The vikings are coming, and only some good, old-fashioned city walls will keep them out. Walls of York is all about those walls. Will you build a small, cheap wall or invest in a big one that encloses more valuable buildings and pays more money? Walls of York is Cranio Creations’s least complex game for this year, but building better walls than your opponents will still be tricky. After all, you never which buildings you’ll have to protect.
Another new Cranio Creations game is also all about walls, but there are not meant to keep vikings out, they are about keeping water in. In the alternate history of Barrage the Great War was ended by four mysterious, enormous explosions in the Alps. The resulting craters are more opportunity than disaster, however. With Nikola Tesla’s new generators those basins could power the world. The dams to contain the water and the tunnels to bring it to the generators easily make this the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever attempted, and you will have to build it in this heavy strategy game.
Is there anyone here not excited by the phrase “a mix of Sim City and 7 Wonders“? Because I sure am, and that’s only the simplified description of NEOM. Every player builds their own city on their own board, but with tiles that are drafted around the table. A game of NEOM will only take about 45 minutes, but they’ll be packed. You’ll have to build a city with streets, parks, residential and commercial areas, work your buildings’ synergies and manage production of seventeen different goods. And how exactly you score points will be determined via drafting, too. You may only have three rounds with eight tiles each, but they are going to be packed with choices.
If you’re going to Essen you can get the three new Queen Games releases there. Otherwise, this is the Kickstarter for you. Three Queen Essen releases in one.
Skylands is a tile placement game. You create three different kinds of floating islands, each producing different resources. Completing islands is important, of course, but that’s not all you do with them. To gather the resources you have to send out workers to collect them. Once you have the resources you can use Crystals to power your floating cities for extra points, with ore and wood you can create special tiles. Some of those tiles just fit perfectly into the gaps on your player board, others give you abilities or new scoring options. Skylands is a reimplementation of The King of Frontier.
In Franchise your goal is to spread your little coffee shop or burger place into a nationwide franchise empire. You can spread slowly from town to town with little expenses, or you can pay a lot of money to jump long distance into the big cities. Opening new franchises in cities you already have a shop in also costs money, and reduces your profit to boot. You need the majority of shops in a city to score its points, though. Franchise is a revised edition of Medieval Merchant.
Finally, there’s Bastille, a worker placement game just before the French revolution starts. The workers are properly called influence tiles and have values from one to four. In each of the seven locations around Paris the tile with the lowest number goes first, even if it was placed later in the round. All that is about finding and arming the right recruits for your cause to put you in power when the revolution begins.
Days of Wonder
Days of Wonder take us to The River, a colonist’s dream in a new world. As you explore up the river you cultivate your settlement along it with tiles representing different landscapes. To go up the river you use put your colonists to work. There is a crucial difference to other worker placement games, however. You lose workers as the game progresses. They settle down along the river. It’ll be interesting to see how that feels in play. In most worker placement games, gaining more workers and being able to do more things is a great development. Being able to do fewer things will feel different and demand different strategies. The River will be interesting to explore.
Daily Magic Games
Another intriguing, new twist on worker placement comes in Daily Magic Games’s new Kickstarter Thieves Den. When you send workers (thieves) to work (rob) the locations drafted each round you may choose to send them to an opponent’s location. You still get the benefit of that action, but the thief will join your rival’s gang. Sending thieves to shared board locations or fences sends that thief back to the supply entirely. Your workers become a completely different kind of resource. You can trade a benefit now against the loss of an action for the rest of the game. When I say I love tough decisions in games, that’s the kind of thing I mean.
Bezier Games / Stonemaier Games
Mix up two great games and you get… well, it sounds like you get another great games. Stonemaier Games and Bezier Games team up to mix Between Two Cities and The Castles of Mad King Ludwig. Just like in Between Two Cities you draft tiles and work together on a project each with both your neighbors. Just like in The Castles of Mad King Ludwig you build extravagant palaces for the loony monarch. You call the whole thing Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig. What a mashup! Can I play now?
Fantasy Flight Games
We’ve heard quite a lot about the unique, new idea of KeyForge: Clash of the Archons. Every deck is unique in the world, buy whole decks instead of booster packs. What we didn’t hear much about yet is how it’s played. That changes with this preview post. Your goal in KeyForge is … to forge keys. Surprising, I know. You need three to win the game, and you can’t forge more than one per turn, even if you have enough Æmber to to so. Do it faster than your opponent, and you win. A turn in KeyForge works differently from other, similar sounding card games you might know. Cards have no cost. Per turn you decide for one of the three houses in your deck, and you may play as many cards as you wish of that house only. You may also perform actions like attacks with creatures of that house, but only of that house. That you can attack doesn’t automatically mean you should, though. KeyForge is not about eliminating your opponent, it’s a race for that third key.
Are you looking to spice up Colt Express a little more? Here’s your chance. Or rather, here are your six chances. There are six mini-expansions on the way collectively known as Bandits. Each of them takes one of the characters from the base game and turns them into a game-controlled adversary to all players. That doesn’t make Colt Express into a cooperative game, your goal is still to steal more than any other player. Only now the winner might be the game-controlled bandit and all players lose. Each bandit has their own goals, abilities, and motivations. You might even be able to use them to attack your opponents. Or you might lose in new and entertaining ways. Either sounds fun.
After the Spiel des Jahres it’s pretty clear that this is the year of Wolfgang Warsch. And he’s not done yet. Coming from Feuerland Spiele is Fuji, a cooperative dice game. All players must escape from an erupting volcano. They do so by rolling dice to move through the landscape at the foot of the volcano. All players roll in secret and must be vague about their results, but they must be careful not to get in each others’ way. They only win if they all escape. I’m not a fan of the “vague communication” rule in cooperative games, but I’m always up to give it a try.
The big, new gamer’s game from Feuerland Spiele this year is Magnastorm. Expeditions managed by the players have touched down on planet Magnastorm to harvest its rich resources and examine the traces of an ancient civilization there. Victory points come from completing mission cards and controlling commanders. That second part is an interesting element of tactics and timing: all other actions reduce the cost of controlling a commander. Wait too long and your opponents get there first, wait too little and you waste money. At the end of the game players receive a reward card they can use in subsequent games to balance the scales of different skill levels. I’m particularly curious about this self-balancing handicap in particular, but looking forward to Magnastorm in general.
Everyone wants to be a supervillain, but does anyone ever stop to think how much administrative work that job comes with? All you want is world domination. But to get there you need funding and the right reputation. To build your reputation you have to complete villainous contracts. For those you need henchmen. And to attract those you need a secret lair. What, did you think henchmen would commute to your island fortress? That’s your basic bucket list in INFAMOUS. Build lair, attract henchmen, complete contracts, win the game.
Did you know there are rhinoceroses native to Nepal? I didn’t. But there are, in Chitwan National Park, where this week’s featured photo was taken. Chitwan is also one of the last, remaining refuges of the Bengal tiger. It’s an import place for endangered flora and fauna. The photo was taken and shared by Stefanos Nikologianis. Thank you, Stefanos! (Chitwan National Park, Stefans Nikologianis, CC-BY, cropped, resized and contrast enhanced)