The winners of Spiel and Kennerspiel des Jahres were announced this week, and it’s a surprise in both categories. Not an unpleasant one, though. The Spiel des Jahres award goes to Codenames, which is an excellent game but a surprising winner because it’s a bit of a party game. Kennerspiel des Jahres is Isle of Skye, which is also an excellent game and only a surprise as the winner because it was up against Pandemic Legacy, a very tough contender with its Legacy system. Congratulations to the winners!
Greater than Games
Everyone always complains how cults of the Old Gods are trying to bring about the end times, but no one ever thinks about all the problems they face. To start with, it’s cults and Old Gods, plural. Do you think that your squamous patron would be happy if another cult starts their God’s end times first? The end times business is highly competitive, and that’s what players in Greater than Games’s Fate of the Elder Gods have to put up with. Up to four cults, each working for their own well-matured deity, are active in Arkham trying to end the world their way. To that end they occupy six locations around the city, each with an associated action to further their plan and a more powerful action that is only open to the cult controlling that location. For added oomph, each cult has access to powerful spells they can activate when the astral winds are blowing the right way. And as if the other cult weren’t trouble enough, you also have to deal with investigators getting in the way of the end of the world. This is your chance, after years of playing Arkham Horror, to join the other side. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
Fantasy Flight Games
One of the big new features of Descent: The Chains that Rust are hybrid classes, giving heroes the chance to gain a second class and its abilities. What wasn’t clear so far were the exact logistics of that. They are the subject of the latest preview post. One detail is that you’re not just mixing two classes, each resulting hybrid class has a few abilities only available to that class combination, like a Battlemage’s ability to use runes as melee weapons. Another important fact that ties into the first is that you end up with a different hybrid class depending on your original class. For instance, a Mage that hybridizes into a Warrior becomes a Battlemage, a powerful spellcaster who can also hit enemies in melee. But if a Warrior decided to become a Mage later on, that makes him a Steelcaster, an impressive defensive fighter who is hard to kill and can use a shield with telekinesis. Having two options for each hybridization gives you a huge number of new choices, it’s almost enough to make me play a Hero for once.
Finally, a game to lose all your friends again! Players in Lui-même’s HMS Dolores are rival shipwreckers competing for the cargo of the titular ship. If you’re not familiar with the “profession” of shipwrecker, they are a lovely bunch of people who lure cargo ships into shallows with fake signal fires and then steal cargo from the wreck. But the ones in HMS Dolores can’t always agree on who takes what, either. A game turn is played between two adjacent players, the rest sit and watch. The active players get some loot and a chance to discuss calmly who takes what. Then, simultaneously, they signal their intent: Peace, Fight or First Pick. Depending on both their decisions they either split the loot, one player takes it all, or they discard it, possibly together with some loot they had already secured. If you don’t have trust issues yet, this is the game to give them to you.
Plaid Hat Games
Here it is, the moment we have all been waiting for. Rob Daviau tells us what the Legacy mechanic will do in SeaFall. Well, he actually starts by telling us a lot of things it won’t do, which is make huge, dramatic changes from one game to the next. Apparently, he tried those, they didn’t work out for various reasons. Instead, you will see subtle changes from one game to the next, which add up to bigger things over the campaign. And not all the great bonuses are gained from winning games, either, that would cause its own set of issues. You also develop your province by reaching Milestones, so even if you never win a game you will see your little patch of land advance.
Every crew member has an important role in the submarine puzzle/communication game Captain Sonar, and all of them are important if you want to take out the enemy sub. This week’s preview demonstrates just how important the Engineer is. With every move the submarine makes, something in its intricate technology breaks. As long as there is a single spot of damage in a system, it can’t be used, so communication with the bridge is essential to let them know when which system will be available. Beyond normal damage and repair, the engineer can fix systems by assigning damage to the right components or, if all else fails, let the reactor overload which miraculously fixes all the system but deals a point of damage to the ship. It’s not easy, being an engineer.
Some time near the end of the year Lookout Spiele will release Die Kolonisten (The Colonists), the first game by Tim Puls. Every player in Die Kolonisten is in charge of a little village, entrusted by the emperor to lead that colony to prosperity. They control the development of commerce and industry, acquisition of resources they can’t produce themselves and the influx of new villagers, ideally providing jobs for all of them. There will be enough options for all villages to follow different specializations. Die Kolonisten is a heavier game aimed at gamers, but lets you adapt it to your preferences, from a quick game of 60 minutes to a campaign that lasts a couple of hours. I just hope “end of the year” means I’ll be able to try it in Essen.
I’m not sure if anyone expected Dixit to still be going strong many years after its first release. It’s an amazing game, but it is a bit out of the mainstream. All the better that we still get fresh cards with new expansions. The latest expansion is titled Revelations and marks a break in Dixit‘s art. The new cards by Marina Coudray have elements of Art Deco and Surrealism. Completely different from all previous Dixit art, but just as pretty. Just the examples are enough to make me want to play.
Ludonaute’s Spiel des Jahres winner Colt Express is going to receive another upgrade in the form of a second expansion, and for one player it’s going to be a game changer. So far, Marshal Ford was basically a force of nature, moving up and down the train and punching bandits wherever he finds them. With Marshal & Prisoners one player will be able to play as the Marshal. He obviously doesn’t share the goal of robbing the train, he has a changing set of goals, from capturing a specific bandit to avoiding being shot or simply emptying both his guns shooting bad guys. Captured bandits go to the new prison wagon at the end of the train. Sounds really good to me, but I wonder what will replace the bandits’ ability to move the Marshal, an important tactical element of the base game.
With the huge popularity of Orleans, gamer ears all over the world perk up when a new Reiner Stockhausen game is announced. That new game, again published by dlp games, is Bohemian Villages. The players use dice to put their people in a variety of places in the titular villages: shops, inns and mills are just as available as manors, churches and even the town hall. Each building has its own way of creating income and scoring points when the game ends, and buildings that are valuable early in the game are often not so later on. Bohemian Villages looks like I will enjoy it, but fans expecting the next Orleans may be disappointed by the game’s weight: with a recommended age of eight and up and playing time of 30 minutes, this new game will be much lighter than Orleans was.
Red Raven Games
Do you ever get that urge to buy a game just from seeing the box? That’s what just happened to me with Ryan Laukat’s Near and Far, the sequel to Above and Below. In Near and Far you will hire adventurers and equip your expedition with everything needed for your search for the Last Ruin. But that’s not what the game is about, finding the Last Ruin is a part of your character’s very personal journey through the storybook included in the game, a 100 page collection of story fragments. As you explore the ten maps in the atlas you will discover strange and mysterious places, and wherever you go your personal story advances, based on choices you make in the story. Near and Far is going to be one of those games where winning is nice, but you mainly keep playing for the beautiful experience.
Real-time games will probably never overtake tradition, turn-based boardgames, but they have a lot of interesting options to explore. For instance, Christophe Boelinger’s 4 Gods is the first game I can think of that lets players build a shared world from tiles in real time. As gods, they each want to grow their own domain (mountains, water, forests and plains) and score points in the end for controlling the largest chunk of land as well as having many completed patches of their preferred landscape. On top of that, they send prophets in the world and score points for the majority of prophets in each region. That’s already a lot to keep track of in real-time, but the gods can also create legendary cities in a place where they think no tile will fit. Those are worth a lot of points, but should be used carefully, because if there is a tile left that fits, after all, another player can use it to destroy the city and score even more points.
The photo of the week was taken by Kimberley Vardeman in Glacier Bay, part of a stunning natural landscape of glaciers and mountains and a world heritage site shared between Canada and the USA. Kimberley shared this photo with a CC-BY license. Thanks a lot for that!