Board & Dice
There are plenty of games that let you explore strange stars far away from here. Games that let you create a solar system? I don’t know any, Exoplanets may be a first there when its Kickstarter campaign is done. It all starts easily, you put planets in orbit around the central star and gain resources shown on the new planet and its neighbors. But balls of rocks floating around in space are boring, life is where the fun is, and creating life on each of the planets is how you win the game. All players can work on creating life on a planet, but in the end only one player can create a Species and earn points. And since space is unpredictable at the best of times, there are still Space Tiles that can be played as goals for extra points or can change the surroundings of a planet in a variety of ways.
Almirante, an abstract naval strategy game, is already available in Portuguese and English. A new campaign on Startnext is looking to publish a German edition now. Fishing boats earn money for you, galleons fight your war. Next to money, wind is the other resource you need. It’s needed to move your ships around. Technically, Almirante is a naval war, but at an abstraction level where every battle is simply won by the the player with the most ships. The goal is just as abstract: hold the center field of the round game board for four rounds, while all other players try to evict you from there. Hope the gods are on your side for that one, three god cards is all you get for the game, but divine intervention can help you in many ways.
With Council of Four Cranio Creations have a heavier looking strategy game coming. As merchants in the empire only known as The Empire, players want to build their emporiums in the cities of The Empire’s three kingdoms. To do that, you need a letter of permission from that kingdom’s council, a ruling organ of four people. The best way to obtain such a letter is, obviously, bribery. Once permission is obtained, you can build an emporium and gain the special benefit of your chosen spot. At the same time, all emporiums connected to that spot are also activated, possibly creating a nice chain of benefits. That’s not the only way to glory, though, you can also hire workers to build special buildings with their own benefits for you. Or you can advance into nobility yourself, always a good way to win and popular with the ladies, too. By the way, that title Council of Four? There are six noble families in The Empire, so if things aren’t going your way, you can try to install a new member in a council. There are a lot of options in this game, a lot going on, I’m looking forward to try it.
Academy Games & Asyncron Games
Mare Nostrum is a 12 year old empire building game by Serge Laget where each player leads one of the historic empires of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a classic of the genre that is now coming back with a Kickstarter. This new edition, Mare Nostrum – Empires by Academy Games and Asyncron Games, is likely to be the best looking one yet. But besides its good looks it keeps Mare Nostrum’s other qualities as a very complex strategy game where you must build the greatest empire of them all through expansion, economy and cultural development.
Alderac & Steve Jackson Games
I had completely lost sight of this one, but Smash Up: Munchkin was announced a while ago, a new set of Smash Up cards with factions from Steve Jackson Games’s Munckin games. So there’ll be Orcs, Halflings, Clerics and so on, all ready to be shuffled into your Robots, Pirates and Dinosaurs. Now the card previews have started, and here’s the first: the Elf Help Guru. And he’s really enormously helpful, just don’t think he wants you to win.
Plaid Hat Games
Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn is a bit more than a typical (pseudo)-CCG in that it uses dice on top of the usual cards. You need those dice to use your cards, but each color of dice also has its own power, no cards needed. There are more character previews as well, and Jessa Na Ni, queen of the Bloodwoods Clan, looks like someone you don’t want to run into in a dark forest.
Fantasy Flight Games
The last preview for Forbidden Stars, Fantasy Flight’s coming strategy game in the Warhammer 40.000 universe, already talked about battles in that game with dice and cards. This week there’s another detailed example of a battle between Orcs and Chaos Space Marines, with more powerful strategy cards thrown in the mix. And then there’s the big surprise at the end: when all else fails, an orbital strike can solve most of your problems.
Not every game in space is about war. Terraforming Mars is a generally peaceful game, although there is some competition, of course. But generally, it’s peaceful, and you can even profit from the other players. Especially when it’s you running the railway system connecting all their cities.
There are always games that look good, but it’s rare to find a game that is created as a work of art as well as a game, special chess sets aside. Il Gioco del Ponte is such a game. With hand-crafted and painted miniatures and carts and packed in a box that looks very different from regular game boxes. The game lets you participate in the Gioco del Ponte in Pisa, a yearly event where the two halves of the city battle over the bridge crossing the Arno by pushing seven-ton wooden carts across. I’m not making this up, that’s a traditional event since the fifteen-hundreds. To emulate the event in the game board, you assign strength points to the six districts on your side of the city that will then compete over six rounds against your opponents’ districts, supported by strength and strategy cards. There are three different game modes for beginners to experienced players, and despite the bridge only having two sides you can play with up to six players in teams. Given the special quality of the components, it’s no surprise that Il Gioco del Ponte is not the cheapest game ever to be on Spieleschmiede, but the price tag doesn’t seem unreasonable for what you’re getting, either.
Beauty doesn’t have to be man-made to find its way to the World Heritage List, natural beauty is also worth protecting. This week’s photo, taken by Franco Pecchio, was taken on a natural heritage site: the Mount Kenya National Park in Kenya. Thank you, Franco! (Image license: CC-BY)