L.a.m.a.

Lama is the German word for llama. No big conceptual leap there. L.a.m.a. is, at least in Reiner Knizia’s vocabulary, an abbreviation for “lege alle Minuspunkte ab”. Discard all minus points. You could translate the title by its abbreviation, but then an eventual English edition would be called D.a.m.p., and whatever depiction you pick for that would be much less adorable than the crazy llama L.a.m.a. has. And so the international publishers have stuck with the adorable tylopod.
Linguistics lesson aside, L.a.m.a. is a small box card game that is nominated for the Spiel des Jahres this year. Not at all bad for a relatively simple shedding game and worth a look what makes it special.

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Belratti

I admit, there are wide ranges of modern art I don’t get. If you put a piece of butter in a corner you shouldn’t complain when the cleaners remove it. And if you want to pass a picture of a trumpet as a masterpiece, at least write Ceci n’est pas une trompette below it. I don’t want to belittle the choice of artwork in Belratti, but if your paintings are realistic depictions of everyday objects then you don’t get to complain about forgeries.

Art forgery is what Belratti by Michael Loth, winner of the Hippodice Game Contest, is about. The players in the cooperative party game are painters and curators. Curators ask for paintings to be made, the painters provide them. The famous forger Belratti smuggles his own works into the selection, and it’s on the curators to unmask his dastardly works.

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Flee

As a reviewer, games where you discover new content and new rules while you play are frustrating. On the one hand, they are awful. How do you review a game with a Legacy or Fast Forward mechanism without giving away all the good bits? On the other hand, they are great, simply because discovering new things while you play works that fingerboard that is our brain’s reward mechanism so well. Or, in plain English, they’re one hell of a lot of fun. And we love to talk about fun games. So be warned, ahead you will find very mild spoilers for the first few rounds of Friedemann Friese’s Flee.

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DIG

Anything worth doing is worth doing as a contest. Running? Sure. Jumping? Certainly. Rolling dice? Well, duh.Throwing typewriters? It’s been done. Digging? I’m not sure if it’s been done before, but now there’s DIG, so you can do it in the comfort of your own home. It should have been obvious that there would be an annual digging contest somewhere in the multiverse. This one is only for the bravest of adventurers. The Hill has treasures aplenty, but it also has monsters, cave-ins, and your competitors.

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Fortress

With last year’s Fabled Fruit Friedemann Friese developed an alternative to the Legacy system for games that keep changing every time to play. It’s lighter than a Legacy game, you don’t have to rip up any components or glue stickers to them, and you can completely reset the game by sorting a stack of cards. Yet you still get a game that will keep you busy for quite a while before you discovered everything it has to offer. A game that keeps surprising you, at least the first time you play all the way through.

Fabled Fruit was successful enough – and Friedemann had enough fun making it – to spawn a series of games with the same system, now dubbed the Fast Forward system: Fear, Fortress and Flee. In fact, the Fast Forward games even go one step further than Fabled Fruit did: they don’t give you any rules to read before you start playing. All you do is put the big stack of cards on the table and start drawing cards. When you get to a card with rules you read it out loud and put it on the table for everyone to see. The rules on that card are in effect from that moment on.

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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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The Grizzled

The Grizzled

Boardgames don’t really have an equivalent to literature. We gamers don’t usually consider the categories of literary fiction versus genre fiction, we think about light games and heavy games instead, or about different game mechanics. But by most criteria, the vast majority of games are more like genre fiction: advancing linearly, focused on a big payoff at the end, and made to entertain, not to invite reflection on their subject.

What you might call literary games are not entirely unheard of, though. One fine example is The Grizzled by Fabien Riffaud and Juan Rodriguez, a cooperative game set in World War One. The setting in itself is not what sets The Grizzled apart, though. Plenty of games are set in the two big wars. But in this one you don’t move tanks across a map, you don’t heroically storm beaches, and you don’t go home to live happily ever after, even if you win.

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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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