I’ve yet to be satisfied with a euro-style legacy game, but The Rise of Queensdale has some definite potential. Two to four players can progress through the entire game arc in 20-ish games of about 45-60 minutes each. The game is set up with four interlocking boards, with tiles inset into the board in a grid. Each player has a section assigned to them, although with effort another player can make their way over to an opponent’s section. These inset tiles help preserve the legacy state of the game as they are swapped out for improvements during a game and stick around for later games in the series. There’s even a handy suction cup thing to help you remove the inset tiles from the board. When the boards are stacked the tiles should remain locked into place. The game revolves around players rolling their own dice and using them as workers. Players can minimize luck through rerolls or spending resources to change the facing of a die. An important part of the early game is moving one’s scout around the board to collect exposed herb tiles. These serve as victory points, resources (to spend), and may have other surprises somewhere down the road (in later games.) The winner of a game is awarded upgrades, as are those in close second, while those far behind get just one. Players can use stickers to upgrade the faces of their dice. Every game in the series starts with all players at zero points, however the victory point total needed to win changes for each player. When a player wins the game, they will need more points to score a win in future games. Thus, to win the entire series one must go from zero points all the way to seventy points in a single game.
Woodlands is a tile laying puzzle game. A plastic overlay is displayed in the middle of the table and a timer is set. Players then scramble to put together a path using tiles placed on their 3×3 grid. Once time is up, players overlay the transparency on their board to see if they were successful. Each transparency has different conditions. Most will have a character trying to get to a destination (Little Red Riding Hood to her grandmother, etc…) and will usually have bonuses or negatives that come into play if she needs to cross them. The game quickly gets more and more difficult as later rounds begin to put more conditions and problems into the mix. The map might be full of spiderwebs (which are OK, but confuse you), have specific animals and foxes that need to NOT have adjacent paths, etc… In most rounds there is a key token available if you cross it on one board, you can then use it to unlock a treasure chest in later rounds which gives you a special ability (like avoid something for force a tile onto another player.) The game seemed to get complicated pretty quick, but the tiles are two sided with the backside containing rivers in case someone wants to make it harder. (The rivers have no game effect, they act like paths but they do add to the confusion.) Oh, and I’m told that at the hardest “worst?” levels there is only one 3×3 solution that will fit all the conditions… ughh! (or Cool! If that’s your thing.)
Villainous sold out at the show and was getting a great reception by attendees. I believe that is due to the wonderful way the game has captured the theme and the story of being a villain in a Disney film. Each player is assigned a villian from one of the movies (Jafar, the Sea Witch, the Queen of Hearts, etc..) The story comes in through each player’s deck of cards. Every villain has their own objectives, their own play area, and their own decks of cards. For example, Jafar might need to find the lamp, unlock the cave, find the genie, and hypnotize the genie to win the game. Players’ villain decks have all the cards they need to win the game. However, a common Fate deck can be used to mess with each other. Even messing with each other can be thematic. For example, the Queen of Hearts has an ability that can enlarge or shrink a hero card, making it better (for her) or worse (for another.) There are eight possible actions on a turn. Gain power (resources to play cards), play a card, activate an item or ally, use a Fate card (the central deck you can use to mess with other people), move an ally/item/hero to another location, vanquish (an objective I think), or discard cards. Draw back up to 4 cards at the end of your turn. As I mentioned, it carries off the Disney theme very well. It isn’t a little kid’s game, it’s a middleweight game of trying to be the best villain you can be, while simultaneously messing around with all the other villains.
I was slightly amused by the requirements put on Megaland since it is a Target exclusive game. Not only were they not allowed to sell copies at the convention, I was not even allowed to take photos of the game! In a Incan Gold/Diamant style of game, players run through a level of rooms, deciding how long they want to stay in. Players start at 4 health and cards are slowly flipped over, doing anything from 0 to 3 hearts of damage. If a player survives the card, they are eligible to claim the treasures revealed. Stay in too long and you get nothing. After the run, players can use their treasure to purchase buildings (giving victory points or funky powers), or buy more health for future runs. Purchases are performed with sets of same cards or sets of unique suits. Players can even acquire Jump tokens which let them skip over rooms with non-flying monsters.
Sizgi Studios was showing off the upcoming card game, Wishmakers, Inc. In this cooperative game, players take turns playing cards face down onto a 6×4 grid to try to match patterns shown on the current customer cards (scoring cards, shown at right.) Once everyone has played two cards (three in a 2 player game), they are flipped and the active player chooses the order in which the cards are resolved. Some cards simply give a resource desired by scoring cards but others are more complex, destroying adjacent cards, or protecting them. Some cards must pay a “dust” cost. This places one or more dust cards onto adjacent locations, which are useless and clog up the playing field. After four rounds, the game is scored based on how many customers were scored. The game is a campaign game (not legacy) with players determining a “win” based on their score for each game. As the campaign progresses, new styles of cards appear as well as new scoring cards, often with a strong theme such as dust management or moving cards around on the board. The game’s big hook is that they plan to use an AI program to do all the coloring on the art. You can see the art is currently inked, but not yet colored. The poster shows an early example that was colored by the program. Look for a Kickstarter for the game in 2018.
Someone mentioned to me that Orbis (out at Essen, this fall) is attempting to hit that sweet spot of Splendor-like simplicity but with perhaps just a tiny bit more crunch. Players are gods plucking (hexagonal) land out of the ether while all the little folks living on the land flee to adjacent tiles. When a tile is taken from the board, colored cubes are placed at each adjacent tile. At first tiles are free to take from the board, but eventually more impressive tiles come out and a player must spend resources to buy them (although I believe you can spend the resources on a tile to buy it.) Tiles taken from the board are placed into a player’s tableau which is shaped into a pyramid (maximum 5 across on the bottom.) Higher levels can be placed atop lower ones if the higher one matches at least one land type of the tile below. Each colored tile scores points in a different way. Some might key off tiles below, others might score based on how many same-colored ones are adjacent, etc… At the start of each game, some tiles are taken (from several choices) which affect game scoring. Either end-game bonuses or perhaps bonuses for being the first to accomplish something (with smaller bonuses for being 2nd or later.)
Spin Master Games
Out in game stores everywhere, 5 Minute Marvel is a superhero take on the cooperative 5-minute Dungeon game. Players share a common resource deck, but each hero has their own special power along with a small deck (about 10) of power cards rather than a group set. The downloadable app to help facilitate the game even has the voice of Jarvis (Iron Man’s AI assistant.)
Hail Hydra is a social deduction game. Each player chooses a marvel hero (complete with special power) as the players attempt to defend New York from five of 12 possible villains. Some players have the role of Hydra Agents who try to mess up the game. Outed agents get to continue to play, so there’s no player elimination.
If one goes by average crowd around the booth, Everdell was one of the hits of the convention. The deluxe kickstarter version was on display and being sold and the 3D treehouse and cute little forest creature meeples were very eye catching. The idea of the game is to lead the little furry creatures safely out of the forest using a mix of tableau building (3×5 grid) and worker placement. A turn consists of placing a worker, playing a card, or preparing for next season (getting all your workers back.) Cards help with production, can help with getting to your destination, governance (drawing more cards), or give a special one time use. One of the features of the game is the asynchronous progression of players. Players decide for themselves when they want to progress to the next season so one player may get to the end of the game a few turns before the others. Players have five workers to place through three seasons (there’s a bonus one in there somewhere that gets added in automatically later) so players only have about 15 total worker placements in the game. It plays one to four players and runs about 20 minutes per player. The game should be out in October and there should be another Kickstarter for an expansion happening sometime in September.
Scythe: Rise of Fenris is the next expansion for the boardgame, which should be out on August 17th. This expansion features an 8 game campaign featuring unlockables (there are 5 tuckboxes) to explore. Note this is not a Legacy game, it just keeps some of the fun of discovery alive. One interesting aspect is the ability to customize how your particular faction plays. Factions preserve their unique personalities, but these can now be customized (in a tech tree sort of way) to emphasize play styles, like combat or early game efficiency.
Tasty Minstrel Games
Jungli-La is a dice rolling game with the expected rerolls and push your luck mechanics. Dice provide resources, which can be used to buy powers (that affect rolls) or to purchase victory points. Obviously, players start by buying powers but need to switch over to victory points at some point in the game.
Trade on the Tigris is an economic engine game with two bidirectional tracks. Players move towards a Dictatorship or a Democracy on one track and between the influence of Ashur or Marduk on the other. The game plays over five rounds (with a scripted event occurring each round) with players attempting to collect sets of cards to gain resources. Each round there is a five minute trading period where players can exchange almost anything (cards, resource tokens, etc…) However, the top part of a card must be revealed in a trade – basically the resource side. The bottom part will typically affect one’s location on the two tracks and since each side of the tracks tends to help a particular strategy, you may not want to use that card as it would push you the wrong way. (Oh, and I have down to watch out for the barbarians, who can cause you to be attacked.)
My interview with Upper Deck began with Dark Legacy (a constructed deck game with RPG elements, not the other kind of legacy – the new darling mechanic of game design.) The idea of the game is that players have a deck of cards and play each other, upgrading their deck (as if it were an RPG character) after each game. Thuse one’s deck can keep leveling up until your circle of friends are tired of playing with those decks and want to start over with new ones. It will be released as three starter decks (I believe with everything you need for a 2 player game.)
Meanwhile, the Legendary (not “Legacy”) line of games has two new additions. Legendary: Marvel Studios Phase 1 has heros and villians from the Marvel heroes “Phase 1” movies. The mechanics and cards lean towards less complicated effects as this is meant to be somewhat introductory in nature to the Legendary line of deckbuilders (I believe it even comes with a rubber game mat.) Note, it is out in stores now but due to licensing it will stop being produced in the middle of next year.
Taking a right turn in the world of licensing, Legendary Encounters is a Legendary deckbuilder with an X-files theme. Players actually play through seasons 1 to 9 of the X-Files as an actual character. Since there’s plenty of mystery in the story, some hero cards can appear in the villain deck and some villains will appear in the hero deck. Some villains will come into play requiring players to meet certain conditions in order to provide needed “evidence” for that villain or the characters suffer penalties. Legendary Encounters will also come with a rubber play mat.
When I think of USAopoly, I’m typically thinking about their many intellectual property adaptations of popular board games. This year, Codenames: Duet gets the Harry potter treatment in Codenames: Harry Potter. As with previous versions (Marvel, Disney) the cards have pictures on one side and words on the other so gamers can play how they prefer and/or mix in with their other sets.
This year, they were sporting quite a few original boardgames. Fantastic Beasts: Perilous Pursuit is a cooperative dice rolling game based on the Harry Potter franchise. Ech main character rolls their dice (three rolls, keep some) and attempt to activate one or more of their powers displayed on their character board. Player powers include capturing beasts, shielding players (important as there is no healing), distracting the monster (so it rolls fewer dice), or gaining insight (drawing more cards.) Cards in the game grant symbols (equivalent to rolling them on the dice), reroll abilities, allow an extra turn, or can double the power of an action. The game should be out in September (at an MSRP of $35 if you’re curious.)
The award for this year’s longest game name goes to Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: A Gemstone Mining Game (Only six characters more than the 1993 Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Gigantik Game.) In any case, DSWatSDAGMG is a push-your-luck game with a bit of take-that thrown into the mix (out in September.) Players grab gems from a bag one at a time. The gems are in various colors, including black. You can stop pulling gems at any time, but if you pull a second black gem you get no gems that round. On their turn, players can either mine, or mess with cards (trade/steal, etc..), or leave the mine to spend their gems on pie. Yes, victory points come in the form of pies. Various gem combos earn more points (such as 3 of a kind) and players can set aside up to two gems to carry over into the next round (other unused gems are discarded.) Look for the game in September.
Court of the Dead:Mourner’s Call was also being shown in the USAopoly booth (maybe just near it???), although I see it is being published by Project Raygun. It is a semi-coop game in that all players are trying to support Death by gathering up minions in the underworld. Each faction (Bone, Flesh, Spirit) has their own abilities, although some game mechanics let players borrow other faction abilities. It is an area control / dudes on a map sort of game. Players use resources to acquire more dudes and to put them out onto the map. The majority at any location on the board will acquire additional resources. In a nice twist, each faction has their own objectives for collecting victory points.
Van Ryder Games
Van Ryder Games has translated a number of graphic novel choose-your-own adventure puzzle books into english, and more are on the way. Coming in the spring of 2019 will be five new books, two pirate themed books that are kid/family friendly, a pair of Sherlock books (Sherlock and Moriarty & Sherlock and Irene Adler), and a mystery book (about a mystery – the type of book is not a mystery.)
Also releasing in the spring is Baiam, a more unique setup in that it is four books that are all used at once, making it a four player game. Most of the content is the same (around 70%) but some panels have different images between the books – so one player may “see” something that the others don’t. The game can be played with any number of players (1-4) but some of the puzzles do require up to four players at once to solve. The book content is also family oriented, but that doesn’t mean that all the puzzles are easy.
White Wizard Games
It’s hard to believe that five years ago I was sitting in the play hall with a new publisher with a fresh take on the deckbuilder craze, a deckbuilder sold in a single small box at a similarly small price point. If you’ve kept up with Star Realms over the years, you’ve probably spent far more than that initial $15 investment. However, if the game is new to you, a single deck purchase still holds a lot of great gameplay. This year’s crop of Star Realms releases include Star Realms: Frontiers. This is a stand alone deck (which could be mixed in, of course) that also comes with eight missions cards that allow 1 to 4 player cooperative gameplay. Some cards also have a double-ally feature, an effect that triggers after two of the appropriate ally symbols have been played. Look for it to arrive before Christmas.
Hero Realms continues trong with a kickstarter in October to support four new expansion packs Hero Realms: Journeys and Hero Realms: The Lost Village which is a continuation of the campaign game started last year. There will be new race packs including elf, orc, ogre, dwarves, and (kickstarter only) halflings to add to the possible hero varieties.
The Epic card game (too bad it missed yesterday’s post) is based on the idea of making a TCG out of just the very best cards. It has succeeded in this endeavour. The first time I played the game my opponent and I would just laugh about how the next card we drew was so overpowered. After our first few plays I began to worry about its long-term replay value but it grew on me as I learned some of the ropes. Those wanting to continue to increase their can available cards can take advantage of the next expansion: Epic: Pantheon. This set of 6 different expansion packs (released 2 at a time) contains two God cards, one token, extra rules, as well as more new cards for the standard game. The change here are the God cards. Players may (optionally) start play with a God card, which will give that player a unique special ability they can use in the game.
Finally, White Wolf is venturing into new territory and releasing a game in a larger, boardgame sized box. Sorcerer has players taking on the role of evil sorcerers trying to take over victorian London. It has a somewhat dark theme (lots of pentagrams, players start with 6 cards, 6 energy, and 6 actions available, etc…) and typically plays in two teams (1v1 or 2v2.) To build a starting deck, players pick (or are given) a character, a domain, and a lineage (there are three of each available) to start the game. Each of these choices provides a player with a starting face-up card. Gameplay itself revolves around three battlefields. The goal is to conquer two the three. Players use cards in their decks to place minions on the battlefield, equip them with bonuses, or play straight up one-time events or other actions. During the game, players take turns spending actions. They can draw 2 cards, play a card, gain energy, activate a power on a card, or move their minions around to other locations. Each battlefield can have a maximum of four of each team’s minions. At the end of six actions, combat is resolved. Players use dice to attack (normal hits and critical ones where the attacker assigns damage) and to damage the battlefields (it takes 12 damage to claim a location.) Players have some control over the dice through the use of tokens that can reroll one’s own dice or one’s opponent. They’re still looking at early 2019 for release in stores.
In a fashion typical of the past few years, Wizkids had quite a wide selection of game styles and levels at the convention. I simply cannot find a better description for A’writhe: A Game of Eldritch Contortions than a cthulhu based game of Twister. Teams of two (either 4 or 6 players) compete to try to “summon” a great old one. One player on a team is the cultist and has a tile displaying which positions on the 4×4 grid need to be covered up in order to summon the old one. The person playing as “the old one” meanwhile contorts themselves as described by the cultist who is describing things based on the symbols on their card. Meanwhile the other team is doing the same thing. They have a different tile card to solve, but squares on the grid count as covered if either player has them covered. After a team solves one card, the two players switch positions (and roles) and the game starts again. The team first to solve three cards wins the game.
I had a chance to play Kung-Fu Zoo earlier this summer and it quickly became an addition for my middle (grade school) son. Each player (2-4 players) has four animal themed dice and players take turns flicking their dice from the side of the arena (made from an insert in the box, complete with holes in the corners) into the other player’s dice in an attempt to knock them into the holes or knock them such that the dice are feet-side-up. (Each set of animal dice display a head, feet, sides, tail, and back.) Play continues with players picking up dice from inside the arena (if they aren’t feet-up) until one player runs out of dice to use. An alternate way to play is for points. Players flick in their four dice in turns and points are scored based on which side of the die is face up. Each of the four animal types has a one-use special ability. They add to the thematic fun, but I’ve found some abilities to be useful and others not so much.
Curio: The Lost Temple is a cooperative game (2-5 players) that can best be described as a set of time-limited puzzles that are solved in teams. The theme is sort of an archaeological based escape room. Rather than figuring out mental puzzles, though, people are performing manipulative based puzzles. For example, one player might be looking at a set of four strange symbols. They need to get another player to place two transparent bars on a card such that each begins and ends on one of the pairs of symbols. Once accomplished, the symbol in the middle of that “cross” is then used as part of the solution. Another puzzle has one player sorting through chips with symbols while another player is telling them what symbols are NOT supposed to be in the stack, until they get down to just one. The whole game is set around these sorts of puzzles, and there is no real way to “lose” the game. One times the group effort and then compares it to a chart for a rough estimation of your performance. There are four different puzzle modules in all, with one of them actually requiring three people at once to solve. The puzzles have many different possible answers but the skills involved are pretty much the same. It may start to lose its luster for players in it for the experience, but those that simply enjoy the effort and always want to improve their score should get their money’s worth.
Doppelgänger is a social deduction game for four to eight players (more players require more doppelgangers.) Players are given a character card and place their loyalty card underneath. Players take turns as the party leader, flipping up a quest card and then choosing which players will accompany them on the mission. Those players then give cards to the leader who blindly adds 2 cards from the deck and discards one at random. The active player then picks another one to discard and takes the leftover cards and assigns them to the other players in the party. Not all players can use every item so sometimes players will get unusable cards. Meanwhile, players on the quest will secretly draw two dice out of a bag filled with two black and one white die. They pick one of the two to roll and put the other back. (Of course, a black die is much worse than a white one.) Players are attempting to gain artifacts. Success in a mission grants the mission team a light artifact while a failure awards a dark artifact. If either side gets three artifacts, the game ends in a win for that side. However, players can take damage and if anyone dies in the game, it also immediately ends with a loss for whichever side lost a player.
Maiden’s Quest is a strange little game you play with a deck of cards held in your hand. Technically it could be played in pairs (cooperative or competitive) but the solo aspect intrigues me the most. Players start by picking one of eight possible maidens they want to play and then try to bust out of their tower by overcoming obstacles. The back side of the maiden card tells you which cards to use in building your starting deck. Players also get to pick out a dress (another card I think) and get some random item cards for their deck. The idea is to go through your deck of cards (the “tower”) while holding it in your hand. When you come across a challenge, you fan out the next five cards in your hand to see if they display enough symbols to defeat the challenge. Failure brings loss of health but also worsens your card. Success lets you upgrade a card. Cards are changed by flipping them around. Turn a card upside down and its abilities improve. Flip a card over to its back side and it will not be as useful (rotate it again if you want to make it really bad.) The cooperative mode is somewhat strange. If you are playing with someone (technically if you’re playing against them, too) and help them out, you can get your card physically signed by that person. Collect three signatures on a card and it now is more powerful in future games. I was concerned about a lack of decision trees in the game, but after analyzing it a bit more the decisions come in when you need to choose which card to upgrade when, etc.. As a game you play holding in one hand, I’m intrigued enough to give it the benefit of the doubt.
I’ve been able to get the cooperative, dexterity based, infiltration game Seal Team Flix to the table a few times in the past month and I have to say it is different. Players are given a cardboard standee to represent their character and then take small wooden discs and flick them with their fingers to represent shooting guns in combat. Player’s characters have set movement speeds and can be outfitted with different gear (better guns, sights, silencers, med kits) and abilities, which can be more powerful as players move through the series of games in the campaign (one-off games are fine, too, but the campaign does a decent job of ramping up the complexity.) Player movement as well as the enemy movement is all based on moving around the grid. Firing weapons creates “noise” which starts to bring patrols towards the intruders, as doe simply walking through enemy sight lines. My big concern with the game is its initial learning curve. Rules covering movement and creating noise are straightforward, but the behavior of the guards and patrols are much more complicated. (The guard will do this, or if it can’t do that it will do this, or if not that then this other thing, oh and that changes if it is one room away from a lot of sound, etc…) Once I figured out (I think) all the enemy responses, the game moved along at a good clip. Note, the game comes with a number of large playing boards with punch-outs where you can insert the walls for that board (they aren’t all that high, so some intense flicking can sometimes go over the top.) There are specific instructions for putting those together (it takes quite a while) so be sure to read those before punching out your cardboard tokens willy-nilly.
I first saw AEGIS while it was being promoted on Kickstarter. This “robot combat on a hex grid” has many of the typical features of this genre: terrain, various game modes (2v2, free for all, territory control, etc…), and dice for combat resolution. The “schtick” of the game comes in the name. The robots come in five flavors (Assault – offence, Evade – mobile, Guard – healthy, Intel – control/debuff, and Support – support/buff) – see what we did there with the first initials? Each robot is represented with a card that displays their powers and abilities, BUT during the game (or even beforehand) you can do a little Voltron-esque move to combine your robots into one robot. For example, you might end up with an AE or a IS robot. They can combine again and again (if you want) all the way up to a full AEGIS robot. Between the basic types and the combinations, there are 100 unique robots (with their card showing abilities, etc…) in the game.
Z-Man’s Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger was getting good buzz at the show, with people comparing it to Time Stories and some similar games. As one might guess from the name, it is a cooperative adventure game based on story segments appearing on cards. Players can collect items as they journey through the cards. There is also a Peril track that monitors player’s progress and can affect the behavior of some decisions. There is only this game scheduled for publication (should be out now), but if it does well sequels are not out of the question.
Lowlands has that Agricola like vibe where players use worker placement to gather resources, buy/raise sheep, fence them into pens, sell the sheep again, oh – and build dykes to hold back the water. Yes, these are lowland (thus the name) field and the ocean is always threatening to flow in. The water level is always rising (monitored by adding water left to right, and stacking on top when the first layer is full) and players have the option of contributing to the building of walls to hold it back (again built left to right and once the bottom is filled you start to stack on top.) The level of water compared to the wall is very important. If the water flows past the dyke players take a penalty (worse for those who contributed the least) AND the price of sheep drop and the points for adding to the wall increase. If the walls are able to hold back the water, sheep goes up in price and contributing to the wall gives fewer points. Player actions consist of building special buildings (as in Agricola, etc…), adding to the dyke, building fences, buy or sell sheep, or draw more cards. Another touch comes from players’ three workers. They are labeled 2, 3, and 4 and when used the number of the worker determines the number of TIMES that action is taken.
Mesozooic (out now or soon) has players directing a dinosaur zoo. Players draft cards to add to their exhibit (a personal tableau.) In a unique feature, placement of the cards in your 3×3 square is important, so you are allowed to adjust them. However, it is timed (timer included) and players must do all the shifting as if it were one of those old-school puzzles where you can only move one square at a time into the empty space.
And if you made it this far, thanks for watching! Feel free to leave comments below on all the games I missed but shouldn’t have. See you next year (unless I wise up and just decide to have a care-free frivolous GenCon…)