Mystic Vale, Alderac’s “card crafting” game – a game where you overlay cards with transparent parts to create the card you want – is barely cold from the printing press when the first expansion is announced. Mystic Vale: Vale of Magic will bring some entirely new stuff, of course, but will also strengthen some things already part of the game, namely Guardian and Spirit symbols. More information sure to follow soon.
Fantasy Flight Games
In the announcement of Arkham Horror: The Card Game Fantasy Flight already told us that the game would sit on the edge between a card game and a role playing game. Their latest post on the subject goes into much more detail how that will work. There is the part where characters have attributes, and will have to test those attributes again and again to overcome challenges and gather clues. But the more roleplaying part is that, when you construct your character deck to play, you have to include weaknesses the character will have to overcome in his investigation. That’s a pretty cool way to create plot. The way they describe everything, it feels like deck construction will have a strong puzzle element. What do I include in the deck to deal with the plot challenges and to overcome my character’s weaknesses? I really like the concept. And we’re getting a new review already, this one looking at the forces of evil arrayed against you. Instead of only random card draws, it seems each scenario will tell quite the story.
Catch Up Games
Catch Up Games will bring an interesting, light card trading game to Essen this year. Each player’s goal in Freak Shop is to have creepiest scary mansion as a tourist attraction. They start out with some creepy stuff and then trade cards with the freak shop each round to gather a collection that fits the public’s taste in horror, determined by objective cards. The interesting part is the trading mechanic. When you trade you either make a fair trade and exchange cards from your mansion for cards of the same total value from the shop, or you manage to get a good deal and exchange a set of cards with equal value for a set of the same size but with a different value. That way you trade upwards to make your collection bigger and more valuable and, hopefully, scary enough to win.
The second Catch Up Games Essen release will be a heavier game by the name of SOL. Players are split in two teams, Adventurers and Conquistadores, both exploring the mysterious Island of the Sun God in search for his hidden treasure. Both teams explore the island, when they meet they may fight to steal equipment, and they search for clues to the treasure’s hiding place. When searching, they may find useful things like action tokens to be used later in the game, but sometimes they find tokens hinting at the treasure. When that happens, the token doesn’t simply indicate where the treasure is, it allows the finder to play a card for that effect. Players narrow down the possible hiding spots that way and try to make it better for them than for the other team. Because once they found it they still have to escape the Island.
I really enjoy the One Night Ultimate Werewolf series of games, and as long as they add new ideas I’ll be happy to talk about new games when they show up on Kickstarter. The latest One Night game there is One Night Ultimate Alien, and as befits an alien game it focuses on advanced technology – in this case that’s the game’s companion app. The basic game flow stays the same as it always was, players close their eyes and the app tells each player to wake up when it’s their turn and perform their roles special ability. But what that ability is is no longer constant, each role has different abilities, one of which the app picks when waking that player. There is also a chance for random events, called Ripples, to occur at the end of the night, including crazy things like time loops. If you wanted your One Night games to be more unpredictable, then Alien is the way.
After a rather careful announcement by Lookout Games that The Colonists might possibly be available in Essen, their latest post on the new game sounds a lot more confident. They also give anyone interested in The Colonists an exemplary introduction to help them decide if it’s a game for them: a 20 page PDF document detailing, move by move, a two player introduction game, with images and explanations. For a game as complex as The Colonists, this will be way more helpful than reading the rules to see if it’s for you.
Spanish publisher 4dados have a very interesting game on preorder right now. Democracy under Siege looks like a three-player wargame at first, letting each player control one side of World War Two. But looking closer, wargame is not the right category. Democracy under Siege has a war setting, but you don’t push tank battalions across the map. What you will do is use political actions and your influence on other countries in Europe to further your ideology – Democracy, Nazism or Communism – and ultimately change history in your favor. Democracy under Siege appears to be a descendant of games like Twilight Struggle, simulating a historic conflict but not on a military level, but with enough new ideas to make it more than a WW2 Twilight Struggle. By heaviness and theme it’s probably not a game for everyone, but I know some of you will be interested.
4dados enjoy the WW2 theme this year. As a German, I’m admittedly uncomfortable with the idea of Secret Weapons of the Third Reich, a semi-cooperative worker placement game where players work on the Nazi’s secret weapons project, from real ones to science fiction ideas like their flying saucer. But then, I enjoyed Manhattan Project with a similar theme on the other side of the war, so I would give Secret Weapons a chance to prove its worth as a game.
Days of Wonder
Philippe Keyaerts and Days of Wonder still love fans of their Small World, they made a new expansion for all of us. Small World: River World gives players an additional hazard to struggle against. Pirates infest the rivers on the new, double-sided game board. As if fighting against the other players wasn’t enough. There will be some regions with special abilities to help you in your fight, and for the first time in Small World there will be random events to give you a hard time. I’m slightly disappointed that River World has nothing to do with Philip José Farmer’s Riverworld novels, but it does sound like a great way to make Small World fresh again.
Carpe Omnis Games
I enjoy a good heist story. A clever, convoluted plan to take money from a deserving victim and then, almost inevitably, frantic improvisation when it turns out one of the people you thought were allies really wasn’t. That seems to be the feeling that Carpe Omnis Games aim for with No Honor Among Thieves. In a medieval fantasy settings, the players run their rival gangs of thieves to relieve merchants, wizards and kings of their gold. Some of those targets are tough for one gang to tackle alone, so you might team up with another player who has the specialist you need. And the arrangement works, for a while. Until one player breaks the thieves’ code of honor, then all bets are off. It’s the perfect setting for a semi-cooperative game, so assemble your gang.
I still have no idea whatsoever what Funforge’s Hop! will be about, but they finally shared a photo of the whole game on Facebook. This is what you get when Marie Cardouat not only does the art for your game but also designs it, together with Ludovic Maublanc. I don’t even care how you play it, just from that photo I want one.
Drei Hasen in der Abendsonne
The game publisher with the most adorable name of them all, Drei Hasen in der Abendsonne (Three Bunnies in the Evening Sun) has a new deduction game. Well, not quite so new, but we only discovered it now. In Gauner raus! (Crooks out!) each player holds a hand of gangster cards. Turn by turn, information about players’ cards are revealed and points are earned by deducing cards another player is holding. Crooks out! is pure deduction game and as such not strategically deep, but it’ll tax your brain in other ways.
A tile placement game with memory elements, that sounds like it has been done before, but give me a moment to talk about Frosted Games’s Undercover. It is a tile placement game where each tile represents an agent working for one of six secret agencies. You either draw agents from the pile, or pick up a currently unemployed agent from the table, and place him adjacent to agents already there to gather information about them. Each agent also works for another agency, that’s where the memory part comes in: you can turn an agent to the undercover side where he has another color, so he fits in different places, but you can’t turn him back if you made a mistake. The new and interesting part is scoring, because there’s an added level of strategy there. You advance on the score board on a separate track for each agency. Point tiles are put randomly on the score board, and you pick up the first you reach in an agency’s row and then stop. So you will have agencies where you want to advance quickly because high scores come first, in others you will want to delay so others pick up the low scores that come first. That makes the decision which tile to put where quite interesting.
We already found out that Inis by Matagot is not only a beautiful game but also a deeply strategic one. A new preview elaborates on the latter point this week, it explores the strengths of different landscapes you can occupy and become chieftain of to take their Advantage Card, giving you not only an extra action next round but a powerful special ability. Which territories to take will be an important strategic consideration, which ones you do control will dictate your strategic options. The second part of the preview looks more closely at some Action Cards, the other type of card in Inis, and they, too, must be wielded with druidic wisdom if you want to win.
Most UNESCO World Heritage Sites share one thing: they’re ancient. It sort of makes sense for something that is called heritage to be old. But the island of Surtsey is on the list for exactly the opposite reason: because it’s young. Surtsey, 32 km of the coast of Iceland, is a volcanic island formed in the sixties and has been uniquely protected ever since its birth. That makes it a one of a kind laboratory to observe how life conquers this new piece of rock, and that’s exactly why it has been under observation ever since 1964. The photo of Surtsey was taken by Ron Cogswell and kindly shared with a CC-BY license. Thank you for sharing, Ron!