Renegade Game Studios / Dire Wolf Digital / Penny Arcade
Isn’t it just the greatest when a few things you love come together? In this case it’s the sneaky deck building game Clank!, Legacy games, and Penny Arcades wonderful D&D setting Acquisitions Incorporated. If you’re into boardgames, and you reading this implies that you are, then you probably know the first two but maybe not the third. Acquisitions Incorporated is a Dungeons & Dragons setting – or an add-on to a setting, if you wish – where the players are punch clock heroes. They still slay monsters, they still hunt treasure, but they do it from nine to five and deal with office politics at the same time. It’s utterly delightful, and it will mesh perfectly with a Clank! Legacy game.
Renegade Game Studios
Living in balance with nature is not exactly a classic boardgame theme. The hunt for profit is easier to quantify into victory points. That makes The Aquicorn Cove Board Game an even nicer surprise. In the cooperative game based on the Aquicorn Cove graphic novel by Katie O’Neil the players rebuild a fishing village recently devastated by a storm. At the same time, however, they want to protect the coral reef, home to the magical aquicorns and the reef guardian. To win the game they need both, a healthy reef and a repaired village.
Plaid Hat Games
Building a monster isn’t easy. You probably didn’t think it was, but the new Abomination preview shows just how difficult it is. You don’t just salvage a torso, some arms and legs, and then piece them together. You have to build each bit from muscles and bones, components that won’t stay fresh forever, and then shock them to life. With the knowledge so gained you can try to build more complex body parts until, finally, a head is in your grasp.
Aftermath is going to be Plaid Hat’s next adventure book game, and it looks like it might be the most complex yet. After the humans are gone your adorable critter heroes will not only have to survive their many adventures, they will also have to care for their home colony. That is a large part of Aftermath‘s campaign. With resources you find on your missions you improve your colony. But the colony needs your protection. Stay away on an adventure for too long and bad things will happen back home. If the bad things keep coming your colony may even disband, losing you the campaign.
Here’s another adorable robot from Quirky Circuits! His name is Rover and he’s a very good robo-dog. He does what he loves doing: Dig up bones. Not just any old bones, though. Really old bones. Rover works for the museum, and with your help he’ll dig up dinosaur bones and assemble skeletons.
Talisman is the new Monopoly. Every popular franchise gets its own version. The difference is that I enjoy playing Talisman. Also, with items, locations, events, characters, and so on a Talisman game can transport a lot more of the settings flavor. Kingdom Hearts with its setting of different Disney worlds has a lot of flavor to transport. Talisman: Kingdom Hearts will be quite a ride.
Fantasy Flight Games
Lovecraft’s Mythos is the gift that keeps on giving for gamers of all kinds, and we keep coming back to Arkham, too. Arkham Horror: Final Hour is not a new Arkham Horror expansion, despite what the name suggests. It’s a new spin-off that will play in about an hour and challenge the players with severely restricted communication. Per round, each player has an action card with an all positive top effect and a non only positive bottom effect. The catch is that you have to take the bottom effect from some cards, and the only way to communicate how good or bad your card’s effect would be is with numbered priority cards. Lower numbers will get the top effect, but you can’t discuss what will happen first. Final Hour is a very euro-gamey Arkham Horror spin off with a tense mechanism to restrict communication and select actions. This will be a fun new way to be eaten by Cthulhu.
Stronghold Games / Lautapelit.fi
Draft cards, manage hands, and get rich trading along the Silk Road, that’s what you do in Amul. Cards have precious cargo, guards for your caravans, and merchant contacts who will pay for your goods. What is important is when you get those cards: Some cards have to be on the table to score, others in your hand. Get too many of the latter ones early and they’ll clutter your hand.
Decrypto is already my favorite word game out there, as you would know if I ever got that review written. With the Laserdrive expansion it’s only going to get better. With the expansion you draw a category card every round, and one of the clues for your team must match the category and be a movie title, or start with the letter A, or … . Even better, if you manage to make all three clues match the category you get a special token that allows you a guess at one of the opposing team’s code words. If you get it right your team is one step closer to winning. But to make all three hints match the category might make them easier to guess for your opponents and give them an advantage. This added dimension to Decrypto will make Laserdrive a fun balancing act.
High Risk, a new dice game by Iello, sounds a lot like classic Can’t Stop. Each player has a team of climbers and rolls dice to get them to the top. Like Can’t Stop, High Risk is also a light press your luck game, but it works different. The custom dice have three icons: Weather, Ascension, and Danger. Weather simply does nothing. Ascension lets you move one of your climbers up one step if you end your turn voluntarily. If all your remaining dice show Danger, one climber goes the other way. If you set all your dice aside without falling you may take another full turn. Tempting, isn’t it? That some spaces on the mountain can only have one climber makes the decision when to take a risk and when to play it safe more interesting. High Risk is a very light game, but there are just enough decisions to keep you engaged.
The adorable bunnies of Richard Garfield’s drafting game Bunny Kingdom have discovered new lands to possess. Well, not exactly lands. In Bunny Kingdom in the Sky they colonize the skies. Since the discoveries of the Great Cloud the bunny barons have set up outposts there, connecting them to their earthly possessions with Sky Towers and magical Rainbows. Up there are new, magical resources, there’s even enough space for a fifth player. To get the most out of your new, floating fiefs there’s even a new kind of fortress, the mighty Carrotadel. Now go and conquer the skies!
With Legendary Forests Iello will make another Japanese game available to the rest of the world. The game by Toshiki Sato takes its core mechanism from Take it Easy!: One player draws numbered tiles from their set, the other players find the same tile from their sets. Then all players put that tile on their player board, trying to put it in a more valuable position than everyone else. Valuable means placing tiles with matching colors and/or runes, creating closed landscapes and using tree tokens to boost a landscapes value. However, there’s one small catch: some tiles are removed at the start of the game, so you can’t rely on getting the ones you want.
I thought Iello had forgotten all about The Big Book of Madness, the cooperative game about a really, really irresponsible magic school letting its students summon monsters. I’m happy to report it has not been forgotten. The expansion The 5th Element is coming later this year. That’s all we know for now, but we can make some good guessed from the name. With a fifth element we’ll definitely see new spells using that element, likely two new characters, and possibly the option to play with six players.
Code breaking doesn’t only work with words at Iello, like it does in Decrypto. It works with numbers, too. That game is then simply called Break the Code, and that is what you’ll do. All players have a code of several digits in different colors. In two players, the goal is to deduce your opponent’s code before he deduces yours. With more players the goal becomes to know all opponents’ codes so you can then deduce the actual code in the center of the table. In both cases you only have six questions you can ask, dealt from a deck of possible questions like “Where are your neighboring tiles with numbers of the same color?” So simple in theory, not simple at all in practice.
A new game by Bruno Cathala (Shadows over Camelot, Five Tribes,…) is always a thing to watch out for. Evan Singh doesn’t have the same fame yet, but going by the first game they designed together, he will get it. Ishtar: Gardens of Babylon is a tile placement game, and from what I can tell so far it’s on the deep end of tile placement games. Maybe that’s to be expected, a game about planting flowers in the desert has to be a bit tricky. And planting flowers is only the start. By planting them you want to collect gems and activate actions that in turn allow you to plant trees for points, upgrade your desert gardening skills, hire apprentices, and more. Lots of things going on in the desert, lots of decisions for you to make.
Ninja Academy is a quick collection of mini games where you compete against the other players either all at once or in a duel. Contests include wacky things like balancing five ninja meeple (I wanted to call them neeple and then thought better of it) on your fingertips, or guessing how many meeple your opponent put in the box just by shaking it. A total of twenty-one trials give you the chance to embarrass yourself in many different ways.
If it’s up to me then worker placement games will never go out of style. It’s one of my favorite mechanisms. With Little Town Iello has a family friendly, low complexity worker placement game that was previously only available in Japanese. There are only two things your workers can do: Go to an empty grass space and activate the surrounding landscapes and buildings to gather resources or trade them for other resources, or build a new building paid for with those resources. Building also go on empty grass spaces, but with a building on them they’re obviously no longer empty and can not be used to place workers. Using buildings wisely to block or not block worker spaces is important. Little Town is a strategic game with little luck required but light enough that kids as young as eight can enjoy it.
Czech Games Edition
Vlaada Chvátil’s Through the Ages and its new edition Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization are the most popular civilization building games ever to hit the market. I’m honestly surprised it took four years for New Story to have an expansion. Now it’s coming, and it doesn’t add a bunch of fancy, new mechanisms. Instead, New Leaders and Wonders will give you get new leaders, new wonders (shocking, I know), new military cards – all things that give you more strategic options without learning a whole book of new rules. More replayability in a box. What more would you ask for?
Imperial Settlers sequel Empires of the North was just released when Portal Games already announce its first expansion. The six clans of Eskimo, Scotsmen and Vikings will be joined by the Japanese in Japanese Islands. They are the first faction to appear in Imperial Settlers and Empires of the North.
Ever since Dixit Libellud are the publisher for beautiful picture guessing games. Obscurio will continue that trend this year. As far as I know it’s the first cooperative picture guessing game with a traitor. The story is that the players must escape from an evil sorcerer and his illusion spells. Figuring out what is real and what is illusionary is where the picture guessing comes in. But that’s not hard enough. One of the players is also in league with the sorcerer and wants the other players to remain trapped. Now, not to point fingers or anything, but some of our Mysterium games already feel like that…
Frosted Games / Pegasus Spiele
Andreas “ode.” Odendahl gives you the chance to explore and exploit a new world. In Cooper Island you are an explorer who has recently discovered the titular island. They explore it and soon discover ruins of an old civilization and valuable resources. Those will enable them to explore further inland, construct buildings with special abilities, and discover smaller islands around Cooper Island that, when reached, grant extra benefits. You’ll experience all this through a simple set of rules that will force you to make many tough decisions in the roughly two hours a game will last.
Gmeiner / Hutter Trade
For this new game by Reiner Knizia we know exactly what it will be about and nothing about how to play it. In Heisse Ware (translates to something like Contraband) there is a new law: a person may only bring one bottle of alcohol in their suitcase. For some people that kind of law is a challenge, and you are one of those people. Three to eight players have exactly one goal: Bring more bottles across the border than anyone else. That’s all we know for sure, but if I had to guess at the mechanics from the theme, the component and the number of players I would go with “a bluffing game where the players vote who’s luggage gets searched”. Let’s see how close I am with that guess.
Surprised Stare Games / Frosted Games
Lux Aeterna is a real time solo game by Tony Boydell (Snowdonia, Guilds of London, …), and it hits us with just about the biggest problem anyone might run into: A black hole. Your spaceship is drifting towards it, and to make things even worse your important systems have suffered damage. You now have ten minutes to escape by making it to the bottom of the event card deck without first falling into the black hole. But hey, no pressure, right?
Red Raven Games
Ryan Laukat gives us another beautiful open world game to explore. Sleeping Gods sounds like it has more than a touch of Cthulhu, but to find out if the sleeping gods are really of the tentacular kind we’ll have to play through the ten to twenty hours of campaign at least once, and more than once to really discover every nook and cranny of the game world. Storywise, the players become Captain Sofi Odessa and her crew of the steamship Manticore, lost in a strange world whence only the sleeping gods can return them.
It’s not easy being a taxi driver in the age of apps. It’s also not easy to design a pick up and deliver game with enough substance to appeal to gamers, but Taxi Derby, Skipshot Games’ taxi driving game, looks like it manages to do just that. To make that work Taxi Derby does a few things different than most PUAD games. To start, movement is not a dice or card affair but has a particularly nasty press your luck mechanism. You can go up to the speed limit – four spaces – and not worry. With every space further that you move the chances of getting a speeding ticket increase. That’s not good because those things are expensive, and some passengers might not want to ride with you if you have too many. Passenger preferences are the second mechanism making Taxi Derby interesting. Some passengers mind your tickets, others will only ride with you if you had similar passengers before, and yet other ones demand certain upgrades to your cab. Since you can only have one passenger at a time and can only buy upgrades when your taxi is empty you’ll really have to mind what you do when.
Every time you think deck-building games are over along comes something like Rune Stones by Queen Games and Rüdiger Dorn and adds something seemingly simple that changes the whole game. All cards in Rune Stones have a unique number. When it’s your turn you play two cards and remove the one with the higher number from your deck. Simple, but it’ll give you all new things to consider when buying cards. A mediocre card with a high number becomes much more valuable when you can play it together with a great card with a lower number. You’ll need some shrewd planning to claim the druidic throne.
This week’s featured photo shows the ruins of Masada, a fortress in Israel overlooking the Dead Sea. The photo was taken by Dennis Jarvis and kindly shared with a CC-BY-SA license. Thanks a lot for sharing, Dennis! (Israel-05857 – Lower Terrace, Dennis Jarvis, CC-BY-SA, resized and cropped)