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Upcoming GMT Releases: Dominate Roman Republic Politics, Race in Ancient Rome, Duel in Nottinghamshire, and Battle in Medieval Japan

Candice Harris
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Board Game Publisher: GMT Games
Board Game: Churchill
Board Game: Versailles 1919
• I recently dipped my toes in the Great Statesmen Series from GMT Games, playing both Churchill and Versailles 1919 for the first time, just a few days apart. I had a blast playing both games, and I'm officially hooked on the series, so needless to say, I was thrilled to see Triumvir announced as a new P500 addition in GMT Games' May 2021 Update newsletter.

In Triumvir, from Versailles 1919 designers Mark Herman and Geoff Engelstein, 1-3 players duke it out politically as Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus, using their influence to gain control over issues in 60 BCE Rome via core mechanisms from Versailles 1919 as briefly described below by the publisher:
Quote:
It's 60 BCE, and the three most powerful men in Rome form a loose alliance based on marriage, self-interest, and a thirst for power. In Triumvir, you take the role of one of these Roman power brokers as you vie for power and position that inevitably leads to Civil War.

Triumvir builds on Versailles 1919 where players use influence to gain control over issues and the path that history will take going forward. In Triumvir, you use your three-dimensional influence in popularity, money, and legions to vie for the Consulship, Pontifex Maximus, and Governorships as you try to outmaneuver your erstwhile friends on the floor of the Senate. The game can be played with 1-3 players.

From gallery of kuhnk
Box cover not final

During your turn, you perform one of three actions: Place influence (popularity, money, or legions) on issues that are being debated in the Senate, Recover exhausted influence, or Settle an issue. These actions are punctuated by elections, revolts in the provinces, and domestic unrest. As one of the Triumvirs, you have to balance your tempo of activities to ensure that you are not caught short on your ability to influence how events evolve and progress.

Although Triumvir uses many of the basic mechanisms from Versailles 1919, the design is thematically aligned to its subject. When an issue settles, your choices alter your popularity and resources where the Consul often gets his cut. Each player has a unique personality card that asymmetrically captures your personality's strengths in how they gain and recover influence. These characteristics are enhanced by your growing tableau of patrons — some of whom bring additional resources.

Revolts are intense events where the Governor of the affected province has to re-establish Roman rule. Failure to do so carries tough popularity penalties whereas success raises your stature. If you put down a particularly epic revolt in a grand fashion, you can be awarded a Triumph with extra legions, but remember—sic transit gloria. The tides of fate can often turn against you in the next election or foreign war.

This political danse macabre continues until the "Crossing the Rubicon" issue ends the Roman Republic and brings on a Civil War or one player dominates faction standing.
Board Game: Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan
• For more fun in Rome, Charioteer is an upcoming chariot-racing release for 2-6 players from Sekigahara designer Matt Calkins and is another new P500 addition that caught my attention in the GMT May Update newsletter:
Quote:
The ground trembles under a thousand angry hoofbeats. Wheels creak and reins pull as racers drive their horses forward in a panic.

You are a charioteer in the Circus Maximus, the greatest raceway in the ancient world.

A crescendo of noise builds with each lap. Chariots collide, whips crack. The crowd cheers for a surprising breakaway, rumbles as a favorite is damaged and falls behind. From the imperial box, the emperor laughs and shouts. Clouds of dust obscure the bright banners of the four factions.
Three hundred thousand fans are on their feet as you turn the final corner. This is not the finish they expected. You lead by a length, and only one rival remains; each throws the last of their energy into one final sprint. Many thousands are despondent, other thousands exultant and joyous. Their shouts become a roar, a long scream, as you surge for the finish line. Another hundred yards will make you a hero.


Charioteer is a strategic racing game that plays in one hour. Each player controls a chariot in the Circus Maximus of ancient Rome. There's lots of action, and it happens quickly, with simultaneous move selection.

Movement is determined by melding sets from a hand of cards. Every card does more than one thing, and it takes multiple matching cards to make a move. Choosing to use a card in one set means deciding not to use it in another. Timing when to make a critical move is as important as knowing what move to make.

Moves come in four colors, and each has a special advantage. Play a red move to attack your opponents, yellow to recover from disruption, black to turn a sharp corner, and green to sprint.

Each racer begins the game with different abilities, and they improve their skills as the race progresses, leading to big bonuses in their favorite types of moves. Show the emperor the kind of move he prefers, and a racer's skills will increase even faster.

Players deploy tokens to give their moves a special bonus. More tokens can be earned by impressing the crowd with large matching card plays. Players may choose to delay using their best sets until they're big enough to qualify for a fan token.

Some races will be violent and others calm, depending upon whether the players and emperor behave disruptively. Attacks cause damage, which reduces movement speed. Players who specialize in recovery moves may overcome damage quickly. Others may need to carefully deploy their shields on turns when violence is expected.

It's not always clear who's winning the race. Being in front of the pack may not be as important as developing a critical skill, collecting powerful tokens, or keeping damage low. Whip icons allow those who have fallen behind to surge back into competition.
• In an April 2021 post, I mentioned Vijayanagara, the first game announced in GMT's new Irregular Conflicts Series. Fred Serval's A Gest of Robin Hood is the second game in the series and features accessible, asymmetric gameplay for 1-2 players, playing in 45-70 minutes.

Here's a brief overview from the publisher of what you can expect:
Quote:
A Gest of Robin Hood is the second game in the Irregular Conflicts Series, further adapting the COIN system to depict peasant revolts, feudal tax collection, and outlaw activities in late 12th century medieval England. Transposing one of GMT's most popular systems into a simpler format and a more approachable setting makes A Gest of Robin Hood perfect for newcomers to wargaming. At the same time, it also offers a tight challenge for more experienced wargamers who can enjoy a tense asymmetric duel in under an hour.

Board Game: A Gest of Robin Hood: Insurrection in Nottinghamshire
Box cover not final

Highlights:
• An ideal entry point to the COIN system and the ICS series: a two player, relatively low complexity game with a family friendly theme that plays in one hour and introduces all of the key concepts found in the COIN series.
• A new hidden movement mechanic: The Sheriff will chase Robin Hood across Nottinghamshire to prevent him from organizing peasant revolts, but Robin can sneak away and hide amongst his Merry Men.
• A second new hidden movement mechanic: Carriages serve as a simple twist on Lines of Communication, transferring wealth back to Nottingham while providing a target for robbery by the Merry Men—but some of them might be a trap, containing concealed Henchmen!
• Random encounters with rich travelers: Robin Hood draws from the Travelers Deck when conducting a Rob action, then decides whether to play it safe or demand a larger 'donation' with potentially negative consequences.
• A streamlined sequence of play: Further developing the two-player sequence of play first found in Colonial Twilight, this new sequence of play is easy to understand while still presenting difficult tactical decisions.

Player Factions:
Robin Hood and the Merry Men: Robbing from the rich to give to the poor. An archetypal insurgency faction focused on undermining the Sheriff's authority by inciting peasant revolts, robbing carriages and travelers, and building a network of camps across Nottinghamshire.
The Sheriff of Nottingham and his Henchmen: In charge of maintaining order and collecting taxes for Prince John. A proto-counterinsurgent faction focusing on suppressing peasant revolts and securing roads to ensure the safe travel of wealth confiscated from the parishes.
The Pure Land is an upcoming, 1-4 player COIN game set in 15th century Japan from designer Joe Dewhurst that plays in 120-360 minutes. Based on the details below, this seems to be another interesting and unique COIN game that I'm looking forward to checking out:
Quote:
The Pure Land: Ōnin War in Muromachi Japan, 1465-1477 is Volume XIV of the COIN Series originally designed by Volko Ruhnke. It depicts a devastating civil war in 15th century Japan that reduced Kyoto to a smoldering ruin and precipitated the century-long warring states period — the Sengoku Jidai. Against the backdrop of this civil war between coalitions led by the Hosokawa and Yamana clan, the game also features peasant revolts led by the Jizamurai and religious unrest involving the Ikkō-ikki, the militant wing of the emerging Jōdo Shinshū (or True Pure Land) Buddhist sect.

Highlights:
• An innovative clan loyalty system that creates a dynamic political geography. The Hosokawa and Yamana factions form alliances with other clans, which can then be disrupted by political intercessions, peasant revolts, and assassinations.
• A tight peasant-based economy that forces all factions to compete over limited resources. Peasants generate resources for the Jizamurai, which are then taxed, tithed, or confiscated away by the other factions.
• A new approach to religious insurgency and peasant revolts using the COIN system. The Ikkō-ikki faction slowly spread their religious beliefs and are hard to eliminate, while both the Ikkō-ikki and the Jizamurai can trigger peasant revolts to further their own goals.
• Two competing 'government' factions that must nonetheless cooperate to ensure the survival of the Ashikaga Shogunate. Support for the Ashikaga dynasty is a shared goal for both the Yamana and the Hosokawa, but only one faction can control the Shogunate and claim victory!

Board Game: The Pure Land: Ōnin War in Muromachi Japan, 1465-1477
Box cover not final

Faction descriptions:
• The Hosokawa Clan represent the political establishment and must encourage support for the Ashikaga Shogunate while also maintaining the loyalty of the other major clans.
• The Yamana Clan also want to encourage support for the Ashikaga Shogunate but at the same time must gain control of enough population to establish themselves as the dominant military power.
• The Jizamurai, minor nobles and merchants, can encourage peasant revolts to build regional autonomy, while also trading to increase their own independent wealth.
• The Ikkō-ikki can preach to reduce support for the shogunate and to spread their religious beliefs, while also radicalising the population to eventually overthrow the established order.

There are four scenarios available to play in The Pure Land:
1. The main scenario, The Ōnin-Bunmei War, is five campaigns long and covers the full course of the war, from the outbreak of violence in Kyoto in 1467 to the exhausted Hosokawa-Yamana stalemate a decade later in 1477.
2. Foxes and Wolves is a shorter, three campaign scenario covering only the first six years of the war, until the deaths of Yamana Sōzen and Hosokawa Katsumoto in 1473.
3. An Empty Moor covers the final four years of the war in two campaigns, from 1473 to 1477, with an alternative setup depicting the historical situation in 1473.
4. Finally, The Flowery Capital is an extended six campaign scenario beginning at the birth of Ashikaga Yoshihisa in 1465, with the country still at peace, the Jodo Shinshu Hongan-ji temple still standing in Kyoto, and the urbanisation in Settsu province yet to begin.

The game takes approximately one hour per campaign to play, so the scenarios range from a single evening to a full day experience. For beginner players the Foxes and Wolves scenario is recommended as it covers the full narrative arc of the game in a manageable amount of time.
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Fri Jun 4, 2021 1:51 pm
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Coffee Traders: A Heavy Roast with Donkeys, Piggybacking, and More

Candice Harris
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From gallery of candidrum
Coffee Traders is big, heavy, new release from publisher Capstone Games and designers André Spil and Rolf Sagel, the duo behind the heavy, economic, oil business game Wildcatters. Wildcatters was originally released in 2013 from Dutch publisher RASS Games with a new-and-improved second edition released in 2018 from Capstone Games. In Wildcatters, players are oil barons who develop oil fields, bid for oil rights, and build rigs, oil tankers, trains, and refineries, competing to deliver more oil barrels, and collect more shares and money than their opponents.

In Coffee Traders, Spil and Sagel continue with their heavy, business-driven, player interaction-filled design formula, but this time in a completely different setting with a refreshing, unique theme focused on fair trade coffee organizations. After playing multiple games of Coffee Traders with a review copy provided by the publisher, I wanted to share some initial impressions and insight on what you can expect.

In Coffee Traders, each player represents a coffee trading company from Antwerp, Belgium in the 1970s. While the game was originally designed for 3-5 players, after the demand for two-player games skyrocketed due to the pandemic, Spil and Sagel created a special two-player variant while the game was in production, with this variant being included in the game.

Your goal in Coffee Traders is to help farmers from different parts of the world partner with cooperatives, to hire contractors to construct buildings that will help improve their communities, and to have traders in Antwerp import as much coffee as possible to meet the demand. To become the world's best coffee trader and win the game, you need to have the most victory points (VPs) at the end of the game. VPs can be earned in several different ways, and in some respects Coffee Traders can feel like a point-salad game, although it's definitely not a full-on, "main course" point salad — it's more like a point "side" salad. It's also worth mentioning that all points are scored at the end of the game; there is no VP track on the board.

From gallery of candidrum
Table set up for a four-player game

Coffee Traders is a beautiful table hog and quite a beast to set up, especially if you tackle it on your own. There are tons of components to familiarize yourself with initially, but they're all well-labeled in the rulebook and the quality is top notch across the board — the wooden pieces, metal coins, game board, and player boards are all great. Plus, there's definitely a wow factor when it's all set up.

From gallery of candidrum
Inside the rulebook
The box cover, game board, and player boards are all gorgeous and well-illustrated kudos to Daan van Paridon and John Rabou. Just about everything oozes vintage coffee trading vibes. When you open the box cover, it feels like you're opening a crate of coffee beans. The rulebook, title "The Coffee Trading Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Industry", even has this worn-out look and feel with coffee-themed flair and realistic-looking coffee stains on various pages that will sometimes make you think you actually spilled coffee on it. I appreciate these thoughtful, thematic touches sprinkled throughout Coffee Traders.

From gallery of candidrum
Example of Colombia and Ethiopia cooperatives mid-game
Looking at the game board, there's no denying there is a lot going on. Fortunately, everything is well-organized and the graphic design is on point. The main part of the game board features five color-coordinated cooperatives — Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Guatemala, and Brazil — where most of the action takes place. Each cooperative also has an associated shape icon to make it clearer for players when differentiating colors is an issue. A chunk of your victory points can be earned from the area-majority scoring of the cooperatives at the end of the game.

Each cooperative has a town center that starts the game with six (tan/neutral) workers which players will place on plantations in order to harvest coffee. There are also spaces in each cooperative for plantations and constructed buildings.

From gallery of candidrum
Arabica track
On the right side of the board, you'll find the Arabica track, with a track for each cooperative. These are your standard euro tracks akin to what you find in Terra Mystica and Tzolk'in. There are a couple different ways to bump on these tracks during the game to gain benefits. The tracks are identical regardless of which cooperative, and they are structured so that there are advantages to focusing on a track or two and beating your opponents to the top, and alternatively, there are also benefits if you decide to diversify and work your way up all of the tracks.

On the left side of the board are coffee bars from around the world, where you can sell coffee during the contract phase. There's also an area for the three randomly0selected milestones, which you'll be racing your opponents to achieve. I find it very interesting how differently the game plays out depending on which milestones are in play.

At the beginning of the game, players place buildings, plantations, workers, and starting resources on their player boards. The player boards are awesome, and they help make set-up and the flow of the game a breeze. In addition, each player also randomly receives contracts for each letter A through E, which are placed on their player boards. Based on the number on the E contract tile, they also receive the corresponding F contract tile. Players use their F contract tile to determine which types of coffee they start with in their warehouse, in addition to where their three starting plantations should be placed in the various cooperatives. After everything is set up on the game board and all players have their player boards geared up, you begin the game.

From gallery of candidrum
Player board set-up for a game

Coffee Traders is played over three periods (rounds), and each period has six phases:
---• Phase 1 (Work) - Players perform actions on their coffee plantations.
---• Phase 2 (Workers) - Players send their workers to plantations.
---• Phase 3 (Trader & Contractor) - Players send traders to Antwerp and hire contractors to construct buildings.
---• Phase 4 (Harvest) - Players harvest coffee from plantations and deliver to fair trade posts and traders.
---• Phase 5 (Contract) - Players fulfill contracts and deliver coffee to coffee bars around the world.
---• Phase 6 (Refresh) - Players perform end of round clean-up.

One thing I appreciate about Coffee Traders is that each phase is spelled out on your player board with excellent iconography so you can progress through each game round simply following your player board from left to right. After you play the game once, or perhaps even after your first round if you're an iconography wizard, you barely have to refer to the rulebook. This is very impressive and incredibly handy for a heavier game with so much going on.

Phase 1: Work Phase

Each round begins with the Work phase where, in turn order, you either perform a cooperative action or pass. You have four different actions from which to choose, and any of the actions can be performed multiple times. You can add a plantation to a cooperative, send workers to plantations, breed a donkey, or get income. Each time you take an action, you track it by placing a wooden cube on your player board marking the corresponding action. Your company has three action cubes, but you also have a bonus supply that includes an additional action cube you may choose to use.

From gallery of candidrum
Left half of the player board
With the first action, you can add a plantation to any of the cooperatives by taking the leftmost plantation from any row on your player board and placing it on an open plantation space in the cooperative of your choice. On your player board you have level 1, 2, and 3 plantations that correlate to the quality of the coffee they'll produce, and essentially give you influence for end-game area-majority scoring.

When placing a plantation on the game board, there are a few things to consider. First, each cooperative has three rows with a varying number of spaces allotted for plantations. You can build level-1 plantations only on the first row, level-1 or -2 plantations on the middle row, and level-2 or -3 plantations on the highest row. In order to add a plantation to the middle (1/2) or highest (2/3) row, you need a connection to your existing plantation(s) in lower rows using donkeys and pathways, or you need to have a truck. You start the game with one donkey in your company supply, and additional donkeys are hard to get. Trucks are even harder to get, but they are powerful considering they can save you the effort of needing a donkey connection (three total donkeys!) to your initial plantation on the first row in order to place a plantation on the highest row.

Some plantations have a cost (coins) and/or bonus (donkeys, workers, civet cats, Arabica track advancements) associated with placing them which is noted on your player board. In addition, if you are placing a plantation in a cooperative where you currently have no plantations, you also need to add a worker from your worker pool into the cooperative's town center.

When you add a plantation to the middle (1/2) or highest (2/3) row, you also get to bump on the Arabica track for the corresponding cooperative. Plus, the first two players to add a plantation to the highest row also get an animal or wild animal token as a bonus. These tokens allow you to bump on the corresponding Arabica track and the tokens themselves are added to a track on the right side of your player board which can lead to VPs at the end of the game.

With the second action, you place workers from the town center of a cooperative of your choice onto one of each player's plantations. As a bonus, if you add a worker to at least one of your opponents' plantations from taking this action, you immediately advance one space on the corresponding Arabica track. There is a penalty in phase 2 if any of your plantations do not have a worker on them and you start the game with only two workers in your worker pool. Therefore, this action is something you'll likely do to help yourself out, but with the bonus Arabica track bump factored in when also helping your opponents, it makes it even more enticing. Sometimes you might even perform this action in a cooperative where you don't need a worker on any of your plantations to specifically bump on a particular track.

Breeding a donkey is the third, and most expensive, action you can choose. To breed a donkey, you have to spend two action cubes, instead of one like all the other actions, then you take a donkey from your personal supply (not your company supply) and immediately place it on an available pathway in a cooperative above one of your previously-placed plantations. Breeding a donkey is a very expensive action in a game where it feels like you never have enough actions or resources, but it can be essential at times considering donkeys are so important for getting more of your plantations out onto the game board, yet so difficult to get into your company supply.

The last action, income, is simple, yet also very often necessary. You have two options when it comes to gaining income: either place a civet cat from your personal supply in Sumatra on the game board, or take two coins from the general supply and place them in your company supply. Money is pretty tight in Coffee Traders, so it's always helpful to have extra coins on hand. Each of your civet cats in Sumatra will give you 1 Kopi Luwak (wild) coffee during the Harvest phase, which is very helpful when you fulfill contracts and deliver coffee to coffee bars in the Contract phase.

Once all players have passed, it's time to start phase 2.

Phase 2: Workers Phase

The Workers phase is usually pretty quick, and the goal is to make sure all of your plantations have a worker on them; otherwise you'll get hit with a penalty which increases each round.

First, all players may simultaneously place workers from their worker pool onto their own empty plantations in any cooperative. Then, in player order, players can optionally place workers on other players' plantations if all of their own plantations have a worker. If you do place a worker on another player's plantation you advance one step on the corresponding Arabica track as a bonus as mentioned in the Work phase above. I love that Coffee Traders incentivizes you to help your opponents with this bonus. It always seems to stir up interesting conversations around the table and can lead to some light, unofficial negotiations.

From gallery of candidrum
Indonesia cooperative with workers on each plantation

Each player starts the game with two workers in their worker pool and once they're gone, it can be rough since it's not easy to get more of them. So while there might be a rush to add a bunch of plantations, you have to make sure you have a way to get workers on them, either from your worker pool, by taking the "send works to harvest" action in the Work phase, or by making nice with your opponents and getting their help.

At the end of this phase, for each of your plantations without a worker, you have to pay any combination of one coin or one step backwards on the Arabica of your choice. The amount paid per plantation is equal to the current round number, e.g., in round 2, the penalty is two coins/steps backwards on Arabica track(s) per plantation without a worker.

Phase 3: Trader & Contractor Phase

In phase 3, in turn order, each player can perform one of three different trader/contractor actions on their turn or pass. Unlike most phases, if you pass, you can still choose to perform an action on a future turn during this phase. This phase will continue until all players have passed in succession.

Each cooperative has an Antwerp trading house section and as an action during this phase, you can pay two coins and place one of your traders on the first trader position in a cooperative of your choice that doesn't already have traders. You want to place traders into the Antwerp trading house so that your traders receive coffee in the Harvest phase.

From gallery of candidrum
Cooperative w/ two traders in Antwerp Trading House
and three constructed buildings
As the active player, after placing your trader, you get a stock counter, which generates coffee income in the Refresh phase and may even help you build a warehouse in the Harvest phase. Then all other players may choose to follow your trader action without paying for it. This happens in player order from the current active player. If a player decides to follow (piggyback) your trader action, they place one of their traders in the next available trader position. However, the number of trader positions is one less than the number of players, so not all players will actually be able to piggyback and place a trader. If all players but one end up piggybacking, the player who is not present in the trading house gets a coin as a consolation prize.

As an action in the Trader & Contractor phase, you can also pay two coins to hire a contractor to construct a building. On your player board, you have warehouses, various stations (washing, drying, and sorting), fair trade posts, and a hospital. Warehouses are built in the warehouse section of your player board, while the other types of buildings are constructed on the game board in a cooperative of your choice.

Each type of building has an associated icon that dictates which spaces it can be built on in each cooperative. When placing a building in a cooperative, you gain bonuses listed on your player board and some of the cooperative spaces also allow you to bump on the corresponding Arabica track. Similar to placing traders, this action can also be piggybacked, but not quite for free. The active player pays two coins and any players who choose to piggyback have to give the active player a coffee of their choice. In addition, they have to place their building in the same area as the active player. Although when the active player constructs a building in a cooperative, the piggybacking players can place whichever type of building they choose.

The last action available is to pay two coins and remove one trader permanently from the game for two Arabica track advancements. Other players cannot piggyback this particular action.

Players start the game with three traders (four in a three-player game), and it never feels like enough for what you want to do considering you have to use a trader for all three of the actions above in addition to every time you piggyback another player's action. You can't do everything, so you have to be strategic when choosing how and when to use your traders. Thankfully, you do have an extra trader available in your bonus supply that you may be able to leverage in this phase.

I also mentioned the bonus supply in phase 1 above, so let me give a bit more context on that. Each player starts the game with a bonus supply that includes one action cube, one trader, and three coins. Each round you may freely choose to use two of these three bonus items. As an example, you could use your extra action cube in phase 1 and then use your extra trader in phase 3, but then you cannot use the three coins. Alternatively, if you use your extra action cube and the three coins, you lose access to your extra trader. There is some flexibility here, though. In the last example, if you were able to put three coins back into your bonus supply from your company supply, you then would gain access to use your extra trader.

One caveat with using the three coins from your bonus supply is that they must be paid back to your bonus supply at the end of the round or you'll lose victory points, so while the action cube and trader are true bonuses with no strings attached, the three coins are more of a temporary loan. The bonus supply is always a huge help and having the flexibility of different options really helps open up an interesting decision space as you formulate your strategy each round.

Once all players have passed or run out of traders, it's time to harvest some coffee.

Phase 4: Harvest Phase

From gallery of candidrum
In the Harvest phase, the workers on all plantations harvest coffee and deliver it to fair trade posts and traders. Each plantation with a worker harvests two coffees for the corresponding cooperative, then the coffee gets distributed as follows: first to fair trade posts, then to the first trader, and the rest is divvied up to amongst the traders.

For example, when harvesting in the Colombia cooperative in the photo on the right, 14 coffees will be harvested since seven plantations each have a worker. There are no fair trade posts built and Green is the first trader in Antwerp, so Green would get one coffee for being the first trader, and there would be 13 coffees left to distribute to all the traders starting with Green. Green would get five total for being the first trader and the others would get three coffees from this harvest. Remember, in the previous phase you have to pay two coins to snag the first trader spot, while others were able to piggyback for free, so it's only fair that you get more coffee from the harvest.

The more you understand how the game works, the more strategic and deep phase 3 can get when you're trying to balance your available traders and your money, and gauge what your opponents might do in preparation for the Harvest phase. If you leave a cooperative open and run out traders to piggyback, you might let some of your opponents get a ton of coffee to themselves.

However, there is a five-coffee limit when distributing to the remaining traders, so in the example above, if Green was the only trader in the Colombia cooperative, they wouldn't walk away with 14 coffees; they would get only six total: one for the first trader bonus, then another five max because of the limit. It would still be a pretty beefy turn especially if they managed to score six coffees and none of their opponents got any from that particular cooperative.

When you gain coffee from harvesting, adjust the appropriate cube in your warehouse on your player board. You repeat this harvesting and distribution process at each of the cooperatives that has fair trade posts and/or traders in Antwerp; otherwise the harvested coffee is wasted. Then each player with at least four coffees in all five of their warehouses immediately receives a civet cat, which is placed in Sumatra. Finally, each player receives one Kopi Luwak (wild) coffee for each of their civet cats in Sumatra, then the cats are returned to each player's personal supply.

From gallery of candidrum

Now that you presumably have your warehouse stocked with coffee, it's time to deliver it, make some money, and gain additional benefits.

Phase 5: Contract Phase

In the Contract phase, players perform actions in reverse turn order to fulfill a contract or make a delivery to a coffee bar. In either case, you spend the matching type of coffee and receive some benefit(s). Alternatively, you can pass and move your turn order marker to the unoccupied space closest to the "1" space. This gives the last player in turn order a good chance of improving their turn order position for the next round.

From gallery of candidrum
Right half of the player board

When you fulfill a contract, spend the matching coffees and remove the contract from the game, taking the corresponding money and bonuses noted on your player board. You also get to take the top Arabica counter (if available) from the contract bonus area that matches the letter of the delivered contract which allows you to advance on the matching Arabica track. These tokens will also be added to the far right side of your player board for potential points at the end of the game.

From gallery of candidrum
Coffee bars
When you deliver to coffee bars, pick an open space, spend the matching coffee, then place one of your coffee bean scoring markers on the corresponding space. Then take the coin bonus listed on the space, and if you deliver to the final spot on each track, you also get to take the animal counter, which will give you a bump on the corresponding Arabica track.

When delivering to coffee bars, you can make a second delivery the same way. If you choose not to make a second delivery in the same turn, you must immediately pass and move your turn order marker.

Many of the spaces on the coffee bar tracks are also worth points. Plus, there's a mini area-control game happening in each column. At the end of the game, the player with the most coffee bean scoring markers on each track gains 4 VPS, and the player with the second-most gains 2 VPs. If your opponents are neglecting the coffee bars, it's a great opportunity for you to swoop in and stack up some points — but the bonuses you get from fulfilling contracts are especially juicy. For example, when you fulfill your contract E, you get four coins and you can get a free build action or a truck! That particular contract is also worth 9 points at the end of the game. Then if you complete both contracts in a given row, you also gain access to another bonus.

I'll also note that at any point during your turn, you can spend Kopi Luwak coffee as any type of coffee, you can trade any combination of coffee for one type of coffee using your current trade value (4:1, 3:1, or 2:1), or you can purchase coffee, so as you're earning money from fulfilling contracts and delivering to coffee bars, you can spend money and do trades to get what you need to hopefully get more contracts fulfilled and deliver more coffee to the coffee bars. Of course, if it's not round 3, you might want to hang on to some money for the next round.

Turn order is really important in Coffee Traders, so sometimes even if you do have more coffee and/or money on hand, it might be better to pass and get a better turn order position for the next round. Also, you have to consider timing when fulfilling contracts versus delivering to coffee bars. The coffee bar spaces can get filled up quickly, so sometimes it's better to prioritize them over fulfilling contracts.

It'll also depend on the milestones that you're playing with. One game I played, we had a milestone to make a deliver of value 2+ to all six coffee bars, so most players hit the coffee bars hard, racing to snag points for that milestone. On my most recent game, there was a milestone to deliver all six contracts, so most players prioritized contracts over coffee bar deliveries. It would be interesting to play a game with both those milestones in play at the same time and see how things pan out.

Phase 6: Refresh Phase

After all players have passed in the Contract phase, there are some end of the round clean-up steps you'll perform, mainly to prep for the next round, including returning your traders/contractors and action cubes to the appropriate areas on your player board, adjusting your coffee storage based on your available warehouses, receiving coffee for any stock counters you have, and refilling your bonus supply. Remember, if you took three coins from your bonus supply, you now have to return them from your company supply. For each coin you can't refill, you have to take a -3 VP token, then you'll take the coins from the general supply.

If it's not the third round, start the next round by circling back to the Work phase; otherwise, proceed with end game scoring.

End Game Scoring

From gallery of candidrum
Milestones
Coffee Traders includes a handy dandy score pad for tallying up VPs at the end of the game. First, you score for area majority in each of the five cooperatives. To do this, at one cooperative at a time, determine each player's total quality value based on plantations and buildings, then award 16/8/4 points for first/second/third highest quality value, respectively.

Then you score points for items (i.e., workers, donkeys, trucks) in your company supply, the topmost covered VP space on your counter track, points from the Arabica tracks, fulfilled milestones and contracts, coffee bar deliveries and majorities, and points for plantations and buildings constructed. The player with the most victory points wins.

As you can see, there are a lot of different ways to score points in Coffee Traders. While the area-majority scoring in the cooperatives initially feels like the main way to get points, it usually ends up making up less than half your total score from what I've seen so far. There are many directions you can go strategically to rack up points.

It's also worth noting that because of all the ways you can score points, it's hard to tell who's winning and where you stand point-wise in the midst of the game. It doesn't necessarily bother me, though. I think it just pushes to me focus more on simply trying to do the best I can each game. Plus, I find that the mystery makes it pretty exciting when you're tallying up points at the end of the game.

From gallery of candidrum

My first game of Coffee Traders was a bit bumpy since we were all new players. I think it was a result of it being a heavy game and also a game that feels different from other games I've played, but there are also a few unclear rules in the rulebook that caused confusion. There aren't a ton of videos available on the game yet, at least at the time I learned it. Thankfully, the BGG forums came to the rescue and clarified things.

After I had the first game under my belt, my future games went much, much smoother from a teaching perspective, and I also played much better from having more experience with the game. This is not meant to scare anyone off from trying Coffee Traders; it's meant solely to set your expectations.

That all being said, I thoroughly enjoyed all of my games of Coffee Traders! There are some really hooky elements such as getting rewarded for placing workers on your opponents' plantations and having the opportunity to save your money and piggyback on other players' actions. With the piggybacking, I found it important to pay attention to what other players were doing and keep a close eye on how many traders they have left to see if you can take an action that they won't be able to piggyback on. Or heck, maybe you want to construct a building in a desirable cooperative in hopes that most players will want to piggyback and they'll have to give you some coffee.

Coffee Traders often feels like a very challenging puzzle because you need to make sure you have the right resources at the right time; donkeys, money, and traders are always tight, so you have to plan and set yourself up for success. This is something that's hard to fully grasp until you play the game once, and then the more you play, the better you'll get at it.

I love the player interaction in Coffee Traders, and the fun conversations that stem from it. Especially in the first round, players need to take the "send workers to harvest" or they'll be penalized in the Workers phase and also harvest less coffee in the Harvest phase. It's nice that you get to bump on the Arabica track if you help your opponents, but you also have to spend a precious action cube to do it. Maybe it's better to wait and see if someone else takes care of it? Or if you do, make sure everyone knows so you can badger them for a favor later.

From gallery of candidrum
Each game also plays out a bit differently depending on how your opponents play and which milestones are out. You will constantly want to be the first player to do everything, which really keeps you engaged. Most often this happens with milestones, but it also happens with the Arabica tracks since there is a space on each track where only the first player there gets a bonus donkey, and only the first player to the top gets an extra 4 VPs. You will also want to get one of your plantations on the highest level in various cooperatives since there are bonus tokens, but not everyone can get one. There are so many things you'll feel like you're racing for, and I dig the pressure and tension it adds to the mix.

There are also some opportunities to be a bit mean, if that's your thing. With your plantations needing to be connected by donkeys, if positioned right, you can completely block your opponents out of a plantation row by placing your donkey on a pathway before them. This is even more incentive to get yourself a truck and leave the donkeys behind.

The Harvest and the Contract phases are both very satisfying. Whenever we were going through the process of figuring out how much coffee each cooperative generated, then distributing the coffee to players in the Harvest phase, it felt like we were winning a coffee lottery. Then in the Contract phase, you get to cash in on all the coffee you just stocked up and get money and a bunch of awesome bonuses. With the scarcity of the spaces on the coffee bars, the different bonuses you can unlock with contracts, and knowing when to pass for a better turn order position, the Contract phase is chock full of tough decisions.

Speaking of bonuses, with the Arabica tracks and all the various ways you can bump on them in addition to contract, building and plantation bonuses, you can set yourself up for some sweet combo opportunities. I feel like each game I played, I had an "Ooo, watch this!" moment by doing something that allowed me to bump on a track or something to receive some bonus that gave me the coin or trader or donkey that I needed to do something else.

All of my games were about 2.5-3 hours with four or five players. If I had to pick a favorite player count between those two, I'd say five simply because the board gets tighter resulting in more tension. My four-player games were great, too. I haven't had a chance to play it with two or three players, so I can't comment on those player counts, but the included two-player variant sounds interesting as it adds André the bot as a third AI opponent. The additional rules for playing with André the bot are minimal, too, which is always nice, so you don't need to constantly have your head in the rulebook.

Beyond its unique theme and cute donkeys, Coffee Traders is a big, beautiful beast that has a lot of interesting things going on that makes it feels different. If you're a fan of heavier games with player interaction, you might want to give this one a whirl.
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Tue Jun 1, 2021 1:00 pm
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Fight for Prestigious Buildings and Landmarks in Paris

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Paris
In 2020, Belgian-based publisher Game Brewer released Paris, a medium-weight eurogame from the famous design duo of Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling in which 2-4 players take on the role of wealthy real estate investors tasked with purchasing and developing some of the most prestigious and iconic buildings and landmarks in late 19th century Paris.

If you haven't checked out Paris — or if you have and are looking for more — you'll be excited to hear that Game Brewer is releasing Paris: l'Étoile, a new expansion that adds even more variety into the mix. A deluxe version of Paris: l'Étoile was launched on Kickstarter (KS link) in late May 2021. The deluxe edition of the base game is also available in this Kickstarter and is required to play the deluxe edition of the Paris: l'Étoile expansion. After delivery to backers in December 2021, a retail version of Paris: l'Étoile will also be available.

I recently got a chance to play Paris and the new l'Étoile expansion with a prototype review copy provided by the publisher, so I can share some insight on what you can expect.

Off the bat, Paris has an stunning table presence when it's all set up. I dare you to walk by the game and not be curious to know what it's all about if you've never played it before. Paris features a circular game board that is assembled from multiple smaller boards, starting in the center with the 3D Arc de Triomphe, moving outwards to the six surrounding districts, and then to the outer edges with the bonus tile and victory point tracks.

From gallery of candidrum

Each player also receives a 3D player screen to keep their money, keys, and resources hidden from other players, something that is functional for gameplay, but also adds to the visual appeal of Paris.

Paris is played over a variable number of rounds in which players take turns in clockwise order performing two game steps until the end of the game is triggered. The goal of the game is to score the most points, which you primarily earn from bonus tiles and through area-majority scoring of the districts surrounding the Arc de Triomphe...that is, if they end up with a victory point scoring tile.

From gallery of candidrum
Mid-game behind my player screen

On your turn, first you place an available building on the game board, then you perform an action. A turn is deceptively simple when you frame it this way, but with this simplicity comes a great deal of depth from the strategic decisions with which you are faced.

You start each turn by drawing the top building tile from one of the three draw piles and placing it on the corresponding building space on the board. If no more buildings are available when you start your turn, skip this step.

Each building tile has a district name on its back, and on the front, a building value and an icon to indicate the type of building. In addition, some buildings have a benefit, and some have an extra cost.

From gallery of candidrum
Examples of building tiles

When you are choosing a building to place, you can see which district it will be placed in, but you don't know its value or any other details until you choose a tile and reveal it. Your odds of knowing the value of the buildings gradually increase as the game progresses and the board fills up since each district has six available spaces for buildings with values 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8.

When you're thinking about which building tile to choose, early in the game you might lean toward the one that has the bank that gives the most francs when you place a key on it, but as the game progresses, you'll likely be targeting specific areas — and considering that you have only three piles from which to choose with at most three different district options, this part of your turn is typically pretty quick.

Each of the six districts has six available spaces for buildings, so there are 36 total building tiles. However, at the beginning of the game you shuffle all 36 tiles, then randomly remove three from the game without looking at them, so you start the game with three piles of 11 buildings and you won't know which buildings are out. This tidbit of hidden information from the players creates a subtle, yet interesting element of unpredictability to the game.

After you choose a building tile, reveal it and place it in the corresponding space on the game board based on its district and value, then perform one of the following actions:

1) Place a key on a bank or on the Arc de Triomphe
2) Move a key to purchase a building
3) Take an end game tile (which is allowed only when no more building tiles are available)

Players start the game with 7-10 keys depending on player count. Your first action option is to take one of your keys from behind your player screen and place it on a bank in one of the six districts or on the Arc de Triomphe. If you place your key on one of the banks, you gain 2-7 francs from the general supply depending on the district. This is the main way to earn money in the game, and you also need keys out on the board to start buying real estate...which leads me to the next action option.

Once you have a key on a bank or the Arc de Triomphe, you can move a key from one of those locations to an unoccupied building or landmark and pay the applicable costs to become its owner.

From gallery of candidrum
A late-game example of a district with keys on the bank, buildings, and landmarks
If you move a key from a bank, you can move it only to an unoccupied building or landmark within the same district. However, if you move a key from the Arc de Triomphe, you can move it to an unoccupied building or landmark in any of the six districts, so while you don't gain any money placing a key on the Arc de Triomphe, it gives you a lot more flexibility later when moving a key to purchase buildings and landmarks.

Buildings and landmarks have a base cost (in francs) equal to their value, and the higher-end real estate also requires you to pay additional resources. For example, you have to spend 3 francs to move a key from a district bank to a level-3 building, and you have to spend 8 francs and a wood resource to move a key from a district bank to a level-8 building. All of the landmarks have additional resource costs, so you need to gain some gold and marble before you can think of purchasing a landmark.

With the "move a key" action, you can also move keys from a building/landmark to an unoccupied higher-value building/landmark in the same district by paying the difference in cost, e.g., moving from a value-2 building to a value-5 building costs 3 francs.

As soon as a district has a total of four keys on buildings and landmarks (not the bank), the active player may immediately place one of the available victory point (VP) tiles on an open VP-tile space in a district of their choice. These tiles offer bonus points at the end of the game to the players who occupy buildings and landmarks with the highest value in the corresponding district. This means each district can score differently each game — and in some cases it won't score at all.

From gallery of candidrum
VP tiles

After moving your key to a building or landmark and paying its costs, you can also receive a variety of benefits. You can gain valuable resource (wood, marble, and gold) and prestige tokens if you're the first owner of a building.

During set-up, each building location is seeded with a resource or prestige token that's all yours to stash behind your screen and spend at your leisure if you're the first one to move a key to purchase a building space. Resources can be bought and sold at any time, and prestige tokens can be sold at any time, based on the values noted on the player screens.

From gallery of candidrum
Resource and prestige tokens on building spaces that haven't been purchased or without a building tile

When you purchase a value-8 building, you immediately gain 2 VPs.

When you purchase a landmark, you can spend up to three prestige tokens shown on the tile to receive the corresponding amount of victory points.

From gallery of candidrum
Examples of landmark tiles

...and even more exciting, when you purchase a value-1 or value-2 building you can take a bonus tile for free by moving your bonus meeple forward on the bonus tile track. You can do the same when you purchase a value-3 building as long as you pay 2 francs first.

The inner track on the perimeter of the board is filled with juicy bonus tiles at the beginning of the game. When you earn a bonus tile, move your bonus meeple forward as many spaces as you'd like on the bonus track onto an available bonus tile, then take the tile and place it behind your player screen. You can move your bonus meeple only forward, so once you pass something, you won't be able to claim it later in the game.

The bonus tile track incentivizes players to purchase lower-value buildings, and when you get the opportunity to gain one, it's always a tough decision since you can move only forward on the track. On the one hand, you want to beat your opponents to get certain bonus tiles, but on the other hand, if you jump too far ahead, you are going to miss lots of other great tiles and leave them behind for your opponents. Once you gain a bonus tile, you can activate it immediately or later in the game at any moment during your turn to gain its advantage.

The bonus tiles are tiered in groups A through C, from weakest to strongest respectively, but they're really all good. In the regular rules, they are placed in numeric order around the bonus tile track, but I prefer the variant in which you shuffle the tiles for each group separately, then randomly place them in the corresponding zones on the bonus tile track, starting with A, then B, then C. Here are some examples of bonus tiles to give you an idea of what's up for grabs on the bonus tile track:

"A" Bonus Tiles
From gallery of candidrum

#2 - Gain wood
#5 - Gain 4 francs
#9 - Move one of your keys to a building or landmark that already has one of your keys


"B" Bonus Tiles
From gallery of candidrum

#14 - Pay 1 franc to receive 1 extra key from the reserve
#15 - Receive 4 VP for each value-3 building you occupy when you use this bonus tile
#19 - Use this as two prestige tokens of your choice


"C" Bonus Tiles
From gallery of candidrum

#25 - Move your bonus meeple up to five tiles back on the bonus track and take the bonus tile present there (This is the only way to move backwards on the bonus tile track!)
#27 - Receive 1 VP for each franc you own at the end of the game
#29 - Receive 8 VP for each landmark you occupy when you use this bonus tile


From gallery of candidrum
Endgame tiles
When the building tile draw piles have been depleted, instead of placing or moving a key, you can take the endgame tile of your choice as an action. Similar to bonus tiles, you can activate an endgame tile immediately or later in the game at any moment during one of your turns.

The endgame tiles aren't nearly as enticing as the bonus tiles, but you'll likely need them later in the game when you are low on resources or money.

When a player takes the last endgame tile, the end of the game is triggered. You finish the current round so that all players have an equal number of turns, after which all players play one final round, then proceed to endgame scoring.

Bonus tile #27 is scored at the end of the game if anyone claimed it, then all districts that have a VP tile are scored. For each district, players add up the value of all of their buildings and landmarks with their key(s) on it, then players with the highest, second highest, and third highest total value receive VPs based on the VP tile. After all districts with a VP tile are scored, the player with the most points wins.

Board Game: Paris: l'Étoile
Paris: l'Étoile Expansion

Paris already has a lot of variability, especially when you play with the variants to randomly place bonus tiles and resource/prestige tokens on the game board. The Paris: l'Étoile expansion manages to crank this variability up to 11 thanks to eleven new bonus tiles that are shuffled in with the base game tiles, then randomly distributed in the corresponding zones (A/B/C).

More variety is typically welcomed to keep games fresh and interesting, but perhaps even more exciting than new bonus tiles are the strategy tiles Kramer and Kiesling have added in the l'Étoile expansion. Strategy tiles give players unique powers that can be swapped out throughout the game. They add a whole new, interesting dimension to the gameplay of Paris.

At the beginning of the game, you randomly deal each player a starting strategy tile, then place the remaining starting strategy tiles and the seven other strategy tiles face up near the game board as an available display.

Each strategy tile grants its owner an ongoing effect that can be used during a player's turn until it's swapped with a strategy tile in the display. Every time you place a key on the Arc de Triomphe, you may swap your strategy tile with another available strategy tile, then your previously used strategy tile becomes available for all players. Similar to bonus tiles, strategy tiles come in a variety of flavors. Here are a few examples:

From gallery of candidrum

From left to right:
• You can secretly look at the top tile of each building tile pile before choosing one
• You're allowed to place multiple of your keys on the same bank or the Arc de Triomphe
• If you place a key on a value-4 building, you can gain a bonus tile

From gallery of candidrum

From left to right:
• You can place a key on a building owned by an opponent
• Gain 2 additional francs each time you place a key on a bank
• Each time any player pays 2 francs for a bonus tile on a 3-value building, you receive those 2 francs

As you can see from the strategy tiles above, these are some really juicy abilities. They all feel very strong, and the kicker is that the expansion includes six others to be explored as well. In my games of Paris with the l'Étoile expansion, it's not uncommon for some players to stick with their starting strategy tile the entire game because they tailored their entire strategy around it, whereas other players would leverage the the Arc de Triomphe more to swap out their strategy tile a couple of times throughout the game. Regardless, twelve different options for unique abilities is great and probably won't get stale for a while...especially combined with the eleven new bonus tiles the expansion also adds.

I have enjoyed my plays of Paris, and I dig what the l'Étoile expansion adds to the mix, especially the strategy tiles. Unique player powers add a new layer to the gameplay, and they can also help give players something to focus on.

From gallery of candidrum
My second game when I snagged the Eiffel Tower landmark!
With or without the expansion, I'm a big fan of the player interaction in Paris. It seems like you're constantly racing to beat your opponents to higher-value buildings, landmarks, and bonus tiles, which feels engaging and sometimes a tad frustrating at the same time.

One thing I didn't mention yet is that when you decide to buy a landmark, either you place your key on one that is already on the game board, or you can first add an available landmark from the general supply to the district that your key is in. The landmark tiles range in value from 9 to 16, and when you place new landmarks, they have to be placed in sequential order, which means that if someone decides to place the value-16 Eiffel Tower landmark as the first landmark in a district, no other landmarks can be added there since all the other landmarks have a lower value. Whoever does this is likely to have the most influence in that district and they box people out since you can't place any other landmarks. It's also just an awesome landmark because if you spend gold prestige tokens when you purchase it, you can gain up to 15 VPs!

The Eiffel Tower burned me on my first game (I'm only slightly bitter...still), but I learned and made sure I was the one to claim it in game #2. My opponents were feeling just as salty as I felt the first game, and I couldn't have been more thrilled. Of course, I lost the game, but I still felt good about that one play. I love that Paris can have these cutthroat moments.

While the area majority struggle brews, you will also have this urge to set yourself up to place the fourth key in as many districts as you can so that you can control where the VP scoring tiles are placed. You are constantly struggle to be first at all the things. There's surprisingly a lot going on for a game that also feels so simple, with you placing a building, then performing an action.

From gallery of candidrum

Paris certainly isn't the most thematic-feeling game, but with its attractive table presence, it does capture the spirit and beauty of Paris well, and it manages to be great at what it is — a solid area majority-driven euro with simple mechanisms and a ton of depth. Paired with the l'Étoile expansion, it gets spicier and adds so much variety that I'm sure no two games will ever play out the same.
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Wed May 26, 2021 1:00 pm
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Open New Markets, Experience New Chronicles, Expand Your Continent, and Prepare for The Uprising

Candice Harris
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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.

Board Game: Pipeline: Emerging Markets

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?
Board Game: Maracaibo
• 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").
Board Game: Maracaibo: The Uprising

Board Game: Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig
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.

Board Game: Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Secrets & Soirees Expansion

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.
• 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.

Board Game: Glen More II: Highland Games

Board Game: Ecos: First Continent
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.

Board Game: Ecos: New Horizon

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?
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Fri May 14, 2021 2:18 pm
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300: Earth & Water — Tense, Fun, Card-Driven Wargame Goodness for All

Candice Harris
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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.

From gallery of candidrum

Board Game Publisher: Nuts! Publishing
In 2018, a Japanese edition of 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.

From gallery of candidrum
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.

From gallery of candidrum
"Sudden Death of the Great King" card
During the Preparation phase, each player gets the opportunity to spend talents, the game's currency, to acquire cards, and deploy armies and fleets from their reserve onto the game board. The Persian player can spend up to 12 talents each campaign, or 10 talents if they have a card from the previous campaign in hand, whereas the Greek player has only 6 talents to spend each campaign, but can hold on to up to four cards from the previous 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.

From gallery of candidrum
The "Sudden Death of the Great King" card can be triggered by the Persian player only two times per game, using a cube on the game board to track this. First, Darius dies suddenly of illness, then Xerxes is assassinated. This event triggering adds an interesting element to the game as it can push the game along by reducing the number of campaigns you play. Sometimes it'll be exactly what you want if you're in the lead, but when you're not, it can be undesirable. Regardless, I found it to be very interesting as it added a bit of welcome suspense to the Preparation phase.

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:

From gallery of candidrum

From gallery of candidrum

From gallery of candidrum

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.

From gallery of candidrum
The Persian forces coming to fight in the port of Athenai...
Land battles are played over multiple rounds until there is a winner. First players roll dice, one per army up to a max of three dice no matter the number of armies. The winner of the round is the player who rolled the highest single die. A roll of 4 or higher counts as a 4 for the Persian player since the Persians' combat skills are inferior to the heavily-armed Greeks. However if the battle is in one of the Persian major cities (Ephesus or Abydos), any die roll of 5 or more is a 5 since the Persians fought better in Asia than elsewhere.

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.

From gallery of candidrum

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.

From gallery of candidrum
Pontoon bridge connecting Abydos to Pella
Off the bat, you have interesting, tough decisions to make when it comes to the Preparation phase. You have to commit to the number of cards you want to buy before you actually get to draw them and see what they do. Then you have to decide which units to place on the board and where to place them, all while trying not to show your opponent exactly what your intentions are — and if you're the Persian player, you have to decide if and when it's best to blow half your talent budget to build the pontoon bridge, which will lead to better land movement options and lines of communication to your major cities...but think of all the armies, fleets, and cards you could get if you hold off on building the bridge.

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.

From gallery of candidrum

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!
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Sat May 8, 2021 6:24 pm
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Survive Stationfall, Fight the Machines, and Escape the Black Death

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

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

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

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

As a fan of Eklund's Pax Transhumanity — the intriguing, futuristic 2019 addition to the Pax series — I am very curious to see what he's cooked up now. When I saw the box cover image for Stationfall and read the description below from the publisher, my curiosity spiked:
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.

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

Board Game: Stationfall

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

Here's what you can expect from Quest, which boasts playing well with as few as four players:
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.

Board Game: Quest

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

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

Board Game: Human Punishment: The Beginning

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

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

Bristol 1350 plays with 1-9 players in 20-40 minutes and sounds like it'll lend itself to some very interesting gameplay based on the description below. Plus, as an added bonus, you can sneak it onto your bookshelf when your game shelf is already packed, and no one will notice you bought another game...
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!

Board Game: Bristol 1350
Image: Travis Hancock

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

The game comes in a magnetic book box and includes a rubber playmat, 9 wood pawns, 3 miniature carts, 6 rat/apple dice, a linen bag, and 64 cards. The deluxe version adds 6 coins, 6 cards, and 3 metal carts. This standalone game is Volume 4 in the "Dark Cities Series" by Facade Games following Salem 1692, Tortuga 1667, and Deadwood 1876.
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Fri Apr 30, 2021 1:00 pm
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Manipulate Trajectories to Nab Targets, Prepare for Epic Sieges, and Survive The Battle of the Bulge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: 414BC Siege of Syracuse

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

Any time one side's morale reaches zero during a turn, the other side wins the game.
Board Game: 1565 Siege of Malta
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Fri Apr 23, 2021 1:00 pm
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The Shores of Tripoli: Pirate Raids, History, and Naval Shenanigans

Candice Harris
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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.

From gallery of candidrum

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.

Board Game Publisher: Fort Circle Games
Fort Circle logo
Kevin Bertram and I have a tidbit of history together, though we've never met in person. In February 2019, I received a message on BGG asking whether I'd be interested in playtesting The Shores of Tripoli based on the fact that my BGG ratings showed I was a fan of both 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.

From gallery of candidrum
From gallery of candidrum

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.

From gallery of candidrum
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.

From gallery of candidrum
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:

From gallery of candidrum
A Tripolitan event

From gallery of candidrum
An American event

From gallery of candidrum
A Tripolitan event

From gallery of candidrum
An American event

From gallery of candidrum
Since the game has only 27 total cards for each side, after a few games, you'll be pretty familiar with them, which opens up a different, strategic hand-management aspect to the game that won't necessarily be as clear when you're not familiar with the cards. As an example, some event cards can be comboed together for a (hopefully) better effect such as The Philadelphia Runs Aground event when played with Uncharted Waters. Each year you are drawing an additional six cards, but you have a hand limit of eight cards, so you often have to make tough decisions for which cards to hold versus which to discard.

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!

From gallery of candidrum
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.

From gallery of candidrum
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.

From gallery of candidrum
Two American frigates available at the start of 1804
Naval combat is pretty simple. First, players announce whether they will play any battle cards. Battle cards are super helpful and give you juicy advantages during combat. Then both players roll their dice and tally hits. Each frigate rolls two dice, while gunboats and corsairs each roll one die. Each roll of a 6 is a hit. The players allocate hits to their own fleets starting with the active player. The small boats (corsairs and gunboats) take one hit to sink and frigates each take two hits to sink. If a frigate is hit once, it's considered damaged and gets placed on the following year of the Year Turn Track and you get these back at the start of the next year. After allocating hits, all surviving American gunboats and undamaged frigates are moved to Malta.

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.

From gallery of candidrum
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the absolute bonkers Guns of Tripoli event card that lets the Tripolitan player roll an additional twelve dice! You heard me right, an additional twelve dice. Whenever this card was played, we got always got a kick out of it.

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.

From gallery of candidrum
Pirate raid in Algiers triggered by an event card
When the Tripolitan player pirate raids, if any American or Swedish frigates ar ein the naval patrol zone outside the harbor of the raiding corsairs, the American player makes an interception roll, rolling two dice as usual for each frigate. Each roll of 6 is a hit and sinks a corsair. Then the Tripolitan player rolls one die for each remaining corsair and captures a merchant ship on a roll of 5 or 6, gaining a gold coin for each merchant ship captured. Taking advantage of pirate raids through this action and event cards is a great way to get to achieve the 12 gold victory condition as the Tripolitan player.

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.

From gallery of candidrum
A successful assault on Tripoli that won me the game
Even though I love crunchy, heavy games, I appreciate how simple, fun, and exciting the combat is in The Shores of Tripoli. Big boats roll two dice, small boats and cubes roll one, and you hit on 6s. It's very simple to understand, which keeps your head out of the rulebook and into the gameplay. Of course, there's a lot of luck involved when you're rolling dice for combat, pirate raids, and other events, but I never found it to cause any bad feelings in the games I played. If anything, I found it exciting and also, often tense.

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...

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Fri Apr 16, 2021 2:11 pm
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Battle for Supremacy in Medieval India, Survive in Malta, Race to Moscow, and Airdrop into the Last Hundred Yards

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Vijayanagara: The Deccan Empires of Medieval India, 1290-1398
P500 box cover (not final)
• In March 2021, renowned wargame publisher 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.

Highlights
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.
COIN Series developer Jason Carr posted an excellent article with details on GMT's new Irregular Conflicts Series and it's worth checking out.

Board Game: Malta Besieged: 1940-1942
• The Old School Wargames wing of 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.

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.

From gallery of candidrum
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.
Board Game: 1944: Race to the Rhine
• After a successful Kickstarter campaign in November 2019, Waldek Gumienny's 1941: Race to Moscow from UK publisher PHALANX is available for retail pre-order.

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!

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.


Board Game: 1941: Race to Moscow

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!
Board Game: The Last Hundred Yards
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:
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.

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.

From gallery of candidrum

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.
...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:
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".

From gallery of candidrum
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.
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Fri Apr 2, 2021 1:00 pm
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Manipulate the East India Company In John Company: Second Edition

Candice Harris
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Board Game: John Company: Second Edition
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of virtually hanging with 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.

Board Game: John Company
John Company: Second Edition, published by Wehrlegig Games, is a revamped version of Cole Wehrle's 2017 release 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.
From gallery of Cole Wehrle
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.

From gallery of candidrum
My family's play area (non-final art and graphics)
I. The London Season phase is skipped on the first turn, but on future turns, you roll a die for each of your family members who have positions within the Company to see whether they get fatigued or retire, and you also pay any expenses for family members who previously retired on a prize space.

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.

From gallery of candidrum

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.

From gallery of candidrum

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.

From gallery of candidrum
Non-final art and graphics
Now's a good time for me to mention when the game ends, each share is worth 1 victory point, but if the Company fails, you lose 1 victory point for each share you have. I find myself always wondering about my opponents' intentions and trying to get ahead of this kind of corruption. Or who knows, maybe I'm in a position of having no shares and it would be poetic to tank the Company and make my opponents lose some points?

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.

From gallery of candidrum
Event cards & India die from TTS (non-final art and graphics)
After resolving the storms, you resolve a number of events based on the number you rolled on the India die. There are seven different types of events with varying effects that could cause orders to open or close in particular regions, or strengthen a region by increasing its tower level, or even help players gain a few bucks for their writers in a particular region. Then there are also crises and rebellions you have to watch out for as well. If the Company previously invaded a region and took control of it, events in this phase can cause the Company to lose these regions from invasions and rebellions.

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.

From gallery of candidrum
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.

Board Game Publisher: Wehrlegig Games
There is so much going on in John Company: Second Edition and I have much to learn, but I wanted to at least share some details on the gameplay as we gear up for Wehrlegig's upcoming Kickstarter launch. I've barely scratched the surface with everything John Company has to offer because it's all still new to me and I am still learning and processing. I'm coming into this with no experience playing the first edition of John Company and minimal experience with this new version, but I'm thoroughly enjoying what I have checked out so far.

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.

From gallery of candidrum
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.
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Fri Mar 26, 2021 5:03 pm
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