To imprison the minotaurus King Minos bade the architect Daedalus construct a maze. Every year, a murder of virgins would be sent inside to feed the beast. Yes, it’s a murder of virgins. Look it up if you don’t believe me. But not this year. This year a band of brave heroes would enter the maze. It’s not widely advertised, but King Minos also had the legendary Victory Tokens hidden in the maze. To win Maze of Minos you have to find them. The game is divided into two phases: in the Daedalus Phase players construct the maze, walls and all, and hide the Victory Tokens. In the exploration phase they move through the maze to find Tokens the other players hid. They do so playing action cards that, beyond moving their hero, let them manipulate the maze, the minotaurs, and the coins that may hide Victory Tokens. Not too heavy on the rules and sure looks fun to play. Also: meeplotaurs!!!
You know how I try to come up with funny descriptions for games? I got absolutely nothing to top “It’s rock-paper-scissors meets the prisoner’s dilemma…with turnips!” Please don’t skip this paragraph just because you read rock-paper-scissors. The core mechanism of Village Pillage is like that, but it doesn’t end there. Each player runs a village with ambitions to become a kingdom – and with a deep hatred for the other villages. Each round you play cards against both your neighbors. If they attack you want to defend. If they defend you want to farm. If they farm, that’s when you want to attack. And if they send a Merchant to buy relics you want to steal their turnips. So far, so rock-paper-scissors. But there is the problem that everyone is playing against two other players at once. And the real kicker: you can spend your hard-earned turnips to buy new cards with new actions. It’s like rock-paper-scissors, but someone can buy lizard or spock. And that’s how you transform an old chestnut into a new game that I really want to play.
Ravensburger / alea
I enjoy Legacy games a whole lot. The same goes for games by Inka and Markus Brand (Village,…). And for alea games, too. A Legacy game by the Brands, published by alea, that’s Christmas come early. The Rise of Queensdale is all that with a cherry on top, the cherry being worker placement and engine building as build a castle for the Queen and a whole city around it to make that project possible. A quick look into the rulebook shows that a good half of it has space for stickers, so expect The Rise of Queensdale to evolve a lot as you play. Not even the dice are safe from change!
The Empress of the Known Universe is dead, the throne vacant, and the Imperius Crown ripe for the taking if anyone can back up their claim with enough influence. Don’t expect that to be easy, obviously the other players have the same goal. In Imperius you pursue that goal with strategy and subterfuge. It’s a mix of card drafting and Smash Up! style base control with those cards. Only some cards will also be face down, so you don’t really know what’s going on. You can guess, of course, because you know what cards you passed on in the drafting phase. But your opponents know that you know. You can see where this is going.
It’s five years old this year and Viticulture is still one of the best worker placement games there is. It doesn’t really need anything to keep it fresh, but I’m sure no one is going to complain about an all new set of visitor cards. Visit from the Rhine Valley replaces all other Summer and Winter Visitor cards you might be using with eighty new ones. Six of those are the same as existing cards, four are only to be used with the Tuscany expansion. The remaining seventy are all new and go with every game of Viticulture. The description calls these new cards more focused on the business of wine making and less focused on victory points. If you prefer strategies that build up your winery over quick win ones it sounds like Visit from the Rhine Valley will be for you.
Z-Man Games / Feuerland Spiele
The preview posts for Lowlands are getting to the juicy details now. Three workers to take actions are not the only workforce each player has in their service. There are also Labourers to support them by improving one of the possible actions. It sounds like you can not have more than two of those guys, however, and there are more than two actions, so where you send those Labourers is going to be an important strategic decision.
Another boardgame classic and Spiel des Jahres nominee is coming back thanks to Z-Man Games. I’m talking about the 2002 game Clans. Clans is an area control game where player colors are not revealed until the end of the game. You know which moves are good for you, but you have if you might be helping some of your opponents as well. The new release will be called Fae and instead of stone age clans you’ll be moving druids around the board and help them assemble for their rituals. But that’s a pure re-skin, the game mechanisms will remain the same. If you couldn’t get your hands on a copy of Clans then this will be your chance.
We are fans of games that force you to make tough decisions. This War of Mine was already such a game, but the expansion Tales from the Ruined City will take that to a new level. One of the expansion modules is the Market, and tough decisions is the whole point of it. First you have to pay some of your hard earned items from scavenging to gain entrance, and that’s before you know what the market might have to offer. And then you have to decide how to behave in the market. Stealing or looting are more profitable in the short term than bartering, but they ruin your reputation. Sooner or later the people in the Market will turn against you if you abuse them too much. But what will you do when you have to steal to survive?
Sorry We Are French
With the solar system colonized it’s time to explore further afield. Up to four corporations recruit settlers for their colony ships. But before they can set off into the depths of the galaxy getting to the colony ships is anything but simple already. From the recruitment centers on Earth the prospective settlers first have to travel to Mars and from there to Jovian moon Ganymede. It’s only there that they can board the colony ships. Ganymede is the name of this game by Sorry We Are French, and the logistics of getting settlets to Ganymede is the players’ responsibility. So: recruit settlers, transport them with a sequence of shuttles that have some relation to the color of the settler meeple and what looks to be a special ability, and make sure that the right colors of meeples arrive at the colony ships. It looks like a pretty quick game, but assembling the most efficient colonist pipeline won’t be too simple. And I mentioned before how pretty French games usually are, didn’t I? Ganymede confirms that once more with a completely unique style.