AEG was a busy beaver at the convention, hosting press meetings throughout the weekend. I was able to make a Saturday afternoon meeting (disclaimer, I came away with a free bottle of water and some games to review) that gave a nice overview of important games coming down the pipe. There were several expansions, including the Smash-UP expansion Excellent Movies, Dudes! and Cascadia: Landmarks. New games included the newspaper-Tetris game Fit to Print, the tasty pattern-creating game Waffle Time, card-drafting point-making mash-up that is Point City, a new Elizabeth Hargrave game with a (surprise) nature-themed mushroom growing, Undergrove. Finally, I was tantalized once again by the simple but beautiful aesthetic of planning out my vacation in Let’s Go! To Japan.
Smash Up: Excellent Movies, Dudes!
We’ll start off light with a new expansion for Smash Up. In brief, Smash Up has players playing cards at three central locations in order to gain a majority and claim the card for points – thus making space for the next location to appear. The smash-up comes in the form of players’ decks. At the start of the game, players pick two themed decks (like dinosaurs and robots in the original set) and shuffle them together to make a deck with a unique combo-style. There have been NUMEROUS expansions since its original appearance and this year is no different.
Excellent Movies, Dudes! is the game’s take on 80s sci-fi. There is someone going back in time in a car, interstellar visitors that might hop out of one’s stomach, a team dedicated to capturing ephemeral visitors from the astral plane, and a heavy-duty lawman who is part machine. The expansion should appear on shelves this fall.
Fun fact: I once had a conversation about this sort of “thematic appropriation.” Apparently it’s a bit of a fine line to walk. Too close to the real thing and you can get sued, but you’re safe if it is clearly satire. So you are actually better off if it is still very close to the thing you’re parodying.
Number Drop is a roll and write game where five dice are rolled, one of which shows a shape. The other four dice display numbers and are formed into a tetromino shape. Players “drop” the shape top-down on their paper grid in a Tetris-like manner – placing the shape at the bottom of rows and columns, hopefully forming complete lines. The numbers in the shapes will line up with adjacent numbers (from previous shapes) and players try to make sets of numbers either a “straight” run of numbers or a set of the same number. When a player fills their game sheet to the top, the game ends and points are totalled. Number Drop is also scheduled as a fall release.
Point City is a sequel to the very popular Point Salad. As before, cards can either contribute to scoring, or they can be used as a scoring condition. Thus, players are trying to find a balance between cards for scoring rules and cards used to fulfill those rules. The biggest new thing is that players are now drafting their cards from a grid- like tableau. It should be available in Q3 this year.
Deep Dive is a combination of set collection and push your luck mechanisms. A player flips over a tile in the “shallows” of the tableau of tiles, displaying food for your penguin, some bubbles which let you dive deeper, or revealing a predator which ends your turn. So the question becomes, should you quit while you’re ahead and surface or do you “dive deeper” to reveal a tile on a deeper level. They may be worth more points but it is also more likely to reveal a predator and spoil your turn. The goal is to find food that creates sets of three colors. Deep Dive is another expected Fall release.
One of the more complicated games shown at the meeting was Undergrove. Players are trying to build up a communal forest, supporting it with the mushroom mycelia on the forest floor. The goal is to plant your seedlings and grow them into towering trees. For a game of moderate complexity, there are the requisite different ways a player can improve their abilities to assist in their mushroom conquest. Perhaps the most unique part of forest growth is the ability to transfer resources around the forest using the mycelia network. The game is listed as a Q3 release at the press meeting, but BGG lists a 2024 release. I think a Q4 release (or sooner) is still a safe bet.
Fit to Print
Of the fall/winter titles on display, I’m most interested in Fit to Print. Players draft polymino newspaper articles and photos and then attempt to fit them together on the “front page” (a board filled with a square grid) to earn points depending on the goal tiles in play. Players need to balance the different types of articles (the subjects – not the shapes) as well as blank space (which I think I recall is advertising space.)
So you’re competing against other players to get the tiles you need but then also need to be sure you can fit them on your paper. In addition, you want to place them (number of articles, types of articles, how they’re placed, etc…) in such a way to score points off of the goal cards. I think I just like the theme and its implementation, down to the little tiny “publication desks” you can use to store your article tiles before placing them on your paper. The tiny article polyminos even have actual articles (I think) the text is just so small it is unreadable.
An expansion for Cascadia, Cascadia Landmarks adds special landmark meeples (landmeeples?) that can be placed on groups of a specific area type. These make those areas “more special” and create additional ways to score points.
The expansion includes more of the same (more wildlife scoring cards, more habitat tiles) as well as enough “stuff” to take the game to five players.
In Waffle Time, players draft fruit and cream (via cards in the tableau) to place on top of their waffle. The goal is to match patterns of fruit/toppings which reward a player with syrup to add to their waffle. The drafting mechanism affects player order as well as the bonus “syrup” that can be added to one’s waffle.
Thunderstone Quest: Starter Set
Further out in the future, a new “starter set” of Thunderstone will be released. It’s the standard deckbuilding exploration/combat game known and (possibly) beloved by many but put together in a way that serves as a good onroad to the game for new players. There have been many expansions and while this is backwards compatible, this set (and rules, etc…) is designed for new gamers to more easily experience the game.
Let’s Go! To Japan
Finally, we get to Let’s Go! Japan. I saw an early prototype last year and was very intrigued. The (nearly?) finished product shown at the meeting looked great. Players (1 to 5) take turns placing cards down on a week-long itinerary to visit Japan – specifically Tokyo and Kyoto. The idea is to eliminate travel back and forth but also include a bit of downtime here and there to make sure one is not overworked by the vacation itself. The game ends by all players “activating” their trip, scoring the appropriate points along the way.
The art in the game nails the theme as it is produced by Japan-based artists. We were told there was already sufficient buzz about the game (I wasn’t given a release date) that it might not be too far fetched to conceive of future titles that might “Let’s Go!” to other touristy spots. Sequel or expansion to an AEG game? I can’t believe it.