White Goblin Games will be back in Essen for 2012 – this year with 8! releases: Völuspá, Saqqara, Expedition: Congo River, Vampire Empire, Revolver 2, Pyramidion, Nieuw Amsterdam and Rattus Cartus. At this point, I have a hard time pigeon-holing the company into any sort of niche because their catalog includes games of all different types and complexity levels. The selection of games this year is no different – there seems to be something for every type of gamer. I’ve been reading through the rulebooks, and I will try to preview some of the new White Goblin releases.
Last year they introduced a tiered pricing program to try to entice gamers to buy their entire lineup of games – as you purchased a higher quantity of games, you received a higher and higher discount. The pricing plan has been modified this year, and your discount is now determined by the total value of games that you are buying – though, it should be noted that White Goblin is already offering a discount on MSRP if you preorder for Essen at all. This year, you will get a 5% discount on 45 EUR, 7.5% discount on 125 EUR total, and 10% off if you preorder 200 EUR worth of games. Impressively, the deal extends to Essen 2011 games as well – for more details: http://www.whitegoblingames.com/spiel
But – on to the travelogue that is the 2012 White Goblin Games catalog – the releases from this year span the globe… Today I’ll cover two of the new games, and then I’ll return to the White Goblin releases closer to the fair!
Designer: Jeff Allers
Publisher: White Goblin Games
Time: 120 minutes
Nieuw Amsterdam is one of the more complex games that I have read up on for Essen 2012 (up there with Terra Mystica – preview to come soon). Players are Dutch settlers in the 1620-1630s who are trying to make their fortune in New Amsterdam (now New York). Over the course of 6 rounds, players will try to exert control in the City, help settle the land, and trade with the natives to send Furs back to Holland. The rulebook is a dense 12 pages, and I will try to summarize/condense those rules into a format that will help you understand how the game plays.
There are 4 phases in each of the 6 rounds:
- Bidding on Action Tiles
- Taking Actions
- Cleanup and Income
1) In the setup phase, new boats are placed in the harbor and new furs are placed in the trading posts. (More of what both of these do later). Also, the 12 Action tokens are shuffled and placed in the auction box for the next phase.
2) In that next Auction phase, players have an auction to bid on Action tiles – cardboard chits that tell you what you can do that turn. There are 12 Action tiles total, and they are arranged into columns of 3, 3, 2, 2, and 2. The player with lowest turn order nominates any one column to be bid upon in a once-around auction by placing his current turn order marker on the column. The winner pays his bid in resources (In Nieuw Amsterdam, there are plenty of resources – corn, wood, goods, coins and furs) and takes the selected row of Action chits as well as the turn order marker used to nominate the column. Auctions continue on unil each player has been able to acquire a column of Action chits and a new turn order has been set up – whichever player takes his column last gets to not only choose which of the two remaining columns he wants but also is able to claim that row for free since no one is left to bid against him.
3) The Action Chits are of three types: City, Land, and Trade. In the Taking Action phase, actions are always taken in the order of City, then Land, then Trade. In turn order, each player takes all the actions they are allowed (based on the Action Chits they won). Additionally, each player can take a Special Action in each step, even if they have no Action Chits that match that step. If you ever choose to pass on an Action Chit or the special Action, you get a coin for each skipped thing. When it’s your turn to play, you can take your Special Action and regular actions in any order.
3a) The City Step – you spend a City Action token to either build businesses or hold elections. When you build a business, you are able to place a building in the districts of Nieuw Amsterdam. Your goal here is to try to gain majorities of buildings in the districts. If you hold elections, you score 3VP for each district you have a majority of businesses and 2VP for each district where you are tied for majority. Note that only the player who played the Action scores points. All other players get nothing. (Don’t forget your special action – to be explained later)
3b) Land Step – you spend a Land Action token to either Add a Land card to your area or Clear Land – where you clear all uncleared Land cards in your area. To Add Land, you take a face up Land card from the supply and add it to the right of your existing Land Cards. Additionally, adding a Land Card also helps the Lenape villages move further into the woods – one of their longhouses moves to the next camp upriver. Each of the cards has a number of houses on top of it – these spaces will have to be filled in if you want to clear off the card. To Clear Land, you look at all your Land Cards that are filled with houses and get a number of wood pieces shown on the card. You also score VPs for the right-most Land card cleared off (worth 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, 28, 36…). Finally, don’t forget your special action – to be explained later
3c) Trade Step – Spend a Trade Action token to either Trade for Furs or Ship Furs. To Trade for Furs – you go to one of three trading posts. Top one trades 1-4 furs at 1 good each, middle trades 3 furs for 4 goods and the bottom trades 4 furs for 3 goods. You may have to pay corn as a transit fee if you do not have a trading post directly across the river from the Lenape longhouses. Why wouldn’t you always take the 4 furs for 3 goods? Well, in the Ship Furs action, you fill a ship card – which tells you exactly how many fur tokens it needs, and you will earn more VP if you have fewer fur types. You score 3VP for the first type of fur, then 2VP for the 2nd type and then 1VP for every other fur. Finally, don’t forget your special action – to be explained later
3*) Special Actions – remember that in each of the 3 steps in this Action phase, every player gets the chance to take a Special Action… even if they don’t have an Action chit for that step. If you pass, you get a coin. If you take a special action, it usually costs you a coin. Here are the options
- Buy or Sell Wood – 1 wood for 1 coin – no limit
- Buy or Sell Corn – 1 corn for 1 coin – no limit
- Add a building to your wharf – this increases good storage
- Add 1-3 buildings to land cards – 1 wood per building
- Buy Furs on the Black Market
- Move your Trading post upriver to next open space
4) Cleanup and Income – Players receive corn for cleared land cards and then must pay 1 corn for each building in the districts. If they cannot pay the corn tax, they must remove any unpaid building. Then, they get goods from completed ship cards (from trading furs), coins for districts they occupy and a bonus coin for each district they have a majority in.
This pattern continues for 6 rounds – at the end of the game, there are some bonus scoring. First, each of the 5 districts is scored – 3VP for a majority, 2VP each if there are ties. Then, if a player has an uncleared but fully filled land card, they score for that. Finaly, 1 VP/fur and 1VP/any 3 other resources.
Impression – so that’s it – only took me 1,100 words to summarize the game. Ye gods…. Yes, it sounds super complicated – but that’s what is drawing me to this one. There are so many different things that you are trying to do here, and only a limited number of Actions each round. As best I can figure out, you could have a max of 3 Action chits and 3 Special actions each round – so a max of 36 total through the course of the game, and it’s likely that you’ll only get 2 Action chits each round.
You score VPs through clearing Land cards, shipping furs, and from having majorities in the districts. But, all of these things are intertwined in a few loops. Land cards provide lots of VPs, corn each turn, and wood once (when they are cleared off). You’ll need the corn in order to keep your buildings in the city. You get goods from ship cards. You get ship cards by selling furs. You trade for furs with goods. So, it appears that there are these two systems that each provide VPs and resources to keep that cycle going. But, these two systems are not fully closed as you need some from each loop in the other (i.e. you might need corn from time to time to pay the shipping cost when trading for furs) – so you can’t completely ignore one. Taking a further step back, you also need to produce and store resources to allow you to bid for the action tokens you need. Having all the resources in the world will do you no good if you do not have the opportunity to use them in the correct phases.
Of course, it’s impossible to tell how a complex game like this will work in a real-world situation. I’ll admit that the game length of 120min is right at the upper limit of my current comfort zone with games, and I’m expecting my first game to probably come in closer to 3 hours as we all learn the rules. One things that I can say looks promising is that there are plenty of graphic/iconic reminders of the phases and possible actions right on the gameboard. Trying to remember the order of phases and then the different actions/special actions available in each one could be cumbersome, but the graphic design efficiently summarizes it in a few images.
I am definitely looking forward to giving this one a try, as I find that many of Jeff’s designs have become favorites of mine.
Expedition: Congo River 1884 (efficiently summarized by Lucas Hedgren)
Designer: Jose Antonio Rivero
Publisher: White Goblin Games
Time: 60 minutes
Theme – Exploration of the Congo River
Main Mechanics: Card auctions
Card auction game, with an African river theme. Each round, move the boat up the river, draw some cards, then auction for the new location. Secretly/Simultaneously place a person card down for base value, determined by location type and nationality. (ex. Doctors are good for hospitals, but French people are less effective in British locations.). Then in turn order, add helper cards till everyone drops out. The type of helpers allowed are determined by the profession of your base card. Winner gets points. Move the steamboat along the river and repeat. There are 16 stops on the river, so should be a bunch of auctions. There are some special cards going on that can affect bidding or cards used in bidding.
Impressions (from Dale) – well, this one seems a bit less complex that Nieuw Amsterdam. I’m wary that this could get repetitive with 16 auctions, but all of the modifiers on the cards – based on nationality or location will change the relative values of all the cards in your hand at each stop. There is a nice chart on the board itself to keep everyone aware of the different value of the cards – but it will be a hard thing to follow long-term IMHO, as in long-term planning might be quite hard to do. One other feature that will keep the game a bit more varied is that the nationality chits and station type chits are randomized each game, so the path down the river should always be a little different.
The other thing that has piqued my interest about this game is that it has already been announced as the first in the “Expedition” series. I do want to know if there will be more games with the same mechanic but different settings OR exploration-themed games with more varied mechanics. Something to keep looking forward to at least – I’ll have to ask at the booth in Essen to see where this series is headed!
OK, that’s the first two of the White Goblin releases that I will preview – I will return via Egypt in the near future!