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To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, please contact BGG News editor W. Eric Martin via email – wericmartin AT gmail.com

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New Game Round-up: Be Cryptically Clear in Decrypto, and Fight Ghosts Anew as a Treasure Hunter

W. Eric Martin
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• At a recent gaming event, I ran into Christian Lemay of Le Scorpion Masqué, and while I suppose we could have, you know, actually played games, instead we talked about art, French literature, and one forthcoming game release: Thomas Dagenais-Lespérance's Decrypto, which Lemay anticipates releasing in early 2018 (although there's an outside shot of the game seeing publication in late 2017). Note that the cover artwork shown isn't final.

On later days at this event, I did see others playing Decrypto over and over again, with some saying it was their favorite game of the show. Here's what I missed out on and what we all can now anticipate:

Quote:
Players compete in two teams in Decrypto, with each trying to correctly interpret the coded messages presented to them by their teammates while cracking the codes they intercept from the opposing team.

In more detail, each team has their own screen, and in this screen they tuck four cards in pockets numbered 1-4, letting everyone on the same team see the words on these cards while hiding them from the opposing team. In the first round, each team does the following: One team member takes a code card that shows three of the digits 1-4 in some order, e.g. 4-2-1. They then give a coded message that their teammates must use to guess this code. For example, if the team's four words are "pig", "candy", "tent", and "son", then I might say "child-mouth-tail" and hope that my teammates can correctly map those words to 4-2-1. If they guess correctly, great; if not, we receive a black mark of failure.

Starting in the second round, a member of each team must again give a clue about their words to match a numbered code. If I get 2-4-3, I might now say, "sucker-finger-grass". The other team then attempts to guess our numbered code — not the hidden words themselves, only the numbers! If they're correct, they receive a white mark of success; if not, then my team must guess the number correctly or take a black mark of failure. (Guessing correctly does nothing except avoid failure while giving the opposing team information about what our hidden words might be.)

The rounds continue until a team collects either its second white mark (winning the game) or its second black mark (losing the game). Games typically last between 4-7 rounds.

• U.S. game publisher and manufacturer of other things Mattel will be at Gen Con 2017 in August. Yes, Mattel! "As you know, the hobby market has really begun to grow recently", game designer Nick Hayes, who develops titles for Mattel, told me. "It's an exciting time for the gaming community, and we'd like to be a part of that." Mattel will debut Hayes' Wizards Wanted at Gen Con, while also featuring Marc André's Sail Away (which debuted in German at SPIEL 2016) and Brian Yu's Ghost Fightin' Treasure Hunters, with a new mini-expansion for GFTH being available at the show. Yu also designed this mini-expansion, which consists of four new gameplay variants that can be added to the base game.

• On May 25, 2017, Fully Baked Ideas — the adults-only imprint of Looney Labs — will release Stoner Loonacy, a marijuana-themed version of Andy Looney's real-time card game Loonacy. In the game, everyone has a hand of cards with two images on them. One or more face-up discard piles are started based on the number of players, then everyone free fires cards from their hand onto a discard pile as long as one of the images on their played card matches one of the images on the card on top of the discard pile. The first player out of cards wins.

Obviously the particular images in Loonacy don't affect the gameplay, so you could make a version of the game with anything you like on the cards. On its website, Looney Labs has a page for what it calls "Game Store Loonacy", with game stores being able to order custom copies of Loonacy that feature the game store logo as one of the 22 images in the game, with the other images being somewhat generic game bits. These games could be used as giveaways during an event or a freebie if someone spends $X in the store. I'm confident that if you approached Looney Labs with 22 custom images, you could probably get them to manufacture an entirely custom version for you. Create your own wedding favors!




• Late news here, but in February 2017 Pegasus Spiele announced that it would release select titles from Finnish publisher Lautapelit.fi in German in addition to now handling all distribution of Lautapelit.fi titles in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Rustan Håkansson's Nations: The Dice Game will be the first such release — as Nations: Das Würfelspiel naturally — in June 2017, with German-language versions of Eclipse and Nations due out before the end of 2017.

• In vaguely game-related news, in August 2017 Oni Press will debut the first issue of Dead of Winter, a comic book based on the Plaid Hat Games title, with the comic featuring the exploits of Sparky the Stunt Dog. From the press release:

Quote:
In the pantheon of heroes, none are more lovable and loyal than everyone's beloved good ol' dog, Sparky. Surviving in the wintery apocalypse of the undead, this former TV star turned zombie killing machine just wants to make friends and be a good boy. As his fellow survivors scavenge for supplies in the frigid wasteland, will Sparky be able to protect his companions from threats both undead and not yet undead?

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Fri Apr 21, 2017 1:05 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Circle the Enemies of the Abandoned Morels Station to Combat Dungeon Genesis

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Phil Eklund's Bios: Genesis from Sierra Madre Games debuted at SPIEL 2016, and now he's on Kickstarter for the first time ever to fund a second edition of this "gaming from the dawn time" creation, which now features revised graphic design on the cards, placards, and rulebook, as well as "4 extra bionts" _ and who couldn't use a few more bionts now and then? Aside from a reprint of the "only board game recreating current scientific evidence behind the origins of life", Eklund offers word of his plans for 2017, mentioning that a new edition of Bios: MegaFauna and Bios: Origins (a reworking of Origins: How We Became Human) are due for release in 2017, and the revised rules in Bios: Genesis include a campaign mode that "allows you to start from the origins of life in Bios: Genesis all the way to interstellar travel in the reprint of Bios: Origins". (KS link)

• To continue our trip through human history, we jump to Enemies of Rome from Grant Wylie, Mike Wylie, and Worthington Publishing, which allows you to relive six hundred years of history in a couple of hours, with players leading Roman legions around Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East to become Caesar and have people eat salads in your honor. (KS link)

• Paul Ali's Capere from Playford Games offers a far different take on the topic of Roman legions, presenting a seeming abstract strategy game that is actually driven by random card draws that determine the movement and abilities of your pieces, with you trying to capture opponents or reach their side of the board in order to score. (KS link)

Columbia Games' Combat Infantry from Leonard Coufal and Tom Dalgliesh is a fast-paced World War II tactical level game that uses Columbia's hallmark wooden blocks and has been in the works for at least six years under various names. (KS link)

• Jumping to the future, in 2050 (Humans, We Have a Problem...), Alan Gallart of Fiction Non Fiction presents players with the challenge of sourcing renewable energy, changing business practices, and developing better environmental policy so that they can have better ice cap and glacier coverage on their place on Earth than any other player. (KS link)

• Brent Povis of Two Lanterns Games is funding an expansion for his well-regarded two-player game Morels — now five years old! — with Morels Foray, which includes rules for three- and four-player games, new components for use at all player counts, and fancy handcrafted bits that have not yet caused Povis to lose a finger, but with your support, it could still happen. (KS link)

• Another expansion in the offing comes from Vesuvius Media, which released Constantine Kevorque's cooperative 4X science-fiction game Centauri Saga in 2016. Centauri Saga: Abandoned (which is subtitled "Season 1") is a legacy expansion for that game in which a number of scenarios can be played together in a larger campaign with the results of one game having ripple effects on future scenarios. Once you finish the campaign, two additional scenarios can be played on your legacied game board. The publisher emphasizes that the legacy element applies only to the expansion materials, not the components in the base game. (KS link)

• I like to feel that I'm on top of things and have some idea of what's going on the game industry, but I receive daily reminders that I'm missing out on many things, such as not knowing about the existence of Sam Coates' Dungeon Dice, which Potluck Games released in 2014. (The Dungeon Dice I know about was released in the 1970s and my brother and I played that game at least one thousand times.) The more recent Dungeon Dice is an adventuring game in which everything you do involves dice in some manner, with players acquiring lots of dice during play. Potluck is running a crowdfunding campaign for The Lost King expansion, which it calls the final expansion, with the base game and the entire line also being available. (KS link)

• Mark Major's Chimera Station — a worker-placement game in which the workers are aliens that you can modify during the game by combining different plastic bits — is on Kickstarter...again. Tasty Minstrel Games funded an edition of the game in October 2016 ahead of a planned release in June 2017, and now Belgian co-publisher Game Brewer is trying to fund additional versions of the game in European languages beyond English, French, German and Dutch. (KS link)

Button Shy is back on Kickstarter with another trio of tiny games: Mint Julep, a racing-and-betting game from Dan Letzring; That Snow Moon, a Dave Chalker design in which rebel troops try to assemble forces on the table while the evil Dynasty tries to drop cards on the rebels to expose and remove them; and Circle the Wagons, a design from Aramini, Devine, and Kluka that has you overlaying cards divided into four sections to build your own boomtown. (KS link)

• Daryl Andrews, J.R. Honeycutt, and CSE Games are following the release of Fantasy Fantasy Baseball with Fantasy Fantasy Football, a game in which players serve as team managers who fill their roster with fantasy creatures, then hit the field. (KS link)

• Ben Mora's Wages of War: The Uncooperative Siege Game from Mora Games gives you the five-second summary in the title: Players are collectively sieging a castle, but they want to individually cause as much damage as possible since that's all the matters in the end — yet you can benefit from the actions of others along the way since you're all sieging elbow to elbow around the castle. (KS link)

Petrichor might have you searching for a definition in order to determine what the game might be about, but publishers Cloud Island and Mighty Boards have made things easy for you by placing the definition on the box itself: the pleasant earthy smell after rain. In this design by David Chircop and Dávid Turczi, you are the one responsible for that pleasant earthy smell because you are a cloud, and you want to float around, make more clouds, and rain on things to grow more plants than any other cloud. (KS link)

• Desginer Mitsuo Yamamoto of Logy Games creates abstract strategy games from ceramic and wood in small print runs — typically with multiple versions so people can choose the images they want on the pieces — and his latest offering is a new version of Safari-Dual, a two-player game in which players try to remove the opposing lion from play or else move their lion into the opponent's den. During play, you remove opposing animals by sandwiching them between two of your animals of the same type, with their animal becoming the meat in your sandwich. Yum. (KS link)




Editor's note: Please don't post links to other Kickstarter projects in the comments section. Write to me via the email address in the header, and I'll consider them for inclusion in a future crowdfunding round-up. Thanks! —WEM
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Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: Chimera Reborn, Colonists Rerun, and Questions Rephrased

W. Eric Martin
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• Games cycle on and off the market quickly these days, with many games then returning to the market in a new form. One example of this phoenix-like rebirth is Chimera & More, a new version of Ralph H. Anderson's Chimera, which was published by Z-Man Games in 2014.

Chimera is a shedding card game along the lines of Tichu, but for precisely three players, and in each round players will bid for the right to be chimera, with the other two players then teaming up to try to keep the chimera from exiting the round first. The game has lots of possible card combinations — pairs, triples, sequences of pairs or triples, triples with one attached card, etc. —and for more details, I refer to this preview I wrote in April 2014.

Chimera & More includes the basic Chimera game for three players, but it adds two additional suits of cards so that the game is also playable with exactly five players. Players bid to be chimera as before, but then the chimera will choose a partner, and this pair of players then competes against the remaining three, with the goal again being for the chimera to exit the round first or to keep this player from doing so. In the five-player game, each non-chimera player additionally receives a Q — a messenger bird — and once during the round a player can play their Q to throw the lead to any other player; alternatively, the Q can be played as any ranked card from 0 to 12.

Chimera & More will be co-published by Eagle-Gryphon Games and Anderson's own Flightless Goat Workshop, with the game hitting Kickstarter for funding on April 18, 2017.



Prototype components and box, showing some of the new cards


• In early April 2017, Rio Grande Games released Jeff and Carla Horger's Orient Express, which was announced in early 2016. Scott Tepper of RGG says that Joshua Gerald Balvin's Oktoberfest, Kris Burm's LYNGK, and Donald X. Vaccarino's Temporum: Alternate Realities should also hit the retail market before the end of April 2017, along with a restocking of Mac Gerdts' Concordia.

Adds Tepper, "We are (slowly) working through the Dominion expansions to update them to go along with the second edition base game and second edition Intrigue. This has meant rewriting the rule books, and we're also updating the copy on all the cards to unify the text. We have already updated Hinterlands and Prosperity. The next one in the queue to be updated is Seaside, which we should get in late May."

• A Ravensburger representative in Germany tells me that an English-language edition of Reiner Knizia's deck-building/exploration game El Dorado will be released in the U.S. No word on a release date yet, but the German version was released in early April 2017 should you care to dive into the game now rather than later.

• On its website, Mayfair Games has posted "The Imperial Post", a solitaire scenario for Tim Puls's The Colonists focusing on the Envoy Colony. In more detail: "Your goal is to establish relations with it and fully develop the relationship over the course of four eras, while also completing specific objectives in each Era."

• I've already shared a video overview of Codenames Duet, a cooperative version of Vlaada Chvátil's hit party game that will debut at Gen Con 2017 in August, but Czech Games Edition has a number of other titles in the works as well.

That's a Question, which is not the final title, is another party game from Chvátil, and the game takes the familiar format of challenging others with questions, then voting on what they'll say. In more detail, each player has a hand of hexagonal cards, with words or phrases in three color blocks on the card. On a turn, you choose a player that has a token in front of them, take that token, then present them with a question by choosing one of the three question prompts (which are all color-coded), then choosing two cards from your hand and adding the properly-colored section of those cards to the question. In the pic below, for example, the player has been presented with this question: "What would you miss more if it ceases to exist: Facebook or doors?" That player secretly votes on A or B, while everyone else but the questioner secretly votes A or B depending on how they think the person will answer; a voter can optionally add their 3x scoring token to their vote.

Once everyone votes, you reveal the tiles. Everyone who voted correctly moves ahead one or three spaces on the scoring track, and the questioner moves ahead one space for each person who voted incorrectly. If you pass a certain space on the scoring track, you retrieve your 3x token (if you've used it). Since you can ask a question only of those with a token in front of them, everyone is asked roughly the same number of questions, and whoever has the most points after a certain number of rounds wins.

Other titles in the works from CGE include:

—A science-fiction Eurogame tentatively titled Pleiades that features an "interesting dice mechanism".
—An expansion for Adrenaline that adds components for a sixth player, character-specific weapons, and rules for team play to the game.
—More leaders and wonders for Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization.
—A new player deck for Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends based on time travel.



That's a Question, with prototype components and name — an easy question in this case
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Wed Apr 19, 2017 1:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: Level Up with Super Mario, and Play Games with Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick and Morty

W. Eric Martin
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• Games come and go for any number of reasons, but sometimes they come back, whether through deep love for an out-of-print classic or through the fortunate juxtaposition of design and marketing, the latter of which is the case for Super Mario: Level Up! Board Game. USAopoly has taken Stefano Luperto's King Me! — first published in 2004 by dV Giochi, which was called "daVinci Games" at that time — and married it with the world of Super Mario, which makes perfect sense given that players each have secret candidates that they're trying to move up the charts, and these characters level up during the game in order to score you more points. When a character reaches the top of the charts, everyone votes on whether that character can stay or not; if it does, the round ends and players score points based on where their characters stand.

Interesting to see a game more than a decade old that will be new for most people who play it, but that's pretty much the case for all hobby games that reach the mass market...

• In a mid-April 2017 post, I mentioned a forthcoming expansion for The Voyages of Marco Polo that Hans im Glück intends to debut at SPIEL 2017 in October. Folks asked in the comments about availability of the base game (and other HiG titles) in English, so I reached out to Steve Kimball, head of the Z-Man Games studio within Asmodee North America. Kimball says that a reprint of the Marco Polo base game has been ordered and it should be available no later than October 2017 when the expansion is scheduled to debut.

As for other titles, Kimball says, "Stone Age is reprinted fairly regularly, and it looks like the next print run should arrive in Q3 [2017]." For Russian Railroads, the news is not so good, and Kimball provides back-up detail to explain the situation: "In order to obtain the volume necessary to make a reprint viable, Hans im Glück obtains interest from their publishing partners about which titles are selling well enough to warrant a reprint. Once there is sufficient demand from enough territories, HiG schedules a reprint. At the moment, there is no reprint scheduled for Russian Railroads."

This explanation matches what Sophie Gravel, former owner of Z-Man Games, told me years ago about why The Palaces of Carrara never went back to print in English. Copies were plentiful in other languages, which would mean that Z-Man Games would be paying on its own for a tiny print run (with a resulting higher per copy cost), which would mean that Z-Man would need to sell a higher percentage than usual just to make back its costs — so rather than risk seeing inventory pile up in the warehouse, you express regrets to potential buyers and move on to the next thing. Witch's Brew suffered the same fate, with English-language copies selling for a mint and people begging Rio Grande Games to publish more while German-language copies were hitting clearance bins. Game publishers tend to be conservative, and the ever-increasing number of titles hitting the market will only make them more so, given that the spotlight window for new titles seems increasingly flighty.

• Speaking of flighty, I tweeted cover pics of these games at NY Toy Fair, but never covered them here in more detail. As it did in 2016, Cryptozoic Entertainment plans to release two licensed Rick & Morty games in 2017, with each game being inspired by a particular episode in the series. Matt Hyra's Rick and Morty: Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind Deck-Building Game uses the Cerebus deck-building engine seen in other Cryptozoic titles, but the hook for the game is that each player is a different version of Rick, and you'll face off against one another as in the episode. In more detail:

Quote:
Each player's deck starts with the following cards: seven Genius Waves cards that give you Power, one Beth, one Jerry, and one Summer. The Beth, Jerry, and Summer cards do nothing, but can activate other cards. The "Kick" stack in other Cerberus games is now the Portal Gun stack. The Portal Gun activates the Portal deck, which transports a player's hero to a random location from the episode or other popular places from the series. That player may then utilize that location during their turn and has the option of paying the cost of the location to put it into their deck.

The other title, due out July 12, 2017, is Rick and Morty: Anatomy Park, a tile-laying game with the following description:

Quote:
Based on the hilarious "Anatomy Park" episode, each player in Rick and Morty: Anatomy Park attempts to construct the world's greatest theme park inside of a homeless guy named Reuben. Players build while battling both monstrous diseases and fellow park-builders with creative differences concerning how the park should be laid out. The object of the game is to score points by placing your park tiles into the best spots within the body. Move your character pawn around the park to scout out the best locations and stay away from (or shoot) the monster diseases that will pop up and cause chaos. Whoever has the most victory points wins and is the master builder of Anatomy Park!

BGG shot an overview of this game at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show if you want to get a taste for it in action:

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Tue Apr 18, 2017 1:00 pm
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Links: Sales Figures from Asmodee and Steve Jackson Games, and an Unrivaled Opportunity to Play to Win

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• In mid-March 2017, French investment company Eurazeo posted a report (PDF) of its 2016 fiscal year, and that's of interest to gamers given that Eurazeo owns game publisher Asmodee, which itself consists of Fantasy Flight Games, Days of Wonder, Z-Man Games, and several other publishing brands. Here's the Asmodee section of its report:

Quote:
ASMODEE (fully consolidated)

Continued robust organic growth and an ongoing international acquisitions policy

In 2016, Asmodee posted revenue of €377.2 million, up +39.5% on a reported basis compared to the previous year, and solid organic growth of +18.5% at constant scope and exchange rates.

This growth was spurred by all product lines and regions: international activities now represent 75% of Group revenue, particularly in the US and the UK. The year was marked by a particularly robust performance in the cards segment, driven by Pokémon which benefited from favorable trends in all the Group’s European countries.

The Group's EBITDA totaled €65.2 million, resulting in a 17.3% margin. EBITDA increased by +57.5% on a reported basis and +23.7% at constant scope and exchange rates.

Asmodee is also pursuing its strategic initiatives: enhancement of its editorial contents in all regions and on all media, ramp-up in new regions, primarily the US, and creation of its digital platform offering.

Pro forma of the external growth transactions carried out at the end of 2016 (F2Z, Heidelberger, Millenium and Edge), revenue in 2016 totaled €402 million and EBITDA amounted to €78.1 million, i.e. a +19.4% margin.

Net financial debt totaled €223.6 million following the June 2016 refinancing and the acquisitions at the end of 2016, i.e. a leverage now lower than 3.0x EBITDA.

Eurazeo is a shareholder in 34 companies. (HT: Sebastian Wenzel)

• To follow up on this April 2017 post about Catan Days 2017, Asmodee North America has announced that "due to an unforeseen circumstance" Catan Days has been postponed, with a new date still to be announced at a later date.

• Phil Reed has posted Steve Jackson Games' annual stakeholder report for 2016, which always provides fascinating insight into one of the longest-lived U.S. game publishers still active on today's market. An excerpt:

Quote:
2016 was a challenging time for many of us in the office. It was our second year in decline, with gross income just over $6 million. Additionally, this was the first year in over a decade that we showed a loss. Our insistence on perfection resulted in our two biggest planned releases — the Munchkin Collectible Card Game and Car Wars Sixth Edition — being pushed back (keep reading for more information on both of these games). That meant our time invested in both games did not benefit the bottom line in 2016, and that led to lower than expected revenue. Fortunately, our management team saw early enough in the year that these games would miss 2016 that we kept our cash flow stable and avoided potential cash crunches. Our cash flow report — first mentioned by Steve in the 2010 report — continues to protect us from unexpected harm.

• On March 31, 2017, Identity Games managing director Erik Spindler transferred his shares of the company to new owners. To quote from the press release: "With a number of global titles like Escape Room: The Game, Poopyhead and the original Mouthguard Challenge, this is a good time for Spindler to take on a new challenge. Founder and managing partner Albert Meuter and managing director USA Emile Kalis, as well the new shareholders" — Jeroen Nugteren (General Manager International) and Jan-Maurits Duparc (Chief Creation) — "are now the new management. Jelle Marcus is the new manager for tailor made games."

• Want to watch players compete in tabletop games for money? Oomba hopes so, Oomba being "a specialized social media company that is creating an interactive social network for tournaments, leagues and teams".

The specific event that Oomba has created is the Unrivaled Tournament Series, which features six games — Munchkin, Ascension, King of Tokyo, Nevermore, Villagers & Villains, and Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Rumble at Castle Tentakill — for which 284 retail stores will hold satellite tournaments through June 2017, ahead of regional tournaments from July through September and the finals in October 2017 in Las Vegas. Oomba promises $250,000 in cash and prizes for those who make the grand final, with sanctioned satellite venues receiving payouts matching those of their players, thereby giving them an incentive to host in the first place (beyond, of course, simply encouraging people to come to their store).

An excerpt from a Forbes article about Oomba and the Unrivaled tournament series:

Quote:
"Unrivaled is a celebration of social aspects of tabletop gaming," says [Oomba CEO Michael] Williams. The company and its partners are betting that the excitement generated by the tournament gets more people into the world of tabletop games, and generates greater outside attention to the marketing, sponsorship and engagement opportunities for organized play. If their strategy pays off, it may open a whole new field of play for the esports model and a new point of engagement for the fan economy that has taken over popular culture.

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Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:13 pm
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New Game Round-up: Automata Comes to Noir, Witches Come to America's Aid, and Port Royal Comes to the U.S.

W. Eric Martin
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• People have been asking for months, if not years, when Alexander Pfister's Port Royal will be released in the U.S., and for nearly as long German publisher Pegasus Spiele has answered that someone had licensed the game and any announcements are in the hands of that licensor.

Now Steve Jackson Games has revealed itself as that licensor and announced an August 2017 release date for its edition of the game, and while I can understand a publisher wanting to put its own spin on a game — doing something to make sure the game fits in their catalog — I'm baffled as to why SJG has gone with that cover art while keeping the Klemens Franz artwork inside the hood. Seems like a mismatch, but I haven't been in business publishing games for nearly forty years, so maybe I'm overlooking something that SJG knows better.

• Want to playtest a Caverna expansion? Alex Wilber, who in August 2016 uploaded files on BGG containing fourteen (!) new races for use in Caverna other than the default dwarves, says that he's now working with Lookout Games on an expansion tentatively planned for release in the first half of 2018. For details on how to get involved, head to this post on BGG; for details on the expansion itself, you must wait.

• Along similar lines, Cheapass Games has posted a rough version of Rochi, a gambling game from James Ernest and Sonia Lyris that will be featured in Lyris' next fantasy novel. Here's a short description from Cheapass: "Rochi is a gambling game for 2-8 players, played with a Tarot-style deck with six suits of different sizes. It's a new deck design for us, and it's a whole new way to think about how gambling games should work. There is no betting, very little bluffing, and six different pots!"

The window to provide playtesting feedback closed on March 31, 2017, but if you want to download the current rules and components, you can still try the game ahead of its release later in 2017.

• In mid-2017, Atlas Games will release Craig Stockwell's Witches of the Revolution, a 1-4 player cooperative deck-building game in which the player witches must play a decisive role in aiding the colonies during the American Revolution. We recorded an overview of the game during the 2017 GAMA Trade Show if you want to see it in action:




• Near the end of 2017, Level 99 Games plans to release Automata NOIR, a new version of D. Brad Talton, Jr.'s NOIR that features the world and characters from the Automata comic created by Penny Arcade's Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins. The game will still be based on hidden identities and deduction, with updated versions of the "Killer vs. Inspector", "Hitman vs. Sleuth", and "Spy Tag" game modes, along with two new game modes: "Buddy Cop" and "Dragnet".


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Sat Apr 15, 2017 7:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: Reliving the Middle Ages in Twenty Minutes, and Reading the Path of Light and Shadow

W. Eric Martin
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• German publisher Hans im Glück has (at least) two items on its release schedule for SPIEL 2017 in October, with one of them being an expansion for The Voyages of Marco Polo from designers Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini. Moritz Brunnhofer, the HiG representative I spoke with, gave no details other than that an expansion is coming, but BGG users are speculating on what it might contain should you care to join them.

The other item coming from HiG is a Marc André design tentatively titled Middle Ages, with this game bearing the distinctive micro-action hallmark of earlier André designs such as Splendor, Barony, and Sail Away.

In this game for 2-4 players, each player has a set of eight tiles that represent their city. A deck of cards is shuffled, then six cards laid out in a row, with each card showing one or two symbols that match seven of the city tiles. (The eighth tile is a graveyard of sorts, and no one puts anything in there willingly!) On a turn, a player takes one of the cards in the row, paying for each card they skip, then they add this card to their city, earning a benefit based on the matching tile where the card is placed. Some cards give you money (which equals points at the end of the game), some let you attack everyone else, some give you defense against attacks, some pull cards from the graveyard, and some give you more buying tokens so that you can take the card you want and not whatever is at the front of the line.

Players take twelve cards total, then the game ends and players score points for having the most of a card type for each of the seven types as well as a diversity bonus for having lots of different types of cards. Majority vs. variety is the basic tug-of-war at play in many games, and it works well here, with the desire for variety having you look inward while the need for a majority has you look at everyone else — not to mention the need for defense.

I played Middle Ages twice, and I wish that Brunnhofer hadn't told me the designer's name as I'm sure that I could have guessed it given how streamlined and bite-sized everything was. One explored aspect of the game during those plays is that the city tiles are double-sided, so once you have experience with side A, you can try side B to relearn the game all over again. Brunnhofer stressed that players use all side A or side B tiles and don't mix-and-match them, but once you take the game home, you can do as you like, of course. Just don't expect Hans im Glück to answer any rule questions about your illicit set-up...

Travis R. Chance, co-designer of Path of Light and Shadow from Indie Boards & Cards with Nick Little and Jonathan Gilmour, has started posting a series of articles about the origins of the game, its central choice between being cruel or merciful (which drives your interaction with those you recruit from the provinces), how culling works, and the nature of the nomadic Hordes of Zurd, which "drag with them the Mother Stone, a massive black rock that fell from the sky before their time".

Tasty Minstrel Games has picked up Jesse Li's The Flow of History, first published by Moaideas Game Design in 2016, with a Kickstarter funding campaign planned for April 2017. Jesse Li stopped by the BGG booth at SPIEL 2016, where we recorded an overview of this card-based civilization-building game.

• TMG is also releasing a new edition of Hisashi Hayashi's Okey Dokey, a cooperative card game first released by the designer's OKAZU Brand in which players try to assemble a music festival by placing the fifty performers in the ten available columns.
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Fri Apr 14, 2017 3:26 pm
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New Game Round-up: Attract Visitors to Your Bear Park, and Be the Best Demon Lord in Halloween

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• Dutch publisher Quined Games has announced the 20th title in its Master Print Edition series: Angelo de Maio's 2-4 player miniatures game Halloween, which will have a Kickstarter funding campaign ahead of its expected October 2017 release date. Here's a short description:

Quote:
It's Halloween — time to haunt poor unfortunate humans who think the holisday is all fun and games, but wait until you unleash ghosts upon this little town. Use your knowledge and wit to summon ghosts, move them around town, scare people, and even fight other ghosts because only one demon lord can boast of being the scariest demon lord of them all.

Halloween is a tactical game for 2 to 4 players in which you take on the role of a demon lord that controls the many ghosts on the board. Carefully plan your actions through a unique mechanism that allows you to manage multiple ghosts to try to outwit your opponents. Summon ghosts, move them round the board, fight other ghosts, or use one of the numerous action cards that can give you great tactical advantage.

• We missed out on featuring Upper Deck Entertainment in our 2017 GAMA Trade Show coverage as we never heard back following our request for news of upcoming titles — it's hard to feature what you don't know! — but UDE has a number of titles in the works for 2017, including Dungeon Draft, a card-drafting game from Ascension designer Justin Gary. The description is meager so far, but it's enough to set the table for the game: "Over the course of multiple rounds, players draft heroes and weapons, then use them to defeat monsters and complete quests in an effort to earn the most victory points. As with any good drafting game, the choice between helping yourself or hindering an opponent is always in play..."

Dread Draw, from Ryan Miller, is a strategy card game of "press-your-luck competitive fortune-telling" for 2-5 players due out in July 2017 that bears this short description: "The game pits players against each other trying to summon cards. As play escalates, players run the risk of elimination. Will you be the last one standing? Will fortune smile on you?"

Miller is also the designer of Pack of Lies, a noir fantasy originally announced at Gen Con 2015 for release in 2016 and now bumped to a 2017 release. Two other original titles announced in 2016 and due out in 2017 are Mike Elliott's RPS-style The Dingo Ate The Baby and Richard Launius and Pete Shirey's Shark Island, for which BGG shot an overview video at Origins 2016.




Quest for the Antidote is a 2-6 player game bearing this description and no other details:

Quote:
You and the other players have been poisoned by the mad king! Armed with only your wits and a list of antidote ingredients, you must battle the wilds, monsters, and your fellow players to be the first to return to the apothecary with the items you need.

Each turn in Quest for the Antidote, players roll dice to move their pawns around the board in search for the specific ingredients that are scattered across the land. Monsters of varying difficulty block your path, but each victorious die roll may yield powerful items.

Do not dally as time is of the essence. Every move and roll of the dice will deplete your fading life in your quest for the antidote!

In terms of its licensed games, in addition to the previously announced Legendary: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, due for release at Gen Con 2017, and the already released Legendary: Noir, Upper Deck will release Legendary: X-Men in June 2017, with this being a large set featuring nothing but X-Men-related heroes.

Mayfair Games has announced a trio of games with a June 30, 2017 U.S. release date: a new edition of Uwe Rosenberg's Glass Road (with minor tweaks, I believe, to prevent the infinite cycling that could rarely happen in the original release); a new edition of Darwin Bromley and Tom Wham's Iron Dragon, this being a fantasy-based take on Empire Builder's pick-up-and-deliver game system; and Phil Walker-Harding's Bärenpark, a tile-laying game that, yes, will have the same German name on both the German and U.S. editions of the game. Consider this an experiment from Mayfair Games.

The latter two games will debut at the 2017 Origins Game Fair ahead of their retail release, while Glass Road will be available only for demo games at that show, not for purchase.

I played Bärenpark at PAX East 2017 and thought that I had written something about it, but a search of the archives shows that my mind has tricked itself once again. Clever, that mind — just not in the right way!

In the game, players each run their own bear park, and they want to build it up from scratch to be as point-rich as possible. To do so, you want to have the first tile of the various types — forests, tunnels, icy pools, etc. — since audiences are easily jaded, and the more that they've seen something, the fewer points you'll score. If you group certain tiles together, you'll score bonus points for creating something so awesome that newspapers far and wide will include your park in their annual destination guides.



Four turns into Bärenpark on a prototype at PAX East 2017


In terms of the actual gameplay, each player starts with a 4x4 tile that has a few construction symbols on it — a wheelbarrow, a cement mixer, a manhole, and men at work — along with a single tile. On a turn, you place a tile from your reserve somewhere on your board, then take one tile from the common reserve for each symbol you cover; covering a wheelbarrow nets you a small common tile (covering 1-3 spaces) worth no points, while covering a cement mixer gets you one of the four basic types (covering 4 spaces) worth a few points. Cover an excavator, and you get one of the sweet pentomino tiles. Cover the workers, and you're rewarded with a new 4x4 board, with each player taking at most three such boards.

As soon as you cover all but the manhole cover, you cap that tile with a manhole worth 16 points minus however many other manholes have already been covered. Yes, park visitors even tire of admiring manhole covers, the louts.

Once someone has finished covering their fourth board, players collect bonus points based on how well they met the randomly chosen scoring categories, similar to the Lookout Games title Isle of Skye. Then everyone tallies their points and gives the winner a bear hug.



My final park in Bärenpark
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Thu Apr 13, 2017 6:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: Evolution Goes Deep and Ticket to Ride Returns to Germany

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North Star Games has two items in the works related to its popular Evolution board game. First, as noted on the iOS Board Game blog, North Star is working on a digital version of the game and is taking sign-ups for alpha testers of a desktop-only version through April 22, 2017 (with tablet and phone versions to come). North Star had a test version of digital Evolution at PAX East in March 2017, and I played a few rounds, finding the system quite intuitive, despite me having next-to-no digital gaming experience.

Second, former North Star employee Nick Bentley is working on a standalone spinoff game that bears the working title Evolution: The Oceans. As Bentley explains in his introduction to the game, Evolution players have long been interested in exploring deep waters with their card-created creatures, but (1) North Star first wanted to create expansions for the existing game, which it did with Flight and Climate, and (2) they couldn't figure out a good way to integrate oceanic creatures with land-based ones given that their evolutionary traits would not mesh in any meaningful way.

After leaving North Star, however, Bentley crossed paths with marine biologist Brian O’Neill, and they melded minds to figure out what Evolution: The Oceans should be look should such a game exist. They now have a licensing agreement with North Star to make the game happen and plan to deliver the design to the publisher by Gen Con 2017 in August so that North Star can develop it ahead of a Kickstarter in Q2 2018 and a scheduled release at Gen Con 2018. Time to start that convention preview!

Zug um Zug: Deutschland, first released in 2012 in Germany and Austria by Days of Wonder as a replacement for Alan R. Moon's Ticket to Ride: Märklin, is finally coming to the U.S. and the rest of Europe. What's more, Ticket to Ride: Germany will include the extra tickets and the passenger tokens from the Deutschland 1902 expansion for Zug um Zug: Deutschland.

To clarify, Ticket to Ride: Märklin used the basic Ticket to Ride formula of collecting cards to claim train routes and score tickets when you connect certain cities. To that vanilla cake, it added a passenger mechanism in which three times during the game you could move a passenger token along routes that you had claimed to collect city tokens which decreased in value as more passengers visited a city. The mechanism added tension to the base game since you wanted to build up long connected routes in order to hit as many cities as possible, but at the risk of having others move passengers first and taking more valuable tokens. The drawback was that you had to set up stacks of wobbly tokens all over the board prior to play.

Zug um Zug: Deutschland stripped out the passenger mechanism and left only the map of Germany and accompanying tickets. Deutschland 1902 then added passengers back in, but in a new way. At the start of the game, players added one colored passenger to most cities and up to five in others. Whenever a player places a route on the board, they claim a passenger from the two cities that form the endpoints for that route (assuming that the passengers have not already been claimed). At the end of the game, whoever has the most passengers of each of the six colors scores 20 points for that color; whoever has the secondmost passengers in a color scores 10 points. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.

The ticket count of Ticket to Ride: Germany doesn't seem to exactly match that of the Deutschland base game and expansion, but it's close. In any case, Ticket to Ride: Germany is scheduled to be available in June 2017 in Europe and to debut at Gen Con 2017 in August, with a €44/$50 MSRP.

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Wed Apr 12, 2017 4:05 pm
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Game Preview: Reworld, or Shape the Ships into Shipshape Order

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In addition to the previously announced Frogriders and Ghost Catchers (preview videos here and here), German publisher eggertspiele has a number of titles in various stages of development, including a new Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling title for SPIEL 2017 that's all about terraforming a non-Martian planet for fun and profit.

In Reworld, 2-4 players each attempt to terraform a newly discovered planet on their own, and to do that they need to use terrabots to establish new cities and shuttles to deliver materials that will populate those locations. I've played the prototype once — entirely bungling my terraforming efforts in the process, mind you — so let me give you a rundown of this typically tactical eggertspiele design that will challenge you to think from front to back in a new way.

Over five rounds, players fill the five levels of their spaceship with tiles featuring terrabots, shuttles, material vessels, and satellites. Each round, twenty of these tiles are placed at random around the perimeter of a large mother ship, and each player receives a hand of 7-13 cards depending on the number of players. On a turn, a player can play one or more cards to claim a tile following these rules:

• If neither tile adjacent to the desired tile has been claimed, the player can lay down any card next to this tile, claim it, then place it in the leftmost space of the level of their spaceship that matches the number of the card played. If you play a 4, for example, then you must place that tile in the leftmost position of your spaceship's fourth level.

• If one tile adjacent to the desired tile has been claimed, then you must lay down a card of the same number used to claim that previous tile or any two cards of your choice (with those two cards thus serving as a joker). Whatever number is topmost on the card(s) played indicates the level of your spaceship on which you must place this tile.

• If both tiles adjacent to the desired tile have been claimed and the cards used to claim them show the same number, then you do the same as described above. If the cards have different numbers, however — e.g., 1 and 3 — then you must lay down the same two numbers (1 and 3), one matching number and any other two cards, or any four cards. You then place this tile on your spaceship in the same manner previously desired.


While she stares at her hand, I stare at mine (artwork and components not final)



Once everyone has no cards in hand or cannot play further, the round ends. Any remaining tiles are thrown away, then you reset the board and deal out a new hand of cards. After five rounds, players now deploy these tiles onto the new planet, taking turns to deploy 1-3 of the leftmost tiles from the spaceship level of their choice to create their personal terraformed world. If you deploy a terrabot, which are labeled A-E, you start a new city with this letter or extend an existing city of yours. Material vessels, which come in five colors, can be delivered to the planet's surface only if attached to shuttles, and each city can have vessels of only a single color. Satellites provide bonus scoring when added to a city. Shuttles and satellites can also be used for shields to protect your newborn planet.

Players earn points during the first half of the game for picking up terrabots and having cards left in hand. (You'd rather acquire tiles, of course, but at least you receive a compensatory point for each card wasted.) During the second half, players score for deploying satellites and for meeting targets set at the start of the game, e.g. being the first to have a city with eight tiles in it, have a city of each letter, empty a level on your spaceship, have a certain number of shields, score a certain number of points, etc.

Once all the spaceships are empty, players score their final points for how well they've developed each city and their shields in comparison with their fellow terraformers. Whoever scores the most points wins!


A poor layout of tiles; don't try this at home — or in space! (artwork and components not final)



At first blush, Reworld might remind you of programming games such as RoboRally, Space Alert, Colt Express, but the game challenge is more along the lines of you loading a handful of moving trucks. Whatever you place into the truck first is likely going to come out last, so if you start a level with an E terrabot, you need to keep in mind that (a) you won't reach that terrabot until you deploy everything to its left first and (b) you can't place anything to the left of this terrabot into your E city unless you have another E terrabot somewhere else on your spaceship that will be deployed first.

As everyone knows, you want to load the bedframes, mattresses and sheets last, but sometimes you can't help it. In Reworld, Kramer and Kiesling have baited the hook with more points for loading terrabots in the early rounds — and sometimes you just don't have the cards for anything else — so you take a terrabot anyway and leave worries about planting it until later.

Everyone cursed their hand of cards at one point or another during our demo game, partly because others occupied spaces that would require you to pay cards you didn't have (thus upping your costs) and partly because you didn't want to place tile X on level Y. You squirmed and screwed up your nose, sometimes grabbing a second-best tile and sometimes just plopping a tile on the level anyway and letting that worry meter ratchet up a little higher.

Satellites push players in different directions — I want a lot of red materials; she wants a long city; he wants shields — which then has us valuing tiles in different ways, but they're all jumbled together anyway, so we're often going to have to step on toes or overpay to get what we want. The goal tokens counter this push toward diversity as we're all competing for these bonus points, while simultaneously knowing that we can't grab them all, so we just need to make sure that we do certain things one turn faster than everyone else in order to take more bonuses than others.

While getting the rules rundown, I missed the line about shuttles being required to move materials to the planet. I thought shuttles just let you bring down more materials in one go, with you deploying slower without them, but no, your materials will just be jettisoned into space if you can't dock them shuttleside. Don't make this same mistake; fight for shuttles early and often, while still keeping in mind that if you have nothing good to shutt, then they're not worth that much in the long run unless you want to end up with a bazillion shields protecting a terramalformed planet...
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