Gamers make a competition out of everything. That’s not much of a stretch in war or sports, where there can be only one winner. Other things, however, are more of a stretch. Like competitive paleontology. Yep, that’s a thing now with Scott Almes’s latest game on Kickstarter from APE Games The Great Dinosaur Rush. It’s the 19th century and big museums all over the world want big, dangerous looking dinosaur skeletons to awe their visitors. The players, mercenary paleontologists that they are, are happy to oblige and dig up bones to create these skeletons. The bones are drawn from a bag and go in different parts of the dinosaur depending on their color. They don’t have to form a real dinosaur skeleton necessarily, but doing so is worth bonus points. Paleontology being the cutthroat business that it is, players have a few options to sabotage their opponents, but doing so gains them notoriety. A little notoriety is a good thing and is added to your score, but for the player with the most notoriety it’s subtracted from his score instead. So be mostly nice top each other, and go make some dinosaurs.
Action Phase Games
Here’s something that is not a big, complex strategy game. I know, unusual for me, but Kodama: The Tree Spirits is light, good-looking and intriguing. Your goal in the game is to grow a tree from your cards and score points for it. Starting with a trunk card, you connect branch cards to the branches on the trunk and later to existing branch cards. Those cards may not overlap with any other cards except the one they extend, so you must plan carefully to leave your tree space to grow. You score points based on different symbols on the card and how far down the branch they extend, as well as the special rules of the season and once per year for a tree spirit you play from your hand. So not big and complex, but tactics and strategy are required.
Fantasy Flight Games
I find it really interesting when a new edition of a boardgame not only fixes some typos but changes up the design a little. Fantasy Flight Games have been pretty good with that, changing older games to be more streamlined and more tense. Even more interesting, at least if you like to read about the design site of gaming, is why and how those changes occur. That’s what you get to read in the latest preview for Fury of Dracula where Frank Brooks explains how the day night cycle of this new edition came about. The result is that, while all players get a day move and a night move, Dracula can only move to a different location at night, the hunters only during the day. In consequence, that means the party that starts a fight by moving to a place where the enemy awaits will be at a disadvantage: hunters will have to fight at night, Dracula in sunlight. That sounds obvious now, but the way there was not so straight.
In any fantasy adventure game, sooner or later comes the time to punch an enemy in the face or roast them with a fireball. Traditionally, especially in Fantasy Flight Games, that was when you broke out the dice. But not so in Runebound, instead of dice you use combat tokens that you toss on the table. Effect number one of this is less randomness, instead of six possible outcomes like a regular dice you only have two per token. The second effect is more customizing: producing a bunch of different dice would be prohibitively expensive, many different paper tokens not so much, so buying equipment in Runebound will add specific tokens to your pool. Once the tokens are cast, combatants take turns spending them to use combat abilities as described in this preview post. It sounds like I will generally like this system better than the usual dice fest, only thing to dislike is that paper tokens don’t have the same satisfying feel as dice. Maybe we’ll be able to buy an upgrade pack with Poker chips to throw.
Unlike Runebound, Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game stays with the traditional tools of the fantasy adventure game: dice. The latest preview explores how they are used to resolve your player actions. They pretty much work like you would expect: you rolling successes is good, enemies rolling attacks is bad, you rolling defense against them is good again. What is new is that many actions will also give success tokens to other players that they can use as additional success results on their own rolls. That will make it important to discuss strategy and cooperate, for instance other players will be able to help with a difficult row with those success tokens, but then player order will be important.
Gryphon and Eagle Games
The new Kickstarter project by Eagle and Gryphon Games, Morocco, is an intricate area control game by the designers of Fleet and Floating Market. Families of artisans compete for the best spots in the market of Marrakech. They send out their scouts to learn where the crowds will be thickest that day and then try to take over the stalls there before anyone else can. In game terms, that means that during the scouting phase you take cubes of different colors and in the worker phase you pay with these cubes to place your workers in the row and column matching the cubes color. When a stall is full, the player with the strongest workforce there takes it, but some types of workers will then move on to the next stall and possibly fill it up, too. Morocco sounds pretty abstract, but like it will require a lot of thought to play well.
Hans im Glück / Schmidt Spiele / Z-Man Games
In Skyliners, new by Hans im Glück / Schmidt Spiele (German) and Z-Man Games (English) it’s all about perspective. All players share the space in which they build skyscrapers with their cards, but their score depends on which buildings they can see from their side of the board when the game is over. If someone else built a tower in your first line that hides everything behind it from you, then that’s probably bad for your score. Skyliners is the first published game by Italian designer Gabriele Bubola.
Mr. B Games
When playing any sort of fantasy game, I have often wondered about the economy of those worlds. Why, for example, do magic potions always stay at a fixed price? Well, that’s not the case in Prospectus, a new Kickstarter project by Mr. B Games that is all about potion economy. As an apprentice wizard, you could probably mix your own potions, but why bother when trading them is so much more profitable? The five different potions have their own price development, some more volatile than others, but all somewhat predictable. Only somewhat, though, a crystal ball dice tower creates randomness. But you are still wizards, so some spell casting can increase your profits at times, and the magic potions you deal with also have special effects. Prospectus reads a lot like a stock trading game, but with enough added magic that it’s fun.
Is there anything zombies don’t try to attack? In a new game featuring the shambling dead, they try to devour a bunch of cheerleaders. Matagot’s Zombies vs Cheerleaders is an asymmetrical two player game where one player controls a horde of undead, the other a small group of cheerleaders. The cheerleaders seem to have all the advantages at first, wielding weapons and hiding behind barricades. But they will run out of energy at some point, while the zombies are tireless as always. Also, the cheerleaders have to kill every last zombie to win, the zombies only have to catch one cheerleader. The zombies also have powerful boss monsters on their side, but by killing them the cheerleaders gain special actions. One of the more unusual uses of the zombie theme lately.
Industry and politics work hand in hand, we all know that. Gilded Devils by Wayfarer Games, currently on Kickstarter, makes that point perfectly clear. Half the players are politicians out to become the next president. The other half are industrialists growing their railway network. The tracks they build are used by politicians to reach the states with the most votes for their campaign. Industrialists have the transportation, and they have the money, but what they don’t have is political favor in the form of powerful action cards. They can buy those from the politicians, who in turn need the money for their campaign. The cool thing about Gilded Devils is that players compete with other players in their group, but have to cooperate with players in the other group. It sounds like Masters of Commerce in that respect, but not quite as focused on pure negotiation. Negotiating, bribing and threatening will still play a big role, but some other options are thrown into the mix. Since I love Masters, Gilded Devils has my immediate interest.
Van Ryder Games
Van Ryder Games have received a lot of praise for their solo game Hostage Negotiator where you play … as a hostage negotiator. Using cards in a hand-building mechanic, which is like deck-building only you keep all cards in your hand, each turn is an exchange with a hostage taker. Your obvious goal is to get as many hostages to safety as you can, sometimes by making the hostage taker surrender, sometimes by setting up an opportunity for an extraction team. For even more exciting negotiations there will be four Abductor Packs for Hostage Negotiator next year. Each of them will feature a new hostage takes, from a freshly disposed CEO to a member of the police force, and new special mechanics, for example secret communication with a hostage, or changing locations when the hostages are on the bus. That sounds very intense.
Now it is on Kickstarter, the game we desperately tried to get a demo table for in Essen: Stonemaier Games’s Scythe. This strategy game is set in the 1920s in an alternate reality where five factions fight over Eastern Europe, each using their own design of giant battle mechs. Yup, that alternate. According to the Kickstarter project page, the game combines engine building like Terra Mystica’s with a deterministic combat system. That sounds really good already, and then there are factions and player actions that get mixed up for every game and some really cool minis. This is the hot project on Kickstarter right now. Another cool detail: the setting was not created for the game, it’s based on the artwork of Jakub Rózalski who created this alternate history with the mechs as a metaphor for the Bolshevik army. Have a look at his gallery, it’s awe-inspiring.
Ares Games / Gremlin Project
Gremlin Project and Ares Games had previously teamed up to create the excellent science fiction coop game Galaxy Defenders, a miniature skirmish game with lots of character customization and AI-driven enemies, eliminating the need for an Overlord player. Not AI in the sense of a computer program, but it is a pretty clever system. Now they promise to do something similar, only even better, with their new Kickstarter project Sword & Sorcery. This new project, as you can tell from the title, will use a classic high fantasy setting, but will have even more customization options for your heroes, clever “AI” enemies and a strong, story-driven campaign. When the game starts, your heroes will already have been great heroes once, a long time ago, and have now been brought back from the dead to fight off the latest danger to the realm. Unfortunately, the resurrection process leaves them shadows of their former selves and they have to regain their soul to become strong again. If you liked Galaxy Defenders, then Sword & Sorcery is most likely for you as well, and if you’re into fantasy miniature games it’s very much worth checking, too.
Benh Lieu Song took the beautiful picture of Paizzetta San Marco in Venice, Italy at dawn that became our featured photo for this week. The photo was shared with a CC-BY-SA license. Thanks a lot for sharing, Benh!