We wind down boardgame coverage with the longest name of the show and what I believe is my longest single-game commentary. It is on the upcoming Return to Dark Tower expansion by Restoration Games. (Go ahead and jump down to it, you won’t offend me.) Each year I miss plenty of publishers, perhaps more this time around since I brought along my boys for the first time. Feel free to admonish me in the comments for overlooking your favorite one. Know that I will sit at my computer and feel appropriately contrite.
The Great British Baking Show has players grabbing ingredients in real time in an attempt to physically make a tile-grid cake according to specified recipes. Players can occasionally use a wild card tile from the center of the table or ditch one of their cake parts in their waste bin. Faster bakers will avoid “soggy” penalty cards. While the game pushes for speed, players must also weigh the point-value of accuracy.
I had not seen Explorers before but it seems to be a slightly different take on the roll (draw card) and write genre. Players first set up their area by placing four landscape tiles and three scoring tiles into one’s personal frame. On a turn a player flips a card which shows two types of landscape. Starting from their home space, a player marks off boxes to form an exploration path on one of the two terrain types on the card. Other players must follow suit using the same type of landscape or the other shown on the card. Crosses must be placed orthogonally and always start from the previous end point. Thus, players must take care not to box themselves into a corner after encountering a particularly bad landscape option. There are bonus items with points or abilities to pick up on the way as well as a first-to-the temple source of points. A solo mode is provided as well as options to make the game more challenging for more experienced players.
Ravensburger’s Villainous line continues to grow. The asymmetric game of bad guys based on famous evil Disney characters now brings a new theme to play. Star Wars is now under the Disney umbrella so it was no surprise when Star Wars Villainous: Power of the Dark Side appeared on the scene. As with all Villainous games, players move their character around a central board, carrying out actions – typically playing cards from their hand. These cards may provide allies, items, effects, as well as other options. Each character has its own decks and other players can draw cards from your deck, using them against you later in the game. New to the game, each villain has an “ambition” track representing one’s Force powers, luck, or leadership that can power additional actions. The game includes Darth Vader, Asajj Ventress, Kylo Ren, Moff Gideon, and General Grievous as well as lots of ships and other items from the Star Wars galaxy.
Dungeons, Dice, & Danger is a roll and write with a dungeon (surprise) delving theme. Four dice are rolled (a fifth for the active player) and players must make two pairs and use those numbers to cross off boxes. In addition to Xing off a path through the dungeon, numbers can be used to defeat monsters in rooms scattered around one’s personal board. Each matching number crossed off deals one damage to the monster, granting points when it is slain. Various items in the dungeon give points, but greater points to the first to arrive, making dungeon exploration a bit of a race. Care must be taken to keep a player’s numerical options open, as your hero takes damage for any roll that cannot be used to mark an X. Yes, players can be eliminated from the game. One mitigating factor is a limited number of uses of the black die when it is not your turn as the active player.
As Dale mentioned previously, Renegade has melded the peanut butter of trick-taking games to the chocolate of dark murderous intent to kill at random. Out in Q4, announced at the show, the 2-5 player game American Psycho: A Killer Game has players playing rounds of cards (called a “meeting”) with the standard suite of suits – with the “killer suit” considered trump, of course. The winner of each trick gets to choose a card to save and use it to score later. At the end of the game, players score points based on the difference between their highest and lowest cards of a suit. Each “meeting” in the game will also have a Scene card which modifies gameplay in some way, offers a prize to the winner, and/or provides a penalty to the loser of that hand.
The Transformer deckbuilder continues apace with a new expansion. Dawn of the Dinobots was announced at the show. It brings “combiners” to the mix. Multiple Transformers who join together to make something more powerful. In the game, these will have two modes of play – either team mode, or a more powerful combiner mode. This expansion will also be the first to provide players with unique starting cards at the beginning of the game.
The worker-placement My Father’s Work you are a descendant of a mad scientist trying to carry on his work as best you can. Over the course of three generations of descendants, players complete experiments, help out the local town, upgrade their own estate, and hopefully completing their father’s work. The game has a large story-emphasis which is partially driven through an app (or using the web site.) Each full game (there are three in the box) plays through three generations of stories, representing what that generation of mad scientists do. The choices made from generation to generation will carry over through the game with consequences. Anger your populace too much and they’ll storm the castle – if not now, perhaps one of your descendants will have to deal with it.
In a strong second place for longest name at the show, the My Little Pony: Adventures in Equestria Deck-Building Game is a cooperative game where players take on the role of famous ponies in the franchise (Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, etc… as I knew you’d ask.) Players hop between locations while trying to gather resources, improve their decks, and overcome challenges placed in their way. Clouds serve as a timer which build up over time and will eventually mess with the players. I believe the base game is already available but there’s an upcoming expansion (not sure when), Familiar Faces will add more cards to the mix. If the box doesn’t contain enough purple, pink, and rainbows you can buy unicorn meeples (uni-meeples?) of the main characters in the game.
Finally, there is an expansion coming out in Q3 or Q4 for the solo game Warp’s Edge. Warp’s Edge: Anomaly adds in new ships and skills as well as a new token type.
(Note, the photos below are of prototypes… things can change.)
I was lucky enough to participate in a playthrough (well, at least start one) of The Return to Dark Tower at the show. We were able to play with the new expansion, Covenant, which is up on Backerkit through August 16th. (*Spoiler alert, I will discuss some mechanics but not any particular cards.) In my opinion, the expansion has three main parts. First are the 4 cool new character classes (more on those in a moment.) Second, the introduction of Foundations – which replace a building and can be built provide a benefit. Finally, a bunch of stuff that pretty much just makes the game harder.
The four classes: The Devious Swindler is great for players who like a little randomness. They ignore all negative results from the haggle die, and their Banner action is to roll the haggle die and get its result. Instead of a default wild advantage, they gain all the Advantages (not powers) listed on cards in the marketplace. Their virtues include getting to reroll the haggle die and ignoring critical hits. The Reverent Astronomer is a “wizard” type who gets access to 8 spells. The get a number of spells equal to the month and can cast each one once. Some spells provide Blessings (a temporary wild Advantage) or replace corruption. They can place protection tokens on a board location which will cancel the next bad thing to be placed there. The Relentless Warden is a sort of tracker/ranger type who likes to fight monsters on the board. They have a little bird they can use to mark a single foe as their quarry which gives bonus Advantage to the fight (and I think an extra reward?) Finally, the Undaunted Aegis is the fall-on-the-grenade guy. He can have up to 3 corruptions and gains +1 wild for each one.
The big addition to the game are monuments. At the start of the game, four monument foundations are placed on the board, each replacing a starting building. Each area gets one and only one of each type of building is replaced. There are 8 monuments in the expansion – two for each building type. Foundations cannot hold skulls, so your skull capacity just got smaller. If the players satisfy a certain condition (called an offering) three times, after which the foundation is replaced with a monument (technically you put the monument on top.) This monument provides an ongoing benefit to the heroes. In our game (if I recall correctly), we needed to collectively get 3 corruption cards to complete one monument, were required us to spend a bunch of armies in a single battle, spend turns without moving, or simply spend treasure we had. For the most part, all these activities could be accomplished from anywhere on the board. The only monument I recall offhand is one that can hold an infinite number of skulls. To force players into building monuments, every month that a monument is not built, it creates two wasteland tokens in its kingdom. “All” that wastelands do is to convert a land type into wasteland. Thus canceling almost all land-based wild advantages in that space.
Of course, what’s an expansion without increasing the difficulty? The corruption cards are now meaner, fights can get harder, and the expansion introduces Doom Skulls. These black skulls can never be cleansed. They sit on the building until the end of the game (or the building is destroyed.) All is not lost however, there are also new toys for the heroes including wands in the treasure deck. These are items with limited charges, but can be recharged under certain conditions. (The game features a new Covenant game mode, but I most apologize as I don’t have anything down about it…. .)
Snap Ships Tactics is a melding of a tactical wargame with large, constructable plastic miniature spaceships. The (relatively inexpensive) ships, most around the twice the size of your fist, can be built in several different ways, and can be mixed and matched to make totally new models. Add in a game designer, and the ships are placed on stands and follow simple rules to create ship to ship combat. Players first build their ships out of available parts. They then select a base card to represent the innate capabilities of their ship, and then cards are added to a player tableau based on which accessories were added to the model. During the game, players assign power cubes to specific cards to power up their abilities for combat, movement, or other options. Critical hits during the game can disable specific parts, removing those options from play. Games can run the gamut of cooperative combats (each ship has its own AI deck of cards) or head to head combat in teams or individually. A Kickstarter for the game has ended, but late pledges should be around until October-ish. It is looking to release sometime in the first half of 2023.
In addition to their RPG offerings, Snowbright Studio was showing off their 1-7 player birdwatching game, Birds of a Feather. The game uses a deck of bird cards displaying a habitat (like a suit) and an icon representing the bird type . Players compete to “see” the most birds over the course of the game by playing cards matching other habitats . Cards are dealt out, and then players choose and simultaneously reveal one card. Players then mark off the habitat and type for their bird, as well as any other bird cards with a matching habitat. Next, players choose and reveal a second bird and this bird now matching includes the current round as well as the previous one. The third round starts by removing “old” birds so that only two rounds are “visible” at one time and the game continues until all cards have been played. Players are trying to score by checking off boxes representing a habitat and bird type pair – one point for each box checked. At the end of the game, players score points for birds seen, as well as bonus points if they manage to see a complete set of birds in a habitat. This can be tricky as some bird types are rarer than others (as shown on the scoring card.) On final twist, there are raptor cards of each habitat that score just other cards, but first they “scare away” all cards from the previous round. The game has an app to help with scoring and allows for solitaire play. The game appeared on Kickstarter and a late pledge is still available.
Mountains out of Molehills has players moving their moles around on the bottom level of a two level playing field. Players draft cards, then set up a program for movement. As moles move around, they push up on “hills” on the upper level, created by using game box. It is possible to create a “hill” under a previous one, possibly making stacks multiple hills high. The process repeats and at the game end players score based on the “hills” they control, which are those with their color at the base. The game plays up to 4 players, with higher player counts making it more likely for the moles to bump into each other when executing their programs.
Venn is a guessing party game for two teams. Cluegivers attempt to get their team to guess three words out of a set of twelve. They play picture cards onto the Venn diagram – either in the center of a circle or one of the intersections between the circles. Players use this information to decide which three words are overlapping. As play continues, the clue giver is allowed to “overwrite” a previous card with a new one if their team starts to go down a rabbithole.
Smash Up: Disney Edition is a Disney themed game of Smash Up where players place cards onto a central playing field to try to claim locations. Cards have a numerical value and, typically, a special ability. When a location contains a minimum value of cards present, it is removed from the game and points are given to the three strongest players based on their contribution. The hook of the game comes from creating a player deck. One takes two thematic decks and shuffles them together to make a unique combination of powers. One could have a Frozen/Aladdin deck, a Nightmare Before Christmas/Beauty & the Beast deck, etc… There are eight new decks, and I assume you can combine them with previous editions – Space Knight/Mulan or Dinosaur/Wreck-it Ralph anyone?
Disney Sorcerer’s Arena: Epic Alliances Core Set is based off of a player vs player mobile combat game. Players take control of three Disney characters and play cards to control their movement and actions on a hexagonal grid. Characters have basic abilities as well as more complex ones triggered by the cards. The game has a series of games to “on-ramp” new players where new rules and figures are added in successive games. Starting with 1v1 battles, after 3 or 4 scenarios gamers will be playing a full 4v4 game. It can be played as a 2 player or a 4 player game with teams. Yes, there will be expansions. Turning the Tide came out in July with Moana (who comes with a special tide-based board, Davy Jones, and Switch. Sometime in Q4 will see Thrills and Chills with the Horned King (who brings out zombie minions), Jack Skellington, and Mother Gothel.
Marvel Dice Throne is a themed version of the Dice Throne line of combat game. It can be mixed and matched with previous versions as well. It’s a play cards and roll dice sort of game with lots of unique character powers. (Each character has its own handy storage tray to keep track of it all.) Heroes have a complexity rating, to help beginning players choose an appropriate hero. The base game has Thor, Loki, Scarlet Witch, and Miles Morales: Spiderman. Two stand-alone expansions are planned: Captain Marvel vs Black Panther and Dr. Strange vs Black Widow.
And the winner of longest name of the year!!! Disney Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas Merry Madness is ironically a rather short and lightweight game. It is a real-time dice rolling game. Players have a stash of tokens and they roll dice which determine what can be moved into a central sack. The first player to empty their stash wins the round. Harry Potter: Mischief in Diagon Alley is the same game with a different theme, as is Disney Mickey and Friends: Food Fight
Van Ryder Games
Keepers is a party game for 3 to 8 players. Everyone has seven cards (nature photos) and one player, the curator, calls out an attribute matching a card in their hand. Players all contribute a card to the center, cards are shuffled and then revealed. Everyone must now decide if they want to guess the best matching card or the card most opposite to the clue. Players vote with a face-down dial and then all votes are revealed. Players keep their donated card if they have either the most votes for or the most against. A typical, quick game consists of having each player be the curator one time. In three and four player games, players contribute 2 cards to the center.
The last day, my son really wanted to see the Catapult Feud game advertised around the show. After some digging in my program and wandering around we found the booth – but they had completely sold out of everything in the booth! Congrats to them but it was no wonder why they were hard to find. Catapult Feud is a 2 player game where the players use physical catapults and soft little boulders to knock over the enemy player’s castle and troops. Any given turn consists of players using action cards to change their options or just smash away with the catapult. Last player standing with army figures or castle wins.
Wise Wizards Games
Wize Wizards Games just completed crowdfunding of Star Realms: Rise of Empire, an ambitious 2 player stand-alone Star Realms game with a legacy component. Player will play through scenarios which will slowly add new cards to the deck and will have the opportunity to upgrade cards for future games. The deck starts with cards from blue and yellow factions and while there are no red or green cards in the set, it does introduce three new factions/colors: Kingdom (purple), Consortium (cyan), and Scavenger (brown.) When buying a card, players can purchase the standard card, or pay extra to purchase an upgraded version. Upgradable cards typically can be upgraded “towards” one of two factions and will replace that card for all future play. (The card we discussed had three possible strength levels, if I recall.) In order to give the game a small kick in the behind and get right into the mid-game, two things have been changed. First, each player will start with game with two fairly decent ship cards in their deck. Second, many of the cards will have an acquire ability, granting an instant effect before the card is placed on a player’s discard pile. The game comes in a standard edition with stickers to modify the cards, or a bigger edition that has copies of all possible card upgrades which can then be switched into the deck over the course of the campaign.
In January 2023, Dungeons & Dragons: Onslaught brings the D&D vibe into a lightweight miniatures skirmish game. Borrowing lightly from D&D mechanics, the game is set up to be a fast-action, frantic sort of battle. For example, to those familiar with D&D mechanics, players roll all attacks with advantage (roll a d20 twice and take the best result.) In a nod to the HeroClix line, individual figures are run through a dual-layer dial that tracks a character’s speed, AC, and health which mean they all change as a figure takes damage. Some figures change up their powers when bloodied (reduced to half health.) Figures have a base attack as well as up to three special attacks. Each special attack has its own dial on the figure card, used to track its cooldown and determines when it can be used again. Figures can gain experience during the game through opening chests, fighting (not just defeating) in combat, as well as some special situations. For example, the paladin gains experience whenever they attack. At level 5, a miniature gets to “level up” and choose one of two special abilities. The box contains 21 miniatures, 6 each of two different factions, and 9 monsters including a troll, ettin, and a young black dragon (which dominates the small board.) Players pick one of the two factions and field a team of five units for a battle. Eventually, there will be monthly releases that increase the number of factions available as well as the number of figures in a faction. Eventually, there should be roughly 14 figures per faction. Teams can be mixed and matched but there is a hard limit of only one unit in each of the 6 possible roles in the game. Of course, there will also be mercenaries. With all the past Wizkid miniatures floating around, they will create a list of possible proxy figures so that gamers can customize the look of their team. One can simply set up a game with two teams and duke it out, or play specific scenarios in a head-to-head fashion. There is also a series of 7 linked scenarios that can be played through, ending with an epic duel around a black dragon.
The quick-playing card-combo seeking game that is Fantasy Realms is back in September with a Deluxe version. It will contain the base game, the expansion, 2 promo cards, and a set of custom art sleeves. All the cards will have new art and graphic layout to make the game easier to play.
Marvel: Remix takes Fantasy Realms into the realm of superheroes. As before, players are drawing and discarding cards in order to score points by matching abilities and symbols on cards in their hands. Each card is worth points, and often worth even more when paired with other cards or icons within the game. Marvel: Remix does a great job in helping players to easily access the compatibility of their cards. Rather than keywords (or in addition to) almost all the important tags are laid out as icons running on the left hand side of a card, making it much easier to see. As one might expect, the cards attempt to bring in some of that superhero theme. For example, the Fearless card will give a player a bunch of points… but only if it is the only hero card in your hand.
Yosemite is a 2 player game (out in October) that has players trying to collect photos of all the different animals. Players move their pawn around a grid of animals, claiming a tile every time they leave an area. The catch lies in that a player’s style of movement is determined by the type of animal on which they stand. Foxes let you move 1 to 3 spaces, cougars move directly to the edge of the board, etc… The goal is to collect sets of similar tiles and then turn them in for photographs. As the game progresses, locations start to appear on the grid and associated locations can be claimed for additional points. Fish tokens serve as a resource and can be used to adjust a player’s movement – like allowing them to start on a different tile. Additional points can be scored on the Tent track. Players can move the track back and forth. Ending the game with the tent on your side of the board grants points, and more points if the tent is even deeper into your territory.
Dice Conquest is a small card and dice game at a fairly small price point (only $20 but you also get a set of RPG dice.) 1 to 4 players (there’s a solo mode) cooperatively try to make it through a deck of creature cards and then defeat the final boss. At the start of a round, all the dice are rolled and then players take turns using one of the dice to power one of their own abilities (there are 8 unique characters to choose from.) Every character has a passive ability and an active ability (that would need to be powered by a die.) Players damage any active enemy creatures, eliminating them once their health runs out. At the end of a round, any partially damaged creatures heal up, the dice are rolled, and another round begins.
November will see the release of Marvel: Rock, Paper, Heroes – a Marvel take on the previous Rock, Paper, Wizard card game.
Late this year or early 2023 will see the release of Marvel: Damage Control. 2-4 players are the poor little regular folks trying to clean up after a superhero mess. This is a deckbuilding game, so players start with a deck of a manager and some employees. In an interesting mechanic, rather than a standard draw deck, there is a mess of cards lying in the middle serving as the “rubble” pile. Players draw cards from the rubble pile and can add them to their deck (for better powers) or bank them for later (to score points.) Due to the powers on the cards, there is a healthy amount of “take-that” style gameplay available.
Early 2023 sees the release of Marvel: Age of Heroes. Contrasting with the other Marvel titles, this is a medium-weight worker-placement eurogame, designed by the same person as Lords of Waterdeep. It plays 2-5 players and each player is in control of two X-Men characters. In two separate phases, players first allocate their workers to the school and then in a second phase they allocate their workers to the team’s jet (to go out and fight those bad guys.) The game comes with three different supervillains and each one changes around the game’s setup and gameplay.
The 2nd edition of Quodd Heroes goes up on KS on September 6th. It reminds me a bit of RoboRally as players are playing cards to move (“tumble”) their cube-like avatar around the game board. Players can play cards to put things onto the board, move around, or even upgrade their abilities by placing a new tile on top of a player’s character board. Various board elements affect the movement such as water serving as a conveyer belt or pits for Quodds to fall into. This is a scenario-based game, typically a race of some sort, capture the flag, or similar. Depending on the scenario, it can be played in a variety of ways: teams, solo, 1 vs many, vs, and cooperative.
XYZ Game Labs, Inc
You could technically call XYZ Game Labs the largest booth at the show as they were displaying the actual Bigfoot truck in their booth to advertise BIGFOOT: Roll & Smash. Players roll dice to collect cards and tokens and then use those to program their truck’s movement. Bonus cards can be played mid-program to improve the route but other players can also throw hazards in your way as you drive around the board creating destruction. The game plays over two rounds, with extra smashables added to the second round. Players are trying to impress the crowd (claim victory points) to win the game.
And that’s it for the boardgames, stay tuned for digital gaming tomorrow followed by my traditional photo collection of random things. If you remember last year’s posts, I’m glad I get to celebrate finding an “X” publisher this time around. We’ll see if next year brings that elusive “Y” and/or “Z”…
For more Gen Con 2022 content, check out the following reports as they are published: