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GAMES NEWS! 14/09/20

Matt Lees 15 comment(s)

Tom: Ahhhh. Don’t you love the fresh air, the rolling hills, the dry stone walls, the tiny paddocks? The babbling brook, the adorable bleats, the bark of the collie hard at work? ‘Tis a fine day to work the fields.

Ava: I don’t know why you’ve brought me here, but I’m pretty sure there’s a terrible joke coming.

Tom: It’s time to round up the Games Ewes.

Ava: Yup. There we go.

Ava: I wasn’t particularly gripped by the pitch for Disney Shadowed Kingdom in the press release, but at the last minute it said that this was going to be followed up by Disney bits for Unmatched, and realising Mondo was the same publisher almost made me curious. After all, Quinns recently gave Unmatched a pretty glowing review.

Ava: Disney Shadowed Kingdom offers a quick two-player co-operative card game of fighting shadows and finding magic, set in a very purple version of the disney ‘universe’. Illustrated by Marcel Mercado, it promises the start of a narrative that will be expanded in further, um, expansions.

The press release sometimes reads more like a business model than a game, but there’s hints of exploration here: Players will be playing cards face down into a central grid, pushing out other cards in the same row or column. Cards that fall off the edge of the grid will be activated, being ‘dispelled’ if they are pushed out the side, or ‘discovered’ if they are pushed towards a player.

You’ve got to keep track of what’s been placed where, which cards you want to discard, which you need to use, and in which order. It sounds like… a memory game. Each card has particular effects that mix stuff up, and this could make for an interesting family game for kids who’ve grown a bit beyond Pairs.

Ava: I’ve been sitting on the news about Troyes Dice for almost as long as I’ve been writing the news here. Sadly for most of that time we’ve had nothing to say except ‘they’re making a dice game of a game that already had loads of dice in it’. Now we’re closer to release and the rulebook is out, I can actually tell you something about it!

Troyes Dice gives one player the role of town crier, tasked with rolling dice and laying them around a circular board from lowest to highest – bellowing the destruction that falls wherever that one black dice falls. The rest of the dice are transparent, taking the colour of the space they’re placed on.

Players will then choose from the now-coloured dice to tick boxes, circles, or cross off resources and draw buildings onto their personal piece of paper. At this point the rules become exactly as byzantine as I would expect for a game based on Troyes, with multiple building types and various ways to exploit the people of the fine city of Troyes. And of course, a lovely cathedral. The game comes with a mini-expansion that adds banquets and raids to the list of things you can be rolling and writing on.

Tom: I’m just shocked they didn’t call it ‘Roman-Write’!

Ava: Troyes isn’t in Rome, or even Italy.

Tom: It sounds Roman. Or at least Greek.

Ava: It’s definitely in France, and it’s actually pronounced ‘twah’, similarly to ‘trois’.

Tom: WAIT HOLD ON. I’m getting out of my clueless character suit to reveal that I was, in fact, actually clueless this whole time. I’ve been listening to various board game podcasts talk about “this great game called ‘Trois’”, and steadily becoming more and more confused by my googling around to find said game and NOW I KNOW WHY?! This is a prank. It must be a prank. Tell me it’s a prank.

Ava: Sure, why not, it’s a prank.

Tom: Phew! I’ll put my clueless suit back on.

Ava: It’s a good week for convoluted but intriguing games, with Friedmann Friese’s Faiyum getting a decent write up by BoardGameGeek, who will be distributing it in America.

Faiyum offers an ancient Egyptian theme and a few ideas poached from other games. Friese’s own Power Grid’s market mechanic and deck building core have both been borrowed here, but it does add at least one potentially brilliant innovation.

Each turn you’ll be discarding cards from your hand as you play them. You can buy cards, build markets, scare off crocodiles and generally handle Nile-based infrastructure shenanigans. Once you decide you want your discarded cards back, you’ll earn income based on how few you still have in-hand (a la Concordia).

The difference here is that you get to pick up cards from the top of your discard pile. The first three are free, but any more will cost you, so the order you do things in is incredibly important. I love W Eric Martin’s comparison between traditional deck thinning and this game’s ‘card composting’. This provides scope for some very weird engine building and brings a clever time warpiness to the table.

Tom: Clearing crocs and building farms isn’t all just for your benefit, though. As subservient imps, all that you actually own is the Pharaoh’s respect – meaning that other players can leap onto your best-laid farms and gang aft them so agley that all you’re left with is a pile of crocodiles and a sliver of respect. Wonderful.

Reading the rules for this one has gotten me quite excited – and that central board has got that ‘perfectly dull’ aesthetic that I’m pining for after a weekend of smushing my brain against Tigris and Euphrates. Equally, though, the fiddly redrawing-discards step is already making me nervous to play this. Still, solidarity with the character called ‘Ronald’ from the rulebook who is continually berated for getting things wrong, as a means of covering any possible misconceptions about how the game works. What a lovely teaching touch. We should start doing that in the games news.

Ava: Are you saying you want me to start calling you Ronald?

Ronald: Yes.

Ava: Seiji Kanai hasn’t yet made anything else as brilliantly concise as Love Letter, but few people have. That game was so close to perfection that my eyebrows will always quirk whenever I see his name.

The Last Brave is part of a new wave of games from Japanime, bringing successful Japanese games to less Japanese places. It can be played as a sneaky team game or a more direct duel. Both revolve around a central mechanic of playing cards into battles that reveal your strengths and weaknesses, but allow you to use those abilities.

Ronald: There’s something neat about that central wrinkle of a wounded opponent getting stronger rather than weaker, but other than that, little is immediately grabbing me here. I suppose the same could be said for Love Letter, though, if it appeared in a segment such as this on a day like today – so take such impressions with a healthy ounce of distrust.

Ava: Atma is on kickstarter with the alluring promise of a simple to play roleplaying game that can be packed into a cosy box, and played in just a few hours. Using decks of cards for everything – from setting the scene to representing players – it reckons a GM can take players on an interesting and somewhat randomised adventure as quickly as shuffling some decks and laying them on the table. I’ve no idea if it can live up to that promise, but it does look cute.

Ronald: It does look cute! What’s more, you can put it to the test in an online implementation for socially-distanced-roleplay-goodtimes, or you can ‘Just Add Printer’ to the downloadable print-and-play version for socially-huddled-in-person-roleplay-goodtimes. Both options are free, so take a gander if you like your roleplaying games pacy and chaotic.

Matt: Both options may be free, but only one of them scans without making my brain hurt.

Ava: Also looking cute on Kickstarter is Streets, a sort of follow up to Villagers – a game that had the same overly bright, flattened appearance. Streets is a tile laying game of building streets to please ‘hipsters, tourists, parents and shoppers’. Just like in real life, these inhabitants will increase the value of places they occupy, but move as soon as they have scored. I can’t work out if I’m being satirical or filthy, so let’s move on.

In ridiculous news, you can now get a ludicrously expensive Louis Vuitton monogrammed dice holder (and I think it comes with dice too!). I don’t really like pointing and laughing at hugely expensive things, because actually it just makes me a bit sad to remember we live in a world where some people could just treat that as an impulse buy. Then I remember that plenty of people would similarly balk at the amount I spend on board games. Maybe this is too sad for the news. We’re all trapped in capitalism and the enormous inequality it creates and I don’t know how to fix that.

Ronald: Sorry, Ava, but ‘The Price Is Dice’ is currently #2463 on the ‘Bad Things Happening in 2020 List’.

Ava: What about ‘Being Trapped inside the Horrors of Capital’

Ronald: Oh, we all know where that one is.




Ronald: Can I have my name back?

Ava: We’ll talk about it next week.

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

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Games News! 07/08/20

SU&SD 4 comment(s)

Tom: Do you re-mem-ber!

Ava: No.

Tom: The fact that it is now September!

Ava: No.

Tom: Onwards to Newsville!


Ava: Glow, from publisher Bombyx, will have you going on an adventure across a broodily illustrated board. Players will be acquiring a new friend every turn, in the form of a card-drafting game with added dice. You’ll get more ‘companions’ and you’ll roll more dice, controlling the random chance with clever combinations
of cards.

This is especially important as some of the companions will come with disadvantages that may crop up when you roll the dice. The splash of colour on black and white illustrations looks really nice, and I love the idea of a gang of adventurers slowly katamari-ing across the land, scooping up friends and arseholes along the way. Even if that does sound like a terrible pub crawl?

Tom: Please, Ava, this is a family show!

Ava: Still baffled by your profound belief that Katamari is 18+.

Ava: Also from Bombyx, Codex Naturalis looks sharp: It’s a card game of building a web of interlocking document fragments. Each card gives you resources or game-winning prestige, but has to be placed so it covers the corner of a card that has already been played – taking away some of your previously acquired stuff. This looks pretty, might be interesting and could potentially eat up your entire table. Curious.

Tom: I’m imagining the organisational horror already, and the inevitable moment where you have to make a perfectly good card completely useless in service of the engine you’re continually adding to. Why am I sweating already? Help.

I’m loving the graphic design here too – making ‘a large pile of documents’ look exciting has got to be tricky, and artist Maxime Morin seems to be positively slaying it with these vibrant little artworks that are unique and lovely without sacrificing readability. I hope. I haven’t played it. This is just news.

Ava: Monasterium leaves us with our second week in a row of flagging up a hot medieval monks game.

Tom: Readers will be saddened to hear that last week’s ‘Monks In A Sauna 3’ has unfortunately been cancelled due to blasphemy and historical inaccuracies.

Matt: Shame, seemed truly innovative to replace the Monk Track with Monk Crack


Ava: Anyway, this one’s all about the dice. Each turn you’ll be rolling a bundle and looking for duplicates, putting any matching sets towards a menu of different monastic actions. Each time it comes to your turn again, you’ve got to re-roll what’s left – so you never know what you’re getting next. You’ll be pushing a messenger across a board to make introductions so you can stuff novice monks into as many weird churches as possible, whilst also making some lovely windows.

Tom: I’ve never even played HeroQuest, but the brightly coloured rooms here have me reaching for a broadsword?

Ava: I believe that’s the Henry VIII approach to monasteries.

I am torn about Philosophia: Floating World! It uses public domain Japanese art so it looks bloody gorgeous, but I’ve got no idea how well researched and refined it is. It makes some bold choices, promising a sandbox adventure built around not only deck building, but also each turn your opponent splits your hand in half and you’ve got to decide which ones you actually want. Finally, the game plays entirely simultaneously. This sounds an odd mix of chaotic, innovative and just… weird?
Matt: One of the stretch goals is A TEA POT. Is this real? This doesn’t look real.

Tom: I am utterly perplexed by what this box even is, but maybe it’s weird enough to work? That card-splitting mechanic that Ava mentioned could either be a great quirk or an unnecessary bit of faff – the simultaneous play could make a sprawling game pacier, or lead to total chaos. If one thing’s for certain, I really do wish that they’d let the absolutely gorgeous art on the cards not be sullied a little by the graphic design and text – there’s a gif in Kickstarter that shows the art being turned into the cards and they’re looking more interesting pre ‘remaster’. But maybe I’m just being grumpy.

Matt:No, I think I’m with you there – this seems to be taking beautiful things and smushing them into a form that’s quite ugly.

Ava: I’d love to hear from anyone who’s tried the previous Philosophia game to see whether this is something worth getting curious about.

Ava: There’s no reliable trick to get me to take a closer look at your kickstarter – in this case it was just because the location was ‘somewhere very near me’. I took a poke, and I’m glad I did.

The Wretched is one of that growing niche of solo RPG experiences, but this one has some strange prerequisites: to play you’ll need a ‘tumbling block tower’, and a microphone. Yup. This an atmospheric opportunity to play Jenga with yourself, as a metaphor for being very alone in space.

Tom: I’ve actually got a copy of The Wretched’s first print run sitting on a shelf next to me, just itching to be played. It’s the first in a series of games that use the ‘Wretched and Alone’ system, and I’m just as excited to try out ‘The Sealed Library’, another game with the same stressful theming but you’re trying to protect all of human knowledge rather than just your own internal organs.

Out of Space and A Library I know where I’d rather be, and it’s neither of those two places. Either way, I shall go off into space sometime soon and report back on my findings.

Tom: Also in RPG games news, ORBITAL has got just 19 hours left on its Kickstarter at the time of writing.

Nevertheless I want to drop a mention for it here as I really, really enjoyed designer Jack Harrison’s previous solo game, Artefact. ORBITAL looks to have the same penchant for svelte design and gorgeous artwork, but with *gasps* multiple human people.

Players take control of various characters onboard a space station in the middle of nowhere – fending off threats and trying to maintain the sanctity of their cold metal home. Mechanically, ORBITAL is lifting the ‘No Dice, No Masters’ approach from Avery Alder’s Dreams Askew and placing it into a very different setting with a very similar focus – and to top it all off, this one has artwork from Torben Bökemeyer, better known on the internet as turbo.turbo, with a front cover that’s as stunning as it is promising. I’m quietly pumped.

Ava: Okay, I’ll admit it, I grimaced when I saw something claiming to be the first ever poker board game, and a combination of space exploration and actual poker. I’m also not entirely sure that grimace ever left me, but it was eventually joined by a quizzical eyebrow.

Antematter has players shuffling across the galaxy with some abstracted space movement, alternating with hands of texas hold em poker. So far, so chess-boxing. What actually got me interested was that players will be shuffling some extra oddities into the poker deck, encouraging players to play a big bluff or allowing people to mitigate some luck of the draw. Taking the core of poker and encouraging people to play outside their normal habits sounds like it might be fascinating, I’m just not sure I want it attached to a space exploration game. My curiosity wattle is tickled though, so I’ll be keeping an eye out.

Matt:I’ve gotta say, I think I DO want it attached to a space exploration game? Colour me interested.

Tom: Oh I GET IT! Like ante! Like in poker!

Matt: Tom it’s too late, we’ve already packed up this part of the news.

Ava: Finally, I want to briefly mention that the ‘just one small slice, please’ version of Lisboa – Mercado de Lisboa – has hit kickstarter, and we’re doing a stream, which is lucky timing for both the kickstarter and people who want to see it in action before they buy.

Matt: Absolutely! Myself and Tom will be tinkering with Mercado de Lisboa tomorrow from 7pm UK time. Pop along and peer into the room as we squeal with economics-based delight and/or horror.

Ava: And finally, something from a few weeks back that tickled me. Mike Selinker of Lords of Vegas fame did a twitter thread brute forcing a riddle he’d already solved from the The Batman batman trailer, and it got picked up by Forbes. It’s just a sweet thing, like when someone you remember from school shows up in the paper having one a prize.

Tom: Mike’s Twitter is also a continual, wonderful reminder that there’s a whole community of people that REALLY LOVE crosswords. I was recently reading a thread about a particular crossword that got some mixed reviews, and was delighted to learn that a.) crossword reviewers exist and b.) crossword reviewers have a lexicography to describe their art that I absolutely do not understand. It was so confused, it was delightful.

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