LunaTix: Star Trackers, an educational game on Kickstarter, lets you recreate the original moon landing in your own living room, and learn interesting things about astronomy along the way. Now, you know my problem with many educational games: they are hit and miss in both regards. Not all of them really teach you anything, and even more aren’t great in the game department. We tried LunaTix in Essen last year, and it most certainly is fun as a game. You move around the globe to observe different constellations and the moon in order to gain navigational knowledge that will get you to Luna before you go to Cape Canaveral to launch and use that knowledge. My only criticism here would be that I’m really into the race part of the Space Race, so it would have been fun if the USSR had their own launch pad. On the science side of things, designer Vincent Verhoeven is a science educator at the Armand Pien observatory at the University of Ghent, with colleagues there keeping an eye on his scientific accuracy as well. Don’t worry, you won’t have to do the math to get Apollo 11 to its destination, but actually understanding why you can’t see all constellations from everywhere on Earth was pretty cool. If space is your thing then LunaTix and its two expansions are absolutely worth a look.
Plaid Hat Games
Welcome back to the mind of Dr. Strobal! This Comanauts preview is actually last year’s news, but we were on a bit of a winter break. We’d already heard about Dr. Strobal’s inner demons, the villains inside his own mind that won’t let him wake up. Now we see that not his whole mind works against the brave comanauts. His inner child will give valuable clues where to find those inner demons.
In Nocturion another fantasy kingdom needs help, and just maybe a strong arm to help the Emperor rule it. An arm like yours, obviously. But it’s a bit of a way to get there. You’ll have to complete quests, which needs resources, and to get higher level quests you’ll need to find your families legendary heirlooms. On the side you’ll also recruit an army of magical beasts to fight for you. Your tools for all this work are dice. They’re rolled at the start of each round, then players pick dice to use on actions. A game of Nocturion runs for a number of years and because of the variable setup different actions will be more efficient in different seasons, so games will develop differently right from the start.
Noctiluca scintillans, sea sparkle, is a bioluminescent, marine species of algae that looks very pretty in the water but is not known for its healing properties. That sets it apart from the noctiluca in Notciluca by Z-Man Games and Shem Phillips (Architects of the West Kingdom, * of the North Sea,…). Those nocticula are also beautifully luminescent, but they live in ponds deep in the jungle and are sought after for their healing properties. Players in the abstract game are divers and experts in harvesting the noctiluca. They have to strategically choose a path through the pool – in a way that I hope a future preview will reveal – to collect the right colors of dice to fill their jars. Noctiluca looks like a game with very simple rules. It’s too early to say how deep the strategy will be.
Renegade Game Studios
Renegade Game Studios let you enter the Proving Grounds in their newest solo game. You will face six opponents all at once. Each round you’ll have sixty seconds to frantically roll and reroll your dice and try to make sets of equal numbers big enough to hit one of those enemies. Beware of rolling singles, though. Enemies you assign a single dice to will hit you instead. You can’t reroll singles, either. But maybe if you reroll one of your sets you can get another dice to match that single, and then you can reroll those… and already those sixty seconds are looking pretty short. Six expansion modules are already included in Proving Grounds and give you everything from shields to chariots to a young dragon to fight by your side. Or all of those things at once, if you want.
When human explorers first set foot on a new planet, especially one harboring intelligent life, there are many ways they can proceed. Circadians: First Light, the latest Kickstarter by Garphill Games, lets you explore most of those ways. At least that’s what it feels like. The dice placement game has plenty of options how to use those dice. Move your harvester across the planet board for resources, use them on farms for resources later, visit different locations for their respective game effects, and negotiate with three different tribes on the planet for points and benefits. Sometimes also for setbacks, because first contact is always complicated. All that happens quickly and with little downtime, thanks to players planning their turns at the same time. Variable player powers, double-sided components for replayability, a solo mode, and a small expansion included with the base game round off the project. I was already sold, anyway.
When Ludonaute first announced Space Gate Odyssey the game looked very mysterious. Now with each new preview it becomes more clear how it will work. That part about each planet having different rules how to colonize them, for instance? There is now an overview what that will entail. How you are allowed to place colonists, how you score influence for them, and when the colonization effort is considered finished, all those factors differ from planet to planet and will demand different approaches to each.
La Stanza, the game about art and influence in the Renaissance by
Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro and Paulo Soledade, is now on Kickstarter. If you didn’t follow Quined Games’s preview posts, the main mechanism in La Stanza is an ever-changing selection of characters working for you that modify the strength of your different actions. You collect new characters and trigger actions by moving around the game board. How you spin that into becoming a famous patron of the arts and an advisor to kings you’ll have to work out for yourself.
Frosted Games joins the recent resurgence of roll-and-write games with HexRoller, a game by Rustan Håkansson (Nations, Dungeon Rush,…). In HexRoller you don’t fill up the traditional table of values to score points in any number of ways. You put your numbers somewhere on the hex grid, the only restriction is that equal numbers must touch. You score points for filling up areas on the score pad or connecting numbers printed on the pad. As is mostly the case with roll-and-write games HexRoller is at the light end of the game pool, but the way this game works ensures that your decisions are at least as important as the luck of the roll.
Galactic Raptor Games
Animal Kingdoms, new on Kickstarter, is one of those games that sound simple, but hide a surprising depths of decisions. All you do is play animal cards to five kingdoms and at the end of the round score by majorities. The devil’s in the details. Each kingdom has a randomly assigned rule how cards can be played there by value, in relation to the previous card, or in relation to the most recent card in other kingdoms. The number of points for first, second and third place is also different from kingdom to kingdom. Some kingdoms also have Council Spots that you take for the whole game if you score first place in an early round. On top of all that, you also have to manage your hand cards, you’ll need them during scoring to fight over ties. And now it doesn’t sound quite so simple any more, does it?
Even with an expansion, Dice Forge is still a game about heroes fighting in a tournament over an open seat in the pantheon. It’s also still a game where you build your own dice and change its faces during the game. But with Dice Forge: Rebellion the gods of the pantheon are no longer the only show in town. In one expansion module a new goddess is ready to challenge the old ones. In the other you can turn your back on the gods altogether and accept the gift of the Titans instead.
The beautiful forest in this week’s featured photo is Yakushima, a temperate climate rainforest on Yaku Island, Japan. The photo was taken by Takeshi Kuboki. Thanks for sharing, Takeshi! (Yakushima, Takeshi Kuboki, CC-BY, resized and cropped)