Another day, another report. Some exciting stuff announced and hinted at, which as is traditional, I buried near the end of the report. Lots of good games here, and while parenting continues to put a bit of a crimp on my boardgaming time, I think this crop has a number of titles that will make me put in some extra effort to get them to the table soon. Still going with this year’s slogan, “cover less, enjoy more.” On with the games!!!
Devir ran the gamut of games with the very lightweight co-op Walkie-Talkie on one end and the point-salad beast of Bitoku. Walkie-Talkie has 2-8 players trying to play out their hand of cards onto two central piles in a race with time. Players can place a card onto the central color or word piles. However, when placing a card, a player needs to declare a word that both starts with the top letter card and is associated with the color on top of the color card. If players ever get “stuck” and are unable to think of a clue, they call “roger” and everyone’s hands are flipped over, displaying a new letter or color on the opposite side. Players can also call “over” and everyone passes their hand to their neighbor.
Red Cathedral was on hand with its new expansion, Red Cathedral: Contractors. If you’re unfamiliar with the base game, it is a worker placement game where players can earn resources by selecting and moving dice around the outside of a circular track. If the die lands on a space with other dice, more resources are earned. “Corners” on the board host Guild spaces which grant special powers in addition to resources if a die lands on an adjacent area. The new expansion introduces 8 new guilds (with each guild having four possible cards) a new personal action board (placed beneath a player’s original board) and one new action type. This has players placing out contractors to claim places on the map board of Russia.
Finally, we come to Bitoku. There is a lot going on in this game, and each area of the board allows players to pursue a different style of action. It’s got deckbuilding elements, worker placement, and resource management. Players begin with a starting deck of five cards. On a turn, a player plays a card and then gains its benefit. Once all have played a card, everyone is given a chance to play a second card to their player mat or place a die onto the board. This can go around up to three times, filling up a player board. Turns usually consist of playing a card, playing a die, or moving a die around the large board. Each area of the board works differently. The top of the board trends to grant resources of different types, there’s a river in the middle that gives you benefits as you cross back and forth (losing 1 pip on your die each time) and a sort of “race” in another part of the board granting points to the first player to finish. I must admit I was running low on time and did not have the time to spend to get the whole game fixed in my head. Hopefully this gives you at least a feel for the game. The benefit is that since I don’t know the “whole thing” I don’t have to explain it in detail to you, yay!
Clank! Catacombs is the newest entry in the Clank! line of games. It is basically a reworking of the original, but instead of a central board, players reveal the game board during play as they travel through tiles drawn from a central stack. Some differences of note: Some tiles add white ghost cubes to the bag. When these are drawn all players take damage and the white cubes go back in the bag. Other tiles may offer a really cool treasure, but the way the exit & entrances to the tile work, it may be very hard to exit the tile again. Players start the game with three lockpicks, rather than needing to pick them up. Unlocked “doors” stay unlocked for all players for the rest of the game. It’s a stand-alone game but the cards are cross compatible with all previous editions.
Dune Imperium has a new expansion, Immortality. Some cards now have two effects, one if played normally, and a more powerful one if the card is played alongside a second card. The expansion also introduces a sort of a branching technology tree. Cards with a microscope symbol can move a player token from left to right across the technology board, gaining bonus resources and effects as they advance. The first to advance completely across the board in a specific track gains extra points. The expansion also “jumpstarts” the game just a bit as the starting Dune card is now replaced with and Experimentation card that will start players down the tech tree.
As with previous years, Funko was out in force with a wide selection of boardgames with various high profile IPs. Here are a select few I was able to preview.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is a co-op game where one player is the director. The director tries to give clues to the other players via building windows and other signs (no talking!) to get them to figure out eight attributes of the murderer after four rounds of play.
Disney – A Goofy Movie Game is a 2-4 player game where players race across the US while trying to collect cards to put into their scrapbook. Each round, players use one of their twelve cards (n 4 colors) to bid for a scrapbook card – awarded to the high card of each color. A timer element lies in a Powerline character making its way to LA, which ends the game and grants a bonus to any character already there for the concert.
Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar has 1-4 players playing a legacy-style game focused around building the Jurassic World theme park. Over twelve “adventures” players set up facilities, breed dinos, and set up attractions all while making sure employees and visitors are kept safe. One of the heaviest games in the Funko lineup, expect this one to run well over an hour at least.
Ted Lasso Party Game is, wait for it, a party game for 2-6 players. Players cooperate to try to play their cards in correct order within a time limit. A football (soccer you Americans!) shaped die rolled into a little box during the game adds a twist to game play.
Disney Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has a great table presence, with a big plastic mountain on the board with tracks for marbles to roll down. Every turn, marbles are poured down the mountain which represent resources that players can collect to upgrade their mining operations. Meanwhile, the marbles (and mountain) can be messed with by twist-of-fate cards like landslides or dynamite.
Gale Force Nine
Gale Force Nine had several recent releases, including Dr. Who: Don’t Blink – a 1 vs many game where the Doctor and his companions (up to 4 players) move around the board trying to collect parts to repair the TARDIS while the Weeping Angels character tries to capture them.
Just as deadly, but a more humorous theme is Pathfinder: Level 20. Here players are a group of kobolds scurrying away from 19th level fighters just looking for another kobold or two to hit the magic level 20. Players play cards to hinder the fighters or help their own escape – regardless of what happens to the other kobolds. The game ends with a single surviving player, or if the players manage to repel the fighter’s incursion.
It may be something about the average gamer age (that hangs around me) but there was a bit of buzz around the upcoming (by the end of the year – possibly September) Firefly: Misbehavin’ game. 2-4 players take control of one of the factions of the Firefly universe (criminal gangs, the alliance, Serenity, etc…) It’s an asymmetric (at first) deckbuilding game that can be played as-is or play through various scenarios that change up the basic game.
I’m a fan of the 4X (ie. civ-like) Star Trek: Ascendancy. Thus, I was happy to see there still more race expansions for the game coming down the pipe later this year. Both new factions have connections to the Deep Space 9 series. Players can now play as the Breen Confederacy, perhaps the ultimate defensive empire, great for those gamers who just like to expand a little bit, then turtle in for the long haul. Enemy empires entering Breen space suffer strong penalties but Breen tend to lose most of their race advantages when leaving their own territory. They like to have direct connections to all their planets, establishing bases past empty systems leave those bases exposed. The other expansion coming up is The Dominion War. The Dominion player starts in their own section of the world map, beyond the wormhole found in the Bejor system. Thus, they can pretty much freely expand in the early game without worrying about attacks. However, the Dominion uses a special exploration deck which means the planets they colonize are much weaker than most that are found in the rest of the deck. (Think only one or two development nodes on any given planet.) When ready, they can launch into Bejor (a nice prize of a planet) and use it as a base to take over the rest of the galaxy. Of course, if they wait too long, the other races may just use the wormhole to take the fight to them. The Dominion expansion also introduces a new way to play the game, dividing the civilizations into two alliances for a 2 vs 2 (or 4 vs 4 if you’ve got all day) game. Both races have new exploration cards and star systems, just like most of the other race expansions in the game.
Gamelyn Games had their typical load of Tiny Epic Games, displayed in their (no-longer Tiny) Epic Booth. One of the most recent titles was Tiny Epic Dungeons. Dungeons is a cooperative (surprise) dungeon crawl where players explore a card-tile based dungeon full of traps and loot while it slowly fills with goblins. Goblins appear regularly and give players a baseline of antagonists while larger monsters will occasionally spawn. Defeat all the larger monsters and the game transitions into a game-ending epic boss fight where players fight the boss in its lair but may also need to lure the boss into other parts of the dungeon to finish them off. Player improvement is primarily through loot and spell cards with loot (worn in different slots) tend to have passive abilities and spells requiring focus (power) to perform. The dice mechanic for actions is fun. Dice show sides of +1, +2, and then 3 to 6. A die can be adjusted up or down by spending two focus. You only choose one die for your roll but + dice can also be added. However, unused dice will often display the focus symbol and players can gain that much focus before resolving the roll. In this way, a player could end up with more focus after they take their action or could attempt an action they can’t afford, hoping to score the spare focus on the roll. Another fun aspect is that some equipment comes in “sets” which give additional bonuses when worn as a group, giving a bit more theme to a character. For example, the bear set really ups damage while the lion set tends to heal you when you attack.
Coming in March of 2023 (but late KS pledges still going on) is Tiny Epic Vikings. The game revolves around card drafting incorporated with area control. Players play out cards in a row, scoring bonuses depending on how the card runes match up. Cards can be used for their abilities (there are three listed on the left) to forward one’s viking clan, or placed upside down to indicate a player wants to start a fight on a specific island. Fighting on an island increases the Fury level of that god and lets a player increase their standing with that god. Other players can choose to join in the fight or simply let the other player win. Losers in a fight get to use that gods special ability. (And yes, there are a lot of different gods to choose from in the game.) After three eras (later eras draft more cards) the game ends.
One thing to mention, almost all (soon/eventually all) Gamelyn Games titles are being implemented in the DIZED online learning platform. It walks players through setting up the game and playing their first game in an interactive way. I found it quite useful to get us up and running on our first play of Tiny Epic Dungeons. It kept track of the game moderately well and would introduce new rules when we needed them. It was particularly nice when we went up against the boss as a whole new setup needs to be put together. It wasn’t perfect, as we had one hiccup but we figured out how to use it as a resource for most questions. The main disadvantage later in the playthrough was determining if our question could be answered in the app or if we just needed to look in the rulebook.
Traditionally known for more lightweight games, Goliath has taken a much darker turn. There were no less than three different games with a slightly more serious theme. First up is Escape from the Iron Gate. You play as an inmate in a prison trying to make it from room to room in order to be the first to escape. However, it is really a lightweight game in disguise. At the start of the game, each player is given 4 key cards (one per room on the board) that lists the resources they need to collect to move from each room to the next. On their turn, a player will roll two dice that determine what a player needs to do to earn a prize on their turn. This could be a quick game of charades or possibly a card displaying a puzzle that needs to be solved. The puzzle cards have that cool red and blue mess that can be revealed using a red slipcover. Players earn more resources (used to escape) if they attempt harder charades or complete puzzles with fewer hints.
Casefile: Truth & Deception, in partnership with the “Casefile” crime podcast, has players (or teams) passing information cards around in a sort of clue-esque style. There are a set of cards that represent suspects, weapons, motives, and locations involved with the case to be solved. Some cards are set aside at the start of the game and players have to figure out what they are. To gather information, a player can ask for three specific cards on their turn. A negotiation occurs and players can “pay” for their hints with points. Each card has a point value so one could pay for a hint using a single or several cards at once. Players trade information and in this way both players gain knowledge. There are distractor cards, of course, so it is difficult for other players to know for sure what information is changing hands. At the end of a player’s turn they roll a die and must discard a card matching the type rolled or two cards of any type. Players always draw back up to a hand of 5 at the end of their turn. There are some crazy cards in the deck that affect the entire game. Some force players to pass all their cards to the left, force a player to trade cards with you, or even draw an entirely new hand of 5 cards. These help make sure that one player can’t sit back and guarantee that they can hoard a particular clu or two. One particularly horrible card has players pass their hint tracking mat to another player. Of course, you get a few seconds to memorize it before you let it go, but it isn’t going to be fun.
The final game is Real Truth, in partnership with another crime-themed podcast, The Podcast on the Left. It’s a 90 minute eurogame where players take on a secret identity and lead your own conspiracy. Players complete missions, capture mythical creatures, and gather a following of crazies of your own. Lots of content means the game should stay fresh. It also includes flair like glow-in-the-dark pieces and QR codes on the mission cards which link to information about notorious conspiracy theories in the “real world.”
Greater than Games
Not too many new games on sale yet, but Greater Than Games was selling two “new” (at least to me) expansions for Spirit Island. The first featured the improved token sets one could get during the Kickstarters while the second collected all the promo spirits into a single box. Later this year, watch for the upcoming Feather & Flame expansion. Of note, the spirit boards in that expansion will be of thinner card stock so that it is easier to stack them into a box. However, they will be foil-embossed to look even better. Gamers interested in slimming down their current box will be able to buy a set of slimmer, foil embossed set of previous spirit cards.
Just prior to the convention, Greater Than Games announced a new Spirit Island release: Horizons of Spirit Island. This is a new, completely stand alone version of the game with less expensive components and 5 new spirits appropriate for beginners. The spirits, of course, are just as powerful as any others and will be fully compatible with the other versions of the game.
There was also a preview of Dangeresque: Crime Scene Tamperer (a party game based on the Strong Bad IP) floating around but I missed it. You’re apparently trying to shift the blame for whatever crime was committed while simultaneously avoiding blame yourself.
Maker of some great kid’s games, HABA has been adding a deeper game or two of late.
Miyabi has 2-4 players building the best flower garden they can by drafting tiles to place in their private play area. However, there are fairly strict rules for tile placement. Each round starts with a stack of available tiles in various polyomino style shapes. Players then draft tiles and place them on their mat, but may only place a flower (there is one on every tile) in a specific column once per round. It is the flower that is important for columns, not the rest of the tile. Second, tiles can be stacked on top of one another, but must be completely supported, no tiles hanging off, unsupported on the sides. The first player to get a level 5 tile gets a bonus score. Tiles score points based on their squares, with point values multiplied by the level of the tile. Players can also earn points by lining specific types of flowers in designated rows on their board. Thus, players are looking to place things according to column restrictions while trying to satisfy scoring bonuses based on rows. The game supposedly has a few built-in “expansions” to mix things up if the base game gets stale.
My favorite game of the HABA booth was Flotsam Float. Here players are doing the traditional stacking of little wooden pieces, but after stacking they must then move the new stack to another station on the table. Six pedestal locations are scattered around the table, surrounded by four cards with a piece on each one. The active player chooses a card at the current location of the stack and then adds their chosen piece to the stack. It could be on top of other pieces, or simply alongside them on the build plate. Next, the tile under the chosen piece is flipped, displaying where the active player must move the stack. If they successfully move the stack, they get to keep the flipped up card (it displays 1 to 3 shells, which are points.) Moreover, if the player managed to stack their piece higher than any other piece (and it’s at least 3 high) they get a “bonus” card after a successful move. If any pieces drop, the active player sets those pieces aside and doesn’t gain a card. The stack is placed where it should have gone, and the next player chooses one of the pieces at that location to continue the game. After all pieces are used up, players count the shells on their cards (it varies from 1 to 4.) Whoever has the most shells wins the game.
Forest Friends is a recent title in the very-young targetted “My Very First Games” series. In this one, the game box is used to help construct a large box with holes on the top and the sides. Inside the box is an “X” of cardboard with pictures of various animals. One must look through the side holes to see what animals are there. (The top holes are there to allow in light.) After spotting an animal, the active player chooses the matching animal tile (or use the back which has matching animal tracks.) The game can be played in a memory fashion, having players look into all the holes and then try to recall which animal is in which hole.
King of the Dice has players rolling colored dice in a Yaghtzie manner to then draft cards which are then used to try and set up area control situations on the central board. There are five different card effects that can be chosen. Once cards are spent, they are kept for later in case a player drafts a duplicate at a later point in time. Exact card duplicates can be spent in pairs to set the face on a die, rather than rolling it. When the central board is entirely covered, the game ends and players score based on how many contiguous areas they have created.
Finally, we come to Moonlight Castle, which has the coolest action bits at the booth (possibly the convention.) Players move their worker around the sides of a river. On the outside (white) edge locations, players pick up a set number of tokens from a bag. These colored tokens can be used to place their piece on one of the matching-color locations next to the river. Landing next to the river allows a player to buy the adjacent river card, if they spend colored tokens matching the river card. On the flip side of the river token, there is a bonus ability ranging from advancing the river track another time, nothing at all, or perhaps even providing a second turn. Here’s where it gets fun. Inside the tower is a stack of river tiles. Just on the other side of the tower is a meeple inserted into a special river tile. By moving the meeple back and forth, river tiles seem to magically pass out of the tower, pushing everything down the river.
Out in November, Flashback: Zombie Kids is a cooperative investigation (sort of exit-game) set in the Zombie Kids setting. Beginning with a single picture card, players look for card numbers which are then added face up to the table. The “hook” here is that each new card shows the same situation, but from a different character’s perspective. Some cards have little “gimmicks” where toys or secret decoder things are moved around on top of another scene card to discover hidden relationships or modify one’s perspective on a card. Once players think they have seen everything they needed to find, the game asks a series of questions and players can measure their score in terms of a % completion. The game has three scenarios that are played in sequence as some of the “tools” of previous scenarios might be reused in later ones. After completing all three scenarios there is another unlock that provides additional ways to play. Watch this space for next year, where a sequel should appear with a popular video game license.
Ole! Guacamole is a party game of word association and letter disassociation. Players place a card out of the draw pile and then must state a word related to the previous word (by the previous player) but the new word cannot contain any of the letters on the table. If they cannot or say something incorrect, they must take all the cards on the table. In addition to letter cards, there are Uno-type mix it ups like forcing a player to say two words, skip a player, reverse, or pick another player to have to say the next word. When all cards have been drawn from the deck, the game ends and the player with the fewest cards wins. (BGG says it is a game from 2021, but I was told it would be out in mid-October, not sure if that’s a reprint or what…)
Linkto is a cooperative game where one player reads a clue question and the other player(s) must decide on the answer. At the start of the game all possible answer cards are set out on the table. When a question is answered correctly, the question card is used to cover up the answer, narrowing things down for later questions. Thus, a smart question giver might try to ask questions in a specific order to help narrow down the field. There are 50 word cards and 49 clue cards thus the back of the unused word card will tell you if you’ve solved the puzzle correctly. The clue cards come in 5 difficulty levels so the game could be played by the same crowd up to five times. I really liked the demo game I played with numbers from 1 to 13 or so, but the published games comes in two versions: one travel and the other food themed. (Again, I have down an early December release although it’s been out a few years on BGG – I suspect maybe it is a US release date.)
Galileo Project is a sequel to the game, Ganymede and plays similarly but it adds in an influence track between the Earth and Mars factions. In Galileo Project, 2-4 players are trying to settle the four main satellites of Jupiter. The game is a tableau builder, with the requisite engine building through creating synergistic combos. Players get robot cards and then pay to place them on one of the moons, or they can add a crew, or build technology. Cards cost influence to play, which is subtracted from the corresponding Mars or Earth track. Robot cards are played onto the moons and each moon has a different specialty. One provides influence discounts, another gives resources, one give access to more and better character cards, while the last one allows modification of a player’s other robots. Character cards provide influence when they are chosen and have two abilities. A player can choose to take the instant ability, or use its other ability for use in endgame scoring. The technology tiles primarily consist of spending a cost to generate victory points. They either provide an ongoing ability or a powerful one-time effect. The technology cards are also two sided to provide for greater game variety. There are four public goal cards (chosen from many) that can be claimed by the first player to meet their condition. The game ends when someone claims their 11th robot or all the characters have been chosen.
Turing Machine is another contender for game of the show. They sold out on Thursday but were able to get 40 more copies for Saturday which promptly sold out again. Turing Machine has players race to figure out a 3 digit code. To gather clues, players construct their own 3 digit sequence using punch cards (cards with holes in them) and choose one of the available questions on the board. Using a clever overlapping mechanism, players can get feedback about which (if any) of their numbers satisfy a specific condition. For example, one might find out that a given number is less than, equal to, or greater than four. By changing one’s input code and/or choosing different questions, players can start to figure out the 3 digit solution. The first player to guess correctly (you only get one try) wins the game. Due to the way the clue cards and the result-checkers work, the game claims to have millions of different problems to solve. There are 20 given in the box, but many more are available online.
Hasbro (Avalon Hill)
The Avalon Hill brand has long been associated with “gamer” style games, for a time it was run under the Wizards of the Coast division of Hasbro, but now they’re back directly under the umbrella of Hasbro proper. They didn’t have a booth in the exhibit hall, but the Hasbro/Avalon Hill stand in the demo hall dominated the area both in size and in the excitement around it. In France, the idea of window shopping is called “window licking.” I believe the term is apropos here. Gamers were coming by to see the top shelf of the display case, showing off none other than some preproduction versions of the new Heroscape. Yes, Heroscape is back in the form of Heroscape: Age of Annihilation. Yes, the characters will be backwards compatible to the previous edition. No, the figures will not be painted (unlike those on display.) However, they will be printed in plastic colors matching their faction. (I recently saw a mention on BGG news that the sculpts on the minis will be more detailed than the previous edition due to improvements in manufacturing.) I’m told they’re “trying to keep the game affordable” to new players while providing new stuff for old players. The last tidbit of note, I’m told the dragon unit on display is part of the “Dryan Lifeborne Order.” I leave it up to the reader to decide if that means it’s a new faction or not…
Legacy games come full circle with Risk: Shadow Forces (out now). Risk Legacy kicked off the idea of legacy games and now Risk: Shadow Forces revisits the franchise while taking advantage of many of the features of recent popular legacy systems. First, we start with the classic game Risk. Then, add into the game warlords which are selected to govern one’s armies. Each have special powers and these powers can change and grow throughout multiple plays of the game. The warlords are on the board as part of one’s army and also serve another function. There are 15 games in the official legacy progression. 10 of which are the standard Risk style game, but somewhere around every other game, players will use their warlords on a special skirmish board for a tactical style game. These could be a regular battle, an attempted rescue, or whatever. Expect the standard opening of envelopes, changing around player and faction abilities, and modifying the game board. Of note, my source pointed out that all the connections between countries were designated with a number… all the better for some sort of AI option to be messing with the game board.
Betrayal at House on the Hill is now in its 3rd edition (out now). The game has 50 new haunts with new mechanics (including some co-op ones and others where the traitor actually remains hidden.) There are a few tweaks to the rules to try to give a more reliable game experience. Haunts shouldn’t start unreasonably early and options are given for a “reluctant traitor” whereby brand new gamers can defer becoming the traitor to someone else – so you don’t have the new player wandering off to the other room to read a new rulebook to themselves. The first expansion to the game, Blood on the Moon, adds in a playable female werewolf character. The werewolf player goes into werewolf form when a haunt is triggered. There are werewolf-specific haunts, rooms, items, etc… to give more range to the Betrayal story.
Early 2023 will see the release of The Yawning Portal, a famous tavern in the D&D universe where adventurers go to start out on their quests. Players in this game are the staff in the tavern, trying to make their money off of those adventurers coming and going. A deck of cards represent the adventurers sitting along a long central table and players are trying to put out food on that table that caters to a specific adventurer’s needs. The deck consists of 60 unique cards, including a few Easter eggs for those familiar with the setting. Players sell off their food to collect different colored gems. The price of these gems fluctuates and is typical of the genre, often the same resources used to acquire gems are also used to increase that colored gem’s value. When “feeding” an adventurer their exact request on the central “table” a player can flip that card to its opposite side to modify a specific colored gem’s value.
Finally we arrive at that strange beast that is Heroquest. A fan favorite game from long ago, it saw new light as a Kickstarter back in 2020. Avalon Hill is keeping fans happy by churning out new versions of old, hard to find expansions of the original game. Just released this month, The Frozen Horror has 10 new quests, new items, monsters, artifacts, etc… everything one would expect all set in a wintery theme. There is a new character, a Female Barbarian, and a new m mechanic where you can hire a mercenary to join you in the dungeon. This is useful as this expansion/quest pack is generally thought to be one of the more difficult ones.
On preorder, hoping to release in Q4 is a new character, the Rogue: Heir of Elethorn. They can move through monsters to set up flanking and has a limitless ranged attack (just keep throwing those knives!.)
The big Heroscape news of the convention was the upcoming The Mage of the Mirror expansion coming in 2023. This is considered the more “rare” of all the original expansions/quest packs. It will also include 10 quests, has rules that allow Zargon to put out ranged attacks, and has a new male elf player character. All the stuff found in the original release is present, but since it is now being sold in a similar size quest pack as the other reprints there’s been an inclusion of extra things like more décor/furniture, additional story background, etc… to keep in line with other recent offerings.
See you all tomorrow, same bat place… same bat time only if you read your news feed the same time every day…
For more Gen Con 2022 content, check out the following reports as they are published: