Meople News: Winged Trains of Novgorod

Synapses Games

Constructing giant stone snakes is not what you’d call a common theme for a boardgame. It’s not unheard of, either, because with Còatl there is at least one game where you do exactly that: You take serpent pieces from the shared supply an construct three colorful stone serpents. Why? To become the new High Priest of the Aztecs, because he who’s serpent pleases the gods and their objective cards the most shall have that office. I’m mostly sure this is not how the Aztecs chose their High Priests, but I won’t complain that we get a very pretty, very colorful game out of that little misunderstanding.


After Blood Rage and Rising Sun, Eric M. Lang’s new strategy game will turn you into a real Egyptian god. Ankh: Gods of Egypt is a struggle between the gods, and by the end of it only one will remain standing. You control your fighters and build monuments with an action selection mechanism with a new twist: With each action you take, you move a corresponding marker forward that will trigger an event when it reaches the end of its track. You’ll want to be ready for those. That’s pretty cool already, but another game mechanism sounds even more fun, and personally I haven’t seen it in any other game before. At some point in the middle of the game, the two weakest gods will merge together to avoid being forgotten by the people of Egypt. From that point on, those two players will play as a team. Now there’s a great catch up mechanism if I ever saw one!


Here’s a happy first for us: A game on Kickstarter by one of our friends, readers, and occasional test players! Bahn Frei (engl.: Make Way, but the German title references trains) is a cooperative game with a tight real-time phase about trains. Not, like most train games, about building trains, but about transporting travelers on your train. Every round, new traveler cards show up on the board. They have an origin, a destination, and a number of rounds they will tolerate to get there. The players can plan their actions every round for as long as they like, but to actually make all the moves on the board they have only thirty seconds. That’s not a lot of time when your passengers have to change trains, and change trains they must for your transport system to be efficient. Take too long to transport a passenger and you get a complaint. Collect too many complaints and you lose the game. It sounds simple, but planing efficient routes for the passengers and then executing them in half a minute is tricky – and satisfying. Bahn Frei is primarily a German game, published in German language and played on a map of Germany. But since complaining about the inefficiency of your country’s railway system is an international pastime, an English conversion kit will be available for download so players everywhere in the world can prove they could do a better job.

OSTIA Spiele

Novgorod was the easternmost city of the Hanseatic League and is the latest namesake in OSTIA Spiele’s Hanseatic League / Baltic Sea series of games (previously: Riga, Tallinn, and Vilnius). Despite the name of one city, Novgorod takes place all over the Hanse. You’ll use your kontor cards to send your ships all over the Hanse to transport commodities to your factories where they can be converted into valuable luxury items. The profit from those buys you kontors in new cities and upgrades your ships so they can trade between more of your kontors and factories in a single round. The trade network you build this way can produce different goods every round to meet the conditions of new contracts. Different distributions of factories will force you to re-think your network every time you play.

Van Ryder Games

The final girl is a popular horror movie trope. After the killer/ghost/monster/humongous jellyfish has killed everyone else, they meet the final girl in the showdown. Usually, she comes out of that confrontation victorious, but it’s always a close call – a close call you can experience in the safety of your own home with Final Girl by Van Ryder Games. Since the final girl must always be alone against the killer, Final Girl is a solo game. Or rather, a serious of solo games. There are four games, each with an archetypal horror movie antagonist and their natural environment. A masked serial killer in a summer camp, a poltergeist in a haunted house, and so on – but if you have more than one box you can mix things up and meet the poltergeist at the summer camp. To survive the final encounter, the final girl grows stronger in two ways. She may buy new cards with new abilities using time she didn’t use for actions that night as currency, and she can unlock her final girl special ability by saving enough potential victims. Also, keep in mind that this is the same publisher and designer that brought us Hostage Negotiator, that’s some impressive solo game credentials. I don’t even play solo games much, but being the horror movie fan that I am, I see no way to avoid Final Girl.


Running a museum isn’t easy, as you’ll find out in Curator: Collection Conundrum, the latest Kickstarter by Swedish publisher Worldshapers. Difficulties start with deciding what to do, because your action chips are double-sided and you have to flip them after you use them. The backside of each chip has a different action from the front, so you never have all your actions to pick from. Then you have to actually build the museum from different shapes of tiles. Those tiles you want to fill with exhibits to attract visitors who are your source of income. But wait, just building wings and filling them with objects isn’t all. You want to build them in the right shape and fill them with the right kind of exhibits, because that’s how you fulfill valuable contracts. There are many interesting decisions to be made in Curator, from action selection to monetary decisions about the wings and objects you want – which are usually not the ones you can afford – but Curator is absolutely a family suitable game, too.

Czech Games Edition

Under Falling Skies is a solo-nano-print-to-play game with only 9 cards, plus some dice you’ll have to supply yourself. Aliens are invading once more, and by placing your dice in your base you try to fight them off. If you could just pick your actions to make a coherent plan, that might be easy, but there’s a big catch: When you use an action in your base the aliens in the corresponding column move. That will make picking actions quite a bit trickier. I mention Under Falling Skies because designer Tomas Uhlir and Czech Games Edition are working on a non-nano version, and as a welcome side effect in these days of staying home they have also released an updated print-to-play version. Thanks, you guys rock!

Road to Infamy Games

Though rare, cards with transparent parts that you layer on top of each other for game effects are not all new. However, I can’t think of any game that uses this mechanism to create art until now. That’s exactly what Canvas does. Each card you layer on top of your background has one element for your painting: a tower, a starry sky, a stack of books. At the bottom of the card, icons tell you what this card contributes to the composition of the painting. Texture and red color, for instance. You score each painting against a line of scoring cards according to those icons. Scoring is a fun, not too heavy set collection mechanism, but the really cool bit is that at the same time you create art – and with Canvas‘s cards, it deserves to be called art.

Renegade Game Studios

As if studying for your magic exams wasn’t tough enough already, you also have to organize the magic library as a price to be allowed in after hours. Looking at the description of Atheneum: Mystic Library it’s almost like organizing the library was the exam. You win with points for the most beautiful, best organized bookshelves, after all. What sounds interesting from a game point of view is that “every action you take will give actions to other students near you.” Does that mean they may take the same action as me? Do they get bonus actions on their turn? And how will I strategize with that to have many extra actions for me but not give too many away in return? I’m curious for a look at the rules soon.

This week’s featured photo, taken by Flickr user Pedro, shows the Monastery of Alcobaça in Portugual. Thanks for sharing this beautiful photo! (Mosteiro de Alcobaça, Pedro, CC-BY, resized and cropped)

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