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Games for Groups: Become a Ghost Writer, Catch a Wolf, and Act Like a Mean Girl

W. Eric Martin
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Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but with COVID-19 vaccinations being more plentiful as the weeks pass, I thought I'd highlight a few new games for larger groups of players in case you're ready to gather with others once again.

• We'll start with the team game Ghost Writer from Mary Flanagan, Max Seidman, and Resonym, a design for 4-8 players that features Password-style gameplay with each team trying to guess the same secret word. Ghost Writer was Kickstarted in early April 2021 ahead of a Q4 2021 release date. Here's how it works:
Quote:
Renowned mediums are competing to figure out a secret object and prove they can connect with the "World Beyond". The first team to figure out the secret object wins!

Board Game: Ghost Writer

To set up Ghost Writer, divide players so that the Sun team and the Moon team each have one Spirit and up to three Mediums. The mediums on a team share a hand of seven question cards, and the spirits begin the game by choosing one of the five objects on a card as the secret object. On a turn, the mediums pass two question cards to their spirit, with sample questions like "What color is it most commonly?", "What fictional character has it or uses it?", and "If it were a musical instrument, what would it be?"

The spirit discards one question card face up, then returns the question card it's going to answer to their mediums, then slowly writes the answer one letter at a time for all to see. As soon as the mediums think they know what this clue word is, they yell "Silencio", and the spirit stops writing. The other team of mediums might see only the letter "Y", but if you know the question is "What color is it?", then you know the clue must be "yellow". To end your turn, draw two new question cards.

On a turn, instead of handing over question cards, you can attempt to guess the answer — and to do so you write like the spirits, one letter at a time. If you write an incorrect letter, the spirits will stop you, marking out your error, with your partial guess giving the other team more information. If you guess the entire word correctly, you win!
Board Game: Last Message
Last Message, a Q3 2021 release from designers Juhwa Lee and Giung Kim and publisher IELLO, features something of the opposite spirit of the previous title, with one player trying to deliver a secret message to almost everyone else, while another player tries to thwart this communication.

Here's an overview of this 3-8 player game, which is explained even more succinctly on the back of the box:
Quote:
A crime was just committed! The victim is unable to speak — but they can draw, and in doing so they will ideally help the inspectors guess who in the vast crowd is the criminal! This shifty character will do anything and everything to cover their tracks, though, so will you be able to stop them before the last message?

Board Game: Last Message

In Last Message, the victim of the crime gives clues over four rounds to help the detectives determine the identity of the criminal. To give clues in a round, the victim has 30 seconds in which to draw and write in a 3x3 grid — but before handing over these clues, the criminal can erase part of these drawings.

If the criminal is not identified by the end of the fourth round, they win the game; otherwise, the detectives and the victim win.
Board Game: Uly & Polly
• Another title that features the same spirit of one vs. all as the previous game — although round by round rather than throughout the entire game — is Uly & Polly from designer Roberto Fraga and publisher Blue Orange Games. Unlike Dr. Eureka and other titles this designer/publisher team has released in recent years, this is not a real-time game.

Here's how this tiny 2-5 player game that debuted in early April 2021 works:
Quote:
Uly & Polly is a semi-cooperative game in which each round one player competes against all others. This one player is Uly, the mischievous little wolf who likes to hide in the flock of sheep. Everyone else works together as Polly the sheepdog to find the little wolf's hiding place.

To set up for the round, lay out the sixteen sheep tiles. While all other players close their eyes, Uly then swaps the wolf token for one of the sheep. The Polly players then place the sheepdog token on a tile and reveal it. If they already found Uly, they win the round, but if not the Uly player chooses two tiles adjacent either orthogonally or diagonally (whether Uly is on one of those tiles or not) and swaps them. Polly then moves to any adjacent tile and reveals it.

Board Game: Uly & Polly

If Uly is still in hiding after eight tiles have been revealed, the Uly player wins the round and receives reward tokens; otherwise the Polly players receive rewards. After each player has been Uly once, whoever has the most rewards wins!
• For non-stop meanness instead of single-round meanness, I'll direct you to Mean Girls: The Party Game, due out on June 1, 2021 from designer James Vaughn and publisher Big Potato and designed to let you unleash your inner Regina:
Quote:
Get ready for a party game that's fresher than peppermint foot cream and filled with more secrets than Gretchen Weiner's hair.

Gather your friends, tear a page of the Burn Book, and pass it around as you take turns answering scandalous questions about each other. Oh, and the best part? It's all totally anonymous.

Board Game: Mean Girls: The Party Game

Well, most of the time it is anyway. At the end of the round, each player gets to pick an answer that they'd like to reveal. If you wrote it, you have to come clean in front of everyone — so maybe don't write anything that's too mean.
• We'll close with another June 1, 2021 release from Big Potato, this one being co-designed by Vaughn and Phil Walker-Harding with both games being playable by 4-8 people. Here's an overview of Snakesss, the cover of which can also be used as a torture device:
Quote:
The group has a multiple-choice question and only two minutes to work it out. The snakes amongst you already know the right answer — and they'll stop at nothing to keep you away from it.

In Snakesss, you deal out the cards and try to answer a multiple-choice question with the rest of the players. The more people who get it right, the more points you cash in — unless, of course, you get one of the snake cards. All the snakes already know the answer, so their job is a bit simpler. To score points, they have to sabotage the discussion and mislead the other players.
Board Game: Snakesss
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Wed May 12, 2021 1:00 pm
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Transform Your Deck of Cards to Fight Decepticons, and Solve Mysteries with Friends

W. Eric Martin
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• In October 2020, U.S. publisher Renegade Game Studios announced an expanded partnership with licensor Hasbro to create role-playing and deck-building games based on the G.I. Joe, Transformers, and My Little Pony brands, and the first of those titles has now been announced.

The straightforwardly named Transformers Deck-Building Game is designed by Dan Blanchett and Matt Hyra, co-designers of the similarly named Power Rangers: Deck-Building Game that's due out from Renegade in May 2021. I asked whether these two titles could be combined, and a Renegade rep said that they could not, which Blanchett has confirmed in a comment on this post.

As for what this game is, here's what we know right now:
Quote:
Transform and roll out!

The Autobots are brave robot warriors hailing from the planet Cybertron. Their mission? To stop the Decepticons from enacting their evil schemes on Earth.

Board Game: Transformers Deck-Building Game

In Transformers Deck-Building Game, you take on the role of one of the mighty Autobots. Travel and explore the Matrix and transform between your different modes as you gain allies, find relics, and acquire technology to do battle with the Decepticons. But be warned! As your deck grows, more powerful Decepticons will rise up to challenge you.

Transformers Deck-Building Game can be played competitively or as a co-operative experience. This core set will begin your collection with everything needed to play, but the battle is far from over as playable Decepticons are on the way to expand your game.
• Two other titles recently announced by Renegade are Crime & Capers: Lady Leona's Last Wishes and Crimes & Capers: High School Hijinks. These two co-operative games, both designed by Juliana Moreno Patel and Ariel Rubin, are a blending of the classic murder mystery game genre with modern escape room games, and they're made to be "event" games similar to those designs, with the 4-6 players dressing up for the experience if they desire, although that's not required — unless the host of your event makes it a requirement!

Here's the short description of each title, both of which are due out in Q3 2021:
Quote:
It's 1919 at the Langford Estate. Lady Leona has died and absolutely no one is sad about it. She was forever threatening to write people out of her will. Now that she is finally gone, her closest family and favored servants have gathered for the reading of her will — but Leona always loved two things: puzzles and making life difficult.

Board Game: Crimes & Capers: Lady Leona's Last Wishes

Crimes & Capers: Lady Leona's Last Wishes is a co-operative game in which you and a group of friends take on the roles of polished high society folks and hard-working servants who need to collaborate to solve the mystery and find Leona's treasure. No special skills or prior knowledge are required. Read the notes, figure out puzzles, and unlock the answers to find out where Leona hid her fortune!
Quote:
Welcome to 1998, when Romi's been framed! As the senior leaders of Blair High School, you have gathered the passed notes from today to see whether you can figure out who framed Romi. If you don't figure it out, she will be expelled!

Board Game: Crimes & Capers: High School Hijinks

Crimes & Capers: High School Hijinks is a co-operative game in which you and a group of friends take on the roles of 1990s high-school students and work together to solve the mystery. No special skills or prior knowledge are required. Read notes and solve puzzles to unlock Romi's locker, then figure out who framed her!
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Tue May 11, 2021 8:00 pm
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Gain Prestige for Your Champagne in Dom Pierre, and Unite Ireland Through Might, Cunning, and Matrimony

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Yinzi designers Rôla and Costa are the creative minds behind the debut title from new publisher Pile Up Games, with the 2-4 player game Dom Pierre set to debut in Q4 2021 in a limited edition of 1,000 copies.

Here's an overview of the game, which features a gamified take on the production of champagne to give folks a change of pace from all the wine-production games already on the market:
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At the end of the 17th century, a French Benedictine monk in charge of the cellar at Hautvillers Abbey made an important contribution to differentiate wines from that region. As a result, it became possible to produce wines of superior quality, particularly in white wines made from black grape varieties. While Dom Pierre Pérignon initially felt the sparkling of the wine was a negative feature, the consequent increase in both quality and quantity created the path that lead to the appreciation and recognition of champagne.

Board Game: Dom Pierre

Throughout the 18th century, several "champagne houses" — or Champagne Maisons — were founded, and a new business dynamic grew in the region. These houses replaced small farm and monastery production in leading the evolutionary process of champagne, and by planting more vineyards or buying grapes from other producers or both, they mastered the specialization. To promote their product, the houses hired sales agents to take samples of their champagne wines to the Royal Courts of Europe, a crucial factor in generating the glamorous fashion of drinking champagne.

Despite production growth, improved quality, and increasing popularity, trade did not reach spectacular rates during the 19th century — which is why the game Dom Pierre is much more about winning prestige than earning money. In the game, you are responsible for one of the oldest Champagne Maisons, producing and selling wine all over Europe, not to mention the other side of the Atlantic. The local economy will be boosted, employment increased, and your brand will become universally recognized.

To make all this happen will require a chain of actions that starts in your vineyard. You will need to look for continuous improvement, constantly react to your opponents, and optimize your choices to build the most prestigious Champagne Maison. In game terms, on a turn you move up a disc on the winery game board and perform an action, with the actions become more powerful as the game progresses. You will plant in the vineyards, harvest crops, buy grapes from neighbors, make wines in your cellar (some more valuable than others), allocate salespeople on four market routes and workers in the vineyard and cellar, and acquire the necessary accessories to improve production.
• UK publisher Osprey Games has announced a new title from Peer Sylvester, designer of the previous Osprey releases The Lost Expedition, The King Is Dead, Village Green, and Let Them Eat Cake.

The new title is Brian Boru: High King of Ireland, a 3-5 player game due out in October 2021 that has a trick-taking element combined with game board elements that bring the design to a 60-90 minute playing time. Here's what Osprey has revealed about the game to date:
Quote:
In Brian Boru: High King of Ireland, you strive to unite Ireland under your domain, securing control through might, cunning, and matrimony. Join forces to fend off Viking invaders, build monasteries to extend your influence, and gather support in towns and villages throughout the land. To become High King of all Ireland, you need to navigate a web of shifting alliances, outmaneuver your enemies, and grab history by the reins.

Board Game: Brian Boru: High King of Ireland

The success of the historical Brian Boru rested on three pillars: his victories against the Vikings, the favor he managed to garner with the Church, and the alliances he forged through political marriages. This became the foundation of the game, with each pillar becoming a suit in the trick-taking that forms the core of the mechanisms. Win a trick and you gain influence in a town, which, in turn, gains you majorities in the regions; if you lose the trick, however (deliberately or otherwise), you instead take an action corresponding to the suit of the card.
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Tue May 11, 2021 1:00 pm
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Game Overview: Furnace, or Burning the Midgame Oil

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Furnace
Ivan Lashin's Furnace is a straightforward game: Acquire cards that allow you to gain coal, iron, and oil, then process them from one material into another or (ideally) from the raw material into money. Build up an extracting and processing engine over four rounds, then see who has the most money.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Lots of iron with no way to use it...

The information on the cards is straightforward, with you "reading" them from top to bottom, left to right. In the image above, acquire an upgrade token, optionally sell oil for 4 money, optionally spend an upgrade token and coal to upgrade (i.e., flip over) a card in play, optionally sell two coal for 2 money up to two times, acquire two iron, etc.

How do you gain these cards? The first half of each round is an auction in which players take turns placing one of their four bidding tokens — conveniently numbered 1-4 — on one of the available cards, with you being able to bid on a card at most once and with players being unable to place the same number on a card as someone else.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Shadows obscure the black 2 and 4 tokens on cards 3 and 7

If you place the highest number on a card, you acquire it and can use it once during each of the subsequent production phases; if you bid on a card but didn't acquire it, you use the compensation effect at the top of the card as many times as you bid, so (reading from the top line, left to right) the red player receives one iron, the yellow player two coal, the black player two coal, and finally the red player can convert iron to oil twice while the yellow player can do that up to three times. Cards are placed in order for the auction, so the red player can use the iron acquired on card #2 for the processing on card #7.

The auction in Furnace is brilliantly minimalistic, with each bid mattering and with you having advantages no matter your position in turn order. You can lock in a card as yours by placing your 4 on it — but then the next player knows they can place their 3 on it to get the compensation three times, and late in the game compensation (usually) trumps acquisition since you'll produce with that card only once. That said, if you don't place the 4, someone else might grab the card, which could be the only oil-processing card available that round, so maybe you have to give to get...

You're checking out each person's engine and resources on hand to guess what they want and how they're going to bid and how you can take advantage of that — assuming they do what you'd do if you were them. Sometimes the cards on display force you in a particular direction; if only one processing power for money turns up, then you need to pump out the raw materials to prepare for the next round, ideally shifting up the raw material scale to oil, which returns the most money per unit.

Notice in the image above that the bottom line on each card is grayed out. When cards are placed in auction, you have the compensation effect listed at the top and the basic effect immediately below the image. The greyed-out line shows what you'll get if you upgrade the card, and the image at top shows upgraded cards.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
The end state of a two-player game

Your goal in Furnace is money, so don't think you win by acquiring cards, which is evident in the image above as my opponent added only five cards to his production chain compared to my eleven and his score was one-third larger than mine. (With two players, you use a die to simulate the bids of a dummy third player — a system that works far better than I thought it would. I have an extra 2 bidding token thanks to my unique capitalist power, whereas my opponent can spend coal to produce twice with one of his cards.)

Furnace is all about efficiency, with you not wanting to leave any resources behind where they will count for nothing more than a tie-breaker — and in the second half of each round, you can re-arrange your cards as you wish to co-ordinate the inputs and maximize the outputs. As such, this production phase is the mirror image of the auction phase: no interaction, just head's down calculation to see which arrangement of cards produces the best results. Note in the image above how we've arranged the raw materials above each card to figure out exactly what goes where. You might even forget that others are at the same table...

For more on the capitalist powers, the two-player variant, the dichotomy between the two halves of a round, and the variant that somewhat lessens that dichotomy, check out my video overview of Furnace, which has been released in Russia by original publisher Hobby World and which has been licensed by multiple publishers around the world, with a U.S. release from Arcane Wonders coming in Q2/Q3 2021.

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Mon May 10, 2021 4:53 pm
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Assemble the Right Collection of Gold and Paintings in Art Decko

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Board Game: Art Decko
At SPIEL '18, BGG recorded a preview video with designer Ta-Te Wu of his forthcoming game Promenade.

Wu attempted to Kickstart the game in May 2019 (KS link) through his Sunrise Tornado Game Studio brand, but didn't reach the target, so he then relaunched the game (KS link) as a limited edition item that would essentially be made solely for backers instead of the market at large. Promenade received good ratings for those who were able to play it, but the game was unavailable to most who were interested in it.

Now in a story reminiscent of the early 2000s, a larger publisher has picked up this limited edition item for wider release, with Rio Grande Games planning to publish the retitled game Art Decko in Q4 2021. While the original game featured only impressionistic paintings from Wu himself, the re-release features artwork in five styles, each created by a different artist:

Lauren Brown — Art Nouveau
Alex Eckman-Lawn — Surrealism
Kwanchai Moriya — Impressionism
Alison Parks — Renaissance
Heather Vaughan — Pop Art

Brigette Indelicato handled the graphic design for this new edition. As for the gameplay, the rules remain the same as in the original release of Promenade. Here's how it works:
Quote:
Art Decko is a light strategy game for 2 to 4 painting collectors in which you try to create a valuable deck of gold and painting cards over the course of play. These cards — gold and paintings — both count as currencies in the game, and you can use them to purchase more paintings, acquire more gold, and pay for exhibition space in a museum. Your long-term goal is to manipulate the market value of certain styles of artwork, while also earning points by placing paintings in the museum.

Board Game: Art Decko
Cover of the Rio Grande edition

The game includes paintings from five styles of art, and you start with five random painting cards in your deck. Each art style starts with a value of 1 gold for a painting. You also have five starting gold cards in your deck, with the cards being worth 1 or 2 gold, with some cards having a special ability on them.

To start the game, shuffle your deck, then take five cards in hand. Fill the four galleries with 2-3 random paintings each, then place two random 3-gold cards (each with a special power) in the bank, along with the deck of 5-gold cards. Paintings in galleries cost 1-8 gold, while gold cards cost 5 or 8 gold. On a turn, take two actions from these three choices, repeating an action, if desired:

Haggle: Discard a card from your hand to draw two cards from your deck.
Acquire: Pay the acquisition cost of a painting or gold card by discarding cards from your hand, then place that card in your discard pile. Increase the "market rating" of the painting's art style or gold by the value listed in the gallery/bank. As the market rating of an art style increases, each painting in that style is worth more gold, effectively increasing its buying power; that art style is also worth more points at game's end.
Exhibit: Pay the exhibition cost for a gallery, then place a painting into that gallery that matches one of that gallery's invitation markers. (A gallery might want, for example, 2 Impressionistic paintings, 1 Renaissance painting, and 1 painting of any type.) Mark that painting with one of your ownership tokens, then place the related invitation marker on the highest available victory point (VP) space, scoring those points for yourself immediately. That painting is now removed from your deck.

If you use the special ability on a gold card instead of its listed numerical value, remove that card from the game.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
More art from the cover of the rulebook

At the end of your turn, discard any number of cards from your hand, then refill your hand to five cards. If a gallery has no paintings in it, refill all of the galleries with 2-3 paintings, then replace each empty gallery's cost token with the next highest one available. When at least twelve paintings are in the museum, the painting deck is empty, or an art style or gold reaches a market rating of 70, finish the round, then proceed to final scoring.

The value of gold depends on its market rating, with its value ratio ranging from 6:1 to 1:1. Each painting in your deck is worth 1-7 VPs depending on the market rating of its art style. Each exhibition space in the museum also has a random bonus that was revealed at the start of play, and you can earn additional points through these bonuses. In the end, the player with most VPs wins.
And in case you're curious, here is Wu's original explanation of the game from SPIEL '18:

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Thu May 6, 2021 6:27 pm
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Buckle, Turczi, and Mindclash Invite You to Prevent Voidfall in 2022

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Board Game Publisher: Mindclash Games
Hungarian publisher Mindclash Games aims large with its releases, both in the worlds that it creates and the games themselves, and it will continue that tradition with the 2022 release Voidfall from designers Nigel Buckle and Dávid Turczi.

Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay, with Voidfall taking 1-3 hours to play, with Ian O'Toole providing the art and graphic design, and with the game hitting Kickstarter in 2021:
Quote:
For centuries, the Novarchs, descendants of the royal House of Novarchon, have ruled with an iron fist over the feudalistic galactic empire of humankind, the Domineum. During this time, they brought stunning technological innovation and scientific advancements to their domain. This accelerated progression helped the Domineum reach — and eventually inhabit — even the farthest segments of the known galaxy, where new Houses emerged to govern the outer sectors of the empire. As the House of Novarchon grew in power, so grew the religious cult that surrounded them, proclaiming grim prophecies about an ancient cosmic being from another dimension: the Voidborn.

Many thought it to be only a myth, but in truth, it was the Voidborn's dark influence that granted the Novarchs the sheer knowledge to achieve rapid expansion for the empire. While the cult of the Novarchs envisaged eternal life through the otherworldly entity, the Voidborn's only intention was satiating its eternal hunger. And so, when the Domineum had achieved a vastness fitting the Voidborn's craving, interdimensional rifts opened at the heart of the Domineum to unleash cosmic corruption. As the House of Novarchon and its followers welcomed the Voidborn and sought their false salvation, the entity infected and spread and seized control over the inner worlds. Now, it is time for the remaining Great Houses to purge the galactic corruption, prevent the Voidborn from fully manifesting in our dimension, and to ultimately overcome the chaos as the new rulers of the Domineum.

Board Game: Voidfall

Voidfall is a space 4X game that brings the genre to Euro enthusiasts' tables. It combines the tension, player interaction, and deep empire customization of the 4X genre with the resource management, tight decisions, and minimum-luck gameplay of an economic Euro. Win by pushing back the Voidborn in the ''solo/coop mode'', or by overcoming your rivals' influence in restoring the Domineum in the ''competitive mode'' — both using the same rule set and game system. Variability is ensured not only by multiple playable houses with their own strengths and weaknesses, but also by many different map set-ups for all game modes.

As the leader of a defiant Great House, you play through three cycles (rounds), each with a game-altering galactic event, a new scoring condition, and a set number of focus cards that can be played. Focus card decisions and sequencing is the centerpiece of the gameplay. By selecting two of their three impactful actions as you play them, you develop and improve techs; advance on your three house-specific civilization tracks; manage your sectors' infrastructure, population, and production; and conquer new sectors with up to five different types of space fleets. Space battles are fought either against the Voidborn's infected forces (which are present as neutral opponents even in the competitive mode) or against other players. Instead of relying on the luck of a die roll, battles in Voidfall are fully deterministic and reward careful preparation and outsmarting your opponents.
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Wed May 5, 2021 4:00 pm
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Game Preview: Witchstone, or Experience the Magical Transformation of Two Designers into a Third

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Board Game: Witchstone
At the end of March 2021, I posted a round-up of new games from designer Reiner Knizia that included Witchstone, a title from German publisher HUCH! with co-design by Martino Chiacchiera, making this one of only two Knizia co-designs that I know.

I've now played the game three times on a review copy from U.S. licensee R&R Games, and I've updated the basic description of the game, which I'll repeat here:
Quote:
Each player in the game has a personal cauldron that bears seven crystals and six pre-printed magic icons, and they share a larger game board that features a crystal ball that shows the entire landscape. Each player has a set of fifteen domino tiles, with each half of the domino being a hexagon; each domino depicts two different magic icons from the six used in the game.

On a turn, you place one of the five face-up dominos in your reserve onto your cauldron, then you take the action associated with each icon depicted on that domino; if the icon is adjacent to other dominos showing the same icon (or the matching pre-printed icon), then you can take that action as many times as the number of icons in that cluster. You must complete the first type of action completely before taking the second action. With these actions, you can:

• Use energy to connect your starting tower to other locations on the game board, scoring 1, 3 or 6 points depending on the length of the connection.
• Place witches next to your starting tower on the game board or move them across your energy network to other locations. As you do this, you gain points and possibly additional actions to use the same turn.
• Move your token around a pentagram to collect points and to acquire bonus hex tiles; you can use these tiles immediately for actions or place them in your cauldron to make future tile placement more valuable.

Board Game: Witchstone
Pack those tiles tight

• Move the crystals in your cauldron, whether to make room for future tile placement or to gain bonus actions by ejecting the crystal completely.
• Advance on a magic wand to gain points and take additional actions, with the actions being doubled should you currently be the most advanced player on the wand.
• Claim scroll cards that boost future actions or earn you bonus points at game's end depending on how well you've completed the prophecy depicted.

After each player has completed eleven turns — which could equal 40-60 actions depending on how well you've used your cauldron — the game ends and players tally their points from prophecies and other collected scoring markers to see who has the highest score.
If you saw my earlier post, you might have noticed that I left off the start of the description that gives a thematic setting because in practice the thematic setting is pure window dressing. The game "world" is purely one of placing tiles on a personal game board so that you can then take actions on a larger shared board, with the images of witches, wands, pentagrams, and so forth being no more than decorative.

I'm fine with such absences, though, because Witchstone delivers what I am looking for in games: challenging choices that bring you into conflict with other players. The conflict, in this case, involves competition for energy paths, for bonus actions, for point tiles, for other bonus actions, for prophecy scrolls, and for still more bonus actions.

Board Game: Witchstone

Witchstone feels very much like a Stefan Feld design, specifically 2020's Bonfire (which I covered in October 2020) because that game also has you placing tiles in a personal space — ideally generating multiple actions with each placement — so that you can then do stuff on a larger shared board and compete for tiles, cards, bonuses, and so on.

Given the publication dates of these titles, clearly Witchstone and Bonfire were designed independently, but the similarities are surprising. What differs about the games is that in Bonfire you collect target tiles and you must go through a lot of steps to score those tiles — assembling a path, opening gates, moving the guardians, and actually doing what's required on the targets — typically in a game-ending push of actions whereas in Witchstone you pick up points here, there, and everywhere, with the scrolls scoring automatically at the end of play and with the game being more about trying to multiply actions like rabbits in a magic act.

Board Game: Witchstone
Setting up my final four tile placements — unless I draw something better

My games of Witchstone have been with three and four players, and as is often the case with such designs, players generally did far better in their second and third games compared to their first. You have a sense for how the cauldron tiles might better fit together to generate more actions and which actions you want to take before which other actions and whether an opponent can do the thing that you want to do before you can so that you can build a back-up plan. In the first game, you do stuff to see what happens; from the second game on, you do stuff because you know what will happen.

More thoughts on the game in this overview video:

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Mon May 3, 2021 4:11 pm
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Donate to India Covid Relief for a Chance to Win Games

W. Eric Martin
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Beneeta Kaur livestreams game demos and playthroughs on Twitch, and on Sunday, May 2, 2021, she's running a charity event to raise funds for COVID-19 relief for India. Here's a reposting of info from her initial posting on BGG:
Quote:
For the past month or so, my co-host, AnnaMaria [Jackson-Phelps], and I have been going through the BGG Top 100 and discussing them. It's been a lot of fun whilst often fostering serious discussions. This Sunday, we will also be raising money to benefit India's Covid situation. For those unaware, the situation in India is dire and there is a lack of oxygen and hospital beds.

The board game community has come together and I am excited to announce that over 50 companies have pledged a free board game or accessory. Any donation over $3 will be entered into the giveaway. Any donation over $25 will be entered into the big ticket item giveaways (ie. Tidal Blades Deluxe, Too Many Bones, etc). If you donate $35, AnnaMaria will send you an original watercolor piece of art, and those over 100$ have the option of appearing in a future stream with us to play a game. Please join us for a lively discussion and to help raise funds and awareness for this important cause

The stream will be on Sunday, May 2nd at 7pm ET, 4pm PT, and 11pm GMT. Join us here.
From gallery of Kaur

From gallery of Kaur

And here's a more detailed list of companies and individuals who have donated items for this event:

From gallery of Kaur
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Sun May 2, 2021 6:44 pm
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Five from Flatout Games: TEN, Dollars to Donuts, Abstract Academy, Cascadia, and Verdant

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: TEN
Flatout Games — the game design collective comprised of Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Shawn Stankewich — has a new title coming in 2021 with publisher AEG, which has worked with Flatout previously for the card games Point Salad in 2019 and Truffle Shuffle in 2020.

This new title — TEN — is for 1-5 players, is due out in Q3 2021, and currently features this minimalist description:
Quote:
TEN is an exciting push-your-luck and auction game for the whole family! Players draw cards one-at-a-time, trying to add as many as they can without exceeding a total value of TEN, or they bust!

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Players may push their luck to draw more cards and use currency to buy additional cards in their attempt to build the longest number sequence in each color. When valuable wildcards emerge from the deck, players compete in auctions to obtain them in order to fill gaps in their sequences.
Board Game: Dollars to Donuts
• Two other titles designed by the Flatout team of Johnson, Melvin, and Stankewich will be released in 2021 by U.S. publisher Crafty Games.

Dollars to Donuts was funded on Kickstarter in August 2020 and is due out Q3 2021, and you have to live up to the title of this 1-4 player game because in the end dollars mean nothing and donuts are everything:
Quote:
Donuts must be made whole! That's the spirit driving your actions in Dollars to Donuts, mostly because the customers in your donut shop will not want to purchase half-donuts that will undoubtedly be stale on their open ends.

To set up the game, place four 1x1 starting tiles on the 6x6 game board that represents your donut shop and take five "dollar" tiles from the bag; on their back side, dollar tiles have either a half donut (plain, chocolate, sprinkle) or a set of donut holes (again in the three flavors). The starting tiles depict half donuts in these three flavors

On a turn, you can purchase a 1x4 donut tile that depicts half donuts along its edges from the six available tiles for a cost of $0-5. You then add this tile to your shop — with some of the tile hanging off the edge of the board if you wish — ideally lining up the half donuts on that tile with those already on your board. If you make a matching donut, i.e., putting two sprinkle halves together, then you take a sprinkle scoring token; if you make a non-matching donut, i.e. a plain half combined with a chocolate half, then you draw a dollar tile from the supply bag. Note, however, that jelly donuts give no dollar tile if paired with a non-jelly donut because who in the world would reward something like that?

Board Game: Dollars to Donuts

To end your turn, you can place a dollar tile on your shop board to complete a donut (and score) or fill a space with donut holes (which might also score). Additionally, you can serve a customer in line by offering them scoring tokens that match their desired donuts, which will earn you more points than the tokens on their own.

When one player has filled every space in their shop or the donut tiles run out, the game ends, with you scoring for satisfied customers, neighborhoods served, donuts still on hand, and donut hole pairs in the shop, while losing points for empty spaces in your shop. The player with the highest score clearly has the most popular shop in town!
Board Game: Abstract Academy
• The other Flatout title from Crafty Games is Abstract Academy, a game for two or four aspiring art students who must share a canvas for their creations:
Quote:
Abstract Academy is played over three rounds, with the players completing a new canvas each round.

At the start of the game, you lay out 2-3 scoring cards for each round, so you all know what you're trying to achieve to score. Additionally, at the start of each round, each player receives an inspiration card that shows a pattern they're trying to create on the canvas.

Board Game: Abstract Academy

In the two-player game, players take turns playing canvas cards into a shared 4x4 play area, and in the four-player game, they play in a shared 5x5 area. Canvas cards are divided into quadrants, and each quadrant is colored yellow, red, or blue. The canvas grows organically as you all play cards, and the edges aren't fixed until you have four (or five) cards in a row or column. The edge of the canvas closest to you is your home row, and once the canvas is locked in size, no one else can play in your home row (unless all other spaces are filled).

Once the canvas is filled, the two rows closest to you form your scoring zone. If the color patterns in your zone complete a scoring card better than the patterns in anyone else's zone, then you claim the scoring card. Additionally, if you've created the right pattern in your scoring zone, you can score your inspiration card. Whoever has the most points after three rounds is the star pupil of Abstract Academy and wins!
• Aside from designing and developing games, the Flatout team also publishes them, with Randy Flynn's Cascadia having been funded on Kickstarter in Q4 2020 with delivery expected in Q3 2021. Here's an overview of how the game works:
Quote:
Cascadia is a puzzly tile-laying and token-drafting game featuring the habitats and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest.

In the game, you take turns building out your own terrain area and populating it with wildlife. You start with three hexagonal habitat tiles (with five types of habitat in the game), and on a turn you choose a new habitat tile that's paired with a wildlife token, then place that tile next to your other ones and place the wildlife token on an appropriate habitat. (Each tile depicts 1-3 types of wildlife from the five types in the game, and you can place at most one tile on a habitat.) Four tiles are on display, with each tile being paired at random with a wildlife token, so you must make the best of what's available — unless you have a nature token to spend so that you can pick your choice of each item.

Board Game: Cascadia
Prototype copy

Ideally you can place habitat tiles to create matching terrain that reduces fragmentation and creates wildlife corridors, mostly because you score for the largest area of each type of habitat at game's end, with a bonus if your group is larger than each other player's. At the same time, you want to place wildlife tokens so that you can maximize the number of points scored by them, with the wildlife goals being determined at random by one of the three scoring cards for each type of wildlife. Maybe hawks want to be separate from other hawks, while foxes want lots of different animals surrounding them and bears want to be in pairs. Can you make it happen?
• Finally, we come to Verdant, a design by Johnson, Melvin, and Stankewich along with Aaron Mesburne and Kevin Russ that Flatout Games will Kickstart in 2021 ahead of a planned release in 2022. For now, we have only a general description of the game, which seems to fit in the same category of games as Dollars to Donuts, Cascadia, and Flatout's 2020 runaway hit game, Calico:
Quote:
Verdant is a puzzly spatial card game for 1 to 4 players. You take on the role of a houseplant enthusiast trying to create the coziest interior space by collecting and arranging houseplants and other objects within your home. You must position your plants so that they are provided the most suitable light conditions and take care of them to create the most verdant collection.

Board Game: Verdant
Art by Beth Sobel

Each turn, you select an adjacent pair of a card and token, then use those items to build an ever-expanding tableau of cards that represents your home. You need to keep various objectives in mind as you attempt to increase plant verdancy by making spatial matches and using item tokens to take various nurture actions. You can also build your "green thumb" skills, which allows you to take additional actions to care for your plants and create the coziest space!
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Thu Apr 29, 2021 1:00 pm
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Quacks Is Backs, Dream Machines Need Repairs, and Dragons Come to Catan...Again

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: The Quacks of Quedlinburg
Board Game: The Quacks of Quedlinburg: The Herb Witches
Board Game: The Taverns of Tiefenthal
• In late June or early July 2021, Wolfgang Warsch's The Quacks of Quedlinburg will return to print in North America from publisher CMYK, which has picked up the license previously held by North Star Games.

Asked how CMYK acquired the game's license, co-owner Alex Hague told me, "I'd say we got the license because: 1. We have a close working relationship with Wolfgang as co-designers and developers on Wavelength, The Fuzzies, and some upcoming projects — and he wanted to be more hands-on in the manufacturing and publishing side of his games. And 2. [originating publisher] Schmidt Spiele publishes Wavelength and The Fuzzies in the German language markets, and we've had a great experience working with them on those. So between those two things, it was a really good fit!"

At the same time, the game's first expansion — The Herb Witches — will be joined on the North American market by the game's second expansion: The Alchemists, which to date has been released only by Schmidt Spiele.

CMYK also plans to bring Warsch's The Taverns of Tiefenthal back to the North American market, although a release date has not yet been announced for that title.

Board Game: The Quacks of Quedlinburg: The Alchemists

• In 2009, Catan GmbH released Die Siedler von Catan: Schätze, Drachen & Entdecker, a set of six scenarios for use with Klaus Teuber's Catan and the Seafarers and Cities & Knights expansions.

This set was released in other languages, such as Dutch, Polish, and Chinese, in 2017 to coincide with a new German release from KOSMOS, but the English-language edition has taken a few more years to bring to market, with Catan Studio planning to release Catan: Treasures, Dragons & Adventurers in July 2021.

Board Game: Catan: Treasures, Dragons & Adventurers

Board Game: Catan: Treasures, Dragons & Adventurers

Board Game: Imaginarium
• In September 2021, French publisher Bombyx will release Nicodemus, a two-player game from designers Bruno Cathala and Florian Sirieix set in the world of their 2018 release Imaginarium. Artist Felideus Bubastis will provide entrancingly imaginative character illustrations for this game, as he has for the earlier Imaginarium releases.

Here's an overview of the game:
Quote:
Nicodemus Gideon is retiring! To take his place, two assistants of the Dream Factory — that is, you and one other — will face off in a duel in which you repair machines and complete projects as quickly as possible in order to score 20 or more points first.

In Nicodemus , you can return to the universe of Imaginarium in a game in which the two players must block one another repeatedly, with advantages swinging one way, then the other, with the slightest mistake possibly being fatal to your chances.

Board Game: Nicodemus

On a turn, you have a choice of two actions:

—Play a machine card from your hand to the Bric-a-brac to earn charcoalium, produce a resource, or apply the effect of the machine.
—Repair a machine from the Bric-a-brac to score points and place this machine in your workshop.

Each resource indicated in the production zone of machines in your workshop reduces the number of resources needed to repair subsequent machines. Additionally, repairing a machine can help you complete specific projects and win points.
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Wed Apr 28, 2021 1:00 pm
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