Fantasy Flight Games
What makes all the Cosmic Encounter editions and expansions fun to play over and over is there large selection of alien species, each with their own, overpowered special abilities. Those aliens simply had to be part of Cosmic Encounter Duel, too, and the latest preview post introduces the cast. Twenty-seven all new alien species, with new abilities special for the two player game. And those are just the playable alien species. In every game you also meet three envoys from the Galactic Citizenship Council. Those guys should be impartial, but given the right incentive they’re all willing to lend their own special ability as well. You didn’t think this was going to be a fair duel, did you?
Stronghold Games / FryxGames
A storage box and a set of extra fancy components to upgrade your experience of a game you already own wouldn’t ordinarily make the news. However, there’s an exception to everything, and the Terraforming Mars Big Box is anything but ordinary. It’s not only a giant box to keep everything Terraforming Mars inside – including, by a rough estimate, the planet – but it also has a set of ninety 3D tiles to replace the flat, old paper tiles. As add-ons you can get things like metal resource cubes, transparent biosphere domes for your cities, and more. Do you need any of that? Absolutely not. Will it make Terraforming Mars look and feel look amazing than ever before? Absolutely yes.
El Dorado Games
The city state of Atlantis has fascinated people for more than two-thousand years. Just imagine if the place hadn’t sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Well, here’s your chance to prevent that. In The Age of Atlantis you are the head of one of the city’s great houses, and if your work pleases Poseidon he might just let the city live – with you as its leader. Your way there is through a worker placement, engine building game with a lot of depth. The Atlantis you build is a game engine, and to make it work and stand against invading enemies you’ll have to work together – there can still be only one winner. You build the city from scratch every time, and you’ll have a different set of factions every game, so every time you play you’ll need a new strategy. Keep your workers happy, build a new city every time, use giant mythical machines, keep invaders out and Poseidon happy… you won’t run out of things to do running this city.
A long, long time ago, in the distant year 2013, Brotherwise Games released the dungeon building game Boss Monster, which went on to be quite popular in all its 8-bit glory. That was then, and this is now, and being the boss monster of just one dungeon no longer satisfies you. You’re dreaming bigger. You want the world. You want to be Overlord! And that’s how you set out on your new campaign conquest. Overlord is a tile drafting game that is not super difficult in theory. You draft a landscape tile, you place it on your player board. But each tile follows different scoring rules, so choosing and placing them to maximize your power gets a bit trickier. Finding a good place for your monsters and mini-bosses, where they feel at home but are also in the company of their own kind, adds another level of trickiness. Like Boss Monster before it, Overlord is a lighter strategy game, but one that makes your decisions count.
In this week’s episode of “Mashups I Did Not See Coming”, the next Unlock! box will be Unlock! Star Wars. Like all Unlock! boxes, Star Wars will have three escape room stories for you to play through: you’ll be smugglers escaping from an Imperial Star Destroyer, rebels braving the frozen wastes of Hoth, and even Imperial agents recovering an artifact from the desert planet Jedha.
Matthew Dunstan’s civilization building game Monumental is already plenty big, but there’s always room to grow bigger. Expansion time! Monumental – African Empires has what it promises on the box: empires from Africa, namely the kingdoms of Zulu and Aksum, and the Mali Empire. But there is so much more in that box. With this expansion you get an entirely new game mode – optional – that cuts down on downtime, advanced economics, unrest and rebellion in your empire, a new end game mode in the future. All that, and of course more options for familiar things: new wonders, new terrain tiles, new buildings. I think that’s what people mean when they talk about a big box expansion.
There are always more tweaks you can make to trick taking games and come up with something that is light, fun, and new. Stefan Dorra does that with Oracle, a new game by Skellig Games. The tweak here is that you want tricks, but only up to a certain point. Based on the color you take a trick in you get score chips. Those are mostly great, but the last chip in each color makes its owner discard all other matching chips. Making things more tricky are the oracle cards, to of which each player picks before each round. Meeting the goals they set is worth extra points. None of this makes Oracle complicated, but getting the right tricks makes for an interesting challenge.
Here’s a small, innovative card game you might want to look at. All you do in Journey of the Emperor by Laboratory H is build rows of cards with four kinds of animal icons on them by adding to either end of a row. Those rows represent journeys you plan for illustrious visitors to the Qingming festival. Here comes the interesting part: at the journey’s two ends you need a castle and a ship card, and those tell you which icons will score points for that journey. Since ships and castles are at the ends of the row, you won’t know for sure what is valuable until you get there. The decision at the core of Journey of the Emperor will always be when it’s wise to cover a ship or castle with another, when it’s better to play a path card that leaves the journey unfinished but provides more icons, and when it’s time to start a new journey.
With Curious Cargo Capstone Games presents a two player tile laying logistics challenge. There’s no rulebook available yet, so we don’t know any game play details, but the rough outline is that you build a network of conveyors in your warehouse to bring goods from one loading bay to another. You can also interfere with your opponent’s plans to do the same. The game by Ryan Courtney uses a tile laying system similar to his Pipeline, but lists a shorter playing time.
Trick taking games with a plot are few and far between. Tournament at Camelot was a game that pulled it off, with each trick as one melee in a tournament, each trick counting as a wound for its “winner” and special cards straight from the Arthurian legend to mix things up. It fits the theme, and it’s quite tactical for a trick taker. The same can be said about Tournament at Avalon, the sequel. There are some minor rules changes and all new cards, but the games are quite similar. However, you might be interested even if you already own Tournament at Camelot because you can mix the two and play the epic eight player variant Chaos of Battle.
A few weeks ago, with the announcement of The Shining: Escape from the Overlook Hotel, we wondered what the rules would be like for the Coded Chronicles system. The Op’s ruleset for escape rooms in a box. Now, with the release of Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion, we have a Codec Chronicles rulebook to look at. The system has more elements from a traditional boardgame than other escape games. There is a stronger sense of location as you arrange cards on the table to create the mansion you want to escape from. There are different characters moving around the board – the Scooby gang, obviously – and which character examines a clue will lead to a different outcome, thanks to a simple system of putting together clue numbers. I don’t know anything about plot or puzzles, but he system that has more boardgame-y elements sounds fun.
This week’s banner image shows Qiz Qalasi, the Maiden Tower, symbol of Baku, Azerbaijan. Not only is an impressive building, it also has a peculiar mystery: no one seems to know for sure why it was build. The photo was taken and kindly shared by Dan Lundberg. Thanks for sharing, Dan! (20160604_Azerbaijan_6923 Baku sRGB, Dan Lundberg, CC-BY-SA, resized and cropped)