Elzra Games, makers of dexterity dungeon crawl game Catacombs, are expanding beyond disc flicking games with their new Kickstarter, and they’ve come up with a fun combination of game mechanisms I haven’t seen before. Catacombs Cubes uses resource drafting mixed with pattern building to build a fantasy town in the Catacombs universe. Each type of resource is represented by a different shape of wooden block. To construct a building you don’t need a specific set of resources, but you have to assemble the right shape from your resources. If you do you may place that building on the village grid where you score points for it. You also earn coins that you can redeem for special actions, and you can contribute to the palace, an especially prestigious construction where only the player to complete it scores points. This is a really cool use of pattern building as a mechanism for a larger game.
The success story of Reiner Stockhausen’s acclaimed bag building game Orléans continues. Orléans Stories is an all new sequel to Orléans, not an expansion, where all the core mechanisms will be immediately familiar to veteran players. There is, however, a whole new dimension to the game: Time. In the two stories in the box players will advance through history from epoch card to epoch card. Each card will offer new chances and challenges. That mechanism has a lot of flexibility. In the First Kingdom story each player advances at their own pace through the epochs, in The King’s Favor they must advance together or all be eliminated if they take too long. And where there are two scenarios there may well be more. If Orléans Stories is anywhere near as successful as its predecessor I see expansions in our future.
Game’s Up / dlp games / Capstone Games
Alexander Pfister, designer of great games like Great Western Trail and Blackout: Hong Kong, has another strategy game coming out in Essen this year and it hits all the right buttons for his fans. Also for fans of the classic video game Pirates! by Sid Meier, because Maracaibo reminds me a lot of that game. Each player takes command of a ship in the Age of Pirates and then sails around the Caribbean to take all the gold they can get their hands on. Each stop in a city offers a different action: upgrade your ship, station helpers in convenient places, fight battles in the name of your nation, start expeditions into the unknown … you see why I compare Maracaibo to Pirates!. As always it’ll be tempting to take all the actions you can get because they all seem profitable, but that’s a strategy that can backfire badly. A round of Maracaibo ends as soon as one player completes their circuit of the Caribbean, and you only have four rounds before the game ends. There’s just never enough time. On top of all that there will be a story campaign with twists and turns and new game elements. Maracaibo is published by Game’s Up, distribution is handled by dlp games for Germany and Capstone Games for North America.
Fantasy Flight Games
Arkham Horror 3rd Edition will continue into the Dead of Night, its first expansion. As is normal for Fantasy Flight’s Lovecraftian games the new investigators joining the cast of player characters are familiar faces, two of whom we meet (again) in a new preview: Scientist Kate Winthrop and redeemed cultist Diana Stanley. I really can’t imagine what they did wrong to be dragged back into this kind of horror story time and again.
Ravensburger has a nice list of new games coming out soon, and while they’re not (all) heavy gamers’ games they sure are worth a look.
Okay, the first one is totally a gamers’ game. To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the alea brand there’ll be a new edition of Stefan Feld’s Castles of Burgundy. Not only will the new edition have a new, stylish look and upgraded components, it will also include all ten expansions plus an all new one. I didn’t realize Castles of Burgundy had this many expansions. That’s going to be a nice box.
Then there’s Quest for El Dorado: The Golden Temples where the players finally get to explore the fabled Golden City. To find the treasure there players will use the same game mechanism as in Quest for El Dorado: deck building. The two games’ rules are similar enough that you can put them together and play both at once, but The Golden Temples works just as well as a standalone game.
And then there’s 3D Labyrinth. It’s for a younger audience than the games we usually write about, but the nostalgia for The aMAZEing Labyrinth is strong enough in me that I want to mention it. 3D Labyrinth uses the basic idea as its venerable predecessor, you shift the walls in the labyrinth by pushing spare tiles in, then you move through the narrow corridors to get to the treasures. But now you have third dimension to worry about. Instead of tiles you have towers of variable heights, and you’ll need magic sometimes to overcome great differences in elevation.
Ravensburger has more new games coming, of course, but these three are the ones that caught our eye.
Later this year there’ll be another Unlock box with three new escape deck adventures. Timeless Adventures takes you to the circus, lets you join Arsene Lupin in an investigation in 1900 Paris, and gets you lost in the time maelstrom. That last one scares me a little. What will those madmen be able to do with a simple deck of cards when time travel gets involved?
In most tile laying games, once a tile is placed that’s it for the game. If you don’t like that tile where it is, that’s tough luck. In passtally that’s only the start. You can’t remove the tile, but if you can build a better route with a different tile in that place you can cover up tiles already on the board. You should cover tiles, even, because the higher a tile is that your route goes through the more points it’s worth. Of course that’s also true for all other players using that tile, so take care not to help them too much. For a seemingly simple game of “connect two points with a line” passtally has a lot of hidden depth, and it looks super pretty as well. I’m sure glad Pandasaurus Games picked up this Japanese game and made an English version.
Do you find it difficult to make friends? Pandasaurus Games has a solution: Become a necromancer and make friends instead. Sure, making friends the old-fashioned way will be even harder because no one likes necromancers, but with all your newly raised friends, who needs anyone else? Dead Man’s Cabal is a necromantic action selection game. You select two actions per round. One is only for you, the other is for everyone. The order in which things happen becomes very important because your group action might end up helping your opponents more than yourself. That’s a great amount of interaction for a game mechanism that often lacks just that. Just don’t let anyone from the “Dungeons & Dragons is a gateway to satanism” crowd catch you playing Dead Man’s Cabal, the occult imagery and tiny skulls and bones might give them a heart attack.
Are you ready for a little airborne adventure? Some exploration in your trusty propeller plane? Then Wayfinders might be the game for you. You’ll have two things to do. One, you send your ground crew to the different cargo hangars to pick up resources for you. Two, you use those resources to go island hopping in your little plane, discover new islands, and build airstrips there. Airstrips are how you score points, especially if you have some on blue island tiles that give you extra ways to score by having airstrips in the right places. Other islands hand you extra resources or give you a permanent bonus effect. Wayfinders is not too heavy, but there is a good deal of interaction in the cargo hangars and on the board, and managing your resources and planning your trip is fun, too. It’ll work great for families and gamers alike.
Nürnberger Spielkarten Verlag / Pandasaurus Games
One thing that’s always bothered me about roll-and-write games is that every game uses up a bunch of score pages, and at some point you will run out and have to print or buy more. Well, no more, and the wipeable cards are only one cool thing about Silver & Gold, the new game by Phil Walker-Harding (Imhotep,…). The other cool thing is the game itself. Every turn someone flips an expedition card showing a pattern of boxes. Each player marks exactly that pattern of boxes on one of their treasure cards. When all boxes on a treasure are marked you score it and draw a new card. Some symbols on the treasure cards have special effects you’ll want to make use of, too. There are only eight expedition cards, so if you keep in mind what should still come up filling your treasure cards becomes more about skill than luck.
This week’s featured photo shows one of the Tarxien Temples at Tarxien, Malta, one of the sites of the Megalithic Temples of Malta World Heritage Site. The photo was taken and kindly shared by Arian Zwegers. Thanks a lot, Arian! (Tarxien Temples, Central Temple, Arian Zwegers, CC-BY, resized and cropped)