege of Syracuse and 1759: Siege of Quebec can also be played with two players.

1759: Siege of Quebec is the first in Worthington's Great Sieges game series, originally released in 2018, and was developed for solitaire play in which players can play as either the French or the British, against the solitaire player game engine, or with two players. The second edition features new artwork for the game board and cards, updated components and rules, in addition to new rules and game pieces for artillery.

Here's a brief look at how the two newest additions to the Great Sieges series play as described by the publisher:

Quote:
In 414BC: The Siege of Syracuse, gameplay is centered around using Field Commands to issue orders by the Athenian and Syracusan commanders to defeat each other, while in 1565: The Siege of Malta the gameplay is similar, but with you now giving orders to either the Turks or the Knights of Maltese. In both games, either side can be defeated by their morale falling too low. The games allow you to play either side against a solitaire opponent that has three levels of difficulty.

To play, pick the side you want to be, then shuffle the solitaire card deck for your opponent. The card mix used by the solitaire opponent differs from game to game, so no two games play alike.

Board Game: 414BC Siege of Syracuse

Each commander (solitaire or player) can issue one order per game turn from their Commands available. Your order is carried out based on your strategy and current situation faced. Your choice can cause multiple actions and reactions with results that cause troop eliminations, morale reductions, and events to occur.

Any time one side's morale reaches zero during a turn, the other side wins the game.
Board Game: 1565 Siege of Malta
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Fri Apr 23, 2021 1:00 pm
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