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Stonemaier Games Announces Pendulum; Viticulture Digital Now Available

Candice Harris
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Board Game Publisher: Stonemaier Games
• In a July 2020 update from Stonemaier Games, Jamey Stegmaier announced an upcoming new release, Pendulum, designed by Travis P. Jones featuring art from Robert Leask.

Pendulum is a competitive, turnless, asymmetric worker placement, time-optimization game for 1-5 players. In more detail from the publisher:
Quote:
In Pendulum, each player is a powerful, unique noble vying to succeed the Timeless King as the true ruler of Dünya. Players command their workers, execute stratagems, and expand the provinces in their domain in real time to gain resources and move up the four victory tracks: power, prestige, popularity, and legendary achievement.

Board Game: Pendulum

Players must use actual time as a resource in managing their strategy to best their opponents, using time on different action types and balancing it with time spent planning and analyzing. The winner will be the player who manages and invests their time most effectively and who builds the best engine, not the player who acts the quickest.

Pendulum is the highest-rated protoype in the history of the Stonemaier Games Design Day.
Pendulum will be available to preorder from Stonemaier Games in early August 2020, with all preorders being shipped in August from fulfillment centers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the UK. I can't wait to check out Pendulum when it's in full swing!

• Stonemaier Games' wine-making, worker-placement classic Viticulture has gone digital! A full-AI digital adaptation of Viticulture is now available from Digidiced on iOS and Android, and it will be coming soon on Steam. I'm really hoping we'll also see the Tuscany expansion integrated digitally soon, too.

From gallery of candidrum

Board Game: My Little Scythe
Hoby Chou and daughter Vienna Chou's Pie in the Sky expansion for the family-friendly, adventure game My Little Scythe is now available directly from Stonemaier and retailers. My Little Scythe: Pie in the Sky features more adorable art from Katie Khau and adds two new pairs of Seeker miniatures (owls and arctic foxes), an airship, special abilities, two new kingdoms, and more. Here's a small taste of Pie in the Sky as described by the publisher:
Quote:
Pie in the Sky begins on the eve of the 3000th Harvest Tournament, where stories are retold of Pomme's ancient animals venturing into distant lands to establish their own kingdoms. To accomplish this, Pomme's founders worked together to build the legendary Airship Kai, imbuing it with the best knowledge from all nine animal species. Sharing the ship's powers and speed, each kingdom established its foundations. But one year, the airship and its Fox and Owl passengers journeyed into the far frontiers and were never seen or heard from again...until now.

Board Game: My Little Scythe: Pie in the Sky

As animals gather for the milestone tournament, the fabled lost airship emerges from the horizon, carrying Seekers from the Fox and Owl kingdoms. As if this reunion isn't reason enough for celebration, Pomme's Seekers realize that Airship Kai still responds to each animal species. The stage is set for the greatest Harvest Tournament in 3000 years!
Board Game: Rolling Realms
• Jamey Stegmaier posted a survey in early July 2020 to gauge interest for a more official, produced version of his roll-and-write game Rolling Realms.

Stegmaier released Rolling Realms in April 2020 as a free print-and-play game to play with people around the world via Facebook Live during self-isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic. Rolling Realms features nine minigames, each inspired by a different Stonemaier Game, and you use three of these realms per game, adding up the scores of three consecutive games to determine the overall winner.
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Thu Jul 2, 2020 2:18 pm
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Roll Player Gets Deeper with Fiends & Familiars

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Board Game: Roll Player
Keith Matejka's Roll Player began in 2016 as a puzzly, dice-drafting, fantasy character-building game and has since evolved into a full-on series with its expansions and spin-offs, Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale, Lockup: A Roll Player Tale, and the upcoming Roll Player Adventures. I would not be surprised to see a Roll Player video game or even Roll Player cereal in the future. Let it be known that if Roll Player cereal ever comes to fruition and has dice-shaped marshmallows, I'm all in.

Keith and Thunderworks Games kindly hooked me up with a copy of Fiends & Familiars, the newest expansion for Roll Player, so I could do some serious character building and monster killing.

If you're not already hip to Roll Player, let me start by giving you a brief overview of what this dice-driven game for 1-4 players (1-5 with the expansions) is all about. In Roll Player, you are competing to create the greatest fantasy adventurer and prepare your character for an epic quest. Along the way you'll get to stuff your hand into a sack filled with a ton of colorful dice that will be used to develop your characters for the game. Each player gets their own character sheet and a unique backstory, alignment, and class that grants you a special ability and target goals for each of your character's attributes.

Each round, you roll and draft dice to be placed on your character sheet to build up your character's attributes. Whenever you place a die, you can trigger an attribute action depending on the row in which you've place it. For example, placing a die in your strength row lets you flip a die (including the one you just place) on its opposite side. When placing dice, you're trying to hit target goals for each attribute based on your class card, while also trying to match colors in certain positions corresponding to your backstory card. The better you do this, the more reputation stars you earn. Whoever has the most reputation stars at the end of the game wins.

From gallery of candidrum

You also get the opportunity to buy market cards that could be skills and weapons that grant you special abilities or traits with endgame scoring opportunities. There's also some set collection with different types of armor you can buy for your character. It's a nice blend of thinky puzzle mixed with creativity since the character you're building will be unique from your opponents.

Board Game: Roll Player: Monsters & Minions
In 2018, Thunderworks Games released Monsters & Minions, the first expansion for Roll Player. With the addition of monsters and minions, Roll Player elevated to a new level giving players more options, adding components for a fifth player, and making the game a more exciting experience since the character you're building will also combat minions and a monster at the end of the game to hopefully earn you more reputation stars. Monsters & Minions also ramped up the game's complexity a hair, which I am totally cool with. You have the usual fun puzzle aspect, but you also have an added choice during the market phase of fighting a minion to possibly gain experience (XP), honor, and (perhaps most importantly) insight on the monster you'll be pitted against at the end of the game.

The Fiends & Familiars expansion, which was released in June 2020, seamlessly builds from where the Monsters & Minions expansion left off, with even more depth and the addition of fiends and familiars, special split dice, more cards, character sheets, and components. You can play the Fiends & Familiars expansion with just the base game or as recommended in the rulebook, with the base game and the Monsters & Minions expansion.

Board Game: Roll Player: Fiends & Familiars

Fiends & Familiars comes with fifteen different familiar boards that represent friendly companions, each with their own backstory and a unique power that gets activated when you place dice on it. Each familiar board sits above the standard character boards and gives players more ways to earn reputation stars.

On the left side of the familiar boards is a slot for new scroll cards that represent powerful, ancient spells. Scroll cards can be purchased in the card market and give players an immediate one-time effect. Players typically save these cards since some game effects refer to scroll cards.

Board Game: Roll Player: Fiends & Familiars
Familiar Board examples

On the right side of the familiar board is a slot for new fiend cards that are not so nice, as you'd imagine. The fiends represent creatures that have infested the kingdom, and in terms of gameplay, will be making it more challenging for players to achieve their goals. Each round, fiend cards will be on some of the initiative cards that hold the higher value dice.
Board Game: Roll Player: Fiends & Familiars
When players draft a die from an initiative card that has a fiend, they acquire that fiend. Have no fear as it is possible to banish fiends by spending gold or charisma tokens. Some of the fiends force you to pay more gold for certain types of cards, take injury tokens when performing certain actions, prevent you from using effects of skill or weapons cards, or even force you to hunt during the market phase instead of buying cards, something I unfortunately experienced with the Fiend of Duress.

As if it weren't tough enough deciding which die to draft when you're thinking about the value, or the color, or even your turn order for the market phase, now these bloody fiend cards create even tougher decisions when drafting dice. You also have to consider whether it's worth taking a higher value die along with a hindering fiend. Maybe certain fiends won't impact you much, but trust me, others will. The good news is that it's not too hard to banish those suckers so they're no longer in effect, although it can become costly to banish them if you end up accumulating several. In my case, though, I snagged the Exalted trait card that gave me a reputation star for every two banished fiend cards I had at the end of the game. With this trait, I was practically incentivized to take more fiends, but also keep up with banishing them.

Board Game: Roll Player: Fiends & Familiars
In addition to the fiends and familiars, the expansion also includes six new monsters and 23 new minions, in addition to more of all the other card types. This is excellent because if you don't already have the Monsters & Minions expansion, you can start with the Fiends & Familiars expansion and get a small taste of what Monsters & Minions adds along with the fiends and familiars, too. Then once you get hooked and are starved for more, you can get Monsters & Minions and have even more cards and dice to experiment with.

The new split dice that come in the Fiends & Familiars expansion are pretty cool. The Monsters & Minions expansion added new clear boost dice that ranged from 3 to 8, which was super helpful in terms of value, but not at all colorwise. Fiends & Familiars, on the other hand, comes with these funky, split-colored dice that count as both colors wherever they're placed. To balance out this helpful feature, the split dice range from only 1 to 4. Consequently, it'll be a lot harder to hit those higher attribute goals with these puppies, but you'll likely do better with your main character and familiar's backstory scoring. It does take some getting used to the multicolored pips, but I can always appreciate special, custom dice.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

I should also mention you can play Roll Player solo, and it's pretty fun. I prefer playing multiplayer, but I find the solo mode scratches the same puzzly itch, which I enjoy. I just miss some of the player interaction, especially with the dice drafting, when playing solo. The game moves quickly once you're all set up, especially if you're not prone to heavy AP, but it does take time to get the market deck set up since you need to remove certain cards from the giant deck (if you have both expansions), in addition to the usual market deck set-up process that requires you to separate the single-dot cards from the double-dot cards. If you're organized when you pack it up, it shouldn't bog you down much.

The artwork from JJ Ariosa, Luis Francisco, and Lucas Ribeiro, and component quality are top notch. I especially love the art on the monster and minion cards. It all ties together well and helps make the Roll Player experience more thematic.

Board Game: Roll Player: Fiends & Familiars
Board Game: Roll Player: Fiends & Familiars

The Fiends & Familiars expansion is not supposed to fit in the base game box with the Monsters & Minions expansion, but I'm going to use my Tetris skills to see what I can do. I do see that Thunderworks Games offers the new expansion as a big box on its website where you can comfortably fit the base game and both expansions as an option, but these Roll Player boxes are nice quality, so it might be worthwhile to keep them all handy.

Keith Matejka and Thunderworks Games have mastered the art of variety with Roll Player and its expansions, Monsters & Minions and Fiends & Familiars. You have a ton of different character sheets to choose from with female and male sides, 15 different familiar boards, and so many character-related cards, fiend cards, market cards, adventure cards, monster cards and minion cards. So many cards! It really feels like endless combinations are possible, and while you're running through the same phases and structure each game, it will feel different depending on what market cards and minions are revealed, the special abilities you end up with, which monster you're fighting, etc.

If you already enjoy Roll Player, whether with or without Monsters & Minions, you will probably enjoy what the Fiends & Familiars expansion adds to the mix. If you were lukewarm after playing the base game alone, I think you should give it another shot with either or both of the expansions. While I'd still probably only play the base game with more casual gamers, I think gamers who prefer a bit more meat on the bone will dig everything the Fiends & Familiars expansion has to offer. I'm pumped to see what Keith Matejka cooks up next for Roll Player, although with all of the existing content, I don't think I'd ever get bored...
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Fri Jun 26, 2020 4:00 pm
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New Expansion Round-up: Build More Tiny Towns, Fight More Wars on Terror, Produce Better Smartphones, and Conquer Different Polar Seas

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Board Game: Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?
Board Game: Labyrinth: The Awakening, 2010 – ?
• In June 2020, GMT Games is releasing Labyrinth: The Forever War, 2015 - ?, Trevor Bender's second expansion for Volko Ruhnke's card-driven, modern warfare hit, Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?. Here's an overview from the publisher:
Quote:
Labyrinth: The Forever War, 2015 - ? is a 1-2 player card-driven board game simulating at the strategic level the ongoing bid by Islamist extremists to impose their brand of religious rule on the Muslim world. It continues where Labyrinth: The Awakening, 2010 - ? left off and adds new event cards and rules to cover the last five years of history.

Board Game: Labyrinth: The Forever War, 2015-?

Since publication of Labyrinth and its first expansion, fans of the game have expressed a desire to update it based on more recent events, and a variety of event card ideas and variants have been freely shared online. This second expansion to the Labyrinth game series fulfills that continuing interest by providing up-to-date event cards and allows the game to continue to serve as an effective strategic level model of the ongoing struggles in the Muslim world.
Board Game: Smartphone Inc.: Status Update 1.1
Cosmodrome Games launched a Kickstarter campaign for Ivan Lashin's uniquely-themed, economic simulation Eurogame Smartphone Inc. in July 2019, and in July 2020, we'll see its retail release, in addition to a small expansion.

In Smartphone Inc., 1-5 players compete as CEOs to be the largest and richest smartphone-producing company during the time when smartphones were only beginning to conquer the world. The Smartphone Inc.: Status Update 1.1 expansion includes unlocked stretch goals and additional non-exclusive content from the KS edition: five new CEO miniatures and four new modules for playing the game, including a new 2-3 player specific game board and "Hardcore Mode"!

Board Game: Aquatica
• In October 2020, Cosmodrome Games will also release Aquatica: Cold Waters, an expansion for the underwater-themed tableau-engine builder Aquatica, designed by Ivan Tuzovsky. If you're not familiar with Aquatica, here's an overview from the publisher:
Quote:
Aquatica is a deep, but easy-to-learn family engine builder about underwater kingdoms.

In the game, you become one of the mighty ocean kings, struggling to bring glory to his realm. To win the game, you need to capture and buy locations, recruit new characters, and complete goals; each of these actions gives you victory points at the end of the game. To do so, you need to play cards from your hand (each with a unique set of actions) and combine them. Don't think it's simple! With a good strategy during your turn, you can take up to ten actions in a row.

You will encounter plenty of mysterious ocean creatures and take them to your hand. With their help you will explore the unknown locations and rise found resources from the ocean depths to your kingdom. Mechanically this is represented with the help of three-layered player board and the unique mechanism of card-rising.
The Aquatica: Cold Waters expansion includes several modules with components to add a fifth player, new location and ocean creature cards, and an alternative mechanism replacing the goal-track in the base game.

Board Game: Aquatica: Cold Waters
Non-final box cover

Board Game: Tiny Towns
• In October 2020, Alderac Entertainment Group will release Tiny Towns: Villagers, the second expansion for Peter McPherson's 1-6 player town-building sensation, Tiny Towns.

As with the first expansion — Tiny Towns: Fortune, which Eric mentioned in a Sept. 2019 post — McPherson has teamed up with Cat Lady designer Josh Wood to continue spicing up the Tiny Towns world:
Quote:
In Tiny Towns: Villagers, word has spread far and wide of a thriving little civilization in the forest. Creatures with incredible talents — from engineers to merchants — have come to visit these towns and decide where they will make their new homes. They offer the most astute town mayors their skills, which can transform buildings, control the influx of resources, and perform impressive architectural feats. The world of Tiny Towns is getting a bit bigger!
Board Game: Tiny Towns: Villagers
Cover image included over protest from WEM
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Wed Jun 17, 2020 3:47 pm
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Vote for the Charles S. Roberts Awards for the First Time since 2013

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From gallery of pzmcgwire
After a seven-year slumber, the Charles S. Roberts Awards have been reawakened thanks to director Tim Tow!

Named after the founder of the Avalon Hill Game Company, the Charles S. Roberts (CSR) Awards are the oldest board game awards, dating back to 1975. In fact, the awards were first issued at the Origins Game convention in 1975 and had been issued annually through 2013 with a hiatus until this year. Voting is open through June 15, 2020 and ballots can be submitted online, emailed to charlessrobertsawards@gmail.com, or can you believe it? — sent via the vintage option of snail mail. I figured I'd pass this info along to hopefully get as much gamer participation as possible.

The rules for voting are pretty clear on the website, and you can vote for up to three games or individuals in as many or as few categories as you'd like — it's really up to you. The goal is to have as broad of a voter base as possible, so they're trying to make it convenient for people to vote.

Although the focus is on wargames, any game that has a historical or conflict simulation element would qualify, so pretty much any game or publication released in 2019 is eligible as long as it fits in one of the categories below:
Quote:
Milieu Awards
• Best Ancients to Pre-Napoleonic Era Board Wargame
• Best Napoleonic Era Board Wargame
• Best Post-Napoleonic to Pre-World War 2 Era Board Wargame
• Best World War 2 Era Board Wargame
• Best Post-WW2, Cold War, & Hypothetical Era Board Wargame
• Best Science-Fiction or Fantasy Board Wargame

Format Awards
• Best Solitaire/Cooperative Board Wargame
• Best Magazine Board Wargame
• Best Amateur / Print-and-Play Board Wargame
• Best Postcard/Small format Board Wargame
• Best Expansion or Supplement for an Existing Board Wargame
• Best Board Wargame Playing Components
• Best Board Wargame Map Graphics
• Best Board Wargame Rules
• Best Original Box Cover Art

Computer Gaming Awards
• Best Pre-20th Century Era Computer Wargame
• Best Modern Era Computer Wargame
• Best Science-Fiction or Fantasy Computer Wargame
• Best Computer Wargame Expansion or Update
• Best Computer Wargame Graphics
• Best Board Wargame Computer Assist Module

Publication Awards
• Best Professional Wargame Magazine
• Best Amateur Game Magazine
• Best Historical or Scenario Article
• Best Game Review or Analysis

Overall Awards
• Best Board Wargame of the Year
• James F Dunnigan Award for Playability and Design
• Clausewitz Award HALL OF FAME
Since the 2012 CSR Awards were issued, Tow and the CSR Awards Board of Governors have modified the award categories to reflect changes in the board gaming industry in the past decade.

1) The first historical period (Best Ancients to Napoleonics) was divided into two categories because more games are released for these periods than in the past:
____• Best Ancients to Pre Napoleonic (anything before 1792)
____• Best Napoleonic (1792-1815)

2) The Board Wargame Graphics category has been split into multiple categories because nowadays components, rulebooks, and maps are done by different people:
____• Best Rules Presentation
____• Best Map Graphics
____• Best Components
____• Best Box Cover Art

3) A Best Computer Assist Module category was added to represent the growing trend of people using online tools such as Vassal, Tabletop Simulator, and Cyberboard to play board games.

The CSR Awards Board has a few more categories in mind to incorporate in 2021 and welcomes feedback/suggestions from the community:
____• Best Podcast
____• Best Board Game Computer Implementation, which may replace or supplement the Computer Assist category
____• Best game of the last five years to highlight games that are standing the test of time

Even though podcasts and web articles are not explicitly set as a category for the 2019 awards, they do count for the Best Analysis and Scenario categories.

I also want to call out the Clausewitz Hall of Fame award, which is the last category on the list above, but quite possibly the most important. Named after legendary military writer Carl von Clausewitz, the Clausewitz Hall of Fame award is intended to recognize a lifetime of excellence to individuals who have made a significant impact on the hobby. Just remember when submitting your vote for this award that anyone who has been a previous recipient is not eligible to win again (i.e., Mark Hermanwe were all thinking it).

Tim Tow sees the Charles S. Roberts Awards as a helpful source for discovering new games which inspired the awards' rebirth in 2020. It's clearly also a great way to acknowledge all the great conflict simulation games and creators behind them. If you're interested in voting or learning more about the Charles S. Roberts Awards, be sure to check out their website. I'll be looking forward to seeing the results!
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Tue Jun 9, 2020 2:33 pm
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Build a More Epic Civilization with Through the Ages: New Leaders and Wonders

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Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization

Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization

Board Game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
Through the Ages has some serious history, and I'm not just referring to its theme. In 2006, the first edition of Vlaada Chvátil's card-drafting, civ-building magnum opus — Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization — was released by Czech Board Games.

In 2007, a new publishing company — Czech Games Edition (CGE) — was established and released its first titles: Galaxy Trucker, also by Vlaada Chvátil, and League of Six by Vladimír Suchý. Fast forward years later to 2015 when Chvátil and CGE released a revamped and slightly retitled second edition of Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization, which was followed by an excellent digital adaptation in 2017. The Through the Ages app is considered by many (including myself) to be one of the best digital implementations of a board game.

The natural next step was for Chvátil and CGE to further enhance the Through the Ages experience, so the New Leaders and Wonders expansion was created and released in 2019...well, digitally at least. Finally in 2020, the analog English-language version of the New Leaders and Wonders expansion is here. Considering that the New Leaders and Wonders expansion has been available digitally for some time, I wanted to let you know what you can expect in the tabletop version, much of which is also available in the app. (Note that I received a review copy of Through the Ages: New Leaders and Wonders from CGE.)

If you're not already hip to Through the Ages, here's a high-level overview of this challenging, card-driven, civilization-building game for 2-4 players:
Quote:
Each player attempts to build the best civilization through careful resource management, discovering new technologies, electing the right leaders, building wonders, and maintaining a strong military. Weakness in any area can be exploited by your opponents. The game takes place throughout the ages beginning in the age of antiquity and ending in the modern age.

One of the primary mechanisms in TTA is card drafting. Technologies, wonders, and leaders come into play and become easier to draft the longer they are in play. In order to use a technology you will need enough science to discover it, enough food to create a population to man it, and enough resources (ore) to build the building to use it. While balancing the resources needed to advance your technology, you also need to build a military. Military is built in the same way as civilian buildings. Players that have a weak military will be preyed upon by other players. There is no map in the game so you cannot lose territory, but players with higher military will steal resources, science, kill leaders, and take population or culture. It is very difficult to win with a large military, but it is very easy to lose because of a weak one.

Victory is achieved by the player whose nation has the most culture at the end of the modern age.
Board Game: Through the Ages: New Leaders and Wonders

The New Leaders and Wonders expansion seriously amps up the replay value of Through the Ages! Players have plenty to chew on here with the added variety of not only forty new leaders and wonders, but also nineteen new military cards and different variants for incorporating the new leaders and wonders with the base game to maximize replayability. In addition, New Leaders and Wonders includes rebalanced versions of some cards from the base game as well as additional base game cards to adjust the game length for three- and four-player games.

Due to changes in printing technologies, there was no way to match the backs of the new military cards to the old ones, so CGE ended up reprinting all of the base game military cards for this expansion due to the importance of maintaining secrecy with players' military cards. I understand this wasn't the original game plan and it caused some delays, but kudos to the CGE team for taking the extra steps to get it right.

As mentioned above, the New Leaders and Wonders expansion also includes additional cards to rebalance the base game. The rebalancing decisions were made based on the opinions of experienced players and statistics from tens of thousands of online games. I personally have not played the base game alone enough times to speak to the impact of these changes, but the good news is that you can choose to use the rebalanced cards if you like them or continue using the original version. The goal was to make some of the stronger cards that experienced players would always tend to swoop up a little less powerful, and in contrast, make some of the weaker cards more powerful to entice players to choose them more often. Here are a couple of examples of original base game cards (left) vs. expansion rebalanced cards (right):

From gallery of candidrum

From gallery of candidrum

From gallery of candidrum

You can see the new version of Napoleon Bonaparte is less powerful now that it grants only one military action (red cube) instead of two, whereas the new versions of the other examples are a bit juicier; Hanging Gardens now grants players a two-food bonus upon completion, and Fundamentalism has a reduced science cost and provides an increased military value.

CGE also addressed imbalance in the action cards between player counts. In the base game, the same number of action cards are used for all player counts, which made them harder to acquire in three- and four-player games. This was addressed by adding more action cards for 3+ players so that these games will have slightly more cards than before. Due to social distancing, I have not been able to play any three- or four-player games of the tabletop version to see how it feels, but I can certainly appreciate all the research the CGE team did to realize these rebalancing changes were needed.

Besides the abundance of new and updated cards included in this expansion, there are different ways you can incorporate the new leaders and wonders which will for sure keep Through the Ages fresh and interesting, game after game:

• You could play a "Pure Expansion" game in which you replace all the base game wonders and leaders with the expansion wonders and leaders and follow the usual game rules.

• You could alternatively play a "Secret Mix" game in which you combine the base game and expansion leaders and wonders and not know which will be included until they appear when you're replenishing the card row. You'll basically separate the cards by age and type (leader vs. wonder), then shuffle each deck and draw six leaders and four wonders for each age in a two-player game, and seven leaders and five wonders for each age in three- and four-player games. Incorporating additional leaders and wonders in three- and four-player games now is a solid tweak considering more players are competing for them.

• You could also play a "Public Mix" game, which is perhaps my favorite because it incorporates the new proxy cards that are used in conjunction with the new wonder and leader boards. This is an awesome new addition for strategic planning. You'll know exactly which leaders and wonders are coming down the pike, but you don't know exactly when they'll appear in the card row.

When playing the "Public Mix", you use the specified number of leaders and wonders, but instead of shuffling the selected leaders and wonders into the appropriate age civil card decks, you display them, one age at a time, on the new wonder and leader boards so that all players can see them before they enter the card row. How will these wonders and leaders make their way into the card row? That's where the proxy cards come into play.

From gallery of candidrum

Each proxy card has a number matching the numbers on the wonder and leader boards. You shuffle the proxy cards into the civil card decks for each age, then when you are replenishing the card row, if a proxy card appears, you discard it and replace it with the corresponding wonder or leader that matches its number. Once all the wonders and leaders have been moved to the card row for a given age, i.e., once the wonder and leader boards are empty, you refill both boards with wonders and leaders for the next age.

Seeing the leaders and wonders ahead of time really helps you plan, but does not guarantee you'll score the card(s) you're hoping for. This set-up might even save some time during the overall game since players can examine the future wonders and leaders ahead of time when it's not their turn. I'm all for trying anything to make the game move a little faster. I'm sure not everyone will love the "Public Mix" variant as much as I do, but the point is that you have plenty of options to explore, which will introduce more variety to the game.

From gallery of candidrum

When I initially dabbled in Through the Ages, I didn't quite get into it...or shall I say, I didn't quite get it. Let's face it — this is a hard game to play. After playing more, inspired by many of my friends who are TtA fanatics, I'm pretty hooked and appreciate it more with each play. I still have a lot to learn, but I do enjoy it. The engine building is challenging considering it's an extremely tight balancing act of trying to keep up with literally everything — military, science, culture, food and resource production, etc. — to stay afloat, but it feels so satisfying when your civilization starts to really develop and grow. The player interaction is incredibly enjoyable, too, with players driving the political events and having the ability to create pacts and initiate aggressions and wars with other players.

The New Leaders and Wonders expansion adds so much juicy variety and spice to an already awesome game. If you enjoy expansions like this that mainly add variety and increase the replay value of a game with minimal rules changes, I suspect you'll dig this expansion for Through the Ages. Even considering the rebalanced cards alone, you might consider this an essential expansion depending on your experiences with the base game, but for me, a Through the Ages rookie, I think I'm mainly into this for all the added flavor. Of course, ask me five years from now when I have more games under my belt and I might have a different response.

If you're already a big fan of the base game, I'm sure the Through the Ages: New Leaders and Wonders expansion is probably a no brainer, but if you're on the fence and curious to try it out, I recommend checking out the app adaption first. It's solid with an excellent tutorial, and it's a great way to see whether this is something you might want to delve deeper into.

Also, if you're interested in hearing about the origins of Through the Ages, you can check out Vlaada Chvátil's designer notes. I've found them to be quite interesting and insightful!
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Fri Jun 5, 2020 2:00 pm
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New GMT Game Round-up: Command U-Boats, Struggle for Glory, Raid Anglo-Scottish Borders, & Write the Versailles Treaty

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

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

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

Board Game: Border Reivers

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

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

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

Board Game: Imperial Struggle

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

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

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

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

Board Game: Versailles 1919

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: School of Sorcery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: The Fox in the Forest Duet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: Mini Express

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

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

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

Board Game: Mini Express

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

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

Board Game: Station Master

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

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

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

Board Game: 21Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: Mercado de Lisboa
Cover art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: Mercado de Lisboa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From gallery of candidrum
My 2 May 2020 game on Tabletopia

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: Sidereal Confluence: Remastered Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: The King Is Dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: Sheriff of Nottingham (2nd Edition)

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