The winners for this year’s Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres have been announced this week. The Spiel des Jahres is Kingdomino by Bruno Cathala. The Kennerspiel des Jahres should strictly speaking be in the plural, Kennerspiele, because that award goes to EXIT – Das Spiel, the escape-room-in-a-box series by Inka and Markus Brand. Congratulations to the designers and publishers, the honor is well-deserved.
Fantasy Flight Games
It takes exceptional men to catch exceptional criminals, and few criminals are more exceptional than Jack the Ripper. In a new preview for the standalone Letters from Whitechapel sequel Whitehall Mystery Fantasy Flight Games introduces the exceptional men the players may control in their hunt for Jack.
If you’ve played Star Wars: Rebellion then you know how important leaders are for both the Empire and the Rebellion. Rise of the Empire, in the great tradition of big box expansions, brings more of everything, and that includes four new leaders for each side. They all will have their special abilities, and they share the new minor skill icons. Those can be very effective for completing missions because leaders can have quite a lot of them, but when the missions runs into opposition they are less reliable than the not-minor skills. Anyway, you’ll add more iconic characters from the movie to your game. The only thing I’m unsure about is the inclusion of Jabba the Hutt as an Imperial leader, I always saw him more as a free agent.
In his new game Agra Mike Keller takes us to India in 1572, the year of the 30th anniversary of Akbar the Great. The players in Agra are landowners hoping to use the great ruler’s celebration to advance their own status by producing, processing and trading goods with more skill than their opponents. The first detail preview by Quined Games introduces the player board. Here you assign your workers to produce Sandstone, Wood, Cotton and Turmeric – and you obviously have to make a choice, because you can’t produce as much of everything as you want. Somewhat surprisingly, the player board also has space for workers that don’t work. Sending your workers to meditate doesn’t sound very productive, but it allows you to unlock special actions. So many options, so few workers.
Z-Man Games / Hans im Glück
With each preview I’m getting more curious about the new Marc André game Majesty: For the Realm. After Mill and Brewery, the third building we see is the witch’s Cottage. Not only does it seem to make money from sets of grain, beer, and potions, it also has an ability that says “Heal top card”, implying that the cards on top of something can get hurt in the first place. I hope we’ll find out how soon!
Knowing that the Splendor expansion Cities of Splendor will have four expansion modules is good. Knowing what each module will add is much better. The Cities module sounds simple, all it does is replace the base game’s Nobles with Cities. But to claim a city tile as your own will not be easy because each city has its own outrageous demands. For instance, you might need four red bonus gems, three black bonus gems and thirteen prestige points before the city will consider you. Difficult as that may be, you’ll have to find a city for yourself: When you play with this expansion module, being first to claim a city tile is the only victory condition.
“A 4X game in less than two hours” is a description I’ve seen a lot recently. And I still think it’s a great idea. Lead a civilization to galactic supremacy, but don’t sacrifice the whole weekend for it, what’s not to love? Master of the Galaxy, the new Kickstarter by Ares Games in this sub-genre, has something else going for it as well. It uses mechanics that don’t typically come together with 4X games, like a bag-building mechanic to take your resources each round and some card drafting. There also seems to be a lot of variety, with different playable species, different leaders, different forms of government and a tech tree to explore. At the same time, other typical aspects of 4X games are simplified. The galaxy is not a giant map of hex spaces but has sixteen solar systems on a simple grid – while maintaining strategic options like blocking your opponents from a system. A very interesting mix, coming soon to a galaxy near you.
Dirk Henn and Queen Games regularly return to the idea of war driven by a cube tower: When you go to battle you throw some cubes in the tower, some of them plus some others come out again and decide the outcome. Wallenstein was the first, then came Shogun, now we get Immortals that Henn designed together with Mike Elliot (Thunderstone,…). But while the first two were pretty similar, Immortals brings something new to the table. The fantasy setting of Immortals is split into the Light world and the Dark world. Each player controls one fantasy race in each world, and their troops that are killed in the one will be reborn in the other. So be careful with wiping out your opponents, you’ll end up helping them to a big army in the other world. You program everything that you want to happen with cards you put down on your player board: Go to battle, harvest resources, construct buildings for victory points. Immortals looks to be a heavier strategy game, playing time given as two hours, and the two worlds with their imbalance of power will take some unusual strategies to conquer.
There are some common reasons why heroes go out and kill monsters. Saving the world is a popular one. Simply getting rich isn’t new, either. Killing monsters to gather ingredients for a cooking tournament, that’s a story I haven’t heard before. But that’s exactly why the heroes go out and find monsters in Seven Season Soup, they need ingredients to win the Emperor’s cooking tournament. And don’t think you can just go out and kill a slime for your pudding, or steal spices from the kitsune’s garden. You’ll need equipment, you’ll need companions, you’ll need to explore the right places before you can hope to achieve anything. And after you killed monsters for their steaks you still have to cook them. Seven Season Soup is not a classic “heroes moving on the board to kill monsters” game. There are some similarities in forming a party and gathering equipment, but you’ll see that how you play is quite different. To describe Seven Season Soup in one word, I’m not sure if I should go with charming or whimsical.
Plaid Hat Games
The clans we met so far in the Crystal Clans previews were all unique in their own way, but they still had one thing in common: they send squads of warriors into battle. The Stone Clan has a different approach. They send out their builders to put structures in the battlefield. Ballistas, catapults, siege towers, if it can be made from stone and wood then the Stone Clan builders have the blueprints. Naturally, this approach is slower than the other clans, but once Stone have set up their infrastructure somewhere it’ll be hard to get them out again.
Drafting games in the style of 7 Wonders or Sushi Go are never what some call multiplayer solitaire: You always interact with the other players through the cards you pass them. But what if they could be more interactive? That’s the direction Matthew Dunstan (Elysium,…) is going with his Diesel Demolition Derby, on Kickstarter by LudiCreations. The cards you draft show diesel-powered combat machines that have a strength value, which is important to win, and they have an ability. That ability is where the more interaction happens, because abilities can make other players discard their card before their turn, it can steal cards from their lineup of fighting machines played previously, and they can do a bunch of other fun things that their victim definitely won’t enjoy. But the question of what you want to do versus which options you want to pass to the next player remains important as ever. Diesel Demolition Derby is a good deal more vicious than other drafting games. But one fight only takes ten to fifteen minutes, so if you get knocked down your chance for revenge is never far away.