Meople News: Journeying the Shadow Roads

ThunderGryph Games

It’s not only about having workers, it’s about having workers qualified to do the job, and about helping those not yet qualified to get there. That still seems to be a difficult concept for many modern management types, and that will make playing Darwin’s Journey against those guys a lot more entertaining. Worker qualification is a big deal in this new worker placement game by Simone Luciani and Nestore Mangone. As you recreate Darwin’s famous journey where he came up with the theory of evolution by natural selection, you send workers to explore the islands, collect specimen, handle your correspondence and so on, and for all those actions they need the right seals of qualification, to be acquired at the academy. This system will make your workers into real individuals, and the decision how to train each of them will have a lot of impact on your options later in the game. Bundling your qualifications in certain ways may mean that you can’t take two actions on the same round because they’d need the same worker, for example. And that’s only the first bit of complexity in Darwin’s Journey. You’ll also unlock new actions that all players can then use, but you’ll earn money for them. You’ll get bonuses for emptying stacks of stamps on your player boards. And more. Darwin’s Journey is going to be one of the more complex worker placement games out there.

Alley Cat Games

Tinner’s Trail, a game about developing tin and copper mines in 19th century Cornwall, is one of Martin Wallace’s most popular designs, and that’s out of a pretty impressive list of games. It’s so popular, some people might be skeptical when the new edition by Alley Cat Games says it’s improved. How do you improve a game like that? Well, let’s have a look. Expanding the player count from originally 3-4 to a much friendlier 1-5 is a great start. Two included expansions, one for mining arsenic and the other for sending your workers overseas, what’s not to like? Reduced randomness in the setup by replacing dice rolls with setup tiles should eliminate the occasional game that you could see from the start would be painful. The only thing we’ll really have to wait and see is the improved auction mechanism, but to me having dual-use cards that either give you information before the auction or a bonus after sounds pretty good. Also, this new edition looks significantly nicer than the one I know, so that’s another plus. I call this Kickstarter a great opportunity to get in on a returning classic.

Renegade Game Studios / Garphill Games

I’m German, so historically speaking I’ve had some bad experiences with building walls. There are historic walls that worked, though, and one of them is Hadrian’s Wall, stretching eighty miles across England, from coast to coast, to keep the bothersome Picts out of the Roman Empire. And it worked for quite a while, until the whole empire collapsed. The collapse is not the players’ problem in Bobby Hill’s Hadrian’s Wall, they’ll be busy building one of the wall’s milecastles. To do that they’ll fill in a pretty big sheet of activities in this flip-a-card-and-write game. They’ll build the fort, the wall, attract different types of citizenry, visit various buildings, defend against the Picts and score points on four different tracks. It may be the most complex sheet I’ve seen in a do-X-and-write game, and that translates directly into strategic options.

Pandasaurus Games

Umbra Via
(Pandasaurus Games)

To walk the shadow road sounds sinister and mysterious. To build it, even more so. So at first glance it might be disappointing that Umbra Via, the first game by Connor Wake, is a tile placement and auction game, both not genres known for their mystery. Looking closer, though, disappointment quickly goes away because Umbra Via is anything but standard fare. Where other tile placement games reward you for building long roads, your goal in Umbra Via is to finish them quickly. When you buy a tile in an auction, the currency – flowers – bid on it stays on the tile as you place it on the board. When a road is completed, which can be achieved by blocking it off with a non-matching tile, the player with the most flowers on it receives the most soul flowers, and having those is how you win. Ideally, you want to bid high, make short roads and get those precious soul flowers. Shame that everyone else wants the same. It’s a rare thing, breaking new ground with tile placement game to build roads, but Umbra Via has some fun twists we haven’t seen before.

Czacha Games

In H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, it’s usually bad enough to have one sect of crazy cultists trying to summon their preferred worldender. Having a couple of those cults active at once? That might actually work out better for everyone when they get busy fighting each other. In Czacha Games’ Call of Madness, you’ll lead one of those cults, and you’ll be damned if you let anyone else end the world before you can. Okay, you’ll be damned either way, but you know what I mean. The interesting bit is how you fight the other cults, because showing up with all your cult, and some torches and pitchforks, that just lacks style. Seriously, who would do that. The accepted way is to summon your god’s minions to do your bidding, and ideally they’ll drive some of those investigators threatening the cults crazy so they’ll set opposing cults on fire. Call of Madness is an aggressive game with lots of negative interaction – but lets face it, literally watching an opposing cult burn to the ground is so satisfying.

Stronghold Games / FryxGames

This is going to be the shortest news item this week, because this is all the Kickstarter preview says:

Ares Expedition – The Terraforming Mars Card Game

A new, stand-alone, game inspired by Terraforming Mars featuring faster gameplay & over 200 beautifully illustrated cards!

Okay, that’s all I needed to hear to be excited, too.

Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition, FryxGames / Stronghold Games, 2021
Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition
(FryxGames / Stronghold Games)

Farside Games

The world of Orbis is trapped in a cycle of destruction and re-creation, brought about by a war against the archdemons. Now, in the world’s seventh incarnation, a group of heroes steps in to stop this cycle. That’s the story of mobile game Epic Seven, and now it’s going to be the story of coop boardgame Epic Seven Arise, currently crushing it on Kickstarter. It’s a dungeon crawler / monster brawler style game, and while the Kickstarter page puts more focus on the pretty minis than on game systems – an unfortunate tradition for this genre – what we do see of the game is promising. The idea I like the most is that relationships between player characters has a game impact, making powerful Dual Attacks cheaper the stronger the characters’ bond is. It’s mechanically interesting, and it fits in well with the game’s anime style. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of Epic Seven before this, mobile games are not really my jam, but Epic Seven Arise seems like a very solid representative of its genre.

Unexpected Games

The Initiative
(Unexpected Games)

The first game by Corey Konieczka (Rune Age, Gears of War, Discover: Lands Unknown,…) with his new studio Unexpected Games is an interesting mix. The Initiative takes code breaking and puzzle solving like you’d have in an escape room in a box, shuffles it up with a more traditional game of moving around a board to collect clues, and wraps all that in a story campaign told page by page in a comic book. It’s a fun mix, and it tells an exciting, slightly meta story. A group of teenagers discover a game at a yard sale that turns out to be somehow connected to their lives, and the story is told through you playing a game. My kind of thing. Now the only question is, do I get this game new from somewhere, or do I wait for it to show up at a yard sale somewhere to make the whole experience even more meta?

This week’s featured photo shows the Saline Royale, the royal saltworks at Arc-et-Senans, France. The photo was taken and kindly shared by Flickr user LaurPhil. Thanks a lot for sharing! (Arc et Senans, saline royale, LaurPhil, CC-BY, cropped and resized)

Leave a Reply