How many different faces are there, really? You get men or women, young or old, blond or brunette, dark-skinned or light, wearing a hat or not – if you want to get really exotic you might consider cat faces, wolf faces, green faces, blue faces. So let’s say there are like, thirty different faces in the world. That seems a lot already. And then let’s say there are that many again, because there are two sets of Similo cards: History and Fables.
How are you supposed to find one specific face out of all of those, when the one person who knows who you’re looking for can only give cryptic clues? Why, by deduction, of course!
The moon has a lot of influence over things down here. It controls the tides. It affects people’s feelings. It grows people’s teeth and body hair – at least that’s what Ted Alspach would tell you. Now that floating piece of rock will even decide which tiles we’re about to pick in a game.
Okay, not really. Even the Nova Luna rulebook doesn’t go to much effort to explain the game’s lunar theme. Nova Luna is an abstract tile placement game, the moon is just there for the graphic design. Which is fine, I like abstract games and I like pretty games, so the combination is a win for me.
Generally, it’s a great day for any gamer parent when the offspring say “I want to play this one!” Problems arise when “this one” is a game like Scythe, where the rules might just be a bit too much for an elementary school kid and you really want to keep them ignorant of the whole giant war robot thing until they come stomping by the house a year or two down the line. But little Suzy and Timmy are really insistent.
Well, that problem was tidily solved by Hoby and Vienna Chou. My Little Scythe has all the essentials of big Scythe, but trimmed down to a level of complexity that is perfect to play with the wee ones. That isn’t to say My Little Scythe is simplistic or even boring, but being able to explain a game in ten minutes or less is generally a good thing for a family game.
The setting is also more family suitable. Instead of the alternate history 1920 steampunk socialism My Little Scythe takes place in the beautiful Kingdom of Pomme, where animals from the six other kingdoms compete in a friendly tournament to find who will be King or Queen of Pomme for the next year.
You’ve probably seen photos of the crazy highways of Tokyo, with loops of the Shuto Expressway criss-crossing with on-ramps, off-ramps, sideways-ramps and itself in multiple levels. (Not going through any buildings, though. The Gate Tower Building is in Osaka.) The Expressway turned out that way, at least in parts, because of the 1964 Olympic Games. The first bit of Shuto Expressway was opened in 1962, and for the Olympic Games Tokyo wanted to present an efficient, modern transport system. Building this way was the cheap and quick way to have the Expressway connect much of the city.
It’s obvious that there’s a game hidden in that story. Many designers could have done it, had they thought of it. Resource management, worker placement, a tight time limit, contract cards to connect certain neighborhoods… . But many designers didn’t think of it. Naotaka Shimamoto and Yoshiaki Tomioka did, and they made a very different game called Tokyo Highway.
Gigawatts of power roar to life right behind you seat. There is no space for luxury in your spacecraft. This thing wasn’t built for comfort, it was built to win the fastest and longest race in human history. Longest in distance covered, that is. The time of a Powerships race is about half an hour. The distance covered is the whole solar system. Sometimes twice. Where we’re going we don’t need the laws of physics.
Powerships is a racing game by Corné van Moorsel and a remake of his own Powerboats. There are no bells or whistles to it. You set out the course and up to seven players put their interplanetary pedal to the metal. First to the finish line wins.
The night is moonless and cloudy, entirely dark except for a faint, multi-hued glow from the wizards tower. The night is also silent, except for the almost inaudible, metallic noise of thieves screwing pitons into ancient masonry. Wait! Thieves? Why, yes. That would be you.
The two to five players in 10 Minute Heist: The Wizard’s Tower are thieves breaking into the tower of wizard Alazar, collector and protector of rare and dangerous magical items. But that old sorcerer has vanished and for once has gone away. A perfect opportunity.
Welcome to the jungle we’ve got fun and games. It’s a little known fact that Guns N’ Roses recorded this song in just one take, with no written music or lyrics, after trying an early prototype of Reiner Knizia’s The Quest for El Dorado. Yeah, those guys are gamers, too.
The Quest for El Dorado packs everything the lyrics promise. There’s quite a lot of jungle, because that’s where the fabled city of El Dorado happens to be. And there’s a lot of fun and games for the whole family, because El Dorado is a family deck building game with enough fun in the box to earn a nomination for the 2017 Spiel des Jahres.
In the Year of our Hare 1492 Bunstoph Columbun, an acute listener even among bunnies, heard sounds of life from the other side of the Atbuntic Ocean. A New World thus discovered, the rush for colonizing it began. Up to four Rabbit Lords go to make this new world theirs in the name of the great Bunny King. The most successful of them will earn the coveted title of Big Ears plus all the golden carrots their ships can carry.
Bunny Kingdom is a card drafting and area control game by the illustrious Richard Garfield, inventor of such things as Magic: The Gathering and Robo Rally. This new game has a deceptively cute theme and design, but don’t let that fool you. The contest for the new world is fought with all the cunning a bunny can muster.
Dragon Castle is a game based on Mahjong Solitaire. It takes the basics of the classic game and builds around it until we get a modern, Euro-style game that can have up to four players.
I thought I’d seen every possible way to use cards. Keep them in your hand. Put them on the table. Facing you. Facing everyone else at the table. Turning them every which way to change what they do. And then along comes Luxor, a Spiel des Jahres nominee by Rüdiger Dorn, with a way to use cards that is all new, and yet super simple.
There isn’t much of a story to Luxor. Each player controls a group of adventurers as they make their way through the legendary temple of Luxor to the pharaoh’s burial chamber. It’s not so much what you’re doing or why that makes Luxor interesting. It’s the how.