Fantasy Flight Games
There was always one thing about Eldritch Horror (and its older brother Arkham Horror) that bothered me: for a world under attack from the Great Old Ones, everything remains remarkably intact. People get hurt, bad weather makes downtown Arkham uncomfortable, but in property damage not even a trashcan falls over. But no more! In the new Eldritch Horror expansion Cities in Ruin disaster can strike anywhere, and as ancient Shudde M’ell wakes underground whole cities will collapse.
Z-Man Games are going to release an English edition of Bastion, already available in Russian from Hobbworld. Bastion is a boardgame inspired by tower defense video games: a horde of monsters is approaching your city and you have to get rid of them before they tear down the gates. This is mostly a resource management problem. To defeat monsters, you need to collect mana from sources around the city. With that mana you can defeat monsters, defeating monsters lets you take a powerful spell to use against more monsters. But when to use those spells, when to attack and when to collect mana, that’s a problem the players have to solve.
Alderac’s dungeon-diving deck-building game Thunderstone is like the BBEG (big bad evil guy) in most good role-playing campaigns: it keeps coming back, and every time it’s stronger than the last. That was the case from Thunderstone to Thunderstone Advance, and it seems to be the case again with Thunderstone Quest, the all new Thunderstone game on Kickstarter. A lot has changed in this new edition, many details have been smoothed out according to player feedback. The big and obvious change is the titular one: the Dungeon system from Thunderstone of yore has made way for the new Quest system. It still does the same thing, namely give heroes a place to adventure in, but the Quests promise a more thematically consistent experience and will be able to tell a progressing story.
Have you heard of that famous theme park where they recreated dinosaurs from DNA and made a prehistoric zoo? What was the name of that? Oh yeah! Dinosaur Island. I don’t know what you were thinking of. The new Kickstarter project by Pandasaurus Games lets you build your own dinosaur park, starting with the creation of your dinosaurs from DNA to designing your park, adding roller coasters as needed to excite the crowds and hiring security so your dinosaurs don’t escape and cause too much excitement for your guests. The driving mechanic is worker placement, but there is a lot more going on to run that park. Plot Twist cards that change some fundamental rules every game will keep Dinosaur Island fresh, and there is a mysterious mechanism that can adjust game length independently from the number of players.
Warhammer Quest is one of the classics of dungeon crawling games: up to four heroes descend into a dungeon with put-together rooms and corridors and monster miniatures to kill. They level up, gain skills, only to tackle the next dungeon. Many who have played it get a glassy-eyed look of nostalgia when they talk about it, and admit in the same sentence that it was a horribly unbalanced mess. Last year, Games Workshop revived Warhammer Quest with Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower, a new edition with not as many pieces in the box that is also not as much of an unbalanced mess. And now they continue that success with Warhammer Quest: Shadows over Hammerhal, a new boxed set – not an expansion – with new adventures. Now, before you rush to the store, Shadows over Hammerhal breaks with a tradition of Warhammer Quest. The original game and Silver Tower were fully cooperative games that didn’t need a dungeon master. Shadows over Hammerhal follows the Descent approach instead and pits the hero players against one dungeon master. I enjoy Descent, so I’m not complaining, but I guess this detail will make a difference for many, in the one direction or the other.
Daily Magic Games
Daily Magic Games have started a Kickstarter for Food Truck Champion, a game that combines a few of my favorite things – beyond food trucks, of which I’m also a big fan. It starts with cards that can be played in different ways, either as an order ticket in your food truck, as an ingredient to prepare an order ticket, or as staff working on your truck. When playing a card as staff, the kind of employee on the card selects the action you can take: hire permanent staff to upgrade your actions, buy ingredients in the market, play ingredients or orders from your hand. And when taking an action this way, the other players get a chance to follow and perform the same action outside of their turn, forcing you to look who might benefit from your choice more than you do. That’s a solid menu for me.
Weta Workshop / Cryptozoic
I’m usually quick to ignore games where all you do is move units across the board to blow up the other guys’ units, not for ideological reasons but because they generally don’t interest me. I’ll make an exception for GKR: Heavy Hitters by Cryptozoic and Weta Workshop because I looked at the pictures and they did interest me. GKR is short for Giant Killer Robots, and Heavy Hitters is a giant robot battle game where four corporations send their giant robots with some smaller support units to fight over the salvage rights for abandoned cities in the ruins of the cities themselves. Beating up the other guys is not the only thing you do in Heavy Hitters, though. You can also win by demolishing a number of buildings, and to improve your chances you improve your deck of action cards during the game. I like the tongue-in-cheek tone of everything, from the big ham introductions of the four corporations on the Kickstarter page to the fact that you tag buildings to demolish with your advertising. By the way, this is the first tabletop game Weta Workshop have worked on, but for the last twenty years or so they did prop design and manufacturing for movie and TV productions, including big names like Avatar and Lord of the Rings. So it’s not at all surprising that their design is eye-catching.
I still get surprised how much variety there is in a simple mechanic like trick taking. Predicting how many tricks you will take on a round is not new, Wizard has been around for a while. But Corax Games’s Half-Pint Heroes (on Spieleschmiede) takes the idea further. In this game about pub brawls you not only try to get your predicted number of tricks, you bet against one other player and mess with them not to get theirs. That’s not all the added chaos, though. You also don’t play for individual cards but make poker hands with your hand cards and shared cards from the table. And then there’s the chance of a sudden death victory if you meet your prediction six rounds in a row, the last of which is all others against you. I’m tempted to call Half-Pint Heroes a sort of Chaos Wizard, but that would be shortchanging this quirky, innovative game.