Great Western Trail

Great Western Trail

Alexander Pfister’s Great Western Trail is a game about making old cowboys sad. When it starts the prairie is still wide open with only a few neutral buildings around. You drive small herds of mangy cattle to Kansas City. And if that cattle goes all the way to Santa Fe on the train then you can say it’s seen the wide world. The more the game progresses, the more buildings will clutter the prairie, the bigger and more expensive the herds get, and the further the cattle will be shipped. What makes the old cowboy sad will be the same thing that makes players happy, because every one of those developments is under the players’ control in their pursuit of victory points.

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Tempel des Schreckens

A mysterious temple in the jungle, untold treasures inside. But it is pretty darn dark inside here, impossible to see anything. We’ll just feel around for the doors and hope we find some treasure. But the sound is weird. I could swear there are more footsteps in here than we brought people in…

That’s the somewhat peculiar premise of Tempel des Schreckens (translated: Temple of Terror), a German version of Yusuke Sato’s social deduction game Don’t Mess with Cthulhu / Timebomb. (There appear to be some minor rules changes, so I’m not going to call it the same game.) A group of adventurers has found a temple in the middle of the jungle and enter it in search for treasure. Inside, unnoticed by all of them, they are joined by a number of temple guardians who want to lure the expedition into the temple’s fire traps. And because everyone is only looking at their smartphone nowadays, no one knows which group any of the others belong to. Guys, we’ve been walking through the jungle together for weeks, but I can’t tell you apart from the women guarding this temple.

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Kingdomino

Kingdomino

Bruno Cathala is one of those game designers who aren’t married to one genre or one game mechanic they keep coming back to. Games with his name on the box include Shadows over Camelot, Cyclades, 7 Wonders: Duel and many more. The only thing they really have in common is that they are great games. That list is now joined by Kingdomino, a kingdom building game using Dominoes-like tiles. It’s a light family game and has nothing in common with any of Bruno’s other games, mechanically speaking. It is nominated for the Spiel des Jahres 2017, usually a good indicator for a great game.

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The Bird Told Me To Do It

The Bird Told Me To Do It

When birds start telling you to do things and it’s not your pet parrot demanding crackers, that’s an indicator you might want to meet with your friendly neighborhood mental health specialist soon. Have your health insurance ready, then, because you’re about to take a whole bunch of orders from avian high command.

The Bird Told Me To Do It is a card laying game by Carl Chudyk (Glory to Rome, Innovation,…) that works on a somewhat smaller scale than his other games. You’re not going to build an empire, you won’t control a civilization from the stone age until they discover nuclear power. All you want to do is to have your birds be the most numerous on the tree. It sounds so simple, right?

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Betrayal at House on the Hill – Widow’s Walk

Betrayal at House on the Hill – Widow’s Walk

When we did the nostalgia piece about Betrayal at House on the Hill last week, there was one thing we didn’t mention: there is an expansion. The 2016 release Widow’s Walk was created after years and years of fans asking for more haunts. An understandable request since playing the same haunts again and again loses its appeal as well as some of its challenge when you know the other side’s secret rules. And so a monumental nine people design team was put together to give us fresh haunts. And that’s exactly what they did.

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Mea Culpa

Mea Culpa

Way too many religions in the world threaten their believers with going to a bad place if they misbehave. Let’s call it Hell. Or maybe Purgatory, if there’s a chance you might leave and go to a good place at some point. Think about that what you will. But in the Middle Ages, one religion went a step further than usual with this belief: the Catholic church offered their believers a way to buy themselves free from eternal punishment. With the purchase of a papal Indulgence, they advertised, your soul will go straight to heaven, all your sins forgiven. And as a side effect, the money will pay for a shiny new basilica in Rome. This practice was not universally popular. It was so unpopular, in fact, that a German priest and theologian rallied against it and caused a schism in the church that was never mended. And that’s why we get Mea Culpa, a game about indulgences, this year, exactly 500 years, after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg.

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World's Fair 1893

World’s Fair 1893

The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago has mostly fallen from general awareness. In its day, however, there was a consensus that this event had a transformational power in America exceeding anything since the American Civil War. Calling the game World’s Fair 1893 transformational might be going a bit far, but it’s in one league with many of the novelties presented at the 1893 World’s Fair.

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Bohemian Villages

Bohemian Villages

Ah, Bohemia, land of the dice, where the fate of whole families hinges on a few rolls of the metaphorical bones. The locals didn’t mention anything about that when we passed through on our vacation, but it’s probably one of those things you don’t discuss with outsiders. Being a village boy myself, I can relate to that. When someone passed through our village, we also didn’t tell him who’s life had been ruined by the dice. But in Bohemia, or at least in Reiner Stockhausen’s Bohemian Villages, the dice have a much more direct influence on the not-quite-meeple-people’s lives. The dice decide what career they can take and sometimes to which village they have to move.

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Floris

Floris

It is the Countess’ flower ball, and you are invited. Since the countess kind of digs flowers (not literally, she had gardeners for that…) – you want to bring her the most beautiful bouquet of flowers and thus get the most sympathy points. But beware – the countess may be a bit greedy for the flowery stuff – but excessiveness is not rewarded. After all it is still Noblesse Oblige!

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