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New GMT Game Round-up: Command U-Boats, Struggle for Glory, Raid Anglo-Scottish Borders, & Write the Versailles Treaty

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Board Game Publisher: GMT Games
• In a May 2020 newsletter, GMT Games announced its latest P500 addition: Border Reivers: Anglo-Scottish Border Raids, 1513-1603 from designer Ed Beach. Beach is known for designing deep, immersive, historically rich, and often beasty, games such as Here I Stand and Virgin Queen, and some might also know him from his design work on the Civilization VI PC game.

Similar to Here I Stand and Virgin Queen, Borders Reivers serves players a strong dose of 16th century history, but is a faster-playing, slightly Euro-feeling game of resource competition, raids, and battle for 2-6 players. In more detail:
Quote:
For two hundred years, war waged back and forth across the border between England and Scotland. By 1482, the unfortunate town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, once the richest port town in Scotland, had changed hands thirteen times. By the time Henry VIII ascended the throne of England in 1509, the fifty-mile-wide stretch of rolling hills and stunning vistas that straddle the border had seen decades of hardship and atrocity.

Yet still the hardy families living on these frontier lands persevered. Unable to count on crops surviving until the harvest, they subsisted primarily on the livestock they could shepherd in the fields near their homesteads. When supplies ran low, raiding to steal what they needed from their neighbors was often the answer. Raids were often carefully planned operations with several border families uniting to steal livestock from a common foe in the dead of night. Cattle and sheep were the likely targets, often with hundreds of these creatures being stolen in a single raid. The reiver's goal was to herd their quarry to safety before the retaliatory "hot trod" pursuit could catch up and force an engagement.

Board Game: Border Reivers

To combat this constant hostility, England and Scotland established the system of March Law. Each nation divided its border lands into an East, Middle, and West March with each of these six territories administered by a Warden responsible for keeping the peace. The Wardens were drawn from the most powerful families on the borders, clans of great renown that could put upwards of a thousand men in the saddle in times of need. The March Law would have succeeded, too, but for the fact that these same great families were usually the ones best equipped and most inclined to raid their neighbors.

In Border Reivers, each player rules over one of the Marches as leader of one of the six major riding families of the border: Grey, Fenwick, Dacre, Maxwell, Kerr, or Hume. Your goal is to increase the wealth and fame of your clan throughout the reigns of Henry and Elizabeth to end the century as the most famous border reiver of all time. Players gain VPs from successful combats, amassing large herds of livestock, and by elevating their notoriety above the other players in the regions of the map.
While we wait (anxiously, in my case) for further updates on Borders Reivers, I figured I'd mention a couple other new GMT releases available for pre-order directly from GMT and retailers:

Board Game: Twilight Struggle
• Eric mentioned Imperial Struggle in a post in December 2018, but considering that was a while ago and more importantly, it's from the design team (Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews) that brought us the acclaimed Twilight Struggle, I figured it was worth putting back on everyone's radars. Here's a brief overview of this highly anticipated two-player peace and war game:
Quote:
Imperial Struggle is a two-player game depicting the 18th-century rivalry between France and Britain. It begins in 1697, as the two realms wait warily for the King of Spain to name an heir, and ends in 1789, when a new order brought down the Bastille. The game is not merely about war; both France and Britain must build the foundations of colonial wealth, deal with the other nations of Europe, and compete for glory across the span of human endeavor.

Board Game: Imperial Struggle

Imperial Struggle covers almost one hundred years of history and four major wars, yet it remains a low-complexity game, playable in a short evening. It aims to honor its spiritual ancestor, Twilight Struggle, by pushing further in the direction of simple rules and playable systems, while maintaining global scope and historical sweep in the span of a single evening.

In peace turns, players build their economic interests and alliances, and take advantage of historical events represented by event cards. They must choose their investments wisely, but also with an eye to denying these opportunities to their opponent. In war turns, each theater can bring great rewards of conquest and prestige, but territorial gains can disappear at the treaty table. At the end of the century, will the British rule an empire on which the sun never sets? Or will France light the way for the world, as the superpower of the Sun King's dreams or the republic of Lafayette's?
In 2018, Ananda Gupta posted an excellent article that sheds light on the similarities and differences between Imperial Struggle and its "older cousin" Twilight Struggle which has me pretty hyped to play it.

Geoff Engelstein and Mark Herman's Versailles 1919 is a political, negotiation game in which 1-4 players gain influence to contribute to writing the Versailles Treaty. While thematically reminiscent of Herman's World War II classic game Churchill, Versailles 1919 is lighter and very different mechanically, sitting in a sweet spot that eurogamers and wargamers alike will probably dig. Here's the gist of it as described by the publisher:
Quote:
On November 11, 1918 an armistice halted the killing field that was The War to End All Wars. To make peace, Woodrow Wilson (United States), David Lloyd George (United Kingdom), and Vittorio Orlando (Italy) were hosted by President George Clemenceau (France) in Paris, and sat down to write what would become the Versailles Treaty. The treaty was signed on June 28, 1919, after six months of acrimonious debate and bargaining between the great powers.

Versailles 1919 allows you to experience this piece of history as one of the four leaders with a national agenda that must be satisfied. As one of the Big Four, you sit in a conference room gaining influence on the issues present in the room. Hovering in the waiting room sit other issues and personages who are waiting their turn to make their case to meet regional aspirations such as self-determination. Will you support Ho Chi Minh's attempt to free Vietnam from French colonialism? Help Prince Feisal establish a new nation in Mesopotamia or Chaim Weitzman create a Zionist state? Work with TE Lawrence to reduce unrest in the Middle East or with Ataturk in Anatolia?

Board Game: Versailles 1919

As France, you are concerned with containing future German aggression while aligning with the British on reparations to pay for the destruction of the war. The British, however, would like to see Germany restored as a trading partner while preserving their empire against the global aspiration for self-determination. Italy wants territorial concessions from the former Austro-Hungarian empire. Lurking in the background is the threat of Bolshevism. Towering above it all is President Woodrow Wilson with his fourteen points that set global expectations soaring, ultimately ending in disappointment when the U.S. does not join the League of Nations.

Versailles 1919 introduces a new card-bidding mechanism in which you use your influence to settle issues aligned with your agenda while keeping domestic constituents in support of your actions. You need to balance the need to demobilize your military forces while simultaneously keeping regional unrest under control. All of these decisions are set against the backdrop of regional crises and uprisings. The player who writes more of the treaty prevails in this contest of wills and national agendas. Can you save the world from the rise of nationalism? Can you make a better world while satisfying your domestic electorate? Play Versailles 1919 and relive making the flawed peace that was the Treaty of Versailles.
Board Game: The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43
• For the solo gamers out there who love a good challenge, be sure to check out The Hunted: Twilight of the U-Boats, 1943-45, which is Gregory M. Smith's sequel to The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43. Similar to The Hunters, The Hunted also includes rules for two players. Here's an overview of what you can expect:
Quote:
The Hunted is a solitaire tactical level game placing you in command of a German U-Boat during WWII. This game picks up the action where The Hunters left off, with you commanding one of many U-Boat models available starting in 1943 and looking to successfully complete U-Boat operations until the end of the war. Not only is this a standalone game, but fans of The Hunters will enjoy having the capability to easily combine both games to span all of WWII and experience the career of a U-Boat commander from 1939 until 1945.

Board Game: The Hunted: Twilight of the U-Boats, 1943-45

While your mission is to destroy as much Allied shipping and as many capital ships as possible, players will find it extremely challenging to "go the distance" and survive the entire war. The second half of the war has not been sugar coated; the brutal aspects facing U-boat commanders in the final phases of the war make surviving your attack difficult at best. True to history, your challenge is to accomplish what only a few could achieve — to make it to the conclusion, as happened historically.

The Hunted is purposely designed to deliver a brisk, yet intensive gaming experience that forces many decisions upon you as you take command among the major German U-Boat models in service during WWII, and try to survive until the end of the war. All major U-Boat models are accounted for, with every level of detail, including period of service, armaments, crew make-up, damage capacity, and more. Fans of The Hunters will enjoy the same nail-biting game system, but fraught with many more challenges to withstand the advances the Allies have made in anti-submarine warfare. If you ultimately survive until 1945, you will surrender at port, having done your part on the front lines.

As U-Boat commander, you will be confronting many decisions during your patrol. To begin with, eleven German U-Boat models are profiled and available for you to choose from. Patrol zones reflect the period during the war at sea and will shift as the war progresses. All stages of the U-Boat campaign are represented; missions become increasingly more difficult as your adversary makes advances in anti-submarine warfare.
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Thu May 28, 2020 1:00 pm
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"New" Game Round-up: Two-Player Sequels & Second Editions

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: School of Sorcery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: The Fox in the Forest Duet

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

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

Ascension is a fairly well-known, quick-playing, deck-building game in which 1-4 players acquire more powerful cards for their deck, while spending power to defeat monsters and gain honor/victory points. Ascension: Eternal retains the same core rules and includes everything two players need to play the game, as opposed to the standard format for most Ascension sets that allows for play with up to four people. The Eternal set was designed with the intention of having a good entry point for people getting into the hobby, while also serving as a solid introduction to Ascension for more experienced gamers.
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Fri May 22, 2020 3:24 pm
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New Train Game Round-up: Mini Express, Colt Super Express, Station Master, & 18xx on the Moon

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

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

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

Board Game: Mini Express

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

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

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

Board Game: Mini Express

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

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

Board Game: Station Master

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

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

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

Board Game: 21Moon

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

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

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

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

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Wed May 13, 2020 1:00 pm
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Mercado de Lisboa: A Thinky Filler from Vital Lacerda?!

Candice Harris
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Board Game Publisher: Eagle-Gryphon Games
The year 2020 continues to surprise me. Like most people, when I hear Vital Lacerda's name, I instantly think of heavy, thematic, brain-burn-inducing yet elegant games such as The Gallerist, Vinhos, Kanban, and (most recently) On Mars. Who knew the day would come that we'd see Vital Lacerda's name on a thinky filler game??

Well, my friends, that day has arrived. Julián Pombo and Vital Lacerda have teamed up to create Mercado de Lisboa — a quick-playing, easy-to-learn, deep and thinky tile-placement game for 2-4 players that Eagle-Gryphon Games plans to launch on Kickstarter in mid-2020.

Julián Pombo has worked with Lacerda as a developer and the main playtester on several of Lacerda's games: CO₂: Second Chance, Escape Plan, and most relevantly, Lisboa. As hinted in its title, Mercado de Lisboa is actually based on a mechanism in Lisboa, specifically the city-building system in which players pay money to own stalls on the market, with special stores next to them improving their profit and customer tiles that score for the matching booths.

Board Game: Mercado de Lisboa
Cover art

In Mercado de Lisboa, players strategically place stand and restaurant tiles in the market (a 5x5 grid) to influence the price of goods sold at the stands, then place customer tiles at market entrances to sell those goods — all with the long-term goal of having the most money. Fish, flower, tomato, meat, and grape stands, for example, earn you more money when placed next to sushi bar, tea house, pizzeria, burger joint, and wine bar restaurant tiles respectively. Two pub restaurant tiles are included, and these are essentially wild since they'll earn any type of stand more money when placed next to it.

From gallery of candidrum
From gallery of candidrum
Flower stand and tea house

During set-up, the game board is seeded with eleven restaurant tiles randomly drawn from a bag and placed face down (i.e., gray side up) on the marked spaces of the board. Each player receives three random stand tiles that they place face up in front of themselves, wooden stands of their player color, and 1 coin. The last player also starts with a pub restaurant tile. The left side of the board displays three stand tiles and three each of the four types of customer tiles (which show 1-4 customers).

Before starting, players decide whether to play with hidden or open money. From talking to Vital, Mercado de Lisboa was designed to be played with hidden money, but I think they wanted to give the option since some players may prefer playing one way or the other. I've played both ways, and it plays well either way, but at this point I prefer hidden money because most of the games I've played have been so close that it becomes an exciting reveal at the end of the game when you don't know exactly how much money your opponents have.

In Mercado de Lisboa, players take one of the following four actions on their turn, with players taking turns in clockwise order until someone triggers one of the endgame conditions:

(1) Open a stand
(2) Open a restaurant
(3) Bring customers
(4) Take 1 coin

• When you open a stand, you choose one of the three stand tiles in front of you with your color wooden stand and place it on a space that is empty or that has a face-down restaurant tile in the market. The cost of placing a stand is 1 coin for each stand in the row or column, including the one you are placing. (You pay the more expensive cost, so your stand creates a column holding two stands and a row holding three stands, you pay 3 coins.) After placing a stand tile, grab a new one from the designated area on the left side of the board so that you always have three from which to choose when taking this action.

It's important to note that whenever you place a stand or restaurant tile on a space with a face-down restaurant tile, you take that restaurant tile and place it face up in front of you with your available stands. You can place this restaurant on a future turn to earn 1 coin, but if you have any restaurant tiles in front of you when the game ends, you must pay 1 coin for each, so restaurant hoarding is not encouraged!

Board Game: Mercado de Lisboa

• When you open a restaurant, you place one of the restaurant tiles in front of you on a space that is empty or that has a face-down restaurant tile; this earns you 1 coin. Again, if you place a restaurant tile on a space with a face-down restaurant tile, you take that restaurant tile into your supply.

• While you can earn coins via restaurants, to make real money you need to bring customers. To do this, take one of the customer tiles on display and place it on an open market entrance space following two conditions: 1) You can place customer tiles at market entrances only where the number of customers is greater than or equal to the number of stands in the row (or column), and 2) at least one of your stands in that row must match one of the types of goods depicted on the customer tile.

After placing the tile, check to see which players earn money by having a stand in that row that matches a good on the newly placed customer tile. Count 1 for each of your matching stands, plus 1 for each matching restaurant orthogonally adjacent to your stand, e.g., a fish stand next to a sushi bar restaurant, then multiply that number by the number of customers on the customer tile, then take that many coins from the reserve. Don't forget those awesome pub restaurant tiles! They will boost your profit when orthogonally adjacent to any type of stand.

From gallery of candidrum
From gallery of candidrum
Fish stand and sushi bar

If you play your tiles right, you can take advantage of existing customers in the row and column of the new stand you place. Once customer tiles have been placed, you can get a discount or even possibly earn money when placing a new stand tile if this stand meets the demand of existing customer tiles. Needless to say, this is where Mercado de Lisboa really shines. When you place stand and restaurant tiles, you can set yourself up for profitable combos and start making some serious coin! Of course one of your opponents might beat you to the punch by placing an unfavorable customer tile where you were hoping to score big different customers. The game becomes sort of a race to place tiles at the right place and right time, with you hoping opponents don't place tiles to hinder your plans. It can feel tense, but in a light playful way, not stressful.

• If you have no better option or just need cash, you can take 1 coin. I haven't done this yet in the games I've played, but I've seen other players do it here and there. Considering that you can earn money by placing restaurant and customer tiles — and sometimes even stand tiles — I don't think this is ever an efficient action, but I understand why it's needed.

The end of the game is triggered when someone places a stand or restaurant tile that leaves only four market spaces open or a customer tile that leaves only four market entrance spaces open. This player does not get another turn, but all other players do. Once all players have taken their final turn, add up your coins, then subtract 1 for each unopened restaurant you have. Whoever has the most money wins!

From gallery of candidrum
My 2 May 2020 game on Tabletopia

I've played five games of Mercado de Lisboa so far and have been thoroughly enjoying its unique blend of lightness with depth. This game is definitely thinky, but it's not meant to be overthunk. The actions are straightforward, and the whole game can be taught in five minutes and played in thirty. Turns are quick, and in my experience each game has felt distinctly different, which I find refreshing and challenging.

While you'll develop certain strategies with experience, you must be prepared to re-adapt based on the board state and how your opponents are playing. There's also the "fun" struggle of placing stand tiles when you need to grab a particular restaurant tile from the board, but placing your stand in that position isn't optimal because it's either too expensive or not where you need it to be to set up some other combo — or the even more "fun" struggle of trying to place the right customer tiles to minimize your opponents' profits while maximizing your own. I'm a fan of these challenges and struggles as it results in a satisfying gaming experience in which all players are watching the board intensely the entire game. Definitely no multiplayer solitaire here.

While I've played Kanban, Vinhos, The Gallerist, and On Mars, I've yet to play Lisboa, which I know is a lot of people's favorite Lacerda game. Trust me, it's on my list. I'm secretly hoping that my understanding of Mercado de Lisboa becomes a stepping stone for easing me into Lisboa. From what I've heard, that was part of the goal for making it. Either way, I'm looking forward to playing more Mercado de Lisboa. It's been great playing with people around the world on Tabletopia. and I imagine it'll be even better playing the physical version face-to-face with my opponents.
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Wed May 6, 2020 5:00 pm
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"New" Game Round-up: Sequels and Second Editions for Sidereal Confluence, Reef, Marco Polo, The King is Dead, and Sheriff of Nottingham

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Board Game: Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant
Sequels and second editions continue to be a trend in the world of board gaming. Fortunately, they are generally favored and considered improvements more often than not — you know, more Terminator 2: Judgment Day than Poltergeist II: The Other Side. Here are a few available for preordering that might be worth checking out:

• The tuned-up, "Remastered" edition of TauCeti Deichmann's sci-fi trading and negotiation sensation, Sidereal Confluence, is coming from WizKids in late May 2020. In Sidereal Confluence, 4-9 players represent unique, asymmetrical alien races simultaneously trading and negotiating with each other to acquire resources necessary to fund their economy, produce goods, and (ultimately) score the most victory points. In more detail:
Quote:
Each player chooses one of the nine unique and asymmetrical alien races that have come together to form a trade federation in their quadrant. Each race has its own deck of cards representing all the existing and future technologies it might research. Some races also have other cards related to unique features of their culture. These cards represent portions of the culture's economy and require spending some number of cubes to use, resulting in an output of more cubes, ships, and possibly victory points. Since each culture's outputs rarely match their inputs, players need to trade goods with one another to run their converters to create the resources they truly need to run their society most efficiently and have an effective economy. Almost everything is negotiable, including colonies, ships, and all kinds of resources.

Board Game: Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant

Each game round contains an open trading phase in which all players can negotiate and execute deals for cubes, ships, colonies, even the temporary use of technologies! Players with enough resources can also research technologies, upgrade colonies, and spend resources on their race's special cards during this phase. Once complete, all players simultaneously run their economies, spending resources to gain more resources. The Confluence follows, starting with players sharing newly researched technologies with all other races and following with bidding to acquire new colonies and research teams. Researching a new technology grants many victory points for the prestige of helping galactic society advance. When one race builds a new technology, it is shared with everyone else. Technologies can be upgraded when combined with other technologies.

The ultimate goal is victory points, which are acquired by researching technologies, using your economy to convert resources to goods, and converting your leftover goods into points at the end of the game.

The game is almost all simultaneous play.
The first noticeable difference between the original 2017 edition and the 2020 Remastered edition of Sidereal Confluence is the new, eye-catching box cover art from the renowned Kwanchai Moriya. Beyond the fresh and futuristic artwork are several updates intended to streamline the gameplay, which is welcomed for a game that can get fairly chaotic, especially at higher player counts:

—The Remastered edition includes a new and improved rulebook with more visual examples and clear key terms, plus a teaching guide to improve set-up and learning time.
—The card layout has been revamped with clearer iconography and color schemes.
—The resources have been updated so that it's easier to differentiate between the different sized cubes.
-- The differing ship tokens for each faction will be replaced with common ship tokens to avoid unnecessary confusion.

Board Game: The King Is Dead
• The second edition of Peer Sylvester's 2-4 player, area majority/influence, thinky filler The King is Dead from Osprey Games is slated for release in July 2020.

Here's a high-level overview from the publisher if you're not familiar with this deep, quick-playing gem:
Quote:
The King Is Dead is a board game of politics and power struggles set in Britain in the chaotic period following the death of King Arthur. For the good of the country, a leader must unite the Scots, Welsh, and Romano-British — not by conquest but by diplomacy.

Board Game: The King Is Dead

Players are members of King Arthur's court. Whether a loyal knight, a scheming lord, or an ambitious noblewoman, you all have one thing in common: power. As prospective leaders, each player uses their power to benefit the factions, gaining influence among their ranks. The player with the greatest influence over the most powerful faction is crowned the new ruler of Britain.
The second edition has been refreshed with updated graphic design, re-skinned with new medieval-flared artwork from Benoit Billion, and packaged with a new asymmetric game mode for advanced play — all in a more portable format than the original 2015 version.

I was only recently hipped to The King is Dead, but I dig how it has similar elements to Pax Pamir (Second Edition), specifically with the way the area majority/influence scoring works. The flexible hand-management mechanism gives you lots of choices for strategizing since you have the option of playing none, some, or even all of your eight action cards on any turn. It also adds an interesting twist with variable endings that lead to different victory conditions, similar to other Pax games that I enjoy. I can definitely appreciate the amount of depth packed into such a short and relatively simple game.

Board Game: The Voyages of Marco Polo
• In November 2019, Eric shared a SPIEL '19 photo of the newly announced Marco Polo II: In the Service of the Khan, which is Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini's standalone follow-up to the dice-worker-placement classic The Voyages of Marco Polo. I think this one caught us all by surprise, although it's no surprise that I've heard nothing but good things about it, considering its older sibling's esteemed reputation.

Here's what you can expect from Marco Polo II, which is due out in English sometime in 2020:
Quote:
The journeys of Marco Polo continue in Marco Polo II: In the Service of the Khan, an epic follow-up to The Voyages of Marco Polo. After traveling to Beijing, your travels now take you back to the West in the service of the Khan, sending you to the farthest reaches of his empire in search of wealth and fame.

Board Game: Marco Polo II: In the Service of the Khan

Marco Polo II is a standalone game based on The Voyages of Marco Polo, and you don't need the original game to play this one. This new journey will present unique challenges, with new and different actions, new scoring rules, and a new good: rare and valuable Chinese jade.

Retread old paths with renewed purpose, or find new ones as you explore farther west, continuing to build the immortal legacy of Marco Polo!
Board Game: Sheriff of Nottingham
CMON Limited plans to release Sheriff of Nottingham: 2nd Edition, a new version of Sérgio Halaban and André Zatz's popular bluffing and bribery game from 2014, Sheriff of Nottingham. It's available for pre-order as of April 2020, but the release date is TBD.

Here's a game description from the publisher that includes second edition updates:
Quote:
Will the merchants get their goods past the Sheriff?

The bustling market in Nottingham is filled with goods from all over the kingdom. Most of it is entirely legal, however, Prince John is looking to make sure no contraband gets sold. He's tasked the Sheriff to inspect merchant's wares, looking for any illicit goods. The Sheriff's shrewd, but not above taking a bribe to look the other way. Which merchant will end up getting the best goods through and make the largest profits in the market stalls?

Board Game: Sheriff of Nottingham (2nd Edition)

In Sheriff of Nottingham (2nd Edition), players take turns playing the Sheriff, looking for contraband goods, and the merchants trying to stock their stall with the best goods. The Sheriff can inspect any bag they want, but they must be careful as they'll have to pay a penalty if they find the merchants were telling the truth. This new edition includes updated rules, as well as expansions such as the sixth merchant, the Black Market, and Sheriff's deputies.
Board Game: Reef
• In August 2020, Next Move Games plans to release a new edition of Emerson Matsuuchi's Reef, which first appeared in 2018. The only changes to the game are to the typography on the front cover and the color of the reef pieces. Says Next Move's Mike Young, "The team wanted more ambiance for the game, so more naturally occurring colors felt like a better fit." You can get a complete rundown of the game in Eric's video overview, but here's the short take:
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In the game Reef, players take on the role of a coral reef, carefully selecting colors and patterns in which to grow and expand. On each turn, players can choose to pick up a new card from a choice of four, or play a card that is already in hand. Each card provides two reef pieces and a pattern that scores points if the existing reef has it (after placing the two new pieces). Whoever has the most points when the reef pieces (or card deck) run out wins!
Board Game: Reef
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Wed Apr 29, 2020 4:11 pm
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Game Preview: Ankh, or One Egyptian God to Rule Them All!

Candice Harris
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Board Game Publisher: CMON Limited
First, we were mighty Viking clans battling for the most glory at the end of the world in Blood Rage. Then we were clans in feudal Japan negotiating and battling our way to victory in Rising Sun. In Eric Lang's latest epic, Ankh: Gods of Egypt, the legendary saga continues; we'll use our unique powers to earn the most devotion to become the one and only god of Egypt!

In April 2020, I had the privilege of playing a partial game of Ankh on Tabletop Simulator when Eric Lang demoed it for the BGG Team just days before CMON Limited launched its Kickstarter campaign for the game. Spoiler alert: I left the demo knowing I had to have this game in my collection.

From gallery of candidrum

In Ankh, 2-5 players compete as ancient Egyptian gods as history advances from polytheism to monotheism. Using unique asymmetric powers and mythical guardians, players build and control monuments, gain followers, and battle each other for territorial control, all with the goal of earning enough devotion (i.e., victory points) to be the one and only God of Egypt.

During the game, players take turns in clockwise order performing one or two actions until the game end is triggered. The actions include moving figures on the board, summoning figures onto the board, gaining followers, and unlocking Ankh powers. Followers are essentially your currency in Ankh — you will need to sacrifice followers to build monuments, bid in battle to avoid the dreaded "Plague of Locusts", and unlock ankh powers, that is, special abilities and bonuses that will make your god even more powerful.

Board Game: Ankh: Gods of Egypt
Cat-mummy guardian
Three levels of ankh powers are common to all players. In each game of Ankh, you can unlock up to two in each level, starting with level 1. The different ankh powers combined with each god's unique ability will add plenty of variety to each game and offer players fresh ways to strategize game after game.

Unlocking ankh powers will sometimes reveal a guardian icon that will allow you to add a guardian creature to your pool of warriors. These guardians have their own special abilities, and each type is limited, so not everyone will get to add every type of guardian. Once they're in your pool under your control, you can summon them like your warriors that you have from the start of the game.

From gallery of candidrum
Central dashboard
The core gameplay of Ankh is centered around the central dashboard, which has a track for each of the four actions and an event path. The actions and events individually are straightforward, but the way they work together creates a thinky decision space that had my mind buzzing, even from the small taste I got from a handful of turns. Each time a player takes an action, the corresponding action marker advances on its track. When an action marker hits the end of its track, it advances the event marker and triggers the corresponding event. After the event is resolved, the action marker returns to its starting space — rinse and repeat.

The events are pretty awesome. You really want to be the one triggering them every time while your opponents stare in envy from the sidelines as you:

• Gain control of a monument to align yourself strategically to gain followers and area majority when it comes to conflict events.
• Claim the battle tiebreaker token in a conflict event and win a tie during a battle.
• Deploy a caravan of camels on the board, splitting an existing region into two new regions to manipulate how area majorities are evaluated during conflict events.

Regardless of the event, again, you will typically want to be the one who triggers it — but the reality is that everyone quickly realizes how juicy these events are and watches like a hawk as the action markers creep toward the event-trigger zone, trying to time things precisely so that you're the one who triggers the event. There were moments when I knew exactly what I wanted to do on my next turn, but then as my opponents took their turns and I saw the action markers moving closer and closer to the end of their tracks, I had to rethink my plans. I kept thinking, How can I avoid helping my opponents trigger events while at the same time trying to set myself up to be on the receiving end?

From gallery of candidrum
Isis in color (image from CMON)
Conflict events are the meat and potatoes of Ankh, with them resulting in fruitful devotion payouts for the cleverest of the gods. Your turns and actions leading up to the conflict events are typically to position yourself as best as possible to win battles and monument majorities and thereby to score as much devotion as you can. Each conflict is resolved in order based on the conflict order tokens assigned to each region. Conflict could result in individual players dominating regions and earning some devotion peacefully, but more often than not, a battle is going down.

When resolving conflict, any regions with figures from two or more players will result in battle. Players involved in a battle secretly select a battle card, placing it face down in front of them, then all players reveal them simultaneously. Each player has six battle cards with which to work, but once a card has been played, it remains face up in front of you until you play the "Cycle of Ma'at" card, which is the only way to return all of your battle cards to your hand. Battle cards can modify your strength and grant you special abilities, which reminded me a bit of how the combat cards work in Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, so they create similar suspenseful feelings before each reveal.

From gallery of candidrum
Devotion track
After the first two normal conflict events are resolved, the remaining conflict events are special and may trigger the end of the game. At the end of the third conflict in a game with three or more players, the two players who are lowest on the devotion track merge their gods together to form a super god with combined powers! Then these two players play co-operatively against the remaining players until the end of the game.

Not only is this a solid catch-up mechanism, but the power of merging gods might lead some players to intentionally strategize ways to position themselves lower on the devotion track specifically to merge gods with another particular player.

After the fourth conflict, all players in the red zone of the devotion track are eliminated from the game. Therefore, if all players are still in the red zone at this point, the game ends immediately with no winner. The people of Egypt essentially revert to atheism. On the other hand, if only one god (or the super-merged-mega god) survives, that god becomes the one and only god of Egypt and wins. Otherwise, players continue until the fifth conflict is resolved, which triggers the end of the game. In that case, whoever is highest on the devotion track wins.

From gallery of candidrum
Ankh Gods

Not only did I find the mechanisms in Ankh quite impressive, but oh my Egyptian God (!!), the art and minis are top notch! Adrian Smith, Mike McVey, and his sculpting team really worked their magic here to fully immerse us in the theme. The art and miniatures are amazing and oozing with unique Egyptian vibes. The minis are so intricate and detailed that the guardian creatures are pretty creepy. I think we all jumped out of our chairs a bit when we zoomed in on the cat-mummy for the first time.

Ankh is highly thematic with incredible artwork and some of the most intricate miniatures that I've ever seen, but these strengths are merely sprinkles on top of a well-designed game that is rules-light and strategy-heavy with plenty of player interaction and variety to keep things interesting with each game you play. Considering how much I enjoyed playing Ankh on Tabletop Simulator, I'm looking forward to actually sitting at the table with friends to play a full game of Ankh when it's released.
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Thu Apr 23, 2020 1:00 pm
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Dávid Turczi Encourages You to Excavate Earth and Lead the Inca to Glory!

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun
Sometime in 2019, I started noticing tons of games coming out or being announced with artist Ian O'Toole. I'm a big fan of O'Toole's elegant artwork, so I totally understand why he's continuously in demand. How does he make the time for soooo many projects? This guy's got to be superhuman or some kind of machine, or maybe he has a clone?

Similarly, I'm starting to see Dávid Turczi's name everywhere. No complaints at all, though, because I'm also a fan of Turczi's design work. I'm sure many of you are already familiar with Dávid Turczi's diverse catalogue of games such as Anachrony, Kitchen Rush, Dice Settlers, and Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 to name a few. Either way, brace yourself — Turczi has much more to say and play in 2020.

 
• Eric mentioned Board&Dice's announcement of Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun in a post from December 2019; this is a highly anticipated Egyptian-themed game Turczi co-designed with master Daniele Tascini (Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Teotihuacan: City of Gods). Then, when I shared news of Mindclash Games' upcoming release of Perseverance: Castaway Chronicles in a February 2020 post, I thought to myself, "Cool! This is Dávid Turczi's big hit of the year". But is it, or is it just one of them?

• In early April 2020, publisher Mighty Boards launched a Kickstarter campaign for Turczi's Excavation Earth, which is co-designed by Gordon Calleja (Posthuman Saga) and Wai Yee (Pocket Dragon). Excavation Earth is a medium-heavy, set-collection, market-manipulation game for 1-4 players that plays in 30-120 minutes. Here's a high-level overview from the publisher:
Quote:
A century from now all that remains of Earth is the detritus that humanity left behind. The races of a neighboring solar system have a penchant for artifacts left behind by extinct races. In Excavation Earth, you lead one of these races of alien explorers on their quest to excavate rare human artifacts and curate the ultimate art collection to sell off.

Excavation Earth is divided into three rounds, each of which starts with players drafting a hand of multi-use cards that will be used to perform actions. Players then take quick turns playing actions that allow them to move their explorers around the world map, excavate for artifacts, and deploy traders to bazaars and influencers to affect prices and wheel and deal on the black market.

Board Game: Excavation Earth

The artifacts you dig up can be either sold to the bazaars housed on one of the aliens' ships that landed on Earth or added to a collection that will be sold off as a coherent art collection to museums back home. Excavation Earth ends after three rounds and the player who makes the most money during the game wins.
Excavation Earth seems filled to the brim with tough decisions as players collect artifacts and strategize the best time to sell them to the various markets, while at the same time, managing their precious crew cubes that are a key element to making money throughout the game. Although Excavation Earth falls thematically under the fairly common sci-fi umbrella, it's tackled from a fresh angle which makes it feel different in a good way. I also want to mention how much I'm digging Philipp Kruse's vibrant artwork and how well the style fits the theme.

Excavation Earth also includes a solo mode designed by Turczi and Nick Shaw — the same team that designed the solo mode for Cerebria, which is yet another uniquely themed game Turczi had his hands in.

Board Game Publisher: Board&Dice
• If you're a fan of Teotihuacan or Trismegistus or even just slightly amused at all the different ways people pronounce them, then you're in luck as Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire from David Turczi and Board&Dice might just be your new jam.

All jokes aside, thematically and mechanically Tawantinsuyu will likely strike a familiar chord for any fans of Teotihuacan. Targeted for a SPIEL '20 release, Tawantinsuyu is a heavier Eurogmae for 1-4 players that plays in 60-120 minutes and that introduces a unique combination of mechanisms as described by the publisher below:
Quote:
The great Sapa Inca Pachacuti turned to his offspring and ordered them to worship Inti, the Sun God, and to expand the Inca Empire as far as the llamas roam. With Chinchaysuyu, Antisuyu, Qullasuyu, and Kuntisuyu — the four regions of the new empire — now ripe for conquest, the time has come for Pachacuti's true successor to arise.

Gather your people from the villages below and use their unique abilities to strategically place them where they can perform the greatest tasks for you. Climb the steps of the Sun Temple, reaping the rewards of your piety. Build structures that both nourish your people and provide you with benefits no other has at their disposal. Muster an army and conquer villages in the four realms of Tawantinsuyu. Prove yourself a worthy successor to Pachacuti and lead the Inca to glory!


During Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire, players place workers onto various locations on the game board, performing actions, collecting resources (potatoes, corn, stone, and gold), constructing buildings and stairs, sculpt statues, expanding their military strength, and collecting weavings.

The game board features a hill located within the old Inca capital of Cusco, the sides of which are terraced and divided into five sections. Atop the hill sits the Coricancha, The Golden Temple, the most important temple of the Inca Empire. Within the Coricancha, each player has a High Priest. On the terraced sections below exist a variety of worker placement locations, interconnected by paths and individually marked by symbols. On your turn, you must either place a worker onto a location outside the Coricancha OR choose two of the following:

—Recruit one worker.
—Take two god cards.
—Draw two army cards and keep one of them.
—Move your High Priest one or two steps clockwise within the Coricancha.

When placing a worker, you must first discard a god card with a matching symbol or pay one gold. Once placed, the worker remains on the game board for the rest of the game! Each worker placement location is connected to exactly three action spaces. You must always perform at least one of these actions. However, for each adjacent worker (i.e., connected to your worker's location via direct path through one of the action spaces) that matches the type of worker just placed, you receive one additional action!

Board Game: Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire

While some locations will result in you being able to perform multiple actions, other actions and placements may be more desirable, especially since each of the five types of workers has a unique ability:

—Warrior: Remove one of the adjacent workers, placing it in your player area.
—Craftsman: Gain +1 action if placed onto a craftsman space.
—Architect: Gain +1 action if placed onto an architect space.
—Courier: Decreased placement cost; +1 action if it's the first worker placed within a given area.
—Priest: Take one god card; you may pay one potato to gain +1 action.

All god cards feature one of the different symbols found on the worker placement locations. Before placing a worker, you must either discard a god card with a matching symbol or pay valuable gold resources. God cards also depict special abilities that can be activated only if you have previously built a matching statue!

Army cards allow you to send one or more units to conquer villages in nearby regions. You must compete against the other players for control of each region as well as for valuable rewards that can be gained as a result of military conquest.

The position of your High Priest within the Coricancha has a significant impact on your overall strategy, affecting your access to powerful actions and determining any potential resource costs when placing your workers. More specifically, when placing a worker, you must pay additional resources the farther your worker is from your High Priest, from nothing all the way up to eight potatoes or corn!

Additionally, when moving your High Priest, you can activate powerful actions available only within the Coricancha:

—Produce: Gain all rewards from your production buildings.
—Worship: Sacrifice previously sculpted statues to gain permanent temple advancements.
—Offering: Pay resources to gain temple advancements.
—Conquer: Engage in military conquest of nearby villages.
—Rejuvenate: Refresh previously activated buildings and military units.

Throughout the game, you score victory points whenever you construct stairs or sculpt statues. Gain bonus victory points whenever another player makes use of the stairs you have constructed. Score victory points from temple advancements and control of the four regions.

The game ends when the worker pool has become exhausted, symbolizing the full incorporation of nearby regions and villages into the newly risen Inca Empire. You then score bonus victory points from reaching the top of the temple, from your woven tapestries, and from various buildings and resources you have accumulated.
I cannot wait to see and hear more about Tawantinsuyu and whatever else Dávid Turczi is involved with next...
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Fri Apr 17, 2020 1:00 pm
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Pax to the Future: New Releases from Ion Game Design & Sierra Madre Games

Candice Harris
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Board Game Publisher: Ion Game Design
Board Game Publisher: Sierra Madre Games
Great Scott! In early April 2020, Ion Game Design and Sierra Madre Games launched a Kickstarter campaign for the second edition of Pax Renaissance and their latest addition to the Pax series: Pax Viking. Whether you're already a fan of the series or simply Pax-curious, there's no better time to delve into this deep, historically rich series of strategy games.

If you don't know what a Pax game is, think of it like this: In traditional wargames, players represent nations maneuvering pawns on a map, but in Pax games, players ARE the pawns. With the exception of the future-focused Pax Transhumanity, Pax games are historically based strategy games driven by a card market in which players have a couple of straightforward actions each turn, most commonly buying a card from the card market or playing a card from your hand into your tableau. But beneath the deceptively simple actions comes a wealth of decisions that often gives players the tension of a high-stakes chess game at every turn.

Pax games tend to have multiple paths to victory that are often triggered in clever ways to keep players on their toes. I'd imagine it takes even the most skilled players several games to internalize the rules before you can even begin scratching the surface of each Pax game's strategic depth. In fact, you could have the rules down to a T and still not have a clear understanding of what exactly you need to do outwit your opponents and win the game. It's no wonder Pax games are so often described as "opaque".

Board Game: Pax Pamir (Second Edition)
Since its release in 2019, Pax Pamir (Second Edition) from Cole Wehrle has been dubbed the most accessible Pax game in the series, and I totally agree. I've played with many friends who were either uninterested or intimidated by all things Pax, yet they all ended up pleasantly surprised with how much they enjoyed it in spite of their initial skepticism. Though Pax Pamir (Second Edition) is unarguably very accessible compared to its predecessors (i.e., Pax Porfiriana, Pax Renaissance, Pax Emancipation), and even Pax Pamir first edition, it certainly is no walk in the park in terms of complexity. There is still plenty of room for a lighter weight contender in the Pax ring — enter Pax Viking.

Pax Viking, designed by Jon Manker and developed by Phil Eklund, is intended to deliver the signature Pax gaming experience with a much flatter learning curve, making it even more accessible for easing players into the series. Not only is the concept of an entry-level Pax game unique, but Pax Viking even has round cards(!?) to set it apart from the others. Here's an overview from the publisher covering the theme, who you are, and what your goal is:
Quote:
Pax Viking is a strategic, historical card game for 1-6 players, ages 12 and up, about the less known Vikings, those who travelled eastwards. These came primarily from Sweden and were for the most part merchants. They were skillful opportunists both in matter of silver and axes and were ready to use whatever works best as a tool in the current situation they encountered. They did so with the same adventurous explorer mindset found among the westward-traveling Vikings, and reached far to the south and east in their journeys, forming many strong connections and founding societies and future empires on their way.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Prototype box cover

In Pax Viking, you represent a Jarl, one of the powerful leaders in the nordics during the 10th century that may have had ambitions towards ruling Sweden. The game takes place just before the turn of the previous millennia. Your goal is to build your family's power through trade, personal connections and smart, but sometimes deceitful actions with the ultimate goal to become the first King to rule Sweden.

There are four main paths that history may take. During the game, you strive to have a high reputation in one or more of these:

1. Sweden through a stronger centralized ruling where Sweden becomes a unified country, with a heavier emphasis on trade and networking.
2. Rus where the new strong areas in the east, founded by the Swedish Vikings, become a closer part of the Swedish Viking culture and eventually a part of Sweden.
3. Theocracy by succumbing to the growing and expansionist political system Christianity, which is spreading throughout Europe.
4. Jarldom by sticking to the more raiding-oriented, decentralized Jarldom structure that has served your culture well during centuries.

The window of opportunity to win comes through the event cards. Every time an event card is played during a winter action, it will include a check-for-win for one or more of the four paths.
Pax Renaissance, designed by Phil and Matt Eklund, has been out of print for quite some time, so it's exciting to hear the news that the new and improved Pax Renaissance 2nd Edition is coming to our tables in Q4 2020. Here's a very high-level overview from the publisher:
Quote:
As a Renaissance banker, you will finance kings or republics, sponsor voyages of discovery, join secret cabals, or unleash jihads and inquisitions. Your choices determine whether Europe is elevated into the bright modern era or remains festering in dark feudalism.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Prototype box cover

In Pax Renaissance, you have two actions each turn. As in other Pax games, you can acquire cards in a market, sell them out of the game, or play them into your tableau. You can also stimulate the economy by running trade fairs and trading voyages for Oriental goods. A map of Europe with trade routes from Portugal to Crimea is included, and discovering new trade routes can radically alter the importance and wealth of empires, ten of which are in the game.

Four victories determine the future course of Western Society: Will it be towards imperialism, trade globalization, religious totalitarianism, or enlightened art and science?
Board Game: Pax Renaissance
Pax Renaissance is considered by many to be the quintessential Pax game. On a personal note, it is the first Pax game I played, and it not only got me into Pax games, but also put me on a bit of a historical board game kick that hasn't slowed down.

The original Pax Ren packs so much game into such a tiny box; it's so deep, complex and opaque, yet thematic and somehow manages to pull it all off in a short playtime (60-120 minutes). It's definitely a commitment rules-wise and not a game you can casually break out with just anyone, but once you know it, it's truly a rewarding experience, especially when you play with others who understand it.

Based on the updates below, Pax Renaissance 2nd Edition should be considerably more accessible than the first edition with:

—Updated and expanded rules, components, and new Renaissance-inspired art.
—A game board that enables a third state for map cards and makes set-up time faster.
—A new solo mode.
—The previous expansion pack (59 market cards) and BGG promo (5 cards) included in the game.
—Major improvements to the iconography that allows cards to be splayed without changing the mechanisms.

Pax games might seem daunting at first sight, but with the new entry-level Pax Viking, you'll have a starting point to ease in. If you're up for something a bit heavier, pour that beer into your DeLorean and take a trip back to the Renaissance with the revamped and more accessible second edition of Pax Renaissance. You shouldn't need more than 1.21 gigawatts of power to get there...
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Thu Apr 9, 2020 5:00 pm
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New Expansion Round-Up: Pursue More Happiness, Battle More Tyrants, Scare More Invaders & Explore More of China

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Spirit Island
Quarantine life has got me analyzing my game shelf more often to explore which games play well with two since I'm home with my significant other and not able to meet with my usual game group. Considering that my SO isn't a gameaholic like me and can be enticed only with Star Wars and pirate-themed games every now and then, I also find myself seeking games that can be played solo.

I'm continuously pleasantly surprised when I think about how many different games work great multiplayer but can also be played solo. Here are four upcoming expansions for games that fit this mold, and in case you missed them on Kickstarter, they are available for pre-order with retailers or directly from their publishers.

Jagged Earth is the latest expansion for the ever-popular, complex, co-operative game Spirit Island from designer R. Eric Reuss and publishers Greater Than Games (English edition) and Pegasus Spiele (German edition).

In Spirit Island, players represent different spirits with unique elemental powers who work together to defend their island home from colonizing invaders. Not only is Spirit Island: Jagged Earth adding more variety and new challenges to Spirit Island, but it also includes components for two additional players (up to six). Given how challenging this game can be, (when the time comes) I'll happily welcome the additional brain power from two more players.

Board Game: Spirit Island: Jagged Earth

Here are the highlights from the Spirit Island: Jagged Earth expansion:
Quote:
New scenarios
10 new Spirits
2 new adversaries
2 new island boards
30+ new event cards
New Fear and Blight cards
50+ new major and minor power cards
Optional aspects (innate powers) for the four core game spirits
Badland tokens, a new way to fight invaders!
More plastic, wooden, and cardboard tokens for play with up to six players
New play options: combining adversaries, playing with an Archipelago (split island), and more.
Although some of the spirits, adversaries, and cards use tokens and rules introduced in the Branch & Claw expansion, all needed components and rules are included in Jagged Earth, making everything playable with just the base game and this. I'm planning to play a couple of solo games of Spirit Island while quarantining to get prepped for this expansion. Wish me luck!

Board Game: Gùgōng
Gùgōng: Pànjūn is the first expansion for Gùgōng from Andreas Steding and Game Brewer.

In Gùgōng, 1-5 players assume the role of powerful Chinese families trying to gain influence and power by traveling around China exchanging gifts with Officials. A main feature of Gùgōng is its unique card exchange worker-placement system in which the gift cards you offer/place at a location have to be of higher value than the one you receive, which forces players to make strategic choices regarding which actions you want to take each turn. The Pànjūn expansion adds four new modules that can be combined in different ways for plenty of variety and replayability:
Quote:
(1) The Summer Palace: Players travel to the Summer Palace of the Emperor, where they can obtain extra servants, jade, and even the services of the mysterious court ladies. Players have to score majorities in order to obtain these bonuses, but can also manipulate the results by exchanging specific gifts with the officials as word has it the Emperor is collecting a very particular type of gift.

(2) The Peasants Revolt: During the Ming Dynasty, peasant revolts were common. Although the Ming Dynasty itself came to power through a peasant revolt, this did not mean that the rulers had any more empathy for the peasants than the previous rulers. Players can gain a lot of support from the peasants in this expansion, but if pushed too far, players will have to work together to avoid their wrath.

Board Game: Gùgōng: Pànjūn

(3) The Palace Stairs: Moving your envoy towards the Emperor will not be without consequences with this expansion module. Players can choose a longer or shorter path leading towards the Palace of Heavenly Purity: the shorter path requires some achievements, while the long path earns players rewards at first, but as they get close to the Palace, they have to pay certain taxes or risk seeing their envoy be forced back.

(4) Extra Decrees and Gift Cards: Spice up your game with new decrees, and acquire special kinds of gift cards such as the lamp and jade knives that will add even more variety to your game of Gùgōng!
Board Game: Too Many Bones
Board Game: Too Many Bones: Undertow
Splice & Dice is one of the latest expansions for the co-operative, fantasy-themed RPG-style dice-builder game Too Many Bones from designers Josh J. Carlson, Adam Carlson, and Josh Wielgus and publisher Chip Theory Games.

In Too Many Bones, 1-4 players team up on an adventure to find and defeat savage tyrants who have invaded your land. Part of its main appeal comes from the 100+ unique skill dice you use to build your characters as you battle your way to the tyrant's lair. TMB already has a ton of content with plenty of replay value, yet the Splice & Dice expansion adds a new element of creativity with fresh challenges to keep players on their toes.

Here's an overview of what you can expect from this crafty release:
Quote:
Prepare for work in the lab!

Too Many Bones: Splice & Dice allows players to create their own tyrants using baddies from their Too Many Bones base games and add-ons! Build a tyrant alongside your standard TMB games, or work for Nobulous outside of a TMB game and port your creation in later.

Board Game: Too Many Bones: Splice & Dice

In addition to this tyrant creation system, Splice & Dice brings new tyrants, encounters, and new dual baddie-type baddies into play, forcing players to invent new strategies and builds for their favorite characters.
Too Many Bones: Splice & Dice can also be played with the standalone sequel/expansion Too Many Bones: Undertow.

Board Game: The Pursuit of Happiness
If you're looking to keep things more playful and light-hearted, check out the latest Pursuit of Happiness expansion, Experiences, from designers Adrian Abela, David Chircop, and Konstantinos Kokkinis and publisher Artipia Games, with Stronghold Games handling its North American release and Kobold Spieleverlag its German release.

If you're not familiar with The Pursuit of Happiness, it's best described as The Game of Life...the euro game, with 1-4 players developing a character from birth through life-establishing relationships, taking on projects and jobs, and buying items, all while trying to maintain a low stress level and optimize happiness. If The Pursuit of Happiness weren't already amusing enough, the Experiences expansion will surely bring your character's happiness level to a whole new level. Here's a summary of the experiences you can expect from this expansion:
Quote:
Who says life is short? Life is as big as you want it to be! Every day we get to dream of the stuff we would like to do, places we would like to visit, things we would like to experience.

From the crazy carnival of Rio, to a romantic dinner under the Eiffel tower, to a tour on Liberty island in New York, all you need to do is dream and desire, and if you are determined, those experiences will eventually become a reality.

Are you ready to begin your journey? Pack your bags and let's go!

Board Game: The Pursuit of Happiness: Experiences

This expansion introduces the concept of dreams, a new mechanism that allows players to store cards of any type on their "dream" board in order to make them a reality later in the game. The expansion also includes a new board to place the new experience cards and features new actions. Within the Experiences deck, players will find a wide variety of trips and events around the world.

Players also get to have kids, meet new partners, and order services, bringing their games to the next level.
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Fri Apr 3, 2020 1:00 pm
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Battling Overlords and Exploring Coral Reefs at GAMA Expo 2020

Candice Harris
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
While I love me some heavy games that I can get lost in for several hours, I also love games that I can play in under an hour. At the game nights during GAMA Expo 2020, I kept stumbling upon games that played in 30-45 minutes. This was awesome because I could squeeze more games in before they turned the lights out on us at midnight. If only we had candles or broke out our cell phone flashlights to keep playing... (Noted for next year!)

Here are two more games I played (on top of Fort, Festo!, and Downforce: Wild Ride, which I covered here) that are worth sharing:

Coralia is a deep sea dice-placement game for 2-4 players from designer Michael Rieneck that's published by HUCH! and R&R Games. In Coralia, players compete to score the most victory points by placing custom dice representing diving robots into thriving coral reefs to collect different sets of cards, tiles, and victory points.

Board Game: Coralia

At first glance, I couldn't help but notice the sea of the vibrant colored dice and ocean-themed game board featuring beautiful art by Miguel Coimbra. Coimbra's art is no stranger to the board game community as it's recognizable from such hits as 7 Wonders, Small World, and Cyclades.

In Coralia, each player starts their turn by drafting a die from the main dice pool to add to the three existing dice from the previous player's turn; then they'll roll all four dice and choose one to place for their action. (The game comes with a nifty research station dice roller that adds to the theme, but also helps keep the dice contained and not rolling all over the place.) The player chooses a die and places it on an open space matching the symbol in the matching colored coral reef. There's also an island you can place dice on if all spots are blocked or if you choose to, so you're never stuck without options even as spaces on the board fill up. Here's a summary of the actions and how each scores:

(1) If you place a pearl, draw two cards from the pearl card deck and place them face down in front of you. At the end of the game, you score 1-4 of your pearl cards depending on how many cards you've collected compared to your opponents.

(2) If you place a fish, draw two cards from the fish card deck and keep one placed face down in front of you. At the end of the game, you score points for sets of different types of fish.

From gallery of candidrum

(3) If you place a starfish, draw three cards from the starfish card deck and keep one placed face down in front of you. At the end of the game, starfish cards give you victory points or other bonuses depending on the outcome of the game.

(4) If you place an octopus, place your octopus meeple on top of the die. Then for each die placed on this reef, you score 1 victory point. During the game, the owner of an already-placed octopus earns additional points each time an additional octopus is placed on a different reef. This is one of the only ways to score points during the game as most scoring happens at game's end.

(5) If you place a turtle, take the corresponding turtle tile, which gives you an immediate bonus. Then flip the turtle tile on its die storage side, which allows you to lock in a die result before rolling all four dice at the start of future turns.

(6) If you place a diver, place your diver on the board or on top of the corresponding die; if your diver has already been placed on a reef, you can relocate it to a different reef and pick up a treasure tile (if available). At the end of the game, each die placed on the diver's reef gives the owner of the diver victory points.

I was pleasantly surprised with the number of decisions Coralia packs compared to it being a lightweight in terms of complexity. Yes, Coralia is a dice game and yes, you will be rolling dice, but the overall luck factor felt considerably low considering how many different paths you have for scoring points. In the game I played, there were no "bad" dice rolls; everyone generally had plenty of different choices each turn.

I also like the fact that the fish, pearl and starfish cards all have the same back so it's not obvious how many pearl cards each player has; you have to pay attention and decide whether that majority is worth fighting for. Overall, Coralia is a fun, light game with a slew of decisions and a 30-35 minute average playtime. You can easily break it out with family, non-gamers, or even heavier gamers looking for something lighter to play with a decent number of decisions.

Board Game: Enchanters: Overlords
• I also checked out Rafał Cywicki's Enchanters: Overlords by GIndie, which is a standalone expansion for the fantasy card-drafting game Enchanters.

In Enchanters: Overlords, 2-4 players are heroes crafting a magical artifact to aid in battling monsters, dragons, and powerful overlords to defend the village and gain the most glory points!

I was able to quickly jump into an Enchanters: Overlords game due to the fast set-up and teach time, with us questing within five minutes of sitting down at the table with three new players. Enchanters has a ton of content and a variable set-up in which you choose a village card, an overlord card, and a kingdom deck per player, with those cards then shuffled to form the adventure deck for each game. Enchanters: Overlords includes six kingdom decks, six villages, and six overlords, so plenty of different combinations are available for play. If you have the base game or any other expansions, you can mix those cards in for even more variety.

The "journey track", i.e., the card market where most of the action happens, is filled with six cards from the adventure deck. On your turn, you're going to either journey or rest. When you take the journey action, you can acquire item and enchantment cards to upgrade your artifact or fight monsters or dragons. The first card on the journey track is free, but additional spaces have an increased crystal cost.

From gallery of candidrum

Each player starts with a "fist" item card and an "of enchanting" enchantment card that forms your weak starting artifact. When you acquire an item or enchantment card, you stack it on your existing cards, in most cases revealing some attack or defense values which you'll need to build up to combat monsters and dragons to score glory points. The visible attack and defense icons determine the current strength of your artifact. As a fun and clever bonus, each time you upgrade your artifact with new item and enchantment cards, you create new combos that each have a little description you're encouraged to read aloud. As an example, the description of my "Short Sword of Fire" combo in the photo below reads, "Still a sword, but almost a dagger that...burns in a fiery ring of fire." (You may need to zoom in to see the small italicized text.)

From gallery of candidrum

Combat with monsters and dragons is pretty straightforward when you choose a monster/dragon card from the journey track. Each monster/dragon has a strength value and health points. First, the enemy attacks you, giving wounds if their strength is greater than your defense level. There's no limit to the number of wounds a player can take, but each is worth a negative point at game's end. Then the player attacks the enemy and must have an attack value that equals or exceeds its health points to successfully defeat it. Assuming you defeat it, you create a stack of monsters/dragons to the right of your artifact cards for final scoring.

If a player can't or doesn't want to journey, they can rest. The rest action varies depending on which village card you're playing with, but generally it offers players a way to heal wounds or collect crystals. When you rest in Enchanters: Overlords, the first card on the journey track is discarded, but if it's a monster, it triggers the overlord to attack. Therefore the timing of taking the rest action can get tricky, especially if you're trying to avoid getting attacked by the overlord.

Players continue taking turns and embarking on quests until all cards from the adventure deck and the journey track have been taken or discarded. Then players score points as described on the village card and for their acquired cards — items, enchantments, monsters, and dragons — minus 1 point per wound. The hero with the most glory points wins.

Having no prior experience or knowledge of the Enchanters series, I felt Enchanters: Overlords was different in a good way. Obviously, the fantasy theme is nothing new, but I thought it was pretty clever how you level up your items and enchantments to continuously build your magical artifact engine. There's also some mixed player interaction sprinkled in as well. The "Sun Tower" village we played with allowed us to take two crystals when resting...or we could take four crystals but had to allow an opponent to heal one wound. A lot of the cards also have effects on them that can impact you or your opponents, positively or negatively. Beyond the short set-up, teach and playtime, Enchanters: Overlords has a ton of content that will present fresh and interesting challenges each game you play.
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Wed Mar 25, 2020 1:00 pm
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