Project L by Boardcubator is a fun mix of mechanisms. It’s a puzzle game with similarities to Ubungo where you’re trying to create a given shape using Tetris-like pieces. At the same time, it’s an engine building game. Every puzzle you solve rewards you not only points but also a new piece to build your solutions, allowing you to solve more complex tasks and more tasks in parallel. The original Kickstarter ran in 2018, but now there’s more. The new Kickstarter not only has a reprint of Project L with revised rules, it also includes the Finesse and Ghost Piece expansions. The first one gives you side quests, basically, the rewards from which you can later exchange for extra actions on your turn. The second has some new pieces, and new puzzles with their own, new rewards. Two fun, tactical additions to an already excellent game, and let’s not forget that all of it still looks amazing, too.
New Mill Industries
If you’re looking for a new asymmetric game for two players, have a look at The Science and Séance Society. It doesn’t get more asymmetric than that, the only thing the two players share is the goal. They are both members of the eponymous society, and they both want to banish a particularly bothersome piece of chaos back to the void whence it was summoned, only that one of them wants to use science, the other occultism. The science player rolls dice to activate their cards. Once a card has all three dice spaces filled its special ability becomes available to manipulate future dice and speed up progress. When all cards are active, science wins. Séance has a display of five cards they have to juggle into the right order and orientation. Each card has two special abilities to activate, but only the one currently pointing the right way is usable. The players can also spend dice or cards to put up an obstacle for the other player. Normally, just putting stones in the other players way is not my style of interaction. However, running out of dice or cards makes you lose the game, so you have a strong incentive not to spend them frivolously. Messing with your opponent is expensive enough to be a strategic choice, not a simple take-that, so it works for me. The Science and Séance Society comes together as a quick mix of luck and strategy both players will have fun with.
It’s one of the classic tales, a group of young people somehow ends up in a sinister fairyland and must escape back home. That’s your fate in Lost Ones, the latest Kickstarter by Greenbrier Games. Lost Ones is a story exploration game. As you explore the world tile by tile, you have story encounters with different outcomes based on your decisions and your characters’ abilities. If one of you makes it to the Hollows Tree, all of you can go home. While the world you explore is not random, you won’t explore all of it in one game, and beyond escaping the fey lands there are different endings you can discover for your characters. It’s hard to say how often you can play and still discover new things, but according to designer Gordon Alford there are more than a dozen different story endings, so it’s safe to say Lost Ones will keep you busy for a good while and look very pretty while doing so.
Spielworxx / Stronghold Games
Cargo ports are some of the busiest places in the world, with not a moment of calm at any time. Even though the port of New Orleans is not quite among the world’s largest, it’s plenty busy. It’ll give you more than enough to do in Crescent City Cargo. All you really have to do is use your workers to get cargo from your warehouse onto your trucks and from there either on a ship, on a train, or into a shipping container. Where you deliver your cargo gives you different rewards, you’ll have to give your workers time to rest lest their morale drops too low, and your trucks are pretty small to start with. You can buy more and bigger trucks, but that’s only one upgrade path. Moving on the admin tracks makes your standard actions more powerful, while building offices gives you entirely new options. Technically, all you do in Crescent City Cargo is move commodities around the port, but there are more than enough different options to optimize your process to make it exciting.
Grey Fox Games / Cosmic Wombat Games
The US election is just around the corner, and since the outcome will inevitably affect the whole world, the topic is hard to avoid no matter where you live. Consequently, a bunch of games have cropped up making mostly unfunny fun of one side or the other, with a wide range of quality. Now, I have a strong opinion on the madhouse that is US politics, but I really don’t enjoy those games. I don’t even enjoy seeing them. What I do enjoy, and I enjoy the hell out of it, is Campaign Trail, a game that simulates a US election campaign but doesn’t go into specific issues or people at all, a tight and tense strategy game of resource management and multi-purpose action cards. It is also back on Kickstarter with a second edition and with the The Green Party expansion that puts a fourth party on the board and adds a couple of expansion modules. If I have to spend mental capacity on US elections, Campaign Trail is probably the only fun way to do so.
Whimsical is the best word I can come up with for Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden, a game inspired by the vegetable illustrations in a Victorian seed catalog. Mr. Cabbagehead, the hero of our story, only wants to have a nice, tidy garden that might wins his Gardening Club’s special awards. But every time Mr. Cabbagehead goes on holiday, one of his busybody neighbors will show up and rearrange the garden according to their own sense of aesthetics. At least you’ll have some idea who the neighbor to put their nose into your garden will be and plan accordingly. Mr. Carrotbody will take the highest-numbered vegetable adjacent to a carrot, Callahan o’Corncob will take whichever vegetable is the only one of its kind, and so forth. The default mode for Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden is solo play, but rules to play in two players are included.
Agricola, besides being a great expert game, has a clever approach to expansions. The game is big, but its expansions come as simple decks of cards that replace the base game’s cards. Soon we’ll see the fourth such expansion for the revised edition of Agricola: the Dulcinaria Deck or D-Deck. Now we just have to wait and see how sweet this expansion will be.
Speaking of expert games that expand with a simple set of cards, Nusfjord does the same thing. After the Plaice Deck, the Salmon Deck offers another set of advanced building cards of Nusfjord.
Of Uwe Rosenberg’s popular two-player games, Patchwork is probably the most popular with its relatively light rules and its time-based turn order that inspired a chain of other games. In time for this year’s SPIEL – next weekend – there will be not one but three new editions of Patchwork. They all stick with the original rules but change the looks. The Christmas-themed Patchwork Winter Edition is pretty cool, but I adore the idea of Patchwork Folklore. This series of games will present the classic Patchwork with patterns from the home countries of Lookout’s partner companies. The two we know about for now are the very pretty Patchwork Folklore Taiwan and Patchwork Folklore China, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if more games would join these two.
Somewhere between an escape room, a choose-your-own-adventure book, and a point-and-click adventure lies Cantaloop, a single player experience by Friedemann Findeisen and Lookout Games. In this interactive adventure book you take the role of small-time criminal Hook Carpenter, newly returned from exile and eager for payback against the man who betrayed him. It’s sort of adjacent to the escape-room-in-a-box genre, but not the same. Depending how popular this is, I could see it turning into a series.
Uwe Rosenberg creates great lighter games like Patchwork and Indian Summer, but what I really love are his heavy games. For me, and all other fans of this side of Uwe, there’ll be Hallertau this year. Hallertau has a claim to be the first region in Central Europe where hops was cultivated, as early as the 8th century, and is still the largest continuous hops growing region in the world. Why all that hops? It’s Germany, for beer, of course. In Hallertau, the game, you’ll build your personal hops empire using worker placement and a crop rotation mechanism. With those two things together, I guess timing will be of utmost importance.
The people most qualified to solve a murder case often have some trouble communicating clearly who the killer is. No one listens to the victim’s ghost. Well, almost no one. The players in Mysterium did pretty well solving the case with just the victim’s vague visions to go on. Now we’ll get another chance to solve a crime by associating beautiful vision cards from the ghost player with suspects and murder weapons. Mysterium Park, as far as I can tell, doesn’t make any significant changes to the Mysterium formula, but it brings all new beautiful art in a fun fair setting. If there’s one thing spookier than a dusty old mansion, its a fun fair.
You think gods don’t have problems? That might be true in a monotheistic system, but throw more gods into the mix and things get complicated. Take Veiled Fate, for instance. You’re a god, and all you want is for your demigod child to ascend to the throne of the world, but if you give away which demigod is your progeny the other gods will make sure that never happens. You have to spread your favor almost evenly between all the demigods, only giving your offspring the tiniest bit of extra help. The basic idea of having to hide which game piece belongs to you has been around since Under Cover (also known as Heimlich & Co or Detectice & Co), but Veiled Fate builds a bigger game around the idea. Beyond moving the demigods, players also influence quest outcomes with cards and control the game with their divine powers. Other things are beyond even the gods’ control, and events from city and age cards will keep everyone scrambling to keep up. Basically, if you loved Under Cover but grew out of it, then you’ll love growing into Veiled Fate.
This week’s featured photo shows the view down the nave of Fountains Abbey Church in Studley Royal Park, United KIngdom. The photo was taken by Spencer Means. Thanks a lot for sharing, Spencer! (The nave looking east, Fountains Abbey Church, North Yorkshire, Spencer Means, CC-BY-SA, resized and cropped)