Dale Yu: Essen Preview Part 4

This series of blog entries is really just a list of things that I’m looking forward to at this year’s SPIEL fair in Essen (and some of the other things I’m hearing along the way).  The previous parts of my Essen Preview can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Good news – the best and biggest resource for the SPIEL has finally come online – Boardgamegeek / Boardgame News has started up their official Essen preview.  The format this year is a bit different, as it is taking the shape of a Geeklist – and while there won’t be a printable version of the preview nor personalized wishlists from the Preview – it’s still the best one-stop shop for finding out info about the new games.  Essentially, the Geeklist will give a minimum amount of information about the game, and if that snippet interests you, you can then click on the link to go to that game’s page on BGG and see everything there is about it…

A few people have asked me if this Preview series here is a duplication of efforts – and I’d have to say that I don’t think so… The Preview pieces here are really just a list of the games and companies that have hit my personal radar.  The games that I write about here are the ones that I’m interested in… I’m guessing that I’ll only touch upon 5 to 10% of the total list of games found on the BGN preview.  This preview is not meant to be comprehensive.  Also, as I still help out at BGG/BGN, any “news” that I find out will be communicated to Eric Martin for use on the BGG geeklist.

OK – onto the next set of games that I’m interested in:

1) Stronghold Games

They should be there this year with a new booth location (rumor has it they will be a new tenant of Hall 12) and three really new games and one sort of new game.  Initially, Stronghold games made their mark in the industry by focusing on quality reprints of games already known to gamers.  While there are two reprints in their SPIEL crop for 2011, there are also two new game designs being done by Stronghold – which possibly marks a change in the focus of the company.

Panic Station is a paranoia-driven, exploration game.  Think BSG in 40 minutes or so.  The players are all sent to investigate a reactor where some mysterious things have been occurring. Each player controls one Human and one Android character.  At the start of the game, everyone is considered Human and is playing on the same team.  After some initial searches, however, someone will become “The Host” (and no one will know who).  The job of the Host is to infect all the others players.  The job of the Humans is to destroy The Hive room and avoid being infected.  A very tense, psychological game, where you don’t know who is on your side or not.

Outpost: this is the reprint in the bunch…  The original version of Outpost was a “sneeze game” (i.e. you sneeze and those paper chits go flying), and at least for me, was replaced by Scepter von Zavandor — which added a sci-fi theme but kept most of the mechanics the same. It appears that this new version has been given the usual Stronghold treatment to components: “Great functional cards, easy to read colors (those last ones were hideous), Player mats to track VPs, Hand and Colony Limit, and includes an EXPANSION by Tom Lehmann”.  The game also now supports up to 9 players (with enough components for that!), and the previously-unpublished “Expert Rules” in the game (which are not so much “Expert” as they are rebalanced) – are the only rules in the Stronghold version.  This is being printed in GERMANY, and should be available at SPIEL.

Core Worlds:  This is a strategic deck-building game, with the additions of resource management, action points, and tableau building. A great Andrew Parks’ design, which takes the “hot” mechanic of deck-building, and marries it with several others in bigger, more strategic way.  And the theme perfectly supports the mechanics, as the players compete for unique tactics, fleets, ground troops, and planets, and their way to the Core Worlds of the galaxy.  This is being printed in GERMANY so the cards should have that nice European feel to them….  As with all other deck builders, I’m very anxious to see what this one is like.  I got a small peek at it this July at Origins, but it was with a prototype set.

Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War is the fourth game that Stronghold will have available at the fair.  This one might sound familiar, as advance copies of this have been available through pre-orders and purchases at Origins.  This is another remake, and I have mentioned earlier, the pieces definitely make the game.  Confusion is a two-player deduction game.  Each player tries to to deduce the movement of their own pieces by attempting to move them – and your opponent tells you if you can make that move or not. As you determine how to move your pieces, your goal is to capture the neutral piece, initially located in the center of the board, and deliver it to your opponent’s side of the board.  The resin pieces slide together well and allow you to change the movement patterns of each piece guaranteeing that each game is different!

Examples of the modular pieces in Confusion

1b) Stratus Games

It has just been announced that Stronghold games will also be selling copies of Eruption, the new release from Stratus Games at the SPIEL fair.  Ted Cheatham took a look at an advance copy of the game a few weeks ago…

2) Hasbro

OK, I’m not sure if this is going to be a new Essen release, but it should be available right around that time – there is a new Risk game called RISK: LEGACY.  What is neat (supposedly) about this one is that the game will change based on previous games.  While the details are still hazy at this time, apparently you (and your game group) will permanently change the game – using stickers on the board and on the cards – based on the results of the games you play with that particular game.  Therefore, after a few games, your Risk: Legacy set will be unique from every other set out there.  I honestly don’t know how this will work out in reality – but it’s a interesting thing to think about theoretically right now.

3)  Lautapelit.fi

Eclipse – this one is highly anticipated by a number of gamers as it is trying to fill the promise of a “4x game in less than 3 hours” that many games have tried to achieve in the past, but none (IMHO) have managed to do well.   If you’re not familiar with the term “4X”, it is used to refer to games where players control an empire and “explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate.”

According to the folks at Lautapelit: ” In the core of Eclipse, there are innovative resource management and action selection mechanisms. Even though you explore space and take over new sectors on the common game board, all the production and resource management is done conveniently on your own player board. The upkeep cost of your civilization rises rapidly as you take more actions and the area you control increases. This creates an interesting balancing problem and restrains the exponential growth of the civilizations.

Eclipse is an epic empire building game that even with full player count can be played under three hours. Euro-type game mechanisms offer a smooth gameplay and minimize the downtime. Nevertheless, Eclipse has a lot of details and theme woven seamlessly into the game. For example, you may design your own starships: each player has four ship types that they can build and design as they will. The technology tree also has a new, non-linear system.

Eclipse has seven different species for you to choose from. Each player can either play as Terrans (ie. humans) or one of the unique alien species. Each species has different characteristics and abilities. The modular board and the dynamic technology tree ensure that each session of Eclipse is unique!”

Now, I’m normally not the target market for the 4X genre, but I’ve had a chance to read over the rulebook (which has been posted online), and I will say that I’m intrigued to give it a try and see how it works!  The main reason why I usually shy away from this sort of game is that they just take too fricking long for me, and because my unfamiliarity with the genre often means I play sub-optimally and often get eliminated very early in a six or more hour long game.  Not fun.  However, the promise of a shorter game with the modular board and other things appeals to the Eurogamer in me.

I’m also interested to see the game due to one of the designers, Touko Tahkokallio.  If you hadn’t heard of him before, he was at Essen last year with Aether (Omni Games) which was a neat abstract tile laying game.  He also designed Principato which was released earlier this year, a tactical Euro-style game which uses action cards.  Eclipse is coming at Essen as is Walnut Grove, a game that has been described as a cross between Agricola and Carcassone.  Needless to say, Touko has pretty much covered the gamut of game styles in just two short years!  And I’m curious to see how they work out.  Walnut Grove is also high on my list of games to check out this year (as referenced in Part 1 of my preview)

The technology tree for Eclipse

4) Fragor Games – OK, I can finally talk about their new release.  I had the chance to watch a few games of the prototype at the Gathering of Friends, but was asked not to talk about it.  However, as the official press release has come out from Fragor, I figure that it’s safe to mention it now :)   Copied from their press release:

“Poseidon’s Kingdom”

It features :

  1. A wave which crashes dice onto the board,
  2. Pieces (or THE FANTASTIC ANIMAL CREATURES ARE BACK !),
  3. Possibly some of the worst “fishy” puns imaginable (we put them in for the halibut),
  4. Engaging gameplay for both gamers and non-gamers

Poseidon has lost his treasured trident. Your friends have disappeared while trying to find
it. It turns out they have been captured by evil Hans the Kraken. Suckers ! The Kraken plans to make a nice stew out of them. Can you prise open his tentacles, release your friends and defeat him ? You had better hope so. Oh, its probably not a good time to mention the shark…

So far, just one image has been released.... In usual Fragor style, the pieces are darn cute. Here are the starfish from the game.

The game is strictly limited to 1,000 copies (as those of you without a copy of Antics!
will recall).

  • It is for 2-4 players and lasts 1 hour.
  • The pre-order price will be 45 euros.
  • It will include rules in English and German (with a French translation online).

I’ll be the first to admit that the Fragor releases over the years have been a hit-or-miss affair for me, but the ones that are hits are big hits and have remained in my game collection…  As such, I always want to give the Fragor guys a visit and see what the new game is on offer.  The preorder price for Poseidon’s Kingdom is €45. To preorder a copy, email fragorpreorder@yahoo.co.uk; place “Poseidon’s Kingdom – E” if you plan to pick up the game in Essen, and “Poseidon’s Kingdom – (country)” if you want the game mailed to you.

5) Gameworks

Gameworks has a surprise hit for me last year with Sobek, a clever little card game.  The year prior to that, Jaipur was another fascinating card game published by the company.  This year, there will be two games on offer…

Bonbons! is a short game, rated at 10-20 minutes for 2-6 players.  It appears to be a memory-type game where players are trying to collect candies.  The main mechanic here appears to be memorization of the card locations…  According to Sebastien Pauchon, one of the principals behind Gameworks:  “There is a little twist: you have to find 4 of “your” candies in front of you among the ones in the center. But, you’re also allowed to go steal another player’s candy if you can match it. So it’s still basically a memory, but with some interaction. Very light, and very family-oriented!”  The graphic included below shows the board setup.  It comes in a small candy box measuring 9x9x13 cm.  (So it can sit next to Quarriors on your game shelf?)

The second game from Gameworks this year is another small card game, in a box that matches the size of Jaipur and Sobek.  This is the one I am probably looking forward to more given the success of the previous Gameworks cardgames in the past for me… TSCHAK! is an interesting trick taking game by Dominique Erhard.  Players are adventurers who are exploring a dungeon trying to collect as many treasures as they can while avoiding the monsters that lie in wait.  The catch is that from round to round, the hands of cards are passed around the table so that each player ends up playing with the same hands over the course of the game…  I’m quite intrigued to see how this one will turn out.

Some of the treasure cards from TSCHAK

As usual, the artwork for both Gameworks games is fantastic, and should likely attract a lot of interest from the gamers that walk by…  They should be in Hall 12 in the “French Quarter” area.

6) Days of Wonder

If you recall, Days of Wonder announced a contest a while back asking for submissions for a user-designed Ticket to Ride board.  The winner was to receive $10,000 and have their board published by Days of Wonder.  Earlier this week, a press release came out from Days of Wonder announcing the results of this contest.  The company received 612 entries from 40 different countries.  The quality of submissions was quite high, so good that DoW decided to award the prize to two different contestants!

“A long evaluation process revealed two exceptional contest entries. As a result, the company doubled the prize and selected two Grand Prize winners…  Each winner earned the $10,000 Grand Prize and will see his design in the upcoming volumes of this collection.”  The exciting news for these two board designers, and for Ticket to Ride players around the world is that these boards will be released with a few new things from the game’s designer, Alan R. Moon, as well. Both volumes of the Ticket to Ride Map Collection will feature two different maps on a double-sided board.  Both are essentially expansions and will require trains and train cards from Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe.

Volume 1 – Ticket to Ride Asia, will feature Alan R. Moon’s Team Asia for 4 or 6 players and the Legendary Asia map ushering 2-5 players through challenging Himalayan passes.  François Valentyne from Toronto, Canada, is the designer of the map of Legendary Asia, and his design takes your trains to cities like Hanoi, Astrakhan, Bombay and Shanghai.  The Asian map looks quite interesting, and I am definitely looking forward to learning what the “Team Play” variant means.  I hadn’t heard about the from Alan before, and I will try to learn more.

The Team Asia Map -- note that there are a few passages that have three (!) parallel links

Legendary Asia Map

Volume 2 – Ticket to Ride India, will let 2 to 4 players compete over ‘Grand Tour of India’ bonuses.  This map was designed by Ian Vincent from London, UK, and features a map with a whole bunch of short rail links.  This volume will also bring the 2 to 3 players Ticket to Ride Switzerland map back into print.  I’m glad to hear that the Swiss map will get more exposure, as I’ve always liked this one and feel that it is one of the most competive maps available for TtR.  The novel multi-way tickets also add a different twist to the game.

Volume 1 should be available at SPIEL this October while Volume 2 is slated for December 2011.  Suggested retail price is $30 / 28 EUR.  This is definitely a set of boards that I am looking forward to as the Ticket to Ride franchise will benefit from a breath of fresh air to get it back to the game table again.

7) Hurrican Games

This Swiss company, which is probably best known for Mr. Jack, has a new release coming out soon called Ali Baba.  I have honestly had a hard time tracking down info on this one as the only info available has been on the French language sites, but I’m definitely interested in what I’ve found so far!  The catch is that this may not be ready for Essen 2011…

Apparently, Ali Baba is set in the time of the Arabian Nights, and the players are adventurers who are exploring a dark maze.  Players somehow use their “lamps” to help see the maze and describe the passageways to another player who is responsible for creating the map.  The catch here is that the game is played in real time, so there is definitely pressure to make decisions quickly!

More on this once I bone up on my French translation skills… or until someone gives me more info!

Well, time to get back to “real” work.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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One Response to Dale Yu: Essen Preview Part 4

  1. Daniel says:

    Honestly, I’m shocked that anybody likes Switzerland more than other TTR maps. But that’s prolly because I’m a heavy gamer, thus found the original way too luck-dependant, something that only station in Europe solved brilliantly. Switzerland is a broken game for me because of the tickets: you can easily draw 3-4 tickets for practically the same route: Germany – a city on the Italian border, Germany – Italy, Italy – a city on the German border, and finally one connecting both aforementioned cities. Never bothered you?

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