Dale Yu: Essen Preview Part 5

Another week has passed, and that’s been a whole lot of time to read about all the new games.  This week, I’m looking at some of the smaller (or new) publishers that will be at Essen.  For me, this is one of the more exciting parts of the week — to try to find some of the new players on the scene and to try to find that hidden gem that might be missed by others!

Previous Preview posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

1) Ammonit Spiele

Trajan is the newest game from Stefan Feld, and it caught my eye because it is trying to incorporate the Mancala mechanic into a Eurogame.  By distributing colored cubes in the spaces of their personal tableaus, players choose their actions and – if they create the right combination of colors – they can obtain additional advantages. 

A full preview was recently done by W. Eric Martin on BGG.

I’m becoming a bigger and bigger fan of Feld’s games as his more recent games have been my style (Luna, Strasbourg, die Burgen von Burgund).  Ammonit is a new company – run by Rudiger Beyer, and Trajan will be their maiden production.  I have been talking with Herr Beyer who explained that “Trajan is the first and at the moment only project of Ammonit.  The company is founded for the publishing of Trajan, the reason is a friendship between Stefan Feld, Bernd Dietrich and me. After Bernd’s and my time at Queen Games we want to make a game together again.  If I will get game ideas with same high quality, there will be the next game from Ammonit.”  Trajan’s components are language independent and rules will be available in German, English, Dutch, French and Spanish.

2) Black Dove

Murder! Mystery! Mastermind! is the second game from this Singapore based outfit which is really into apostrophes… (Their game last year was Dive! Diver! Die!)   M!M!M! is advertised as a new take on the deduction game.    The twist here is that players have different roles.  Some players are investigators and they are trying to get information in the “usual way” by looking for clues and gathering info from other players.  One player can play as a reporter, and he gets his information by ambushing other players at the same board location as him, and his goal is to piece together the crime before “it goes to trial”.  Finally, one player in the game is the Mastermind – the person who actually committed the crime – and his goal is to confuse the people trying to figure out the details… There’s not a lot of other information available on it right now (as in a rulebook) – but I’m a sucker for deduction games, so i’ll probably end up keeping my eyes open for any more information.

3) Gry Leonardo

One of my favorite games from last year’s SPIEL was Magnum Sal which came from a previously unknown Polish publisher, Gry Leonardo.  Their release this year is entitled Mare Balticum and it is from the same designer, Filip Milunski, as Magnum Sal.

Mare Balticum appears to be a much simpler game than Magnum Sal. In this game, players move their boats to collect different types of fish tokens then bring them to the various ports in the game (which have differing wants for the types of fish) to score points.  The basic game looks to be a light, family-oriented game though there are two sets of advanced rules that will make the game more appropriate for veteran gamers.  One changes the way the demand tokens are placed in the ports and the other gives players specific contract cards that they can try to fill.   I’m not sure if this will end up being too light for my tastes (though that is hard to believe), but it’s definitely worth a look-see.  Rules are available online here…

4) Surprised Stare

The boys at Surprised Stare usually have something interesting to play. This year, they appear to have two games on offer.  First is Paperclip Railways, which was out in a very limited release earlier in the year at the UK Games Expo.  This is a neat take on the train building genre (possibly inspired by String Railway from last year) — you try to connect the different stations on the board by building tracks made up of…. Paperclips!  The stations each have different special abilities, so you’ll end up wanting to connect your tracks to the stations with the special actions that you want.   I honestly loved the concept/idea behind String Railway, but I felt that it failed as a game – as in, there just wasn’t really a game there.  Early reviews of Paperclip Railways make me believe that there is really something to be had here.  While it is a track laying game, there is also a bit of hand management involved in the game as well.  You need to use the cards to get more paperclips – but you need to choose carefully so that you keep the cards that have stations on them beneficial to you!  Yeah, it sounds kinda complicated (but in a good way!) – here is a link to the rules…

On The Cards is the other release from Surprised Stare.  This appears similar at first glance to Stich-Meister (Amigo, Friedemann Friese) from last year, but the short description available makes it actually sound more complex — if that is possible!   From their website:

“The Fixed Rule cards (black) are always used. In each round, the rules on the Fixed Rule cards are combined with the rules on one card of each other type: Deal, Aim, Card Play and Trick Taking.
– The Deal card type (red) defines how the dealer will distribute cards.
– The Aim card type (yellow) defines the objective of the round and how it will be scored.
– The Card Play card type (green) defines how the players will play cards.
– The Trick Taking card type (blue) defines how tricks will be won.
In later games you can add Optional Twist cards (mauve) and Double cards to spice things up.”

Based on this short description, I’m very intrigued, and will be interested to see how this works out.

5) Ludonaute

Shitenno is the name of the upcoming Essen release from Ludonaute, a fairly new French publishing house (previously known for Yggdrasil and Offrandes).  I was immediately drawn to the game as I’m very interested in the feudal era in Japanese history, and the central mechanic of the game is one that I have very much liked in the past.  The mechanic is one of card splitting, where a player has a bunch of cards, has to split them into groups and then offer the groups to the other players to choose which ones they want.  I actually have a copy of a final prototype in my hands and have played it a few times already.  I will be writing up a full preview of the game to hopefully appear later this week or early next week.

6) Mindwarrior

Terra Evolution is a new release from Mindwarrior, which is a Finnish company that I hadn’t heard of before.  Terra Evolution is a polished and fine-tuned version of the print-and-play game Evolution Earth: Cataclysm by Tomi Rantala.  The reason that I’m interested in it is because it’s a deck-building game, and I find myself attracted to all deckbuilders.    Rules are yet available online, and I need to read up on them soon as initial reports are that Mindwarrior will only have about 100 copies available at the SPIEL…

7) Mucke Spiele

Mucke Spiele has had a mixed track record for me with their games.  Their booth at Essen usually also sells game components, and sometimes their games come out of competitions created around using certain game components in the design process.  Urknall is one such game – it is the winning design from such a competition.  “In this tactical game, players send their astronauts from one celestial body to another to collect elements located there in various sizes and combinations. The value of these elements, however, won’t be fixed until the end of the game, and the players can use the effects of gravity to combine or separate heavenly bodies, thereby increasing or reducing the value of their elements for opponents.”  I do like me tactical games, so this one merits a trial at Essen — especially because there are no rules or even any other pictures yet available (at least not that I can find)

8) Sit Down!

Wiragocha continues the growing trend of TGOO including dice.  Wiraqocha has a modular board where each hextile has a number or dice combination printed on them.  Through rolling a varying number of d6, you try to meet the requirements on the tiles, with each tile unsurprisingly providing you with different resources or different special abilities.  To make things even more complicated, there are three different victory conditions, so you’ll have plenty of different options to look at while playing.  The thing that worries me about Wiraqocha after reading the rules is that the game looks like it could get really antagonistic – and that’s a quality that hasn’t necessarily gone over well in my group.  (I guess that’s why we’re Eurogamers, huh?)

The good news is that you should be able to get a hold of this one domestically if you’re not making it to Essen:  $61.50 at http://www.gamesurplus.com/product_info.php?%20products_id=1863

9) AF Games

Strike Dice just came across my radar yesterday as I was looking for other dice games.  It looks like it is the d4 version of the classic Das Spiel game (which is getting its own re-release this year as well!) at least in the sense that you get a metric ton of dice in the box.  So far, I’ve only tried to make my way through their description:

“In the game each player owns 8 Triangle Dice (Pawndice) and must place each one on the board’s Tribases. The Tribases are total 8. The 4 of them are the main ones and the rest 4 are the additional. The board looks like an octagonal star and each side is called Tribase. The dice here have 2 roles, the dice role which defines the moves you can carry out on the board and the pawn role which defines the dice power. On each Tribase there is an attribute which can be activated through the cards you will find in the game and after you have placed a Pawndice on them. These attributes will help you by bringing your opponents in a difficult position (or the opposite!). The Tricards which carry out the effects of each attribute can be activated once per Triangulation, so watch your step!

The key in this game is to cast the highest numbers with your Pawndice in order to secure a certain position on the board but this is something that can be turned around easily. Each tribase on the board has the exact opposite on the other side. So, when you have placed a Pawndice with number 3 on a Tribase, then on the opposite one, your rival must place one of his Pawndice with the same number or higher. In the second case your Pawndice is been removed from the board and you can use it in a next round. Be careful though, there will be many times where your Pawndice will be not fit on the board. In such a case your Pawndice are excluded totally from the Triangulation. Winner of a triangulation is the player who has the most pawndice on the board while the game winner is the one who will collect 5 of the Tricards or at least the half of them. If 2 players have the same ammount of Tricards, then play a last Triangulation to determine the winner.

A simple game which will surprise you many times by its combinations. You will also entertain yourselves by playing the variants and the different game modes depending on the game’s participants. In a 3-Player Triangulation all the rules count beside 2 basic one, so the results will be totally different. In the ally mode (4 players), you play in teams of 2 and your Pawndice act combines as a team. You combine thme to defeat your rivals. In this game you can win even you bring small numbers, even if you have less Pawndice on the board. How? You have to find out!


So… I’m interested enough to try to translate the above description into something intelligible.  Because I’ve read it like five times, and I can’t make heads or tails out of it.  But, yet, I’m still vaguely interested because it has a butt-ton of dice in the box.  I think.  Maybe.

10) Rallyman.fr

The final game I’ll mention this week is actually an expansion to one of my favorite games from Essen 2010.  Rallyman: Dirt is Jean-Cristophe Bouvier’s excellent rally racing game.   This expansion adds new terrain to the Rallyman basic game, with rules for double downshifting, land-sliding, river-crossing, and more. The expansion will include player dashboards, special dice, and new track covered with dirt.  Thus far, that’s all that is available online that I can find…  If you’re unfamiliar with the game, Patrick Korner did a great review here earlier in the year…

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.
This entry was posted in Convention Report, Essen 2011. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Dale Yu: Essen Preview Part 5

  1. Lee says:

    “Murder! Mystery! Mastermind! is the second game from this Singapore based outfit which is really into apostrophes… (Their game last year was Dive! Diver! Die!) ”


    Anyway, nice write up as usual. Some of this was under my radar so thanks for highlighting them.

    My favorite part of Strike Dice is the back of the box image where it reads:
    “You may think you are the winner but Strike Dice does not!”

  2. jeffinberlin says:

    Urknall (“Big Bang”) got a special award for using ONLY the components provided for the competition (all other entries added components to those provided).

    You can see the components here (second competition): http://www.spielmaterial.de/wettbewerb/

  3. huzonfirst says:

    Here are some updated impressions from me, after reading some of the posted online rules for these games:

    1. Helvetia – Players place their meeples (“villagers”) in various buildings, many of which allow them to create or refine goods, which can then be sold for VPs (maybe a little like Glen More). Other building functions are provided as well. But villagers fall asleep after doing their function and must be awakened to act again. Villagers can also get married (to opponents’ villagers) and procreate to produce additional meeples (so that EVERY building in this game can be a love shack!). I’m not sure I completely appreciate the game flow from the online rules, but there’s enough here to leave me definitely interested, particularly given the designer (Matthias Cramer, of Glen More and Lancaster fame).

    2. Fortuna – There’s a very interesting action selection system: each player has 3 action cards, carries one out, and then exchanges it with one of his opponent’s action cards, setting himself up for future turns. The new action is turned face down, so that it’s exempt from being exchanged for one turn. That sounds fascinating and could work really well. But each player also rolls a die each turn in order to (essentially) acquire more victory points and, in most cases, rolling higher is better. There are some ways to mitigate this, but I wonder if good play could be neutralized by poor rolling and vice versa. Designers Rieneck and Stadler have some good games on their resume, (including Pillars of the Earth, Cuba, and World Without End) but they’re also not afraid to include a healthy amount of luck in their games. This one may be too intriguing not to pick up, but I’m a little concerned that it could possibly be done in by the luck factor.

  4. huzonfirst says:

    Oh, and the new Donald X. release from Queen has been announced. It’s called Kingdom Builder. Here’s what the entry on the Geek says,

    “In Kingdom Builder, the players create their own kingdoms by skillfully building their settlements, aiming to earn the most gold at the end of the game.

    Nine different kinds of terrain are on the variable game board, including locations and castles. During his turn, a player plays his terrain card and builds three settlements on three hexes of this kind. If possible, a new settlement must be built next to one of that player’s existing settlements. When building next to a location, the player may seize an extra action tile that he may use from his next turn on. These extra actions allow extraordinary actions such as moving your settlements.

    By building next to a castle, the player will earn gold at the end of the game, but the most gold will be earned by meeting the conditions of the three Kingdom Builder cards; these three cards (from a total of ten in the game) specify the conditions that must be met in order to earn the much-desired gold, such as earning gold for your settlements built next to water hexes or having the majority of settlements in a sector of the board.

    Each game, players will use a random set of Kingdom Builder cards (3 of 10), special actions (4 of 8), and terrain sectors to build the map (4 of 8), ensuring you won’t play the same game twice!”

  5. Eric Hanuise says:

    I could try Paperclip Railways a few weeks ago :)
    It’s very close to string railways in the core mechanics.
    the big difference is the cards/stations offer a bit more complex options, and you can vary the length of your ‘strings’ by adding/removing paperclips before you lay them down.
    Very simple and fun, a great upgrade to tring railways, yet not much more complex.

  6. Tomi Rantala says:

    Terra Evolution now has a facebook fansite.
    Join and see new card images. Also there is a free copy of the game for every 50 fans. It could be you!

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