Essen Preview #8 – Things that have caught my attention this week

This week, there is not really a theme to the preview – just a lot of little things that have caught my attention.  I’ve been busy with a lot of real-life work busy-ness as well as a little bit of game playing.  Keep your eyes peeled for some upcoming Essen game previews in the coming weeks!  To catch up on the previous Essen Preview pieces, click here.  OK – now onto this week’s list of things I am looking forward to…

The Donald X. Vaccarino show – Three new games this year at SPIEL!

1) Dominion: Hinterlands (at Rio Grande) – The next set of Kingdom cards to this wildly successful franchise will be available at Essen.  (Disclaimer – Please remember that I am one of the developers of Dominion).  The flavor text from this one:

The world is big and your kingdom small. Small when compared to the world, that is; it’s moderate-sized when compared to other kingdoms. But in a big world like this one – big when compared to smaller worlds anyway, if such things exist; it’s moderate-sized when compared to worlds of roughly the same size, and a little small when compared to worlds just a little larger – well, to make a long story short – short when compared to longer stories anyway – it is time to stretch your borders. You’ve heard of far-off places – exotic countries, where they have pancakes but not waffles, where the people wear the wrong number of shirts, and don’t even have a word for the look two people give each other when they each hope that the other will do something that they both want done but which neither of them wants to do. It is to these lands that you now turn your gaze.

2) Nefarious – the second release from Ascora Games (you know, the company that brought you the great game Kaigan last year).  I have just received a pre-production copy of the game, and will play it (and write about it) in the coming weeks.  I had also had the chance to play a much earlier version of this a few years ago, but I’m not sure what has changed since then.  For now – the info from the press sheet:

“In this fast paced game, which lasts 30-60 minutes, 2-6 players are mad scientists trying to build a wide range of ingenious inventions, such as a freeze ray, time machine, or robotic pet, before their opponents can.

The games plays over several rounds, each with the same format: The players secretly choose and simultaneously reveal their action card for that round.  Next, depending on how he allocated his minions on his player board, a player may receive income based on his neighbors’ choice of action.  Then the players’ action cards resolve in a specific order:

  • Speculate – allocate a Minion to an Investment area
  • Invent – Pay the cost to build an Invention and resolve its effects
  • Research – Obtain a new Invention blueprint and some money
  • Work – Gain income from the supply

Finally, players check to see if one player has at least 20 points worth of inventions, and more points than any other player.  If they do, they win.  Otherwise, the game continues…

The game comes with 36 unique “Twist” cards.  In each game, the players randomly select two Twists which will change the environment on the game.  This mechanism forces players to devise a different strategy in order to win each time they play the game.”

I’m hoping to get this game to the table tonight – so hopefully, I’ll be able to write up more about it soon…  Also, according to Scott Tepper, head of Ascora Games:  “We will be taking pre-orders, and there will be a bonus at Essen for people who pre-order”

This is the only picture I've got so far for Nefarious!

3) Kingdom Builder – this new Donald X. Vaccarino game from Queen has finally been announced.  I had the chance to play the prototype of this at the Gathering in April. Assuming it hasn’t changed much, it’s a tile-laying sort of game that will always be different due to a modular board as well as different victory conditions.

The board is filled with different sorts of landscape types, and on your turn, you play a landscape card from your hand.  You then get to place three pieces on the board, on that matching landscape type.  You are somewhat limited in where you can play as you much play next to one of your existing settlements if possible.  Interspersed in the landscape areas are castles and special locations.  Building next to special locations will allow you to take a special action (that generally is otherwise prohibited by the rules).  Building next to castles help you score victory points (gold) at the end of the game.  However, you will also score points based on the placement of your other settlements.  The rules for scoring are described by three Kingdom Builder cards that are drawn at the start of the game.

The Kingdom Builder (scoring) cards.

What makes the game different every time?  Mostly that the setup and scoring conditions change with each game.  The board is made up of four different sections, which can be oriented differently, out of a pool of 8 sections.  Each game uses three of a possible ten scoring cards, and four special actions will be available in each game out of 8 different ones.

The modular board sections that will be used

I only had a chance to play the game once (at the Gathering of Friends back in April) – and it was definitely an interesting game.  I can’t really evaluate the different scoring cards yet, but based on the ones I can read in the graphics provided by Queen, it’s pretty easy to see that you’ll need to take different approaches to the game depending on which cards come up.

Non-Donald Games

Quebec (Le Scorpion Masque / Asmodee):  The rules to Quebec available online now.  This is a game that I’ve been passively interested in for a few years now.  I first heard about it when it won the Plateau d’or 2007 and was shortlisted at the 2007 Boulogne-Billancourt International Designer Contest.  I was able to get a chance to play the final prototype at Origins this year, and it’s a pretty good area control game with a scoring twist.

Though this grossly oversimplifies the game, players work together to build the city of Quebec.  Players put cubes (in their color) down on different buildings in the growing city.  The buildings can be of four different types, and as they are completed, the cubes that were used to finish the buildings are moved to a scoring zone that matches the building type.  Additionally, when cubes are placed in each building, there is usually an opportunity to take a special action based on that building.  So, there are two reasons to motivate you to place cubes on a particular building.

At the end of each of the four rounds, those scoring zones are totaled up and victory points are granted.  The catch here is that winner of the first zone scored gets to move half of his cubes into the next zone which will be scored.  The result of this is that there can be an interesting cascading movement of cubes amongst the scoring zones.  There is also an endgame scoring bonus based on the placement/orientation of the finished buildings that you were responsible for starting.

Again, I’ve only had one play of Quebec thus far, but it certainly looks like there is a lot to the game, and something that I’m looking forward to trying again.  For more info: http://www.scorpionmasque.com/quebec

2011 Winsome set – With the recent decision to release a domestic set of games, I am no longer on the Essen Winsome list.  However, they remain in high demand.  This year, the 2011 set includes:

  • Rising Sun Railroads – I’ve played this one once, and it was a churning economic sort of game.  Not exactly my type of game, but I knew that going into it… It wasn’t for me, but for those folks who like the exacting mathematics behind most train games, this will be right up your alley.
  • Colorado Midland – I’ve also had a chance to try this one out – a strange game where you score points based on what cities the different train lines eventually expand to.  You usually need to work together with the other players to get the trains to go to faraway destinations, and everyone’s cards are in the open, so everyone knows where you want to go.  My first game felt weird as we had a severely uneven distribution of cards which made cooperation a little more difficult (i.e. when one player has all the cards to a particular faraway town, good luck on getting anyone else to go there).  Worth at least another play.
  • Wabash Cannonball expansion
  • Age of Steam – Great Britain
  • Baltimore and Ohio: Tech Level Seven, Norfolk&Western, and Robber Barons expansion
  • SNCF Germany and Iberia Expansion

Bezier Games Age of Steam 2011 set –  Another annual set of games was recently announced too – the yearly bombardment of Age of Steam boards from Bezier Games.  (Disclaimer – the designer, Ted Alspach, is one of the Opinionated Gamers).  This year, the boards are double sided –

  • Australia & Tasmania: Go down under as you build railways across the uninhabitable Outback and through mysterious Tasmania. In Australia, quickly build along the expensive coastal regions of the East Coast and find a way to reach the cities in the west, which will pay more for goods delivered to them. Tasmania requires you to build an efficient distribution system for all of its towns and cities as goods are shuttled in from the mainland.

  • Outer Space & Reversteam – Two out-of-this-world maps challenge your railroad building and delivering prowess. Outer Space requires “straight on” deliveries to ensure you don’t shoot right by your destination, as well as a handy set of wormholes to get your goods across the galaxy quickly. Things are quite different in Reversteam, where not only has the traditional “great lakes” area been altered, but the cities want every kind of good except for their color.   [I’ve played the Outer Space board so far, and it provides some interesting ideas and unexpected track combinations.  Reversteam is on the docket for this week or next.]

  • African Diamond Mines & Taiwan Cube Factories: Harness the power of railroads to dig up diamonds and produce much sought after wooden cubes. African Diamond Mines has you setting up a mining railroad deep underground to access valuable diamonds with a new depth counter that adds an additional level of strategy. Ramp up production with Taiwan Cube Factories, as you combine resources to produce new ones to keep the new infrastructure in Taiwan booming.

  • Orient Express and Disoriented Express (preorder-only):Orient Express is the classic European channel between Paris and Istanbul, where moving passengers quickly and effectively is your goal. On the other hand, Disoriented Express will have you scratching your head trying to undo the knots created by foreign, yet familiar landscapes. ​ These two maps are available ONLY as part of the Spiel 2011 AoS/Steam map pack from Bézier Games.

Different groups of Opinionated Gamers have been provided with the new boards, and we should hopefully have a preview piece ready in the coming weeks on the boards!

And now some news from some companies that will (or won’t) be at Essen:

Rio Grande Games – Well, Rio Grande has one game of their own at Essen, Dominion: Hinterlands – the newest expansion to the Dominion series.   As usual, Rio Grande will also be doing English language versions of many of the new Essen games.  While some of the distribution deals aren’t finalized until Essen, I have spoken with Jay in the past week, and he was able to give me the confirmed list thus far:  the Stone Age expansion, Olympos expansion, Friday, First Sparks, and “the new Czech game”.  I believe the “new Czech game” is Last Will, but I will try to confirm this to be sure.  It’s always helpful to keep track of what games will have domestic versions as this may help me decide which games come back from Essen and which games can be ordered when I get home.

Wizkids – This year will be the first time that WizKids has had a presence at SPIEL, and they’re still working out the logistics of getting games there…  In my last chat with Justin Ziran, he said that the current plans are for Wizkids to bring: Quarriors, Star Trek: Expeditions, Star Trek: Fleet Captains and maybe even some HeroClix for their booth.  No word yet on whether or not the new Quarriors expansion will be available.

Winning Moves – It seems that this company won’t have a booth this year?  I read this from a post by Hilko Drude on BGG… If you are trying to find his game, Herr Drude will be carrying around copies of his new game, Tricky Bid, that you can collect from him directly.

Finally – for those of you going to Essen – It looks like you can pre-order your tickets to SPIEL…

http://www.eventim.de/cgi-bin/messe-essen-spiel-20-23-10-2011-tickets.html?affiliate=EVE&doc=artistPages%2Ftickets&fun=artist&action=tickets&erid=620599&xtcr=1&xtmc=messe+essen

Note that shipping is expensive!  But – if you don’t want to potentially spend three or four hours waiting in line – this might be worth it…  Or maybe there is some option for local pickup?  It seems like this site is sort of a German equivalent of Ticketmaster, so maybe there is also a kiosk somewhere that you could pick up the tickets if you get to Essen early…

That’s it for this week –

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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11 Responses to Essen Preview #8 – Things that have caught my attention this week

  1. Nefarious sounds like a lot of fun.

  2. Gary Jackson says:

    Re: Pre-buying Essen tickets
    If you are in Essen on the Wednesday (or earlier) you can buy entry tickets at the ticket booths at the front of the large hall immediately behind the main entry point to the Spiel. I have done this in the years where the Spiel coincides with school holidays. Year before last there were little or no queues and I was begrudging the booking charge (?5E, can’t remember exactly), so I didn’t do it last year and got caught up in the worst queues I’d seen there. Can’t make it this year unfortunately
    :-(

    Cheers
    Gary

  3. Jacob says:

    I love this website.

  4. John Mitchell says:

    Tickets also from the tourist office opposite the Hauptbahnhof. I’ve bought them there on the Wednesday with no queue and no fee.

  5. MORE Dominion, MORE Winsome rail games, and MORE Age of Steam Expansions? *YAWN* Nothing even remotely looks interesting in this batch except maybe the undisclosed Czech games..Well at least there wasn’t Yet Another Ticket to Ride game, so that’s kind of a plus.

  6. Dale Yu says:

    @Chapel — hey, those are the games that interest *me*! But, I’m still on the lookout for more stuff for next week’s preview piece. And – hopefully this weekend will give me the time to write up the more focused reviews on a few of the new releases (similar to the Funkenschlag: First Sparks piece – but this time with actual game play experience).

  7. Will Fogarty says:

    So Dale, am I reading things right that Dominion Hinterlands will cost $40 and contain 26 cards? $40 for 26 cards and a box; that can’t be right. What’s the scoop?

  8. Eric Brosius says:

    I’d guess he really meant 26 different types of card (with multiples of each type.)

  9. Will Fogarty says:

    Perhaps that is what he really means; perhaps not. Dale ?

  10. Dale Yu says:

    @Will – sorry. I am assuming that people are familiar with Dominion already. It is 25 or 26 new kingdom cards. So that is at least 275 cards in the box (25 x 10+1). Possibly more depending on how many Victory cards are included.

  11. Ryan B. says:

    Well, normally I would be like: “Dale interested in another Dominion expansion??? Get out.” But I now think that joke is really on me. This game is seemingly popping up everywhere… our trip to Germany, it was one of the few games on display in a toy shop, I keep seeing it in the various Barnes and Noble’s in the states and I went over to my friend’s house here in Seattle and saw it there too. He has about seven games (one being Dominion) and about five Dominion expansions. After a game of Ticket to Ride where the winner picks the new game, he told me if he won then he was going to introduce us to Dominion. The pressure was on.

    I scored 142 points (my personal best) to win… and opted for Settlers. But I gotta say: Dominion is definitely popular because I keep seeing it turn up everywhere….

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