Quinns: Hello everybody! Welcome to our new look Monday post.
Today, with a heavy heart I must announce that after many years of faithful service, the Games News is being retired. This will be sad news for its regular readers, but the Games News demanded a tremendous amount of work from our team while outright refusing – and you’ve got to hand it to the ol’ Games News here – to ever grow in popularity.
So this year, instead of doing the Monday news our team will be redoubling its efforts to make more of the stuff you like, as well as taking the time to come up with brand new features. Instead, on Monday we’re going to be doing these nifty little posts checking in with our community and teasing what we’ve got coming up that week.
For example: On Tuesday of this week (tomorrow!) head over to our Twitch page to watch us play the new and pleasingly mauve-coloured card game Vampire: The Masquerade – Vendetta. On Wednesday I’ll be presenting our first video review of the year, a eurogame that Shut Up & Sit Down donors will already have heard me squeaking about in our behind-the-scenes newsletter. Then on Friday you can look forward to podcast #126, which was a LOT of fun to record- Tom, Ava and myself discussed the new Uwe Rosenberg game Hallertau, and then spent the whole rest of the podcast discussing which Rosenberg games Tom should play.
But enough about us! What did you get up to this weekend, everybody?
Tom: Ava, I have placed the news under arrest. I found it stealing lollipops from toddlers and pelting old people with bricks.
Ava: One of those crimes definitely seems worse than the other.
Tom: How about stealing bricks from toddlers and pelting old people with lollipops? Either way, the news has been thoroughly cancelled and we’re going to have to manage this week without it. I hope you’ve brought all your best ‘News?’ to the table.
Ava: Erm. We’ll see?
It’s beginning to look a lot like winter, and that means new game announcements are slowing down and I’m starting to run out of things to cover.
Thankfully it also means that it’s a great time to launch a sparkly game box like Winter Queen, an abstract game that promises a load of crystal-shuffling shenanigans.
Tom: The setup in Winter Queen is pretty straightforward – you can place crystals on a board to get spellbooks, place crystals in those spellbooks to prime them, and then activate those spellbooks to score specific crystal layouts on the main board. It’s a crystal and spellbooks ouroboros of choices! Decisions! Winter! Gems!
The whole gem-scoring system is wrinkled by the ability to take those pretty shiners off the board when you score, disrupting plans and spannering the works; but following in most abstracts, understanding the fun is like explaining circular gemstone to medium square.
You know what? I’ll be medium square with you, reader. When faced with the prospect of writing anything about a game, my brain immediately starts shuffling for jokes by rearranging letters. The best I’ve got here is ‘Quinter Ween’ a game about the band Ween being cloned once and then half cloned again. It’d be a territory control deal where two rival Weens fight for musical dominance in the nineties indie scene while a 5th, superior Ur-Ween adjudicates proceedings with their fully integrated Weenbrain. Then you flip the board to play the noughties, with your success in the first round determining whether you get your own label or have to keep relying on Elektra to fund your subsequent ‘bad records’. There’s obviously a fishing minigame.
Ava: This could be a whole new way of reviewing games. Which do you reckon is going to be better, Quinter Ween or Winter Queen?
Tom: I’m sure our readers feel suitably informed to make a decision after reading such rigorous journalism.
Ava: I feel a bit awkward talking about Alhambra being on kickstarter for like, the second time this year? I feel bad for anyone who jumped on the Alhambra Roll and Write to get themselves a load of Alhambra stuff, when now there’s another big pile of boxes you can get your hands on.
That said, I quite like Alhambra. It’s a solid but fusty tile laying game of collecting majorities in your own little palace. It’s got a really nice currency system that means it’s hard to judge what stuff costs, and collecting the right coinage is more important than collecting lots. It’s got one of my favourite rules to teach, that ‘just like in real life, if you pay with correct change, you get an extra turn’. It’s a little bit dry, and it’s terrible at high player counts, but if you fancy a nice little game covered with a million inconsistently-necessary appendages, maybe this is the big box for you? You can give the game a try on board game arena, which at least means you won’t be going in completely unaware.
Tom: Honestly, it’s a bit of a slow news week. I think the newspipes might be starting to freeze up for the winter.
Ava:Port Royal getting a new big box edition isn’t really news either. There’s two reasons I’m linking though, firstly, it’s a solid push your luck game with a nice central choice and a load of interesting efficiency wrinkles and several expansions. Secondly, there’s a small chance the new edition is happening entirely because Quinns is on the record as really not liking Klemens Franz’s artwork.
The new big box of the small but swashbuckling game will include all the many expansions, and a totally new set of artwork, except for the iconography, which will remain the same so you don’t have to relearn a new set of symbols if you’ve played the old ones. As the owner of a single ‘expandalone’ box, that wasn’t really enough of the game to stand alone, I may well jump on this, as I have some fond memories of Port Royalling at conventions and in a Glasgow pub.
Tom: Continuing in the slow news theme, this is absolutely not news as it happened MULTIPLE weeks ago – but it’s NEWS TO ME so I thought I’d jump in to include it. As I ventured over to BGA to set up a game of Alhambra (fueled by the excitement of the above news item) I found out that the folks running the site are adding a new game into the database on every day of December ? That’s wild! Isn’t it? A new game every day! I think it’s wild. Sorry, carry on with the news.
Ava: I know! It’s a lot of games. I found myself looking up the rules for ‘Solo Whist’, which I regret to inform you is a four player game, although it does have the weird wrinkle of dealing cards (sometimes intentionally not shuffled to create weird bundles) and then having you bid to decide what game you’ll be playing, varying from a two v two team game to various three versus one variants, including one where one player has to try and lose every trick, despite playing with an open hand. Ridiculous, and the betting rules sound vicious.
I’m pretty excited to see Omari driving that forward, as we’ve already seen he’s a man that gets things done. I’d not heard of the IGDN until he tweeted about it, but it sounds like a good project, and I’m already bookmarking and following a load of extra people as a result. Lovely.
Ava: Omari also drops a page or two into The Ultimate Micro-RPG book, a collection of tiny tabletop story games that aims to make it super easy to get playing. Edited by James D’Amato, this comes close to being exactly the sort of thing I’m looking for in RPGs these days. Simple, easy-to-start stories that I can just put in front of people and get playing. Forty is a lot of games! There’s one about being teenage crows. The book is available now in the US, and should be heading further afield soon hopefully.
Tom: My sluggish jokebrain immediately started scrambling for ways to connect Counting Crows to the Teenage Crow RPG, but I just got completely lost reading the lyrics to ‘Mr Jones’. Have you read the lyrics to that song? It’s -OW!
Ava: ‘Ow?’ What happened? Did you get hit by a brick or something?
Tom: Turn to page 1333. There is no news to the North, you have been eaten.
Ava: Oh wait, yes. I hate these. Let’s just news some news.
Ava: Okay. There’s a a surfeit of nostalgic RPGs and boardgames latching onto the 80s teen-horror stylings of Stranger Things and that ilk. I could just and move on from this one, but for one thing! My most particular weakness is a ridiculous name and a bisexual colour scheme.
The Snallygaster Situation is coming soon, and promises a co-operative mystery-machine in the world of Renegade’s ‘Kids on Bikes’ RPG system. Kids on Bikes wins a point for the most communicative three syllables in the role-playing scene. In the Snallygasting spinoff, one player will play ‘the lost kid’ (sound familiar), offering a series of clues to the rest of the team, but facing tough trade-offs between giving the best clue and the other side of the card, which controls and the monsters and cops move around the board. Once the team is reunited, they join forces to face down the titular snallygaster, or some other monster with a less delightful name.
Tom: ‘The Suffocating Nature of One’s Hometown’ or ‘Being a Teenager’?
Ava: Too real, too early.
Look, I know I’m not supposed to cover games which only have a box shot, but LOOK AT THAT BOX. The marketing, titling and theming game here is all strong enough to win a slot in the news. Well done those people.
Tom: All this has made me realise I do fancy a game where you get to play as exasperated law enforcement trying your best to hoik oiks out of storm drains.
Ava: Wait! Tom, The Snallygaster is a real thing? Well. A real folkloric thing. I just thought my spellcheck was malfunctioning. What a world!
Tom: It is what ate you on page 1333, after all.
Ava:Factions Battlegrounds has one of the most generic names I’ve ever come across, but its card based combat and bright, chunky art do make it stand out. That leaves us with a fancy little tactical battler built with, as it assures us, no dice, no decks, just PURE DECISIONS. It looks a little like Summoner Wars, with cards placed onto a grid to move and attack each other, but it adds a terrain based set up which should add a few more tactical and strategic offerings. The game is made by people of colour, with a specific mission to improve representation, which is exactly what we like to hear. There’s a nice little interview over on Blerd, if you’re interested in that side of things.. If you’re into it, jump on it quick, as it closes in three days.
Tom: I’m still hanging onto the ‘no dice or decks; only decisions’ situation here. I like to think that eventually board gamers will reach the peak of their powers when they exist purely in the imaginative space; like the people that were playing entire games of chess in the Twitch chat during AwSHUX. Be free of component restraints and project the game of your dreams into the hypnospace.
Aqua Garden is inspired by Heaven and Ale, but swaps monks for fish, with no mention of monkfish. Its kickstarter bait consists of a lovely selection of printed wooden fish tokens that are just absolutely gorgeous. The game itself is what I think of as a ‘mopping-up rondel’ mechanic, where whoever is last on the round thing gets to go next, so you can jump ahead to make sure you get exactly what you need, but whoever is last gets to hoover up everyone else’s leavings. Players will be acquiring fish to display in their own little aquariums, and the copywriting in the ‘story’ is both lovely and ridiculous.
Ooh, I’m always a little reticent to link to a kickstarter for background material for RPGs, as it seems a little bit adrift from the Shut Up and Sit Down wheelhouse, but my word, do I love a mountain.
A packet of Particular peaks promises three different fantastical mountains to explore in the role playing system of your choice. That’s pretty damn charming if you ask me..
Tom: ‘TIS charming! I really appreciate things like this existing, if just for the thought of someone running a roleplaying campaign with deliriously detailed dream sequences and bog-standard ‘everything else’ sequences. Who could blame them, though? The art in this is bloody stunning and has set my imagination wild immediately, as intended.
Ava: Urgh! I’ve never seen a bit of news make me wince so hard.
Asmadi Games have potentially lost an entire container full of Goodest Puppers, their latest kickstarter. You can see Chris Cieslik, Asmadi’s big boss, laughing through gritted teeth in his first update, and there is a second update assuring that a new print run has already started just in case, but my word is that a tough bit of news. I got to check maritime news for the first time in my games news career, and thankfully, nobody was injured in the enormous storm, but 1800 containers are now at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Hopefully Asmadi can pull through this, it sounds like they’ve got a plan, but I’m sure it’s unsettled everyone. Good luck them games, puppers and businesses.
I’ve been sitting on this Tom Russell interview for a few weeks, and I think now’s the time. She’s a really interesting designer and half of the team running Hollandspiele, a company I absolutely want to learn more about.
Tom: Me too . I feel sort of guilty that the only games of hers I’ve played are Irish Gauge and Northern Pacific – both on the lightest end of the complexity scale offered – and there’s so much more to dig into, in the designing and publishing department. Erin Escabedo’s Meltwater: A Game Of Tactical Starvation? Sounds too grim to be true, but I do certainly want to sit down to it one day.
Ava: Tom Russel’s thoughts on wars and trains are fascinating. Though I’m also just tickled at how those are the two main themes of her work. We covered her Field of Cloth and Gold in these news pages though, and that was all about hosting a (very specific) party. Remind me to see if we can snag a copy of that at some point.
Tom: To the snagmobile!
Ava: There is no snag to the North. You have been eaten.
Tom: G! A! M E S! This games news – is the best! Tom and Ava write some words! Something else that rhymes with words! GOOooOOOoo GAMES NEWS!
Ava: If you read that in any other way than exactly how it sounds in your head then it all just falls apart.
Tom: K-I-L-L-J-O-Y! Ava you’re so nasty, why? I just want to make a rhyme! Something else that rhymes with rhyme! GoOOoOoo A WAY!
Ava, frowning and ignoring Tom: Oh my word look at the donkeys!
Coffee Traders is coming next year from Capstone Games, and it keeps on boasting about having over 650 components. This looks like a sprawling beast of a game, in the vein of Capstone’s own Arkwright. What I mean is it looks like someone spilled a hessian sackful of spreadsheets all over your table. The game promises economics, fair trade, and piggy-backing on the actions of your competitors, and I’m excited for the lovely donkeys and the lovely wooden coffee beans.
Tom: I must say that this has a contestant for ‘oddly specific board game reward track of the year’ in the ‘Arabica Track’? Looking at the photos for this one is reminding me more of Cooper Island than anything else – in that it’s all very pretty and all very buried in iconography. To be honest, I’ll spend time in literally any board game right now, spreadsheet or not, just to have my precious physical components back. Aaah. This year.. It’s still happening…
Ava: Got a little one-two punch here of a game that’s not quite ready for kickstarter yet, followed by a game where we just missed the kickstarter.
Darwin’s Journey is hitting the crowdfunds in the new year, but already has a pretty full hype-wagon website, and it looks kinda cute. Players will be placing workers in Darwin’s diary to send them to museums and islands to learn more about the natural world and the theory of evolution. The quirk in the formula is that your workers will be learning as they go, allowing them to take increasingly elaborate actions, provided they’ve had the right sort of practice. The end result is collecting specimens for museums and multiplying that by your Theory of Evolution track, all while balancing money and evolution points, because board games.
Tom: I definitely read the ‘learning as they go’ part as ‘achieving sentience’ and have been busy chasing that spiral down as far as it’ll go.
Ava: …Where does it go?
Tom: I hear ‘Concordia Silk Piece’ has a major role in Toy Story 5.
Ava: Don’t. I’m genuinely horrified at the thought of the hundred tiny donkeys trapped in the darkness of my Caverna box, screaming for someone to let them out the second I leave the room.
Tom: Meanwhile, in late news…
Ava:Crescent City Cargo is Spielworxx’s follow up to Captains of the Gulf. Both of them were on kickstarter for a while, but are still open for late pledge business. They’re getting a mention because Captains of the Gulf was something Matt and Quinns had a big bundle of opinions on, and Crescent City Cargo looks like a lovely, intricate boat-pusher. Players will be running the docks in New Orleans: loading goods, upgrading buildings and doing all those traditional dockside economic shenanigans, like ‘building an office’ and ‘taking a break’. You need those tasty little naps because you’re managing the morale of your workforce, which is spent every time they have to do actual work.
I’m considering pursuing a rogue strategy of spending the entire game napping, in the hopes of making my workforce so content that we destroy the engine of capitalism, and the social norms which require ‘coins’ to succeed.
Tom: That doesn’t sound very boardgames. My strategy will be to adequately balance office space and workforce to enable maximum productivity per square foot so that I can profit and also be a big winner.
Ava: Ah, yes. Board games.
Ava: Welcome to P-ZONE! The Poppinguppingest Zone for your miniature Ps.
Tom: Ava, Ava. That’s just an interesting logotype, it’s called Upzone.
Ava: What? Why are we even covering this?
Tom:Upzone is a new system of pop-up scenery for quickly setting up terrain for your miniature wargames and role playing games. Like most miniatures terrain kickstarters, it looks fancy, costs a lot of money, and I don’t think we’re the target market for it. We’re quite clearly only covering it because Ava misread the logo and started giggling. We’re very sorry. We’ll get back to work as soon as Ava’s sides can be reattached.
I’m tempted to say more here, but the more I say the more I’ll start being mean; so maybe we just relish P-Zone while it’s here, and then move swiftly on. Like a noughties boy-band. They’ve got the name down pat, at least.
Ava: Let’s move out of the P-Zone before our socks get wet.
I’ve had a run recently of seeing games hit release that I wish I’d covered in the news because they look shiny and interesting. Unfortunately, it’s a bit late to do so when they’ve already hit the shelves. Maybe I’m bad at the news! There is however a sneaky way to give me a chance to save some face, and that’s when I can link to a design diary.
Merv: Heart of the Silk Road is a game of trading and collecting and a gorgeous cover from the lovely Osprey Games. It’s got the look of Vital Lacerda’s sprawling mass of options and board sections. Designer Fabio Lopiano actually started out researching cities for a regular city building game. He then stumbled upon Merv, a desert city with a perfectly square footprint, that later got besieged and wiped off the map. It sounded like fertile ground for gaming, and he got the project underway. You can read more about this gorgeous looking box from Osprey Games on boardgamegeek.
Ava: Just dropping this here because I know Tom streamed this recently with Matt and might have some reckons about Whistle Mountain, and be curious about this design diary.
Tom: A RECKON FOR YOU: I think Whistle Mountain is quietly pretty great, but I’m at the stage now with digital board games where the thought of playing them in person is making me more melancholy than the joy of the actual playing. Whistle Mountain did some good work in jogging my brain out of that rut, though, as I’m keen to drop more unfortunate workers into whirlpools in person asap. I’m going to read this one on my lunch break.
I’m glad to see the return of “TheErik Tengblad award for a game that you played this year but came out earlier”, if just because it reminds me of the lovely and horrible licorice pepper sweets Erik used to feed me annually. I got a bit tearful seeing the MinuteWalt award for best socially distanced game. I’m also super curious what people will vote for in the pillbox award for the game you’re most excited to play when you can get enough people in your house.
It’s nomination time until 14 December, after which voting will run to 11 January with the winners announced in the new year. I’m personally particularly excited to get to take part in the online vote and (hopefully) chat, but then maybe get to appear in the podcast and have additional opinions.
Honestly though, I think it’s really lovely that there’s this entirely volunteer run award show running in the background. So many thanks to everybody running it, nominating, voting and generally sharing their passion for games.
Tom: In further ‘cool awards’ news, a jam-packed board of industry vets have banded together to create ‘The Zenobia Award’ – a game design contest that’s laser-focused on bringing designers from marginalised groups into the historical games space with a cash prize, but perhaps more importantly, a mentorship from the design heavyweights behind it.
Perhaps the most important thing is that it’s not an award where everyone applies and then one person wins and it’s over. Promising applicants are selected and paired with a mentor early on, who will then develop ideas in collaboration before a de facto ‘winner’ is chosen some time in 2021. I’m really excited to see who gets brought on, and what ends up being produced as the cogs of design turn.
Ava: I think historical gaming is one of the places that could really do with better representation and different perspectives, so I’m really excited to see what comes of this. I love historical games for shining lights on periods I could never have gotten interested in any other way, but it’s no secret that the perspectives offered are often through narrow lenses. Anything that gives me a chance to dive into a piece of history from an entirely new angle sounds wonderful to me. I’m going to be keeping a close eye on what comes out of this mentoring process.
Ava: Maybe let’s look at some actual games.
Village War: The Calamity is a Nigerian boardgame about the history and mythology of the Igbo, designed by Kenechukwu Ogbuagu. The art looks striking, and its boardgamegeek description pitches it as a card-drafting, resource management spirit war game (I am so up for spirit war being the new hot genre).
Players will be choosing from an initial hand of ten cards which warriors will be going to their village to be targeted by your opponents, and which will be staying in hand to get aggressive. Cards are played back and forth to defend and attack, until someone has won the war and/or claimed the most resources. Players are also able to use artifacts and tributes to disrupt the back and forth and take special actions.
Tom: There’s quite a lot of war going all over the place in that cover art! I hope the game delivers in-depth systems for every one of the natural disasters, creatures and buff dudes depicted.
Ava: Well this looks thoroughly bizarre, and completely unlike the usual historic fare I associate with Academy games.
Reality Shift features sci-fi style lazer-cycle maze-racing across a board made up of chunky magnetic plastic cubes that can be reoriented and moved around during the game. This means you’ll be racing on the sides of cubes, getting squashed by cubes and reconfiguring the race course to bring the finish cube closer. It looks ridiculous. And very cubey.
Tom: The higher Kickstarter pledge levels here are just multiple (occasionally deluxe) copies of the game, so that you can build an 18-cube Reality Shift race-track that extends into the heart of the sun. Which y’know. Might… be… fun?
This looks a tiny bit like ‘Ctrl’ – partly because they’ve both got big ol’ cubes, but mostly because they’re both built out of gimmick and potential. The only way I can envisage Reality Shift practically working in most people’s human rooms would be to seat it atop a turntable so the whole thing could actually be visible. Add that to some bog standard roll-and-move with card powers to extend your reach, and it could just be a big magnetic crapshoot.
That said, Academy Games have a history of making solid and interesting dice-chuckers, so maybe it’ll be okay.
Ava: Social deduction medieval alchemical biology? Sure, why not.
Four Humours is a game of unseen information and hopefully working together or outwitting your opponents by placing the right pieces in the right places.
Players are medieval pharmacists, prescribing potions to various characters on cards associated with particular locations on a map. Each person has a range of slots to fill with the humours of your choice, so you secretly place potions in them. There’s a hierarchy of humours dictating who wins with which combos, made up of the pieces placed by you AND your opponents. Each card is a different take on the Prisoner’s Dilemma, played over and again, in an attempt to race to meet specific objectives.
It’s one of those things that could be nice and fluffy or ruthlessly complicated, and I honestly can’t tell which from this angle.
Tom: I adore the art style for this one, and it does do a lot of work in making the game look fluffy and gentle – but I bet it’s a tiny bit brutal? It’s the kind of game I can imagine Matt being really good at in a way that makes me want to not talk to him ever again afterwards? I’ve got a lot of time for ‘Routes on a Map’ games and the collision between that and cold hard distrust has me right intrigued.
Ava: And finally, in what I’m thinking of as the second movie in an odd-couple buddy road trip series, Quinns has guested on a Dice Tower top ten! If you want an hour and a half of him gently ribbing (and being ribbed by) Zee and Tom of that parish, you’ve got a treat in store. They’ll be picking out their top 10 unique games, which means it’s actually like a top thirty of uniquingest games?
The one I’m most curious about is Hey Yo!, a version of Five Lines, which has players slamming down cards in rhythm, creating something like a musical stave, glistening with notation in different colours and symbols. Once all the cards are laid out, only then do you get to start running pieces along the lines, interacting with the notation to score points and build combos. High scores rely on high collaboration, and spotting when someone’s made a mistake and whether or not you can fix it. This one is from Oink, so will hopefully see a wider distribution, and features two decks, so that instead of just playing co-operatively, you can double the player count and play two rival games. This is so nice! It includes a little music device to play with, but you can also just put on your own tunes and play with those beats instead. I’ve only just realised how much I want to see more rhythm games on the tabletop, because my word, is that a great way to add the time pressure to decision-making that makes mistakes inevitable and hilarious.
Meanwhile, Yakatabune is a little card-driven-two-player box where you play as rival pyrotechnicians trying to impress nearby houseboats with many a colourful display. In a nutshell; it’s kind of like Schotten Totten but with explosives! In a tortoiseshell; it’s like Schotten Totten but playing the cards will give your opponent ways of manipulating the cards once they’ve been placed down, and secret ‘program cards’ will let you combo bonus actions together and GOSH it all sounds rather dizzying but EXCITING.
Ava: This isn’t really news but I’m so very excited!
There’s a new Tiefsee edition of The Crew on the way. We all know that Tiefsee is german for Teeth See, so this edition is presumably about the Pope of Teeth, so I’m really not sure why there’s a deep sea theme on the cover. I guess that’s where the holy-father of dentistry lives. I still think The Crew is the best trick taking game I’ve ever seen, and I’ve developed an increasing passion for taking tricks over the last few years, so I’m as hyped up as a deep sea diver who’s just found Kate Winslet’s necklace.
Tom: It really is very good – and I only managed to get up to mission 15 of the 50-strong booklet that guides you through the game’s perfectly pitched difficulty curve. This new box is completely standalone, so I’m keen to see if they double down on the missions that are a little unusual, or try to perfect perfection in just being a ferociously slick trick taker.
Ava: Burncycle sounds like a rhythmic pain, but sadly isn’t a rhythm game. Actually, is it? I can’t make head or tail of this kickstarter. THOMAS! Get out your kickstarter calipers and get the measure of this.
Tom: Yes, Chef!
Tom: BURNCYCLE from Chip Theory has you and a smattering of robot pals doing missions in facilities to complete, you guessed it, objectives! The main board is a sort of a dungeon-crawly map littered with chip theory’s signature… poker tokens? Risk disks? Most of the action seems to take place on your personal player boards, covered in your robot’s spicy abilities, and a ‘network map’ that shows what flavour of ‘science fiction’ corporation you’re facing off against this time. There’s a neat mechanic here where you move pieces around this network map each turn, giving bonuses to possible abilities taken on the main board – a little planning-and-efficiency minigame that makes your dungeon crawl more of a dungeon jog.
I’m explaining this in possibly the driest way possible – but in truth it’s the missions, options and emergent decision making that might make this one sing. I do hear lots of people making GoodNoise about Too Many Bones – but maybe that escapes being described in a dry fashion because you can technically play it in the bath. It sounds fun! It’s got a good name! This one doesn’t have as good a name so maybe it’s not as good? Thank you.
Ava: I’m a sucker for a clever design hack. Top tip for people thinking about running a kickstarter is to do some really clever, silly thing as part of your campaign.
Slugblaster is a role-playing game by Mikey Hamm, on kickstarter with the support of Rowan, Rook and Decard, who brought us Spire, Heart and all those ridiculous one page RPGs. It’s a punky retro sci-fi game about hoverboarding kids that kill monsters with home-made weapons. The tagline is ‘kickflip over a quantum centipede’, which will likely tell you everything you need to know. It’s built on Blades in the Dark and has certainly figured out how to nail a very particular aesthetic.
Ava: What warranted its inclusion in the news, I hear you cry?
Tom: What warranted its inclusion in the news?
Ava: Be quiet, Tom. The deal-clincher for me was that the deluxe edition comes in a pizza box. This will have notes and tables and rules printed on the interior, so you can use it as a DM screen while playing. That’s just brilliant, silly, deeply on brand and I love it.
Ava: Elsewhere on kickstarter Jacob Fryxelius’ next game is crowdfunding now, and I’m curious what ‘Mr Terraforming Mars’ is up to next.
Star Scrappers: Orbital looks a little bit softer on the sci-fi spectrum. It combines engine building and worker placement, and the elaborate card-based systems appear to be all present and correct. I also completely missed the core selling point on my first pass, which is that you’re building a space station with a load of interlinked cards with different abilities. It looks a little like Galaxy Trucker, but with a thick slathering of powerful card combos. I have a lot of faith in Jacob’s ability to build a densely intertwined deck of cards, so this could definitely be one to watch.
Tom: Yespleasethankyou. Anything that has even the faintest whiff of ‘computervideogame’ Offworld Trading Company about it makes me quite pleased – It is, after all, a known fact that when business meets space you get: good. Stocks in zero gravity! Quarterly meetings in orbit! The possibilities are endless. I’m glad the trailer placed some emphasis on the fact that sabotage will play some part in this box – as there’s nothing sweeter than the feeling of disrupting a player’s perfectly-oiled engine with a sprinkling of health and safety violations.
Ava: Ooooh. It’s an Art Attack. Which I realise is a reference only Brits of a certain age will remotely understand.
Katia Howatson has an artists diary up on boardgamegeek in which she talks about her art, her instagram, her recent calendar kickstarter, and just shares a load of lovely mosaics made with board game pieces. It’s exactly the sort of clever idea you wish you’d come up with, executed so immaculately that you don’t get jealous. What a lovely thing.
Tom: …and with a flourish of scarlet ‘twixt the layers of briny blue, a beautiful painting I shall perform into existence: With palette in hand, brush outstretched – and a open expanse of canvas still to tame, all that is left is for me to fetch…
Ava: No. Tom. Don’t do it.
Tom: … The Games… Hues?
Ava: There aren’t enough sighs in the world. There’s a short report on Digital Spiel, the un-physical version of what would normally be Europe’s biggest games convention/market/noisy-warehouse. The headline figures are Tabletopia doubling its user base, 148,000 people checking out the website, and 400 companies from 41 different countries showing off their bits.
Matt: ALTHOUGH I feel I’d be remiss not to mention that little old AwSHUX was just a week before Essen, and considering it was a tiny thing we’ve heard Behind The Scenes that it had a pretty remarkable impact across the board! Some of those Essen Kudos-Coins are ours, basically, Ava – and I’ll fight to the death for a handful of those beauties. Quick, say something positive about somebody else before I crush us all beneath the weight of my ego.
Ava: OK! So it wouldn’t be fair to continue this week without shining a light on the superb work of the boardgamegeek news blog – they’ve really been putting everyone else to shame when it comes to sifting through this year’s conventions for new info.
Ava: Dorehami games keep cropping up in these pages, thanks to Mr Martin, who’s done a little round-up of games that would’ve been at Spiel from Iran.
Gendarmery from RealityGame has you cataloguing evidence against an array of suspects, and doing so with a little tower. It’s a game of deduction, with arrows functioning as clues to the identities of various suspects. You’ve got to try and pull together a hand of cards that points to just one suspect, without accidentally wasting the Chief’s time by matching two different people. Basically it’s another one of those policing deduction games that make it absolutely clear that a police’s job is to competently frame someone.
Tom: I love that the tower you referred to earlier isn’t just an ‘abstract tower piece’, but in fact resembles a kind of open-air filing cabinet? And one of the main actions in the game is just ‘archiving’ cards directly into said cabinet – plummeting them into a bureaucratic void from which they can never return? That’s the kind of stuffy, office-core thematic nonsense that I can seriously get behind – and is something we’ve seen super-nailed in the physical edition of AwSHUX favourite ‘Inhuman Conditions’ (incidentally also a morally gloomy suspect-appraising-sim).
Ava: The Tokyo Game Market is live streaming next weekend, and will presumably need you to know Japanese to get involved. Boardgamegeek are as ever doing a lovely job of picking out highlights, including a cute tile laying game.
Sheep and Garden has players laying tiles in a classic landscape building style. Players are building a map that will hopefully fill their own objectives, but at more than two players you have one objective of your own, and you share a second and third with each of your neighbours – meaning someone else will be helping you out! That’s a lovely little touch. Just a sweet bit of collaborative mischief to wrinkle up something simple.
Tom: This looks like a slightly better version of game I played ages ago called ‘Wooly Wars’ – which took the tile-laying core of Carcassonne, but each player had a secret colour that they alone wanted to emerge victorious. It was wrinkled with shotgun-toting hunters and ravenous wolves to snarf up sheep, but ultimately felt like everyone just knew what colour everyone else was going, for pretty much instantly? It was good! Not great, but good. And this looks good too! And it has sheep. But will it be great? Maybe. Those cooperative objectives do seem cool. But I don’t know! I haven’t played it yet. And I’m not a psychic. Or good at my job. But I do like sheep!
Ava: Expert reporting as always, Thomas.
Ava: Meanwhile, in ‘expert’ reporting, please can someone find me more information about the spoon bending game?
It’s called Uri Geller, and has players attempting to be spoon bending psychics. The trick is not getting caught out by skeptics as a mere illusionist. I have no idea how bendy the actual spoons are but that box is gorgeous and it’s just got a load of spoons and bags in. This might be the most excited I’ve ever been about a game.
Tom: It’s such a breath of fresh air to see a game finally do Uri’s legacy justice. Trying to be an honest-to-god SpoonBend in a world of naysayers trying to call you out as a ‘fraud’? It’s a story that certainly needs more coverage. Make sure you keep your keys away from the box, lest they curl like rusty quavers.
Matt: Oh, and if you’re at a loose end this week or bored and stuck in another wave of lockdowns – some mildly good news: we’ll be back live-streaming on Twitch on Tuesdays, starting tomorrow evening! What are we playing? I actually don’t know yet! I’d better leave the news doc and get my chickens all in order – but we’ll hopefully see some of you tomorrow eve!
Ava: And finally, some sad news, with Satish Pillalamarri, of North Star Games, passing away. There’s a lovely photo retrospective and memorial, including a crowdfunder to raise money for his newborn son Om’s scholarship fund, which is lovely. It’s particularly heartbreaking as Satish will never meet his son, who was born while he was in intensive care, so please give generously if you can. I’ve been dealing with my own loss this weekend, and cried my way through Coco yesterday, so all I can really say is that I’m glad we will always keep telling stories that hold up the memories of the people we love and lose, so that we never entirely lose them. We carry the marks of all those we love, and we pass them on to the people we love, forever.
Matt: Beautifully put, Ava. I’ll also point out that the remaining 1,000 copies of Satish’s last game – Dude – have effectively been donated to the fund. Any copies bought through North Star’s website will see 100% of the purchase price going towards the scholarship fund. Our thoughts go out to anyone affected by the passing of Satish, and indeed anyone dealing with grief during this especially difficult year. Solidarity and love from us all – we hope you have a good week.
Tom: Once on a November dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, On a quaint and curious piece of tasty board game lore..
Ava: Tom, it’s well past morning, please just get up and do the games news, will you?
Tom: “’Tis the games news,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door… Only this and nothing more.”
Ava: Yes, so let’s bloody get on with it.
Ava: Ooh, ooh. We’re going to bump a kickstarter to the top of the news purely because we really like Omari Akil and the work he’s doing to improve representation in the industry. So there.
Hoop Godz is Board Game Brothas’ follow up to Rap Godz, and is about basketball hoops, rather than hula hoops, surprising nobody.
A Distant Tom: What?!
Ava: The head-to-head two-player game will have you managing your team’s juice to take actions on the board to bounce a ball around and get it in the hoop. Yes, I definitely understand sports. The game has you spending and preserving resources to play action and reaction cards to control the ball and the field. When a player reacts to their opponent’s action, both players start rolling dice to try and match the symbols on your played cards to see who is successful. You’ll also be fielding different ballers into each game, for additional variety. The whole game is lavishly covered in illustrations by Hamu Dennis, who also worked with Akil on Rap Godz, the company’s previous game. That one is also available through this kickstarter so there’s a fair amount of godz-bang for your godz-buck on offer.
Tom:Stress Botics puts you in the relatable role of easily-stressed robots doing tasks they don’t entirely understand. Gathering resources on an alien planet for a faceless corporation, players will be programming the bots in secret at the start of each turn, and attempting to optimise their gathering and grabbing.
Oh to be a faceless entity only concerned with gathering and grabbing. Return me to my monkey roots. Let me eat berry and hit rock. What’s a board game? I don’t know. I’m going to bloody invent talking.
Ava: How did you get onto being a monkey? We’re talking about robots.
Tom: Argh, sorry. It’s an overbearing fantasy this year – like being temporarily suspended in a void of infinite nothing, or making good bread. But back to Stress Botics – I really dig the nice little blueprint-y artstyle and the thoroughly chuckle-worthy concept that they programmed real human stress into blissfully innocent robots. Alongside those words and paint, though, I think that I can sense a nifty thematic throughline with stressed-out robots and stressed-out masters bumbling through an unsolvable, chaotic efficiency puzzle – like a Eurogame Robo-Rally? I’m intrigued.
Ava: Definitely. It sounds like a tough balancing act, juggling resources, programming, events, and enemy robots. It’s ambitious, but if they pull it off, it could be an appropriately stressful delight.
Okay, I’ve been sitting on this news item for approximately 10,020 years, since February. It’s stayed in the document because I’ve never seen a more perfect example of prehistoric pathos than this piece of copy-writing: “What might keep you from painting that mammoth? Death, in all its many forms.”
Paleo now has enough pictures and information for us to actually do some newsing. It’s a co-operative cavefolk game of surviving in a harsh landscape, with limited tools, all with the intent of doing a spot of painting to brighten up the cavern a bit. Players will send their own little team of humans off to explore locations and gather food and tools to help you survive, and complete quests. Stack enough of these together and you’ll be living your best art-cave life, and presumably winning the game. It comes with various modules to mix up and move the needle on exactly what sort of game you’re looking for, which is a nice little treat.
Tom: Eugh, to be a caveman only concerned with painting caves and being alive. There’s more to life! Ascend me into the stratospheric heights of cyber-being. What’s a rock? What’s a tree? I don’t know, and I don’t care; Arcadia Quest just came out in Virtual Reality 2, and all dice now have ᵠ sides.
Dune Imperium offers a mix of deck building and worker placement, with a tiny soupçon of something similar to that conflict mechanic from Arctic Scavengers. Players take turns to play cards from their hand, going around one action at a time, but pulling out and revealing their remaining cards when they’ve decided all they have left is going into buying new cards or the inevitable and ever shifting sandy battles. Those reveals allow them to draw back up and restart the cycle.
I can’t quite twig why someone would pre-order the enormously fancy $100 edition. I do remain curious though, as theoretically there’s room in my heart for a conflict filled economic deck-builder.
Ava: I am pleased to see there’s more detail available on what should actually be exciting about this game, as that implies that the hype-bowl could be full for reasons other than ‘sandworm enthusiasm’ and ‘enjoying saying Denis Villeneuve’s name’. Put that in your soup and smoke it.
Ava: I’m increasingly intrigued by the various kickstarters that crop up offering escape room style puzzles: They seem to have such wonderfully convoluted approaches to the sense of place that’s likely to be missing at home. Spectre and Vox was an utterly baffling kickstarter page to me initially, until I got about halfway down and realised that you were supposed to build a literal dollhouse and solve puzzles both inside it and in the interactive audio assistant alongside it. I also could have watched an entire three seconds into the video to figure out the same, but that would be breaking the habit of a lifetime.
Ava: When this dropped into the company slack, Quinns commended it for attempting to pitch the assembly of 296 pieces as the first bit of the puzzle, rather than simply the fact that it’s an enormously elaborate piece of kit that’s a craft project in and of itself. There’s a lot of ambition here, and a bundle of people who appear to have the history to pull it off. It’s still likely to be a very niche product, but I hope they manage to find the people who will absolutely want to dive into this audio augmented dollhouse mystery.
Tom: I just took a huge dive into the nostalgia of this spooky castle pop-up book that I had when I was but a boy – and I remember it as being much less delightfully crap than it looks in the cold light of age. An awful lot of that Kickstarter pitch excited the same part of my brain that loved that thing so much I eventually broke it – and as much as little Tom tried his best with pritt-stick and sellotape, the damage was done.
Hopefully the wooden construction of this haunted house will be a little more sturdy, when it arrives at my house tomorrow to ensure a glowing review *waggles eyebrows*
Ava: You absolutely cannot use the games news to bag yourself a £150 Haunted House
Ava: Alright, I’m shutting this down. Have a great week, everybody!
[Eric Tonjes is Shut Up & Sit Down’s miniatures gaming correspondent. This week, we’re publishing an article from Eric of a rather different nature. Content warning: This piece contains terminal disease and the loss of a loved one.]
Eric: As I write this, I’m looking at a copy of Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 sitting on my bookshelf. I am smiling. I am crying. It is a game I will always love, and I will never know how it ends.
Elizabeth and I got married almost a decade and a half ago. I was already firmly entrenched in my hobbies, painting miniatures and running a weekly D&D campaign. Initially it was “my thing,” and I never tried to make her love games. However, over our early years, she slowly eased into them. We played some Ticket to Ride, some Catan, and soon she was hooked. I remember the first time we finished playing Caverna, which became an enduring favorite. She told me she really liked it, probably in part because she won. I pointed out that she couldn’t say she wasn’t a board gamer anymore. She gave me her little half-smile and said she didn’t know what I was talking about.
Elizabeth was first diagnosed with cancer five years ago. We were just about to move across the country for a new job, and our third child was still an infant; we grieved an uncertain future for us and for our kids. We played Arboretum and Forbidden Desert as she recovered from a surgery to remove the tumors, cards and tiles splayed across that misshapen table that never quite fits over the hospital bed. The nurse asked what we were doing and stared blankly at me as I tried to explain the concept of a designer board game. Then she turned to my wife and said, “And you enjoy these?” She just gave another half-smile and took her next turn.
Like much of the gaming world, the original Pandemic Legacy was a revelation to us. Without treading too far into the realm of spoilers, we named one of our diseases “Zomboid Fever” when we started. I’ll let those who have played it guess what transpired. Suffice it to say that a few months in I jumped to my feet, yelled “What!?” and spilled a glass of water across the floor. I framed the components when we were done. Her fluid script decorates the cards.
Perhaps that is part of what enchants me about this hobby: the way relational and emotional memories become entangled with tangible objects around my house and on my table. I’m looking through our battered copy of Jaipur, our favorite two-player game. I remember playing it a few years back, after the initial diagnosis and before the word “terminal” entered the equation. We were sitting in a hotel lobby, traveling for our anniversary. I asked her if she still had those jewels she took at the beginning of the game. She looked at me suspiciously and asked if I was keeping track of everything in her hand. I said maybe. She asked what else she was holding. I told her. As a half-dozen people stared, she threw the cards at me and we laughed and went upstairs and celebrated a love that had become comfortable and sweeter ten years in.
So many of our friendships are interwoven with these objects. We’d invite people over for some wine and Splendor or Coup. We always loved the sides of our friends revealed within the magic circle of a game: a usually quiet and demure wife transforming into perhaps the most cutthroat economic gamer I have ever met, or an awkward group from our church yelling accusations and lying through their teeth fifteen minutes into the Resistance. My wife never gave into such base impulses, although she dearly loved to see me lose and would occasionally try to take me down a peg or two at the cost of victory for herself. I try to take photos of the group whenever I play a new game, and there are literally hundreds of faces in those pictures whom we love and whose lives have enlarged our own.
Elizabeth’s cancer came back with a vengeance a few years ago. We knew it was incurable. There were many nights, once the kids were down, tired from the uncertainty and grief, that she would ask to play a game. Sometimes I said no. I wish I hadn’t. Even though we were too emotionally spent to stare into each other’s eyes and talk about deep things, the evenings we did break something out were a chance to be together, to know and be known. Part of a relationship is built face-to-face, through conversations and revelations, but much is built side-by-side as you do things together, sharing experiences in the company of another. Board games were for us both a chance to learn about each other and a voyage of discovering a story, an artifact, a world.
When I heard that Pandemic Legacy Season 0 was due out in late October, I emailed Z-Man Games and asked if we could have an advance copy. It didn’t seem like we had much time left. They generously gave us one and we dove in, playing several times a week, sensing that the clock was ticking. We were right. We have two game months left, but Elizabeth won’t be playing anymore. She is asleep in a bed beside me, in that twilight season where we seek to keep her comfortable until she slips beneath the waters and I can’t see her anymore.
I have no intention of finishing the game with someone else. It seems right to have it cut off, always a mixture of the happy and the sad, always unresolved. Death is like that. We’ve known for years it was coming. We’ve heard its footsteps nearing in the hall. Yet it still came as a surprise when the door opened and it drew near. There are so many conversations left to be had, so many memories left unconfirmed, so many jokes that will never have a punchline. The sealed boxes and unopened envelopes are a reified manifestation of life’s always-premature last page.
I don’t know what I will do, as a parent or a human being, on the far side of this thing. After thirteen years of marriage, I’m not even sure I know who I will be alone. Yet I am so glad we played this game together, even without the ending we had planned.
Elizabeth’s favorite games were the ones where you built something along the way. Win or lose, she would say, at least she could look back at what she had made and feel like she had made something meaningful. Life is a game like that, and despite the sense that we are in some cosmic sense losing, there is so much meaning in what we have made.
Tom: Welcome to the news, this just in: Ava is the best and Tom smells. Hey, That’s rude – get back in your own voice!
Ava: How’s that? Better?
Tom: YES. Now please never do that again. You’ll confuse the readers and unsettle my breakfast.
Ava: I promise. Only if it’s convenient for the purposes of a joke, or I don’t want to be held responsible for one of my opinions.
Tom: Fine. Wait, what?
Ava: I didn’t manage to spend much time at Spiel Digital, it taking place while I was still hungover from our very own online convention. But I’ll be spending the coming weeks poring through what I can to see if I can dig out any exciting announcements. Please drop by the comments if there’s anything you saw that you’re excited about that we haven’t yet newsed-up. The one thing I did catch was a little bit of a preview of the previously teased new Descent box, and it looks like we finally have enough details to give it a news item.
Descent: Legends in the Dark, aims to mark a break from its predecessor, with Fantasy Flight keen to state that this isn’t Descent: Journeys in the Dark: Third edition, but instead the start of a new line within the same universe. The new Descent will be a fully co-operative, app-addled experience of dungeon crawling adventure, boasting an utter boatload of fancy toys to play with. There’s a 16 episode campaign called Blood and Flame, and multilayered 3D terrain and even miniature furniture: clearly attempting (and succeeding, I think) to out-do Heroquest’s recently announced adventure-dollhouse.
For me the star here is some really gorgeous character art, hopefully the start of FFG lifting their generally fairly bland fantasy world ‘Terrinoth’ to a place where I actually care about it. Mechanically, the company is highlighting the ‘ready’ action which lets you flip character or equipment cards to get a wider set of options from each card. Included in this are double-sided weapon cards that slide into sleeves, allowing you to bladeholster your sword and unquiver your bow. Or in the example, swap your spear for a bell, which feels less likely, but at least uses real words.
I’m curious about whether Fantasy Flight is leaving space to expand that world again with an actual third edition that maintains the one versus many charm of the original. I’m a little surprised at them picking a fight with all co-operative Gloomhaven and Son, when they could’ve been making themselves stand out more by iterating beyond the improvements that Imperial Assault carved for them. Though I guess that would be at risk of cannibalizing their own product. BUSINESS IS HARD.
The whole thing is landing an eye-sweltering recommended retail price of 175 American Dollaroonies, which honestly made me yelp. After comparing it favourably to Heroquest and pondering its ability to go up against Gloomhaven, I’m left having to admit that both those options cost considerably less. Hopefully that means Fantasy Flight is pouring something truly spectacular into this big blue box of dungeons, but I’ll certainly be keeping my wallet shut until I’ve spoken to someone who’s actually played it. Though admittedly, I’m not actually that hype for dungeon crawlers. Your mileage, as the old saying goes, may vary. As may your wallet.
Elsewhere in Spiel-wrangling. One of my post-con tricks is to take a look at which games have suddenly bumped to the top of ‘the hotness’ on boardgamegeek. Mostly it’s stuff we’ve already covered, with The Lost Ruins of Arnak, Hallertau and Praga Caput Regni taking the top spots. But at number four (at the time of writing) is a game I’ve had in the back end of the news for a while, waiting for enough pictures to justify us covering it.
Anno 1800 is new from Martin Wallace, designer of Age of Steam, A Few Acres of Snow and the brownest game in my collection, Mythotopia. Anno 1800 is based on the city building game of the same name, part of a series with a lot of different years in it. It also boasts a tremendous number of buildings which you’ll be filling with people to produce the goods needed to fulfil demand cards. Reading a review of it led me to the delightful idea of a fur coat factory being exactly what you need to turn an engineer into an investor, because that’s what fur coats DO. It sounds delightfully byzantine, with carefully managed production chains being the order of the day.
Tom: I played a little bit of Anno 1800: Computer Videogame and I found it a satisfying little puzzle of managing the different ways you can turn Pig into Useful. It is, regrettably, one of those games that is set in a nebulous ‘new world’ that looks nearer to the equator than its alabaster protagonists might suggest, skirting any discussion about ‘the thing’ with a grace and dignity equalled only by the construction of this awkward run-on sentence. To be fair, I could be wrong about this assertion as I only played a little bit before getting lost in the age-old question of ‘sausage or soap’.
Ava: For some reason I assume that Tom will have played Darkest Dungeon, and will be able to give us the skinny on whether it’s the sort of thing that will transfer well to a board game. Of course, when I did this with The Last of Us, Tom had no idea what I was talking about and I just dropped a load of research on him about a game we had no information about. I guess we’ll see. Take it away Tom!
Tom: Unlike The Last of Us, Darkest Dungeon is something I have played, and I’ve played it a lot! Essentially, it’s a gothic horror dungeon crawler with a heavy, heavy emphasis on the psychological and physical toll of dungeon delving. As well as managing your health bar you’re also managing your mental health bar, and peaking out the latter through witnessing all the horror leads to bad stuff . While crawling through dungeons, you also upgrade a little hub area with various “improvements” that will hopefully lead you to a higher chance of success further down the line, with bosses and a mega dungeon at the end to cap it all off. I played a lot of the game and then bounced stupid hard off of it when I realised what you had to do to finish the thing and thought: no. I have other games to play.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BOARDGAME?! It looks like the core loop is intact – with dungeon-crawling, hamlet-building and perma-deathing aplenty – plus the amount of quirks, items, skills and stresses that can potentially pile onto your adventurer is utterly enticing to me, a fan of ‘games what evolve’. Alas! My potential excitement for seeing a game I like turned into a game I might like has been slightly quashed by twenty one scroll-wheels worth of bonus pledge gubbins – which instantly places this in the territory of Nemesis – ‘a game that is good but I really struggle to recommend to anyone unless you are a household of four people that really like the same kind of boardgames and also playing one game upwards of thirty times’.
Tom: AND in doubly exciting news, that Kickstarter has been updated with cheaper shipping! AND in TRIPLY exciting news, Big Potato are now including every single challenge from the base game with our expansion for it, if you don’t own the original and want to get get get get got got got got over and over again. I was going to make a joke about this blatant self promotion, but I can’t use the ‘in the pocket of big [blank]’ epithet because we are literally ‘in the pocket of big potato’.
Ava: Is that a big potato in your pocket or are you just……… actually I don’t want to know of any alternative explanation for that, I’m just going to go with the big potato hypothesis.
Under Falling Skies is starting to look like one of the lushest solo productions we’ve ever seen. I’m fully behind the idea of releasing a lovely, solid print and play for free, and then providing a paid for version that is lush, huge, generous and, frankly over the top. Under Falling Skies gains a whole campaign hidden in multiple layers in the box, offering a load of secret variations on the dice selecting planet defender. This design diary digs deep into its creation, and I remain surprisingly hype. I think I’m the one member of the Shut Up & Sit Down editorial team who hasn’t yet dunked themself into a quarantine-induced plunge-pool of solo-gaming. And that’s despite my passion for solo Mage Knight meaning that in the before times, I was the only SU&SD bod who DID play solo games sometimes. Maybe this is the game to dunk me in the lonely end.
Tom: I think everyone on the team was deeply perplexed by how CGE made real sheets of ‘spoiler-blur’ to go in the demo box? You can see chat and Matt react in real time to the actual wizardry of this stuff during CGE’s AwSHUX stream, as well as marvel at how much has been piled behind said blur to make a buy worthwhile. Inhuman Conditions sits in a similar position as a ‘print and play’ gone ‘purchase and play’ in a new genre that I am very very here for.
Ava: Phil Walker-Harding has a hell of a hit rate. Between Archaeology, Barenpark, Imhotep and Sushi Go, he’s carved out a niche as an incredibly sharp designer of incredibly accessible games. I still think about the fact that while Uwe Rosenberg took three swings and misses at making ‘Patchwork but for more than two players’ with the garden trilogy, Phil Walker-Harding just said ‘what about bears’ and absolutely nailed the multiplayer tetromino business. (Though I’m also pretty curious to see if New York Zoo sees Uwe snatching back the polyomino crown). All of which is to ruthlessly tangent away from the actual news, that there’s a lovely interview with Mr Phil on board game geek, and it was only while skimming it that I realised quite how hard I respect this man’s back catalogue.
That’s not a euphemism.
Tom: I love that you’ve spent half a paragraph trying to get two designers into a polyomino battle.
Ava: There’s just not enough beef in the game designer industry! I want to see wrestling match style trash-talking skits before demos at conventions.
Tom: We will not rest until we see Kramer Vs Kiesling. The Royal Reiner-Rosenburg Rumble. The whole clan of Engelsteins facing off against the Fryxelius family.
Ava: More violence in board games, says I, surprisingly.