Dog Might Games
Ancient cultures were obsessed with mazes and labyrinths in all shapes and sizes, but at least in Western culture none is as famous as the labyrinth of the Minotaur. That’s the one you’ll find yourself in playing Labyrinthos by Dog Might Games. This labyrinth, however, is worse than most. Not only is it twisty and confusing, it also changes as you explore it. To escape you need four different keys, hidden around the labyrinth, but each key comes with its own twist. Every key token you collect replaces one of your hero’s abilities with a new one. Managing those abilities will be an important part of your strategy. Labyrinthos has a strong vibe of The aMAZEing Labyrinth, but for gamers, a concept that resonates strongly with me.
Fantasy Flight Games
Path of the Serpent, the next expansion to Mansions of Madness, takes you as far away from any kind of mansion as you can be. In the Lost Temple of Yig scenario you’re on an expedition deep into the jungle to enter said temple and stop its population of lizard people from completing a dark ritual that would spell all sorts of doom for us non-reptilian humanoids. With this scenario Fantasy Flight finally does something that, in my opinion, they should have been doing since they first publish Mansions of Madness and actually use full capabilities of having an app to tell the story. Instead of having one to three fixed variants of the map to explore the Lost Temple of Yig will be randomly assembled every time you enter. Of course, that also means you won’t be able to beat its five star difficulty by playing a few times and memorizing where the monsters are.
With two new previews for Arkham Horror: Final Hour we get to see details of the Investigator phase and the following Ancient One phase where the Great Old One strikes back. Remember, Final Hour is a standalone game in Arkham where the Great Old One has already awoken and you and your fellow investigators can’t communicate to coordinate your strategy. In the Investigator Phase you pick if your action card’s top or bottom actions should be executed, but your only way to influence that is with a priority card. When the Ancient One strikes back, his actions will be more powerful the more Omen icons your chosen priority cards show. Unfortunately the more useful cards with very high and very low numbers have more of those icons. What an unfortunate dilemma.
It all sounds very cozy and comfortable in Flatout Games’ Calico. You sew warm, pretty quilts by placing happy, colorful tiles to attract fluffy, sleepy cats. To actually play Calico is a bit trickier than that makes it sound. To attract the cats you have to sew sections with their preferred patterns. For the other way to score points, buttons, you need sections of the same color. And then most spaces on your player board are also adjacent to a goal tile that brings yet more points if you complete its goal. As if looking out for three different requirements to score wasn’t enough, the selection of new tiles is limited to three at a time and your opponents probably won’t let you get the ones you want. It started so tranquilly, didn’t it? And suddenly there are all these decisions and other players. Just the way we like it.
Deduction games are a rare species and I’m always happy to see a new one. The Search for Planet X is not just a new deduction game. It’s a great, new deduction game. Planet X is hiding somewhere in the solar system, and the astronomer who discovers it can be certain of fame. Maybe fortune, too, but mainly fame. Thing is, there are many other things in the solar system, too. The game’s companion app decides where asteroids, gas clouds, and other things are. Planet X, too, of course. Players have different investigative actions at their disposal. They can find out what exactly is lurking in a specific sector, they can scan a number of sectors for one kind of object, or they can research what are the rules of this particular universe – e.g. Gas Clouds are always opposite to empty sectors. Planet X is the big price, but it’s not the only way to score. Theories about the contents of other sectors, published early enough, also score very well. On the other hand, they do give away some of your knowledge to the other players, so you might sometimes hold back your findings. And who knows, maybe by the time this Kickstarter delivers – around the middle of next year – we’ll already know if Planet X exists or not. Probably it’ll take longer, though, so you have a chance to find it first.
If you look at the cosmos pretty much everything is in orbit around something else. In Scott Almes’s latest design Cosmic Colonies that’s especially true for your workers, who orbit around the table. That is the main thing to keep in mind when you gather resources and construct buildings on your private colony asteroid: The workers you use will orbit to the next player. This is an interesting reversal of the usual drafting game mechanism where you pass the cards you don’t use. Here it’s the cards you used that move on, so if you want to keep them from your opponents you can’t use them either. That’ll be an interesting change.
Games of “move your guys around the map to beat up the other guys’ guys” are usually not our cup of tea. We have good reasons to make an exception for Blood of the Northmen. This is a game by Carl Chudyk (Glory to Rome, Innovation, …) , and as is basically his signature elements in Blood of the Northmen have multiple functions. The hexagonal landscape tiles you place each round don’t just expand the game board, they also tell you which actions you may take this round. If the tile you just placed has forests you may recruit fresh troops. Lakes and roads let you move troops, and if you do want to beat up the other guys’ guys you have to play tiles with mountains. Those are the very basics, but there’s a lot more going on with villages that grant special abilities, cities, strongholds, and more. See why we make an exception here? That mechanism of building the landscape and selecting actions is too intriguing not to try.
Do you know Magic Maze? It’s a cooperative game where four adventurers rob a shopping mall because they can’t afford new gear. What makes this really tricky is that each player doesn’t control one adventurer. Each player controls one action. You might be the one to move everyone North, for instance, but other players have to move the other ways. Everything happens under a strict time limit, too. It’s hard, hilarious, and frustrating in the best possible way. Now, what you need to ask yourself is this: does a game like this need a traitor? If your answer is yes then the Hidden Roles expansion is what you want. A traitor is far from all you get, though. Secret special rules and secret missions should be an extra ton of fun when you can’t tell the other players about them. This will bring so much extra chaos!
If an expansion doesn’t satisfy your hunger for more Magic Maze games, maybe an all new game does? Magic Maze on Mars follows the same basic idea as Magic Maze, you don’t control your own player piece, you control part of the movement for all pieces. On Mars, that doesn’t mean one direction but one color of road. If you have blue only you may move anything along blue roads. You’re also the only one who can produce blue resources. Resources have to go to the right tiles to build biosphere domes before human colonists arrive. In the details this is a very different game from Magic Maze, but the wacky, unique way of splitting actions between players stays the same.
This week’s featured photo shows a slice of the imposing single tower of the Church of the Ascension at Kolomenskoye, Moscow, Russia. Click on the link to see the full photo, you won’t regret it. The photo was taken and shared by Flickr user anedostup. Thanks a lot for sharing! (IMGP8707, anedostup, CC-BY-SA, resized and cropped)