We’ll be trying something new today: we’re going to have a look at games before it is released and before we played it. You might call it a preview, because that’s what I’ll be calling it. A few days ago, Asmodee made the rules for two of their upcoming games available: Mundus Novus and Takenoko, and both look very promising already, so I kinda didn’t want to wait. But keep in mind that the rules are still in a preview state as well, so the games as well as the pictures we’re showing from them – with kind permission of Asmodee – may still change before the release.
The first one, Mundus Novus, is a cooperation of Serge Laget and Bruno Cathala, both designers with a history of successful games. The title does give the theme away here, we are of course dealing with the discovery of the new world. But don’t expect a long campaign of conquest or build-up of your trade empire here, Mundus Novus is a set collection game with some new twists. It starts out simple enough: the sets you’re trying to collect consist of resource cards which come in nine different values plus the extra valuable 10-point Inca relics.
Each round, players receive five cards and get to chose more based on the number of caravels they own, once they own any. After picking the caravels cargo – a first step to create useful sets – a number of cards is traded around the table to further refine them. Nothing special so far, although the mode of trading is new. What is interesting is what you do with the sets: after trading, each player may play one set of equal cards and one set of all different cards. The former awards a development card, the later just plain old money. Money is only useful to win the game – haha, only win the game – but the development cards have more interesting effects: the aforementioned Caravels come from here, so do warehouses which let you keep unused cards at the end of the turn instead of discarding them, merchants that let you change card values when making sets and various other powerful effects.
Creating a good collection of development cards allows you to collect more money and build better sets, which in turn lets you win the game. Winning a game of Mundus Novus is a special treat for me because it brings back something that had almost died out in recent years: the early win. Most games nowadays run until a set condition occurs – a certain number of rounds, running out of a resource – and the player with most points wins. That is one option here: when the development cards run out, the richest player wins. But if anyone reaches 75 doubloons before that happens, or if anyone assembles a set with all the values form 1 t 10, obviously requiring some developments first, that person wins instantly. As much fun as victory points are, I missed that kind of victory.
Takenoko is the newest game by Antoine Bauza, a game designer that hardly needs an introduction since his 7 Wonders won the very first Kennerspiel des Jahres award this year. Takenoko has very little to do with 7 Wonders but from reading the manual it seems to sit at the very hard to reach sweet spot between interesting as a game and ridiculously cute. It is your task to grow three different colours of bamboo to feed the panda given to the Emperor of Japan by Chinese ambassadors. To do that, you create hexagonal plots of the appropriate colour, irrigate them and move the Imperial Gardener around to make the bamboo grow, all that to fulfil the various objectives on the objective cards you draw. But at the same time, the panda roams the gardens, eating bamboo wherever he comes across it and ruining your fine
English Japanese lawn. To add to the fun, the weather dice gives you bonuses for your turn. The recommended age – and it seems appropriate to me – for Takenoko is eight years, but everything about it looks like older gamers can enjoy it as well. And if it ends up anything like the pictures in the manual, I know a couple of adults that will take one look at it and want it even before they have any clue what the game is about, it’s just too adorable. Look here:
And that’s it. Our first ever game preview, and we found two games for it that I now desperately want to have . maybe doing these previews will end up being too expensive in the long run.