Stefan Feld fans, listen up! Some of Stefan’s older games can be quite tricky to find by now. For two of them, Bruges and Macao, that is about to change. The first two games in Queen Games’s Stefan Feld City Collection will be Hamburg and Amsterdam, which are re-implementations of Bruges and Macao, respectively. Both games will be revised editions of the originals and will include the original games’ expansions plus all new material. That’s altogether pretty awesome, with Stefan Feld and Queen Games I’m confident that changes will be well considered and make the games even stronger. The only thing I don’t understand is how Bruges could become Hamburg instead of some other city, when Hamburg is so obviously connected to Feld’s Die Speicherstadt, an actual place in actual Hamburg. That’s just asking for confusion…
La Boite de Jeu
In a distant future, long after civilization as we know it has fallen. Remnants of humanity, when they re-emerge, based their culture on sloppy lore of bushido, the samurai’s code. That’s why Daimyo: Rebirth of the Empire has four self-proclaimed daimyo competing for the title of emperor by building radio towers and swaying the population to their side through propaganda. Alternatively, sending some ninjas to take care of the competition works as well. Your weapons of choice on the way to the throne are dice to draft and cards to build your deck. Cards can manipulate the dice before you use them, dice activate actions on your player tableau, and actions on your tableau can be customized with your choice of action tiles. You do all that with a set of detailed miniatures and with the outstanding art we’ve come to love about French games.
Iello / Le Scorpion Masqué
All you have to do in Master Word is guess one word. And you all work together, too. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? The problem is that all players except the Guide write down one guess per round, and the guide doesn’t tell them which ones go in the right direction – only how many. Sounds like it will be more fun the more players you have to cause chaos. For such a simple word game, Master Word might turn out to be rather tricky.
Pandoria is a 2018 gamer’s game by Jeffrey Allers and Bernd Eisenstein where the players’ fantasy races have to flee their lands from a goblin invasion and start anew in the mysterious land of Pandoria. It’s a compelling tile placement / area control game where what you do will usually benefit others as well, but it’s not what you’d call a family game. To play with your family you can now try Pandoria Merchants, a roll-and-write adaptation of the original Pandoria. It comes in a gamers’ variant, a family, and even a solo variant, and you can play it right now as a print and play game. If you like it, or if you are lazy to print your own game, you can also buy a boxed edition – a very consumer-friendly approach to marketing.
Board & Dice
It’s almost time for Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun, the new game by Daniele Tascini (Tzolk’in, Teotihuacan,…) and Dávid Turczi (Cerebria, Anachrony,…). When you see those two names together, you just know that you’re in for a heavy game, and Tekhenu won’t disappoint. It’s a dice-drafting game, which doesn’t sound that complex, but there’s a lot going on with those dice you draft. Every dice you take gives you actions based on its value and on the area of the board you draft it from. On top of that, dice are Pure, Tainted or Forbidden, depending where the shadow of the obelisk Tekhenu falls. You can never take Forbidden dice. Tainted dice are fine, but the taint might have undesirable effects. Confused? Well, the rulebook has around thirty pages, so a super-brief summary might do that. But if you enjoy heavy games, then learning this complex system will be a treat.
Later this year, there’ll be another heavy strategy game by Board & Dice, this one designed by Dávid Turczi alone. Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire is a high complexity worker placement game where you control the fate of the Inca empire. Your different kinds of workers have different special abilities. You also gain bonus actions when your workers neighbor other workers of the same type. Once a worker is in a spot he’ll stay there blocking the spot, unless an adjacent Warrior removes him. That’ll take some thinking already, but there’s more than that to Tawantinsuyu with all the other options you have besides placing a worker. Especially the powerful actions your High Priest can perform bear keeping in mind – but his position also determines resource costs for placing your workers, so you have to take that into account, too.
Also later this year, Board & Dice will release Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods, the third Escape Tales game. Escape Tales games are pretty much escape rooms in a box, similar to Unlock, Exit, and other series, but completely different at the same time. They have many of the same mechanisms, but Escape Tales uses in-game tokens as a limit how much you can explore instead of the more common real-time limit. The big difference, though, is that Escape Tales are a good deal darker. They tell weird tales of death and identity – think Black Mirror or Twilight Zone and you’re in the right ballpark. In Children of Wyrmwoods you are a drifter in a small town surrounded by a wilderness of animal-plant-hybrids, and your instincts tell you you must leave. Sounds like a good, classic horror story. Not ideal to play with the kids before bedtime.
AP Board Games
You know what almost never happens in worker placement games? You workers don’t get killed off by giant monsters stalking the landscape. You will have guessed it, that’s about to change. Turris is a worker placement game set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world. Your workers, called scouts, travel from place to place to gather resources that you’ll use to complete missions set by the Council of Tribes. Complete enough missions and the Council will allow you to build a Trionfi, a powerful part for your game engine with a special action that will make future missions easier to complete. Always on your scouts’ heels are the four giant beasts that, should they catch up, will devour your scout, and probably the horse he rode in on as well. Beasts and scouts are finely sculpted plastic minis. I can appreciate those, they look great. What really impressed me in Turris visual design, though, are the Trionfi cards with their silver and gold design on black background. Even in a game with great minis and art, those cards stand out.
If you have never heard of Glauberg in der Wetterau, I won’t hold it against you. It’s only about two-hundred kilometers from the Meeple Cave, and I hadn’t heard of it, either – a bit of a shame, because it seems to be an interesting place. There used to be a fortified Celtic settlement there. That’s why Pegasus Spiele’s new family game Celtic is centered around it. After the old ruler died, four families compete for trade routes and the influence that comes with them to ascend the throne. In game terms, what you do in Celtic is send your family meeples to far-away cities to complete missions cards. That wouldn’t be all that interesting, but there’s a fun bit of interaction that makes the game. When one player moves family meeples to the next city, other players at the same start point may follow along free of charge and without using their own turn. That detail will make it much more interesting and more satisfying to complete missions with the smallest number of moves.
Deep Print Games / Pegasus Spiele / Capstone Games
Legendary game design duo Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer (Tikal, Torres,…) have another shared design coming soon. Renature mixes Dominoes with an area majority game. The dominoes, showing different animals, create area borders. When you place a stone you may also place one of your plants in an adjacent area where it will immediately score its own point value plus more points for every less valuable plant in the same area. When an area is fully surrounded by dominoes, or at the end of the game, the player with the most valuable plants in that area will score points again. This last part will be trickier than it sounds because all players also have neutral plants they want to put into play, but when counting majorities neutral is its own color. Even trickier, you ignore colors tied for the majority, the points then go to the runner-up. Easy enough to learn, but those majorities will make playing well an exciting headache.
Spirits of the Forest by ThunderGryph Games is mechanically simple, but a lot of fun to play because your decisions count. Every turn you take one or two forest spirit cards from either end of the forest with the goal to have majorities in different kinds of spirits and in different power sources. Which spirits you make available for the other players by taking the cards you do is just as important as your own chosen cards. Now the Moonlight expansion will add another level of interest to the game. It includes scenario-based cooperative/solo mode where you play on different forest layouts instead of the traditional four rows of equal length. The same layouts also work for a new competitive game variant that is a little more complex than classic mode, but not inordinately so. Spirits of the Forest: Moonlight is not a more-of-the-same expansion but really brings new ideas to an already great game.
So many games deal with serious themes, sometimes it’s nice to have a game that is carefree and fun. A game like Leder Games’s Fort, where a bunch of kids collect toys and pizza and build the most awesome fort with their friends. Fort is a deck-building game with two twists. One, cards have suits, and when you can match the suite of another player’s card you can follow their action on their turn. Two, other players can steal cards that you had in your hand but didn’t play. The cards represent your kid friends, so that’s basically other kids stealing your friends that you didn’t want to spend time with. Fort has a light theme, but clever mechanisms and an absolutely adorable visual style.
I’m mostly happy with boardgames that remain flat on the table, but there is something to be said for games that conquer the third dimension. They look impressive. WizKids’s Meeple Towers is all about that third dimension. Using your action cards you send worker meeples to the construction site, where they build supports, on which you rest the next floor of the tower. Points go to everyone who contributed supports to this new floor. You earn extra points at the end of the game for having your meeples on high floors. A fun, quick game, and you end up with a fancy high-rise condo every time.
This week’s featured photo was taken in the courtyard of the Hospital of the Knights in Rhodes, Greece. This great photo was taken and kindly shared by David Spender. Thanks a lot for sharing, David! (Hospital of the Knights, Rhodes, David Spender, CC-BY, cropped and resized)