Here’s a look at Thunderstone Quest, the third generation of Alderac’s fantasy deck-building game Thunderstone. It seems that everything will be bigger this time around. Especially the giant spiders. And I can’t think of any way in which receiving Festering Wounds could be good, either. Now I’m looking forward to further previews, because that undead adventuring party waiting in the dungeon sounds like fun.
Smash Up is the game that invented the term shufflebuilding. It’s also still the only game using it, as far as I know. You pick two faction decks, shuffle them up and fight against your friends doing the same. It’s a lot of fun, that’s the important point. And because it’s still fun, new material keeps coming. In 2017 there will be two new Smash Up expansions. In March What Were We Thinking will focus on factions you never expected to see: Explorers, Grannies, Rock Stars and Teddy Bears. In Fall Big in Japan will will bring four new factions from the far east. By the box illustration it involves Magical Girls, Pocket Monsters, Kaiju and Power Rangers. On top of that, there will be a summer game store event where players can get the All-Stars faction, and the Sheep faction can be yours as a reward for answering a survey. 2017 is a good year to smash.
Fresh on Kickstarter, we have the largest Scott Almes games yet: Heroes of Land, Air & Sea by Gamelyn Games. Heroes is going to be a 4X game (explore, expand, exfoliate, explode) in a classic fantasy setting, with Humans, Dwarfs, Elves and Orcs competing for dominance. Their conflict happens on a board of about 100x66cm², with 80 miniatures plus folded cardboard models of ships, airships and towers. Unlike some other 4X games, Heroes seems built for speed, with short turns of only two actions per player and a total time of about two hours. Round of the package with a combat system that doesn’t have any random factors and this looks way too tempting.
Is conquering the Holy Land really entertainment for the whole family? That’s not for me to decide, and in Templars’ Journey, one of Queen Games’s newly announced games, you don’t actually go on a crusade, anyway. You just prepare for it. Across Europe, three to five players try to be the best prepared when the crusade happens. The way there is through a classic action selection mechanism: when picking an action, you may take it safely or profitably. But if you picked profit and another player picked the same action, you may both end up with nothing.
Another new Queen Games game coming soon is Solaris, a strategic resource management game. The players control a Solaris station, a space station orbiting a distant dwarf star to collect energy and beam it back to Earth. But your resources to transfer energy to the center of the station from where it can be sent are very limited and the subject of fierce competition. I’m glad to see that sci-fi themes seem to be getting more popular again, and even more so when it’s in the form of a strategic game that should play in an hour.
Dice games don’t always work out. Finding the right balance between luck and decisions to achieve victory isn’t easy. But what if some of the decisions you make are about physically changing your dice? That’s the idea of Libellud’s Dice Forge. On the way to become the newest demigods in the pantheon, the players need resources, and those are awarded by the dice. What you get from rolling the dice is pretty meager in the beginning, but one thing you can do in Dice Forge is upgrade your dice and swap out the special, clip-on faces. You can tailor your dice to fit your strategy. Your goal is primarily achieved by doing heroic deeds, requiring the resources you roll for, but giving you cards in return with special abilities to further improve your chances. So yeah, Dice Forge is a dice game, but the dice is subject to your whims here, not the other way around.
Reiner Knizia’s AXIO sounds similar to his popular Ingenious: you place tiles with symbols and score points for the number of symbols in a line. You want to keep your symbols balanced because the lowest score for a symbol you have at the end is your total score. But AXIO is more of a sequel than a remake. You play with rectangular tiles instead of Ingenious‘s double hexes. More interestingly, points are not only scored for long lines of symbols but also for surrounding single, empty spaces. So AXIO will be a pretty similar game, but different enough that you’ll have to rethink your strategies.
This cooperative game on Kickstarter by ODAM Publishing is a waking nightmare. The player characters in The Shared Dream all wake up from the same twisted nightmare to discover that it’s now happening in the waking world. Then they move their miniatures around the modular board and try to progress through the chosen scenario. As is common for cooperative games, the players have a limited number of actions per turn to take care of their problems. They also have the option to temporarily gain special powers, but every time they do so there is a chance to spawn a nightmare monster. In addition to the monsters and the waking nightmare going on, each character also has to deal with their personal demons by going through their Personal Reflections deck. The Shared Dream comes out as a mix between cooperative boardgame, storytelling game and RPG.
Fantasy Flight Games
Did you ever think that Elder Sign was a too easy game? That rolling dice against the Great Old One just didn’t mess you up enough? Maybe the Omens of the Deep expansion is what you’re looking for. The latest review tells us the troubles awaiting players in R’lyeh, if they even get there. It all starts with an amulet, an amulet that when you find it will lock your most powerful dice away. But that’s not all the amulet does, it also attracts or repels the Deep Ones, depending on the movement of the omen track. There’s danger in that, but savvy players will find ways to use the amulet when too many monsters are on their heels. But even then, the accursed amulet will make the game hard for you.
Days of Wonder
City planners will face all new challenges when Days of Wonder releases Quadropolis expansion Public Services in April. The name of the expansion doesn’t leave much room for guesswork, with it you will be able to build things like Police Stations and Maternity Wards in your city. All with useful effects, of course. Public Services is a small expansion with only 24 new tiles, but that’s enough to mix up your game.
We thought we already knew everything that could be revealed without spoilers about the next T.I.M.E. Stories scenario Expedition: Endurance. Turns out that there was another bombshell Space Cowboys were waiting to drop on us before release day. The T.I.M.E. Agency has been experimenting with new ways to use their insertion technology and can now target animals hosts. Just don’t get distracted by all those new smells when you take over Fenrir the ship dog …
Pegasus Spiele / eggertspiele
Pegasus Spiele announced the release of two new family games in March. One is a new edition of Yuichi Sakashita’s Sheep & Thief, a Japanese game that was previously available in a German/English/French edition from Japon Brand, but was difficult to find a copy of. Sheep & Thief is drafting and tile placement game where players use the tiles to create rivers and connect cities for points. So far, so Carcassone, but Sheep & Thief also has sheep that are put on the board when the right tiles are played. Players use sheepdogs to herd them into their stables for more points, unless someone else plays a thief first to steal them.
The other new release is Frogriders by eggertspiele and Pegasus Spiele. The game by Granerud Asgar and Daniel Pedersen uses the basic idea of Solitaire, that game with the pegs on a grid where you jump over one peg with another to collect it and try to get as many as you can. But Frogriders has an actual game around that idea: the frogs you jump over and collect come in different colors and give you different bonuses, like moving again or picking up cards that grant special abilities or new ways to score points. Also, unlike Solitaire, you play Frogriders with two to four players.
Bears are awesome, right? Awesome enough that in the new game by Phil Walker-Harding (Imhotep) you’ll be building a park for people to meet them. Bärenpark is a puzzle game where each players builds a bear park on their own player board, with enclosures, shops, ice cream carts and everything else that belongs in such a park. To score points you puzzle park components onto your player board to fill segments of if before everyone else, but you also want to cover the building permits you need to build the next pieces, or to make your park larger. Bärenpark will be out early 2017, so pretty soon now.
The photo of the week is Amiens Cathedral by Robert Lesser. This cathedral is a World Heritage Site in Amiens in the Picardie region of France. Robert kindly shared the photo with a CC-BY license. Thank you, Robert!