In the midst of the past year's quarantine-hibernation, while many of us had our faces glued to screens immersed in online board gaming, some folks were keeping busy working on getting new expansions onto our tables in 2021.
• In 2019, Capstone Games released a lot of heavy hitters, including Ryan Courtney's Pipeline, which has an upcoming first expansion, Pipeline: Emerging Markets, available for pre-order targeted for release in August 2021.Quote:The success of your company is opening up new markets full of opportunities! With your expertise and logistical innovations over the last three years, the refinement requirements of this new era are even more demanding. With the emergence of new markets, new technologies and innovations have become available for your business to utilize. Additionally, these emerging markets have brought about new ways of evaluating your business. Will you take advantage of the new ways to exploit the markets or will your business fall to ruin in this everchanging world?• Alexander Pfister's Maracaibo was another big hit in 2019 for Capstone Games — not to mention originating publisher Game's Up — and that game also has an exciting new expansion on the horizon: The Uprising.
I'm particularly hype for The Uprising based on the brief description below from the publisher and considering how much I love all of Pfister's games, especially the heavier ones. Here's what's coming:Quote:The first big expansion of Maracaibo features several modules and scenarios, e.g., pushing the predominant nations out of the Caribbean (in competitive or co-operative mode). Other elements are asymmetrical player abilities, a new optional story, legacy tiles, and new project cards. Solo fans will encounter a new rival ("Jacque").
Stonemaier Games announced Between Two Castles: Secrets & Soirees Expansion, the upcoming first expansion for the tile-drafting, castle-building game Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig from designers Matthew O'Malley and Ben Rosset, with this expansion being available for pre-order on May 26, 2021. What does this add to the game?Quote:The king is throwing a party and inviting all the neighbors! This expansion to Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig expands the game up to eight players with two new room types (activity and secret rooms), a new specialty room type (ballrooms), more bonus cards, and a new throne room.• In 2019, German publisher Funtails released Glen More II: Chronicles, a sequel to Matthias Cramer's 2010 classic Glen More that introduced new mechanisms and gameplay elements to the base game with eight chronicles. A new expansion, Glen More II: Highland Games, designed by Matthias Cramer, Rüdiger Dorn, Jonny Pac, Morten Monrad Pedersen, and David J. Studley adds three new chronicles and a solo mode to give new and old Glen More fans more variety and options to explore.
Would you rather party alone? This box also includes an Automa solo mode for the base game and the expansion, as well as optional rules for a new mode of play for 2-8 players in which you build your own castle instead of sharing one with your neighbors.
Ecos: New Horizon is a new expansion available from John D. Clair and Alderac Entertainment Group for Clair's 2019 release Ecos: First Continent, a game in which 2-6 players collaboratively mold the planet with simultaneous gameplay.
Here's what the New Horizon expansion adds to Ecos:Quote:Now your expanding continent can include iconic landscape features! Add Kilimanjaro, the Sahara, Serengeti, and others to your developing world. And of course, there are more animals to increase the population of your ecosystem, from Nile Crocodiles to herds of Zebra.
New Horizon introduces a new type of card mechanism to play these landscape features, and each interacts with the landscape in a unique way that will affect all players' choices throughout the game. Can your plans withstand the creeping expansion of the Sahara or benefit from the deep jungle of the Congo Basin?
To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Archive for Candice Harris
14 May 2021
- [+] Dice rolls
In April 2021, I posted an overview and my initial impressions of The Shores of Tripoli, a 1-2 player entry-level, card-driven wargame on the First Barbary War from designer Kevin Bertram and publisher Fort Circle Games. I recently had the pleasure of checking out 300: Earth & Water, yet another fun, light-weight, quick-playing card-driven wargame for two players. This time, instead of pirate naval battles in the early 19th century, we jump further back in time to 449 BCE for a taste of the Greco-Persian Wars.
300: Greco-Persian Wars was released from designer Yasushi Nakaguro under his self-published brand Bonsai Games. In 2021, Nuts! Publishing, who kindly provided me a review copy, is releasing French and English editions opf the design with the updated title 300: Earth & Water, which is currently available for retail pre-order, targeted for release in May 2021. In addition, German and Italian editions are coming from publishers Schwerkraft-Verlag and Ergo Ludo Editions, respectively.
In 300: Earth & Water, two players duke it out in a strategic, area-control battle in the Greco-Persian Wars, which lasted fifty years from the Ionian Revolt in 499 BCE to the Peace of Callias around 449 BCE. One player represents the Greeks (red) gathered around the Athenians, and the other controls the Persians, fighting for the hegemony of the eastern Mediterranean. Regardless of which side you play, your goal is to control more cities than your opponents.
Set-up for 300: Earth & Water is quick and simple. You place a few wooden cubes (armies) and discs (fleets) on the game board for both the Persian (blue) and Greek (red) armies, shuffle the deck of 16 event cards, and place black markers on the campaign and score tracks and then you're ready to go.Game set-up
The game board is a map showing Greece and a portion of Asia Minor at the time of the Greco-Persian Wars. On the map, you'll find cities connected by roads, with some cities having ports represented by a circle with wavy lines. Each city has amphorae icons to represent the number of armies you can feed if you control the city. The Greeks and the Persians each have two major cities: Athenai and Sparta for the Greeks, and Ephesos and Abydos for the Persians.
During the fifty years of the Greco-Persian Wars, Persia launched three campaigns against Greece, but in 300: Earth & Water, the Persians can launch up to five campaigns during a game. The game ends if a player achieves an automatic victory or when five campaigns have been completed.
Each campaign is split into four phases:
---(1) Preparation: Acquire cards, and deploy armies and fleets.
---(2) Operation: Play cards to trigger events, move, and battle each other.
---(3) Supply: Supply armies and discard down to your card carryover limit.
---(4) Scoring: Count the number of cities you control to determine which player scores for the campaign.
Once the scoring phase is complete, the campaign ends and the next one begins unless you've finished the fifth (final) campaign.
Starting with the Persian player, first you choose how many cards you want to purchase, then draw your cards from the deck, and read the effects to see whether the campaign is terminated by the sudden death of the Persian King via the Persian event card "Sudden Death of the Great King". When this happens, the Persian player shuffles all the cards in their hand with the discard pile to form a new draw pile, then launches a new campaign.
Assuming the Persian King doesn't unexpectedly die, the Persian player will continue their Preparation phase by purchasing and placing armies and fleets out on the map in areas they control. Cards and armies cost 1 talent each, but fleets cost 2 talents for the Persians The Persian player can also alternatively spend 6 talents to build the pontoon bridge across the Hellespont to connect the road between Abydos and Pella for improving their land movement options.
After the Persian player finishes preparing, the Greek player follows in a similar fashion, first deciding how many cards they want to purchase, drawing cards, then purchasing and placing armies and fleets. Not only does the Greek player have fewer talents to spend each Preparation phase, but they also start the game with only 6 armies and 3 fleets in their reserve compared to the Persians having 20 armies and 5 fleets in their reserve. This can appear a tad daunting for the Greek player, but the Greeks have a better starting position on the map and are better at combat to balance things out.
There are no limits to the number of armies players can place each Preparation phase, but both players can acquire only a max of six cards and two fleets per campaign. After the Greek player prepares, it's time to jump into the Operation phase.
The Operation phase is where most of the action unfolds in 300: Earth & Water. Players alternate taking turns to move their armies and fleets, attack opponent armies and fleets, and capture enemy cities. Starting with the Persian player, you can either play a card to trigger the event, discard a card for movement, or you can pass. If you're out of cards, you have to pass. The Operation phase ends once both players pass successively.
Each card has an event for the Greek player on the top, and an event for the Persian player on the bottom. When you play a card for an event, you simply follow the instructions on the card for your particular faction. Then you discard the card face up on the discard pile. Here are a few examples of the event cards:
While there are only 16 cards in the deck, it is a shared deck and each game can play out very differently depending on which combination of cards each player has on a given campaign/round. When you're budgeting in the Preparation phase, you have to decide how many cards to buy versus spending talents to build up your forces on the board. As great as it is to have a lot of cards from which to choose, is it worth the sacrifice of having fewer units on the board, leaving yourself vulnerable to attacks and poorly positioned for capturing cities? Alternatively, there are advantages and disadvantages to placing a ton of armies on the board, and buying fewer cards considering you can't take any actions when you run out of cards. This is all to say that there can be a surprisingly, impressive amount of variation of gameplay with this slim 16-card deck since the number of cards you draw and play each round will not always be the same.
If you don't want to or can't play an event on one of your cards, you can discard a card for land or naval movement. For land movement, choose a city occupied by your armies and move one or more of those armies along a road to a different city. You can move as far as you'd like, but your armies must stop when they enter a city that does not contain any armies (from either side) or when they enter a city occupied by an enemy army. If the city is occupied by an enemy army, you immediately engage in a land battle.
Once you determine the winner of the round, the loser removes one army, returning it to their reserve where it can be deployed again during the next campaign. If the players tie, meaning their highest dice are the same, both players remove an army. At this point, if there are remaining armies from both sides, players have the option to retreat, starting with the attacker. If not, you start another round of battle until only one side's armies are present in the city.
You can also discard a card to move fleets from one port to another, which can initiate naval combat in a similar way to land movement initiating land combat. When moving fleets, if your armies are in a port city, each fleet there can carry one army up to a maximum of three armies. If enemy fleets are in the destination port, naval combat ensues. Once naval combat is resolved (the same way as land combat), if the attacker wins and is transporting armies, the armies are placed in the corresponding city. If any enemy armies occupy the city, you immediately resolve land combat.
Players alternate turns, playing cards as events, discarding cards to move and attack with armies and fleets, and passing. Once both players have passed consecutively, the Supply phase begins starting with the Persians. who discard any remaining cards, optionally holding onto one card to start the next campaign. If they do, they'll be limited to 10 talents to spend in the next campaign Preparation phase instead of the usual 12.
Next you check for military attrition for the Persian armies by comparing the amount of amphorae (food) in the cities under Persian control (not including the major cities) to the number of Persian armies on the map. If the amount of armies exceeds the amount of amphorae, excess armies are removed. Each city on the map has 1-3 amphorae (food) icons.
As the final step in the Supply phase, you check your lines of communication. Your armies must have a line of communication with one of your major cities. If a city containing your armies doesn't have a line of communication, those armies are removed unless its port has at least one of your fleets since it's considered to have maritime supply. After the Persians supply, the Greeks do the same, except they can hold up to four cards in hand to start the next campaign. After the Greeks supply, players proceed to the Scoring phase.
In the Scoring phase, both players count the points from cities they control to determine their score the current campaign. Each controlled city gives you 1 point, or 2 points if it's a major city. Take the difference of both players' scores and advance the scoring marker that many spaces in favor of the side that scored the most points. If either side has lost control of both their major cities — meaning your opponent controls them — the game immediately ends. Otherwise, advance the campaign marker to start the next campaign.
In the example below, the Greek player controls three cities, plus two major cities for a total of 7 points. The Persian player controls four cities, plus two major cities for a total of 8 points. Since the difference is 1 point in favor of the Persians, the score marker advances 1 space toward the Persian side.
The game ends at the end of the fifth campaign — and the player with the scoring advantage wins — or if either player achieves an automatic victory by having control of both of their opponent's major cities during a scoring phase.
300: Earth & Water surprised me quite a bit. It sounded cool when I read the high-level description of it, and considering I love CDGs, I suspected it would be right up my alley — but I wasn't expecting to have so many fun and tense "Ohhhhhh!" moments, and outbursts of laughter from enjoying it so much.
It's light enough that you can teach it to just about anyone, gamers and non-gamers alike. Plus, it's fast and easy to set up and quick to play, with games lasting only about 30-45 minutes. It's one that's really great to play back-to-back games switching sides to mix it up. Don't let the lightness fool you though, there's plenty of strategic options packed in this relatively small box.
With roads and ports, armies and fleets, there are tons of different ways you can approach trying to outwit your opponent and control cities when the Operation phase kicks off. Then you have you think about the different ways you can move your units around the board, plus having the Supply phase before Scoring gives you some options for trying to cut off your opponent's lines of communication so they have to remove armies before the Scoring phase.
When I first cracked open the rulebook, I thought, wow, that's a lot of words for a light game that plays in 30-40 minutes, but when I finished reading it, I found it to be thorough and clear overall. I appreciate that they included explanations of each event card in the game so you can learn the historical context behind the mechanisms, which gives it a more thematic feel when you play. Also, the back of the rulebook has additional info on the Greco-Persian wars, a book recommendation for learning more about these wars, plus cooking and music recommendations as well. I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've seen cooking and music recommendations in a board game rulebook, but I thought it was awesome since I love thematic music when playing games, and connecting thematic food is an added bonus.
The variety of events on the cards is great, too, and works well for keeping things interesting with only 16 cards. The leader events are juicy, but you have to sacrifice army cubes to play them, so there are interesting trade-offs to consider. Not to mention the fact that you'll usually want to play all the cards for the events, but if you do, you won't get as far positioning your units on the board, so it's often hard to choose between which cards to discard for movement versus which to use for the events.
I liked the effects of the Twilight Struggle scoring system, pushing the marker in the campaign winner's direction based on the difference in the area control/city scoring. It feels more tense each round having the scoring marker move only one way versus a scoring system in which both players gain points for their controlled cities every round.
Lastly, I enjoyed how 300: Earth & Water can be suspenseful at times. In one of my games, my friend Richard was ahead by 1 point as the Persians. During the Preparation phase of the fourth campaign, he opted to purchase and draw his maximum six cards to increase the odds of having the sudden death of a Persian King event trigger. He ended up drawing that event, so his entire hand was shuffled with the discard and draw piles to form a new draw pile. He kicked off the fifth campaign pulling the same stunt, drawing 6 cards. He got lucky and drew the "Sudden Death of the Great King" card again which immediately ended the campaign, and in that case, immediately ended the game with him winning! I won't go so easy on him next time.
If you're looking for a fun, entry-level, card-driven wargame or are interested in the Greco-Persian Wars, I recommend checking out 300: Earth & Water, especially now that it's more widely available. I'm certainly looking forward to playing it more!
- [+] Dice rolls
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:Quote: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.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.
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.
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.
Here's what you can expect from Quest, which boasts playing well with as few as four players:Quote: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.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.
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.
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.Bristol 1350 is the latest addition to Travis Hancock's Dark Cities series from his publishing company Facade Games.
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!
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...Quote: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!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.
- [+] Dice rolls
Manipulate Trajectories to Nab Targets, Prepare for Epic Sieges, and Survive The Battle of the Bulge
23 Apr 2021
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.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.
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.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.)
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.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.
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.
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.
- [+] Dice rolls
Washington DC-based publisher Fort Circle Games aims to create fun, easy to learn, historical board games and based on my experiences with its first release, The Shores of Tripoli, mission accomplished.
The Shores of Tripoli is a 1-2 player, card-driven, historical wargame designed by Kevin Bertram and released in 2020 that's based on the First Barbary War in which the United States and Sweden fought against the Barbary Pirates from 1801 to 1805.
Star Wars: Rebellion and Twilight Struggle. At that point I had never playtested a game, but I was very interested because 1) it was a new experience I was curious about, 2) I do indeed love Star Wars: Rebellion and Twilight Struggle so I was interested in playing any game that was inspired by them and played in under an hour (heck yeah!), and 3) at that time I had just started designing my own game, so I figured I could learn a thing or two.
Kevin emailed me all the files and I proceeded to print the map, cards, and rules. Sadly, I never got the opportunity to put it all together, learn the rules, and play it at the time — but I'm happy to report that I have finally played the game, thanks to Kevin sending me a copy of the finished product.
In The Shores of Tripoli, one player plays the American side with Sweden as allies while the other player plays the Tripolitan side representing pirates from four North African coastal regions: Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, and Tangier.
The Shores of Tripoli features asymmetric gameplay with each side having a unique deck of event cards, in addition to its own victory conditions, which are all based on historical events from the First Barbary War. Over the course of the game, players take turns playing event cards and taking actions to achieve one of their victory conditions before their opponent to win and end the game.
The American player can win the game either by forcing the Tripolitan player to sign a peace treaty favorable to the Americans or by capturing Tripoli for Hamet Qaramanli to take the throne. Both of these victory conditions are triggered by playing event cards: Treaty of Peace and Amity and Assault on Tripoli, respectively.
The Tripolitan player can win the game by forcing the U.S. into submitting to Tripolitania and paying tribute in one of three ways: 1) by raiding the U.S. to acquire twelve gold, 2) by sinking four American frigates, or 3) by eliminating Hamet's army. If neither player wins by the end of 1806 (the last round), the game ends in a draw.American gold the Tripolitan player will be eager to pirate raid
The game board features a vibrant map with nine harbors (color-coded circles) to show which areas are friendly to the U.S. (blue), controlled by Tripolitania (red), or potential allies to Tripolitania (orange). In addition five, lightly shaded patrol zones are adjacent to five of the harbors where American and Swedish frigates can patrol against corsairs (pirating ships) leaving corresponding harbors.Two-player game board set-up
Tiny wooden boats represent American gunboats (blue), Tripolitan corsairs (red), and allies of Tripolitania (orange). The larger wooden ships are American (blue), Swedish (yellow), and Tripolitan (red) frigates. Then you also have wooden cubes representing ground forces for Hamet's Army (blue and white) and Tripolitan infantry (red). Some of these pieces are placed on the board during set-up, but the majority are kept in the supply areas at the top of the board.
The Shores of Tripoli is played over six years, from 1801 to 1806, and each year is split into four seasons (turns), from spring to winter. At the start of a year, each player draws cards from their draw pile, then seasonal turns are played in which the American player takes a turn, then the Tripolitan player, then you advance the season marker. After playing the winter turn, the year is over and you advance the year marker to start the next year.
Each player has 27 cards: 21 event cards and 6 battle cards. The American player takes a turn first each season and can either play a card as an event, discard a card to move up to two frigates, or discard a card to build a gunboat in Malta. The Tripolitan player can play a card as an event, discard a card to pirate raid with corsairs from Tripoli, or discard a card to build a Tripolitan corsair in Tripoli.
The Shores of Tripoli is a card-driven game, so the event and battle cards are the heart of the game. Regardless of which side you're playing as, playing a card as an event works the same way, even though each side has different event cards. You simply play the card and resolve the event text, noting that some events have prerequisites that must be met before you can play them. After unique events are resolved, they are removed from the game, but common event cards are discarded and you might see them again later in the game.
The event cards vary but generally help players gain advantages for pushing towards their victory conditions. Here are a few examples of event cards:A Tripolitan eventAn American eventA Tripolitan eventAn American event
Core event cards are extra special and do not count towards your eight-card hand limit since they are placed face-up in front of you instead of being shuffled in your deck like the other cards. They can be played the same as the other event cards, but after playing core events, like the unique event cards, they are removed from the game, so you definitely want to time these powerful events well.
As the American player, core event cards are how you get the two Swedish frigates in the mix, create Hamet's Army to get ground forces on the map, and move up to a whopping eight frigates with the Thomas Jefferson event card!American core event cards
As the Tripolitan player, your core event cards allow you to move the two Tripolitan corsairs from the harbor of Gibraltar to Tripoli, do some epic pirate raiding, and beef up your forces in Tripoli in preparation for Hamet's Army potentially coming for you.Tripolitan core event cards
Outside of playing cards to resolve events, the American player can also discard a card to move up to two frigates or discard a card to build a gunboat in Malta. When moving frigates, you can move from any location(s) to any other location(s). If American frigates are moved to a harbor that has enemy ships, a naval battle commences and any gunboats from Malta can also be moved in to join the fight. If American frigates are moved to a harbor that doesn't contain any enemy ships, but the city has Tripolitan infantry, a naval bombardment commences.
As an example, if you are in naval combat with two frigates and you get hit twice, you can either sink a frigate assigning it both hits and leave the other frigate intact and undamaged, or you can let each frigate take a hit, damaging them both and placing them on the following year of the Year Turn Track. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Remember, if the Tripolitan player sinks four American frigates, they win the game.
In my first game, my friend Richard played it when he already had five corsairs in Tripoli, so he rolled seventeen dice. We both cracked up! Luckily the dice are smaller than normal d6s, so most people can fit them all in one hand.
In my most recent game, Matt had six corsairs and rolled a whopping eighteen dice! As you can see from the photo on the right, he was pretty unlucky with his eighteen red dice compared to the fourteen blue dice I rolled thanks to the Preble's Boys Take Aim battle card I played. I really enjoy dice combat, so I had a blast with it in The Shores of Tripoli, but I fully acknowledge it's not for everyone.
Naval bombardment is very similar except the Tripolitan infantry does not get to roll any dice and fight back. Each frigate rolls two dice and each gunboat rolls one die, once again hitting on 6s. Each hit eliminates a Tripolitan infantry. After naval bombardment, all American frigates and gunboats are moved to Malta.
Then there's also ground combat that occurs when the American player moves Hamet's Army to a city that has Tripolitan infantry. Unlike naval combat, ground combat lasts until one force has been eliminated, so it could be multiple rounds of combat.
First, the American player may bombard with any frigates and gunboats that have joined the attack. Similar to naval combat, players announce whether they'll play any battle cards, then roll dice. Each infantry rolls one die and once again, a roll of a 6 is a hit and anything else is a miss. Players allocate hits to their troops, then check to see whether either side has been eliminated.
If the Tripolitan forces in the city are eliminated, the Americans have captured the city. If that city happens to be Tripoli, the American player immediately wins the game. On the other hand, if the American ground forces are eliminated, the Tripolitan player immediately wins the game. In the rare case where both forces are eliminated on the same roll, it is also considered a Tripolitan victory.
When the Tripolitan player isn't playing cards as events, they can discard a card to build a Tripolitan corsair in Tripoli, or take the favored action of pirate raiding with the corsairs from Tripoli by discarding a card. Honestly, if you're the Tripolitan player, it's all about snatching up that gold. Of course, the American player probably won't make it too easy for you since they can park their frigates in the naval patrol zone and try to take down some of the Tripolitan corsairs beforehand via interception rolls.
At the start of years 1801-1804, you draw six cards from your deck and by 1804 you will have gone through your entire deck since you start the game with 24 cards in your deck. Consequently, at the start of 1805 you shuffle your discard pile, then draw six cards from your new draw pile. If no one has won by the end of 1805, you play one final round in which you draw all cards remaining in your deck, then discard to your eight-card hand limit. If no one has won the game by the end of 1806, the game ends as a draw.
The Shores of Tripoli also includes a solo mode in which you play as the American side against an AI opponent, the Tripolitan-bot (T-bot). The T-bot is set up with two rows of cards: the event card line and the battle card line with specific cards placed in a specific order.
As the American player, you draw cards and take turns the same way you do when playing a human opponent. When your turn is over, the T-bot takes its turn checking cards in the event card line in order to see whether an event card's requirements have been met. Starting with the first card, if the requirement has been met, the T-bot plays the event card for its turn. Otherwise, it continues on to the next event card and so on.
If none of the event cards from the event card line can be played, the T-bot does the Five Corsair Check (a solitaire-only card), and if at least five corsairs are in the harbor of Tripoli, the T-bot pirate raids. If not, the T-bot draws a card from its draw pile and acts based on the T-bot card play requirements listed on the back of the rulebook. Since the T-bot uses the normal Tripolitan event and battle cards, the solitaire card play requirements will dictate how the T-bot responds to each event card.
The good news is there aren't many additional rules involved for jumping into a solo game, but you will need to keep the solitaire card play requirements handy to understand how the event and battle cards work with the T-bot. It would've been nice if there was a way to play this solo with the human player playing the pirates versus a U.S.-bot, but considering how many solitaire games I have that are designed specifically for solo play, I suspect I'll mainly play The Shores of Tripoli with a human opponent over the T-bot.
Inspired by two of Bertram's all-time favorite games, Twilight Struggle and 1960: The Making of the President, The Shores of Tripoli is a really solid entry-level wargame that covers a rare historical topic, and it manages to do so in a streamlined and accessible way to easily engage players of any experience level. You can teach this game to just about anyone and be up and running in 10-15 minutes and play a full game in under an hour. Because it plays so quickly, you'll likely want to play back to back games and can even mix it up by switching sides.
In one of my games, I was down to two gold as the American player, and my opponent had corsairs in the orange allied regions and kept raiding me, but thankfully rolled poorly. I had to pull the trigger and play the Assault on Tripoli as otherwise I might've lost the game. Thankfully I was able to swoop in with a ton of frigates and infantry and won the game that way.
I found the more I got to know the cards, the more strategic and interesting the game got. The hand management decisions get deeper the more you know the cards, although I do wonder if it'll get samey after a while having only 27 cards per faction.
I also love when games have multiple victory conditions, and The Shores of Tripoli does it well for a game that is easy to get into because of the low complexity level. It's great to have options and some flexibility to choose and potentially change up your path to victory based on the cards you draw.
The Shores of Tripoli is a great first release from Fort Circle Games, and I'm glad I finally got to play it since I didn't get a chance to playtest it when it originally came my way. I'll keep my eyes peeled for upcoming releases from Kevin Bertram and Fort Circle Games...
- [+] Dice rolls
Battle for Supremacy in Medieval India, Survive in Malta, Race to Moscow, and Airdrop into the Last Hundred Yards
02 Apr 2021
GMT Games announced the kickoff of its new Irregular Conflicts Series and the upcoming first release in the series: Vijayanagara: The Deccan Empires of Medieval India, 1290-1398, by designers Cory Graham, Mathieu Johnson, Aman Matthews, and Saverio Spagnolie, with this title being a new addition to GMT's P500 pre-order system.
Vijayanagara sets 1-3 players in medieval Indian history, competing as asymmetric factions in 60-120 minutes as described by the publisher like this:Quote:Vijayanagara depicts the epic, century-long rise and fall of medieval kingdoms in India over two dynastic periods. With gameplay inspired by GMT's COIN system, players take on the asymmetric roles of the Delhi Sultanate, the Bahmani Kingdom, and the Vijayanagara Empire, navigating event cards and unique action menus as they contest to write themselves into medieval Indian history. Players will rally local amirs and rajas to their cause; construct epic temples, forts, and qasbahs; and battle for supremacy over the Deccan Plateau.COIN Series developer Jason Carr posted an excellent article with details on GMT's new Irregular Conflicts Series and it's worth checking out.
1. A sweeping, century-long narrative and numerous epic events.
2. Playtime ~90 minutes.
3. Three asymmetric factions with different strengths and abilities.
4. A fourth non-player faction (Mongols) operated by the Bahmani and Vijayanagara players.
5. A new battle-resolution system with strength-dependent risk mitigation.
Vijayanagara is intended for players new to asymmetric wargames and veteran COIN players alike. The factions have distinct capabilities, and each is faced with different strategic decisions, offering a very high degree of replayability. The game is streamlined; all player actions and most rules are visible on the table on player aids and cards.
Gameplay and turn order is organized around a deck of unique event cards. With each new card, factions have the option to carry out the event or to select from faction-specific commands and special decrees: commands such as the conscription of new troops, governing in tributary provinces, and migration to begin life anew, and decrees ranging from demanding tribute, conspiring with Delhi's governors to betray the Sultan, and forming new alliances with minor regional powers.
Worthington Publishing continues to rejuvenate older games from Victory Points Games' "States of Siege" series. I mentioned the upcoming releases of new, deluxe editions of John Welch's Keep Up The Fire! and Darin A. Leviloff's Soviet Dawn in a February 2021 post, and next on deck is Malta Besieged: 1940-1942 Deluxe Edition from designer Steve Carey, which is on Kickstarter until April 5, 2021 (KS link).
Here's an overview of this game that was originally released in 2011 and that plays in 75 minutes:Quote:Malta Besieged is a solitaire World War II game covering mid-1940 through 1942 in the often overlooked Battle for the Mediterranean. You are placed in the role of the Commonwealth Commander in the theater and must utilize every resource at your disposal to fend off unrelenting Axis attacks in order to ensure the survival of the island of Malta.Kickstarter campaign in November 2019, Waldek Gumienny's 1941: Race to Moscow from UK publisher PHALANX is available for retail pre-order.
Built upon the same States of Siege engine as the designer's previous 2010 Charles S. Roberts award-winning release We Must Tell the Emperor, Malta Besieged features both familiar and innovative gameplay. Supply was the key element in the Mediterranean Campaign, and so it is here as well. Players have to safely shepherd vulnerable convoys — and their valuable cargoes — in order to effectively wage war. With the ability to trade supply for extra actions at the most crucial moments, this places an additional emphasis on that precious resource and also creates extremely tense convoy battles which will resolve as the game progresses.
ULTRA is a crucial asset in the game, but beware of Axis counterintelligence! Spitfires can rule the skies, Gibraltar can block U-Boat advances, Operation Herkules is a constant threat, and Admiral Cunningham himself can intervene on occasion.Protoype deluxe edition box from Kickstarter
North Africa is not treated as a mere sideshow; indeed, the struggle with Rommel, the "Desert Fox", holds the ultimate key to victory...if Malta can hold out against the constant pressure. If a fortified Tobruk manages to stubbornly delay the vaunted Afrika Korps long enough, then General Montgomery and his battle-tested 8th Army can possibly make a final dash from El Alamein to capture Tripoli and secure a glorious triumph.
Raiding Axis supply lines to weaken Rommel's situation, scrambling Hurricanes to provide air support for inbound shipping, attacking the Italians early before the dreaded Luftwaffe arrives, requesting British Fleet escort for your individually named convoys, and maintaining the morale of a battered Malta are just some of the important decisions to be made throughout the game. Numerous theater-wide events such as The Fall of France, O'Connor's desert offensive, the daring raid on the Italian Fleet at Taranto, the Air Assault on Crete, the evacuation from Greece, the sinking of the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, and the Torch landings are all abstracted via card play and can have a significant impact on the overall conduct of the war.
1941: Race to Moscow reimplements Jaro Andruszkiewicz and Gumienny's 2014 release 1944: Race to the Rhine, in addition to being a prequel to it. In the game, 1-4 players compete to manage their logistics better than their opponents to get to Moscow. In more detail from the publisher:Quote:You lie in a cot, tossing and turning, trying to doze off after a 36-hour shift of non-stop hustle and bustle. Orchestrating the deployment of trains with 450 barrels of tank fuel to Proskurov as well as supervising the dispatch of two truck convoys to Odessa, loaded with ammo crates and food supplies, have taken a toll on your appearance. Your haggard, eye-bagged face has acquired yet another trait — a streak of gray hair on your left temple. And the news from Army Group Center, boasting that their tank divisions are already halfway there! Their quartermaster simply cannot be that good!Mike Denson's unique tactical two-player World War II game The Last Hundred Yards was released by GMT Games in 2019, and the series has expanded with its latest release in 2021: The Last Hundred Yards Vol. 2: Airborne Over Europe:
Your pondering whether it would be right to take a leave of absence is interrupted by a private carrying a message from headquarters: Your request for the additional supply of ammunition has been rejected. You dismiss the private with an angry snarl. What are you supposed to resupply the 6th and 17th army with now? Wheat and onions instead of bullets and grenades? You have to figure something out really soon as your comrades rely on your ingenuity. Your failure means their race to Moscow is over.
1941: Race to Moscow is a game of logistical resourcefulness as well as relentless competitiveness. You assume roles of quartermasters bound to enable your armies to advance eastward and reach their destination points before armies of your opponents do. The road to Moscow is not paved with roses, though. The sticky hell of mud that brings your tank charge to a halt, enemy forces whose defeat will cost you not only the last bullet left in your clip but also the last droplet of fuel left in your gas tank, tactical dilemmas and meticulous calculations of how to reroute the completely stuck railroads — all of this and much more awaits you on the plains and steppes of western Russia. Not to mention the unmistakable feeling of your nails bitten to the quick when your troops are just a hop, skip, and a jump from their destination and all of a sudden they run out of ammo...
Experience tough tactical decisions and take part in the most challenging race of logistics. Do not linger any more: Equip your troops wisely, pave ways for the most efficient supply chains, and prevent your armies from running on empty. Have a blitz on Moscow and have a blast by the hottest game of logistics ever!Quote:This second game in Mike Denson's Last Hundred Yards series includes two major campaigns featuring numerous missions covering small unit actions conducted by U.S. airborne forces in the Normandy and Market Garden operations....and if you're ready for even more, The Last Hundred Yards Vol. 3: The Solomon Islands is currently available for P500 pre-order at GMT, with this item offering new campaign missions in the jungle as described below by the publisher:
In the Operation Overlord campaign, follow the elements of the American 82nd and 101st Divisions beyond the Normandy beachheads. After being scattered over a large area in Normandy on the night of June 6th, they struggle to assemble and secure their objectives to support the advance of the American units landing at Utah Beach. Later missions feature them defending against the inevitable German reaction and counterattack. Follow Lt. Dick Winters as he leads his platoon in taking out the artillery battery at Brecourt Manor near Ste. Marie-du-Mont, then faces a counterattack from elements of Col. Von Der Heydte's 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment.
In the Operation Market Garden campaign, follow the 82nd Airborne Division after landing south of Nijmegen in the early afternoon hours of September 17th as they race to secure critical bridges over the Waal and Maas rivers, as well as those over the canal between them. Follow Lt. Foley and his men as they defend Devil's Hill against German counterattacks on the Eiesenborne Ridge Groesbeek Heights, a mere 2-3 miles from the German border.
While the 82nd lands around Nijmegen, the 101st Airborne Division lands north of Eindhoven and begins its own race to secure its assigned bridges over the river Dommel in Eindhoven, the Wilhelmina canal in Son and Best, and the bridges over the Zuid-Willemsvaart and river AA in Veghel. Experience the counterattack by the German Kampfgruppes Hüber and Walther as they cut the main highway near Veghel. It took two critical days of hard fighting for units of 101st Airborne and British XXX Corp to reopen the corridor.
This game will introduce airdrop and night rules, as well as new terrain to the series. Successfully landing airborne troops at night, assembling them from a dispersed condition, and advancing against unknown enemy resistance to secure your objectives will prove a thrilling challenge in this new game.
Note: This is a standalone game and does NOT require ownership of The Last Hundred Yards to be played.Quote:The third game in the Last Hundred Yards Series focuses on the vicious and brutal Solomons Campaign, including actions to control the islands of Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and New Georgia.
When you play the Solomon Islands Campaign missions, you will experience some of the fiercest small unit actions in the Pacific Theater. The game will focus on actions involving the 1st (The Old Breed) and 3rd (Fighting Third) Marine Divisions, as well as the Army's 25th Infantry Division — the unit that finally drove the Japanese off the island, earning them the nickname "Tropic Lightning".P500 cover (not final)
Take to the jungles of Guadalcanal with the 1st Marine Division as they begin the first ground offensive of the war. Landed onto Guadalcanal and with intermittent naval support as the struggle for naval supremacy raged offshore, the Marines fought tooth and nail to secure their small foothold around Henderson Airfield. They fought against Japanese Reinforcements coming from all over the South Pacific area. Engage in bitter jungle fighting with the 3rd Marine Division as they attempt to hold and expand the beachhead on Bougainville Island against the Imperial Japanese 6th Infantry Division.
Finally, serve with the 25th Infantry Division's famed 27th Regiment, the "Wolfhounds", as they try to reduce Japanese positions on Guadalcanal's Galloping Horse Ridge (an action that is portrayed in the movie "The Thin Red Line"). You will also fight with the Wolfhounds in the jungle around Munda Point for the airfield on New Georgia. Each of these actions involved tense jungle warfare and the routing out of fanatical Japanese units from hidden bunkers and pillboxes. You will understand the nerve-racking frustration of clearing an enemy position, only to have infiltrators attack you yet again from a different direction at night!
This volume introduces new weapons and terrain including flamethrowers, anti-tank halftracks, light and heavy jungle. Each mission will provide new challenges with different elements, forces, and situations encountered, making this volume an exciting and nail-biting addition to The Last Hundred Yard Series.
- [+] Dice rolls
Cole and Drew Wehrle from Wehrlegig Games to learn and play a couple turns of their upcoming 2022 release John Company: Second Edition, which is slated to launch on Kickstarter on March 30, 2021 (KS link). I walked away from that experience feeling many emotions, mostly excited. I knew the game was complex since I had a lot to process — even with expert/designer Cole teaching me — but it also had a smooth flow. I really enjoyed what I saw, and I found myself telling friends about it the next couple of days, getting more and more excited the more I talked about it. Again, my mind was still processing because John Company is quite different from any game I've ever played, though it shared a few similar elements to many games I love.
Cole kindly hooked me up with the rulebook, which was helpful to read to solidify what I learned from playing those fun, few turns with Drew and Cole. Eventually I reached out to Cole to get access to the latest Tabletop Simulator (TTS) mod for John Company 2E so that I could further explore the game and play it with friends.
John Company, which was originally released by Sierra Madre Games. In John Company, 1-6 players take on the roles of hustling families in the 18th century who are using the British East India Company to gain more wealth and prestige than the other families within the Company. Here's a high-level overview from Wehrle:Quote:John Company begins in the early eighteenth-century, when the Company has a weak foothold on the subcontinent. Over the course of the game, the Company might grow into the most powerful and insidious corporation in the world or collapse under the weight of its own ambition.
John Company is a game about state-sponsored trade monopoly. Unlike most economic games, players often do not control their own firms. Instead, they will collectively guide the Company by securing positions of power, attempting to steer the Company's fate in ways that benefit their own interests. However, the Company is an unwieldy thing. It is difficult to do anything alone, and players will often need to negotiate with one another. In John Company, most everything is up for negotiation.
Ultimately, this game isn't about wealth; it's about reputation. Each turn, some of your family members may retire from their Company positions, giving them the opportunity establish estates. Critically, players do not have full control over when these retirements happen. You will often need to borrow money from other players to make the best use for a chance of retirement. Players also gain victory points by competing in the London Season for prestige and securing fashionable properties.
John Company engages very seriously with its theme. It is meant as a frank portrait of an institution that was as dysfunctional as it was influential. Accordingly, the game wrestles many of the key themes of imperialism and globalization in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and how those developments were felt domestically. As such, this game might not be suitable for all players. Please make sure everyone in your group consents to this exploration before playing.
The second edition is extensively revised and is not a reprint.John Company: Second Edition game board (not final) posted by Cole Wehrle
In more detail, John Company: Second Edition is played over a series of turns (rounds), and the game ends after a certain number of turns based on the scenario you choose to play, or it can end sooner if the Company fails from taking on too much debt or if the Company Standing crumbles. In either case, after a final scoring phase, the player with the most victory points wins.
Before you start a game, you choose a scenario and set up the game board according to the chosen scenario card. Each player takes a player board and components for their family and draws set-up cards that show your family's starting office positions, cash, deeds, shares, etc. In your first game, it's recommended to draw these set-up cards randomly, but once you're familiar with the game, you'll most certainly want to draft the set-up cards.
In a game with my friends, one player ended up starting the game as the Chairman and the Director of Trade which gave him a lot of power, and I'm sure that would've been avoided had we drafted the set-up cards.
During each turn, you play through ten phases; these phases are listed on the game board in a logical way, which helps an otherwise complex game flow smoothly. I like that all the phases are clearly laid out on the board versus having individual player aids. This keeps everyone engaged and focused on the game together, which leads to some fun player interaction. Plus, with the board layout, I dig that you can give a high-level overview of the game, then just jump into it, teaching as you go because of the flow of the game phases.
If any of your family members did retire this turn, you can choose a prize on the left side of the board, pay its cost, place your retired family member on the appropriate space, and gain any victory points noted on the corresponding prize.
Retiring family members is one of the key ways to gain victory points in John Company. On one hand, you are losing your position, which might end up going to a different family (one of your opponents), but on the other hand, you're scoring points and gaining the ability to draft prestige cards.
After players have retired their family members on prize spaces, they get to draft prestige cards starting with the player who spent the most total cash on retirements this turn. The prestige card deck has a mix of regular and secret prestige cards shuffled together, and three cards are available to be drafted. Regular prestige cards will be placed face-up, whereas secret prestige cards are always face-down and can be peeked at when drafting.
Prestige cards come in a variety of flavors. There are spouses that increase your family's prestige, which comes in handy during endgame scoring, and some come with inheritances that allow you to discard them for money during the game. There are also enterprises that offer special powers, blackmails with one-time effects, and hidden interests that can potentially get you some extra points at the end of the game.
Since only three cards are available, with more than three players, not everyone who retires will get one. Also, retiring for victory points isn't cheap and comes with an upkeep cost that you need to pay each turn or you lose the points since your family member would go back to your supply. As you can imagine, the decision of how much to spend on retirement is rarely an easy choice.
II. During the Family Phase, you gain one or two children from your supply depending on the round. On your turn, you can enlist a child as an officer-in-training for the military or as a writer in one of the three administrative zones, known as presidencies (Bombay, Madras or Bengal). You can also pay to send your children to the Stock Exchange, which will eventually convert into a share in the Company, or you can return a child to your supply and purchase a deed.
There are shipyard deeds which cost £3 and once they're fitted, they are crucial for trading in India to help the Company earn money at a later phase. There are also luxury deeds, which cost £6 and are worth 2 victory points each while you possess them, and workshop deeds for £2 to £6.
III. Next is the Firms phase, which only applies to certain scenarios if the company has been deregulated. I haven't tried any of the scenarios where firms apply, but it sounds like they'll add an interesting 18xx layer to the game in which players manage firms and can own shares in each others' firms. Once I have a better feel for the "Early Company 1710" scenario, I want to check out what Cole has cooked up for us firms-wise.
IV. In the Buy Stock phase, family members who are on the Stock Exchange track can move into and gain influence in the Court of Directors to become shares in the Company and clear some debt.
If the Company has no debt tokens and a family member is on the "5" space of the Stock Exchange track, that family member slides into the Court of Directors box and is now considered a share for the corresponding family. Otherwise, for each debt token on the Company Standing track, you'll move a family member into the Court of Directors, starting with the topmost space, and remove a debt token for each newly converted share. In either case, afterwards, slide all remaining family members up as far as possible on the Stock Exchange track.
V. The Hiring phase is also skipped on the first round since there won't be any vacant positions at the start of the game. On future turns, players will hire each open position. Each position has its own potential pool of candidates for hiring, and by default, you can't hire your own family member unless all players in the candidate pool agree that it's okay.
For example, if the Military Affairs position is open, the Chairman hires any Commander in a Presidential Army for this position. If there are none, they may hire any Officer, or, if none, any family member in the Officers-in-Training box.
VI. Next, each Company office operates in order following the red ribbon on the game board for the Company Operation phase, or what I like to call, the "greasing each other's palms" phase since you'll be in a position of needing money or favors from people, and/or people will need money or favors from you.
Since doing business in India is risky, most actions will require you to roll dice to do a success check. The number of dice you roll depends on the amount of resources (usually money) that you want to spend. Of all the dice you roll, you use the lowest number to determine the result of your success check: a 1 or 2 is a success, a 3 or 4 has no effect, and a 5 or 6 is considered a catastrophic failure and you lose your job!
The Chairman goes first in the Company Operation phase and can seek debt to increase the Company's balance, with the approval of at least half of the shares in the Court of Directors. Then the Chairman allocates all funds to the offices in the Company. If you're looking to boost your office's treasury, you might want to butter up the Chairman with a sweet deal here and there to get the cash you need.
The Director of Trade can perform a success check to open orders in a region on the map and make up to two transfers to move ships and/or writers. On the map are circles with numbers inside representing orders, and when they're closed and covered with a black discs, that means there's hostility towards the Company and those folks don't want to trade. Therefore, opening orders gives you more potential areas to trade to make more money for the Company. Since the Director of Trade can also shift some ships and/or writers, there lies another opportunity for players to sway, bribe, and negotiate to get the Director of Trade to move something in their favor.
The Military Affairs office can make up to two Army transfers. Then we move to the Presidency offices for Bombay, Madras and Bengal. For each presidency, Governors (if any), then the Commander, and then the President gets to take actions.
The Commanders can attempt to invade a region or open orders in their Presidency's home region or a Company-controlled region associated with their President. If an invasion succeeds, you'll put the corresponding Governor card in the Vacant Offices box for the next Hiring phase.
Meanwhile, Presidents can perform a success check to trade by placing writers in their office out on adjacent open order spaces starting from their home port. If you succeed, you can place one writer per ship in the corresponding sea zone. Then the Company increases its balance based on the orders filled, the President makes £1 for each order filled, and each player takes £1 from the bank for each of their writers you placed on an order.
I enjoy the semi-cooperative feeling of having different players control positions in different offices of the Company, with the understanding that it was usually mutually beneficial to do our best to make more money for the Company, in spite of our own personal motivations.
Additional offices will operate during this phase if they are in play from invasions and various laws being passed. Each office position comes with a card that not only makes it easy to tell who holds which position(s), but also lists the possible actions; on the opposite side, it shows how you hire for that particular position. This is super handy so that you don't need to scrounge through the rulebook as each office operates or during the Hiring phase.
VII. During the Bonuses phase, players may receive some small cash bonuses for their deeds in addition to any special bonuses associated with prestige cards or passed laws.
VIII. Next, in the Revenue phase the Company pays its expenses, the Chairman can pay dividends, and the Company adjusts its Standing. For expenses, the Company Balance is lowered by £1 for each fitted ship, each debt token on the Company Standing track, and each officer and Commander in an Army.
After expenses are paid, the Chairman can pay out dividends to shareholders. Each dividend costs £1 per share in the Court of Directors and is paid by lowering the Company's Balance marker by that amount. Multiple dividends can be paid if the Company can afford it. Each player who has a share in the Court of Directors gains £1 for each of their shares. Then the Company Standing is adjusted accordingly.
The Company's Standing raises one space to the right if two or more dividends were paid this turn, it lowers one space to the left if no dividends were paid, and then it also lowers one space to the left if any emergency loans were taken to cover expenses. This is another interesting effect that reminds me of 18xx. The Chairman could withhold from paying dividends selfishly if it'll give their opponents a cash advantage. Or if the Chairman is trying to intentionally make the Company fail, they can choose not to pay dividends to lower the Company's standing. If timed right, that decision can cause the game to end early depending on where the Company Standing is before this phase.
Actually, as you can see in the screenshot to the left, I (green) had no shares in the Court of Directors and also had a lead on the score track, so I might have been thinking about purposely trying to make the Company fail had we continued the game. Maybe Cole and Drew were intimidated by the Walsh family (me) and that's why we didn't finish the game? I'm totally kidding as they pretty much held my hand through the game as I was trying to process everything, but these are things you'll be thinking about when you play John Company, while also being suspicious of your opponents.
IX. During the Events in India phase, players roll the India die and resolve any storms and events in India. The map of India on the game board is divided into eight regions with three sea zones, and if any of the sea zones appears on the event die, that area is subject to storms and each player has to roll a die for each of their ships in the corresponding sea zone. On a 1 or 2 your ship is safe, on a 3 or 4 your ship flips to its fatigued side (or sinks if it was already fatigued), and a 5 or 6 immediately sinks your ship. If a ship is sunk, it's returned to its shipyard and will need to be fitted again to get back out to sea for trading.
In John Company: Second Edition, there's an elephant always lurking around the map of India representing the looming crisis India is always faced with, and it moves around the map depending on these events. Many of the events are triggered based on the elephant's position on the map, while other events will impact the location on the back of the top card of the event deck.
I quite like the event system and the bit of randomness it throws at players to simulate the instability the British East India Company was faced with in India. I found understanding the impacts of some of the events on the overall gameplay to be fairly challenging, but I think it's something that will click better after playing a full game.
X. In the final phase of the turn, Parliament Meets, the player with the Prime Minister card must select a law and bring it up for a vote. Twilight Imperium fans will feel right at home with this phase as it's reminiscent of the TI Agenda phase, but with its own twists.
First, there's a press-your-luck element when the Prime Minister draws law cards. Instead of just drawing one card and voting on it, you can reveal up to three law cards, then decide which to vote on. However, if at any point drawing, you reveal a dilemma card, you have to stop and that becomes the card you vote on.
Depending on the card you are voting on, the Prime Minister moves the marker on the Policy track, and if the law is passed, that particular policy space is resolved. Players can vote to pass or fail the law using cash from their family treasury or you can flip shipyard and workshop deeds to count as votes.
The law cards vary and can impact the game state in many ways. There's a law card that can add regiments to the Company's armies, which will make the armies stronger, but comes with an added expense. Other laws may open up new positions within the Company or help players earn more money. I haven't explored all the law cards yet, but the ones I've seen so far are interesting and can stir up debates and heated conversations in a good way.Law cards in TTS (non-final art and graphics)
At one point when I was Prime Minister, a dilemma law card came up which we were forced to vote on. If passed, it would've allowed me to fire the current Chairman, so we could re-hire the position on the next Hiring phase — but my friend who was the Chairman and I got into a vote-casting bidding war as I was trying to pass it, and he was trying to fail it. We both spent way too much money being stubborn, but I gave up sooner, so it failed and ended up lowering the Company Standing one space since that was the "if failed" effect of the dilemma and he held onto his Chairman position.
Not only that, but when a law fails, the person who cast the most votes against the law becomes the new Prime Minister — which made Mr. Chairman Director of Trade, and now Prime Minister, even more powerful!
After the law and any policy effects are resolved, the game state is cleaned up with a quick refresh and prepared for the next game turn. As mentioned earlier, the game end after a certain number of turns based on the scenario you play or if the Company fails. Then you'll do some final scoring, and whoever has the most victory points wins.
I love that just about everything is negotiable in John Company: Second Edition, so as you're going through the game phases each turn, if you don't have something you need, you can try to work out deals with your opponents to get it. Shares in the Company, your family's cash, deeds and even children can all be transferred to different players. Each player also has five promise cards — another nod to Twilight Imperium — which can also be used for negotiations.
I feel like I'm constantly on my toes questioning my opponents' motivations and it keeps the game engaging and tense. In addition, there are all these nice touches sprinkled throughout the game, like the period art and the fact that the families, spouses and ships have names on them. It sucks you into the history and theme. I don't think I'll ever forget the moment "Jubilee Paxton" took over the Bombay Presidency after the previous office holder completely failed on the only trade action that would've made the Company money that round.Tabletop Simulator game (non-final art and graphics)
Between the negotiation, dice rolling, and complexity, John Company: Second Edition won't be for everyone — but if you're intrigued by Pax Pamir: Second Edition and want to experience more of what's up Cole Wehrle's historical gaming sleeves, then I recommend checking out John Company: Second Edition. It will probably take new players a game or two (maybe more!) to fully grasp, but hopefully you'll enjoy the ride as I have and find that it's worth it.
From what I've experienced thus far, John Company: Second Edition has been a blast and as a whole, it's like nothing I've ever played before. It has a ton of layers that are individually not too hard to understand, but when you combine everything, there's a lot to wrap your head around...in a good way. It's challenging and quite fascinating, and I find myself thinking about it a lot. Perhaps what I love most is that it has the potential to create some epic gaming moments like Twilight Imperium, but in its own unique, historically-enriched way.
If anyone recalls, my first BGG News article announced the Kickstarter launch of Cole Wehrle's Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile from publisher Leder Games in January 2020. I'm sure it was obvious at that point that I was a bit of a Cole Wehrle fangirl.
Cole's games always feel different, and they fascinate me. While I love me some Root, I also thoroughly love and appreciate Pax Pamir: Second Edition because the game mechanisms are top notch and it also covers a historical topic with which I was not familiar. Cole's historical game designs are very hooky. They have this cool balance of being super fun and engaging with lots of player interaction, and at the same time, they make me want to dig into the history. John Company: Second Edition is no exception.
I cannot wait to get my hands on the finished version of John Company: Second Edition, but in the meantime, I'll have Oath soon enough to hold me over.
If you're interested in learning about the development of John Company: Second Edition, be sure to check out the designer diaries Cole posted: Designer Diary 1, Designer Diary 2, and Designer Diary 3.
- [+] Dice rolls
David Thompson has a knack for delivering a variety of excellent board games, whether on his own or when collaborating with a plethora of different designers. While some of his releases are gaining much deserved praise, such as War Chest from AEG and Undaunted: Normandy from Osprey Games, both which he co-designed with Trevor Benjamin, several other games he's worked on have remained under the radar.
In late 2020, I got hip to David Thompson's popular, solitaire wargames Pavlov's House and Castle Itter from Dan Verssen Games (DVG). When I saw DVG launched a Kickstarter campaign for Thompson's upcoming 2021 solitaire wargame Soldiers in Postmen's Uniforms, I had a treat yo'self moment and splurged to go all-in with the Valiant Defense series so that I could add all three of these solitaire wargame gems to my collection. Even though I was good to go, I couldn't help but notice the add-ons, which is the first time I saw For What Remains. I was curious, so naturally I looked it up on BGG and started rummaging YouTube for videos to see what it was all about.
For What Remains initially struck me as an interesting fusion of elements from War Chest and Undaunted: Normandy/Undaunted: North Africa, even though I could tell it was its own beast. It got me excited and I knew I wanted to try it out and let people know about it. It seemed like a game fans of War Chest or Undaunted: Normandy might dig, in addition to fans of skirmish games.
I emailed David who put me in contact with Sarah from DVG, and they graciously hooked me up with a copy of all three For What Remains games so that I could check them out.
For What Remains is a series of three tactical skirmish wargames for 1-2 players in a near future post-apocalyptic setting created by David Thompson with the help of his collaborators, Paul Low and Ricardo Tomas. For What Remains can be played two ways, either as standalone skirmish games or as a campaign with a series of skirmishes linked together to form a larger narrative. In either case, after setting it up, a single scenario plays in about 45-60 minutes.
Each of the three games in the series has its own flavor and narrative within the overall For What Remains storyline, and each game includes two unique factions each vying for control and survival in a post-apocalyptic setting that resulted from a nuclear weapon test that opened a gateway to an alternate dimension known as the Basement. Without spoiling the story, I'll just say...things got weird from there.
• In For What Remains: Streets of Ruin, you have the Freemen Coalition, a loose-knit band of human rebels who specialize in guerilla warfare up against the government military Combine, made of primarily mechs that rule over much of what's left of the world.
• In For What Remains: Blood on the Rails, you have the Echo, a group of humans with psychic powers led by a secretive cabalis rivaling the Soldiers of Light (SoL), some beasty-looking humans who can use mutated beasts and believe the fall of mankind was due to dependence on technology.
• The last in the series, For What Remains: Out of the Basement, includes the biologically developed creatures known as Erthen versus the Order of the New Dawn, which are creepier creatures from the strange subterranean realm, I mentioned above, the Basement.
Even though each game has its own factions and campaign, they are all cross-compatible with each other and have the same rules, so you can combine the components and factions of any of the games together.
When you set up a game of For What Remains, regardless of which particular game you're playing , each player chooses a faction to control, then you pick a scenario, either from the campaign book or one you've created.
Next, you create the battleground using a modular board set-up, which is one of the things that gives For What Remains a lot of replay value. Each game in the series comes with twelve different double-sided battleground mats that you use to create a 3x3 battleground each game. The campaign scenarios give you a specific battleground set-up to follow, but if you choose to create your own scenario, you alternate placing battleground mats with your opponent to create a custom set-up. In either case, the result is a 3x3 battleground with detailed artwork and clean graphic design ready for action.For What Remains: Streets of Ruin
Depending on the scenario you play, you will likely need to distribute some scavenge tokens (weapons, fuel, etc.) on the board; these are usually worth victory points if you can grab them and keep them in your possession during the game.
Next comes the character selection process, which I found to be the most exciting part of set-up in For What Remains. It's a nice balance of thinky, creative and suspenseful since you're carefully crafting your crew, but you don't know yet what your opponent's line-up will be.
Each game you'll decide on a certain amount of skirmish points to use to "shop" for characters within your chosen faction. Campaign scenarios tell you how many to use, but if you're creating your own scenario, the rulebook recommends ranging from 10 skirmish points (first game/low-level characters) to 30 if you're looking for a more epic experience.
Each of the six factions has five or six unique characters with varying strengths and special abilities that can come into play at one of three different experience levels: Recruit, Veteran or Elite. Each character has a reference card which shows their move (MOV), weapon range (WR), close combat (CC), ranged combat (RC), defense (DEF), and special abilities. In addition, each character has a value associated with its experience level that represents the amount of skirmish points you'll need to spend to purchase and use them for the game. Often more abilities are available the higher the experience level, but as you'd expect, it also costs more.
In the example below, the Death Vine (Erthen faction) would cost 2 skirmish points to bring in as a Recruit, 4 as a Veteran, and 6 as an Elite. Death Vine has a Camouflage and Constrict ability at all experience levels, but also has Hydro Merge if it's a Veteran or Elite.Death Vine reference card
Before you even hit the battleground, you have interesting decisions to make when selecting your characters. Do you want to have a smaller, but stronger, more skilled group or do you want to have more, but weaker characters, or perhaps somewhere in between? It's super fun to experiment with building your line-up before each game, but I'll warn you, it can definitely make your set-up time run a bit longer depending on how long you mull over these decisions. It never bothered me and my opponents since in all cases we were both taking a while to think things over, so it's not like one person was ever waiting on the other. We pretty much always got sucked in and enjoyed the character selection process.
The other cool thing is that each game comes with two versions of each character, so you can have up to two of the same character in a game. The character counters have a little designator icon on it to distinguish between the two versions.two versions of Psion (Echo faction)
After you've selected your characters, take character reference cards, counters, action tokens, and ability reference sheets. If you use Recruit-level characters, you use a single counter with an "R" on it, whereas if you use Veteran and Elite characters, you'll stack the lower level counters beneath the main one. This comes into play more when I tell you about getting injured in combat.
For What Remains also comes with nifty booklets for each faction with its backstory, artwork, and details on all of the characters and their special abilities.
The last thing you need to do for set-up is decide where your characters start on the battleground. Typically, you roll a die (d10) and whoever has the highest roll chooses a side and their opponent starts on the opposite side. Deciding where to place your characters also gives you a lot to think about, but I found it never took as long as choosing characters. Between this and the character selection process, you have a lot of interesting and tough choices to make before you even start the battle.
Each round is centered around a clever chit-pull system. Players select action tokens they want to use for the round and place them in a little black sack, which is the action bag. You have three action tokens per character that you keep face-down in your own supply so your opponent can't see them. These action tokens are what you use to determine which characters take actions. Both players secretly place a number of action tokens equal to the number of characters you have on the battleground into the action bag, so if you have four characters, you place four action tokens in the action bag.
Then you draw tokens from the bag, one at a time, and discard them face up to activate characters. When a character is activated with an action token, you can take one action with the activated character. You can move, attack an enemy with close or ranged combat, use a special ability, or pass/forfeit the action.
After all action tokens have been drawn, you recover any action tokens from the exhausted action token area, then place the newly discarded action tokens in the exhausted area. This means that the action tokens you most recently activated won't be available to you until after the next round. Also, the discarded and exhausted tokens are face up, so if you're paying attention you can plan accordingly.
Let's delve into actions a bit starting with movement. When you move a character, you move a number spaces (orthogonally or diagonally) equal to or less than their Move attribute. The battleground mats feature a variety of terrain types (difficult, water, elevated, and blocking) which are represented well graphically, so it's easy to differentiate them. Different terrain types will impact movement, e.g., you need to use 2 Move to enter difficult and water terrain.
When it comes to attacking, there's ranged combat and close combat, and in both cases, you'll be rolling d10s — which I find to be exciting and fun, but I know some people would feel the exact opposite about it. When you're adjacent to an enemy character, you can use close combat to attack. When you're further away, you can make ranged combat attacks at a distance equal to or less than your character's weapon range and if you have line of sight. Different terrain types can impact line of sight when attacking. The rulebook includes plenty of excellent, helpful examples for players to grasp and internalize the line of sight rules.
To fire an attack, you roll a number of dice equal to your ranged combat value or close combat value, and if at least one die rolled is higher than the target's defense value, the target is injured.
Each character counter has a healthy (front) or injured (back) state. Characters start healthy, so if they are hit from an attack, they flip over and become injured. Then, if they are hit again when injured, the character counter is removed from the game. Veteran and Elite characters start stacked (i.e., a Veteran counter is stacked on a Recruit counter, an Elite counter is stacked on Veteran and Recruit counters), so when they lose a counter, they level down and get weaker skillwise, but stay alive to fight another day.Abomination healthy (left), injured (right)
If you do lose a Recruit token, it can be brutal since that character is completely out of the game, which likely helps your opponent with their victory condition and it also reduces the number of action tokens you can put in the action bag since you use one per character on the board. Ouch! It's not the end of the world, though, as the game hooks you up with a consolation prize as a catch-up mechanism. Whenever a character is defeated, you gain access to a special one-time use faction action token that you can use to activate any character you wish when it's drawn from the action bag. The faction action token really comes in handy and gives you a lot of flexibility, especially when you're down a character.
Maybe you don't want to move or do a basic ol' ranged or close combat and seeking a slightly juicier action. Each character has special abilities you can also activate as an action. These abilities vary from character to character, so I'll mention a few examples. The Medic has a Medkit ability that can flip an adjacent allied human character counter or her own counter from injured to healthy. The Mindbender has a Telepathy ability that allows him to give an allied character within weapon range a free, immediate close combat, ranged combat, or move action. The Tempest has a Rubble Runner ability that lets him move through difficult terrain and water terrain with no increase to the Move cost.
There are also some characters, like Inferno, who have cool, special weapons. Inferno has a Flamethrower ability that it must use when making ranged combat attacks, and it makes its ranged combat attacks hit all space touching the Flamethrower template.Inferno's Flamethrower (Combine faction)
There are lots of unique abilities, along with some overlap here and there, where another character in a different faction might have a slightly similar ability. Nevertheless, the character special abilities add a lot of spice to the game and there's plenty of variety in the abilities and characters that is not only fun, but gives you lots of options strategically, and also adds to the replay value.
You continue playing round after round until one player wins the game by achieving the victory condition for the chosen scenario, or you can go with the default victory condition: first player to score 5 points or to defeat all enemy characters. You score a victory point for each scavenge token you possess and also for each character you defeat.
If you're interested in playing For What Remains solo, there's a fairly smooth AI activation system with three different difficulty levels. Each of the characters comes with an AI activation card that has orders you follow by rolling a die when it's activated. You randomly add a certain number of action tokens to the action bag for the AI faction based on the difficulty level. Unlike the regular rules, the AI action tokens are never exhausted, but instead, immediately shuffled back into the AI token supply after an AI character is activated. For skirmish games, I tend to prefer playing with a human opponent, but the solo system does work pretty well if that's your preference.
Regardless of whether you play solo or with two players, the campaign seems awesome for each game. There's a force roster chart for listing your characters, naming them, and tracking their progress throughout the campaign. After completing a scenario, you earn experience points equal to the number of skirmish points used in the scenario, and you can spend them to advance level-up your characters. Each campaign has five different scenarios, and you can dive into any of them, but if you want the full experience, you should play them in order, starting with Streets of Ruin, then moving to Blood on the Rails, and finishing with Out of the Basement.For What Remains: Streets of Ruin solo game
I mainly played one-off scenarios from each book, but I would definitely like to try a full campaign sometime. I'm impressed with all the love and detail that went into the story and artwork. There's so much narrative all over this game, and it really soaks you in the theme. Kudos to David Thompson, Paul Low, and Ricardo Tomas, who served as a creative lead on the campaign's story.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing all three For What Remains games. The factions and characters are super cool and different, and I love the decision space when it comes to choosing your line-up of characters for a game and also deciding which action tokens to put in the action bag each round. The chit-pull system is great, and I love the element of suspense it brings, especially during tense moments during the game.
There's so much replay value in each game because of the modular board set-up and the options you have when selecting characters. For What Remains is also very accessible and plays in less than an hour. The rules are straightforward, and the rulebook has great examples when it comes to nailing down the line of sight rules, which we found hardest to learn initially.
I love the detailed artwork on the battleground mats and how much the modular set-up changes the feel of each game. I do wish the material was a bit heavier, though, since they sometimes slide out of place when you're moving your character counters around. It probably won't bother most people, but I can't help my OCD sometimes.
I like each game coming with two factions versus having a big super expensive game with all six factions. It allows players to choose their own adventure. You can try one game, then if you're stoked on it and looking for more, there's plenty more to explore with the other two games in the series. Plus, it's fun to mix and match factions and different battlegrounds for added variety...and of course, if you try one and find it's not your thing, there's no need to go all in.
After playing For What Remains, I'll be on the lookout for upcoming releases from David Thompson, and I can't wait to have some me time and delve into the Valiant Defense series when those games arrive!
- [+] Dice rolls
Celebrate the Year of Moloch, Lead Your Colony to Survival in the Cold, and Fight Mutants on Your Journey Home
12 Mar 2021
On September 5, 2020, Portal Games announced and opened pre-orders for Neuroshima Hex! 3.0: The Year of Moloch, a fancy, new limited edition of its best-selling Neuroshima Hex! from designer Michał Oracz. Initially, Neuroshima Hex! 3.0: The Year of Moloch edition was available for pre-order exclusively on Portal Games' website, but now it appears to be more widely available for pre-order with retailers.
Neuroshima, a Polish role-playing game in the vein of Mad Max or Fallout, with humans fighting against machines in a hostile environment after a nuclear war as described in the high-level overview below from the publisher:Quote:Neuroshima Hex! is a strategy board game set in the post-apocalyptic world of Neuroshima. Each player leads one of the four Armies: Borgo, Hegemony, Moloch, or Outpost. Each Army deck consists of 34 tiles including Warriors, Modules, and Actions. You begin the game with your HQ at 20 hit points and wage war against your opponent in a back and forth strategic battle as you place and manipulate your tiles. You win once you've destroyed your opponent's HQ or once a player runs out of tiles and your HQ has less damage than your opponent's.Troglodytes army expansion designed by Marcin Zapart, and the Neuroshima Convoy card game iOS/Android app, as a celebration of "The Day of Moloch".
The Year of Moloch special collector's edition of Neuroshima Hex! 3.0 includes a large box with new unique cover art and room for 19 armies (4 base and 15 from expansions). It also includes a dual-layered board with new graphics, HQ markers for all armies, new boards for all armies, new illustrations on the four base game army units, and FAQ in a handy dandy brochure.
Neuroshima Hex! 3.0: The Year of Moloch also includes a new campaign expansion: Moloch the Beginning, in which two players will be transported back to the battlefield for five consecutive missions to experience the origin of Moloch as described below:Quote:The Moloch the Beginning campaign depicts the beginning of humanity's fight with the rebellious artificial intelligence, Moloch. The first months on the battlefield are pure madness, which means that even one insignificant soldier or bad day could lead to mission failure!Neuroshima Hex fans will also be pleased to hear there's another new army expansion: Neuroshima Hex: Beasts, which is designed by Joanna Kijanka and targeted for a 2021 release:
At the beginning of the campaign, players must choose a Faction — Moloch or Outpost — that they will lead through the entire campaign. Each mission consists of special rules that change the gameplay of the Mission.Quote:In Neuroshima Hex: Beasts, the new army represents various animal species that survived Moloch's attack. These beasts are fierce, and they have but a single goal — to protect their territory. They spare no one, including their own. The expansion introduces a new game concept: friendly fire. Ferocity and wrath are unstoppable and units in the new army can damage their own friendly tiles.Moloch semi-cooperative expansion for Ignacy Trzewiczek's ever-popular, tableau/engine building game 51st State: Master Set to celebrate its tenth anniversary. The Moloch expansion, also designed by Joanna Kijanka, plays with 1-4 players and intends to add a new twist to 51st State: Master Set as described by the publisher below:
Neuroshima Hex: Beasts was designed by Joanna Kijanka and developed by Michał Walczak, both names highly respected by fans and well known for their work on previous expansions for Neuroshima.Quote:The Moloch State Pack introduces a semi-cooperative experience. It consists of 27 Moloch cards to be shuffled in the Base Set cards and 23 double-sided Machine cards.• Frostpunk: The Board Game from designer Adam Kwapiński and publisher Glass Cannon Unplugged.
Each round, a number of new enemy Machines are deployed and threaten all the players. Players may fight the Machines using two new actions, by hacking or destroying them.
Hacking a Machine requires you to pay the resources indicated in the Machine's code, and lets the player who does the action flip the Machine's card and build it as their own location, offering that player a new ability. Another way to fight a Machine is destroying it, which requires spending Contact tokens equal to Machine's defense level. Doing this brings the player victory points.
If Machines are left in play because no one hacked them or destroyed them, they will attack all players in the Assault phase and deal damage as specified on the Machine's card. Players may choose to work together fighting the Machines or face the dangers alone.
Frostpunk: The Board Game is a co-operative, city-building, survival game for 1-4 players based on the popular video game, Frostpunk. It was successfully funded on Kickstarter in October 2020 and is now available for pre-order. Here's what you can expect to bundle up for in the game:Quote:In Frostpunk: The Board Game, up to four players take on the role of leaders of a small colony of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world that was hit by a severe ice age. Their duty is to effectively manage both its infrastructure and citizens. The core gameplay is brutal, challenging, and complex, but easy to learn. The citizens won't just be speechless pieces on the board. Society members will issue demands and react accordingly to the current mood, so every decision and action bears consequences.Posthuman Saga: The Journey Home, the latest expansion in the Posthuman Saga world from designer Gordon Calleja and publisher Mighty Boards.
The players will decide the fate of their people. Will you treat them like another resource? Are you going to be an inspiring builder, a fearless explorer, or a bright scientist? Is your rule going to be a sting of tyranny or an era of law and equality?
The game is based on a bestseller video game by 11bit studios, the creators of This War Of Mine. The original (digital) edition of Frostpunk is a highly successful strategy-survival-city-builder, a BAFTA-nominee that originally launched in 2018.
Posthuman Saga: The Journey Home was successfully funded on Kickstarter (KS link) in February 2021 and is targeted for delivery in Q4 2021. I would imagine it'll be available at a later date for late pledges and/or retail if you missed out on the Kickstarter campaign.
In Posthuman Saga: The Journey Home, 1-4 players fight their way back to the safety of the Fortress through a mutant infested world as described below by the publisher:Quote:In your quest to scope out the slave camps, you've gone deep into the mutant heartland, further than anyone from the Resistance has been in years. You've seen cruelty, horrors and tragedies that will stay with you for the rest of your days. It's time to let your path take you back home, to the Fortress. It'll be a long, eventful journey, taking you through uncharted territories. Along the way, you'll have plenty of occasions to gather intel for the Resistance, help out strangers and allies you meet, strike another crucial blow or two in the war against the mutants, and garner even more renown before you walk back through the Fortress' gates.
Posthuman Saga: The Journey Home adds several new mechanisms and more alternate ways of scoring to the base game. Enjoy Posthuman as it was always intended, with more player interaction, evolving narrative missions and a heavier tactical experience.
The Journey Home also adds a lot of new content; pick from two new playable characters, recruit new followers, collect more weapons and equipment and fight your way through a nasty bunch of new mutants.
- [+] Dice rolls
05 Mar 2021
previous post I mentioned Blitzkrieg! was one of my favorite filler games, but another great filler game that has always been a crowd-pleaser at my game nights is Bruce Glassco's combotastic Fantasy Realms from WizKids. Needless to say, I was curious and excited to play its first expansion, Fantasy Realms: The Cursed Hoard, which is targeted for retail release in May 2021. WizKids was kind enough to send me a copy to check out, along with some of its other new early 2021 releases.
The Cursed Hoard expansion adds some refreshing flair to Fantasy Realms. There are two parts — Cursed Items and three new suits — that can be added to the base game separately or combined.
When you add Cursed Items, you add a separate new deck of cards to the mix. At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt a Cursed Item card face up. On your turn, you have three options with your face-up Cursed Item: 1) Do nothing, 2) Discard it at the end of your turn and draw a new one face-up in front of you, or 3) Use it.
There are 24 different Cursed Item cards with some that will replace your normal turn and others that you can play anytime during your turn. Each one grants you a unique action that alters the normal rules of play to give you a leg up on your opponents, but using these abilities comes at a price since the majority of them will give you negative points — they are cursed, after all.
Some Cursed Items let you interact with the other players, such as the Larcenous Gloves that allow you to steal a face-up Cursed Item from another player which you must use immediately, after which they draw a replacement, or the Crystal Ball that lets you name a suit and all other players must reveal all cards they have in their hand of that suit.
After you use your Cursed Item, you flip it face down and grab a new one from the deck to put in front of you face-up, so if you choose to play with the Cursed Item cards, everyone will always have one face-up Cursed Item throughout the game, and some players may have one or more face down that will impact their score at the end of the game.
The Cursed Hoard expansion also adds three new suits to Fantasy Realms: Buildings, Outsiders, and Undead. Since the new suits dilute the main deck and make it harder to draw combos, there are some slight rule changes to maintain balance. You start and play the game with an eight-card hand instead of the usual seven, and the game end is triggered when twelve cards are in the discard area, not ten.Examples of the new suits
The new suits function similarly to the base game cards for the most part, but also add some new twists. For example, the Undead score with cards in the discard area, instead of your hand like normal. These cards make the discard area much more appealing throughout the game for those who possess Undead cards. You're no longer scavenging the discard area to pick up measly scraps your opponents leave, but instead you're anxiously hoping to turn those scraps into a high-scoring combo with your Undead cards in hand at the end of the game. Of course, if you're also playing with Cursed Items, you could have more control over what ends up in the discard area to help you strategize.
Fantasy Realms is easy to teach, plays quickly, and is all about creating satisfying card combos. If you enjoy it, it's not unlikely to want to play back-to-back games every time you break it out, and it's also not unlikely to want to break it out often. Depending on how much you've played it, over time it'll eventually feel a bit same-y, even with the variety of cards and suits in the base game, so the added spice and variety The Cursed Hoard expansion brings to the realm is gladly welcomed. Plus, I really appreciate the fact that expansion is modular and therefore gives you more options for your Fantasy Realms games.
Serge Macasdar's Seeders from Sereis: Exodus which was originally released by French publisher Sweet Games in 2017.
Seeders from Sereis is a sci-fi themed strategy game for 2-4 players featuring a mix of card drafting, area influence, tableau building, and some engine building as players compete to build the highest-scoring ark using cards in their tableaus. Here's the backstory and high-level overview of gameplay as described by the original publisher:Quote:Seeders from Sereis is a trans-media science-fiction universe that's been created over five years by Serge Macasdar and Charbel Fourel and which contains post-humans, space opera, extensive journeys on space arks, lost empires, exo-biology, genetic evolution, android developments, and more.In more detail, Seeders from Sereis: Exodus is played over four rounds and each round has five phases, with each game taking about two hours to play:
Seeders, Series 1: Exodus is the first game of a serial of ten set in this universe. When an unknown force threatens to render their home uninhabitable, the Seeders must build arks — giant colony ships — to ensure their survival. Players work to create the most promising design to be chosen for production. Each turn players draft cards into their hands as cards are laid out on the board. Players strategically place negotiator chips between the cards they want, using their alignment and position to determine who has the most influence over a desired card. Once all negotiators and tokens are placed, influence is calculated and the winners of each card is determined.
Once obtained, cards can be played for points, adding value to your ark, or discarded for resources. Each card represents a different component of the ark — locations, items, personnel — and players will find unique synergies between cards as well as their player color's unique power. Asymmetry and complex interactions add layers of strategy that lead to a unique experience each time you play.
1) In the Preparation phase, you un-tap your once-per-round cards and update turn order.
2) In the Foundation phase, you receive four new Ark cards and draft them, rotating the direction each round. I'll mention that drafting in this phase is considered a variant, but if you're an experienced gamer, you'll more than likely prefer drafting.
3) Next is the Negotiation phase in which the "Wing of Whispers" game board comes into play. You place twelve Ark cards in the appropriate spaces on the game board, then players place their negotiator discs in turn order to bid for Ark cards. Each negotiator will impact the two spaces adjacent to it, so you are bidding on two cards with each disc placed.
Each player has six negotiator discs, each representing a different caste, and the amount of influence cubes you place depends on the negotiator's level of influence and the caste. At the beginning of the game each caste's influence is -, meaning you can put one influence cube on each adjacent side when placing the corresponding negotiator disc. Over the course of the game, you can increase the amount of influence of your various negotiator discs, plus you can always add a bonus influence cube(s) whenever the caste of your negotiator disc matches the caste of either card it's placed adjacent to.
After each player has placed five of their negotiator discs and influence cubes based on the caste, then you resolve each card space. The player with the most influence cubes surrounding the card takes the card into their hand and takes one of their adjacent negotiator discs back. If there's a tie, the card is discarded. After all cards are removed from the game board, negotiator discs still on the board can be leveled up: a - becomes a -, a - can become a - or a -, etc. This allows you to place more influence cubes in future rounds with that particular negotiator disc. If you place a negotiator disc with -, for example, you can place three influence cubes on one side and one influence cube on the other.
4) Next in the Integration phase, players use the ark cards they gained from drafting in phase 2 and from using their influence in phase 3. There are two types of ark cards in Seeders from Sereis: units and crews. Units can host up to two crew cards by default and need to be hosted by at least one crew to score during phase 5. There's a variety of ark cards that have different special abilities; some are immediate effects when played, and some you can use once per round. Some cards will grant you prestige points (victory points) when they're played and others will grant you other special effects.Example of a unit card
During the Integration phase, in turn order you can recycle/discard cards to gain resources, spend resources to add new ark cards into your tableau, activate special abilities, and rearrange your ark by moving crews from one unit to another. You can perform one or more of these actions on your turn and in any order that you want. Since you can't do this phase simultaneously, there may be some downtime depending on how long each player takes.Example of a crew card
5) Finally in the Prestige phase, you gain prestige points based on the prestige abilities of the cards in your ark/tableau. Pretty much everything you are doing in the phases leading up to this is to maximize the amount of prestige points you'll score. Some cards will score based on the number of cards you have in your ark of a specific type, while others score if you have a majority of a specific type of card.
The game ends at the end of the fourth round, and the player with the most prestige points wins. If you enjoy tableau builders and/or sci-fi themed games, you should definitely check Seeders from Sereis: Exodus out. My favorite part of Seeders was the influence bidding and negotiator disc placement in the Negotiation phase. There are so many interesting decisions that stem from the clever mechanism of placing the negotiator discs and dropping influence cubes. You'll be figuring out ways to get bonuses by matching castes, but also trying to set yourself up to win cards you can combo with others you already have, or trying to defensively deny your opponents from certain cards, then also deciding which negotiators to leave on the board so you can level them up influencewise. WizKids also knocked it out the park with the components here, too; everything from the negotiator discs to the cards to the dual-layered player boards are top notch.
• Did you ever say to yourself, "There aren't enough games with cute little penguins?" Me neither, but after playing Waddle, another early 2021 release from WizKids, I feel like I need more cute penguin games in my life.
Waddle is a light, filler game from designers Raph Koster and Isaac Shalev that plays with 2-4 players in 30 minutes:Quote:Penguins are curious creatures. Flighty though flightless, they move about quickly towards things that appeal to them.In more detail, Waddle is played over a certain number of rounds depending on player count: eight rounds with two players, seven rounds with three players, and six rounds with four players. During set-up, each player starts with four yellow and four red penguins, and an individual deck of 13 scoring cards, which you shuffle and draw four cards from to start the game. Then you lay out a certain number of coaster-looking "places" to create one or two "neighborhoods" depending on player count.
In Waddle, ever-curious penguins visit different places, sometimes in different neighborhoods. Each turn, you move the penguins around the city or bring some new ones in from out of town. Get the penguins to move into the patterns matching your cards to score points. The player with the most points at the end of a set number of rounds wins!Four-player layout posted by the publisher
On your turn, you play a scoring card from your hand onto your scoring/discard pile. You cannot play the same card that is currently on the top of any opponent's score pile unless you have no other cards in your hand that you can play. Then you perform a standard action or a special action if the scoring card you play has one.
When taking a standard action, you have two choices: Either you add any number and combination of penguins from your supply to one neighborhood, which is considered the active neighborhood for your turn, or you empty a place of all of its penguins and redistribute the penguins as you wish in the other four places in that neighborhood, or in any places in the other neighborhood. Again, the neighborhood where the penguins are placed is the active neighborhood for your turn.
Then you draw a card and end your turn. Players continue taking turns placing, moving, and scoring penguins until the final round is completed, and whoever has the most points wins.
Waddle is one of those games that you can play very casually and not overthink your moves for a mellow game, or you can make it more competitive and get really thinky with it. It's cool that you won't ever play all of the cards in your deck in a single game, too, so you don't always know what you'll have to work with or what your opponents have. Plus, there's also a single deck variant to change things up a bit where you shuffle all cards together, instead of having individual decks, and you have the option of drawing cards from the deck or from three face-up cards.
Waddle is a solid filler to play with gamer and non-gamer friends because it's super easy to learn, each game will vary because of the cards, and... it has adorable wooden penguins!
- [+] Dice rolls