You thought it was over? I wish! I’ve got more Gen Con 2021 (yeah, that thing a month ago) content to throw your way. Today, it’s publishers M to R. Why go all the way to R? Because then I can show off the nifty animated gif I made…
If I’ve recorded any errors on dates, publishers, titles, (and spelling), let’s just keep that between us. No one else needs to know...
Mobo Games had a bit of a strange presence at the convention. They were showing off a game entitled Space Colonies. It was only after my demo was completed that I discovered it wasn’t a card game at all (yet.) It was an implementation of a browser-based game published by the company. Mobo had three mobile games, each with a strong boardgame feel. Space Colonies, players simultaneously choose one of their two ships to move to one of the control cards in the center of the table. Planets can provide money, energy, and/or the ability to trade resources with a central market. There is often a cost that must be paid to land on a planet, but they provide a bonus each turn. If a player manages to stay on a planet long enough the bonus increases. If two players are at the same planet, players wager coins to see who will stay. There is a special location, destructoid, that allows a player to “blow up” another planet (remove from play, bumping any occupants back to their owner.) Here, conflicting players wager energy for the privilege instead. The first player to 12 victory points wins the game. Depending on the reception to the demo at the convention, they may publish Space Colonies as a physical game. As it stands, it is a 2-4 player game and runs around 20-40 minutes.
Siege the Castle has 3 to 6 players competing to bank money while fending off each other. Each round, one player is the King along with his hoard of gold and a 100 villagers. The other players have 40 troops to use to attack the king. Players simultaneously choose an action (attacking, defending, banking gold, etc…) and then actions are resolved. The cycle repeats until the king or the challengers run out of resources. Each player gets a turn as King and then the game ends with the highest gold total declared the winner.
The newest title on offer is Bulli$h!, not yet available on the web site. This is a quick-playing (15 minutes or so) mix of deckbuilding with real time stock trading. Over the course of five rounds. Each round players draft cards (three cards, pick one) and then have a two-minute trading phase where players trade stocks with the game board. Players are buying and selling stocks they expect to go up or down in price, but can also modify the price fluctuations with cards and actions. Every six seconds the trading values change depending on three main factors: the buying activity of the players, industry trends, and special cards played by players. The industry trends are hidden modifiers that can be examined by playing an “industry expert” card. Players can play a bear or a bull card that will push a stock up or down over time. The Panic Chicken card will make stocks crash briefly, and then start to come back up. Finally, the Greedy Pig card will boost a stock briefly, but then it will quickly crash back down. Players have to manage their trading and card plays to buy low/sell high in the market and win the game with the most cash. The game goes up to 12 or possibly more people, with additional stock companies added for larger player counts.
Sometimes overpopulation can be a good thing. In the case of Kill the Unicorns, all those extra unicorns running around can be hunted down (culled, really) and given to gnomes who grind them up into all sorts of colorful magical powders. Who doesn’t like magic powders? Players pick a starting character with a unique power and then set out on a series of four hunting seasons after which the game ends and final scoring occurs. The hunt is a bit of an auction, with players bidding from cards in their hand on one unicorn at a time. Unsold unicorns are moved into the black market for possible later purchase. Each unicorn has a set point value, but they also come in colors. At the end of the game, players earn bonus points for groups of single-color unicorns as well as a rainbow (full set) of colors. In fact, obtaining a double-rainbow is an automatic win condition. The game also has a set of shops willing to lend a prospective hunter a hand. Here, players can trade in an unwanted unicorn for an ability – like changing the color of a unicorn or buying a special item. The game runs about 40 minutes and works with 3-6 players. It was released at the show and should be available in stores.
Mythic Games was showing off its Enchanters: Deluxe Box in all its glory. It includes pretty much all the previous expansions and has nice fancy bits, lots of decks of cards (of various categories), and includes a Fate deck for solo play. Players take on the role of adventurers out to protect their village and save it from the evil overlord. Much of the game focuses around fighting off bad guys and using the rewards to upgrading one’s equipment using various gems. Players really only have one main piece of equipment represented by two card stacks. One stack determines the item type (like longsword) and the other is the enchantment (like fire) to create a combo item (“longsword of fire.”) New cards tend to replace old ones, although some cards have effects that persist even after they are overwritten – these are displayed on the bottom so the deck is splayed upward. Players can incur wounds from combat, but no one can be eliminated. After incurring 10 wounds, a player takes a card that represents the permanent ongoing damage suffered. For example, one might lose an eye (gain 2 points, but have one less item) or be cursed with numbness (worth 1 point, adds 1 to defense, but subtracts 1 from attack.) Thus, no one is ever eliminated entirely. Players must cooperate to protect the village but, of course, there can only be one overall winner. At the end of the game players score points for defeated monsters, items collected, and add these to victory points gained by protecting the village. An expansion adds in quests which can be fulfilled for additional points. As one might expect of a deluxe edition, there are piles of options for every aspect of the game. Different overlords have global effects for a given game, as do the various specific villages to be defended. Each game is played with 4 factions (in addition to the Overlord) mixed together that include items, enchantments, monsters, and a dragon in some sort of theme. These factions can add new rules, like additional currencies. This deck of monster factions serves as the timer to the game, making sure the heroes don’t just sit on their hands putzing about in the village. Despite all the different options available to the game, Enchanters is a moderately short game running 30-60 minutes for 2-4 players. With all the choices available for each category of cards, it is unlikely one would ever want for additional content. A final nice feature, all the cards have flavor text tending towards the humorous rather than taking them self too seriously.
Out (hopefully) sometime in Q1 2022, Darkest Dungeon is a board game modeled after the videogame of the same name. Over the course of 11 scenarios, players delve deeper into the dungeon, eventually facing and hopefully defeating the “big boss.” When entering a level, the players roll a total of 8 equipment dice to see what they have available as resources: food, badges, shovels, antidotes, and torches. Once they begin to explore the level, the group has the option of scouting the nearby area. This gives everyone one stress level, but reveals what is lurking in all the adjacent rooms. Stress is a mechanic similar to, but separate from health-based damage. Instead of scouting, the players can explore by proceeding to an adjacent room. When moving, the group rolls dice to see what happens in the hallway. Normally, players each roll 2 exploration dice, but that is dropped to one if the room was already revealed (by a scout action.) The explore dice sap the group of resources depending on the icon rolled. Stress increases a player’s stress, hunger causes damage unless a food is consumed, traps deal 2 damage unless a shovel is used, there are a couple blank spaces, and the final icon is a Curio. This is an event/encounter card that contains good and bad results. Players can spend a torch in order to ignore the bad portion of the card. As part of damage, players can inherit “Quirks” which give ongoing effects – like a player taking stress whenever they eat food. At some point, players will enter a room with a monster. At this point the game flips over to a tactical battle on a square grid. Monsters and characters each have an initiative deck to determine who goes first and the monster’s actions are determined by a deck-based AI. Players are given 2 actions on their turn to move, fight, interact with the environment, change stances, or use a skill. Of course, there is treasure to be had through chests and defeating monsters. Gold is shared between all players and can be used back in “town” to buy equipment and upgrades. Players’ characters start the game with 3 out of 7 skills and can gain new ones as they level up. The game should be arriving in early 2022, and plays 2-4 players with a solo mode in an expansion.
A few years ago, Nauvo Games ran a Kickstarter for The Reckoners, a cooperative board game based around the series of novels of the same name by Brandon Sanderson. A star appeared in the sky and now people have developed super powers. These people are called Epics but unfortunately every Epic is also a supervillain. Players are regular folks trying to shut down Steelheart (Superman who can turn anything into steel) before he can reduce Chicago to ruins. Gameplay consists of players simultaneously rolling their (colorful, custom) dice for resources, modifying them with any Equipment or Plan Tokens they may have. These are spent fighting or at least acting as damage control against any Epics running around the city.
The new expansion, The Reckoners: Steelslayer, brings more options for everything to the table: doubling the available equipment and epics, two new cities to to fight in, and 4 new reckoners (player characters.) It also provides two new bosses (to replace Steelheart) that play completely differently. The two bosses are represented with their own spiral bound rulebook for handy reference. The expansion includes a campaign mode for all three bosses. Not appearing as a general release, the expansion should be available through Nauvo Games by the end of the year.
In addition to showing off it’s tabletop RPG, Emberwind, Nomivore Games had a demo of its lightweight card game, Snack Attack. Players place food cards onto central plates in the hope of filling up the plate and collecting the stack for points later. Antagonistic cards have a bit of a rock-scissors-paper effect. A Sour card takes points off of a stack, but that is countered by a Spicy card, which can be countered with a Bitter card, which is countered by a Lolly card, which brings us back to the Sour card again. The “Mom-isaur” card makes a player put their stacks back in the middle while the Rex card entirely empties a plate in the middle. Play proceeds back and forth for a total of three rounds and the game is scored. It plates 2 to 4 player in about 20 to 30 minutes.
Panda Cult Games
One of the more interesting small publishers I came across, Panda Cult Games was showing off Shovel Knight: Dungeon Duels. Shovel Knight is a popular indie multiplayer side-scrolling video game. Its transition to boardgame space keeps much of the pace and feel of the video game. One to four players layers take on the role of the knights as they journey through a dungeon, fighting off monsters and trying to avoid pits and traps. Whoever last-hits a monster gains coins as a reward. Items to improve one’s abilities can be found or purchased if the store is encountered. Dungeon exploration is linearly through a series of tiles that scroll across the board, adding new ones on one end and removing them from another. Once the entire stack of tiles have been traversed, a boss fight ensues with even more treasure available. The player who ends with the most treasure, wins. Being chivalrous, the knights never attack each other directly but are perfectly happy to “accidentally” bump and push one another into pits and traps along the way. There is no player elimination, players respawn (like in the video game) on their next turn. Fans of the videogame will appreciate the fact that all the stages and boss monsters from the videogame are included.
Wander: The Cult of Barnacle Bay is a cooperative dice-chucking game of exploration and adventure. It is a tactical RPG run out of a campaign book, using big and small tiles to lay out a given scenario lasting about 60 to 90 minutes. It leans towards larger tiles and thus faster setups, which is fine by me. The core game has 5 heroes in it, so it can handle up to 5 players. In the course of a scenario they level up to level 5, but reset to level 1 for the next scenario. However, player equipment (there are 150 or so unique items) is kept from game to game for a slow growth through the campaign. The focus on the game is player-focused in that only heroes roll dice. Enemies, controlled by AI rules, automatically hit but characters roll on defense. The game uses “exploding dice”, dice doing maximum damage are rerolled and added to the total, to give the occasional over-the-top event. There is no player elimination, the party loses 1 morate instead, which can eventually cause a loss of the scenario. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, fighting a bear-shark is not for the faint of heart.
Pandasaurus had a copy of the new Machi Koro 2 on the table. It looks to be a pretty slick implementation, tightening up the game. Players are still trying to build landmarks, but players get to choose three (with new powers) at the start of the game. Players get 5 coins and are given three buying rounds before the game starts in earnest. Rather than a central deck there are now three rows of available cards, each row corresponding to the potential numbers rolled – 1 to 6, 7 to 17, and a landmarks row. Everyone starts out able to roll one or two dice rather than having to buy the ability during the game. I didn’t play through a game, but the changes all seem to be working towards a tighter, faster and more balanced game.
The big (by size and popularity) game at the booth was Dinosaur World. It takes the popular Dinosaur Island and cranks the complexity up a notch or two. Players are trying to put together the best dinosaur theme park using tile-laying worker placement mechanics. The game runs for 5 rounds of 5 phases each. First, players draft a set of workers for the round from a set of cards. Each card has a different assortment of colored workers, each color gaining a bonus if used in the corresponding action. Possible worker actions include gathering Dinosaur DNA, to be used to make dinosaurs later. Building attractions consist of adding hexagonal tiles onto one’s theme park. These may be paddocks for dinos or possibly contain buildings granting special powers. Players also have private actions they can choose a limited number of times per turn. These include converting DNA from simpler to more advanced forms, acquiring more money, increasing the security of their park, creating new dinosaurs (by spending DNA), and upgrading their “Jeeple Garage.” These jeeps are a key part of the game. After worker placement, each park runs their Jeeple through their park, tile by tile. Starting at the welcome center, players can choose their path – longer paths are possible when upgrading one’s Jeeples. Each tile triggers and effect when visited by the Jeeple. Visiting tiles with dinos present causes a “danger” die to be rolled which is compared to one’s security level, possibly (probably?) causing some unfortunate “spontaneous loss of employment” of employees of the park. As park goers are always interested in something new, tile rewards are reduced after every subsequent visit. In order to gain easier access to the newer and possibly more powerful tiles gained over time, a player may move their “park entrance” during round 3 or 4 such that they have better access to tiles further afield. When the game ends, players look at the number of deaths in their park. The lowest number for any player is considered the baseline and is subtracted from every other player. Players then lookup on a chart to see what sort of victory point penalty they incur. Dinosaur World is a fairly hefty game, taking up plenty of table real estate and running toward 90 to 120 minutes. However, the theme and Pandasaurus’ color scheme helps to give the game a bit more inviting and friendly look.
PSCG (The Plastic Soldier Company)
Disguised in the Hub Games booth, PSCG was showing off two fast-playing wargames. The first, Blitzkrieg!: World War Two in 20 Minutes has been out for a bit and is in a new square-box edition with a new rulebook and includes a previous expansion. Blitzkrieg! is actually a bit of a bag-building wargame. Two players (Axis & Allies) begin the game with bags full of chips representing air, land, and sea units as well as generals and admirals. The chips are color-coded – blue for sea and orange for land. Players start with three chips and choose one to place on a location on the board matching its color (air units are “wild”.) The board is broken up into areas representing one of the five main theaters of the war (East & West Europe, Africa, southeast Asia, and the Pacific. Placing a chip in a theater will adjust the influence track in that player’s favor. It can also trigger an additional effect such as gaining victory points, drawing another chip, gaining a special chip into one’s bag, or possibly bombing the enemy and eliminating one of their chips in hand. Chips are normally redrawn when placed, so bombing an enemy means they will now only have two (or even one) choice of chip to place. Theaters are filled up row by row. When the first row is filled, it is scored (for influence) and the next row becomes available for access. A specific theater of operations can be closed off by filling in all its rows, or by pushing its battle track all the way over to one side or the other. Victory points are also gained by closing rows and winning influence war in an entire theater. It is two-player, of course, but the game also comes with a solo mode consisting of AI chips drawn from its own bag.
Releasing in November, Caesar!: Seize Rome in 20 Minutes! is, unsurprisingly, a sequel in the same line. You can tell it’s a sequel because they added another exclamation point at the end. (Can’t wait to see where they put the third exclamation point in the next game…) Regardless, in this game players are attempting to take over Rome in a similar fashion as Blitzkrieg! but now the game is played on a location-based map rather than the more abstracted “theater” areas of the former game. Players are again drawing tokens from a bag and placing them on the board – soldier and naval pieces being placed in their respective locations. There is one Caesar piece that is weaker, but can act as a wildcard. There is no movement of pieces so it is all about placement. A turn consists of placing a piece, capturing that location and removing any available “spoils” tokens. These grant bonuses like neutralizing attackers, drawing more chip, straight-up victory points, and even taking an extra turn. When a player manages to get the most military in a particular province, they permanently claim it for victory points. The game includes three small modules/expansions that add in new tokens and rules to the base game. A solo mode vs AI is accomplished using a deck of cards that can be changed to simulate different levels of difficulty.
Unsurprisingly, there were plenty of sequels and expansions in the Ravensburger booth. Horrified: American Monsters is a stand-alone expansion to the cooperative Horrified game. American Monsters adds in 6 new American-themed monsters: Bigfoot, Mothman, the Jersey Devil, the Chupacabra, the Banshee of the Badlands, and the Ozark Howler.
More Marvel heroes join the Villainous line in (surprise) Marvel Villainous: Mischief & Malice. As before, it is a stand-alone expansion but can be combined with the earlier Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power. In this version, Loki needs to collect and spend ten “Mischief”, Madame Masque needs to defeat eight Marvel heroes, and M.O.D.O.K. must activate the Cosmic Cube for the win.
Another movie tie-in, Alien: Fate of the Nostromo is a cooperative game where players explore the ship, gathering, making, and trading items in order to complete their objectives while avoiding the alien. Once objectives are completed, the crew face one of 5 possible final missions that will determine success or failure. Each final mission has multiple requirements that must be simultaneously met to succeed.
The newest spin on the puzzle/escape room game are the audio-puzzle games echoes: The Dancer and echoes: The Cocktail. Players cooperate to piece together a story from sound-based clues. Object cards and the game board can be scanned with an app which triggers a sound clue. Players must put the various clues in order based on what they hear, supplementing it with what one can find on the cards. The game proceeds in sets of three sounds which, when combined and played in sequence, can offer up additional information. The Dancer explores the fate of the ghost of a young girl in a Scottish manor while The Cocktail has players trying to unmask the identity of a crime boss from within an underground bar.
Runaway Parade Games
Filled with glittering, backlit orange plastic crystals, Runaway Parade Games was one of the more eye-catching booths around. The crystals were part of the game, representing the spread of fire in Fire Tower. Fire Tower is a competitive game for 2-4 players. Each player has a tower on a corner of the board and competes to spread the blaze in the middle of the board over onto their opponents’ towers. On their turn, a player rolls a die to determine a wind direction. They then add additional fire gems to the board in that direction. Players can then play cards that spread the fire out, douse flames with water, or set up a fire break. The cards are set up with patterns, representing the pattern of objects that will be added to the board. If the fire reaches a player’s tower, they may use a bucket to douse the fire, but if fire comes back a second time, they lose their tower and become the fire. It’s a quick game, lasting around 15-30 minutes. An expansion, Fire Tower: Rising Flames, provides bits for a 5th player, adds in Fire Hawks (the Pokemon of real birds) that move fire around, and includes a solo mode. The solo mode has a player attempting to burn up the other towers while fighting against a deck-based AI opponent.
And that’s it for today! For you hardcore readers (or alphabet nerds), you may have noticed the missing letters in the title. I just didn’t visit any publishers starting with J, K, or L. It’s not that we’re letter-ist here. Next post we’ll finish the alphabet, ending with “W” of all things. For Gen Con 2022, I’ll have to make a point to find some publishers starting with “X” or “Y.”