As in 2014, I'm previewing games being shown at the 2015 Nürnberg and New York toy fairs in a single GeekList. The game market is an international market — with publishers selling around the world and players buying from wherever they need to in order to get games they want — so combining these previews makes sense.
Some background about the two conventions: The 66th Spielwarenmesse – the International Toy Fair in Nürnberg, Germany – takes place January 28 to February 2, 2015, while the 112th annual American International Toy Fair in New York is held Feb. 14-17, 2015.
Note that, unlike at the Spiel game convention in October, many games previewed in Nürnberg and New York won't be available for purchase immediately, instead appearing in stores over the next few months. Think of this list as a preview of what you might see appear in stores throughout the first half of 2015 (although some games won't appear until Q3/Q4 2015).
I'll be visiting both Nürnberg and New York to record game demos of the titles on display there. Feel free to suggest other games to add to this Preview via email (wericmartin AT gmail.com) or in the comments section!
Cacao is a tile-placement game that immerses players in the exotic world of the "fruit of the Gods". As the chief of your tribe, you must lead your people to prosperity through the cultivation and trade of cacao — and to do that, you'll need to put them to work in the best way possible.
In the game, each player has an individual deck of square worker tiles, with the number of workers on each side of the tile varying from tile to tile. The playing area starts with only a couple of jungle tiles in play: a cacao field and a small market; two jungle tiles are laid face up, and the remaining jungle tiles stacked as a draw pile.
On a player's turn, he places one of her worker tiles on the board adjacent to one or more jungle tiles already in play, then (if two worker tiles are next to an empty space) adds one of the jungle tiles to the playing area in this space. Her workers then get busy and deliver the results of their effort: If you placed workers next to a cacao field, you receive one or two cacao markers per worker; if they're next to a market, you can choose to sell one cacao marker per worker at the listed price; if next to a well, you receive water; if next to a temple, they stand and look good until the end of the game; and so on. He then refills her hand from her personal deck to three worker tiles.
Once all players have used all of their worker tiles, the game ends. Players score (or lose) points based on their water supply, and each temple rewards whichever players sent the most workers to it. In the end, whoever has collected the most gold wins.
In the card game Jumbo & Co, first published as Mausen, you try to collect as many valuable animals as possible by chasing them from the table into your holding pen. To do that, you'll need to play the right animal at the right time while anticipating what opponents will play, too.
Each player starts the game with a hand of sixteen cards: four each of elephant, dog, cat and mouse, with those cards valued 1-4. One card of each type starts in the center of the table. Each round, players choose one card from their hand, then reveal them simultaneously.
Which animals are chased away is determined through a "rock/paper/scissors" format, with dogs chasing away cats, cats chasing away mice, mice chasing away elephants, and elephants chasing away dogs. If you play the only dog, for example, you collect all cats on the table and all cats played that turn; if multiple people play dogs, the strongest valued dog wins; if players play dogs of the same value, then those are ignored and the next strongest dog wins. Any animals not collected stay on the table for the next round.
Once all the hand cards have been played, players tally the value of the animals they collected and whoever has the highest sum wins!
In the card game MammuZ, also released as Sauries, you'll see mammoths, sabretooth tigers, and other critters from long-gone days — and you want to help them disappear by ridding yourself of them as quickly as you can.
MammuZ uses an asymmetrical deck of cards featuring two mammoths, three bears, four deer, and so on up to nine mice. Six dinosaur cards with special powers are included as well, and you customize the deck before the start of play based on the number of players.
During the game, players try to rid themselves of cards along the lines of Cheat. At the start of a round, a player lays 1-4 cards face down and claims they're a type of animal, which they may or may not be! The next player either also lays down 1-4 cards and claims they're the same type of animal or calls out the previous player by flipping over one of the cards previously played. If that card matches the animal claimed, the current player takes all played cards in hand; if not, the previous player does. If the card revealed is a dinosaur, then some special power takes effect. Whatever the case, the next player then starts a new round.
Whenever a player has all cards of a particular type of animal in hand, they discard those animals immediately, removing them from the game.
As soon as a player runs out of cards, whether by discarding a type of animal or by playing their final cards (and not being proved a liar), the game ends and they win!
Score the most victory points by delivering potions via Broom Service throughout the magical realm.
Broom Service is a card-based game that combines luck and skill and balances timely bluffing with clever hand management.
Remake of award-winning Witch's Brew:
New theme! Now with 3 types of roles: witches, druids, and gatherers.
Drizzelda, the weather fairy, helps chase away the bad weather.
New illustrations and game pieces.
Same style of play, and by the same game designer as Witch’s Brew.
New version also includes a 2-player version.
The game is played over 7 rounds, with 4 turns per round. Each round, players simultaneously select 4 of their 10 role cards, and then they take turns playing one role at a time. Each role has a brave action and a cowardly action; the brave action is stronger, but riskier, as another player could steal the action from you later; the cowardly action is safer, but not as robust. How well can you bluff your opponents?
Use the gatherer roles to collect ingredients to make potions, the witch roles to zoom around on your broom to different areas, and the witch or druid roles to deliver the potions, collecting victory points as you go. Chase away lightning clouds with the help of the weather fairy, and keep an eye on the event cards that change game play, one event per round.
The winner is the player with the most victory points after all 7 rounds are complete and end-of-game bonus points have been awarded.
In Alle Vögel sind schon da! players want to help all of the birds get to the party taking place at the birdhouse, but they need to ensure that the birds who show up have at least one present with them.
To set up, players lay out the bird house tile, then surround it with the double-sided bird cards, with the bird side of each card being face up. Shuffle the peephole cards, then set them as a deck to the side.
On a turn, a player sees the color of a bird or a gift peeking through the peephole on the topmost card, then chooses one of the bird cards and turns it over, announcing what's on the other side. If this matches the peephole card, then the player reverses the bird card and the next player takes a turn; if not, that bird card is removed from the game, then the player reveals one bird card after another until finding a match.
If all the peephole cards have been removed and at least one bird card is still on the table, then the players win and the birds get to go enjoy themselves at the party. If not, then the birds get to peck the players on the head in frustration.
In Bubble Bomb, players use their bubbles to create bombs, or perhaps set bombs off — whatever the case might be, you need to get your bubbles in order to match target bombs and win.
To set up, each player takes seven double-sided chips from a bag, with each side of the chip showing a colored symbol; nine additional chips are placed in the center of the table. Nine double-sided bomb tiles are placed to the side, and each bomb tile shows either a color or a symbol, but not both.
Everyone plays simultaneously, with each player flipping her chips one by one, flipping chips in the center of the table one by one, and swapping one of her chips for one of the publicly available chips. As soon as all seven of a player's chips match one of the target bombs — say, by being all pink or all triangles or one of each color — that player yells "Boom!" She then identifies the matching bomb, places one of her chips aside as a one-point scoring marker, draws a new chip from the bag, then flips over that bomb before play resumes.
If a player matches two bombs simultaneously — e.g., all blue and one of each symbol — she sets aside two tokens instead of one. If a players matches the Bubble Bomb, which calls for one of each color and one of each symbol, she claims the Bubble Bomb (even if another player claimed it earlier), then swaps all of her chips for seven in the middle of the table before play resumes; the Bubble Bomb is worth three points at the end of the game.
With four players, the game ends when the final chip is drawn from the bag and the player with the most points wins; with 2-3 players, the first player to collect nine points wins.
In Five Crowns Junior, players try to match all five cards in their hand by color or suit. The first player to do so gains a treasure chest, and the player with the most chests wins.
The game lasts five rounds, and one of the suits is wild each round. Each player starts with a hand of five cards, and players play simultaneously, drawing and discarding one card until someone is able to go out. Once a player does so, each other player has one final turn; for each card that a player can't match, she receives a packrat chip. If players tie for treasure chests after five rounds, the player with the fewest packrat chips wins.
GeoCards Europa includes 47 cards with which players can play three games that challenge their geographical knowledge about Europe. Each card is double-sided, with the outline of a country, its name, its population and its size on one side of the card and its capital and the surrounding countries on the other. In all three games, whoever collects the most cards wins.
In the first game, shuffle the cards with the capitals face-up, then take turns naming the country depicted on the card. Guess right and you claim the card; otherwise, remove the card from the game.
In the second game, deal the cards out evenly among the players with the capitals face-up. On a turn, you hold one of your cards capital side-out toward your left-hand opponent. If he can name one of the countries adjacent to the depicted country, he claims the card; if not, the next opponent in clockwise order can try to do so. Remove the card from the game if no one guesses correctly.
In the third game, deal ten cards capital side-up to each player. On a turn, choose two cards and hold them out to your left-hand opponent. If he can guess which country is larger in size or population (depending on what choose at the start of play), he claims both cards; otherwise, remove the card from the game.
My First Bohnanza serves as both an introduction to Bohnanza and as a children's game in its own right, with the goal of the game being the same as its parent: Have the most Talers at the end of play.
As in the original Bohnanza, the game includes multiple types of beans, with each bean having a number on it to indicate how many copies are in the game as well as a "beanometer" at the bottom of the card to show you how many cards of this type you need to harvest in order to collect Talers. My First Bohnanza has simplified beanometers, with four types of beans having only a single exchange value — e.g., five Gemeine (common) beans get you one Taler — and six types of beans having two exchange values. Games with the youngest players (or newcomers to the Bohnanza universe) should use the single beanometer cards with the other cards forming a Taler stack.
To play, each player gets five cards, which they lay in a face-up row, and a beanfield tile that shows spots for two types of beans. On a turn, a player must plant the first (leftmost) card in one of her fields and she can choose to plant a second. Players try to group cards of the same type in the same field, but they can cover beans of different types, if needed. The player then reveals two cards from the deck and either keeps them or trades them (and cards from her hand, if desired) for cards held by other players; all traded cards must be planted. To end her turn, the player draws three cards and adds them to her row.
As soon as a player has the proper number of bean cards in order in one of her fields, she harvests them, placing these cards in the discard pile and collecting a Taler from the stack. If those cards covered beans of another type, she can then start building on those beans again. After going through the deck 1-3 times (depending on the number of players), the game ends and whoever has the most Talers wins.
Once players have played My First Bohnanza a few times, you can swap the single beanometer cards for the double beanometer cards, which now gives players a choice of when to harvest. Subsequently, you can combine the two decks, which introduces the rule about using one of the bean cards to serve as the Taler (which adjusts the quantity of that type of bean in the deck). With additional plays, you can add in the remaining rules of Bohnanza, such as needing to harvest for no Talers when planting, paying for a third beanfield, keeping your cards in hand, and not being able to harvest a field with only one card.
Sloop — released in Germany as Quanto — uses gameplay similar to that of Casino and Scopa with players trying to use numbered cards in hand to claim cards available on the table, but the game includes a few twists.
To start, the deck includes 122 cards, ten copies each of cards numbered 1-12 (with one rainbow card of each number) as well as two jokers. (Quanto has 110 cards, with one copy less of each card.) Each player starts with a hand of four cards, and four cards are laid face up on the table. On a turn, a player takes one of three actions:
Lay down one card, then collect all cards of the same number (including the one played) and two or more cards that sum to this number, placing all of these cards in a personal score pile.
Create a "build" (a.k.a. "Quanto") by laying down a card, taking one other card from the display, placing them to your side, then taking the matching number tile to mark this build; you can take two or more cards at the same time that sum to this value and place them in your build. In the future, you can play a card of this value to possibly add more cards to the build, then move all of these cards to your score pile.
Discard a card to the face up display. If you discard a 1, each opponent must give you a card from her score pile; if you discard a 2, you play a second card from your hand, once again taking any of the three actions; if you discard a 3, you reveal three cards from the deck, use one to perform an action, then discard the other two.
After taking an action, you refill the face-up display to four cards and your hand to four cards. If you use a rainbow card for action 1, you can claim another face-up card of your choice; if you use one for action 3, then you add an additional card to the display.
When the deck runs out and all players have emptied their hands, the game ends and whoever has the most cards wins.
Sloop includes partnership rules that allow partners to add to (but not claim) one another's builds and to swap cards with one another during play.
In Schlafmütze, players try to dump the cards from their personal draw piles as quickly as possible, preferably by dumping them on other players.
The deck consists of one hundred cards, with five copies each of cards numbered 1-20. Place the five 1s in the center of the table, then shuffle the remaining cards and deal them out among the players, with each player forming a face-down draw pile. On a turn, a player first sees whether she can play the top card of her discard stack onto a pile in the center of the table (with numbers always being placed in ascending order) or on an opponent's discard pile (with both ascending and descending plays being valid). After this, the player draws her top card and plays it in a similar manner, if possible. If a player has a choice of location, she chooses as she wishes.
If someone makes a mistake when playing a card, any opponent can shout "Schlafmütze", then all of the opponents give the top card of their deck to the player who goofed.
If a player empties her draw deck, she flips over her discard stack at the start of her next turn. As soon as a player is out of cards, that player wins the game.
Schlafmütze is a slightly altered remake of a traditional card game, so no designer is credited for it.
SOLOmino is a Mau Mau variant that replaces the standard numbered and colored cards with domino-style cards that feature a colored number on each half of them — although some cards also feature action symbols that put twists on gameplay.
To start, each person takes a hand of eight cards. On a turn, a player either draws a card from the deck and adds it to her hand, or she plays one card from her hand onto one or two cards already in play. When you cover a card already in play, the half of your card doing the covering must match the covered card in either number or color. If the card you play features an action symbol, that action takes effect immediately, skipping the next player's turn, changing the order of play, forcing the next player to draw cards, swapping hands with other players, and so on. As soon as a player's hand is empty, she wins.
SOLOmino includes a variant that allows a player to play out of turn if she can play a card that matches a card in both color and number. When this happens, the player lays down the card as if it were her turn, then the next player in clockwise order takes the next turn.
As in Spoons, players in Cake Off! want to collect all the cards of one type in their hand.
To start the game, take all the cards for one type of pastry for each player in the game, shuffle them, then deal a hand of five cards to each player. On a turn, all players simultaneously pass a card to their left-hand neighbor, and they continue this process until one player has all five cards of the same type in her hand. She then slaps the pie plate in the center of the table, after which all of the other players do so. Whoever slaps last gets a cake stamped on her hand, then players shuffle the cards for another round.
As soon as one player has five stamps on her hand, the game ends and whoever has the fewest stamps wins.
The kids in Unser Baumhaus want to build a treehouse in the garden, and plenty of nails and wood boards are available in the tool shed. To build the floor of a treehouse, you must first install four wood dice, then combine three building tiles in the proper order. Time is short, though, as dark clouds are covering the sky, signaling an oncoming storm.
If players manage to finish at least one level of the treehouse and put a roof in place, they win the game together.
Prince John is coming to Nottingham! Players, in the role of merchants, see this as an opportunity to make quick profits by selling goods in the bustling city during the Prince's visit. However, players must first get their goods through the city gate, which is under the watch of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Should you play it safe with legal goods and make a profit, or risk it all by sneaking in illicit goods? Be mindful, though, as the Sheriff always has his eyes out for liars and tricksters and if he catches one, he very well may confiscate those goods for himself!
In Sheriff of Nottingham, players will not only be able to experience Nottingham as a merchant of the city, but each turn one player will step into the shoes of the Sheriff himself. Players declare goods they wish to bring into the city, goods that are secretly stored in their burlap sack. The Sheriff must then determine who gets into the city with their goods, who gets inspected, and who may have their goods confiscated!
Do you have what it takes to be seen as an honest merchant? Will you make a deal with the Sheriff to let you in? Or will you persuade the Sheriff to target another player while you quietly slip by the gate? Declare your goods, negotiate deals, and be on the lookout for the Sheriff of Nottingham!
Sheriff of Nottingham is the first game in the Dice Tower Essentials Line from Arcane Wonders.
• The German branch of Asmodee will distribute Sheriff von Nottingham in Germany, but I'm not sure who gets the publisher's credit on this item, so I'm dropping the English version on this list for now.
Mythic Greece. As an upstart demigod, you want to earn the favor of the Olympians and become a figure of legend yourself. Gather heroes and powerful artifacts, please the gods and bear their power to write your own epic tale.
Let your allies achieve their destiny and enter the Elysium, home of the glorious and the brave. Once the stories are written, only one demigod will be chosen to stand at the side of Zeus.
Elysium is a game of set collecting and combinations in which players recruit cards representing heroes, items, powers and gods. These cards have many different powers and you can create powerful combination to earn gold (the help of the gods) and victory points (the favor of the gods). Each card belongs to one of the eight Olympians gods (a family), and shows a level (1 to 3).
During the five turns of the game, players will try to transfer their cards to the Elysium and write their own Legends, which are series of cards from the same family or from different families of the same level. The more epic the Legends, the more favor from the gods they’ll earn. But as they go to Elysium, most cards lose their power and players will therefore have to renounce some of their combinations !
A game of balance and opportunity with simple action, but constant dilemmas and complex strategies.
Formula D: Circuits 6 – Austin & Nevada Ride is a double-sided game board that adds two new tracks to Formula D. The Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas was specially designed to accommodate Formula One cars and has been proudly hosting the United States Grand Prix since 2012. Racers, rev your engines on this highly challenging professional circuit!
A formidable second track based in Las Vegas and through Nevada provides racers with even more thrills! From the famous Bellagio to the Valley of Fire, racers have to survive the death-defying jump over the Colorado River in their attempt to win!
Gaïa is a 2-5 player game in which you create a world, instill life in it, build cities, try to satisfy their needs, and use godly powers to shape the world to your benefit.
In game terms, Gaïa involves tile placement, area control and influence with a twist of power cards. Each player has five wooden figures, and if you're the first to place all five of your figures on the board, you win!
Gaïa includes two levels of rules, with the basic rules allowing for play with those as young as eight thanks to the game's simple mechanisms and non-attacking nature. The advanced rules give you the opportunity to use godly powers — lightning, volcanoes, rain, sun, earthquakes, etc. — to shape the world after it has been created. You can even steal an opponent's cities, making it a more aggressive game with a higher level of strategy.
• Released in French and English in 2014, Gaïa now comes to the German-speaking market in this version from Asmodee.
Build the biggest, baddest, best Pirate ship on the high seas. Plunder your way to glory and fame!
In Piratoons, each turns begins with a treasure of boat parts and equipment being revealed. All at the same time, each Pirate rushes to allocate crew in an effort to plunder the best loot by placing their crew meeples on individual items as bids. Each piece of treasure goes to the player with the most crew invested in the item, but only after removing all tied bids. Therefore, Pirates need to stay alert for sneaky opportunities to cancel out an opponent's efforts or for chances to swoop in and steal a disputed treasure.
The unclaimed loot is auctioned off with doubloons earned by your crew and then the ship construction begins. Pirates score points for having the most money or equipment, or having the fastest, best, or largest ship. Sets of tiles and unfilled boat sections also add and subtract from your score. The player with the most points after eight rounds is the most notorious Pirate.
A featured component of the game is the central loot chest formed by two double-sided boards with raised edges. Before each turn this treasure chest gets loaded with random face-down treasure, then it's sealed, flipped, and revealed simultaneously to the eager Pirates by removing the board on top. The mad rush of plundering in real-time (there is a 15-second sand timer included) and the spatial puzzle to build the best ship possible are the key ingredients of the game's experience.
In Targets, players don't roll their dice, but flick them from the top of a tower to try to land them on targets placed in the playing area. Have the highest number on a target, and you claim it at the end of the round — unless someone knocks you from that target first. If your die lands showing the same face as another one of your dice, call out quickly so that you can reclaim one of those dice, then shoot it again in the same round.
When you claim targets in a round, those targets are placed under your dice stack and opponents can try to land on them in the subsequent round to steal them from you. Any targets not stolen this way are now safe from future theft.
Attila the Hun was an infamous barbarian warlord whose army of nomadic horsemen terrorized the people of Europe and Western Asia for nearly twenty years.
Attila, on the other hand, is a light and fast-paced game in which one player controls Attila and two of his warriors while the other player controls three Roman soldiers, one of them being Roman general Flavius Aetius.
To set up, players create a playing area from the four game board tiles (such as a 4x5 rectangle), then place their figures on empty spaces. On a turn, you move one of your tokens in a knight's move (as in chess); you can traverse occupied squares and empty space as long as you land on a free space. Then you place a scorched earth tile on any empty space. Players alternate turns, and whoever first can't move a token loses the game!
• Also available in a French edition from Blue Orange (EU).
Brix brings a new dimension to tic-tac-toe, with players building a wall of X and O bricks by stacking their pieces on top of each other. The first player to align four of their symbol or color in a row wins the game.
In more detail, the bricks are effectively two cubes pushed together, with half the brick being orange and the other half blue; when an orange face shows an X, the blue face shows an O and vice versa. Each turn the active player adds one brick to the wall either vertically or horizontally, with each new brick connecting to existing bricks on at least one face and at most eight symbols in a horizontal row. If no one has won by the time that all bricks are in the wall, then on their turn players remove one brick and place it in a new location; if you knock the wall over on your turn, you lose.
The winning condition can be changed depending on how challenging you want the game to be: (1) Connecting four squares of your color OR four of your symbol; (2) Connecting four squares of your color AND four of your symbol; or (3) Connecting four squares of any color AND four of any symbol.
Color Clash features round cards that have color words in matching or non-matching colors — e.g., the word "orange" written in blue — on the outer edge and a central image in a strong single color.
Color Clash includes six colors — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple — and spotting these colors quickly is a part of many games in this box. In "Between Four", for example, you lay out the color tiles in the center of the playing area and place all of the cards face down. Players take turns revealing one card, and as soon as four instances of a color are visible — whether in the center of the card, in the color of the word, or in the word itself — the first player to slap the correct color card claims all cards bearing this color. When all of the cards are face up, the game ends and whoever has the most cards wins.
In "Antipode", you place all of the cards face up, then everyone races simultaneously to grab (with one hand) pairs of cards in which the color of the word on one card matches the written word on the other and vice versa. Whoever grabs the most correct pairs wins.
Color Clash includes rules for six games and two solitaire challenges, while ChromaTikTak includes twelve games and puzzles, some of which push you to play quickly and some of which push you to think.
Players in Crab Stack represent a family of crabs who don't start out stacked, but who will become stacked over the course of the game, preferably being top crab in the end.
Each player has nine crabs — three large, three medium and three small — and they start in random locations on the game board at the start of play. On a turn, you move exactly one of your crabs — with a large crab moving exactly one space, a medium crab exactly two, and a small crab exactly three — so that you land on top of another crab of the same size or smaller, pinning it and preventing it from moving as long as you sit there.
You can't move over open water, and if your move splits the cast of crabs, then the smaller group is washed away by the waves.
If you can't move on your turn, then you're out of the game — even if one of your crabs is left uncovered later. The last player who makes a move wins!
What happens when 110 exotically illustrated cards are shuffled, distributed, then rhythmically turned face up on the table? Players will find themselves in a hullabaloo racing to rally up two or more images belonging to the same family! Scan swiftly through the craziness in Rally Up! to get these thingies back to where they belong!