Quinns: Hey all! Matt, Paul and I will be live on our Twitch page in a few hours, at 7pm BST, 2pm EDT. We’ll be streaming the superb Whitehall Mystery (see my review here), with Matt playing the role of a real-life murderer while Paul and Quinns hunt him down like a weird, tall dog.
If you can’t make the stream, don’t worry about a thing! You’ll be able to watch the stream in its entirety on Twitch as soon as it’s finished, and we’ll be uploading the playthrough itself to YouTube tomorrow evening.
You dice are bleeding, you say? Not to worry! It’s nothing a podcast won’t fix.
Matt and Quinns kick this one off with a big, hairy discussion of Ultimate Werewolf Legacy, which segues into a discussion of legacy games in general. The expected “era of legacy games” is failing to materialise, and they offer some theories as to why.
Next up they chat about the smooth operations of V-Commandos, which is about to be re-implemented as an official Assassin’s Creed board game. After that they discuss their time spent nursing cubes back to health in the disturbing (and entertaining!) facilities of Dice Hospital, which was a fun surprise for them both. Finally, they consider the carefully orchestrated fish feasts of Uwe Rosenberg’s Nusfjord.
Oh, your dice are still bleeding? Oh dear. Well, try to not get it on the carpet. That’s our advice.
Paul: Oof, sometimes you instantly know what must surely be the best Games News announcement of the week. It’s Men At Work, the debut design from Rita Modl, illustrated by the magnificent Chris Quilliams and coming from dexterity experts (aka “dexperts”) Pretzel Games.
Paul: Men At Work challenges players to pile wooden girders higher and higher, gently place construction meeples on them and then delicately add little toolboxes to those meeples. Is there a danger that it will all come crashing down? Never. Anyway, the point is THEY HAVE LITTLE HELMETS. End the Games News now. We’re done.
Quinns: It looks to me like Go Cuckoo but with men. Go Men! That’s what I’ll be calling it for the time being.
War gaming experts (aka “wargperts”) GMT have announced a fantasy title, something that has them veering away from their traditional historical roots like a cyclist being charged by a tiger.
Mystery Wizard is a huge six-player game of typically asymmetric tactics, with cards representing spells and special powers, which can be combined to produce even more powerful results. Just like real spells!
Weirder still, the box has a sense of humour. Some of the playable wizards listed on the official site are Sandra the Sand Witch, Sam the Desperado and Volcano Jones (who is “a pretty chill guy”).
Paul: No! Mystery Wizard sounds like a dating game show and I keep telling you I DON’T WANT TO DATE A WIZARD.
Let’s cover something more down to earth. I have news of a remake of the award-winning 1997 board game Mississippi Queen (pictured below), made anew by board game experts (aka “bexperts”) Super Meeple, who also remade Mexica (see our review of that here), Amun-Re and Attika.
This game of paddleboat racing demands that players carefully navigate a modular river that is gradually revealed, section by section, racing their rivals to the end and collecting passengers along the way. The remake will add extra optional rules, throw the expansion in for free and give everything an impressive lick of paint.
Quinns: The expansion adds “floating logs”! There’s an eye-grabbing feature if I’ve ever seen one.
Honestly, I love what Super Meeple are doing with their beautiful restorations of classic games, and I want them to keep it up. Though I’d love it if they could sort out better UK distribution. Which is to say, any UK distribution.
I feel a warm kinship with BoardGameGeek’s Eric Martin. He’s a man who truly loves tight, thought-provoking card games, and he’s written an exhaustive account of his time with Monster Crunch!, a card game about eating cereal and “milk management”. I like the look of it a lot.
Unusually, we can’t tell you the actual names of the designer or artist behind it. The game is made by the studio “Forrest-Pruzan Creative”, the same team behind Disney’s Villainous, which we talked about back on podcast 83, as well as Shifty-Eyed Spies, which was on episode 66. Reflecting that their games often involve a great many people working together, the studio instead simply puts out games under the moniker “Prospero Hall”.
In RPG news, right here on Kickstarter we can see the money piling up in front of our very eyes as people pledge toward this standalone expansion to the enormously successful, enormously popular Tales From The Loop, from RPG experts (aka “rexperts”) Free League Publishing.
Moving the action forward to the 1990s and also advancing the characters in age, Things From the Flood features the same Simon Stålenhag art, but this time taken from his second art book. The world here is now very much more broken, with much less of a sense of wonder and, instead, a far greater sense of risk and danger.
And perhaps there will even be some awkward sex!! Whereas Tales from the Loop created a world full of childlike wonder, Things from the Flood offers a realm of teen angst. If this trend continues, in 2020 we can look forward to another expansion to this RPG based on Simon’s third art book, The Electric State, where you all play unemployed 20-somethings.
Paul: Argh, no! I had to be a teenager in the 90s and it was rubbish. Everyone was self-satisfied and only interested in being trendy. They weren’t tenacious teenagers, they were all just into the Spice Girls and failing to properly appreciate Pulp.
Here we have the story of a hidden version of Nine Men’s Morris that was discovered by history experts (aka “archaeologists”) etched into a tablet in Russia’s Vyborg Castle. The tablet itself was found in a crypt that had never before been discovered and which may contain a secret passageway that possibly leads right to Shut Up & Sit Down headquarters. We couldn’t possibly comment.
Quinns: This isn’t a news story! Nine Men’s Morris can be found carved into stone sculptures all over the world. I’ve personally stumbled across two morris boards in two different countries and I barely leave the house. You just have to know what they look like.
Paul: Well aren’t you a skinny, English Indiana Jones.
Quinns: You watch your mouth Paul Dean! I might not have a bullwhip but I own a couple of spatulas and I know right where to stick ‘em.
Paul: I’m sorry, there’s just time for me to explain that I saw this video and I don’t think I’m going to recover. Don’t ask me how I was linked to it.
Two weeks ago I wrote an article defining worker placement in response to some rather loose use of the term. I thought I might get some disagreement on my definition, but instead I got disagreement on the use of the mechanic itself. Some people apparently hate worker placement because they feel that it restricts their choices and has made previously complex games simple. I disagree, because I think the comments reflected a somewhat superficial understanding of how decisions are actually made in games. Though it’s quite possible that some worker-placement games have fewer meaningful choices than some pre-worker-placement games, I don’t believe that it’s endemic in the category of play, and I’m certain that it’s not a requirement. That’s because worker placement only affects one phase of the decision making process — and not the one that leads to the most voluminous set of options. Hence, this article, the first of three. It’s not about worker placement specifically, but rather about the whole spectrum of decision making in games (and how worker placement fits into that).
When you make a decision in a game, it comes in three parts: what you are doing; how you are doing it; and what the results are. The first two parts of that formula represent an ever-branching tree of options, while the last part involves the mechanics of the game system churning out the results.
Figure 1. The three parts of decision making.
You can also look at these three parts of a decision from a more game-centric point of view. Since games tend to be about actions, the decision points translate to action phases. Together, they comprise the frontend of a game, the player-focused portion.
Figure 2. The three phases of game decisions.
Though every game has these three phases, often one or two phases will be degenerated. Perhaps there’s only one action you can do in a game; perhaps there are no additional choices after you choose your action; and perhaps the results of an action automatically occur. However, a designer should still consider all three phases because they represent the full panoply of game-decision choices. (Spoiler: worker placement is only an element of the first phase; and spoiler: it may often have degenerated second and third phases.)
Phase 1: Action Selection
Action selection is perhaps the driest part of the decision-making process. It’s a level removed from the theme and the backend mechanics of the game and simply involves a player choosing which of several type of actions he wants to take. Thus, it’s pretty impressive that several types of games (action-point games, simultaneous-selection games, card-drafting games, deckbuilding games, and of course worker-placement games) are defined primarily by their action-selection method.
Generally, eurogames have focused the most on the action-selection element of game design. Traditional games and Anglo-American games are more likely to incorporate a degenerated action-selection phase that supports only one action.
The following lists the major types of action selection. Most games are defined by one or more of these action-selection methods.
Option 1a: Basic Action Selection
Basic action selection defines the most traditional elements of action selection. These are the mechanics that are likely to be found in any game, no matter what its heritage, and which are the foundation stones for more complex (usually limited) action selection.
Figure 3. Elements of basic action selection.
The most basic differentiation for action selection defines whether players get to actually select actions or not.
Singular Selection. A degenerated type of action selection, where players have no choice of action type: there’s just a singular option. Examples include Monopoly (roll the dice), Chess (move a piece), and Memoir ’44 (play a card). Obviously, that singular choice then branches out in action execution, but players do not decide among different classes of actions before that.
Rules Selection.The traditional, unsophisticated methodology for action selection. The rules list out several major types of actions that players can take, and players have to remember them. Perhaps the game offers a minor aid, such as a player screen, but it’s not well centralized. Tigris & Euphrates offers a typical example. Players can place a civilization tile; place a catastrophe tile; move, withdraw, or place a leader; or refresh their hands. Call it four actions or six if you differentiate all the leader possibilities. Tigris & Euphrates’ options are listed on player screens that players mostly ignore.
Some games not only allow action selection, but also support the selection of multiple actions every turn.
Action Points. Players are given a set number of action points each turn and can divide them up between multiple actions. In a simple action point system such as Pandemic all actions have the same cost. In a more complex action system such as Tikal (and the rest of Kramer & Kiesling’s Masks series) or Tinners’ Trail different actions have different action-point costs.
Action Resources. Players have a theoretically unlimited number of actions, but they are effectively bounded by the resources that they must spend to take those actions. If some actions don’t cost resources, then they must be explicitly limited. The Settlers of Catan is the classic example of Action Resources: players trade or build until they no longer have resources to do anything useful. Terraforming Mars is a more recent example of an Action Resources game: players play cards and build standard projects by spending money (and sometimes other resources), and also enact blue-card actions, which are limited to once per round (generation).
Finally, basic action selection can be made intuitive.
Menu Selection (or sometimes just: Action Selection).This is just rules selection with a better marketing team. The possible actions have been moved to a player aid or to the board itself, to make sure that they’re always visible. Icons are typically used to make the options even more obvious and accessible. The game aids in Settlers of Catan are a fine example of rules selection made graphical, while the original version of Tinners’ Trail places its options right on the board itself.
The ability to take different sorts of actions and beyond that different numbers of actions is exciting and a big expansion over a game that just requires the same action turn after turn. It’s a large-scale change from classic games without any sort of action selection and a foundational building stone of These Games of Ours.
Option 1b: Limited Action Selection
Basic action selection allows a player to choose what they’re going to do and do it. No muss, no fuss. But over the last few decades clever designers have come up with various ways to ensure that players can’t always do what they wanted to do. This takes the usually staid action-selection phase of the game and turns it into something strategic. Thus far, limited action selection has largely fallen into three categories: hidden action selection, constrained action selection, and conflicted action selection.
Figure 4. Options for limited action selection.
Hidden action selection means that players don’t know what their opponents are doing when they make their choice.
Simultaneous Selection. Players all secretly make an action choice and then simultaneously reveal them, before taking those actions in some set order. Many games introduce conflict into simultaneous selection by punishing players if they make the same choice as someone else, but this isn’t a strict requirement. Basari is an example of a traditional simultaneous-selection game where players only get to take their action freely if they don’t match someone else (and otherwise have to negotiate to see who pays whom for the action). Diplomacy,Wallenstein/Shogun, and Roborally are all examples of Programmed Move simultaneous-selection games, where the limitations come mainly from the surprising interactions of the moves.
Constrained action selection take actions out of the traditional menu and places them on some other component, which in some way limits action choices.
Rondels.The rondel is a mechanism used almost (but not entirely) exclusively by Mac Gerdts. Actions are placed in the slices of a pie chart, and a player moves a few places clockwise on that chart each turn to select an action. This usually gives a player an option of 1-3 actions on a turn and limits most actions to being taken only every two or three turns. Gerdts’ Antike is a prime example of his simple style of roundel. Examples by other designers include Wolfgang Sentker & Ralf zur Linde’s Finca (which has a variable rondel, and which uses game state to determine distance moved) and Stefan Feld’s Trajan (which uses a Mancala mechanic for rondel movement). This is a very game-y mechanic that has little linkage to game theme, but it nicely constrains choices and introduces tactical and strategic consideration.
Deck Management. Effectively a rondel system with different components and slightly different constraints. Here, each player has a personal deck of action cards. They play through them one a turn and at some point can spend a turn to get back all their action-cards. Like the roundel, this prevents players from taking the same actions in close proximity to each other, but offers a different sort of player control, as the player can choose when to “waste” a turn, just to get their cards back. Gerdts proved how similar roundels and deck management are by turning to the latter mechanic starting with Concordia. Other examples include Kreta and Assault of the Giants.
Deck Building. A second take on action constraints based on cards. This time, the players purchase their own action-cards turn by turn, using the resources on their cards. This means that sometimes cards are played as non-actions: for their currency. But sometimes they’re also played to have specific effects. It shows have action representatives (such as cards) can actually have multiple effects. Dominion introduced this trend, and there have been a billion games since.
Card Drafting.A third take on action constraints based on cards. Here, the players are given a random set of actions on cards and each take one and pass the rest on the next player, who takes one … Card Drafting is often not lumped in with other action-selection mechanisms because there tends to be a disconnect: the card drafting and the card play tend to be different phases, whereas most action selection is an atomic action. However, when you put the card drafting and play together you definitely have a full-fledged action-selection phase. 7 Wonders is a card drafting game that only feels marginally like action selection because its cards tend to give you resources and points and feel less like actions, but Midgard and its successor Blood Rage more obviously show how card drafting is fundamentally actions selection, because the drafting gives players actions that they later use.
Card Drafting also introduces conflict to action selection, because when one player takes an action-card, the other players can’t. This is the whole basis for the last category of limited-style action-selection methods.
Role Selection.Card drafting wasn’t in much use in the eurogame industry when role selection first appeared. Nonetheless, the two categories of play look almost identical when you consider their core mechanics, especially when you look at one of the foundational role-selection games, Citadels. There, one action-card is removed from a collection of eight static cards, then the rest are given to the players who draft them around the table. The main difference between this and regular card drafting is that the actions are all known and regularized, not a random set of cards. However, in most role-selection games, role cards are set out on the table, then taken one by one, as was the case with Verräter and Meuterer.
Phase Selection.A very common variant of role selection that gives everyone the option to participate in a role action when it’s selected. In fact, this is so common that many consider it part of role selection’s core definition. (I remain agnostic, other than pointing out that the earliest role-selection games didn’t include this element.) In games like Puerto Rico and Race for the Galaxy, everyone gets to use a slightly lesser version of the action; while in Glory to Rome they participate only if they have a matching action card already available on their board, and in Eminent Domain they do so only if they have a matching action card in their hand.
Worker Placement.And finally, there’s the ever-popular (or not!) mechanic of worker-placement, which is a lot like role selection (or card drafting), but where the actions are instead printed on the board, where they cost a resource to take, and where the set of actions might grow over time. Caylus and Agricola are the two founders of this particular boardgaming dynasty, and there have probably been hundreds since.
Other mechanics such as Auctions can also be used for action-selection, but even moreso than Card Drafting and Deckbuilding, that tends to be a minor element in the overall usage of a backend “core mechanic”. Actions can also be determined by the random draw of cards or tiles or the random roll of dice. There are really countless possibilities. The above listing is simply some of the most common and most explicit ways to choose actions in a decision-making system.
Having not just multiple actions and multiple types of actions but actions with strategic nuance is another foundational building block for eurogames, placed right atop the possibility for basic action selection. By hiding player actions, limiting player actions, or conflicting player actions, a game design can introduce interesting gameplay into the very choice of action, which once upon a time was a simple decision.
It’s no surprise that this style of mechanic, in its many variations, has been a constant obsession of eurogames, starting with simultaneous selection, then moving through role selection, rondels, card drafting, deck building, and deck management until it hit the worker placement that has taken over today’s industry. There will probably be a next mechanic and a next mechanic that also limit actions in different ways.
Action selection is just the beginning. After a player chooses an action, they then have to make choices about how to apply that action in the action execution phase. Sometimes, those choices might be very big, as in Tigris & Euphrates, where players realistically have dozens of choices for where to place each tile or marker. Sometimes, those choices are degenerated to the point of choicelessness: in Agricola, if a player takes a resource from a resource action-space, he usually has no additional option.
However, a particular action-selection method does not require a particular action-execution method. It’s likely that if one is wide, the other will be narrow, to avoid overwhelming the players, but even that isn’t requirement. Four menu choices could have no execution choices or a million execution choices; a dozen worker-placement spaces could similarly lead to no execution choices or a million of them.
In the next article, I’ll more briefly look at the options of action execution and action resolution, before talking about how this ties in to the core mechanics of a game’s backend. Then I’ll finish up this series in a third article with a number of case studies, to take the theory out for a test spin. I’ll see you back here for that (after my usual article on the last quarter’s games played, as the top of October).
The little graphical icons that accompany this article’s figures are borrowed from a comprehensive set of icons that artist Keith Curtis designed for myself and Christopher Allen to help illustrate our upcoming book on cooperative design, Meeples Together. Except the roundel icon. There apparently aren’t rondel-based co-op games (yet!).
You’ll also see some bonus articles about co-op design here starting next month, when we put Meeples Together out for Kickstarter. You can sign up now for a one-time email when we go live with that Kickstarter.
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This week we’re proud to present our review of Root, which is surely the board game industry’s new beau. A grand, inventive game of cat and mouse, as well fox and bird, and – should you buy the Riverfolk expansion – beaver and lizard.
As Quinns says in the review, everybody involved in this production needs to take a bow. But should you buy it? Click play and find out…
Paul: Board games are strange. I never know what I’m going to like next and no matter what preference I profess, I am always,alwaysbeing surprised in a way that keeps me as skittish as an anxious antelope. Do I like fantasy settings? Sure! Eurogames that emphasise player interaction? Party games of bluffing and misdirection? Definitely!
And yet naming the game that will next make me grin is as exact a science as reading tea leaves blindfolded from across the room. It’s like I’m in a raffle I never entered, holding ticket numbers I can’t read that win one mystery prize after another. Today, Paul, you’re going to enjoy a game where you… pile samurai dominoes on top of each other?Okay!
Picture the scene: It’s Feudal Japan. The battlefield is empty. You, commander of the Blue Strongholds (For why would you ever pick any of the inferior colours?), are determined to win the day. As every general knows, the two keys to victory are in spreading enormous formations of warriors across the battlefield and fortifying their positions with cute little castles. Will these soldiers need to fight? Not so much. As long as you keep constructing the largest concurrent collections of the same class of combatant, those warriors may as well lay down in the field and count the clouds in the sky. Nobody’s going to get hurt.
Gunkimono is all about filling out spaces and making shapes, almost a kind of tactical tetris. Each turn, players lay one of the two-coloured tiles in their hand somewhere on the board in front of them and then, for each half on the tile, either score victory points equal to the size of the coloured area contiguous with it (what the cool kids call aformation), or score honour points according to the number of stronghold symbols printed. They choose this separately for each half, so one half can connect to a sprawling section of yellow archers and score big, while the other half can earn a couple of honour points that gently nudges the player up the honour track of that type. That’s this track:
Points, of course, equal success, but what value honour, you ask, as any wandering ronin might. Well, those five tracks correspond to the five colours and five flavours of warrior in the game. Advancing each of those an equal amount unlocks a stronghold, one of two cute little castles that you can drop down into this multicoloured melee to declare “Hey! Hands off! THIS IS MINE!”
Otherwise, if you’ve just connected two large collections of red spearmen to score big points, what’s to stop the next player simply dropping another domino right next to it, extending it further and scoring even more? Very little, beyond placement rules that say the same colours can’t be placedon topof one another. Otherwise, tiles are often placed atop one another, as well as side by side, meaning that each game gradually grows modest mesas and shallow valleys of rainbow-coloured armies.
But once a stronghold is in place, a claim is staked and a formation of warriors is locked down for good. Its owner can’t add to it further, but that formation will nevertheless score victory points for themevery turnuntil the end of the game. The only problem here is that there is absolutely nothing stopping another player from interfering with that by, oh I don’t know, dropping their tile right in the middle of the formation and slicing it in two. That would be rather cruel, though, don’t you think? And what kind of a player would sacrifice scoring more points for themselves just to ruin someone else’s fun? Oh, you there, at the back? I see.I see.
I think you’re getting the flavour of this devious dish, aren’t you? It’s almost like a jigsaw where you sometimes go for the jugular, each move presenting not only the choice of whether you make a short-term investment to score more points, or a long-term investment toward unlocking a stronghold, but also whether you crash some other player’s party and cut down the titanic territories they’ve had the temerity to trace out, popping burgeoning egos that have bloated like bulbous balloons.
There’s nuance here, too. Each player starts with five, half-sized, single colour pieces that they can either lay by themselves or placeunderone of the standard tiles to prevent it from overhanging if it extends out as part of one of those ever-growing tile piles. Sometimes the placement of a single colour in just the right spot, at just the right moment, leads to an explosion of points, and since every player is holding and replenishing a small hand of three full-size tiles, as well as starting with these five petite pieces, everyone is always considering a variety of different options. Gunkimono is not a game where you can plan far ahead, but it is one that constantly presents choices and challenges you to adapt to an ever-changing board.
Your investment in the game only grows, too. As that pile of sedentary samurai stacks up, as everyone’s first and then second fortresses are deployed, building or smashing colour formations becomes even more important. Past unlocking fortresses, more honour points will also slide you up to the top of the tracks where, if you can crest them, face-down tokens hide more victory point rewards. Getting to the top of more than one track is not easy, so which do you race for?
That feeling of being in a race, or even multiple races, is central to Gunkimono. There’s the eternal temptation to score points immediately for whatever formation you can grow this turn and, since the early game has everyone expanding these, it seems like the easy choice. Forgoing that scoring to climb up an honour track sees you quickly fall behind and it’s a painful sensation, but it’s also the key to long-term success.
When the last of the game’s tiles is drawn, a short, separate stack comes into play, somewhere within which is a tile that will end the game and leave you all staring at a patchwork military mish-mash, a curious quilt of chaos that you’ve sewn together and then torn apart many times over. You began by sedately laying your pieces to create pleasant patterns, but by the end you were squabbling over every spot within reach. It was more satisfying than you expected, wasn’t it?
There’s just time for a quick trip in my TARDIS, because you might be interested to know that Gunkimono is a retheming of a game calledHeartland. That’s to say, it’s a game with the same rules, but a different premise. Back in Ancient Times, Heartland was a game of laying tiles that represented fields of crops, then locking those down with barns. Is it more exciting, or does itworkthat much better, as a game that now has an entirely different premise?
I can’t say that’s the case. Gunkimono is ostensibly about war but it hasn’t inherited any mechanics that really represent battle or tactics or conflict, so I’m not quite sure why this change was made. Are samurai particularly trendy right now? Is Feudal Japan Fashionable Japan?
Y’know, It doesn’t really matter. Gunkimono is still good, and a fine example of one of those fundamentally very simple titles that balance accessibility with a fair dose of cutthroat cunning. Each game builds to a climax, with players boxing in one another’s fortifications as they scratch desperately for the last points they can snatch from an overcrowded board, using the few remaining tiles they can barely even play.
It may never promise the dizzy heights or devious depths that a more detailed game can offer, but it is an enjoyable, abstract puzzle that is constantly sabotaged by every player, allowing each of you a chance to be canny, clever and cruel, while never becoming too complex or convoluted. It may never claim pride of place on my shelf, either, but it will be hitting the table again, especially whenever anyone suggests that simple games are gentle games.
Paul:Very fewpeople know this, but Games News comes to us each week as stories pouring off a waterfall. We stand at the bottom, buckets in hand, catching the very best of this constant, unending flow.
Scurrying back to the Games News Cabin this week, we have pails full of the latest info on a Magic Maze expansion, on Azul’s newest award (that game is doingwell) and a game based around a terrible pun. BUT FIRST, shall we take a quick look at the enormous explosion ofX-Wing Second Edition, which burst onto the scene this weekend?
I was taken rather by surprise by this relaunch, as the Fantasy Flight faucet has absolutely gushed expansions and add-ons, something that makes this release gargantuan in comparison to the original’s. Along with the squad builder companion app, there’s Y-Wings, TIE Advanced, Slave I and Lando Calrissian’s version of the Millennium Falcon. While I can’t quite get excited about a “Galactic Empire Maneuver Dial Upgrade Kit,” I know we CAN all agree that Lando is the best Star Wars character.
All this means there’s a host of expansion and upgrade cards immediately available, as well as what looks like a stronger emphasis from the start on the third Scum and Villainy faction. More than a few fans felt that a new edition was due and I’m interested to see how all this has landed. Did you pick up any of the Second Edition this weekend? Have you tried it and how do you feel about it? Let us know?
If you prefer your ships a little more traditional, perhaps the Japanese game Discovery: The Era of Voyage is the title for you. W. Eric Martin is wonderful and the BoardGameGeek news feed is a treasure, not least because Martin constantly reports on interesting and unusual titles coming out of Japan that we might never otherwise hear anything about. With a new edition of Discovery about to be shown off at Spiel ‘18 (and Taiwanese publisher EmperorS4 potentially licensing it further), Martin has decided totake a closer lookand now I’m also intrigued.
Discovery has players sailing trading vessels between islands represented by playing cards, investing in them, collecting resources like fruit, spice or gold, and paying other players docking fees if they have to snuggle their ship into the same space. It looks like a tight and potentially very punishing economic game, one of those likely to reward the most cutthroat of players. So, yes, I might well be dreadful at it.
While we didn’t fall madly in love with Camel Up when it first came around, Eggertspiele’s purchase by Plan B means that the superb Chris Quilliams is now leading the art design on games like Coimbra andthis fancy new editionthat will also be shown off at Spiel. It’s far more stylish and makes us wonder what other fancy re-releases might be in store. It’s a good era for giving older games a lick of paint, isn’t it?
After the Maximum Security expansion that we thoroughly broke our way inside ofthis spring, Magic Maze is now about to grow even more withHidden Roles, which adds challenge cards that players must achieve in addition to escaping the maze, plus something else that so many of us dearly love:traitors. Naturally, A traitor in Magic Maze has to be something of a confounding clown, trying to subvert the team’s success and run down the clock, but they’ll have to be subtle about doing it.
I promised you all a pun and I am not a man who likes to renege. In last week’s Welcome To review we might just have squeezed all the juice that we thought we could have out of a certain terrible pun, only now to discover that a roll-and-write gamecalled Roland Wrightreally is on the way. If the pun itself wasn’t recursive enough for you, then how about the fact that Roland Wright is a game about being a game designer trying to make roll-and-write games? Yeah? Does that float your goat?
Finally, our last game of the week isManitobaand the growing discussion around it. The game itself looks wonderful at first glance, all colourful and well-crafted, but as a growing number of people are pointing out, its depiction of Canadian Indigenous culture has fallen short.Speaking to CBC news, Indigenous writer Ian Ross expressed his disappointment over another example of “the commodification of our culture.”
One of the most glaring errors that has been repeatedly identified is the presence of a totem pole so far from the Pacific Northwest, but Manitoba also looks like a more general mish-mash of First Nations and Indigenous cultures with little respect for their individuality. These are mistakes as silly (and as avoidable) as thinking Ireland is part of the UK, or that the French flag should fly over the Belgian Parliament, and the solution, as ever, is more diligent research.
We have just enough time to squeeze in two quick but very interesting links. Escape games have become increasingly popular over the last few years, sohere are the Eleven Principles of Tabletop Escape Game Design. Are you thinking of designing one yourself? This may be just the encouragement you need. Otherwise, perhaps comics are your destiny, and you may find inspiration inDie, the new comic written by SU&SD friend Kieron Gillen. Telling the story of a group of teenagers who get transportedinsidea game, only to escape years later, it’s wonderfully illustrated by Stephanie Hans and… shhh… I got to read some of it in August! And it looked really good!
Oh! Oh! And I promised you news of Azul’s latest achievement and almost forgot. SO BAD. It recently won the Deutscher Spielepreis, an award based on public voting. I told you it was good! It thoroughly trounced the second season of Pandemic Legacy, Clank! and even The Mind, which really deserved to be higher that ninth place, no?
A load of people said that the Twitch chat during our stream was the nicest chat they’ve ever seen, so if you’d like to join the party on our next stream, simply click on over to our Twitch page to discover when that’ll be.
Quinns: Hey all! This week we usher in a new era of Shut Up & Sit Down.
On Thursday the 13th at 7pm BST (2pm ET), Paul, Matt and I will be doing our first ever board game stream on our Twitch channel. Our first game will be Flamme Rouge with the Peloton expansion, because we don’t feel that we’re done showing off that fantastic, blisteringly simple box.
Assuming none of our tech catches fire, we’ll be streaming in the same time, same place, every two weeks!
If you can’t make those times, don’t worry about a thing. Not only will you be able to watch all of our past streams right here, we’ll be popping the video on YouTube the following day.
This also means that – yes! – in the weeks where SU&SD doesn’t post a video review, we’ll be posting a Let’s Play instead, so you can enjoy a new SU&SD video every single Friday.
Huge thanks to our donors for helping us to get this new adventure off the ground. We’re all really excited about not just showing the Twitch audience what modern board games are, but how to enjoy them. So many people find board games intimidating, and we want to offer something a lot more intimate and casual.
Paul: Today’s Games News comes bursting through your front door like a SWAT team seizing all your pirate DVDs. Why DO you have quite so many pirate DVDs? Why haven’t you moved on to Blu-ray? These are questions we’ve all been asking and I guess you’ll have plenty of time to ponder them in the COUNTY JAIL.
ANYWAY, Pandemic: Fall of Rome is on the way from Z-Man Games, it puts a new spin on the the classic cube-busting series and… I can also reveal that I’ve already tried it.
I had the chance to play a top secret prototype at the Gathering of Friends earlier this year and found Fall of Rome to be for sure the most interesting re-interpretation of Pandemic bar Legacy. It keeps the same cooperative chaos management, but this time players must fight back five hostile tribes that are marching on Rome. They have a limited numbers of legions they can raise and move around Europe, but ultimate victory is achieved via negotiating peace with each tribe, something that comes about through Pandemic’s classic set-collecting mechanic.
As legions dash about, trying to beat back barbarians, battle is resolved by custom dice, something that adds a new dash of uncertainty to Pandemic’s usually more reliable mechanics, while the swelling onrush of beardy bad guys follow particular routes as they try to sack the capital, meaning careful strategic placement is key. This is a game I’m definitely keen to try the final version of.
The fertile fields of Kickstarter rarely fail to deliver and this week we have the classic combination of a curious indie RPG and another mega money-maker. So let’s start with the more interesting one! Something Is Wrong Here is inspired by the surreality of David Lynch’s work and encourages what its creator, Kira Magrann, calls “roleplaying meta-techniques,” including monologuing and blurring the line between player and character. In one session of two acts, players wrestling with dark pasts, inner demons and the dream-like nature of the realities slightly removed from our own.
I’m a little bit fascinated by the premise that “the only props needed are a mirror and a box” and, while this certainly sounds like an acquired taste and a very adult, subversive take on roleplaying, I can see this definitely finding an audience who will have a very happy (or at least consensually unsettling) Halloween.
Quinns: Oooh, so what Fiasco is for Coen Brothers movies, this could be for David Lynch? Sign me up!
This week’s million dollar success is the cooperative/competitive cardboard incarnation of Horizon Zero Dawn, which has players taking the role of robot dinosaur hunters in a post-apocalyptic future (the dinosaurs are the robots, not the hunters). Like so many of its peers, it’s so successful already that it’s impossible to ignore, but also it’s a hundred pounds for another miniatures-heavy game collapsing under the weight of its own stretch goals.
Paul: The card-based tactical combat looks interesting and, yes, those miniatures are great, but could this another mediocre game coasting on its own franchise and frippery? We keep our minds open, but we can’t say we’re hugely inspired.
Quinns: If you were after a plastic-packed Kickstarter that’s a bit more of a sure thing, Nanty Narking is a deluxe reskinning of Martin Wallace’s Discworld: Ankh-Morpork. The original game didn’t impress us as much as it did some people (you can read our old review through that link), but… um… I apologise, the phrase “deluxe reskinning” has set my imagination racing.
Paul: For fans of the long-out-of-print Ankh-Morpork, the emergence of this Kickstarter must be a heck of a treat. We’ve got plastic miniatures, metal coins, a double-sided board and much-improved card art. Lovely stuff.
Quinns: Imagine it. A taxidermist who dresses up squirrels as little tigers.
Paul: I will NOT
Paul: Today’s curious gaming gossip comes from famed designer and former Hasbro employee Rob Daviau, who recently let Tabletop Gaming Magazine know that Betrayal at House on the Hill almost became a Stephen King tie-in title, with Daviau’s love for his local horror writer influencing its development. It’s not hard to see how the inspiration bled (har har) into a game about haunted houses and twisting narratives, and while the final result is a little more Evil Dead, the line between King and bonkers b-movies is often as blurry as a smudged bloodstain.
While King never got on board with the idea, he seems to at least know about (and not have stood in the way of) an adaptation of The Shining, a game that lets players take on the role of either the Torrance family or a killer hotel. Winning the Microgame Design Contest in 1998, it now exists in a print-and-play form and, while rumours abound that King was at least tangentially involved in playtesting, King has apparently denied this himself.
Quinns: What authors have you had a tangential experience with, everybody?