Matt Carlson: Gencon 2019 (RPGs)

I feel like an old grump, but everything is going online and streaming nowadays. The world of RPGs is no different. Groups like Critical Role far outstrip the viewership of any of the traditional boardgame-coverage channels. (By my estimate, 600,000 subscribers and regularly hitting 1,000,000 views on YouTube is about 5x the viewership of one of the bigger boardgame channels and that doesn’t include a significant streaming viewership.)

It is only appropriate to mention the RPGs at GenCon as the convention gave birth to the genre back in the 70s. Gencon has traditionally been THE place to buy, play, and learn about RPGs ever since. Here’s what the “big names” are doing as well as some smaller titles and various tools and accessories for gaming.

Continue reading
Posted in Convention Report, Reviews | 2 Comments

Nine Tiles Panic (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designers: Jens Merkl & Jean-Claude Pellin
  • Artists: N/A
  • Publisher: Oink Games
  • Players: 2-5
  • Time: 20 Minutes
  • Times Played: 3 

“Those are just aliens wearing an Edgar suit” 

Oink Games has been rather hit and miss with me. I’ve loved my handful of plays of Deep Sea Adventure and the super fun version of Modern Art, but not really all that excited by anything else that I have played. With our recent love of the game Mesozooic I jumped when I saw Nine Tiles Panic, which is another real time puzzle game, albeit a bit different.

Continue reading
Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Matt Carlson: Gencon 2019 (Digital)

In days past, GenCon was full of videogame vendors.  Over time, fewer and fewer showed up. However, the digital side is coming back, thanks to the increasing offerings of boardgames translated into the digital realm.

Continue reading
Posted in Convention Report, Reviews | 1 Comment

Madrino (マドリーノ)

Designer: Aiko Oyama, Toru Oyama
Artist: Aiko Oyama, Toru Oyama
Publisher: NANAWARI
Players: 3-4
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 20 minutes
Times Played: 7 with a purchased copy 

Madrino is a roll-and-write game about making floor plans.

If I lost you at “roll-and-write”, stick with me for a bit.  You don’t have to stay the whole time, but hear me out a little bit longer.   I’m going to come to the conclusion that this is a _party_ game. That’ll be important in a minute when I tell you that there’s no points, and it’s not a race game.  You look around, and just decide who wins. Seriously. (But not too seriously. This is a party game.)

In theme, the players work for an architecture firm.  You have a client who is slow to make up their mind on what they’d like in their home.  Today, they’ll tell you about where the front door should be. Next week, they’ll want a picture window in a corner, and a diagonal wall with a door, and a toilet somewhere in the Northeast. 

Continue reading
Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Matt Carlson: Gencon 2019 (J-Z)

Another day, another GenCon report. Here’s the second half of my boardgame explorations. Hopefully you find something worth discovering! There are boardgames, dice, cards, and dice, (did I mention dice?) I assume at some point someone has coined it, but there were a fair share of YARRs (yet another roll & write) at the convention. As always, any errors on dates, publishers, titles, (and spelling) are mine alone. Don’t go blaming the poor publishers or their overworked booth helpers.

Jackbro

Appearing on Kickstarter on September 10th, Nouvelle-France is a 2 to 4 player game based around packing and stacking sets of 3D Tetris-like pieces. The pieces are made up of several colors and each color is assigned to a player. The goal is to place pieces such that your colors satisfy various criteria. The active player draws a card (adding to the available pieces) and then selects a piece to add to the board, connecting up larger groups of their color to score points. Three game mats are used all at the same time (giving many placement options), however these eventually become modified through three falling “snow” outlines that trigger a scoring and change up the available placements. Players also have three special actions that can be used once per phase of the game (there are three.) Players can double one placement, add more cards to the display (to give more choices), or to call out “halfsies” and get one half the score of the current placement. (The active player doesn’t lose any points, and only one player can use the “halfsies” card.)

Klask

Klask was showing off its main title, Klask (go figure!) It is a two player soccer-like game where players control wooden pieces on top of a board by moving around magnets underneath. Klask 4 is a new title this year. It is a 4 player version where each player is attempting to defend their own goal. When one player runs out of lives, the player with the most lives remaining wins the game. It should be available to the public around the end of September.

Kolossal Games

Another of those bling-heavy games, I stopped to snap a photo of Mezo. It’s a minis-heavy game of area control. There are the standard bits of piece-piece interaction, but the game tries to stand out in its asymmetry. Each side plays different and there are several possible winning conditions. Plays 2-4 players, expect a game to last a couple hours.

Kosmos

Roll for Adventure is a cooperative game where 2 to 4 players take turns rolling dice and placing sets onto the board. Dice are rolled and then all the dice of one value are placed, and then the rest are rerolled. The game board is made of four different sections, each having specific requirements to complete. Once a section is complete, the dice are removed and player are given a crystal. Collect 5 crystals to win the game. The four boards are double-sided so can be mixed and matched to change up the game.

A new type of entry in the Exit! series, is Adventure Games: Discover the Story. These are similar, but have a much stronger story element. Exploration is a larger part, where some locations have you refer back to other sources. Each player takes on the role of a specific character and could have different interactions with people in the game. There are two stories available in September, castle-ish The Dungeon, and the Stranger Things-ish Monochrome Inc.

Mattel

Mattel had the usual mix of lightweight licenses and, aside from the excellent giant display version of Ghost Fightin Treasure Hunters. I stopped for a quick game of Zombie Gotcha! Which is a simple game of drawing colored key cards to unlock one’s stack of colored doors. It takes two colored keys to unlock a door, and players can only hold on to three keys at a time. Players may draw one card from a facedown pile or draw two cards from the zombie hands. Many cards require players to draw an additional card from the zombie hands. Drawing cards from the hands triggers a timing mechanism such that sooner or later the hands reach out and “grab” the person trying to draw cards. It gives a nice jump to the drawing player. Not a lot of depth here, but definitely room for people who like to take a bit of risk. It’s all about the Zombie Hands toy, but fun for a game that is a bit lighter weight than Uno and fine for younger players.

Even before I checked out the booth I had to stop to snap a photo of Pictionary Air. The idea here is that someone uses a phone to video a player using a light pen to draw in the air. This can then appear as a picture on the tablet or use some technology to project the result on a monitor. Teams then try to guess the word based on glowing virtual symbols drawn.

For the solo puzzler, there is Blokus Puzzle which is a collection of 48 different puzzles that can be used in several ways. The standard snap-fit Blokus pieces are used to connect up various blocks, cover over displayed stars, or try to fill the board by avoiding the Xs. The game has a little tray to store the pieces for travel.

Mayday Games

Mayday Games is always a popular stop for me to check out if there are any new kid-friendly style games on offer. The new game this year is Yummy Yummy Pancake. The game comes with a frying pan and a bunch of plastic pancake tokens that have an ingredient on one side. Seven pancakes are placed face-up in the pan and everyone makes note of the ingredients. The active player then “flips” the pan, causing several of the pancakes to flip over. The active player then points to flipped pancakes and challenges the other players to guess which ingredient is on the other side. Correct guesses go to the guesser, incorrect are given to the active player. Whenever the active player wishes to stop forcing a guess, new pancakes are added (up to 7) and the pan is passed to the next player.

North Star Games

There were plenty of demo copies of The Quacks of Quedlinburg available for use, but the two newest games on hand were Wits and Wagers: It’s Vegas, Baby and Oceans. Oceans is a sequel to the popular Evolution, changed up a bit now that there are more than just two types of food. An entire food chain comes into play as players maneuver to take advantage of where resources are most plentiful. Look for the full release to come around Q1 of 2020.

Meanwhile, Wits and Wagers: It’s Vegas, Baby is a minor upgrade from the previous games. The trivia/betting game has all new questions requiring players to guess a numerical answer. All players then bet on each other’s guesses. What is new (aside from the questions) is the addition of a nice felt mat that also allows players to take a simple high/low 1:1 bet, and for those that complained, there are many more money chips in the box this time around. This uses the regular full betting (you can bet all you have) not the simpler Family version where you could only bet with your renewable chips. For now, it’s a Target exclusive.

Pandasaurus

Due to my son’s fascination with the game, Pandasaurus’ Machi Koro Legacy was on my short list to investigate. It plays like the base game, although there are no Purple cards to start. Players have three personal landmarks (the same for everyone) to build and a community landmark, to which all players can donate. After each game, there is a booklet to describe the results which then bring in new cards and rules changes. I believe I’m not spoiling anything by saying that some new cards will be double-sided and will change the course of future games depending on which side is used. (I do like how the demo people were not allowed to play the game so they wouldn’t know anything about the legacy part and accidentally spoil something.) While some game changes will be permanent over the course of the game, others can be changed around or reversed so that players have an operational game even when the legacy part is completed.

Passtally has players putting colored cubes on the four sides of a square and then attempting to connect them through the use of wide hexagonal tiles. The board starts out with straight connections up and down and then tiles are placed on top which begin to create new curves and straights. When a tile is placed to form a route between a player’s two edge markers, it scores points for each tile the route crosses on its way. Tiles laid on top of one another are worth more, so passing through a tile on the third layer would count for more points. Scoring is done through an adjusted scale, so passing through 4 to 6 tiles is worth 3 points while passing through 29 to 36 tiles is worth 8 points. The game ends when someone gets to 50 points or if there is no longer any legal placement (since the tiles are wider than they are tall, there are always some unused spaces created.)

Peaceable Kingdom

Perhaps the most played game in our house is Peaceable Kingdom’s Where’s Bear? Where players take turns hiding a bear under boxes and then give each other clues based on the images on the boxes. My youngest pulls it out all the time, as it’s probably the easiest game for her to understand. Thus, I have a soft spot for this company who specializes in kid-friendly games. Their new game was Sky Magic, a cooperative game where players attempt to rescue five mythical creatures from the center of a pentagonal board. Players roll the dice and then move the creatures along predetermined paths from cloud to cloud. However, if a cloud is rolled, entire sections of the map are blocked off or one of the five wedges are “flipped over.” The five sections are actually two different maps and folding a flap over like a book will change the path shown. If, after flipping, the creature is no longer on a cloud, it gets sent back to the middle of the board. If it ends up on a cloud even after turning the page, it gets to stay. Meanwhile the players have access to a few magic wands which can be used to prevent or reverse the effects of the cloud dice. Finally, there is a wand image on one side of the die which can cause players to lose one of their wands. They also serve as a timer and if 10 wands are lost the game ends. The box says 6+, but it could go a bit lower. Players take turns rolling and moving but all the creatures are available for anyone to move so a stray move here or there won’t necessarily be devastating.

Plan B Games

Sporting one of the hottest games at the show, Plan B Games was showing off the entirely overproduced Era: Medieval Age. A remake of sorts of the old Roll Through the Ages (of which I’m a fan) this game also has players rolling dice to accumulate resources (stone, wood, wheat, trade goods.) As before, wood and stone help build buildings, but now they’re actual plastic pieces plugged into one’s player board to form a city complete with buildings and walls. Buildings and walls can grant ongoing resources and provide for some endgame scoring. The game has four colors of dice that can be earned, each with a bit of a specialty. Yellow dice grant food (required to upkeep all your dice), blue provide goods and culture (points), white has resources and culture, and grey provides defense. There is also a bit of take-that going on whereby a player can steal resources from another (only at the end of a round, so spend it if you got it.)

On the other end of the spectrum, TUKI is a speed-building game where players race to put their pieces together to match the picture shown on the central card. The trick here is that the pictures are impossible to accomplish only using one’s colored pieces. Instead, players are given white “snow” pieces which do not count against the figure shown. Thus, players combine the snow pieces with the colored ones in order to match the central card. The game says 1-4 players, but since there are only 3 sets of pieces that means one player sits out each round. Combine two games to make a 6 person game.

Finally, we have 5211, a stock-market-esque game with funky card art. Player play out their cards during a round to try to play cards that match the majority color for that round. However, if too many of the same color card (3 + the number of players) are played, that color “busts” and the 2nd most common color is scored.

Portal Games

YARR!, Imperial Settlers Roll and Write has 1 to 4 players using a group roll to key off goods and buildings on their playmat. Three dice show the available goods while the other determines how many actions players may take that turn. Three resources (stone, wood, clay) can be used to build buildings or to check off progress along a resource track (worth points at the end.) Buildings add to the benefits of the roll or provide end-game scoring. One unique twist to the genre is four fields of goods on the paper, separated by bridges. By filling in squares to build a bridge, players may then spend an action to use one of the goods in the fields. Build 3 or 4 bridges and players have access to two or even three resources for a single action. Perhaps most significant development is a series of 48 different solo game sheets that simulate a single-player campaign with special rules and/or starting setups to each game.

Rio Grande Games

It is always a pleasure to visit the Rio Grande Room at GenCon, even though I missed out on any of the food runs. I had enough time to sit down and play through the new Race for the Galaxy based boardgame, New Frontiers. It has the same balance of settling planets, purchasing tech upgrades, producing goods, and shipping them for points. The active player chooses a role, gains a slight bonus, and then all the other players also take advantage of that role. Candidate planets to settle are still randomly obtained from a bag, but in this case they are drafted with the active player getting first choice. Rather than relying on the luck of the draw for technology, all the technology options are available from the start of the game. With most of the materials already on the board at the start, it keeps the complexity of the game down a little bit, especially on the 2nd or 3rd plays through the game. I enjoyed my play and could see getting it out for those edge cases where Race (or Roll) may be a bit more complex than needed. I could do without the ginormous colored plastic goods tokens, but I suppose they may make it more attractive to casual players by adding a bit of bling to the game. There is already an expansion in the works, Starry Rifts, which should show up in time for Essen.

Space Cowboys

Asmodee’s marketing gurus were able to catch the coattails of the recent Marvel movie franchise and will be offering up Splendor: Marvel, a retheming of the original. It looked to be almost all the same, except for two new aspects. The first person to collect three “Avenger Tokens” claims a tile worth three points. However, like Catan’s longest road, the tile can be claimed by another player if they are able to collect more tokens. The second item is a new Thanos tile that can be claimed if a player has one of each of the five types of gem. This takes a bit of work as the green gems are only found on the more expensive cards. Claiming the Thanos tile ends the game and final scores are tallied. Expect to see it around Q1 of 2020.

Space Cowboys had a new Unlock! title on display. Unlock! Heroic Adventures still contain cards and use a companion app, but now also come with a few more props, such as a booklet for the Wonderland story or a large poster for the Sherlock one. There is also some use of augmented reality in the game, I’m guessing in the third, computer-themed adventure.

Stonemaier Games

A wonderful display of Wingspan was on hand and catching the eye of many bystanders. I had not yet seen a physical copy of the game and must admit it has some nice pieces.

The City of Games

Vadoran Gardens has players drafting cards (showing a 3×3 grid of colors – blue, brown, green, and yellow) from a central tableau and then placing them into their own area by slightly overlapping a previous card so that they end up with a line of cards. The default play is to connect the rivers (blue) on cards to score more and more points, however the other colors can create bonus scoring options, so a river connection is not always the best play.

City of Kings, on the other hand, is a much deeper, cooperative adventure game. Two to four players choose one of six characters, who are then placed on a rectangular grid of tiles. Players explore the board by flipping over tiles and then do the typical fight creatures, go on quests, etc… Decisions are sometimes a bit puzzle-like in that players are trying to optimize all there resources and actions. The game has an overarching storyline, and it consists of several linked scenarios which can be played out in just under an hour. As can be seen in the photo, there are lots of cards and other bits to bring a diverse set of actions and unique player options to the mix.

The game getting the most attention at their booth was the upcoming (Q1 2020) Isle of Cats. Here, tragedy is befallen an island and the players have set out to save as many cats as possible. To do this, they acquire cats tiles in various Tetris-like poses and place them onto their ship. Players draft cards and then must pay out their fish tokens in order to play their cards. The various cards grant boots (lets a player goes first), baskets (needed to rescue cats – no one wants to try to move cats around by hand…), fish, etc… Blue cards are particularly important as they set up special scoring at game end, based on cat placement. Cats can grant special powers, so there is some chaining possible as the game progresses (such as purple cats which grant extra fish, etc..). At the end of the game, players lose points for any uncovered rats on their ship, or any rooms that are not completely filled. As mentioned, the little cat tiles were a big draw for a certain segment of the crowd, I swear I heard someone even go “Squee!”

University Games

Perfect for drawing people in on the GenCon floor, Heist: One Team One Mission (or just Heist) had a cool talking cube. Players take on one of four roles (Hacker, Explosives Expert, Money Man, or Lookout) and then cooperate to complete the “heist.” Players each start with a couple of orange plastic pieces representing tools of the trade, like gloves, flashlight, goggles, etc.. The central talking cube then gives directions to pass around the items, such as “give the goggles to the Hacker.” Sooner or later, the game will say “use the laptop” in which case whoever currently has the laptop must press a button on their side of the cube. If performed in time, the game will announce how much money was earned and the Money Man will set that much aside. As the game goes on directions speed up. Take too long over too many times and the game ends. A fun part of the game lies in the central cube. As players progress towards the endgame, the lid on the box starts to rise and if they get to the end without messing up the top pops up and little tiny bars of gold spill out. It is possible to win, but not collect the maximum amount of money, so there is a bit of gradation of success. I believe there were 3 levels of difficulty but our drop-in group managed to win (but not with the maximum score.) I would expect the lower levels to work well with a younger set.

USAopoly

Sporting grey and blue shirts with a prominent “The OP” logo, the folks in the USAopoly booth had several of their typical licensed-brand games at the show. Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game has one player trying to foil a group of cooperating thieves (the other players) over the course of three acts, following along with the movie. If you dropped by the booth at the right time you could even pick up a bar of Nestle Crunch, rebranded with a Die Hard wrapper.

Other licensees included Talisman: Kingdom Hearts as well as a version of their “Thanos: Rising” style game set in the Star Wars universe.

Of course, you aren’t allowed to buy Star Wars: Dark Side Rising inside the US.

On the topic of the “Rising” games, Harry Potter: Death Eater Rising is like the others except players don’t have to just defeat the outside villains, but the central Voldemort also has to be defeated to win. Expect it out this fall.

Another fall release is Toy Story: Obstacles and Adventures. This is a system similar to the Harry Potter deckbuilder with the same mild legacy overtones (additional card boxes are opened with repeated plays.) Players choose between Woody, Buzz, T-Rex, and Bo-Peep and then cooperate to overcome obstacles without losing all their health. Note, the game lists 2-5 players and while I listed only 4 characters, one might guess another appears in later boxes.

YARR! Dungeon Academy is a bit of a roll & write version of Boggle. A 4×4 grid of dice are shaken up and then players race to make a path in and out of the grid in less than a minute. Players “spend” one potion (red or blue) to pass through a small (red or blue) monster, and two potions to pass through a larger (red or blue) monster. Players start with some of each potion, but there are also potion icons on the dice that can be picked up if passed through. At the end of the time limit, players score one point for each monster collected and may then score one of the “quests” at the bottom of their sheet. (For example, a quest might be to give 1 pt for each large monster captured that round.) Next, players draft treasures with special abilities (or extra points) they can use during the next round of play. The player who finished first in the previous round gets first pick. Players reset their starting potions and start the next round, finishing the game after a few rounds. In the 2nd and 3rd round one die is replaced by a labyrinth die which limits the direction of travel, and the final (4th) round adds in a “big boss” die that players can challenge for extra points.

Van Ryder Games

If you’re unfamiliar with Van Ryder Games’ books, these are graphic novels that have a sort of “escape room” type puzzle structure where you pour over items and hints in the art in order to solve a mystery, escape, or whatever (there’s even a Western one where you build up a town.) Their newest releases: Mystery (superheroes), Pirates (two different ones), and Sherlock (two different ones) all have a slightly more family-friendly bent. Also on offer was Crusoe Crew which takes the graphic novel puzzle in a cooperative direction, providing four different books that are to be used together to solve the overarching puzzle.

Their other show title was Detective: City of Angels. Here, one player faces off against the rest as they try to solve the mystery. The game has a questioning system where players pass cards off to each other via a sleeve (so others can’t look on.) The game is based around specific scenarios, and 9 of them are in the box. The game plays 1 to 5 players. Scenarios can be played in a solo manner through the inclusion of a paragraph-style choose your path book and a sleuth/clue book. The Smoke & Mirrors expansion will come out on Kickstarter on December 16th. It will provide three or four new scenarios for play.

White Wizard Games
White Wizards Star Realms and Epic card games are still going strong. Star Realms is a space-combat based deckbuilder, while Epic is a CCG style card game that attempts to make every single card in the deck entirely overpowered. Epic Jungle is a new batch of cards that will go up on Kickstarter in August while an upcoming Epic Duels brings a new style of release. Epic Duels is everything needed to play a two player game. It is designed to be friendlier to play with fewer keywords and a more scripted style of play.

Wizkids

Surprisingly, Wizkids are ramped up their production of traditional boardgames, but were not in attendance with a booth or other room. However, I have managed to take a brief look at some of their recent and upcoming games of interest. Star Trek Conflick: InThe Neutral Zone is an amalgamation of dexterity-flicking game and a resource-based tactical game. Players shoot their pieces around the board collecting resources and/or building ships to smash into each other. With two factions (Federation and Klingon) the game goes from 2 to 4 players.

Europa Base Alpha has players using cards and dice to construct a base (out of Missile Silos, Communication Towers, etc…) on Europa. Cards can be used in four different ways, to either help with construction or annoy the other players. Players can use dice to push their luck in some cases. The game comes with a mini-expansion that includes “the unpredictable invader dice”!

In Nemo Rising: Robur the Conqueror is a cooperative big box game four 1 to 4 players set in the world in the book, Nemo Rising. Players take on one of four roles from the book and play through one of two scenarios, either Undersea Grotto where you work against the dangerous environment to get supplies or City in the Sky where you fight against Robur himself and his minions. It should be out in September.

Dire Wolf Digital

Originally a digital game company, the success of Clank! had Dire Wolf Digital branching out into boardaming. Its popular digital card game, Eternal (which I highly recommend for CCG fans) is making a transition into a tabletop game. Eternal: Chronicles of the Throne is a deckbuilder (not a CCG) with much of the digital game’s theme and some of its interesting mechanics. For example, “Warp” in the digital game allows players to play the card off the top of the deck. In the physical game, players have a few Warp tokens which are used to purchase cards directly into their hands. The heart of the game is a combat between players (up to 4) which has players using their cards for attack or defence. As enemy attacks activate at the end of one’s turn, players need to decide whether to use their cards to defend or to attack the other player at the end of their turn. Another intriguing mechanic is the Eternal Throne. Found at the bottom of the “more monies” card pile, when it reveals it changes the game. Some cards have additional powers that come into play once the throne is revealed. Thus, it allows players to rush to victory (ignore Throne abilities) or try to play a longer game (by getting Throne-related cards and trying to push through the monies deck.) Eternal: Chronicles of the Throne should be out in early September.

The other big item at the booth was the co-branding of Acquisitions Incorporated (an imaginary company created during public role-playing sessions of the popular Penny Arcade comic folks.) The main game, Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated, is a legacy version of Clank! set in the Aq. Inc. universe. Expect to play somewhere around 10 or more sessions of play, with the end result of a custom-version of the game suitable for further play.

There is also a Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated – Upper Management Pack which adds in figurines for each of the players accompanied by unique starting decks. The expansion can also be played with the base (vanilla) Clank! Game.

Wyvern Gaming

Short Order Hero is a mix of set collection with some take-that components. A tableau of recipe cards are laid out on the table and players try to collect ingredient cards to fulfill the recipes for points. On a turn, a player draws a card and then takes an action. Actions include drawing a second card, swapping out cards, put a “garnish” on a completed recipes, or cook (complete) a recipe. To cook a recipe, players play cards into a stack in front of them, topping it with the recipe card. However, additional cards can be added to a recipe later (by the “garnish” action.) Your opponents may add a hair, or a cockroach to your recipe while you might want to add on better garnishes of your own. First to a set number of points, wins the game.

If that isn’t enough of a GenCon boardgame fix, just wait another 360-odd days. In the meantime, spend your time enjoying some new games! The next few days will be dedicated to reports on RPGs, Digital games, and weird stuff I saw at the convention.

Posted in Convention Report, Reviews | 4 Comments

Matt Carlson: GenCon 2019 (A to I)

GenCon has descended on Indianapolis and left again, leaving behind an empty space that so recently was filled with gamer crowds gawking at the newest game or passing cosplay costume.  Another record year saw 70,000 attendees going through 538 exhibitor areas and attending 19,600 different events (and if you missed my friend’s magic show, shame on you.)  As before, I also descended upon the state capitol to consume as many rules explanations I could handle before exploding.  I tried something new this year, keeping my schedule relatively free of appointments so that I could roam freely (and even get in a game or two.)  This meant I covered fewer of the big name titles, but hopefully found a few things that are new to you. I’ve also done away with the “kids & party game” category as they seem to get more and more mixed.  All the boardgames are one big lump! As always, any errors on dates, publishers, titles, (and spelling) are mine alone. Don’t go blaming the poor publishers or their overworked booth helpers.

Academy Games

Academy Games was back with their eye-catching, giant version of Agents of Mayhem in the demo hall.  The regular game is now available, along with several optional expansions. Agents of Mayhem is a two-team tactical combat between sets of 3 heroes and 3 villains (or squads) played out in a fully 3-D, destructible (you remove levels of buildings) game area.  The basic combat rules are fairly simple (easy to grasp for newer players) but a series of bonuses and penalties (height, flanking, etc…) provide the tactical depth of the game. Players (or teams of two) alternate turns activating their characters’ abilities with resources in order to move, attack, or use special powers.  Each option requires resources which are removed from the character (or squad) card. The hero(s) that do not act that round regain some of their resources instead. Thus, there is a bit of resource management as one cannot simply activate the same character over and over again. As one might expect, there are a wealth of different options in the game.  There are many different scenarios to play, such as capture the flag or area control The game also has a campaign option where later scenarios change depending on the result of previous ones. A random-campaign generator also exists if players want to try out other campaign options. The base game has 3 different heroes and 4 options for villains, but then they can be customized with additional equipment, etc..  The expansions add in 9 more heroes and one more villain, but the villain is a boss with several choices of associated minions.  

Meanwhile, One Small Step is a game about the space race.  It is a worker placement game of two sides, but each side has two different groups.  The USSR and the US are in a race to make it to the moon. Players use workers (either engineers or administrators) to choose actions on the board, however each space has a different effect depending on the type of worker used.  Cards are drafted from a tableau which open up additional locations for workers. Resources are used to research new expeditions or to perform manned missions. One Small Step just finished its Kickstarter, but late pledges are still available.

In a somewhat surprising move, the next new game from Academy games will be a dexterity game.  Appearing in a Kickstarter this fall, Battle Royale: Flick to the Death is a combat game where players flick cards around on the board to maneuver and then use a variety of “weapons” to attack such as rolling discs or other objects.  It is intended to be a lightweight game, lasting 10 to 20 minutes per game.

Fans of the popular strategy computer game, Stellaris, will be pleased to hear that there will be a boardgame coming out attempting to recreate much of the feel of the digital game.  Players will be able to design their own races (if they want), design their own ships, etc.. etc.. The development of a physical game isn’t too much of a stretch as the digital game already incorporates some similar mechanics (like drawing cards to choose researched tech, etc…) In an interesting twist, each game is considered an “era” within the Stellaris universe and players can play through a single era (about 2 hours) or several (with the option of saving the game state for later.)  With almost no upper limit on eras (practically as many as 10?) Players can change civilizations between eras, with old civilizations not used in the current game kept around as fallen empires. One player could even preserve their civilization with another tries out a new one. The game balances this out by requiring more advanced civilizations achieve more strenuous victory conditions. The game supports 1 to 4 players so it can be played solo, and even allow other players to hop in and out of the game!  For example, play a civilization solo for a couple eras, then have friends jump in for an era or two and then leave again. All in all, it sounds quite ambitious (of course, it is also ripe for expansions, as the digital game has a vast quantity of them) but we shall see how it turns out. Expect a Kickstarter for the game in early 2020.

AEG

Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG to almost everyone) had its annual deluge of new games at GenCon.  I had already had a chance to check out the card game, Point Salad. It was another title in their tongue-in-cheek series of games about a mechanic.  (They had a deckbuilder about building decks, a worker placement about placing workers, etc…) Point Salad is a card collection game about trying to score points via a broad “point salad” variety of ways at the end of the game.  The blurb lists that there are over 100 different ways to score points. Players draft cards and use their front (to represent vegetables) or their backs (with ways to score at the end of the game.) Managing which veggies to keep and which scoring opportunities to use is the heart of this short playing (20-30 minutes) game for 2 to 6 players.  It comes out to the public market in early September.

Meanwhile, Ecos: First Continent is a fully formed euro will all the trimmings.  In this “continent building” game, players use a type of Bingo mechanic to trigger actions.  Various elements are drawn from a bag and players use their grey cubes to cover up corresponding symbols on their personal areas.  Fill up an area and you can yell “Eco!” and then take advantage of that particular ability. Players affect the central board of hexagons by placing land, water, mountains, forests, and a wide variety of animals, all in an attempt to shape up the land to correspond to one’s own victory point conditions.  One nice side-effect of the Bingo mechanic is that if a player doesn’t want to use an element they can put off using it, doing this several times will earn a player a new grey cube, which then lets them have the ability to cover up more locations on their cards at the same time (and increase the probability of finding matches.)

Ankama

Luna Imports brings Ankama’s Draftosaurus to the US.  A 2 to 5 player drafting game, players are attempting to fill their dino park with each zone having special requirements (such as all of one type, all different, pairs of animals, etc…)  A die is rolled and then everyone places an animal. The active player can choose freely, but the rest of the players must obey a restriction dictated by the dice (must go in an empty region, in a specific region, on one side of the board or the other, etc…)  Players go through two sets of drafts and the game ends with a final scoring. The player boards are two sided, providing a set of alternate packing rules for a slightly different feel.

Asmadi Games

Asmadi’s Aegean Sea made a brief appearance on Thursday morning but then promptly sold out.  (In true Terry Pratchett dwarven code of marketing, even the demo copies were sold.) Aegean Sea has players taking on the role of one of five different civilizations, each with a special starting deck and special powers.  The game has a slight wargame feel as players jockey to control specific locations. In typical Asmadi fashion, cards in the game are multi-use and take on different forms and functions depending on how and where they are used.  If you didn’t scoop up a copy of the game early Thursday, it should be appearing on Kickstarter soon.

Meanwhile, 1001 Odysseys will be available for preorder later this month and will be out in 2020.  This is a cooperative paragraph-style story-based game where one to four players explore a story using tokens, cards, and a game board.  Location cards actually fit onto the game board (matching the background art) and serve as possible places to visit, depending on where the players are during the game.  Players take on the role of navigator (manage the map), operations (keeping track of the players’ progress), Commander (managing the storybook), and Information (managing the encyclopedia-style almanac of game information.)  Its a game of discovering information and then having the group decide where to investigate next. The game will come with four different stories, each having 8 to 10 chapters that run about 30 minutes. The stories branch so not all 10 chapters will be seen in a specific playthrough.

One Deck Galaxy will appear on Kickstarter later this year (and story-wise will tie in with 1001 Odysseys.)  It builds on the One Deck Dungeon theme, but then branches off in a few new directions. Players now take on the role of an entire civilization whose goal is to unify under one glorious federation as they fight against (one of four) game adversaries.  This time around, gameplay is more progressive rather than all or nothing. Several cards in a tableau represent locations that can be accessed. Players complete small die-matching options that add progress (upside down cards from the deck) to that location.  When a location has the required number of cards, it grants players the associated bonus (either more dice or a new power.) Note that using powers take actions in this game which is a resource. Players begin with only one, but can gain more just like additional dice.  In order to reduce the “lame” factor of rolling low numbers, players have the option of spending dice to make ships (through pairs and triplets) or advanced science (through runs) that give something useful even to poor die rolling situations.

One final tidbit of note.  Those who follow the Penny Arcade comic strip and its associated brands may be interested to know Asmadi Games have an unspecified collaboration in the works.

Bézier Games

Bézier was showing off their newest line of games that begin with Silver.   Once again there are werewolves afoot. This time in a sort of discarding-cards style of game.  Players take turns either drawing the top card of the deck or discard pile. Drawing from the deck lets a player use the special ability on the card by discarding it immediately. Otherwise players use their drawn card to replace one or more of their face-down cards.  Multiple cards can be replaced only if they have a matching value. However, players start with five cards and are only allowed to begin by looking at two of them. Card powers can let you view more of your cards as well as mess around with other players’ cards. When a player thinks they have the lowest value of cards, they call for the end of the game and everyone gets one more turn.  Silver is the first in a line of standalone games. Later games, such as the upcoming Silver Bullet, can be combined or played on their own.

Big G Creative

The folks who brought you the “Kenny G: Keepin it Saxxy” game now have a Trapper Keeper branded game.  While the Trapper Keeper style box does not affect play very much, the theme of the game is centered around the the old sights and sounds of school in the 80s.  It is a card-drafting game with thematic cards with positive and negative point values such as a report card card or a detention slip card. Some cards interact allowing players to attempt to put together card combos for greater effects.  At the end of the game, players use a scantron sheet to add up the scores. It comes in three “versions”, and I have the space-themed one that matches my original Trapper Keeper from 1981 or so…

Cephalofair Games

Nothing especially new in the Cephalofair booth, with the somewhat recently released Gloomhaven expansion, Forgotten Circles available for purchase.  This expansion contains a new character class and 20 new scenarios for play after finishing the base game. The scenarios are broken up into smaller chunks, with less revealed at the beginning.  The storyline opens up new areas as you play through the branching scenario. This allows the inclusion of more surprises and puzzle-y bits.

Czech Games Edition

CGE always rents out an entire room for gamers to give their games a go.  This year there were plenty of copies of their new party word game, Letter Jam, to go around.  It is a 2 to 6 player cooperative game where players are dealt out a set of cards that make a word (cards are selected by the other players or through the use of a card scanning app.)  Everyone then takes one letter from their set of cards and displays it for everyone else to see (but not themselves.) Looking at all the other player’s cards, players bid to see who can make the longest word.  That player spells out their word using number tokens in front of the other players, with players able to use a wildcard (but unnamed) letter. Players then guess their letter, putting it aside if they are correct.  At the end of the game all players try to rearrange the letters they have in order to spell out a word. They then reveal their cards to see if they were correct, with the group scoring points depending on how many words were successfully created.

Chip Theory Games

When I think of Chip Theory Games, I think of the word “overproduced” (well, that and “Minnesota”.)  Their Too Many Bones game is a complex cooperative adventure game full of piles of custom dice placed into custom cut-out neoprene mats to create very customized characters to play.  It is probably fairer to say they put a lot of effort into their components, which are all integral parts of the game, rather than just miniatures piled on for their bling factor.

Chip Theory Games has taken their standard high level components and attempted to create a MOBA style tower defence game, Cloudspire, that can be played competitively or cooperatively.  MOBA games are a genre of videogames (League of Legends or Hero of the Storm) which have gained popularity in the past few years (one could argue that League of Legends is perhaps currently the most popular e-sport.) What this means in boardgaming terms is that Cloudspire has players managing a particular side, a tower, minions, and a hero to be the last man standing in a vs battle (2 to 4 players.)  Each player sends out “minion” pieces that progress along automated paths in order to march over and damage other player’s towers. Meanwhile, the other players are trying to maneuver their hero into place to kill these minions as they come, providing more resources and leveling up the hero. Finally, the tower itself can be upgraded in many ways, and all of the above is slightly different for each of the factions that can be played.  In addition to the standard competitive play, there are 16 solo scenarios (along with a thematic story) and 8 two player cooperative scenarios. As with all Chip Theory titles, the game is only available through their website, shipping around mid-september. A 5th faction is in the works as an expansion and those who feel like their game doesn’t have enough bling can purchase an expansion pack that contains miniatures to represent the important bits and pieces for each faction.

Deepwater Games

Deepwater Games had a great pitch last year, renting out an entire room and declaring their “flip & write” game of housing development in the 50’s, Welcome To… plays well with 1 to 100 gamers.  With the success of the base game, they have since made several expansions including an upcoming Summer Expansion that should be shipping in the next few weeks.

Appearing on Kickstarter in September, Sovereign Skies is a 2 to 4 player game based around a large rondel representing the six different planets involved in the game.  Players take turns dropping their troops onto the rondel to use their effects. Each space grants a different special power (building ships, making aggressive or diplomatic actions, etc…)  

Finally, Deepwater will be releasing 7 Summits some time in 2020.  It’s a lightweight dice drafting game (and, yes, you guessed it – push your luck opportunities) based around the theme of mountain climbing.

Dude Games

Gravity Super Star (2-6 players, about 25 minutes) has players taking control of little figures falling through space full of changing gravity wells.  On a board filled with platforms or open space, players use their hand of cards to move around or rotate. Once used, cards are discarded and are reclaimed when they are all used up, a turn is spent just reclaiming cards.  A character’s gravity is always pulling down on its feet so rotating your pawn also rotates the direction of gravity. If a pawn isn’t supported by a platform, it begins to fall (wrapping around the board) until they land on a new platform.  The idea is to collect stars on the board for points (1 point each, 3 points for a colored pair) as you pass through their spaces. Once removed, most star spots reveal an energy symbol which grants a player energy when passed through, this energy can be used for bonus actions later in the game.  Landing on or passing through an opponent allows you to steal one of their stars and bumps them off the board until the beginning of their next turn, although they do get to pick up all their spent cards. As one might expect, smaller player numbers use fewer boards and will be a bit less chaotic.  A six player game uses all 6 boards and might be more fun for those who don’t mind a bit of take-that and/or chaos.

Also at the Dude booth was Bad Bones, a sort of competitive tower defense game.  Players have a central tower and bottom-row village that must be defended while skeleton tokens march ceaselessly forward.  Players can use traps to deflect or get rid of skeletons. Placed traps can be used twice before they’re destroyed, but an action can be spent to pick them up after their first use in order to reuse them again later.  Several options allow players to take some of their skeletons and launch them toward another player, causing even more skeletons to appear on their board. Play ends when a player is eliminated, and the winner is the player with the most points (calculated from unused traps and surviving structures.)

Eagle-Gryphon

I didn’t pick up many details, but Eagle-Gryphon was on hand with several very elaborate dudes-on-a-map games on display that were based on popular PC strategy games.  No less than two different Hearts of Iron games for 2019, as well as a Surviving Mars (a PC game) expansion to the On Mars boardgame.

Funko

Funko had a huge presence at this year’s convention complete with a maître d’ guarding a special demo game room.  Gamers had to get through a demo game just to be allowed to purchase the more exclusive game packs.

Funkoverse is a new game that takes advantage of the Funko collectable mini-figurine line of toys to supply characters and minis (slightly smaller than “official” Funko figures) to a tactical combat game.  Funko bought the design studio who did the Hogwarts deckbuilder, Horrified, this year’s Jaws, and last year’s Villainous. The designers then set out to make a game taking advantage of the licenses owned by Funko (and more non-miniature games are in the pipeline.) Funkoverse is typically played as a 3 vs 3 tactical skirmish between two sides.  Teams take turns moving individual units and triggering special abilities through the use of special energy tokens (they come in 4 flavors.) These tokens are then placed on a timer track (further back for more powerful abilities) that has them return for reuse on a later turn. Damaged characters are first knocked down, but if hit again they are knocked out and return at the start of the next round.  There are many different scenarios such as tag the flag, area control, king of the hill, and one where one character serves as the “leader” and both receives and delivers extra damage. Another part of the marketing is the way the game is sold. The game comes in sets taken from DC Comics, Harry Potter, Rick & Morty, and the Golden Girls (yes, the old ladies from the sit-com.) Some packs have four characters and others only two, but gamers can play a 3 vs 3 battle with any of them using stand-in tokens to represent minion figures with no special abilities.  

Gale Force 9

Gale Force 9 was showing off their newly licensed and refurbished version of the old game of Dune.  As before, it goes to 6 players (even numbers are best, for alliances) and can be played with any combination of the six factions.  Long known as one of the most interesting asymmetrical games (both player powers and victory conditions) it has been slightly polished up for modern tastes.  There are basic and advanced rules available, with the advanced rules taking into account the most unique of the player powers. Figure on 2-3 hours for the full, advanced game.  It’s still available for preorder, and is currently “on the boat” and will hopefully be in wider release in late September.

Gamelyn Games

Gamelyn’s newest in its Tiny Epic line is Tiny Epic Mechs.  This is an arena combat game where players use cards to program in four actions at a time.  Each card has a direction, as well as an action to perform (like gather energy, lay down traps, etc…)  Players begin the game as a lowly meeple able to hold up to two weapons as they move around. As they collect energy they can power up their meeples to enter their own tiny mech (giant robot.)  This allows the use of even more powerful weapons. Players leave mines (of secretly placed levels 1 to 4 damage) and turrets around the board to hinder their opponents, but these also help to collect energy.  When a player is defeated in combat, they are reduced to a lowly meeple again but are able to take advantage of all of their pieces still on the board. The game ends after six rounds of play with points awarded for doing damage, attacking, and being the person to deliver a knockout punch.

While NOT a Tiny Epic game, I couldn’t help but photograph their Heroes of Land, Air, and Sea.  I’m a particular fan of how they pulled off an air segment of the board.   

Golden Bell Games

After being introduced to their Dungeon Dice, I quickly became a fan of Golden Bell Games.  A somewhat unusual publisher as boardgames are only one part of their overall line of comics and toys.  The latest Dungeon Dice expansion (KS a long while ago) is still in designer limbo (but not out of the fight yet) but their most recent Kickstarter, Unbroken, was on display.  This is a single player dungeon crawl, resource management experience done completely with cards and tracking cubes. Players draw two dungeon cards and pick one to execute, spending time (and usually resources) in order to gain the benefit of the card.  Strength, the primary resource and your health pool, can also be restored by not using the card’s stated ability. After a set amount of time is spent, one encounters a level boss and must defeat it to progress on down to the next level. Each level grants players more time to complete it, but has a correspondingly harder monster to fight.  Get to the end of the fourth level and defeat the boss to win the game. The game is all about resource management. Should you spend food to get more strength, or perhaps get some wood in the hopes you can eventually upgrade your weapon? Meanwhile, you may want to keep some “trickery” on hand for later. Players start the game with one of four different classes that grant special abilities usable once per level, and each level has six possible bosses to fight, giving the game a decent overall variety.  All this being said, it is already sold out, but might be available in some stores.

Web of Spies, however is now out in a 2nd edition reprint.  This is a 2 to 4 player deckbuilding wargame with a sort of Risk-ish feel (lasting about 1-2 hours.)  The map is an interlocking set of locations and players move their pawns around the board to try to capture “assets” represented by colored cubes.  All cards in the game have a dual purpose, and can be used for their action, or discarded for movement points.

In time for another round of elections, Contender is a blend of historical political quotes and Apples to Apples.  A topic card is flipped up, and then players play one (or more) of the cards in their hand in order to respond to the topic.  All the “arguments” are read and the best one is selected by vote. Each of the argument cards have the prominent quote along with historical notes as to when and who uttered the given phrase.

Further down the pipeline, Golden Bell is putting together a series of cooperative mission-based games based on popular anime titles.  Expect to see some sort of adventure-deck type system set in the realms of Naruto, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the 7 Deadly Sins. Good news indeed, if you recognize any of those titles.

Greater Than Games

A Spirit from the upcoming expansion to Spirit Island

Greater Than Games had the party game, Medium.  Played in teams of two, two players each play a card to the table.  Then try to both simultaneously speak the same word that has something in common with the two played cards.  Homebrewers (a beer-themed engine-building game with some dice trading) has shipped to Kickstarter backers and was also available at the show.  The other big news was Greater Than Games acquiring Cheapass Games, putting their games on a wider distribution and allowing its founder to focus in on creating more games and getting the wonderful abstract, Tak, out to a wider audience.

Once again looking out for the little guy, they made space in a corner of their booth for the folks from Homestar Runner to display their Trogdor!!! The Burninator Game. If you know what that is, you’re in the target audience. If you don’t, well it’s a cooperative game where you try to get Trogdor: The Burninator to burn and/or destroy everything on the board.

Grey Fox Games

Grey Fox Games (spelled correctly) was showing Gem Hens which is a timed dice-rolling game where players roll to distribute what actions they want to take in that round.  These movement rolls are then used maneuver a player’s hen around a board in order to pick up gems. Rolls of 1-3 grant movement of that exact number, 4’s and 5’s allow a player to add gems to the board, and 6’s are wild cards.  However, at the end of timed round, players roll all their 6’s. The highest value roll goes first that round. The rerolled 6’s are then added to their respective rerolled numbers. Any dice that rerolled to a 6 are set aside and can be used as a wildcard.  Once the rolling phase is over, players take turns using their dice to move their hens around the board. Hens can push other hens around, but use up an additional movement die. Additional dice are added to the sides of the board by placing them in a column or row and adding gems anywhere on that column or row.  However, each column/row only has two spots so it starts to limit where gems can be placed further into the round. Finally, players also get one special power card each round (chosen in reverse order of players) which grant special abilities to one’s hen in the round. Playable with 2 to 4 people, the game seems fairly short, ending after only two or three rounds.

HABA

The big game for HABA at the show was the recent Kinderspiel des Jahres Winner, Valley of the Vikings.  Here, players take turns placing colored barrels in the middle of the board and then flicking a large wooden ball in an attempt to knock them down.  Each player also has a token on the nearby point track that displays coins or their character color. When a player knocks down a colored barrel, they are allowed to move that player’s token along the track.  Whenever a token passes off the end of the track, everyone else on the track scores points (a few coins, or bonus coins if they’re landed on their own color.) While anyone can flick the ball around and move the pieces, the bit of strategy in the game revolves around which tokens to move and in which order (since they skip over any filled spaces.)  The English version should see a release this fall.

HABA was also showing off Mountains, a sort of Go-Fish memory game.  Players each have a hand of equipment cards. The active player flips up a card and then attempts to match the icons shown on the card.  If they do not have all the needed icons, players can essentially spend gems to do a “go-fish” type mechanism to see if other players might have the needed equipment.  No cards are exchanged and they are not consumed, so a bit of memory game slips in there as players want to remember who had which equipment. The flipped up cards are chosen from six different piles with higher level card stacks providing bigger rewards for more difficult matches.  In addition to supplying more gems (used for the Go-Fish portion) the higher level cards also provide passport “stamps” (which are literally stamped onto a scoresheet) which determine the winner at the end of the game.

Wobble King is another typical HABA style game that mixes a bit of dexterity with balancing fun.  A slightly wobbly king lion token is placed on a piece of sturdy cardboard which is, in turn, placed on top of 18 silver discs.  Players take turns fishing for disks under the board with a little wand. Discs removed are placed on top, so the board gets more and more unstable.  Make the king piece topple over while trying to get a disc and you get a rotten tomato. Get two tomatoes and you lose the game.

Hobby Japan

Tucked away in the smaller booths I found Hobby Japan’s The Queen of Hansa.  Two to four players take turns drafting cards from a table of four different rows.  Each row is a color and the order in which rows are emptied affects the value of items in that color.  The first row cleared reduced in value, while the last to clear jumps up three places. Some cards hold colored cubes which are acquired when the card is drafted.  These cubes score at the end of each drafting round. However, the cubes are lost unless a player has also drafted boat cards to keep them around. In addition to color (suit), the cards come in several versions – boats, castles, and people.  People have both a color and a letter. They score points at the game end.

Pairs are worth 6 points but three of a kind is a whopping 20. The number of different types of people also scores. Finally castle cards are awarded points based on majority.  From what I understood, Hobby Japan is still looking for a US publisher, so at present, the only way to get the game is through Amazon Japan.

Horrible Games

Imported by Luma Imports, The King’s Dilemma by Horrible games is a 3 to 5 player legacy game based around players vying for the king’s council.  It is a story-based game driven by a central deck of cards. Players choose how events unfold and have to weigh decisions whether to help themselves or keep the kingdom on track.  Every game ends with the death or abdication of the king, but the actions of each of the “houses” are remembered from game to game.

Identity Games

Designers of the Escape Room: The Game have brought over a new VR version under their own label.  Escape Room: The Game – Virtual Reality uses cardboard goggles and a phone app in addition to books, cards, and other components in order to simulate an escape room experience.  One person (at a time) uses the VR component while the others (it lists 3-5 players) make use of the many included components. It’s recommended to use the little “lockbox” from the original game, but a free app can be downloaded to take its place.  The box includes a tutorial game and then two different escape experiences – one on a submarine and the other has players caught behind enemy lines.

Iello

Iello kindly laid out all their newish games in a row for easy photos.  Ishtar (releasing at Essen) has players building up the garden of Babylon.  Several tiles are laid out (2 plus the number of players) showing watering holes and various gems.  The active player selects a tile (of various 3-space arrangements) and placed it onto the board, usually adding a meeple on top of the tile in a Carcassonne-type fashion.  Tiles placed over gem locations grant gem tokens to the player. Players can then use gems to activate special player powers (there are five sets of two powers.) Spending two gems gets the basic power, but spending two more earns the higher level power.  These range from earning more gems or scoring points in various ways. Gems spent this way return to the player, however players can also buy up “Tree” cards to earn larger chunks of points and allow them to place a tree token onto the board (presumably somewhere in their favor.)  Figure on plenty of different end-game scoring options depending on various arrangements of tiles, workers, and trees.

Little Town (out at GenCon) is on the lighter side of worker-placement resource management games.  Players place a meeple onto the game board and collect resources from the eight surrounding squares.  Most are empty, but wood, fish, and rock are collected from forests, ponds, and mountains respectively.  Players can spend their resources to add buildings onto the board which either give an immediate benefit or and ongoing one for anybody collecting nearby resources.  If you collect resources from another player’s building (the only way to get grain, I believe) you must pay them a coin. Meanwhile, players need to be sure to gather enough grain or fish to feed all their workers for each round.  Players have secret goals which can be completed for points, such as feeding one’s workers solely with fish for a round. At first blush, I believe this will be a game that plays quickly but still manages to provide a bit of meaty euro-game feel.

Iello has started a new brand, Loki, which is intended to be a kid-friendly line of games that teach some standard boardgame mechanics without too many layers of complexity.  In SOS Dino, 1-4 players cooperate to save four dinosaurs from a volcanic eruption. Players take turns drawing lava tiles which are played on the board to slowly block off areas and are also used to determine which way a dino can move.  Tiles are also used to limit which dino is NOT able to move that turn. The game is fairly free-form with any player allowed to move any dino. The goal is to move all the dinos off the board before any are destroyed by lava. There are also egg tokens on the board that can be passed over to collect if players want more of a challenge.

The next title I saw in the Loki brand was Farmini.  Two to four players play cards onto the table in order to form fenced in enclosures.  Players draw a card which will either provide fences, new animals to place, or a wolf figure which then eats any unenclosed animals of the shown type.  

The final Loki game was Troll & Dragon.  This is a pure push-your-luck die rolling game.  Roll white dice to earn diamonds without rolling Trolls.  Roll a key and a door to go into the Dragon room and you can then roll two red dice trying to roll gold without rolling dragons.  Roll two dragons and you lose everything for the round.

The newest expansion for Decrypto, Laser Drive adds in thematic clues.  Rather than choosing any old clues, players must also include at least one clue that fits with the Laser Drive theme (like “a city” or “something in a hospital”.)  Manage to get all three clues to fit the theme and you earn a laser token worth points at the end of the game.

Ninja Academy is a dexterity driven party game lasting around 20 minutes  Three to five players take turns drawing an event card. This will either result in a duel between two players (determined by player count and player order), or an all-play situation.  The game comes with a pile of meeples, bricks, and cards. A typical duel may be requiring players to “roll” their meeples as quickly as possible in order to satisfy the conditions on a card.  An all-play card may have all the meeples jumbled in a box and then revealed, with the first player to announce how many meeples are “standing” winning the point.

Incarnate Games

Sing for Your Supper is a singing party game where one player tries to sing out a correct tune such that only one other player can guess the answer.  The active player draws two cards and chooses one to play. The card will show a euphemistic paragraph of a song (“I desire to grasp your digits”) and the active player will then sing a short phrase from the song.  Players take turns guessing the tune. Correct answers win the active player 3 cards, from which they pick 2 and give 1 to the correct guesser. Players are trying to collect cards of different ingredients in order to form up a four course meal for the win.

Changing gears at the booth, Ascended Kings is an entirely different style of game.  Supported by a graphic novel set in the same storyline, Ascended Kings t is a free for all combat game without player elimination (you come back as a “revenant”.)  Players try to slay each other to take over their bloodstones, trying to collect them all to win. One interesting feature is the border of the playing field. It is made up of blue fire strips which slowly move in on the players, making the combat area smaller and smaller.  Players also have slightly unique powers which grant them the ability to use specific actions at a discount.

Inside Up

Gorus Maximus is a trick-taking game.  As usual, players need to follow suit, with the trick winner scoring the points cards in the hand.  Some cards have positive point values, a few have a negative value. However, trump can be changed via an Uno like mechanism by copying the number (but not suit) of the previous card.  The game is playable with up to 8 players, individual or in whatever teams you want. The lowest card of a suit is worth nothing unless it is also trump which makes it worth 5 points (a tidy sum.) 

And that’s the news that’s fit to print, for today anyway. Tomorrow we’ll see the rest of the alphabet, with additional days dedicated to RPGS, Digital games, or whatever my camera drug (dragged?) up.

Posted in Convention Report | 8 Comments

Valerie Matthews: Review of Wingspan

By Valerie Matthews

Hey, strangers!  Ok, realistically, most of you are strangers.  My name is Valerie Matthews.  From 2005 to 2011 I wrote a weekly board gaming column (primarily for BoardgameNews, before it joined BGG).  One of my regular features was Prose on Cons—reviews of game conventions instead of the games themselves.  (One year I went to 19 game conventions!)  When Dale started Opinionated Gamers I was already pretty burnt out on writing a blog, but I posted a couple of game reviews before I disappeared completely.  At the time, I was writing under the name Valerie Putman.  Oh, hey!  A few of you aren’t strangers!  Where have I been?  Divorced (great guy, and a gamer, but we grew apart), pursuing other hobbies (avid hiker and backpacker—did 16 National Parks the summer of 16), and got married again (great guy, *not* a gamer).  I bore you with all of this before getting to the game review because that last bit—husband not a gamer—is the reason I am reviewing Wingspan.

Continue reading
Posted in Reviews | 4 Comments

Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots –2019 (Part 15)


We recently conducted our Sydney-wide no-shipping mass auction, resulting in lots of new games falling into local gamers’ hands and a wealth of new games to be played. Over a 1000 games were simultaneously auctioned off or traded away (we allow any game to be traded before the auction deadline as the whole point is to move the games around between the various Sydney groups) and the overall changeover rate was over 50%, an excellent result. The no-shipping aspect means you can only buy, sell, or trade games in the auction if you can arrange to bring the games you’ve offloaded, and pickup the games you’ve won, on trade night (either by yourself or through a friendly mule). With the cost of postage these days, it saves a ton of money for everyone.  Trade night this time happened to be here at our local Tuesday night gaming haunt in Chatswood and over 100 people filled our little club to the rafters. It was truly like gamer Christmas, presents all round!

He’s excited. He just pulled the bat out of the giant Jenga tower and nothing fell over.
Continue reading
Posted in Commentary, Sessions | 4 Comments

Gen Con 2019, Days 3 and 4: What’s Hot, and What I Played (Chris Wray)

That’s a wrap on Gen Con 2019! This is my conclusion post, with (1) a brief discussion of what was hot at the convention, (2) snap reviews, and (3) my winners and losers list of Gen Con 2019. The above photo is my haul from the convention.

Continue reading
Posted in Commentary, Convention Report | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Gen Con 2019, Day 2: What’s Hot, and What I Played (Chris Wray)

Day two at Gen Con has always been, at least for me, considerably more relaxed than the first day.  I didn’t arrive until after the exhibit hall opened. I looked around, did some more shopping, had a few meetings, then hung out at the BGG hot games room.  Today was my last full day at the event; I’ll go back tomorrow morning, then I’m driving back to Missouri for a couple of days dedicated to playing what I bought.

As with my past coverage, I’m posting tonight (1) what’s hot, (2) what I played, and (3) a quick summary of news and general thoughts on the convention. 

Continue reading
Posted in Commentary, Convention Report | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments