The Spiel des Jahres winners have been announced. Spiel des Jahres is the cooperative word game Just One by Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter, Kennerspiel des Jahres is Wingspan by Elizabeth Hargrave. Congratulations to the designers and publishers!
So, we’ve all had messed up dreams sometimes, right? Dreams that make you wake up in cold sweat and mess up the whole day ahead, too. Well, at least we did wake up, that’s more than the player characters in Etherfields can say. All they know is that their bodies are gone and they are now stuck in the dream world. More than fifty hours of cooperative dream world campaign, to be exact. Publisher Awaken Realms call Etherfields a dream crawler; its random components are similar to a dungeon crawler. But the way this game tells an unfolding story is beyond any dungeon crawler I know. Another key difference is that fighting is never your only option to get around an obstacle – when has killing something in a dream ever solved anything, anyway? Character development seems particularly neat. Etherfields characters have their options to act in their memories chest, which seems to be the deck building component of the game. Who you are and what you can do literally comes from your memories. Last, but absolutely not least, I should mention the stunning artwork, dreamlike and disturbing, and the super detailed minis.
In worker placement games its often just as important which action you block for your opponent as which action you take for yourself. That’s especially true in Academy Games’ One Small Step, a historic worker placement game about the space race. Each action space there has an engineering action and an administrative action, to be taken with your engineer or administrator meeple respectively. With one action taken the space is full, the other action isn’t available this round. One problem with that: It’s not available for your teammate, either. One Small Step is a team game, one team being the US and the other the USSR. So you better come up with a common plan to gather resources, hire astronauts, and build an engine that can take you to the moon.
It’s hard to imagine a more stressful job than ER doctor. Lives in your hands, never enough time to take take care of everyone, and often you don’t even know what’s wrong with the people coming in. Artipia’s Rush M.D. brings a tiny bit of that stress to your table. There are lives at stake, you have little time, and under that pressure you have to perform difficult tasks. Rush M.D. is a cooperative, real time worker placement game. It’s so real time that your workers – four doctors and four nurses – are hourglasses. When you put someone to work they are only finished and can go to a new task when the sand runs out. Meanwhile, you may have to prepare injects using pincers, or find relevant details on cards. A full shift of Rush M.D. only takes four times four minutes, but that brief time will be very busy.
I’m not a big drinker, but the occasional cocktail is rather nice. I even enjoy mixing them myself. As you may or may not be aware, I also like boardgames. You can guess where I’m going with this. On The Rocks is a cocktail mixing, marble drafting game. Turning your marbles into cocktails has a strong Potion Explosion vibe to it, you place marbles of the right colors to complete a recipe. Interesting and new is the drafting mechanism. On your turn you draw a number of ingredients from the bag and then you place them into the mixing bowls one by one, clockwise around, Mancala style. Then you pick one of those bowls and mix the ingredients into your cocktails, the other bowls remain prefilled for the next player. Sort those things right and you have a lot of influence over the other players’ options. Finishing cocktails rewards you with tip cards that are not only worth points but also have useful effects to help you or sabotage your opponents. On The Rocks is not one of those super mean take that games. It has a nice level of negative and positive interaction and needs the right amount of tactics to work as a family game and with your gaming group.
Even if you haven’t heard of Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards, the title gives away what the game is about: wacky, over the top magical mayhem and destruction. A new game in the series, titled ANNIHILAGEDDON – mind the capital letters – can only make things worse, right? But this new game is not a mere sequel or expansion, ANNIHILAGEDDON is a new, deeper game in the Epic Spell Wars universe. Its predecessors were fun but simple card games where you create spells from your hand cards and unleash the on your opponents. Which cards you had to choose from was pretty much up to your luck. Not so with ANNIHILAGEDDON. This one is a full-fledged deck building game. Besides spell components you also buy creatures, treasures, and you can even buy your very own familiar. Even though ANNIHILAGEDDON is a different kind of game, the wizards from earlier Epic Spell Wars games will be compatible, so you can send all your old favorites into the new arena – and then blow them up.
Alexander von Humboldt is rightly counted among the fathers of modern science. One of his great achievements was his voyage all over the Americas, the first explorer to describe what he found in modern, scientific terms. This year marks Humboldt’s 250th birthday, and HUCH! contributes a game to the celebrations. The players join the America expedition as young scientists. They participate in it with a mechanism similar to Mancala: they pick up knowledge markers in one location and then drop them along adjacent locations. When they drop a stone on a location matching its color they pick up scientific findings to ship to experts all over the world. This is presumably related to winning the game. That doesn’t sound incredibly interactive, but the press release says you’ll be able to meet local contacts on other players turns that can act as guides later. We will learn more soon, Humboldt’s Great Voyage is scheduled to release this fall.
Games with branching storylines that you can play over and over to see the consequences of your different actions are super popular at the moment. Couple that with CMON’s amazing miniatures and artwork and you get Trudvang Legends. The cooperative adventure game in a world inspired by Norse mythology lets up to four players travel the world, fight trolls and monsters, and make decisions that will change the course of history. Between its story campaign and great components Trudvang Legends also managed to find a simple yet effective compromise between the permanent changes of a Legacy game and the replayability of a non-Legacy one: The game board has clear sleeves permanently attached, ready to hold cards. Put them in and you have a lasting but reversible change of your board.
Apparently the invention of the smartphone is history now. Way to make me feel old, Cosmodrome Games! But at least we get a tense, economic game out of it. In Smartphone Inc. you’ll take control of one of the big phone companies and try to make it THE big phone company. So manage your production, your pricing policy, and especially your access to international markets well. The hunt for profit and a monopoly is mostly what you’d expect from an economic game, but the action selection mechanism is new and cool. To pick your actions for each round you overlap two cards, hiding some symbols and revealing others. The visible symbols show your actions as well as the price of your phones for the round. As the game progresses you can even buy improvements for those cards, giving you a lot of flexibility for the future.
Renegade Game Studios
It’s been a while since we’ve had to deal with cosmic horrors and elder gods. Too long, maybe? Renegade Game Studios to the rescue: Let’s open the Gates of Delirium! The 19th century horror game makes unusual use of the whole insanity thing that comes with cosmic horrors and makes the players work against themselves. While they’re sane they research the monsters of the universe and try to keep them locked up. When they’re insane they build the gates to release the monsters. When do they go insane? Every round one player decides if it’s sane round or an insane one. Depending on which it is you’ll use on side or the other of your action cards. So what do I do to win, huh? Lock up the monsters or let them out?
This week’s featured photo was kindly shared by the U.S. Embasy in Tbilisi’s Flickr account. It shows the Church of the Virgin Mary at Gelati Monastery, Georgia. Thanks a lot for sharing this photo, guys! (2013 – Architectural rehabilitation of the Church of the Virgin at Gelati Monastery, U.S. Embasy in Tbilisi, Public Domain)