Elf Creek Games
As if saving the people of Atlantis wasn’t tricky enough already! Your goal in Atlantis Rising is to cooperatively build a cosmic gate to help the Atlanteans escape. Build a cosmic gate, that sounds tricky, right? Well, it’s about to get much trickier. Atlantis Rising: Monstrosities, an expansion to the second edition of Atlantis Rising, puts Harpies and the Medusa in your path. How are you going to deal with that, on top of your other problems? Fortunately, you’ll have some so-called monstrosities on your side as well, with allies like the Centaurs. They’ll help, but even so Atlantis Rising will be more tense than ever before.
Terraforming a planet is sort of a big project. If you want to start with something more manageable, then Terraforming Mars designer Jacob Fryxelius also designed Space Station, where you build just what it says on the box. Space Station is now coming back as Star Scrappers: Orbital by Hexy Games and international partners, including FryxGames for the Swedish edition. Star Scrappers: Orbital is a worker placement / engine building game with a strong spatial component: the engine you build is your space station, built from cards that only fit together in certain ways and may not overlap. You can activate your station’s modules with your workers for many different effects, including some to attack your opponents. While those latter ones exist, they are specifically options, you can play and win without those offensive skills. In the new implementation as Star Scrappers: Orbital, all this is set in the space western universe shared by other Star Scrappers games.
“Queen Victoria disappeared. Armed with a sword, two axes, throwing knives, and a pistol, she jumped out of the Buckingham’s Palace window, straight into the darkness of the night. The rumours say that the queen was bored and decided to conquer a new colony – Hell itself.” I don’t usually just quote the description from Kickstarter, but this one is simply too perfect not to quote. Players in Penny Dreadfun are dropped into this Victorian London where the queen has gone missing and hellhounds roam the streets at night. This is the world our cast of heroes has to explore and defend. Penny Dreadfun is essentially a deck-building game. Heroes start with mostly identical decks, plus two individual cards and a personal quest, and use their cards to move through London, fight monsters, and acquire new cards to get better at those other things. There’s a scenario-based campaign mode that sounds semi-cooperative – you work together to win, but also want the most victory points – a competitive open-world mode and a fully cooperative boss battle mode, all in a very imaginative setting and with beautiful illustrations. Oh, and on the Kickstarter you get an RPG in the same setting, which is pretty awesome in itself.
Indie Boards & Cards
At the first glance, Crack the Code sounds a little like new variant of code-breaking game Mastermind. The name, the colored marbles. I’m glad I took that second glance, because it has nothing at all to do with Mastermind. Crack the Code is a cooperative, limited communication game. All players have some of those marbles, and they have a goal card which colors of marbles they need in which arrangement. However, they can’t see their own marbles and have to rely on the other players to set their code right. To manipulate the marbles the players use instruction cards that let them do things like pick up one of their marbles and put them at either end of another player’s code sequence. The available instruction cards change every round, and not knowing which marbles you have to start with makes things extra tricky. We can’t tell yet how you’ll be able to communicate, or if at all, and we don’t know what the scenarios in the scenario book will do exactly – but that last bit sure sounds exciting. I’m getting a strong Hanabi vibe from Crack the Code, but mechanically it’s a very different game. Figuring out how to play effectively will be a fun, new challenge.
Red Raven Games
The latest Kickstarter by Red Raven Games is, untypical for Red Raven, a brawler. Players in Rift Knights split into two teams. The knights, guardians of an ancient monastery, must protect their elders while they close a portal to the underworld. The demons, a vanguard that already came through the portal, want to kill the elders and bust the portal all the way open. Up to six players pick from the eighteen characters, each with their own special ability, and go to battle. They control the action with cards that can be used in three different ways. Manage your hand carefully and you’ll be able to turn the game in your favor when it counts.
Renegade Game Studios
The adorable Tea Dragon Society returns in their second deck-building game. Autumn Harvest is designed to mix with the original The Tea Dragon Society Card Game, so it works the same as that game, too. You build your deck over four seasons and win by having the most points at the end. On your turn, you either draw a card from your deck, triggering its effect, or you buy a new card to improve your deck. That’s it. Autumn Harvest and The Tea Dragon Society Card Game are the lightest kind of deck-building game I can think of, and together with its adorable setting and art and its quick play time it fills that niche perfectly.
Do you ever feel like half the things you do in games involve building railway tracks?`Well, a game can still be interesting, and The Transcontinental sure looks promising in that regard. The goal is to build a railway all the way through the Canadian wilderness, from coast to coast. The players all work together on the same tracks, but this is anything but a cooperative game. Only the player contributing the most wins. The Trancontinental is a worker placement game, even if you place telegrams instead of workers, but with some very interesting details. After placing telegrams, actions are taken in a fixed order, following the train tracks, and then each space is activated again as the train returns. Each action space activates two adjacent tiles, and as the game progresses and the tracks advance you will unlock more actions to choose from. On top of that there’s a big element of resource management as you load resources that you need to develop action spaces and to advance the railhead ever westwards. The Transcontinental really makes building rails fun again.
7 Wonders Duel has a second expansion, and Agora is quite a whopper. It’ll let you get into politics with the new Senate board. New cards let you buy Senators and send them to one of the six senate chambers where majorities grant really nice bonuses. Controlling more than half of the senate chambers is also another way to immediate victory. Since not all in politics is done above the table, the second new kind of card are Conspiracies. Once you’ve used a card to prepare a Conspiracy you can use it on your next turn and unleash it’s powerful one-time effect. Agora is a fun, strategic expansion to 7 Wonders Duel, but it does add some complexity and an element that is partially outside the cards with the Senate and its majorities. For some of you, something else to pay attention to is probably just what you wanted to add to your 7 Wonders Duel games, but if you’re more of a purist then Agora might change the beautifully simple 7 Wonders Duel formula too much.
Artipia Games’ The Pursuit of Happiness has remained popular ever since its first Kickstarter in 2015. With worker placement and resource management you take your in-game avatar from the cradle to the grave, taking jobs and hobbies along the way, pursuing projects and relationships, and try to be the happiest when you get to the end. Two big expansions and a number of smaller ones add all sorts of things that can add to your happiness or distract you from the things that make you truly happy. Now all of that is back on Kickstarter. The Pursuit of Happiness Big Box holds it all, in one big box with a handy inlay to keep things sorted, and if you don’t own The Pursuit of Happiness yet you can buy the Big Box filled. Also included is the new Nostalgia expansion, a box full of childhood memories that you’ll pursue throughout your life. I’m just happy that they didn’t make a Twenty-Twenty expansion that would basically be “all players miss a turn.”
Adam’s Apple Games
Bear with me for a moment. This one’s a bit weird, but I think it’s worth the time. In Four Humours you place tokens of yellow bile, blood, black bile, and phlegm (the four humours of medieval medicine) on location cards, and when the card gets resolved tokens of the winning humour go to that location on the map where they can fulfill objectives for their owners. However, the winning humour is not decided by simple majority but by a more intricate algorithm. Yellow bile wins as long as its alone. Blood wins if there’s two or more. Black bile wins if there are exactly two of them, but if there’s only one it can withdraw to an adjacent location. Only if none of those happen all the phlegms win. It sounds complicated, but it’s simple enough to figure out for each card while at the same time keeping the outcome impossible to guess until the tokens are revealed. Spots on the location cards can only take two of the four humours, but that still leaves you guessing if that token someone else just played is supporting or opposing yours. It’s a fun dilemma in a weird game with even weirder art, and it sounds wonderful.
There are many dungeon crawling games out there, but few as rich and with as many interlocking elements to guarantee replayability as Bardsung. The dungeons are generated randomly, not only in layout but also with environment effects and other random events you might encounter along the way. Some of those random events will even affect the entire story of your campaign with secret cards you shuffle into your campaign deck. Monsters you encounter inside the dungeon will be controlled by a simple “AI” using cards with prioritized behaviors, but they go beyond that, too. Monsters evolve, level up, change their behavior, they may even hold grudges against heroes, and combat events will change exactly what you’re facing, too. On the hero side, your heroes have different starting roles, but the classless system lets you develop all heroes in any way you choose. A cubic meter of high-detail minis are pretty much mandatory for this kind of game, so of course they are there, too. Looking past the components, though, this is the first dungeon crawler in a while that I’m itching to try.
This week’s featured photo shows Nesvizh Castle, one of Radziwill family’s residences in Belarus. The Radziwills are not well known in Western Europe, but the family was hugely influential in Eastern Europe from the 17th century forward. Nesvizh Castle was one of twenty-three palaces they owned. The photo was taken and kindly shared by Alexxx Malev. Thanks a lot for sharing, Alexxx! (Nesvizh Castle 2, Alexxx Malev, CC-BY-SA, cropped and resized)