To avoid confusion lets first talk about what Legacies isn’t. It is not a Legacy game. You won’t be putting stickers on the game, or ripping cards. Every game starts from scratch. Legacies is a game that gives you three centuries and six generations to build the richest dynasty. Playing in that time frame creates many interesting options. You can forge long-lasting relationships with other influential families, make investments that pay off many years later, acquire family heirlooms and so much more. All that in a city that grows and matures around you. You control all this through multi-purpose cards that pay for relationships, turn into resources, and let you explore the city for opportunities. Global actions, like the name says, affect all players and control the game’s pace. And all that only scratches the surface. There is a lot going on over six generations.
A cooperative miniature game where you explore ancient sites, collect gear, fight monsters … don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing, but there are a few games like that already. An ancient Egypt steampunk setting goes some way to get my interest. What really gets me excited about Arkeis, however, is the team of designers: Antoine Bauza (7 Wonders,…), Corentin Lebrat (Draftosaurus,…), Ludovic Maublanc (Cyclades,…), and Théo Rivière (Sea of Clouds, …). That is a hell of a lot of accumulated design experiences, and between them those guys made some of my favorite games ever. The setting, the amazing artwork, and the incredible minis all have some draw. Together with these designers? Take me to your pyramid!
Alley Cat Games
In their new game Tungaru Stefan and Louis Malz go to the Pacific Islands. Starting on their own island, each player wants to spread their culture across the Tungaru archipelago. To do so they use the time-honored tradition of worker placement. Workers in Tungaru are dice, but bad rolls are not something you have to worry much about. Only one player rolls the dice, all others set theirs to the same values. So at least all will have the same bad luck. Beyond this core mechanism there are some other very interesting ideas. Leader cards have a powerful effect when played and an extra space for you to place workers, but after you used them they go to the next player’s hand. That’s something to consider when picking your card each round. Also, spreading your culture is not a one-way street. When you reach a new island you may recruit a nomad who will add their own abilities to your culture board. Space there is limited, unfortunately. Tough decisions must be made at every step of this game.
Charles Darwin developed the theory of natural selection during his voyage on the HMS Beagle. A lot of his inspiration came from his observations on the Galapagos islands, so that is where you will follow his trail in On The Origin of Species by Artana. On The Origin of Species is one of those games that appear simple. On your turn you either place observation cubes on two species tiles already in play, or you spend cubes you placed to put a new tile on the board and score points. It’s not quite that simple. To place a new tile the cubes you spend must come from habitat icons matching the new tile’s icons. The new tile must also be adjacent to the tiles you take cubes from, so you won’t get much done without a bit of planning. Then you add special cards representing research tools and characters from the Beagle that might help you, some extra scoring opportunities as the Beagle advances, and the game doesn’t look quite so simple any more.
Fantasy Flight Games
When you have a license to make boardgames based on a very successful series of video games, then that is what you do. And not just one, either. Fantasy Flight Games will release a boardgame version of Fallout Shelter, the mobile game from the Fallout universe. The boardgame will be a worker placement game where each player manages one level of a vault. They send their vault dwellers around to harvest food, water, and energy from the appropriate parts of the vault, produce new vault dwellers in their living quarters – the time frame is a bit wonky on that part – and expand the vault. Ultimately, it’s all about the dwellers’ happiness. Have the happiest vault dwellers and you can be the next vault overseer. Oh, there is one tiny little detail. Sometimes things go wrong. A tiny little fire may happen inside the vault, things like that. Occasionally something from the radioactive surface might find its way into the vault. You’ll have to deal with those things, or everyone is going to die. But … no pressure.
Get ready for another voyage through Japan… or, in this case, around Japan. Seven years after Tokaido let you take a trip along the marvelous East Sea Road you will soon be able to take a trip around Japan in the sequel Namiji. The basic rules remain the same: the players furthest behind on the route takes a turn and picks any free spot on the current leg of the trip, moves there and takes the appropriate action. During your boat trip you will once more paint panoramas from three to five cards, but all your other activities are different from Tokaido. You now can push your luck while shrimping, make columns and rows of similar fish in your net, and give offerings of paper boats to the whirlpool. We tried Namiji in Essen this year and found it similar enough to Tokaido to scratch the same itch, but different enough to be new and exciting. Just what we want from a good sequel. Namiji also continues with Naiade’s beautiful illustrations on a simple, white game board that made us call Tokaido the prettiest boardgame ever more than once. I guess that title will have to be shared now.
Horror is very hard to properly convey in a boardgame. Looking at Dawn of Madness‘s plot and design, this is a game that might do it. Up to four players find themselves in a horrifically distorted Otherworld where their worst fears are real and out to devour them. Everything seems better than getting deeper into this world, but it is inextricably linked to the player characters’ mysterious past. They all are somehow involved in experiments to transcend humanity into godhood, and they aren’t the nice kind of experiment. Each chapter in the Dawn of Madness campaign explores one Wanderer’s nightmares, with each of them having different outcomes and together leading into different final boss encounters. There’s a lot of horror to explore here even after you finish the game once. Dawn of Madness features some of the best, most horrifying miniatures I’ve ever seen in a boardgame Kickstarter, but nevertheless I love that you can get a much cheaper (still not exactly cheap) version using paper standees instead, for those of us who want experience the game but spend less on – admittedly incredible – eye candy. I’d love if that became more common in games with lots of miniatures.
Larian Studios / Lynnvander Studios
Divinity Original Sin, a cooperative boardgame based on the popular video game, has an impressive size. 520 locations to explore, 102 skills, 100 items, 40 enemies, 8 bosses with 56 boss tactics cards and more than 120 pages of story in the encounter book. Which parts of the story you explore depends on your decisions, and then Divinity Original Sin gets really interesting. In a way it goes beyond the Legacy system, where your decisions affect your game. With the Chronicle System your decisions affect everyone’s game. When you’re done playing you can submit the decisions you made online and the submitted decisions will affect how the world develops in future expansions. An interesting idea. I’m curious to see how much of your own game you’ll recognize in the expansions.
Venice, the new Kickstarter by Braincrack Games and spiritual successor to Ragusa, has gondolier meeple. That’s all I needed to know, backing it now. You want to know more first? Well, okay. Players in Venice are merchants in the titular city in the 16th century. They drive two gondolas around the city to collect goods and deliver them to complete contracts. Don’t make that “oh great, a simple pick up and deliver game” face. Pick up and deliver is right, but simple Venice is not. The contracts grant ongoing effects when you complete them, bending some rules for you for the end of the game. Your two gondolas can exchange goods when they meet, making logistics more interesting. The real depth, though, comes from the assistants. When you dock at a house you can place an assistant there who gains a basic special ability from their location, to be used every time you pass there again. Dock at the same house and you promote the assistant, upgrading their effect. However, any opponents’ assistant ahead of you in that house get pushed up the career ladder. Building bridges that make travel on a canal faster will make you money, but they help your opponents as well. And be careful not to be caught colluding, the player with the most intrigue points can’t win the game even if they otherwise would. As is said, not so simple at all. Intriguing and alluring, but not simple.
When we’re talking about games that can easily be adapted to a more casual crowd of players then Gloomhaven wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of that list. It probably wasn’t easy at all, but a more mass market friendly Gloomhaven game is in the making. Titled Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion the game will be essentially Gloomhaven, but with an entirely new campaign of “only” 24 scenarios, about half of which are optional. Character retirement is no longer a thing, the Jaws of the Lion characters see the campaign from start to finish. All scenarios happen in the city of Gloomhaven, eliminating the need for a giant map in favor of a more handy one. And to cut down the considerable setup time for each scenario you’ll get a scenario book to play on, just pick the page and go. This is a great way to turn more people to our awesome hobby. Get them addicted with a lighter game experience.