Gen Con 2023 – Flat River Group

Like NCAA football, there is a tendency for smaller game publishers to join up Transformer-like to create a larger organization to take advantage of whatever it is that larger organizations can do. Flat River Group is the new home for several game studios. Of these, I came away from Gen Con with a look at King of Monster Island by Iello and several games from Greater Than Games. King of Monster Island is a cooperative dice-chucking game reusing King of Tokyo mechanics with a healthy dose of power up/upgrade mechanics. Greater Than Games was busy showing off recent expansions for Spirit Island – Nature Incarnate, Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition – Rook City Renegades. Upcoming games include a reworking of the co-op Defenders of the Realm into DotR: Legends Retold, and a polyomino placement game, License to Grill.

Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate

Let’s start with Spirit Island. It boggles my mind that I didn’t stumble upon this greatly asymmetric co-op deckbuilder sooner but when I did I embraced it. (Disclaimer, I have been given review copies of an expansion but bought most of it.) The newest addition to the game is Nature Incarnate. It requires the Jagged Earth expansion to play and adds more of basically everything. There are 8 new spirits to play, 20 new Spirit Aspects (things that change old spirits in subtle ways to add variety,) a new adversary, and new cards of all types (Fear, Event, Blight, etc..)

The new adversary is the Hapsburg Mining Expedition. It increases the number of explorers coming out to play and makes high-population spaces ravage more often. Players lose immediately if any one location is too crowded by enemy & blight tokens.

Four of the new spirits use a new feature called an Incarna token. This token goes on the board like a presence (and can be used as a presence.) However, at some point during the game it can be flipped over to trigger a special effect (usually good) for that spirit, often changing up how that spirit plays for the rest of the game. Despite all the added content, the new rulebook is fairly short, only a few pages. However, several pages are devoted to a FAQ to help clarify how the new expansion might interact with some of the previous Spirit Island content.

Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition – Rook City Renegades

The Definitive Edition of Sentinels of the multiverse has attempted to revamp the game to streamline gameplay, not least of which to get players into the meat of the game faster by reducing the time it takes for heroes to go through that early game powerup curve.

The new Rook City Renegades expansion brings in 6 new heroes, 9 new villains, and 5 new environments. New things include villains that have multiple villain cards – where you have to defeat both to win, in one case even in a specific order. Two villains have a side deck that is not part of any traditional deck in the game and is only activated or affected when another card explicitly says to play a side deck card. Lastly, a new mechanic “Suddenly!” can appear on cards. This will cause that card to be played immediately (if possible) which may help players out, but probably not in a way they had been planning.

On the whole, the new heroes are a bit more complex to play than the base game. Heroes are given a complexity rating. These range from 1 to 10. The Rook City expansion has two heroes at level 7 and one at level 9.

License to Grill

Present only at the show in promotional material, License to Grill is a tetromino placement game for 3-5 players. Its crowdfunding successfully closed out a few weeks ago, and they’re planning for it to be out to backers in May 2024, so hopefully it will see a wider release next summer.

Players compete to claim polymino ingredients and then fight over the best spots on the grill to cook them – to the extent they can mess around with the grill temperature to cause grief. Once done on the grill food has to plated up for best presentation.

King of Monster Island

King of Monster Island is a co-op game that is based around the King of Tokyo mechanic of rolling 6 dice three times, setting aside dice if you wish. After three rolls the dice are used to take actions or resources. Here, players are on the same team, putting aside their Tokyo angst and joining together to defeat the big bad guy (chosen from three in the box) and defend the island, possibly the world. The big bad guy (BBG)moves around the edge of the island, triggering bad things to happen when they enter an area. Meanwhile, the player monsters maneuver around putting out (figurative) fires while they power up to try and take on the bad guy. If one player is reduced to zero by the start of their turn, or if the big bad guy places too many “pylons” on the board, the players lose.

Both the monster and the players have their own sets of dice. For the players, the claw, heart, and energy symbols on the dice remain but instead of the 1/2/3 faces there are a star, wrench, and footprint symbols. Hearts heal (yourself or others at your location), energy is used to buy cards, and claws are used to fight minions and, if no minions are left, fight the big bad guy. Footprints are used by monsters to move around the island while the star and wrench symbols have to do with upgrades. Dice (and their face) can be “saved” from turn to turn at a location so another monster can make use of them on their turn.

Stars provide monster upgrades through allies. After rolling their first star, a monster will pick an ally card from those available. Allies grant a player new abilities. Thereafter, as additional stars are accumulated, the abilities granted by the ally increase in power. Wrenches are used by (the good) monsters to build upgrades onto island locations. These upgrades provide the equivalent of additional die faces for monsters who are at their location. However, stored dice and location upgrades can be destroyed if the BBG rolls the right symbols at the right time.

On the boss monster’s turn, the red bad-guy dice are dropped into the central volcano shaped dice-tower, spilling out onto the board (hopefully not the floor.) These dice cause whatever havoc one might expect into their area, most importantly spawning minions from a minion bag (you lose if the bag runs out) and placing crystals (a precursor to a pylon.) When the BBG steps into an area with dice, they trigger their effect. The red dice also have stars, which power up the BBG, increasing its power over the course of the game.

Defeat the minions in the BBG’s area and leftover damage is added to the BBG. Do enough damage to the BBG and win the game.

Defenders of the Realm Legends Retold

Crowdfunding has not yet started but this reworking of Defenders of the Realm should be launching in the near future. I recall playing an early release of Defenders of the Realm sent out to a few reviewers. I enjoy both co-ops and deckbuilding so the mash-up between the two was nice. It was a whack-a-mole style co-op where monsters would spawn onto a board map and the players needed to go around and squash them before they got out of hand and started destroying the city at the center of the board.

The new Legends Retold is a reboot and refresh of the game. Players now each have their own starting deck of cards (there are 6 unique heroes with their own deck) so there’s some nice asymmetry between players from the very start. Playing cards is necessary to get anything done, but some cards (the more powerful ones, of course) trigger movement on the “darkness track” which triggers bad events, among other things. Several different BBGs (callback) come in the game providing their expectedly different flavor of the game. As one can see in the photo, expect a good pile of minis in the box (or at least as an option for those who like to keep their shelves from flying away.)

About Matt J Carlson

Dad, Gamer, Science Teacher, Youth Pastor... oh and I have green hair. To see me "in action" check out Dr. Carlson's Science Theater up on Youtube...
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