Queen Games will release an unusually constructive post-apocalyptic game. It’s not about scavenging, stealing from the other players or holding off the effects of whatever is going on to protect your small community. Armaggedon – From the Ground up is a game about rebuilding after the worst has happened. You are building a town of survivors, and the more survivors flock to you the more effectively you can rebuild. But of course not all is well after Armageddon. Your city is under constant threat by Raiders, and any survivors that come to you but don’t find the shelter they seek in your city may join them. Growing your city quickly but with control seems to be the way to go here.
Queen Games’s Glüx looks like a light and harmless family game, but I suspect that, when playing with the right people, it will turn into a cutthroat area control match. Players place chips showing numbers from one to six on the board. New chips may be placed in a straight line from your own chips already on the board, exactly the number of squares away that chip shows. The goal is to have the highest sum of chips in the rooms placed on the board. But when placing a new chip you may never jump another chip, neither your own nor an opponents’. Despite its minimal rules Glüx sounds like it can be a very tactical game of blocking, counter-blocking and finding new ways to get where you need to be.
R&D Games / Quined Games
The two editions of Key to the City – London by R&D Games and Quined Games look quite different on the outside, but in the box you’ll find the same game: a city-building game by Richard Breese and Sebastian Bleasdale. Players use their wooden workers, known here as keyples, to bid on hexagonal city tiles, add these tiles to their borough of London or upgrade them later. City tiles in your borough can be activated, again with keyples, to generate a variety of resources. If this very basic summary sounds familiar to you, that might be because you know Bleasdale and Breese’s Keyflower, with which Key to the City – London shares some similarities. But not only the setting is different, this is a new game with its own challenges that just happens to use similar mechanics.
Vanuatu is one of the really popular mediu-heavy strategy game. To get rich on the archipelago you have to make the best use of a mixed worker placement / majority mechanic: you can only take an action when your workers hold the majority on the action space, afterwards you remove one of them. It’s a very dynamic and interactive game. I’m bringing it up now because of Quined Games’s second edition. This new edition combines the base game with the Rising Waters expansion that makes everything worse by adding global warming, and it adds a new character to the original cast of ten.
Another new Quined Games game, Papà Paolo, is all about getting food to the people: the players split up Naples between their pizza delivery services. Each round, players pick their actions between making express deliveries, growing their district of influence, invest in new pizzerias or taking money from the bank. Then they bid against the other players on how many deliveries each of them gets to make. This is where things get tricky, because each delivery boosts one of the basic actions available to the delivering player, making it more powerful for the rest of the game. Picking your deliveries is how you escalate your options, so you really want to get them right.
Games where you score points for a large area of the same color are so yesterday. In Jeffrey D. Allers’ Skyways – on Kickstarter by Eagle-Gryphon Games – you do the same in three dimensions. You build skyscrapers from pieces consisting of two floors, connected by a skyway, so each piece will add a floor to two buildings and connect them with a glass bridge. Then you score points for all connected floors of the same color. Those are the basics, but it’s not quite all there is. Each player has a limited number of single pieces they can use to pad one tower and play a more profitable skyway, and each player has capstones that will score extra points when the game ends, especially if you can place them on a large extent of the same color. Besides tactical finesse you’ll need the ability to see your best option in 3D, an entirely new experience for us boardgamers.
Inis is a strategy game set in mythical Ireland, it’s only natural that gods and legendary heroes of Eire make an appearance there. That’s what we get to see in the latest preview, the Epic Tale cards with fantastically powerful effects. They can give you an extra turn when you desire, or take your armies anywhere on the board in the blink of an eye. They can even give you more armies for nothing. Just don’t forget one important thing: the other players can have them, too.
Well, this is coming just when the withdrawal symptoms are getting bad: a new mission for T.I.M.E. Stories! In Expedition: Endurance the T.I.M.E. Agency sends us back to the year 1914 to find out what is happening to the trans-arctic Endurcance expedition. All we know is that it’s nothing good. Whatever is going on is seriously messing up the timeline around that time. Supernatural involvement is suspected and the vessels we can work with have a Sanity Score that is most likely not going to go up during the mission. Small group of people, isolated in eternal ice, threatened by supernatural forces – this could go in the direction of Lovecraft or The Thing, and either way it sounds great.
A game carrying the name of Sherlock Holmes has an above average chance to be a deduction game of some sorts, and Watson & Holmes follows that pattern. But in this game you’ll have something the great Holmes didn’t usually have to deal with: competitors who want to solve the case first. Watson & Holmes is a competitive deduction game, all players want to visit the locations connected to the current case and either find answer to the mysteries of this case, or at least hints where those answers might lie. But only one player can visit any given location per round, other players who want to go there have to outbid him with their Carriage Tokens. Players also have access to some of Holmes’s known helpers to ask for a favor when the time is right. The interesting question about deduction games is always: how hard will I have to think? We don’t know that yet, but the preview post does encourage note taking, so it’s probably not trivial.
Steam Park is one of the most fanciful games we’ve ever reviewed: you build an amusement park with big roller coasters for a robot audience, and all that is illustrated by Marie Cardouat. I don’t think that game gets enough attention. But maybe that will change with Play Dirty, an expansion with five independent modules that will be released at the Essen fair next week. There will be new Stands with new associated powers, Espionage Dice that let you copy an opponent’s dice actions and even new rides to expand your old ones. And all that now works for up to five players, too!
My first impression of Die Baumeister des Colosseums (translated: Builders of the Colosseum) was that it might be a kids’ game because you build the Colosseum in 3D from tiles slotted into the box. But that would be doing the game an injustice. While it is family suitable you can’t call it a kids’ game, it’s really quite strategic and interactive. The players have to build the Colosseum together, and to build one of its 17 pieces they need resources. Those come from their tableau of landscape tiles, from where all players produce resources when one player activates a landscape. Your actions are directly responsible for giving other players their building material. The engine for when and how that happens is the Consul walking around the game board. The space he stops on determines the actions a player can take, and players only have very limited movement points needed to move him more than one step. The rules for Die Baumeister des Colosseum are short, but you make many decisions on your way to victory.
Sierra Mardre Games
Sierra Mardre Games have two new entries in their Pax series of card games. The first one, Khyber Knives, is an expansion for Pax Pamir with sixty new cards and new rules to play solo. The second is a full new game. Pax Renaissance lets you slip into the role of one of the world’s most influential individuals: a renaissance banker. By your choice of which king you finance, who’s voyage of discovery you sponsor and what secret banker cabal you join you’ll control the future of Europe, and through that of the whole world. The outcomes of Pax Renaissance differ wildly, you may create a world of enlightenment or one of religions totalitarianism. But you don’t care. You’re a banker, all you care for is which world holds the most profit. Just by the theme, this is the Pax game I’m most interested in to date.
Complex strategy games with an unusual theme? You can sign me up for those every time, and Bios: Genesis makes the top of that list. All players start out in the primordial soup with the goal to create life, organisms that can self-replicate through RNA. Complexity and accuracy are a given with Sierra Mardre Games, but Bios: Genesis lists a bunch of biologists and chemists as participating in the project, you might learn how to actually create life at home. The game happens on the level of chemical reactions, so you shouldn’t expect to slip right in after skimming the rules. If the complexity is enough for you to begin with, without other players trying to get you killed, then you’ll be happy to hear that there is not only a competitive rule set but also a cooperative one and even a solo game.
Rüdiger Kopf and Klaus Zoch literally put you on the road to hell in a new game from Zoch Verlag. The players in Mea Culpa are sinners on their way to hell, but one of them may yet make it to heaven by playing smartly and buying enough indulgences to be forgiven all his sins. On that way, they get help from four people: the Pope, the Emperor, the Merchant and the Petty Sinner. Their aid is on sale every round and has its advantages, but the highest bidder in the auction will move closer to hell. But don’t worry, that’s not the only way to get there. When you buy or sell more goods than you should you’re considered greedy and go to hell. If you visit the House of Pleasure you will accumulate Sins that will later be punished and, you guessed it, sent you to hell. But these are medieval times, Letters of Indulgence are on sale and handed out as rewards for donating to the Cathedral building projects. Picking the right actions between acquiring sins for them and redeeming yourself with indulgences is an intricate optimization task, definitely a game to keep an eye out for.
Kilt Castle by Günter Burkhardt is quickly explained: by moving cards from one row to the next around the five by five grid of the game board players may build towers in the row where the card lands. Building a new tower is for free, but you may pay to add a new floor on top of an existing tower, thus claiming it for yourself. However, most cards show not one but two player colors and you help another player build a tower with most turns. You want to claim a large area for yourself, because that’s how you’ll make money and win the game. With the card mechanic to decide where you can build and other players piggybacking on your moves, staking your claim takes some planning, and Kilt Castle is way more interactive than you’d expect from a “simple” area control game.
Board & Dice
As a German, I’m not sure if I’m legally allowed to skip anything to do with beer. Not that I would want to skip the latest Board & Dice Kickstarter project, Beer Empire: The Board Game sounds like a well-designed, complex worker placement game. Each player runs their own brewery and can produce a variety of beers, from Indian Pale Ales to Stouts. Each needs its own set of ingredients that have to be acquired. Each ingredient has positive and negative effects on the beers aroma, color and taste. Each of these attributes will be judged by the testers at Beerfest as well as by your customers in the market. Putting out a great beer is a tricky endeavor, and creating the beer people want right at that moment even more so.
If, like me, you have been waiting for more details of Galakta’s Age of Thieves then your time has come. The latest preview post, likely also the last before Essen, shows everything: box, cards, tokens gems and miniatures. You can also download the rules now, so if you’re still not sure if this is a game for you that should tell you all you need to know in order to decide.
The photo of the week was taken by Greger Ravik in Wroc?aw, Poland. It shows the Hala Stulecia, the Centennial Hall, an early landmark in reinforced concrete architecture planned by Max Berg and built between 1911 and 1913. The dome you see is 23 meters high. Greger kindly shared his photo with a CC-BY license. Thank you, Greger!