James Nathan: Essen Anticipation

James Nathan: Essen Anticipation

I find myself generally in a corner of the hobby where, well, there are cobwebs, and the light of anticipation lists and videos often doesn’t reach into those recesses.  In what is essentially no order, here are some titles I’m looking forward to.  I have no ability to accurately predict what I like, so please don’t take these as recommendations for you (or me).

Voodoo Prince (Reiner Knizia)
Schmidt Spiele

A trick taker with what seems like simple enough rules that surely it already existed, but apparently not.  The general premise is that once you win X number of tricks, you’re out of the round and score a number of points equal to the number of tricks taken by the other players.  Two things: I like it when trick taking games jerk me back and forth between wanting to win and not wanting to win.  Second, I love the aspect of Foppen where one hand is suddenly absent for a turn – and you don’t know which cards are no longer in the pool.

Würfelblitz (Steffen Benndorf)

From the brief description available, it looks like a Geistes-Blitz style look-for-what’s-not-there, but then you add numbers in your head.  (I don’t know how I wrote that sentence without exclamation points; I’m genuinely quite excited.)

POK (Kasper Lapp)

I can’t make heads or tails based on the description.  That Kasper Lapp though.

Druids (Günter Burkhardt, Wolfgang A. Lehmann)

I like the twists Burkhardt adds to trick taking games – from Potato Man’s “You Can’t Follow Suit” to Willi/Meinz’ “You Can Just Say You Win This Trick And The Cards Played Don’t Matter”. Here, the cards you collect are sorted into piles by color with some top-to-bottom restrictions, and a penalty for collecting too many colors.  I liked sort-the-spoils-into-colors-and-put-a-scoring-mechanism-on-top when it occurred in Ugo!, and I hope I like it here too.

Prank of the Fox (Masao Fukase)
Miyabi Games

Not totally clear what’s going on here, but I enjoy games with two-sided cards, and this seems to take that to another level – as only one team is holding the cards, while the back side of the cards show what is available to the other team.

Santa Maria (Eilif Svensson, Kristian Amundsen Østby)
Aporta Games

You’ve got a rectangular-gridded colony speckled with activatable buildings; you’re drafting dice to activate columns.  The column must be activated in a specific order, and the dice will block a building from activating again this round.  There are ways to activate rows.  There are ways to add more buildings. (You don’t have to take a dice on your turn; you may do some other actions.)  Rules sound like a quite delightful puzzle that would strike the right balance of tactics/strategy for me.

Amnesia Heroes (Jason Lin)
MO ZI Game

Uses the Mythe mechanic of drawing cards from other players’ hands, but adds some memory in that you have given specific cards to the other players (who helpfully then ‘forget’ one of the cards you’ve given them and discard it).  You’re some sort of goldfish hero fighting monsters in an arcade game and the opponents are various skill cards you’ll need to pass by pulling cards from the other players. (As far as I can tell.)

Password Express (Roberto Pisonero Trapote)
Looping Games

The first of two words games on the list.  I don’t like word games.  

Wait, let’s play with those words.  I’m a fan of OULIPO – a 60’s French writing group which believed that adding more constraints to their writing would increase their creativity (e.g. writing a novel without any words that use the letter e, or think the 504 rulebook, but as a way to generate poetry).  You know, word games.  

I like word games that add sufficient constraints to the vocabulary the game is asking me to conjure.

Here, you’re deciphering computer passwords (sure…), but in practice, we’re looking for words that fit a certain category (e.g. trees), and that fit various restrictions (e.g. have a P as the first letter, second letter, third letter, and not at all).  

Plus it’s a team game.

[UPDATE: First impression posted last week here.]

1920 Wall Street (Perepau Llistosella)
Looping Games

I’m a sitting duck for publishers with simplified stock market games, and here you’re choosing actions from a card rondel!  I’m also a fan of games that really kick you when you’re down – those church penalties in Lorenzo, for instance, and games that kick one player out of the running at the end for meeting or not meeting a certain criteria.  Here, there are three possible ways to drastically(?) alter the end game scoring; you can sway which direction it goes during the game, but it will ultimately be revealed which, if any, happen only after the game is over.

[UPDATE: First impression posted last week here.]

Tribe (Naotaka Shimamoto)

I’ve got nothing.  Really don’t have a clue on the mechanics, but those components :o

Ponkotsu Factory (Yoshihiko Koriyama)

Here’s the other word game.  You’re a robot in some kind of word factory, as one often is; everyone gets a pile of letters and some vowels; makes three 4 letter words; scrambles the letters; passes to the left; unscramble & compare.

This is a remake of the 2014 Japanese release, Kotobamodos, which used 3 letter words, but they reportedly found that in English, this didn’t work as well as 4 letter.

I’m hoping that the unscrambling is sufficiently difficult and/or hilarious that this is enjoyable.

M/S Batory (Filip Miłuński)

Deduction (in the Clue sense of the word) is a genre for me where I feel quite drawn to it, but haven’t really been bowled over by any of the results.  So new ones are oft anticipated by me. This has illustrations in a quirky Granna style, and, well, a 3D boat.  Details are slim right now, but it seems to allow for creative construction of questions for the other players and not a rigid prix fixe menu.

Rob ‘n Run (Michael Luu)
PD-Verlag / Rio Grande Games

A PD-Verlag game not from Herr Gerdts?  I was pretty surprised when I saw this one on Eric’s Preview.  The gameplay was also, well, unexpected for PD-Verlag: a co-op bank heist where you forgot some information when you got out of the getaway car and “the boss can only give you hints”.  

I keep saying these things that I like in games, and if someone was keeping stats, which they’re not, you’d find that often I don’t.  If I had to pick my best batting average, um, I think I’d go co-op/team games that involve restricted communication.  It started for me with Tokyo Train, but also seen in Witness, Mino & Tauri, Mag-O-Mag, Magic Maze, and, of course, Codenames.

The Glorious South (Ariel Yi Chi Chang)
GeGe Design Ltd.

The art for this game is stunning.  Is art singular?  Plural?  Regardless, it turns out I meant it singular.  Yeah, I meant the one piece of art for this game is stunning.  Based upon a famous Taiwanese painting from the 1930’s, the fabric board appears to be a reproduction of the painting upon which you play a team-based restricted communication game of hidden pictures.  

Balam (working title)
(Blue Orange / Makaka Editions)

Captive was one of my favorite releases from last year.  It was a sorta choose-your-own-adventure graphic novel RPG that also had some puzzle solving, and a little of that look-for-visually-hidden-numbers thing that Unlock! has, and some Groundhog Day/T.I.M.E Stories for good measure.  I very much enjoyed it.  (There was also one for a slightly younger audience, Knights (Chevaliers), which I’m hoping to pick up.)

Well, it turns out, that Makaka Editions makes dozens of those.  Just not in English.  

I don’t remember where I read it about it at the time, but they also were working on something akin to Captive – but with 4 books, where each player would have their own asymmetric book, but what I gather is similar gameplay.  

It looks like Blue Orange is co-publishing a 4-book title with Makaka, (currently) titled “Balam”, but expected to change.  To be clear, I have no reason to expect that it is being released or even shown at Spiel (I believe Cannes in February is when they are hoping to release), but I will be on the hunt- for a-a-a-n-n-n-y thing.

Manikmaya Games / inspira.id (Hompimpa)

The list of releases from the Spiel website includes fourteen(!) titles from Manikmaya and four more from inspira.id, a pair of Indonesian publishers sharing a booth, most with little information available.  No specific titles I’m anticipating, but I’ll certainly spend some time at their booth.

Sebastian Fitzek Safehouse (Marco Teubner)

While trying to track down information on the Indonesian titles, I came across this one.  Details are sparse: Real-time with action/movement programming? A book that you flip through as the game scenarios? The last page includes a pop-up safehouse?   Gameplay reminiscent of The Game?  Possible whodunit deduction?

112 – BRANDGEFÄHRLICH (Louisa & Wanja Adlung)

The Speil’s release list includes three Adlung titles this year – two Manimals, and this (which translates roughly to “fire hazard”).  It’s listed as ages 6+ and 1 player?  

Stack-A-Biddi (Grzegorz Rejchtman)
Game Factory

Do you have one of those people in your group that you know you can always count on to take a flyer on some quirky new game with masks or drawing things out of a bag or some quirky real time shenanigans?  That used to be me, and, well, still sort of is. Just not as much as before.

Hi, my name is James and I’m a dexterity game addict.

(Whew, good thing I put Tribe above this!)

Going back to OULIPO for a minute, I was reading Walter Abish’s Alphabetical Africa many years ago, and a friend saw me at the library, and said something akin to ‘Do you ever read actual books or do you just like to’ do some sort of mental derogatory action.  (While not really a part of OULIPO, Abish’s Alphabetical Africa features a structure where in the first chapter, every word begins with a; in the second chapter, a or b; in the third chapter, a, b, or c.; etc.)

While I will still vigorously defend the substance of many OULIPO books, today, I remain self-conscious that a diet of only such games will feel hollow.  (Sometimes I pre-apologize to my regular group for titles that I anticipate foisting on them months down the line.)

Hold on, let’s switch analogies again for a second.

I was eating at this fried chicken restaurant the other day, and after the appetizers (sweet potato beignets – I’d pass next time), the waitress brought around tiny spoons for the table.  After a moment of pondering, I nearly jumped out of my seat when I realized this probably meant sorbet course (intermezzo). (I was excited because I like ice cream not because I like dinner formalities.) 7 year old boy excited.

I generally only have two speeds: pause and go.

Did I read somewhere once where Nietzsche said something about some sort of emotional equilibrium?  Ups and downs balancing out?

Let’s do some stoichiometry: a long time playing a game that doesn’t get my cackles up so much means that a short OULIPO intermezzo game comes through like a ramjet.

“Can’t it be both?”

Things I’m also looking forward to, but you’ve probably already heard about from someone else:

Agricola Artifex, Majesty, Nusfjord, A Tale of Pirates, IKAN, Altiplano, Calimala, Pot de Vin, Heaven & Ale, Finished!, Flea, Montana, Favelas, Lagerstätten, Rescue Polar Bears: Temperature & Data, Shadows in Kyoto, Herbalism, Raid on Taihoku, Q.E., Mucho Macho

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