Capsicum Games will bring a clever, little card laying game named Noxford to Essen. The cards represent districts of the city of Noxford – no relation to any similar sounding real cities. Some districts are neutral and worth points when the game ends, other belong to a player and are used to control neutral districts: whoever has the most cards touching a neutral districts controls it and scores its points. Cards you play have to touch at least two cards already in play and align with its edges. That’s really all there is, but it makes a quick, tactical game and a pretty mosaic with the cards.
Mystic Tiger Games
Manaforge, the first Kickstarter project by Mystic Tiger Games, is a very classic resource management game. Over nine rounds players compete to gain the most prestige by creating magical artifacts. They start out at the mercy of the dice to get the right kind of mana for their artifacts, but as the game progresses they can rely more and more on the special abilities from the artifacts they already made. Like I said, a very classic resource management game, and sometimes classic is what you really want.
Cube Factory of Idea
Chromosome is a game that puts you into an unusual role: that of a strain of alien microbes. The meteor you had hitched a ride on came down in Antarctica where a bunch of hapless human scientists discovered you and started experimenting in their subzero lab. But through a series of unlikely accident, you infect the scientists running the lab and the last survivor is even now racing for the self-destruct button before you can escape into the atmosphere. That is one problem, but the real issue is the competition: up to three other strains of microbes came in on the same meteor, and you’re all struggling to adapt and survive in a new environment. The four strains of microbes all have different abilities, making for a tense, asymmetric game.
Things I didn’t expect to see today: a Cold War game featuring adorable cartoon cats and dogs. Checkpoint Charlie by Devir is a deduction game where the players’ goal is to identify the spymaster. Each player knows only one of the spymaster’s identifying traits and, as suspect cards are revealed, indicate if they could be the spymaster according to their information or not. The goal is to be first to identify the spymaster, who will fit all the clues the players have. That means you have to figure out what information your opponents have.
Next from Devir, we’ll get a tile-laying game with social commentary. In Barcelona: The Rose of Fire players’ job is to construct the new city of Barcelona, outside the old city walls. As you might expect, victory depends on the prestige of the edifices constructed, and making money comes into it as well. New in this game is that constructing too many luxury buildings leads to unrest in the working classes. If you don’t build for them as well, you might become the victim of strikes, and that will put a dent in your future profits. A cool twist to make tile-laying fresh again.
It’s not a secret that I’m into long, strategic games, but that doesn’t mean that a light game of quick reactions don’t hit the table at the Meeple Cave. Games like Dragons and Chickens, a game for people with quick eyes, and perfectly suitable for family game night as well. All players reveal a card showing different icons, the first player to call out the icon present the most this round gets all the loot. Unless there are two icons showing the same number of times, then you grab the treasure chest to get the loot. Unless there is a dragon showing somewhere on any of the cards, then all players must grab the child and the last one to do so loses some of his treasure. Great to wake up between two heavy games.
And still talking about Devir games, we have Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft, a two player game that sets the famous, brilliant detective against his even more brilliant but lazy brother. After a bomb has blown up in the House of Parliament, Mycroft Holmes has seven days to find damning evidence to convict a younger laborer. Sherlock Holmes, hired by the suspect’s parents, has the same time to prove his innocence. Both go about their job by talking to other characters from the novels who’s different special abilities let the investigator earn evidence cards and investigation tokens. Those characters show up on the scene at an unknown time in that one week period, and the order in which they appear has a big impact on your way to success.
A new preview for Ludically’s 4 Gods, a tile placement game where all players play at the same time, reveals some more information. The whole play at the same time thing is one variant of the game, for example, the rules also allow for playing in turns with a thirty second times. And those are not the only rules variations to keep you on your toes, there are also two ways to choose your god. Which god you pick is important because each god scores a different terrain. The Goddess of the Merfolk, for instance, scores points for oceans. Knowing that, it does make a big difference if you draw a god at the start of the game, unknown to the other player, and inconspicuously build the lands you need, or if you pick a good in the middle of the game, when you already know what the world looks like, but when other players might snatch the best choice from under your nose.
Z-Man Games and designer Shady Torbey continue the fanciful Oniverse series of games for one or two players, the first of which was Onirim back in 2010. After that excursion into the dangers of the dreamworld, and later adventures in a magical forest and a castle at the center of the world, the latest episode takes us under the sea. In Nautilion your submarine of the same name must reach the Darkhouse at the bottom of the ocean before their submarine reaches the surface. You roll dice each turn and assign one to move your submarine, one to their submarine and one to the Darkhouse, which does damage to your sub. But Nautilion is not a simple race, your goal is to collect nine crew members on the way down by moving your sub on their space. The enemy sub, when it moves on their space, kidnaps them to keep them from you. You must balance speed and gathering your crew to win. Like the other Oniverse games, Nautilion is a light, focused game of risk management.
Since everything to do with Pandemic is successful – justifiably so, I should add – it’s no big surprise that the dice game offshoot Pandemic: The Cure warrants its own expansion. Despite the title Pandemic: The Cure – Experimental Meds does not hand the players new medication to make the game easier. More the opposite: a fifth, lethal virus ravages the world and a new thing called Hot Zones changes the rules. Guess if it changes the rules in your favor. Go on, guess. Of course it doesn’t! No details yet, but Hot Zones do not help you. The only ray of light in all this are the new medical experts joining the team, they might actually help with all this chaos.
Hans im Glück / Z-Man Games
The latest game in the Carcassone family was announced by Z-Man Games first, but Hans im Glück will more than likely have the German edition as well. Carcassonne Amazonas continues the Around the World series that explores how much you can push the simple tile laying system of Carcassonne. In Amazonas you will discover mysterious jungle animals and visit native villages. Besides the regular Carcassonne meeples, Amazonas gives you a boat to race down the giant river, because the first player to finds its source will score points for that.
Orléans fans, rejoice. With Handel & Intrige (Trade & Intrige) dlp games will have a second expansion for this great game at the Essen fair. The Trade part of the expansion will have a new board of beneficial deeds for the players to work on, trade contracts, place tiles and new, more challenging events to mess up your game. On the Intrigue side you will get options to get in your opponents’ way, up to and including stealing their achievements for yourself. That part won’t go over well with everyone, I guess, but there are enough other things to make this expansion worth your while.
dlp games / Foxtrot Games / Renegade Game Studios
Another new release I really hope to try in Essen this year is World’s Fair 1893 (German edition by dlp games, English by Foxtrot Games and Renegade Game Studios), a game where players organize the Chicago world fair. The game is card driven, and picking up the right cards seems to be the major decision to win. To collect cards you send one of your supporters to one of the five areas of the fair and pick up all the cards there. Doing so adds cards to other areas and makes them more attractive for your opponents. Supporters in an don’t only bring you cards, having the most supporters in an area when scoring happens will let you play cards there to build attractions worth a lot of prestige when the game ends. World’s Fair 1893 sounds like one of those games where every decision may seem small, but will have a noticeable impact on the outcome of the game. Just the way I like my games.
Uwe Rosenberg is famous for his heavy games like Agricola and Fields of Arle, but since Patchwork we know he’s just as good at making light tile laying games into something special. We discovered a new Rosenberg game from the latter category, to be published by German startup publisher Edition Spielwiese. In Cottage Garden you will plant flowers in the flower beds around your cottage. The tiles have a range of shapes, similar to Patchwork, and you want to fill up the whole flowerbed so you can score it. After you fill up one flowerbed you get a new, empty one to start over. If I understand the brief description correctly, then you want to be careful to stop planting before the game ends because you’ll lose points to fill up flowerbeds that are already “well advanced”.
Mage Company’s Kickstarter projects have so far been aimed more at gamers. Their latest project is a break with that, Carrotia is a light cooperative game that looks like it’s aimed more at the family market. The players work together to control a bunny on its way through a maze where it has to pick up carrots and reach the exit in a given number of moves. On the way, the bunny is opposed by birds swooping down from the sky and wreaking mischief, but it also gets support from friendly characters and their special abilities. Age recommendation is eight and up and the game should play in around thirty minutes, so it’s definitely lighter than most Mage Company games, but the price tag on this campaign is also a good deal lower than average. And Carrotia sounds like fun for the family.
If the Internet has taught us one thing, then that cats make everything better. So what is better than ninjas? Ninja Cats, a game on Spieleschmiede by Kudu Games. It’s a contest between the titular ninjas to be the last to be surrounded by the samurai guards. You play cards to move your cats and to activate spaces on the board. Activated spaces have special actions, like removing other spaces from the board, and each activated space is occupied by a samurai guard, so space gets tight rapidly. Eliminate opponents by surrounding them with guards and other ninjas and be the last ninja sneaking to win.
This week’s featured photo is one of those that almost don’t need an explanation: it’s the Acropolis of Athens, Greece. The photo was taken by Aleksandr Zykov and kindly shared with a CC-BY-SA license. Thank you, Aleksandr!