Meople News: The Smiling Gladiator

Minion Games

Minion Games just can’t get away from the power of the atom. After you used it to create energy for peaceful purposes in Manhattan Project: Energy Empire their next game is about the atom’s destructive power again. Manhattan Project 2: Minutes to Midnight is a direct sequel to the original Manhattan Project. Then you developed the big bomb, in the new game you use it in a cold war, balance of terror type scenario. So deploy your bombs on submarines, missiles and in Third World countries you control, all with the familiar worker placement mechanism of the first game. I can always take more of that.

Z-Man Games

Smile (Z-Man Games)
Smile (Z-Man Games)

Some unexpected Michael Schacht goodness is coming from Z-Man Games. Smile is one of those games that you think are simple, and then you can’t figure out why you keep losing. All you have to do is capture adorable critters for points. And all you have to do for that is, on your turn, either place one of your limited fireflies on the lowest value critter card or pick up a card that has fireflies on it, along with all the fireflies it has accumulated. So to get a high card you have to go through some rounds of paying fireflies first, but to have enough fireflies you’ll have to pick some low cards. And since those low cards may go into the negatives, and some pairs cards will just evaporate if you end up with both of them, you have some tactical shenanigans at your disposal to mess with your opponents. Like I said, Smile is simple, but not necessarily easy to win.

Mage Company

Mage Company came up with a charming setting for their 12 Realms: fairy tale heroes from all over the world must work together to defeat the evil taking over fairyland. But no matter how charming the setting is, you can only take it so far with expansions – then you have to come up with a new game to keep it going. 12 Realms: Dungeonland is that game, a new standalone game in the 12 Realms universe that shares nothing but the setting with its predecessors. The title Dungeonland gives it away, this new game is a dungeon crawler far below fairyland. Unlike many games of that genre, Dungeonland is fully cooperative. The dungeon you explore is assembled randomly as you run through, the monsters move and attack following their own rules and boss monsters get a more challenging “AI”. So there’s no need for a dungeon master, but you get all the cool stuff of a dungeon crawler: great heroes, leveling up, saving the world. Despite Dungeonland being standalone, there is a benefit from having the original 12 Realms at hand: the heroes will work in Dungeonland, too.

Reggie Games

Those of our readers who also enjoy video games have probably come across the term MOBA: Multiplayer Online Battle Arena,  the genre of games that has League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm and the like. It It’s a kind of tactical action games where to groups of heroes fight each other along different paths (called lanes) to reach and destroy the oppositions headquarter. Watching a MOBA when you don’t play yourself looks like utter chaos, but there is a deep strategic element there once you get into it. With their first Kickstarter ELO Darkness Reggie Games recreate this strategy as a boardgame. Two players (or two teams) create decks of cards with the special abilities of their chosen heroes. Then they use that deck to push down the three lanes and try to reach the enemy headquarters on one. Gathering resources to equip your heroes and temporarily abandoning one lane to push forward in another are pieces that come directly from the video game MOBAs, and simultaneous action selection is similar to playing in real time as well. Hand management is an additional challenge you don’t find there. I’m very much a MOBA amateur – a noob, if you’re feeling unkind – but ELO Darkness has the elements that are exciting there, transported to the board.

Plaid Hat Games

There is no cooperation like forced cooperation, that tense feeling when you don’t know if the others will really come through for you, even though they hate you. That’s exactly the feeling you’ll get a lot in Dead of Winter: Warring Colonies. The main objectives are rather confrontational, for example you might win the game by winning enough fights against the opposing colony. But at the same time, the crisis cards you draw each round count for both colonies and they have to overcome them together. Or not. If the bad things for failing the crisis would only hit the other guys, why should you make an effort? Warring Colonies will have all the warm, fuzzy cooperation of the modern corporate environment, only with more undead.

Dead of Winter: Warring Colonies, Crisis Cards (Plaid Hat Games)
Dead of Winter: Warring Colonies, Crisis Cards (Plaid Hat Games)

Mindclash Games

Mindclash Games have a great track record with unusual themes for their games. Trickerion was all about stage magic, Anachrony is a timetraveling worker placement game. Their next Kickstarter, to be launched in September, will go from unusual to mildly surreal. Cerebria: The Inside World plays inside a person’s mind. The players, as spirits of Bliss and Gloom inside said mind, will use emotion cards to control parts of the mind and ultimately shape the Identity it presents to the Outside World. I’m very curious how this will translate into game mechanics.


IUNU, the new Kickstarter by LudiCreations, is a purebred tableau building game: To make your dynasty be the one to sit on the throne of Egypt you play cards representing citizens from different classes. You gain benefits for the cards you play and in some cases for all other cards of the same class. Simple in theory, but the card effects and interaction between cards makes it interesting. More interesting still is the player interaction in this small game. There’s a majority scoring, and you can use Soldiers to abduct other players Farmers. On top of that you have some control over the cards the other players can pick up, and you have a resource shared between all the players with three dice representing the wealth-bringing flow of the Nile. Nothing like other players messing with your things to make a game complicated.

SAS Creative

There have been plenty of gladiator combat games over the years, mostly focused on the tactical arena combat. That is a part of Carthage, too, but this new game on Kickstarter also includes the entertainment aspect of the whole thing. Gladiator fights were a popular, bloody sports event, after all. You’ll experience this aspect of the game through the favor of the crowd, a currency you earn in combat and spend in a variety of ways, the most immediately interesting one being the purchase of new cards for your deck. The driving mechanism of Carthage is deck-building, all your combat maneuvers are on cards in your deck, and one way to spend favor is to buy new cards or remove old ones from your deck. These game mechanics rouse my interest in gladiator combat.

This week’s photo was taken by Adam Jones on the rooftops of the historic center of Sucre, capital of Bolivia. Thanks for sharing this beautiful photo, Adam! (View from Rooftop of San Felipe Neri Church – Sucre – Bolivia, Adam Jones, CC-BY-SA)

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