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GAMES NEWS! 20/04/20

Matt Lees8 comment(s)

Ava: Who goes there?

Tom: Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself.

Ava: Oh thank god it’s you Tom, I thought I’d seen a ghost on the news-battlements.

Tom: Not this time, but I have had one pale figure looming over me on my rounds. Please enjoy a short word from our sponsors at LeesCorp.

LeesCorp Spokesperson: Hello, fellow gamers! Are you in a pickle due to Quarantine? Are you craving some comfort in trying times? Have you started making new friends with the inanimate objects scattered around your home? CEASE, because LeesCorp has got you covered with EXCITING PROGRAMMED VIDEO ENTERTAINMENT.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, at 3pm BST, you can tune in at to see our finest specimens interact with each other, and partake in complex tabletop exercises. Now that the prototype model has been trained in basic box-assembly, we are planning to release him onto more complex tasks – such as simple game cognition, and interaction with non-cardboard entities!

This week, Matt will be playing Frosthaven with Isaac Childres on Tuesday, and on Thursday, he’ll be playing Railroad Ink and Cartographers with THE CITIZENS AT HOME. You can find downloads for those linked here (Cartographers Official PnP), here (Cartographers Low-Ink PnP) and also here (Railroad Ink PnP).

Ava: Who the hell is that and how did they get in the news-castle?

Tom: Look, I’m sorry, I gave… it… a guest pass. It can’t go past the ground floor, so there’s no danger of it getting into the discourse compression chamber, the article emporium or the Quinns containment zone. And, before you ask, it absolutely won’t get into the newspipes – we’ve learned a lot of lessons since the last breach.

Ava: Tom, it’s literally holding a pair of bolt cutters right now!

Tom: It’ll be fine!

Ava: That’s what you said last time.

Tom: Just… do some news and hopefully it’ll leave!

Ava: Ankh: Gods of Egypt, is the first of the ‘Eric Lang likes mythology’ trilogy to have a subtitle, and that’s news, as Blood Rage and Rising Sun were both huge successes, but didn’t need to spell out where their gods were buttered.

Ankh has players vying for devotion and scuffling amongst their divine selves to find out who will be the last remaining god of Egypt. It’s a sort of polytheistic royal rumble where only one of you (or, erm, two of you sometimes) gets to wear the Monotheistic Championship belt of being worshipped for all eternity. Or at least until Egypt stops being ancient, I guess.

The game is absolutely swimming in dashboards, and players will fight over an ever shifting map, with boundaries moving as camels get laid out. Why do games insist that camels are so territorial? Same thing with Through the Desert, a game explicitly (if abstractly) about nomadic culture, I don’t get it.

Players are moving up a series of tracks, allowing them to upgrade themselves or do board based miniature shenanigans. Each of these tracks feeds into an event track, which means that once enough people have done enough STUFF there will be combat (or camels, or monuments), and all that strategising will pay off. Whoever actually does the action that triggers the event gets control of the event or a tempting bonus, so timing, and being wary of giving bonuses to your opponents, is of the essence.

I think this game looks interesting, but has only the most tenuous grasp on theology. The two players losing the most at the four fifths mark through the game get forcibly bundled together into one giant mutant god and can only win together. If there’s a tie at the end of the game nobody wins and ‘Egypt becomes atheist’. I’m hoping there’s a Richard Dawkins stretch goal where one player gets to push for a tie and act as a honey toting spoiler the entire game.

Ava: One possible word of warning, and something a reader asked us to cover, was the financial buzzwords and/or buzzards flying around CMON right now, in the form of a delayed financial report, and some questions from their auditors. Among other things, their auditors have concerns about their status as a ‘going concern’, which is somewhat unnerving, as this is an accounting term meaning something along the lines of ‘is your business capable of keeping on trading’.

CMON have responded with a rather disingenuous claim that that isn’t what going concern means (I’m 90% certain they’re wrong, and I’m at least 50% an accountant, so should have some clue). That said, their explanation of why the auditors are poking holes in them does make a lot of sense. Essentially, the money they got from all their kickstarters stays in their books as a massive (millions of pounds) liability even while they spend that money on all the huge volume of stuff they need to buy to get the games printed, as that liability doesn’t go anywhere until they ship, they end up looking a lot financially worse off than they are. I can imagine an auditor getting the willies about that liability, especially as Kickstarter is pretty weird.

Anyway, this is probably really boring. CMON are convinced they’re totally fine, and may be correct, but it is a pretty scary time to be a company reliant on conventions, supply lines, and a fully functioning world. Kickstarter is always a gamble, even with a company that is regularly shipping successfully. Always be careful with which hype trains you board.

Egypt’s isn’t even the only bit of iffy history getting diddled with this week.

Wolfenstein’s alternate history seems like a reasonable starting point for a dungeon crawler, but that might be because I haven’t even come near to playing one of the games since the entire thing was limited to being on one flat plane that looked quite a bit like that one Windows 95 screensaver. Your table can also look like that, and you can have a little romp around with various robo-nazis and slightly less robotic heroes. I don’t have high hopes, but you can finally own your own miniatyre mecha-hitler. Wait. Why would you…..

Tom: There’s a word of warning for this game, too. This thread on Reddit highlights a litany of problems with Archon Studios (previously Prodos Games, previously Load Board Game) not delivering to backers and seeding misinformation. I know what you’re about to say – ‘but Tom, I want my robotic fascist RIGHT NOW’; and that I understand, but maybe don’t back this one if you’re (rightfully) concerned.

Last in this Kickstarter roundup, we’ve got Excavation Earth – a market-manipulation, set-collection extravaganza that asks the age old question: should I sell my trash, or put it in a museum?

Players are going to be taking on the roles of alien prospectors setting up shop on a now-abandoned earth, trying to get their grubby mitts on the scraps of what civilisation left behind – alarm clocks, license plates, maybe even an oversized kickstarter miniature or two. These odds and ends can then be sold to markets of alien customers in a push-and-pull, supply-and-demand style economy; or hoarded in one’s own private collection for endgame scoring.

Tom: There are a few other orbiting systems here to add some spice – but the core of this one looks to be pretty solid, and there’s a hell of a lot less questionable Kickstarter uncertainty compared to the other projects we’ve just mentioned. It feels strange that ‘a lack of obvious uncertainty’ is a positive point, here, but hey – I’ll take it.

Ava: W Eric Martin at Boardgamegeek is always finding curious ways to bundle news together, and I quite like this bit where he just tried to breathlessly mention every single game that Bruno Cathala is currently working on. It’s a lot of game! That’s a lot of Bruno!

Tom: You weren’t kidding! That’s so much Bruno! He’s the real-life equivalent of Dr Manhattan from Watchmen, but instead of doing… that… he’s using his many clones to design a frankly silly number of boardgames. One of them is a game about hoarding toilet paper! The man has his finger on the PULSE!

Ava: The bit that stuck out to me was the potential for a sequel to Shadows over Camelot, an early example of the secret betrayer co-operative game. There’s two details that make this special, the first is that it’s literally called Shadows over Brooklyn, which feels as far removed from Camelot as you can get. The second is that it is still an actual sequel about knights looking for the grail! Or at least, it’s about descendents of Merlin in a quasi-steampunk New York. This feels like a really neat re-theme, with about the right amount of difference and similarity to make them both potentially viable. Unfortunately, it’s still in wrangling about if and how it will get released, but you can colour me interested…

Tom: What colour is interested?

Ava: This is no time for silly questions. You’ve got the face paints, just do as I say.

Ava: Abandon all Artichokes? I say leave no artichoke behind.

Honestly, that’s all I’ve got right now. I’ve only dropped it in because I don’t think there are enough games about artichokes.

Tom: I’m busy doing some artichoke research right now – did you know that the ‘fuzzy core’ (as described by is called the ‘choke’, and the ‘meaty core’ is called the ‘heart’? First off,, please elaborate on the semiotics of the difference between a ‘core’ and a ‘center’ – and secondly, does the name ‘artichoke’ just come from a west country compression of those two individual components? ‘Eartichoke?

Ava: Well, in fact, it looks (according to google’s etymology gubbins and an question on reddit), like artichoke comes from the Italian arcicioffo, which in turn comes from the Spanish Arabic al-kharshuf. This means that like loads of words borrowed from Arabic, silly Europeans have taken the definite article prefix ‘al’ and stuffed it into the name for the thing, like with algebra from al jabr. But that definitely rules out the art part coming from the heart part.

Tom: Ava… should we talk about, y’know, the actual game?

Ava: Apparently that’s the one artichoke we will abandon. Follow the link if you like facts about actual games.

It’s nice that publishers are putting plenty of effort into making their games easier for people to play remotely, and City of Kings have done exactly that with recently delivered Kickstarter Isle of Cats. You do need at least one player to have a copy of the real game, but after that, all people need is a printed sheet of paper each, and some pens. That’s enough to get most of the tile laying delights of this inexplicably piratical polyomino cat herder.

I did back this on Kickstarter in the end, on account of the enormous number of cats involved, and my capsule review of the regular game is that it’s ‘a bit faffy’ but also ‘pretty satisfying’. Players will have to draw their own cats in this version though, and in fact are just encouraged to colour in the pieces. Sad. The cats are very good.

Tom: With enough time and determination, though, you too can gather some very good cats and squish them neatly into polyomino tiles; and what’s more, they’ll be your own custom cats.

Ava: Honestly, my favourite thing about lockdown is how the absence of cars in town has led to the cats and ducks just being absolutely everywhere, if there was ever a time to actually try and convince cats onto a cardboard grid, it’s definitely now.

Another little polyomino tidbit from Boardgamegeek’s excellent news blog was this design diary describing the process of creating a bot against which to play Patchwork. This isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it fascinating how even a game as simple as Patchwork could require such delicate iteration to get something that felt satisfying. In fact, the simplicity of the game gives you a bit more chance to follow the logic along, so this could be a helpful read for any designers out there. Lovely stuff.

LeesCorp Spokesperson: Can I play Patchwork too?

Ava: GaH! How did you get in here?

Tom: It was so persuasive!! It kept telling me that we’re going to have ‘fun, fun, fun’ ! That’s so much fun! How could I refuse?

LeesCorp Spokesperson: We’re going to have fun… fun… fun…

Ava: … Well when you say it like that…

Tom: Look, we’re employees of Shut Up and Sit Down – surely that means we have some hiring power? I think he wants to join the team. What’s your name, buddy?

Mart Leez: Mart Leez.

Ava: Welcome to the team, Mart. We’ll be paying you in puns and marshland vegetables. We hope that’s an acceptable start to…celery negotiations.

Mart Leez:

Ava: That’s exactly the contempt we’re looking for. You’re hired.

Tom: Beautiful. I’m already getting ‘choked up again.

Ava: Slightly bewildered to find myself discovering the weirdest story of the pandemic so far on a Czech games publisher’s blog, but that’s where we are. Czech Games Edition, publisher of ludicrously successful Codenames, are collating stories from their distribution partners around the world, so if you want some little snapshots of lockdown life from across the world, occasionally with an eye to board games, it’s worth a little dig.

For example, I knew that South Korea nearly perfectly contained the virus initially through contact tracing. What I didn’t know is, that changed when their 31st patient refused to fess up to where she had been and who she had seen, to try and protect her ‘kind of here[tical]’ church. Now 8,600 people in South Korea have the virus, and 80% are from that church, or got it from someone in the church, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government is suing the church.

We can safely say that’s not what I expected to catch on my weekly board game news trawl. Good luck out there everyone. Stay safe.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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GAMES NEWS! 13/04/2020

Matt Lees30 comment(s)

Ava: Come on, we’ve got to get this news flowing or we’ll have nothing to report this week and people will be sad.

Tom: I’ll join you in just a moment. Matt’s busy demolishing me at Terra Mystica on BoardGameArena and I’ve got to focus all my energy on losing so that HE doesn’t feel sad.

Ava: It’s the important work. Especially when he pays my invoices and decides if our news is news enough.

Tom: Wait, Matt can see this? Oh cripes.

Ava: Did we ever bother telling you what an editor is?

Tom: Some kind of fruit?

Ava: Oh dear.

Matt: Hey now! I beat you with my darkling buddies FAIR AND SQUARE. Ooh, While I’m here – don’t forget we’re now streaming on Twitch every Thursday at 3pm UK time. It’s mostly just silly stuff with me on my own for now, but that will change soon, once I can work out how to do magic with wires. Anyway! Ava – do us some GAMES NEWS!

Ava:  OK! Games News. In inevitably increasing multimedia empire news, some art got turned into a role playing game got turned into a telly show and now a board game.

Tales from the Loop is a cocktail of 80s nostalgia, weird sci fi and large mechs. The board game take on Simon Stålenhag’s moody artwork offers a selection of scenarios and adventures. Players take the role of kids playing detective and co-operating to solve some mystery or another caused by that eponymous underground particle accelerator.

Tom: Not only do the kids have to solve world-threatening mysteries, they’ve also got to keep up the illusion of just being normal kids living normal lives; with one of those certainly sounding more interesting than the other from a player perspective.“Oh boy, I can’t wait to finish the adventure phase so I can play through the chore phase”. I am, of course, being a bit silly – there looks to be a lot of potential for a nice little RPG-lite experience in a weird world of teen drama and giant robots here, and I’m intrigued!

Ava: Honestly, I’m tickled by the combination of standees for the characters, and minis for the mechs, meaning that the mechs are all utterly dwarfed by eighties movie teen stereotypes.

Matt: Isn’t that just anime? *hides behind sofa*

Tom: I know nothing at all about Tales From The Loop, but the idea of a game where one giant, obnoxious eighties movie teen stereotype is piloted – Megazord style – by 5 slightly less obnoxious eighties movie teen stereotypes is immensely appealing to me. That is what this is, right?

Ava: I don’t think so, but I’m putting myself in as executive producer of whatever you end up doing with that idea.

Tom: Here’s the pitch; a gritty sci-fi reboot of The Breakfast Club (now just called ‘Club’) in which the whole gang puts aside their differences and obliterates the concept of detention by using their mighty-morphin’ powers.


Ava: Pax Viking is new from Phil ‘a bit problematic’ Eklund and Sierra Madre games, and is available on kickstarter alongside a reprint and expansion for some of his most successful games.

The Pax series of games is increasingly hard to summarise (not that it was ever easy). They’re mostly made up of shifting markets of cards, various routes to victory and incredibly cutthroat negotiations. They also tend to be dense and thorny analyses of the eras they are based on, and sometimes come with challenging historical essays. (Challenging is being polite here, I found at least one of them to be genuinely repulsive).

Cole Wehrle’s Pax Pamir 2nd edition (he designed the first one more closely with Eklund) was a massive success last year, so it’s exciting to hear another more accessible starting point being made available. Pax Vikings promises to pull new players straight onto the longboat. The card market is replaced with circular tiles that players can lay on a map of Europe, to redefine its political geography. At the same time you’ll have to navigate longboats, with four different flavours of reputation to push around and five whole ways to win. I wouldn’t expect it to be actually accessible, but these games are definitely fascinating artefacts of an unusual mindset, and promise to throw you into the depths of the politics of whichever era they’re interested in, and anything that promises to be a good starting off point is going to be worth a look.

Also available is a new prettier edition of Pax Renaissance, a game that I know has made at least one of my friends give up board games for half a year, and a new expansion for intense space simulation High Frontier, in case a famously incredibly cruel and complex game wasn’t quite intricate enough with you. High Frontier has the honour of being the board I would show to someone who I wanted not to get into board games, though it is apparently something of a masterpiece, and terrifyingly scientifically accurate.

Ava: For Science is the new game from R Eric Reuss, designer of Spirit Island, and it sounds almost as different to that anti-colonial power-pusher as it’s possible to be.

For Science is a co-op game of research and dexterity, with players piecing together chains of cards which give you a set of parameters for the next step of the game. That next step is, of course, stacking little coloured wooden blocks. Once you’ve done that, players get to spend their successes on a tile laying game of conjoining and closing off coloured paths. All of this is done in real time and simultaneously by all players, racing to discover a cure for some unknown ludic disease.

Tom: The Kickstarter video essentially promises a loose-fitting theme of ‘Pandemic: Bumbling Edition’, which I think is the version I’ve been playing up until now anyway; but nevertheless I’m excited to be makeshift scientist trying to create ‘a universal vaccine to prevent all future illnesses’. It’s a humble goal. For 15 minutes of sheer panic, it looks like there could be something sadistically fab here; like Junk Art with consequences.

Ava: Meanwhile, in dogs.

All the Goodest Puppers is new from Chris Cieslik of Asmadi games, with art by Cari Corene and Amanda Coronado. As the name applies, this is excessively cute, and about dogs. Players are stacking little packs of doggily illustrated cards, to activate species-specific special abilities in order to find, bury and ‘upgrade’ bones. Just like in real life, the dogs with the best bones win the game. Different breeds offer different abilities and different scoring bonuses, so there’s a lot of variety to pick from.

There’s some nice twists with more powerful cards having higher numbers that mean you go first (and get first pick from the dog market, or ‘park’), but the player who goes last gets a bonus dog to take home. Oh my god, wait are you dognappers, prowling a local park looking for loose puppies?


Ava: I honestly am never going to look at dogs the same knowing that they’ve been secretly upgrading bones in their underground lairs.


Matt: It seems petty as anything to air such a loose grevience, but *both* “goodest” and “puppers” in the same sentence has me cynically snarling like a cartoon guard dog. Each to their own, but I worry that just reading this has pushed me over my RDA of sugar.

Ava: We wrote a few weeks back about the first ever online only megagame, about the last surviving fleet of human spacefolks. It’s happened now, and I’m really glad I stumbled upon this report from Becky Ladley, a UK megagame connoisseur. It’s a pretty gripping report, including a genuinely heartbreaking decision about whether to leave half the fleet behind. It’s impressive just how many Battlestar Galactica beats they managed to hit. I’m still waiting for someone to make a game out of Caprica, the better show and that’s probably the pettiest hill I would die on.

Tom: It’s a relief that this weird experiment hit all the soaring highs and crushing lows that a real life human megagame would, with twists, turns and drama aplenty. It’s a pretty hopeful message – that stuff you’d think only replicable in an in-person environment has been translated into digital media to keep people sane with all the *gestures vaguely* going on. Personally, I’ve only just managed to get settled into my quarantine routine, so seeing people try out more and more ways to enjoy games digitally feels uplifting and necessary in such tricky times.

Ava: Tom… where did you get all that wholesome sentiment from?

Tom: Uhhh…

Ava: Did you get it out of the uplifting solidarity spigot?


Ava: Have you learned nothing from last time? To counteract all that uplifting solidarity spewing out the newspipes, we’re going to have to crack open the dark-skies doomvalve.

Tom: *groans miserably*

Ava: Ah, I see we’re at full flow already. First up is Kotaku’s gloomy assessment of the likely impacts of *you know what* on the world of table top gaming. With supply lines disrupted, conventions cancelled and people literally banned from game nights, it’s certainly a challenging year. But there’s glimmers of hope in all the successful kickstarters (particularly you know who-haven) and all the lovely kind things that companies are doing with direct distribution, freebies and support for boarded up bricks and mortar stores.

It’s definitely too early to be making any sort of predictions about how this stuff will actually shake out, with different cocktails of government support, mutual aid, restrictions and problems all around the world. I’m kinda hoping that once lockdown’s unlocked, and people are allowed near each other again, there’ll be a load of people absolutely gagging for excuses to gather around a table and play games. I guess we’d better work together to try and get as many games and publishers and players through to the other side.

Tom: You literally just told me to lay off the solidarity, and here you are snorting the stuff straight out of the spigot.

Ava: It’s the only way to regulate the doomvalve’s misery pressure. I’ve been umming and ahhing about whether to post this, as I’m not really a fan of repeating mean things, but I think it’s kind of interesting when you hear people speak honestly about problems they perceive, even if I think some of those perceptions are on the unpleasant side.

Former Spiel Des Jahres judge Tom (no relation) Felber really seems to not like having to play games with strangers, but also thinks the only way to review games is to play with semi-random bundles of strangers. I suspect a lot of this is actually lost in the (google) translation, and a bit more tongue in cheek than it reads, but there’s also some interesting points.

In particular, Felber is pretty critical of board games media for not sharing his review methodology of getting a huge selection of people who can sign up for randomised testing. This does make sense as you can avoid the groupthink of playing with a group that tends to think the same thinks. It’s useful to recognise that there’s a whole range of different types of people playing games, and will react to things differently. On the other hand, I don’t tend to play games with the average randomised table, but people I know with specific tastes and tickles. I kind of like it when I get a sense of what reviewers actually like, and who they play with, so I can look through that lens when I hear their opinions. The best reviewers make it pretty clear why a game is special, in a way that lets me know if its for me, my mates, or the weirdos down the pub. (Back when pubs were a thing, also, I love you, my pub weirdos).

Matt: I’m always up for hearing people’s thoughts on the review process, but it does seem that Felber’s thoughts here seem – at best – half-baked. As someone who has many, many times played games with complete strangers at conventions – there’s really no getting around the fact that great people make bad games better, and people you don’t gel with can make great games bad. It’s absolutely true that it’s the job of the critic to sort for the wheat of truth within all that chaff, but the idea of fully randomised testing doesn’t sound like a solution that’s terribly well-informed.

Tom: Hmm, looks like we’ve got an opinion leak over on the third discourse tanker. Going to need some input from the maelstrom of conjecture on floor 3 for that one – if we could get any spare takes (hot or cold) from readers in the meantime, I’m sure we’ll be able to mop up all the gloom pooling around my feet. Bring wellies.

Ava: I am choosing not to make a PPE joke here

Tom: Excellent work. We’ll fly through any possible ‘too soon’ inspections. God knows we need the funding, we’ve been surviving on nothing but guilty applause and crushing government cuts.



Ava: Right. That’s quite enough doom for an Easter Monday. Let’s just ignore everything we just said and cover it up with a few buckets of solidarity sand.

Roleplaying mega-corp Wizards of the Coast are offering some free adventures and some dungeon based colouring in! New things are cropping up each day, so if you ever wanted to meditavely colour in a rainbow beholder, or go exploring on the seas of Saltmarsh, now might be the best ever time.

Tom: Ugh, the best ever time if you exist online. All the fun of D&D is in the charm of sitting round a table with your mates, having a laugh.

Ava: …Is that all of it?

Tom: Yeah, sorry, there were some chunks of melancholy still lurking around at the back.

Ava: Wizards aren’t the only one getting that treatment, with *checks notes* World War 2 also going gratis.

Air, Land and Free, wait, no, Air, Land and Sea cropped up in Quinns’ recent round up of amazing new card games, and thanks to being a svelte deck of just 18 cards, some play aids and the three titular theaters, it’s probably one of the easier games to print and play! It’s also getting a restock coming soon to the real world, so you can even promise yourself you’ll buy a fancy version once your home made alternative wears thin. Oh what a lovely war game!

And that’s not the limit of the freebies. Boardgamegeek has a lovely round up of some of the more recent print and plays from Asmodee, 2Tomatoes, Synapses, Blue Orange and Looney Labs. As well as a few links to people in the mainstream media covering board games.

Matt: Also – this Saturday the excellent folks at Space Cats Peace Turtles should be broadcasting the grand finals of their impressively epic Twilight Imperium tournament. “It should be on April 18 @ 17:00 UTC” is what we’ve been told, so keep your eyes open if that sounds like hot jam.

Ava: And finally, I quite enjoyed this little dip into the world of translating game imports, mostly for the lovely blurb and passion for Yayoi Kusama and pottery in the intro. It’s actually a set of hints and tips for doing your own translations, coping with the oddities of google translate, optical character recognition, and untranslatable turns of phrase.

Tom:How do you turn a phrase?

Ava: Precisely.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

GAMES NEWS! 06/04/20

Matt Lees34 comment(s)

Tom: Whose idea was it to go steal from the Newseum during lockdown? It’s spooky and it feels, I don’t know, a little wrong to take advantage of a cultural site under public ownershi-

Ava: Shh… keep your voice down. This is where all the best news is kept, if we’re sneaky then we can get some good stuff to put in this week’s games news, and no-one will even know it’s missing until after lockdown. We’ll put it right back when we’re done!

Tom: I’ve only been here a few months, and already I’m doing heists! My contract said ‘all sorts of hijinks’, but I didn’t think we’d be doing actual newscrimes.

Ava: You should’ve read the small print. Hijinks is a very complicated part of contract law.

Tom: So I keep hearing.

Ava: Too big to not mention (even though we’ve mentioned it before), is the game with the biggest box and the coldest setting, which only makes me assume this Gloomhaven sequel will actually be a fully functional fridge.

Frosthaven, from Isaac Childres, is smashing through the millions as quickly as you’d expect the follow up to one of the most lauded games of the last decade. Now that pretty much everyone knows what’s in store from a Gloomhaven game (and if you don’t, check out Matt’s almost as enormous review) it’s no surprise this dungeon crawling, legacy behemoth is covered in big numbers.

Tom: Components, boards, stickers, yada yada yada. The only thing I’m interested in is the first pledge tier, which proudly proclaims that for just $1, Mr Childres will ‘slay an ooze’ in your name, and the event will be captured on video for your viewing pleasure. To make things even stranger, the promise is buried in the very lowest quarter of the page… are you trying to hide the ooze genocide from us, Mr Childres? Are you trying to bury your twisted tendencies under layers of twinkly trinkets? Are you trying to pay off the masses, brainwash them into forgetting, or rather blissfully ignoring the atrocities you are about to commit in their name? Is this whole boardgame designer shtick just a front for you to stamp on slimes? To obliterate oozes? The feds are on their way.

Matt: On a serious note, it’s time for Matt’s Hot-Tip Serious Advice Time!  Yes! Frosthaven looks new and exciting! YES, I TOO, VERY MUCH WOULD LIKE IT. But! As someone who’s still got so much of Gloomhaven to explore – I don’t think I really need it, if I’m entirely honest? And so what I’d put the focus on this week, is that Gloomhaven is also available for $80 as an add-on item in this very Kickstarter. So if you’ve yet to play that and you’re tempted by the sequel, I’d ask yourself if you want the game that’s $20 cheaper and widely agreed to be flipping superb, or if you want the new one that might be better but might… not be? Nobody likes a cynic at a wedding, but I’ve spent long enough reviewing video games to know that sequels aren’t always better. We’ll have a review for Frosthaven for you in the future – if you’ve the willpower to defy the hype, grab the original at a great price and we can revisit this sequel in the future.

Oh! And on that topic – just a little note that every week for the forseeable, I’ll be streaming little fun bits of nonsense on Twitch! This week – due to weirdly popular demand – I’ll be continuing to assemble my wooden Gloomhaven organiser, LIVE. Science can’t imagine a broadcast more thrilling, so do pop in and chill out with the community if you’re going a little stir crazy.  As I ramp up the tech and get things running smoothly, we’ll be doing cool stuff with it. For now though, pop along, say hello, have a lovely time. 3pm BST/7am PST/10am EST, every Thursday.

Ava: I wanna talk about the kickstarter for a They Live board game, because it’s a film I feel I should have seen and should have opinions on. But I haven’t so I can’t. But I’ll do my best.

They Live: The Assault on Cable 54 includes hidden alien invaders and a pair of glasses you fight over in order to be able to see secret messages and vet player’s loyalties. That’s actual sunglasses revealing secret details on the cards and components. Each player also has their own personal narrative to play through, that promises to be different every game. You’ll be working together to gather supplies from across LA to attack the titular tv channel and stop the evil invaders from taking over the world, unless you’re secretly already one of them.

Matt: I’ve seen it! It’s alright! Far more schlocky than I expected, but some genuinely horrid aliens. Also the main character is quite obviously the main inspiration for Duke Nukem? It’s a wild ride, OK.

Tom: So far this year i’ve played the Jaws and Die Hard licensed games, and I’ve not been all that impressed with them – but maybe They Live will be the one to break the mould – it certainly seems more focused on the themes of the film as opposed to plainly retelling the events, although I’m a little wary of the dice having just two sides – ‘kick ass’ or ‘chew bubblegum’. Yuck.

Nevertheless, I’m cautiously excited – but maybe that’s just because the Kickstarter video is ultra-slick; there’s a little bit at the end where they’ve doctored footage of the film, with Rowdy Roddy Piper donning the glasses to look at a billboard with an ad for the board game on it, only to find the true message is to ‘back on Kickstarter March 31st’. It’s sweet, and it’s self-aware.

Ava: That’s a strong video. Though I suspect adding a John Carpenter soundtrack to just about anything improves the atmosphere a million percent. I’m on the record as claiming that City of Remnants is perfectly accompanied by the soundtrack to Assault on Precinct 13, and captures some of that film’s desperation from an unlikely angle. There’s no way of knowing if They Live is going to hit those heights, but it has made me really want to watch the film.

Matt: The final bit of pointing-out that needs doing here, is that the Matt Lees involved in making this game is not the same Matt Lees you’re listening to now. Apparently there are two of us! Although if it turns out he looks exactly like me but with strangely dead eyes, please remember that it’s him – not me – that needs to be banished back into the mirror realm.

Ava: In a world where we’re not allowed to travel, there’s a somewhat melancholy pall over a game about going on globe trotting adventures.

Trekking the World looks gorgeous though, and some of that lovingly rendered art might be just what you need to remember we’re still in a beautiful glorious world worth fighting for. Looking like a family friendly game, with echoes of Ticket to Ride, players collect cards to help them move around a map and race to see the best sights (by having the right collection of tickets). Straight forward and colourful, this might not be the deepest game in town, and it’s certainly not keen to engage with the impact of globalised tourism on local economies, but honestly, if there’s a time for escapism, it might be right now. You’ll have to act fast, as the kickstarter is closing within 24 hours of the news going live.

Tom: It looks like Tokaido’s maximalist, more flamboyant sibling. ‘Did you enjoy travelling around Japan? Well how about The Whole World™!’. ‘A linear track? Tsk, check out all my colourful routes and connections!’. ‘Putting everything away in the box in a regular insert? Baby you know I’ve got GAMETRAYZ!’.

Matt: Please stop reminding me of that Z, Thomas.

Ava: Co-operative campaign games with scenarios and overarching stories mostly seem to stick to the dungeon crawling climes of high fantasy, so it’s nice to see someone jumping to the other end of the speculative fiction spectrum.

Starlight is a solo or co-operative story set in a fictional future, with players taking a team of ships out on adventures of all sorts, including exploring the depths of space, epic space battles and dungeon crawly on missions on planets and ships.

Tom: Those space battles and exploration missions are also taking place inside of a wider journey taken by the mothership, with its own resource management and narrative considerations too – and there’s opportunities to upgrade your ship with modular card-based gubbins in between missions. The game’s story looks to be powered (optionally) by a companion app, with ‘one free season’ of Starlight content from the get-go, so clearly the developers are thinking pretty long-term on this thing. Having been completely and utterly absorbed by Sea of Thieves recently, I can see similarities between the core loops of each game that are absolutely piquing my interest. I’ll be watching this one.

Matt: I’m waiting for something to pull all this stuff off. Sooner or later, it’ll happen.

Ava: There’s a hell of a lot going on here, and I can’t quite work out if it’s more role-playing, survival economics, pew-pew gunfight adventure or some intergalactic alliance of all of the above. I like the ambition here, and I hope it can pull off the trick.

Do you know how to grab my attention when I’m scrolling through the news looking for tidbits? Apparently, just include a picture of a game I already think is a bit of a masterpiece in your design diary. Treelings may have only taken the bare seed of Arboretum’s ideas, but it’s growing into something that might bear fruit.

Ava: Treelings looks a lot lighter than the brutal walk in the park of Arboretum. The diary tells how it started with a system of arranging cards into columns that only score if their neighbouring stacks are both smaller. In a lovely wrinkle, your neighbouring stacks include those belonging to the people sitting next to you, so your stack might get pushed out of the running by your neighbour, or you might do the same to them. Each turn you’ll either be looking at a shared market and either taking all the cards of one colour onto your columns, or mixing it up by taking every card where you only hold one card of that colour. It sounds simple and pleasant, with a tiny bit of meanness. And we all love trees, right?

Tom: I can’t stand trees. My ex was a tree.

Ava: Why did you split up?

Tom: She left me for someone she met on Timber.

Ava: I’m sorry I axed.

Tom: We’re both going to have to leave our jobs over this aren’t we.

Ava: It’s about time we branched out.

Tom: Maybe we’ll get lucky and Matt won’t twig.

Matt: You’re both firewood. Also – for the record – Tinder is ALREADY a wood-based pun! See me after class.

Ava: Here’s a lovely little box of treats, for anyone stuck home alone. And my understanding is you can play at home with just pen and paper if you prefer.

But with Chroma Cube, you’d be missing out on the lovely wooden blocks that make up this little solo logic puzzle. This looks tactile and lovely, and I’m looking forward to more of boardgamegeek’s solitaire sunday posts, even if I’ll mostly just look at them and think ‘ah, that’s lovely’. For me solo gaming is Mage Knight or bust, though who knows if isolation will break that habit. For those who are interested, Chroma Cube offers a series of puzzles based around placing coloured blocks into a grid, and then attempting to find the right arrangement to fulfil a series of logical commands, it’s a bit like making a seating plan at an incredibly awkward but brightly coloured wedding.

Tom: This does not sound lovely, it sounds like my worst, most colourful nightmare.

Ava: Well, yes, doing it with people is hell, but little coloured cubes won’t passive aggressively sidle up to you at a buffet and try and trick you into being mean to your grandma.

Tom: The cubes are basically people to me now. They’re the only friends I have left after not leaving the house for like, a week.

Ava: So I hear. Pistachio cube has been telling me all about your little… hobbies.

Tom: I thought that was just between me and mustard cube!

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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MinuteWalt: In Memoriam

Matt Lees3 comment(s)

We talk a lot about community at Shut Up & Sit Down, and that’s because for a while we’ve been aware that it isn’t us that makes this place special: it’s the people who congregate around the fringes of our work that drive us to keep on making more of it. This week we’re extremely sad to report that one of the most beloved members of this community recently passed away, peacefully, after a long-term illness.

MinuteWalt was an integral part of the forums, and while we sadly never got the chance to meet him in person ourselves, from what we’ve seen it is strikingly clear that the light he provided to the forum community went above and beyond everything we care about and strive for: always there to welcome new members, an ear for anyone who needed it, and providing the careful, calm touch required to defuse hot heads; to turn people around.

He was also the kind of person who used a timer to snap a selfie in which they appeared as a mad scientist riding a scooter. Though we never met, it’s safe to say that MinuteWalt was truly one of us.

We would like to offer our condolences to his family, and to those in the community particularly struggling with this unexpected and terrible loss. We were unbelievably lucky to have someone like MinuteWalt spreading his brightness here, and can only offer love and solidarity to those affected in this difficult time.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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GAMES NEWS! 30/03/20

Matt Lees32 comment(s)

Tom: m o n d a y

Ava: Is it? It is? How can you tell?

Tom: t h e n e w s

Ava: Oh dear, you might be right. Let’s take a look in the news-pipes and see what pops out.

I try to avoid quoting the Simpsons too often, but if anything gives me the chance to say trombopaline, then I’m going to take it.

Trampoline Park is bouncing high to the top of the list of ‘games with themes I cannot believe have happened’, and what a bounce it is. It sounds like a family friendly puzzle of using varying power to bounce between trampolines, bouncing other players or your other bouncing tokens away when you land on them. First person to have three tokens bouncing on all the same colours or letters wins.

Tom: This feels like a Tim and Eric sketch with the tagline ‘Trampoline Park: All the fun of trampolining, but from the comfort of your living room!’ I feel like it’s certainly some of the fun of trampolining, but I’m sure that trampolining would be substantially improved, nay, necessitated by, the presence of a trampoline.

Ava: I feel like they’ve gone about this all the wrong way round. I don’t really want a board game about trampolining, I want elaborate, maybe violent, competitions to take place in trampoline parks. We should send Quinns off to investigate once people are allowed to bounce in the same rooms again.

Tom: We’ve said trampoline too many times and now all words don’t sound right anymore. Trampoline Park looks neat. I’m going to have a lie down.

Ava: But Tom, you can’t lie down, it’s Uwe Rosenberg’s fiftieth birthday!

Classic bean trading bonanza Bohnanza has a two player duel variant (possibly from before those were all the rage), and it’s getting a new lick of paint and a deluxe edition for the old bean’s birthday. It looks like it will remain as arguably ugly as ever.

Tom: I adore Bohnanza – it was one of the first games I added to my collection and that ‘arguably’ ugly art is what draws my friends towards it to this day. There’s something magic and savage, though, about a crowded table shouting over each other to get the best bean bargains, so I’d be intrigued to see how a two player version compares.

If one thing is for certain though, it’s that this sentence from the press release is fabulous: ‘Thus, Uwe Rosenberg not only made his breakthrough as a game designer with Bohnanza in the 1990s, but the bean game has accompanied him for half his life.’ Bohnanza, a card game about collecting and selling beans, is here portrayed as either a loyal companion or a grand sisyphean task, depending on which way your imagination swings.

Ava: Bohnanza is an excellent name for a dog, or a cat, or an anomalorcaris.

While my initial instinct was ‘I don’t know if I can handle any more real life right now’, I’m also pretty glad this unusual kickstarter is kicking.

The Game of Real Life offers a deck of cards based around Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, and hopes to build people’s life skills, and how to deal with that challenges of real, actual life. They’ve made the print and play version freely available as they realised that a lot more people might be in need of these skills and lessons right now. Play takes the form of rounds where people try to use the coping strategies in their hand to deal with a shared conflict, explaining how they think it will help. You keep dealing with conflicts until you reach the end of the deck or you achieve your life goal.

Ouch. That last sentence was bleaker than I had expected. This looks beautiful, and they’re hoping to use some of the money raised on the kickstarter to distribute copies to hospitals, clinics and schools. Everything here is lovely, even if it’s hard to not make it sound sad.

Tom: There’s always a lot of room to joke about theme in games, and how the lessons learned in some of them are either so cold and mechanical that you wouldn’t want them to be applied to the real world, or you end up shocked by how they are applied in the real world (Food Chain Magnate, i’m looking at you). It’s nice to see something so outwardly positive, and positively educational, to boot – it’ll be nice having a game out there somewhere that’ll teach you how to deal with stress rather than how to price-gouge your opponents into oblivion.

Ava: Captain’s Gambit: Kings of Infinite Space sounds a bit like somebody’s thrown a bunch of ideas in a blender, but I think it could be on to something. Players take the role of sci-fi captains with asymmetric secret objectives and names based on characters from Shakespeare’s plays, yet somehow it still manages to sound a little bit like Coup. On your turn you take either a regular action to gain energy or stab your opponents, or stronger permit actions that you can do whether or not you have the relevant card, but your bluff can be called and you could get caught short. Honestly, I can’t tell you this is going to be good, but I can tell you that Lady Macbeth is a brain in a jar and Rosalind appears to be an elder god, and those are two things I couldn’t have told you before I saw this one.

Tom: Ava, it looks like the news-pipes are running dry… I can’t seem to see any more games up there!

Ava: Dang. Seems as though *gestures vaguely* is lowering the pressure on the old new-release news-release valve. There’s only one thing for it.


Ava: Lovely specialist Twilight Imperium podcast Space Cats and Peace Turtles are dealing with the lock down in the most ridiculous way possible, by hosting a Twilight imperium tournament on twitch. The semi finals are nearly done with, but all the matches appear to still be available, and of course, everyone is taking part remotely. I had someone ask me if it was possible to play Twilight Imperium via the internet, and I abruptly said no way. But I have been proved very, very, very wrong, and they’ve been doing this for ages. Good luck to the final finalists, likely playing around the 18 April.


Ava: Reader and good egg Ross McCreedy got in touch to let us know about another unexpected online transition, as Gothenberg Megagames attempt the world’s first (?) online megagame.

Den of Wolves is being run entirely on discord and shared documents. Players take the role of captains, crews and specialists aboard a fleet of spaceships fleeing a more advanced enemy. Running through a series of different audio channels, with each faction with its own control, it’s already full and is for megagame veterans only. It’s a pretty fascinating experiment and I wish them well.


Ava: Eduardo Baraf is hosting and Pencil First Games is sponsoring a stay at home boardgame design competition. There’s money on the line for anyone who wants to make a 45 minute game for 1,2 or 4 people that fits on 4 sides of A4 paper. It’s also not one of those iffy contests where the company ends up owning it if you accept the prize, it’s just a prize for creativity, and you publish your game when you’re done (though they do want to be able to share it).

And if you’re thinking of getting into role playing design in your isolation, take a quick peek at Avery Alder’s business tips. She’s offering unique and useful insight. And Vincent D Baker is part way through an incredible series on the design principles behind Apocalypse World and his definition of a Powered by the Apocalypse design process. It’s brilliant stuff.


Ava: Portal Games are adding to the ever-swelling tide of games companies giving away freebies that people can play at home while keeping isolated. There’s a scenario for Detective that doesn’t require the base game to play, a scenario for Imperial Settlers, and some bonus sheets for the Imperial Settlers roll and write that I’m unclear if you need a copy of the game to play. If you’ve got any of their games, it’s probably worth a rummage, they’re promising more in the coming days.

Ava:The lovely Osprey Games are giving away the rulebook and some solo scenarios for their Frostgrave wargame. It’s free with the right download code, and they’ve included encouragement to make minis out of whatever you can, a blog post on how to play it best with lego and some downloadable print and play scenery. The grave may be frosty, but the heart is definitely warmed.


Ava: There’s also the Boardgame Remix Kit, a set of cards I backed on Kickstarter approximately seventy million years ago. This kit lays out a whole host of new ways of playing with the games many families have at home even if they don’t have a board game obsessive in the house. Among other things there’s a zombie battling version of Cluedo, and a way to play poker with Monopoly. There’s even a couple that grab pieces from one game and transplant them into another. I’m glad to see it be made freely available, and hope it finds its ways to the people who might be trapped in doors with someone desperate enough to play Monopoly.


Ava: And finally, if that hasn’t warmed your cockles enough, we’ve got one final cocklewarmer, in the form of our very own Matt Lees, and an event he is simply describing as a ‘test stream’. Matt needs to check out if he’s successfully rehoused the Twitch stream set up in his closet, and will be streaming….something! Unclear if it’s going to be a game, a chat, a hair care primer or just him prodding at lots of buttons and going, ‘ahhhh, yes….that’s how that works.’ Whatever he’s doing, he’s aiming to start at 3pm BST/7am PST/10am EST on Thursday 2 April, and he’s yet another person I’m wishing good luck.

Matt: It will probably just be a couple of hours of me, alone, doing something quite intensely boring. Tune in!

 Ava: Wait. What’s that going on behind me. Are you okay Tom?

Tom: We’re never opening the uplifting solidarity spigot ever again.

Ava:Until next week. Stay safe folks.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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GAMES NEWS! 23/03/20

Matt Lees22 comment(s)

Tom: …So they were saying that I didn’t care at all about the game, when really that couldn’t be further from the truth! I was super invested!

Ava: Wait what’s going on are you-

Tom: -and I just found myself getting so frustrated because even though my strategy was a little rough around the edges… Ultimately, I did Care, Too!

Ava: Ha! Just like the… Wait did you go back to the start of the article to edit this bit so that you could make the reference first? Nobody is going to have a clue what’s going on.

Tom: It’ll be like Primer. Everyone will have to go back and read it a second time, and we’ll get paid twice as much.

Ava: Well, you certainly will be, with this lovely shiny penny.

Ava: What’s more mysterious than Mysterium? Science just cannot tell us, but soon we’ll know what’s less Mysterium, with a stripped back sequel, Mysterium Park.

Tom: GHOST! TRAIN! IN! A GHOST! GAME! If there’s not a ghost train in ‘Mysterium Park’ I’m suing the owners for damages to my emotional property.

Ava: Mysterium Park aims to be a shorter, more compact version of the classic psychic ghost murder mystery. Moving the spookery to a haunted fairground, and putting everything on a three by three grid, the game promises less set up, and more speed. With just two rounds (no murder weapon to find), and a Codenames style ‘ghost grid’ for establishing who the suspects are instead of matching cards from different decks, plenty of the faff is removed.

Tom: The idea of ignoring the murder weapon seems really strange to me, a Person Who Has Played Mysterium, Like, Twice™. ‘It was Mr LeBlanc! In the drawing room! How did he do it? *shrugs* that’s for the real police to find out’. I’m sure this decision will make sense in the context of the game at large though, and produce something that’s… fine? I’m putting my money on ‘just fine’.

Matt: I’m quietly very optimistic about this one – I love Mysterium but there’s no denying that as a game it would benefit from a substantial de-faff.

Ava:I always thought Kingdom Builder was pretty charming, but not exactly thrilling. Now Donald X Vaccarino is “doing a Frosthaven”: adding a few tactical wrinkles and moving the whole thing to colder climes.

Tom: Kingdom… Chill…der…

Ava: No, Tom. Put that down.

Winter Kingdom initially sounds identical to Kingdom Builder, with players placing cards on a matching terrain type each turn to try and maximise bonuses for adjacency. However, the snowy version adds a few smart details that might be worth a second look. A twist card will add an extra rule to each game, and players can also accumulate money to spend on a selection of special abilities.

Also, thanks to Eric W Martin’s choice of article title, I’ve now got the song from Frozen in my head and I might do a cry.

Tom: Sounds like you need a drink. And a bike. And a RACE.

Ava:In further news poached from the hallowed halls of Boardgamegeek, We’ve got a game that does indeed combine Belgium, beer and racing. Oh yes, that’s right, the deadliest trifecta in the low countries.

Belgian Beers Race has players bouncing between brewers until they’re too drunk to carry on playing (not actually a rule, but stay safe people) or arrive at the Grand Brussels Palace. It’s based on a real beer festival! Picking a route through a variety of modes of transport is the core of the game. Some ways of getting around are more efficient or more reliable than others. My ‘slicing quotes out of context’ ribs got tickled by the phrase ‘on a bus, you are certain to reach your destination, but, uh, you are in Belgium.’ To clarify though, the problem with Belgian buses is that they get delayed, not that they are in Belgium. Belgium’s actually pretty great.

Matt: It IS great! I also visited Ghent last year as a guest at the wonderful Zomerspel Festival – on the night of our arrival they fed us chips and mayonaisse. A meal that still lingers in my memories, and most likely my arteries.

Tom: I second that Belgium is pretty great! I visited last year with some friends and basically played a real-life version of this game, consuming one ludicrously high abv beer every few hours so as to spend the rest of the day in a slight daze, meandering between tourist attractions, halloween bars and antique shops. We were, however, victims of the ‘hangover and other obstacles’ that the game promises, provided that the ‘other obstacles’ they’re referring to are the winding passages of a tintin museum and trying to find every urinating statue in the city.

Ava: Please tell me there’s a urinating Tintin statue.

Tom:You know what Frank Zappa says. Don’t eat the yellow Snowy.

Ava: You know what’s near to Belgium though? France. And do you know what’s in France? Paris.

Paris is new from dreamy designer mega-duo Kramer and Kiesling, and is on Kickstarter now. It promises a lovely round board that will slowly fill with buildings and landmarks and other French fancies in the Belle Epoque. Players will be investing in buildings, and shuffling their keys around to earn money and lay claim to areas, whilst also dancing around a roundabout of bonuses and abilities. It’s the sort of game where the board gives me a headache just looking at it, but these are two of the steadiest hands in the business, so there could be a lot of excitement here. I’m sensing a soupçon of the immaculately mean Mexica in a game where area majority is determined somewhat separately from how the areas are scored.

Tom: My housemate heard me watching the Kickstarter video for this game and said ‘wow, that sure sounds like a board game’. It’s true. You can ‘collect bonuses to gain victory points in all sorts of ways when you choose to activate them’.

Ava: Agreed. Going against our usual policy of Kickstarter ambivalence, I feel confident we can officially say ‘This is a board game’. Just wait to see that pull quote showing up on their site.

And do you know where Paris isn’t? Under the sea. But I’m at risk of referencing my second Disney musical in one week, so we’d better move on.

Ava: Aquanauts is an underwater worker placement game where players build deep sea research laboratories and race to send samples up in a submarine to a waiting research ship. Players will be balancing the need to publish research with the possibility of upgrading their facilities. There’s some bonuses for placing workers in clusters with others, which adds some depth to the worker placement part. Honestly, I just like underwater things and was a bit disappointed in underwater cities, maybe this will scratch that itch. If not, at least it’s using ‘bioplastic’ to make some of its pieces, which at least sounds more environmentally friendly.

Tom: Can we just use the fact you’ve mentioned plastic to link to that ridiculous Matmos album again?

Ava: Yes Tom. Yes we can. And a shiny penny to the first one of us to reference an Ultimate Care II washing machine in the games news.

Tom: The race… begins?

Ava: Matt Leacock’s quarterly report drops some hints about upcoming games, as well as links to a load of interesting interviews where he discusses everything from the sudden surge in popularity of his games to whether he’s getting fatigued by constantly finding new ways to reinvent Pandemic. He’s got a lot of things coming up that might not be Pandemic related too, including some collaborations with unnamed designers, and I’m eager to see him branch further out.

Tom: I feel like dropping Season Three of Pandemic Legacy while the world will be dealing with the legacy of a real pandemic is a little on the nose. Must be a weird time to be the guy that’s made a living off simulating exactly this situation.

Ava: I’ve not had time to watch it, but I’m looking forward to his talk on empathy in game design.

Ava: Just last week we were complaining about the name of Super Skill Pinball 4cade, but now, we’re all aboard the superskillwagon, thanks to a move that experts are calling ‘a nice thing’.

Wizkids have released a free print and play version of one of the roll and write pinball tables, so that self-isolated folks around the world can get their wizard on. It’s a lot fiddlier than I imagined, but there’s some interesting ideas in there. I particularly like that you can nudge, but it means you might tilt if the difference between the dice is two high on the next turn. Geoff Englestein is so smart!

Tom: Speaking of print and plays, a load of people have released their games for free or cheaps on PnPArcade. I wasn’t previously aware of it as a resource, so just wanted to highlight it here – there are all kinds of games for all kinds of quarantine – solo games, roll and writes, two player games or bigger stuff if you’re living with lots of people all in lockdown at once.

Ava:I don’t know anything about it but the title, but It’s highly likely I’ll try out Arcane Bakery Clash, because I do love a mystical bun fight.

Tom: It is the best part of the first semester at Miss Cackle’s Academy.

Ava: And that’s actually only a tiny fragment of the lovely things happening as people try to help each other get through *gestures vaguely at the world*.

Several publishers are announcing direct distribution deals with shops that are potentially at risk as people are being told to shy away from socialising. Haba, Atlas, Hush Hush, Drawlab, Van Ryder and Japanime are all operating schemes where if you buy from them directly, you can nominate a bricks and mortar store that will receive a cut of the sale. Details vary, and it appears to currently only be in America, but I really hope we see more of this sort of solidarity at a tough, scary time.

Tom: Stay safe everyone. Tensions have been running a little high in our group recently now that we’re all stuck in the house together, just the other day we were playing a game of City of the Big Shoulders and I started getting a little fast and loose with my investments towards the end of the game…

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

GAMES NEWS! 16/03/20

Matt Lees38 comment(s)

Tom: … So I’ve got all these because I thought you said ‘Games Newts’, it’s just a simple misunderstanding.

Ava: Look, it doesn’t matter, we’ll just get on with the news and absolutely nothing will happen, and nobody will notice and nobody will tell Matt and we’ll all keep our jobs, and you can put them in the Shut Up & Sit Down pond after we’ve finished.

Tom: Oh dang I think two of them escaped, and I think one had a bottle of whiskey and the other was carrying a tiny gun.

Ava: Uh oh. That’s some really bad newts.

New York Zoo is Uwe’s latest attempt to re-bottle the lightning of Patchwork, with a lovely looking tile laying zoo builder. You’ll be filling tiny zoos with tiny animals, and trying to best your opponents in this hopefully sharp family friendly game. Each turn you can either expand your zoo with new tiles or pull more tiny wooden animals onto your board, provided you’ve got the space to house them. On top of this, New York Zoo borrows a bit from some of Uwe’s big farm themed games. Just like in real life, animals will breed when the shared elephant crosses certain thresholds on the central board, helping you fill up enclosures to grab bonuses. It’s like a little Uwe’s greatest hits. Capstone Games is publishing in collaboration with Feuerland and they always make things look pretty.

I was definitely pretty disappointed with the first wave of post-Patchwork polyomino output from Herr Rosenberg, but I have hopes for this having a bit more refinement and simplicity. Plus adorable animals, and iffy New York accents are a winning combinati-


Ava: Oh cripes not this again – who are you, how did you get in here, and what’s happened to Tom.

Tom: Not to worry Ava, that wasn’t a real new yorker! It was just two buckets of clam chowder inside a trenchcoat!

Ava: But… you’re inside the trenchcoat.

Tom: ….And all that clam chowder is inside me! I think I’m going to be sick.

Ava: I don’t think I’ve ever actually been tempted to link to a new version of Love Letter on here, at least not since the expanded version of the original. Most of them just look like reskins with a tiny change, and that’s not interesting enough for me. This one, however, had me going ‘bwuh?’ and ‘huuuuh?’ repeatedly as I looked down the page In a good way.

Infinity Gauntlet is yet another Marvel tie in, remixing the evergreen micro game Love Letter. Seiji Kanai’s tiny masterpiece has been rebuilt by Alexander Ortloff, and frankly, I’m excited. To fit with the theme of a superhero gang trying to overwhelm the big purple boss bloke, the game takes a one-versus-many format. Thanos has a whopping two cards (plus the one you draw on your turn before playing) in hand, and his own deck, while the heroes have more limited shared resources. The evil player will be attempting to knock out all the heroes, while the gang are attempting to stop him getting enough gems to end the world. The heroes will be chaining together abilities to gain information and land blows on the mad titan.

Will it be as taut and sharp as Love Letter? Or is that too much to add to the micropot?

Tom: This does look nice and interesting, but twisting the unique theming of Love Letter towards a Marvel direction makes me sad, in this case it’s mainly because there’s an unbelievably wasted opportunity here for an enticing game about the Avengers sending secret little love poems to Thanos in order to win his massive purple heart to their cause. ‘Dear Thanos. I wish you would pay attention to me as much as you did to those shiny power rocks. Then we could uh… uh… avenge the… uhh…

Ava: You don’t know enough about Thanos to write a half-decent goof here, do you?

Tom: Not really… but you know what war won’t take an infinity?

Ava: Very close, we’ll take it.

While the full blown sequel Imperial Struggle slowly lumbers towards construction, Jason Matthews, one half of the design team for wargame stalwart Twilight Struggle, has been working on a stripped down version of the classic.

Twilight Struggle: Red Sea – Conflict in the Horn of Africa has too many subtitles and taught me that the Horn of Africa isn’t where I think it is.

Boiling down the cold war to one region, and playing over only two turns, this stripped down version of Twilight Struggle borrows many of the rules: playing cards for events, consolidating power, coups, or throwing them into the space race, and so works as a teaching scenario. It’s also part of GMT games lunchtime games series, so should be playable in about an hour. The key problem of getting a hand full of your opponents cards and having to play them in the least bad order is still present. This might be a much nicer way to learn the ruthless shenanigans of the bigger game than having your commie ass handed to you repeatedly as someone tries to show you just how careful you have to be about the formation of the CIA.

Tom: There’s so much to love here – but I think the real standout is the idea of this as a ‘teaching scenario’ for the main game. As someone who has had ‘A Distant Plain’ in their collection for a good while now and still doesn’t really understand how to play it, GMT having a learning curve rather than a learning cliff for these dense, complicated beasts would be a great way of making their enticing designs more approachable. Now I just need another member of staff in my hastily arranged home office to go on lunch break with.

Ava: Stick em sounds intriguing, though it’s always really hard to sell trick taking games as they all sound fundamentally similar. Capstone Games’ first small box card game is a reboot of the german Sticheln.

As is de rigueur, you’ll be trying to win as many tricks as possible except the ones you desperately don’t want to win. At the beginning of each hand, each player chooses a ‘pain colour’ from the suits. From then on, every card you win not in that suit will win points, but those pain points? They get deducted. This looks like a VERY SPITEFUL game, and I am here for it. Especially after playing a fair chunk of the weekend getting really stressed with The Crew.

Tom: I’m interested to see if this is a nice little bitey box, but it really does seem like a hard sell. The cover looks like an accident in a wordart factory, and the colours are making me feel all kinds of ill. The lime green is violently uncomfortable, and the dark purple can only be described as positively ‘8a66a5’.

Ava: That seems a touch harsh.

Tom: They’re my ‘pain colours’.

Ava: Whistle Stop has such lovely art that I consider buying it everytime I walk past it, but I still haven’t heard enough to actually stop at that station.

Whistle Mountain is a stand alone follow-up with a slightly confusing name, (not least because Whistle Stop has a Rock Mountain expansion). Replacing the trains and route-building of the earlier game with airships and balloons and worker placement, Whistle Mountain definitely sounds like it’s own thing. With a board that you slowly fill with machines and buildings, but that also slowly fills with water as the ice on the mountains melt and the seawater rises. It sounds unusual, and I’m adding it to my metaphorical ‘keep an eye on this’ list.

Tom: “The engine builder that slowly drowns you” is quite a sales pitch.

Ava: It’s evocative? Like trying to get a furnace working in a slowly flooding basement and oh my god I don’t want to play this it sounds too much like the world and oh no.

Tom: Whistle Stop that panicking right now.

Ava: Whistle Okay, Whistle Tom.

Tom: Robot fight club! Robot fight club! Robot fight club! Robot fight club!

Robot Fight Club is on Kickstarter now, with players building customisable robots and then getting them in a brawl on the factory floor. You can live out your dream of being a school kid sneaking into a robot lab and starting a clandestine fighting league!

Simultaneous action selection and head to head combat are the order of the day here, making this curious contraption look like the chrome lovechild of RoboRally and Robot Wars – with some lovely illustration to boot. The designers have worked on games for other companies including Blitzbowl and Hellboy, ahd one of them worked on recent Games Workshop titles including the arena battler, Gorechosen. It’s a strong pedigree, and lovely to see folk going independent. This could be interesting!

Ava: If I was a robot, I wouldn’t fight anyone, I’d just roll around the hills walking dogs for people and using my extendable arms to help people get stuff off high shelves, and keep people company like those little robot seals.

Tom: Robot friend club! Robot friend club! Robot friend club! Robot friend club!

Ava: Monuments is also on Kickstarter, and promises a streamlined civilisation game that focuses mostly on building wonders. There’s some promising minis, only half the factions are based on the mediterranean, and a promise to add in Asia and Australia at some point. The core game is based around a Concordia-style deck of action cards that each player holds, and can recall at the expense of a turn. It’s a solid mechanism, but once you start comparing yourself to Concordia, I start looking for an elegance and solidness that I’m not sure is present here.

Tom: I’m a little sceptical of any games that feature big plastic monument construction, as recent games that featured such things (Lords of Hellas and Vindication being the ones that most immediately spring to mind) have had this feeling of all buildup, no payoff. The idea of building a monument sounds great, but the process never seems satisfying, and is usually instead just inevitable, and a little boring. The fact that building them seems the sole purpose of the game also means that presumably the monument only stays fully constructed in the small window of time from finishing the game to packing it away?

Ava: Could you summarise that in all caps for me please.


Ava: The wood tokens look like little poops.


Tom: In news-adjacent news, there’s been lots of sweet gestures from various publishers and designers in response to the covid-19 outbreak. We’ve got Lone Shark Games slashing the prices of their solo games, Button Shy made a selection of their games free to print and play through PnPArcade over the last weekend, and one lunatic on reddit is using the situation to reboot their project to make Cones of Dunshire real. I guess that’s nice?

Ava: There are countless more examples out there of the hobby doing nice stuff for those who are worried about the situation – share ‘em if you got ‘em.

Tom: It’s good to see solidarity over cardboard in such tumultuous times; maybe one day I can even convince Matt that there’s something sweet about solo games.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

GAMES NEWS! 09/03/2020

Matt Lees23 comment(s)

Tom: I hate visiting the news nurse’s office.

Ava: Look, you’re lucky that we’ve got the News Health Service so it doesn’t cost you a penny – maybe you should do something to take your mind off the growing, creeping pain from that nasty news infection? They’ve got some light reading here. Would you like a newspaper?

Tom: ARGH. I need a holiday. Matt’s been having me play boardgames all day and then we’ve had to talk about them afterwards? Honestly it’s been my absolute worst nightmare.

Ava: Sounds terrible, how about a Segue-Class flight to Santa Monica? This is one of Alderac’s big releases of the year, promising a delightfully pastel worker-placement drafting game about the titular town. It looks soothing, and could be interesting. Josh Wood previously designed Cat Lady, so has an eye for a quirky relaxing theme. Key choices are about whether your bit of the seafront will be more for tourist bustle or a break from the hustle. To be honest, we don’t have much to go on here, I just really like the art.

Tom: The art is gorgeous – this looks like the kind of game where I’ll get distracted from my beachfront planning by looking at all the adorable details of what I’ve already built and chuckling to myself. The game features a building called the Joan of Arc-ade? This is a level of twee never before seen by humankind.

Ava: It’s not even the only arcade in the news this week. Super Skill Pinball 4-cade has a terrible name, but a strong conceit. It offers four pinball tables for you to play as individual roll and write games. That’s a very smart choice for attempting to realise a very tricky theme for a table top. Dice can bring in the random chaos of a small shiny ball, while ticking off boxes is exactly the sort of combo-building, ramp unlocking strategy that makes a good pinball table so interesting. Add that Geoff Engelstein is manning the flippers on this one, and I can actually see different parts of my face lighting up rhythmically.

But its such a horrible name. 4-cade sounds like someone’s made me some fizzy pop out of freshly squeezed cutlery.

Tom: And as for the first part – I’m not ready for super skill pinball! Just regular, unskilled pinball for me please. Suggested for ages 12+? What kind of pin-prodigies has Geoff Englestein been spending his time with? I demand answers!

Ava: Tommy?

Tom: Yes, Avey?

Ava: You know who else demands answers? Detectives.

Chronicles of Crime, already given a complicated recommendation by Matt, is getting three new standalone sequels. Each works independently, but there may be some narrative threads linking them together if you go completionist and like easter eggs. It’s going to be a long thread though, as the Millenium series is scattered through time. Offering cases to solve in 1400, 1900 and 2400, it’s like a crime-solving back to the future. Whether you want to get your mystery monk on, fin the sieclé, or punk some cybers, you’ve got options.

Tom: I can’t wait to solve some medieval shoplifting, an art deco fraud and a future horrible, horrible murder. I just can’t believe the tagline isn’t ‘lots of crimes in different times.’

Ava: Solve a mystery with some history?

Tom: Put ‘em behind bars in the future and the… parst?

Ava: You’re fired. In three different timelines.

Tom: But you know what exists outside of time, and is also (probably) unable to be fired? God.

Endogenesis is getting a zesty second edition, and expansion to boot – promising to put players in the non-euclidian boots of alien guardians vying for cosmic godhood! I looked through the Kickstarter and got mighty confused as to how you actually play the game, but I know for certain it features cards, skills, and the realm of chaos. You can visit those discordian fiefdoms competitively, cooperatively, or on your lonesome. The original game has a fairly mixed reception over on BGG, and the second edition promises to fix a lot of the complaints people had with the original; particularly in terms of downtime, balance and rules clarity.

What can’t be complained about though is the art, which looks like a bucket of glowsticks got ideas above their station. Or like Darwinia looked actually nice. Just take a peep at those boxes! Oh MY.

Ava: I don’t care what it looks like, you’ve given me an idea. Fetch me a space car, some glowsticks and a P45, I’m off to fire god.

Tom: Oh no, not this again. Somebody distract Ava with something pretty and wooden.

Ava: We’ve got some very unusual kickstarter picks this week, starting with a wooden puzzle box, and ending, like all things, with death.

Codex Silenda is the return to kickstarter of an unusual project. It’s a laser cut wooden puzzle box, with five to seven unique mechanical puzzles bound together in a beautiful wooden box, each puzzle sealing off the next. The mechanisms (literal, for once) here look gorgeous, and while I’ve absolutely no way to judge the quality of the puzzles, there’s definitely a lot of love, craft and attention on offer here.

Obviously, they’re quite expensive, but I wish good luck to Codex Silenda and their lofty goal of keeping mechanical puzzle making alive and innovative.

Tom: I’ve heard you can solve them all with a chisel, half an hour and some determination.

Ava: I’ve heard anything can be solved with a chisel, enough time and determination, but I might just know some very optimistic and/or violent woodworkers. Woodwork aside, reader Adam Birch pointed Quinns in the direction of another unusual kickstarter, and Quinns passed it to me. Anyone want to play ‘the inevitability of death: the game’?Ava: To live is a meditative solo experience about living life to its fullest, designed in response to grief. It’s as simple as a deck of cards that almost all say ‘live’ on, but one is left blank. You shuffle the deck, and draw cards. Each live card you pull gives you a chance to meditate on the meaning of life, the people you’ve lost, and the nature of death. When you draw the blank card, the game’s over.

Essentially, this is the card game equivalent of saying ‘you might get hit by a bus tomorrow’, and asking you to live life to the full. It’s a sweet, hard, and melancholy idea.

Tom: All this talk of death, doom and gloom has got me feeling existential. I’m really glad I’m getting to seize the day with people I care about, people who share this passion for games, the humanity of socialising with friends and loved ones, and bringing people together to tell stories and laugh and really feel something, you know? I really appreciate you two. You mean a lot to me.

Ava: Okay.

Matt: Okay.

Tom, through tears: Okay.

Actual Matt: I didn’t write this, Tom. See me after class.

Ava: We’ve already covered Ettin, a team based, simultaneous play, card-drafting battler that promises ludicrous player counts if you buy enough copies. I enjoyed reading designer Ken Shannon’s thought process as it went through multiple iterations. Focusing hard on the initial goals of making an accessible non-social deduction game that could play over eight players, be welcoming for newbies and involve team play led to something sharp and simple that I’m looking forward to trying. Not least because he’s hoping to crack a hundred simultaneous players at a convention one day. If the game succeeds in half of what it’s promising, then this could really be special.

Tom: I really like the look of this, as my gaming group is getting exponentially larger these days – mainly because the realisation that everyone is moving away from the sweet embrace of student living is beginning to set in. Just last weekend we had a six player game of King’s Dilemma (pushing it a little) which was then joined by three other people – summoned by the sounds of everyone debating if they should [SPOILER] the [SPOILER] because otherwise the [SPOILER] will [SPOILER]. Needless to say, I’d appreciate a non-party game that’ll elegantly cater to the newfound volume of players crammed around my kitchen table. Of course, as with everything in the games news, unless we specifically say otherwise, we haven’t played it, so it could well be bobbins.

Ava: Potentially bobbins!!!!

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

GAMES NEWS! 02/03/2020

Matt Lees33 comment(s)

Tom: Ow ow ow ow. I got my hands stuck in the news cookie jar.

Ava: Tom, that’s not the news cookie jar, that’s just a mousetrap. What were you even thinking? Let’s get you some nice soothing news before your hand swells up.

Tom: It’s too late! I think I’ve got a news infection!

Ava: Don’t worry about that, get your suit on: we’ve got some business news this week, as what used to be my favourite publisher jumps back to independence. Plaid Hat Games was bought by Asmodee Group in 2015, and has now been bought back by its founder, Colby Dauch. Several of their big titles will be transferred to Fantasy Flight and Z-Man Games, and Plaid Hat will go back to being a (relatively) small fish.

I’m all for this, to be honest, as I’ve not been wowed by anything Plaid Hat for a while, and hopefully switching to a smaller scale and maybe a slower rate of release could be good for them. Back in the day they were absolute faves, with Summoner Wars and City of Remnants punching well above their weight and the latter still sitting proud in my top ten.

I actually discovered this news from Isaac Vega’s twitter feed, announcing that he wasn’t going to be jumping to the same ship as the rest of the team. It sounds like he might be setting up his own thing soon, and I’m very, very excited about that possibility. A few years ago I would’ve told you he was my favourite designer, but I’ve lost track of him over the last few years. Neon Gods is still sitting on my shelf unplayed, longing for an expansion to make it as crunchy as City of Remnants without losing that gorgeous queer eighties aesthetic.

Matt: It’s been interesting to watch the dust settle after Asmodee snaffled up oh so many companies and left many worried about what might come next. We suspected at the time that a lot of those purchases were mostly about securing a small handful of valuable IPs from across the industry, but possibly even more important than that – it would allow them to neaten up the processes behind global distribution, with game most older board game publishers like ancient spiders in a sticky web, having long ago collected the obscure rights to publish Game X in Continent Z – a neatly wrapped package is always better for a sale.

Still, while it’s been broadly exciting to see the vacuum it created being filled up with exciting new designers and publishers, it’s only now starting to feel like the end of an era. With Fantasy Flight’s Andrew Navarro moving on to new pastures,  Plaid Hat going it alone, and Asmodee NA discontinuing their component replacement service – I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that the company as we once knew it likely won’t be coming back. But everything is in flux and life is a rollercoaster, and with that I whip off my business cloak and theatrically leap onto a moving stagecoach.

Tom: Sorry, what happened I was buying a nice spacious business suit for all of this business.

Ava: No time for that Tom, go get your plaidest pirate hat.

Tom:Why would I have a… *sigh*

Ava: Sticking with Plaid Hat, I’m a bit tempted by their latest announcement. It’s presumably not a game about that feeling when you get on a hot, busy train and realise your water bottle is still at home.

Forgotten Waters will be Isaac Vega’s last game with the company, and his return to the Crossroads system of ‘interrupting story elements’ first seen in Dead of Winter. This time he’s working with J Arthur Ellis and Mr Bistro. Magical pirates, story-telling, a wee book of adventures and a companion app are the order of the day. There’s some big promises here, like being able to come up with a unique backstory for your character, and a fully voice acted narrative, presumably to stop me reading everything in a bad west country twang. It also promises to hold 3-7 players, which seems like a lot for a campaign, but might be useful for anyone who’s accidentally accrued too many friends.

Matt: I’ve heard really interesting things about this one from my shady network of behind-the-curtain contacts, and hope to have a copy of this winging its way to the office very soon…

Ava: Honestly, one of the pirates is called Claudia Stroopwaffel and I’m already entirely sold on the basis of that.

Tom: With names like that framed as normal by the game’s standards, my typical names for characters in these games (lifted straight from the annals of Toast of London) honestly seem completely at home. Welcome to my crew. Have you met Phillip Bilge? What about Ray Interruption, or his partner, Anne Pulverise? They’re a lovely bunch. I also adore how one of the game’s selling points is to ‘Thrill as your failures are played out by professional actors!’. I can’t wait to watch Ryan Gosling accidentally drink two whole pints of out-of-date milk and then be violently sick.

Ava: Wait a second, is Ryan Gosling a real name?

Tom: He’s one of the world’s most famous actors.

Ava, googling frantically: Oh my. And you’re hoping to have him play you in the film of your life?

Tom: Don’t tread on my dreams.

Ava: Exciting expansion news comes in the form of an upcoming kickstarter and reprint for the ugliest game that I love.

Lords of Vegas is a proper treat. Players take the role of gangster painter decorators, building, remodelling and bullying their way through the city of lost wages. It’s a cruel dance with lady luck, pocketsful of dice, some mildly convoluted counting, and some generalised wheeling and dealing. The game is built on the same gambler’s fallacies as the infamous well-lit city, and it’s a bit of a joy. It’s also got box art that looks like it’s the cover of a budget reissue of an old Sierra adventure game. It’s bad. Honestly, I’m embarrassed to bring it to game night.

It doesn’t look like they’re fixing the art. But instead they’re doing something even more thrilling; bringing back into print the hard to find Up expansion, which adds extra players by allowing you to build your casinos with extra height. Not only that though, there’s going to be a new expansion: Underground. This news is slightly disconcerting, as if it’s as literal as the first expansion, that means you’re going to have a second board under the table. I can’t wait to see what’s actually going to happen with that. Colour me hyped and covered in dice.

Review: Fallout – The Board Game

Ava: Matt was a touch on the scathing side about Fantasy Flight’s Fallout adventure game, including a note that it should probably have been a co-operative game. Well it looks like someone’s listening, and they’ve got an ear for a pun.

Fallout: Atomic Bonds is a cheeky little co-operative add on that adds a range of collaborative scenarios and a few new mutations and options. The opportunity to start the game by picking a side in the factional wars that are already playing out in the main scenarios is a smart fix. I doubt it fixes all the issues with the base game, but if you enjoyed yourself but wanted a bit less arbitrary narrative competition, then this could shave off a rough edge or too.

Tom: Ava left this part of the news with a little tag saying ‘tempted to ditch this unless you can find something interesting to say. I obviously can’t!’ and honestly that sort of sums up my feelings about the fallout franchise (be it set in code, or cardboard) since Fallout 4. The promise to ‘fix’ Fallout: The Board Game with expansion content seems to err worryingly close to the lifecycle of the much-hated video game Fallout 76 – and personally I can’t be bothered with the promise of things being maybe a bit better if you can just wait and also pay us a little more money please when it comes to this kind of thing. Give me some zesty new post-apocalyptic settings to romp in. When are we going to get a Metro board game? I bet that’ll at least be decent first-time round, and beloved by all the lovely denizens of the internet.

Ava: Tom, Tom. Look on BGG.


Ava: Funko Games are continuing to work with Prospero Hall to create all the weirdest tie-in games possible, and I’m not letting this one slide, because of some very niche beef.

First up is Yacht Rock, a game of soft rock and floral shirts with very little details. I’m leaving it here because I’m utterly baffled as to who would want this to exist, and I say that as one of the UK’s leading Steely Dan apologists.

But that’s not even their most ridiculous theme. Pan Am, is literally a game about Pan American Airlines, covering forty years of airline shenanigans. It sounds a little unusual, with players playing rival airlines against a non-player Pan Am, but if you think they’re going to come out on top, you can actually buy stock in the neutral team. Auctioning landing rights, buying planes, and flying them about is the chief business of the game, and it could be interesting.

I bring these up together mostly because I really hate the actual airline Pan Am, for a fairly ridiculous reason, related to weirdo music of the crossover from the sixties to the seventies.

Silver Apples’ early use of homemade oscillator synthesisers means they sounded eerily ahead of their time, and produced one of my favourite love songs, featuring the most heartfelt synth since my heart first heard synths. Why’s that relevant? Because they got knocked out of the music industry by Pan Am. The front cover of their second album featured them rolling joints in the cockpit of a Pan Am plane. While the back cover had a picture of a crashed plane. Pan Am accused them of attempting to sully their brand. The ensuing lawsuit destroyed the band, and left us without one of the weirdest and wonderful sounds of the era.

Boo Pan Am! Stop stealing my apples!

Matt: Can’t say I’m fond at all of the 56k dial-up modem aesthetic of that song, Ava, but I’m all for  minesweeper moments of unleashed pocket-beef. Who could have known that this juxtaposition could fire off such a beautiful little rainbow of frustration?

Tom: Ava, have you seen this? It looks as though Avalon Hill patiently waited whilst we burned through every goof we had when covering last week’s scoob-based entity, and have now seized the opportunity to manufacture their own Scooby Game whilst we weren’t looking? We’re all out of ammo on this one, boss.

Ava: I suppose you’re going to have to do some entirely goofless reporting for this section, Tom.

Tom: Betrayal at Mystery Mansion is taking the rickety foundations of Betrayal at House on The Hill and building another mansion right on top of it. You get to play as Scoob-Doo, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne or Fred. You explore the mansion. You search for clues. There’s a haunt where one of you turns into a monster. It looks enjoyable. I’m personally excited for someone to play as Scooby, and to find an item that’s incongruous with the general limb-layout of a dog. Perhaps a big silly gun.

Ava: That last part was ticking dangerously high on the goof-ometer, but we’ll let it slide just this once.

Honestly, this is a perfect tie in, and the kind of ridiculousness Betrayal generates might be a much better fit for this. I hate the game with a passion off the back of one horrible anecdote and a firm belief that if a game can be that bad sometimes, it doesn’t matter if sometimes it’s great. But somehow, if that was all dressed up in Scooby-clothes, I might be up for it.

Tom: Does the existence of Scooby Snacks imply the existence of Scooby Meals? Scooby Starters? Scooby Puddings?

Ava: I Scooby do hope so

Tom: Ouch.

Ava: Anyone want a little war in their pocket? How about two? Following on from The Cousin’s War, a well regarded half hour wargame using a version of Liar’s Dice for combat, Surprised Stare games are continuing their Pocket Campaigns series with two new games on Kickstarter

The Ming Voyages and The March of Progress promise two very different two player games that play in under an hour and come in small boxes. The Ming Voyages casts one player as a Chinese emperor, attempting to complete seven treasure voyages whilst holding your borders against your opponent’s invading Mongols and Manchus. It sounds pleasingly asymmetrical and offers a one player mode for those with invasion fantasies they need to work out.

The March of Progress has a few scenarios, promising two player warfare in the thirty years war, some napoleonic conflict, and the western fronts of both world wars. It’s built on simultaneous action selection, and the thirty minute thirty years war acts as a training scenario so it should be easy to jump straight in. I do find that the main charm of wargames is how they bring out the details of unusual moments in history, so I’m not sure if I’m more or less into a game that promises multiple very different wars. I’m curious how each scenario will mark itself out.

Tom: Straight from the maw of the NY Toy Fair, we’ve got Bear Down!, the English version of Grizzly: Lachsfang am Wasserfall. You get to be a bear! A salmon-loving bear! A salmon-loving bear teetering dangerously on the edge of a waterfall, trying to hoover up said salmon without plummeting hundreds of feet down into the icy water below! Oh.

This all sounds very sininster when written like that, but don’t worry – the mechanics looks positively delightful; taking notes from those coin-pushing machines you might find at a carnival, a pier, or any other British totally-not-gambling emporium. On each turn, you can hoover up the fish you’re already sitting on, or inch closer to the edge, hoping to snarf down the newest batch of salmon entering the board. Stay too close, though, and a little trickle of water might push everything you know and love over the edge. One thing I very much like about this game is that it could settle for a board where some spaces are just ‘spaces where the bear leaves the board on account of their falling off of the waterfall’, but instead of that, we’ve got a tiny slope to tumble down, creating a modest pool of cardboard soup.

Ava: I hope this is the right balance of anxiety inducing and adorable, because it really does sound like a winner.

Tom: This is the kind of game I can imagine my youngest sibling cackling at as she purges bears from the table in an act of rebellion against nature itself. The rest of the family watch on, terrified by the plight of the bears under the evil eye of an insane ten-year-old.

Ava: Sounds like the right balance of anxiety inducing and adorable to me!



Ava: Sigh. What is it this time, a weak pun or another mousetrap?

Tom: Both! And look, the original wound is starting to go all green and lumpy! With bits of purple! I think I’m going to need a more effective antiseptic than the news.

Ava: Alright, keep your hat on. Let’s get you to the news-nurse’s office.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down