Great Western Trail

Great Western Trail

Alexander Pfister’s Great Western Trail is a game about making old cowboys sad. When it starts the prairie is still wide open with only a few neutral buildings around. You drive small herds of mangy cattle to Kansas City. And if that cattle goes all the way to Santa Fe on the train then you can say it’s seen the wide world. The more the game progresses, the more buildings will clutter the prairie, the bigger and more expensive the herds get, and the further the cattle will be shipped. What makes the old cowboy sad will be the same thing that makes players happy, because every one of those developments is under the players’ control in their pursuit of victory points.

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Mea Culpa

Mea Culpa

Way too many religions in the world threaten their believers with going to a bad place if they misbehave. Let’s call it Hell. Or maybe Purgatory, if there’s a chance you might leave and go to a good place at some point. Think about that what you will. But in the Middle Ages, one religion went a step further than usual with this belief: the Catholic church offered their believers a way to buy themselves free from eternal punishment. With the purchase of a papal Indulgence, they advertised, your soul will go straight to heaven, all your sins forgiven. And as a side effect, the money will pay for a shiny new basilica in Rome. This practice was not universally popular. It was so unpopular, in fact, that a German priest and theologian rallied against it and caused a schism in the church that was never mended. And that’s why we get Mea Culpa, a game about indulgences, this year, exactly 500 years, after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg.

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World's Fair 1893

World’s Fair 1893

The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago has mostly fallen from general awareness. In its day, however, there was a consensus that this event had a transformational power in America exceeding anything since the American Civil War. Calling the game World’s Fair 1893 transformational might be going a bit far, but it’s in one league with many of the novelties presented at the 1893 World’s Fair.

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Age of Thieves

Age of Thieves

Age of Thieves is not a game about collecting victory points or anything mundane like that. It is about nothing less but fleeing a city under a full-fledged state of alarm – with guards roaming the streets and alleys – while casually carrying the most valuable jewels you can out of the city.

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Ulm

German cities tend to have a long and eventful history. Germany is also one of the origins of modern boardgames. It comes as little surprise that many German cities have already been used as setting for boardgames. Cologne has Colonia, Hamburg Hamburgum, Trier Porta Nigra, and the list goes on. One city not so blessed so far is Ulm. Until now, that is, because now there is Ulm, a medium heavy strategy game Günter Burkhardt designed around the city.

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The Gallerist

The Gallerist

Once they get into gaming, most people discover their go-to designers at some point, the handful of designers who’s name is enough to make them buy a game. Vital Lacerda is one of my go-to designers, and so it was only with a slight hesitation that I took the big chunk of cash from my wallet to pay for the huge box that is The Gallerist. And I haven’t regretted the decision since, The Gallerist has exactly what I love Vital’s designs for: finely interwoven game mechanics that seem complex at first, maybe even convoluted, but reveal an elegant design underneath and meaningful, multi-dimensional decisions on every turn.

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7 Wonders: Duel

7 Wonders: Duel

Mighty empires are fighting for supremacy over the ancient world. But where once up to seven empires where in contest, now there are only two. 7 Wonders: Duel condenses the action of 7 Wonders into a two player game, playing in two being the one weak spot 7 Wonders always had. To make that happen, many things had to change, but the game remains the same.

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Orleans

Orleans

Thing-building games are still going strong. Deck-building games are the most popular of the bunch, but dice-building games and bag-building games have lots of fans, too. With Orleans one bag-building game has made the Kennerspiel des Jahres nominations this year and it really represents the cream of the genre. To become the most successful leader in medieval France, you need tight management of the followers in your bag.

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Five Tribes

Five Tribes

Bruno Cathala and Days of Wonder take us to Naqala, a magical kingdom straight out of Arabian Nights if Arabian Nights had included meeples. Which it should have. Five Tribes is one of the most talked about games of the last year, and after testing it extensively we understand why.

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The Staufer Dynasty

The Staufer Dynasty

A huge Empire without a permanent capital is something that is hard to imagine today. But in medieval Europe, the Staufer emperors had their itinerant court, they would travel around their empire and rule from wherever they just happened to be. That way, everywhere in the empire could have the glory of hosting the emperor, and he would get first hand knowledge of what was going on everywhere. In The Staufer Dynasty, you are a member of the court of Henry VI, working hard to get members of your family into influential offices all over the empire.

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