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GAMES NEWS! 23/11/20

Quintin Smith 31 comment(s)

Ava: I don’t think you’re ready, for this jelly.

Tom: I don’t think i can handle this.

Ava: It’s just jelly Tom. It’s all just jelly.

Tom: And news, right?

Ava: Yeah, sure, you can call it that if you want!

Oh my word, it’s award season again!

The Pearple’s Choice is currently open for nominations in the unofficial, but still lovely, Shut Up & Sit Down forums. I’m really glad I’ve got an obvious excuse to highlight the forum and hopefully take more of a dip in myself. These are some wonderful awards voted for by the loveliest community in gamesing.

I’m glad to see the return of “The Erik 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?

Given the surprising loveliness of the AwSHUX session where Quinns and Tom beasted each over about the games they disagreed on the most, I’m expecting this to be an enjoyable watch.

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

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GAMES NEWS! 16/11/20

Matt Lees 40 comment(s)

Tom: I need to kick-back, relax, play on some slide guitar, drink a bit too much too cheap whiskey and sing a song about my problems.

Ava: It’s 11am on a Monday. Where is this going?

Tom: We’ve done the heavy lifting here, they can put the pieces together this time. Let’s crack on-


Ava: OhMyGOSH there’s just so much over on the boardgamegeek blog pouring out of the Tokyo Game Market. A lot of this is stuff that may not see a European or American release, but there’s so many lovely things that I have to link you to three, separate, round-ups of all the best Japanese 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.

Tom: If that doesn’t float your boat then don’t worry, there are a couple more exciting bits and bobs to peruse. Nessie’s True Identity has your mates excitedly yelling nouns that could be the name of an ancient sea-beast, and comes with my new favourite game component ever – a series of plastic letters spelling out ‘WHAT?’.

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.

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

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GAMES NEWS! 09/11/20

Matt Lees 11 comment(s)

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.

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

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GAMES NEWS! 02/11/20

Matt Lees 15 comment(s)

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.

Tom: … nevermore!

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.

I’d also like to flag up the inclusion of a wheelchair-using player in the game, and this beautiful twitter thread about what that representation means. I don’t have more to say about this except that I want to see so much more of it.

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.

Ava: I’m getting mixed messages here.

Ava: A ludicrously over-the-top pre-order is available for Dune Imperium, and I’m starting this item not entirely sure why people are so excited for it.

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.

Tom: There’s a real treasure-trove of design diaries on this one, if you want to get your hype on for Dune 2: Shai-Huludaloo.

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

Tom: *waggling intensifies*

Ava: Alright, I’m shutting this down. Have a great week, everybody!

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

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Playing Games With Elizabeth

Quintin Smith 30 comment(s)

[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.

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

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GAMES NEWS! 26/10/20

Matt Lees 33 comment(s)

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’.

Ava: Oh dear, it’s shameless self promotion time. Don’t Get Got was a game of party-based trickery that Quinns loved in his review. In fact, we were so effusive that Big Potato Games reached out and asked us to do an orange, standalone expansion full of even more bizarre and challenging missions to attempt to sneak your friends into doing.

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.

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

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GAMES NEWS! 20/10/20

Quintin Smith 29 comment(s)

Ava: Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom.

Tom: Aaaah. Stop poking me. I’m awake, I’m awake. I thought it was meant to be worm month??

Ava: Tom. It’s TUESDAY. We SLEPT THROUGH THE NEWS. And anyway, worm month was a lie sold to you by the greedy greeting card companies after they accidentally acquired thirty tonnes of sentimental worms after a spelling mistake on their annual words order.

Tom: I’m feel betrayed! But I sympathise. We’ve had similar issues with the Games Newts. Onwards!

Ava: Let’s talk about a little game you’ve probably never heard of called… Lawyer Up.

Tom: In AwSHUX tradition, we shall convey all information in regards to Lawyer Up through the medium of mime.



Ava: Okay, obviously that was a beautiful mime and a very clever reference to our technical difficulties this weekend, but maybe our audience should watch the video below. This is an asymmetric lawyer simulator that accidentally got thrust into the AwSHUX limelight after it autoplayed about 40 times on our Stream this weekend.

This is mostly here as an excuse to point you at all the previews that we created in the run up to AwSHUX. There are a whole load of games that we’ve not got round to covering in the games news, along with some bits we’re already fully hyped up for. Each video collects together previews and rules explanations on a particular theme so you can drink a whole barrel full of news in several satisfying glugs.

I’m currently pretty curious about The Red Cathedral on the basis of some pleasing mechanics and a nice big round thing in the middle. More obviously exciting fare includes New York Zoo and Renature, though in secret, I’m mostly hype for those because Tom keeps talking about them in ways that make me excited.

Tom: Both of those games are lovely, gentle, but slightly bitey things – I can’t wait to give them a little more coverage on the site. Out of the very limited window of previews I took a peek at, The Transcontinental and Legendary: A 007 Deckbuilder stuck out to me – the former because it looks like a lovely little game with gorgeous art and a smattering of odd mechanics… and the latter because it lets you frolic amongst whatever bonkers headcanon you so desire. More of that one on this week’s podcast!

Ava: Just as a little extra info-nudge for our readers, the AwSHUX shop is still open for business, if you want to buy some games in a way that’s good for both SU&SD and the publishers themselves. You can also please both your torso and us by buying some lovely t-shirts at the merch stand. Not to mention that Tabletopia is still free until Wednesday with the code AWSHUX! There’s just a lot of scope for keeping the lovely buzz of the weekend going a little longer.

I absolutely obliterated my sleep schedule, but I’m so glad to have got a chance to hang out with so many lovely people, playing games and being silly and then getting really, really heartfelt in the late night Q&A. I hope everyone had a lovely weekend, and I’m assured that tonnes of the stuff will be up on YouTube for perusal in the near future, so don’t fret if you missed it!

Tom: I would also like to say thank you to everyone that attended and made that event unbelievably special. The energy, passion and excitement in chat kept everyone going behind the scenes, and made the whole event a joy from start to finish. On a personal note, it was seeing that energy and positivity that’s made me a whole lot less nervous about the possibility of REAL SHUX next year. It’s going to be a blast.

Ava: These lovely new folklore editions of Patchwork look gorgeous!

Patchwork is a nearly perfect piece of puzzling positionery that’s getting new editions for China and Taiwan. Those versions got a new lick of paint in the form of local artists providing illustrations based on their own national folklore. It’s so lovely that there’s a limited European release of these versions, alongside a decidedly less satisfying Christmas version.

I’m really tempted by a second copy of this, just so that I can be a bit more generous with lending it out. It’s such a great game that I can’t bear to part with it, but I also want to put it in front of as many people as possible! Now I’ve just got to do some reading up on Chinese and Taiwanese folklore to figure out which I like more.

Cartographers: Heroes is on Kickstarter! This is a follow up to a game that Matt definitely enjoyed in his bit of our recent roll and write round up, and now it wants you to make a bet, with your money, that the sequel will be good.

Tom: Croupier! I’m putting all my money on ‘Nebblis: Plane of Flame’! I really shouldn’t talk about betting – it’ll give Matt flashbacks to not understanding odds in that Wits and Wagers stream.

There’s an absolutely ferocious amount of information in this Kickstarter, so let me help pilot your brain through this asteroid field of words and noises. Cartographers: Heroes is the new standalone expansion to the original (the boxes even snap together in a way that’s pleasing and will also never happen). In this new box you’ve got new monsters and new scoring cards, as well as hero cards – which are a new mechanic that enables you to whack the monsters that are all over your nice kingdom. There’s also two new map sheets that give you new locales to fill in with forests, rivers and et ceteras.

HOWEVER. If you want to get extra fancy, you can get the meatiest collector’s edition known to humankind, which is crammed with expansion materials great and small, and backing at different levels will give you access to different bonuses, map packs and mini-expansions.

It’s very straightforward – if you back at the ‘Hero of Nalos’ level you’ll get the Heroes expansion, and the skills mini expansion 2, but you’ll need to back at the ‘New Recruit Cartographer’ level if you want the skills mini expansion 1, which also gives you everything else, but if you don’t want the big expensive box you’ll have to back at the ‘Explorer of the Plains’ level, but you will miss out on ambush promos, and the 20 coloured pencils.

Ava: Ooh. There’s a couple of nice designer diaries over on boardgamegeek news at the moment. We covered Praga Caput Regni a while back, a game about building a bridge to impress a the holy roman emperor, which tickles all my ‘very specific history’ buttons.

Meanwhile Kitara looks like an interesting take on a fantastical version of 14th century Africa, or more specifically the breakdown of the Kitara Empire. Designer Eric Vogel writes about trying to dig into all of this while not being of African descent. It makes for an interesting read, whether you think they succeeded or not. Honestly, I learnt a big lump of stuff about African history I’d never heard of before, so I’m increasingly intrigued.

Everybody hates chess! Which is why even the people who love it are actually cheating at it.

Tom ‘Computer doping’ is a phrase I never thought I’d be reading in relation to chess, and certainly not as frequently as it appears in the article. My mind immediately turns to cramming a joint into a USB port, or tossing a baggie of something suspect into a disk drive. Chris Morris turns to the camera and says ‘this computer is absolutely drugged out of its digi-mind’. Good times.

Ava: For me, the weirdest and most 2020 wrinkle of all this is that is employing a specialist to design a computer model that checks whether an ‘honest human’ is likely to have made a set of moves without being aided by a computer’s brute force technology. This means we’ve got a computer running a reverse Voigt-Kampff or Turing test on a load of human beings playing a game, and making an assessment of whether they are human enough to be allowed to play.

Tom: That’s fascinating and terrifying all at once.

Ava: Sounds like something a robot would say, Brewbot3000.

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

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GAMES NEWS! 12/10/20

Matt Lees 32 comment(s)

Ava: Worms, worms, worms! We’re looking for a good worms!

Tom: Are we really just going to make the intro about worms again? Is worm month just an excuse for lazy news introductions?

Ava: Not at all. It’s also a way to devalue the literally phenomenal amount of work going on behind the scenes to make an actual online convention happen, by pretending that we’re not putting out videos because we’re worms, rather than because Matt is now surrounded by so much tech that he’s starting to look like the robot lady from Metropolis.

Tom: Ah…. Worms.Ava: Okay, we’re going to kick off the news, and hog most of the news, with the sheer, burgeoning excitement that is it only being a few days until AwSHUX. It’s our very own convention! Blasted directly into your living room, bedroom, or wherever else you might stash your electronic devices.

Friday to Sunday, this weekend, 24 hours a day of hot, steamy boardgame previews, plays and chat will be filling the digital airwaves. To be fair, and for our own safety, we’re doing 8 hours live and looping it twice so that you can enjoy it whatever timezone you’re in. You’ll be able to chat and meet people in the convention discord or Twitch chat, and if you find people to play a game with we’ll be giving out free access to Tabletopia for the weekend (the coupon code ‘AWSHUX‘ will be valid from Wednesday to Wednesday). It’s all absolutely free, and you just need to go to from Friday to Sunday to take part.

We’ve got so many exciting previews of games, including some being dropped a week ahead of their official launches at Essen Spiel’s online convention. Publishers are coming from everywhere from South Korea to Hungary to somewhere called ‘Canada’. Many of them will have digital booths for you to tour, with videos, live streams and chats for you to get hot and bothered about. We’ve not charged publishers for that, to help them through a difficult year. There’s even going to be an AwSHUX shop where you can buy stuff in a way that gives more direct support to the publishers, and to us! And that’s before we even mention the new merch that will be available online for the first time in years! There’s just so much!

Matt: I think it’s pretty neat and worth mentioning that all of the new merch has been hand-designed by myself and Tom, too! And OH GOSH I can’t stay for long as there’s so much that needs fixing up for this weekend, but I’m LEAPING into the news to share some brief bits of excitement…

We’ve got a killer selection of live shows over three days, with some fantastic guests: Tom Vasel(!), Mandi H, Paula Deming, Our Family Plays Games, Philippa Warr, Omari Akil, SungWon Cho (aka ProZD), and MORE MORE MORE! We’ll have a full schedule with details later in the week! I must return to my planet now, goodbye!

Ava: Not only all that: I’M going to be there. I’m pretty excited to be podcasting, late night chatting, and even playing some games on stream. I’m also disproportionately hyped to see the new Sidereal Confluence be shown off, which makes no sense when it’s a game I’ve already played.

Matt: It’s under my desk right now, Ava – and honestly it is LOVELY.

Ava: Ahhhh! I wannnaaaa sseeeeee theeeeee sstttttaarrrrrrrrrrrrssssssssss!


Check out twitter for more details of our own star-filled confluence. There’s an early schedule and a never ending stream of excitement. You can also take part in a survey to tell us exactly which of the games you’re most excited about – those games will then see more prominence within the digital convention-o-sphere.

Matt: Honestly, we do hope that people have a nice time poking around and playing a few games. As champions of the physicality and social proximity of our hobby, we know better than anyone that can’t simply take the magic of a great convention and “put it online” – but we’re putting together something we’re all proud of. Come along and have a look! It might be awful! Hopefully not??

Ava: Right, we’d better actually do some actual news. What’s that red light flashing on the news console?


Ava: Oh dear. Put your lifebelt on and follow me through this expository sentence and tell me how it makes you feel.

Ava: Bonfire is a game about building bonfires (of course), to lure back to the guardians of light (what), to defend the cities from darkness (I guess) and by the way everyone is gnomes (yes).

Of course, it doesn’t matter at all what the story is. it’s a Stefan Feld game, so the reality is it’s a game of collecting tiles so you can collect more tiles and move a little ship between tiles you’ll then flip.

Tom: I just watched a ‘How to Play’ video for this game at 2x speed and I have a headache BUT I understand the game a little more. Here’s what I can tell you; there are possibilities in this box the likes of which my mortal brain cannot comprehend. There’s tasks you’ve got to complete (simple) that you achieve by making a pattern of tiles on a grid (seems fine) and collecting resources (normal stuff) before slotting those tasks into bonfires (okay) which need to be staffed by guardians (no) but only if you’ve got the right portals (help) that have to be slotted into your board in reverse order (get me out of here). It looks like what those in the industry call ‘Fun’.

Ava: It’s easy to joke about this stuff, but honestly, it’s SO HARD to try to parse whether a european style resource shuffler is actually interesting at a distance. The precision chewiness of a mathematical puzzle like this is an arcane mystery, and even as literal professionals, it’s so hard to tell the dull from the superb. The devil is in the details, and the ways those details are obfuscated, clarified and explained by the narrative and illustrative systems. Don’t mistake our confusion for disdain, but also, don’t jump face first into something assuming the Feld name is a guarantee of thrills. We need to get hands on this before we can tell you if it’s bobbins or anti-bobbins.

Matt:Scientists still aren’t even totally sure the anti-bobbins particles exist.

Tom: If I know one thing, it’s that the art on this one is giving me all kinds of Terra Mystica in my bones – it’s got that thick, grungy, dingy, pulpy style of fantasy that I really appreciate and… Hang on… It’s literally the same artist? And that artist (Dennis Lohausen) has done the art for basically every single pulpy-fantasy eurogame that I’ve uttered ‘this is neat’ at? I need to have a lie down.

Ava: At least we know your bones have decent pattern recognition?

Ava: Hey! It’s a game I’ve played and really like, so I can actually give you an opinion for once!

Herbaceous Pocket Edition is a new tinier version of the already relatively compact card game Herbaceous. What’s my opinion? I think it might be too small!

Tom: What!? And you called Quinns ridiculous for getting annoyed he couldn’t hold cards in this game! And you’re saying the pocket edition is too small ?

Ava: YES. That said, the game here is a crackingly passive aggressive little herb collector. My headcanon has players sharing a community garden with an absurdly specific resident’s association dictating who can pick what, and when.

Each turn sees you filling up a shared community garden – as well as your own private stash – hoping to grab exactly the right herbs for your personal one-use pots. This makes for a simple game of pushing your luck and getting pipped to the post by people nabbing herbs you were waiting so eagerly for.

Tom: Ava I feel like the ‘how to play’ video from the designer’s mother in the Kickstarter is exactly the kind of wholesome content you need right now?

Ava: Aww, that’s lovely. It absolutely is the sort of game I could teach to someone’s proverbial mother. It’s simple and sharp and a little mean but also so quick you can just play it again: that way you only have to explain once that an American ‘herb biscuit’ is basically a scone. I’m also likely on the hook for this just because it adds some SPICES to the mix. I don’t know if it’s possible to grow star anise in a block of flats, but I am definitely excited to try.

Another kickstarter getting a second time around is Gil Hova’s High Rise.

After High Rise’s success, the Ultraplastic edition is offering a fancified version of the game with some ludicrously clever plastic skyscraper pieces. The game is essentially a giant rondel of actions, with some tricky decisions about what you’re going to pick up as you try to gather resources to build super towers, house some tenants, and potentially be corrupt and dodgy on the way. I’ve heard some pretty good things from people I respect, but haven’t had a chance to try it.

Tom: I’ve also heard lots of good things, and think I’ll be looking to bag a copy of this at some point in the near future… but I think I’ll go for the original, cardboardy version over the fancy new plastic stuff. It reminds me of when Matt and I played the ’even more plastic’ 20th anniversary mega version of Big City, which had some gorgeous and chunky resin miniatures but left us feeling like it was a game we’d only ever keep if it came in a form that were smaller and more cardboardy.

Ava: Eesh. And don’t get me started on my version of Container that weighs a tonne, despite being a game that is actually quite minimalist in terms of rules and structure?

It’s interesting though. Normally I’d be one hundred percent on your side, although my biggest sadness is reserved for when plastic replaces lovely satisfying wooden bits, like the newer Tigris and Euphrates. But in this case, I just adore the way those skyscrapers stack,and I always thought the cardboard skyscrapers looked weirdly sad? That said, I’m also worried those tall plastic things will fall over as you reach around them to move along the rondel, turning the whole city into an unappealing dexterity game.

Buying things is hard! Materials are complicated! Plastic is killing the oceans! I don’t like decisions!

Tom: Okay, it looks like Ava’s going to collapse, I’m going to put her to bed so she can get some rest before the weekend. We’ll see you at AwSHUX.

Ava: Aw Shucks.


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

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GAMES NEWS! 06/10/20

Matt Lees 2 comment(s)

Ava: Tom, why are there worms everywhere?

Tom shovelling worms: Worm month.

Ava: Right. Do we still do the news in worm month?

Tom hurling worms into a barrel: News for worms.

Ava, grabbing a worm spatula: Makes sense. Let’s get to it. Buffy! Coming soon to Restoration Games’ Unmatched is the slayingest vampire slayer. I would like to formally recognise I am marking myself out as a very particular age by the fact that I consider this news, and had to edit out a Spaced reference.

Tom: I saw that Spaced reference first hand, and let me tell you kids; it wasn’t pretty.

Ava: Too orangey for crows. I guess.

Ava: The dueling miniatures/card game will get four new characters and a new map in a starter pack that can be combined with any other Unmatched set. Buffy, Spike, Angel and Willow are the playable heroes with each with a deck full of supporting characters. So you can be a witch, two types of vampire, or Sarah Michelle Gellar. It’s hard to say anything about the specifics of this standalone expansion, but Quinns reckons the system is solid. It’s really a question of whether vampire slaying is your preferred jumping-on point.

Tom: Other options include *checks notes* varied public domain characters, Victorian public domain characters, Jurassic Park, and Bruce Lee.

Ava: I realise this is one of those games that everyone has an opinion on, but I’ve just never played The Last of Us.

Tom… someone… tell me if I should care that CMON is making a board game version of that video game with the people and the…zombies? I think? I don’t know. Sorry.

Tom: I’ve not played either of The Last Of Us games, but I have absorbed sufficient discourse about them to give you my tepid take: a board game version of The Last Of Us is not going to be good in the same way that the videogames are, if it is good at all. Those games are about emotional bonds forged with complex characters over long stretches of inhabiting their world, and CMON’s games are about Cool Minis – unless, perhaps, this is the prophesied ‘Or Not’ entry into their oeuvre. It will probably be fine, there will probably be dice, it will probably feel like Dead Of Winter But Worse. I’m very much judging a book by its cover here, and I’m also probably the least qualified to talk about these things. Somebody, please, cut the mic on me.

Ava: There’s not a lot of info beyond the cover to judge by here. So far I’ve only seen CMON’s video game tie-ins sink without a trace, but they’re an interesting publisher with a few brilliant ‘or not’ games in the back catalogue, so it might just be worth reserving judgement until someone’s actually played the thing.

Matt: Hello! Resident vibeogame expert number 1 of 2, here: The Last of Us is a game that hinges heavily on traditional cinematic storytelling, with playable bits of suitably distressing horror and hyper-violence bits to emphasise the dire straits the protagonists have found themselves in. It was pretty brilliant, 90% of people had a frankly terrible reading of the narrative and its implications, and be absolutely stunned if this CMON adaptation isn’t surface-level tosh. GAMESBOY, OUT.

Ava: Ooh hoo hoo! The perfect antidote to last week’s enormous boxes of pieces of kickstarters? It’s one of them there Button Shy wallet games.

Agropolis is a standalone follow up to Sprawlopolis that promises roughly the same game, with a whole new set of scoring rules. It also ships with a mini expansion that lets you combine both games. Even better than that, the unifying expansion is called COMBOPOLIS. Which is a word that pleases me so deeply that I’m going to go and have a lie down while Tom explains the game to you.

Tom: How to say such a word? A plosive, rumbling flourish (com-BOPO-lis)? A staccato assault on the cochlea (COM-BO-PO-lis)? Or a staggered, Brulian slurry (cromborprolis). Such delights. What game were we talking about again?

AGROPOPOLIS! An iterative sequel on Sprawlopolis’ excellent co-operative groundwork which Quinns was somewhat smitten with in his Solo Print and Play Roundup.The big change is the theme, which swaps the winding streets of a bustling city for the winding streets of a bustling farm. Like Sprawlopolis, players are laying cards next to and over previously placed cards, slowly building up a patchwork of different areas. Each card in the game has a set of scoring conditions on the back, so you’ll be chasing after a different set of criteria each game, but always dreading the woeful ‘road tax’ that means you lose points for each separate route you create. Agropolis adds some optional livestock scoring criteria, which gives you even more to worry about.

Also contained in the Kickstarter are a nice little wallet-game-storage bag (which, controversially, is not a wallet) and the option to subscribe to a monthly wallet-game delivery service! How charming.

Ava: Charmopolis. ARGH! I’ve dropped a second edition on my foot.

Ava: Kingdom is a game of community, asking big questions about the historical or futuristic society of your choice. With no prep and no GM, everything happens at the table with each player taking characters that also represent larger forces within the community, with specific capacities for affecting the story. It’s a role-playing game that I’ve been super curious about for ages. I got the book, tried to grok it, and got lost in a spiders web of fascinating but hard to grab threads. This makes me deeply ambivalent about the new kickstarter for a second edition. Designer Ben Robbins always thought the original book was a bit too dense and not as easy to grasp as the game deserved.

This new edition is a thorough scything of the community-based history-builder, shaving it into something that promises to be easier to get to the table. The one thing worse than seeing a second edition of a game you own and haven’t played yet, is one that sounds like it solves exactly the problem you bumped into when you tried it the first time around.

Does anyone want a copy of the old edition of Kingdom? I might be backing a kickstarter. Sigh. Let’s continue this kickstarter ambivalence with another contradictory preview.

Ava: Mother of Frankenstein looks absolutely ludicrous, and tickles so many weird itches that I know I would never, ever scratch. Promising a look at the life of Mary Shelley, and guaranteeing an opportunity to make an ‘actually, Mother of Frankenstein is the name of the Mother of the Doctor, and the Mother of the Monster is actually called Mother of Frankenstein’s monster’ joke. I say joke, i guess it’s more of a tongue-twister. ANYWAY.

This isn’t your grandmother’s board game, and may itself be a frankenstein of literally too many ideas. It’s a [deep breath] escape-room immersive-theatre board-game puzzle experience. Asking you to piece together literal puzzles (one of which is an entire 3D castle) whilst solving figurative puzzles. No wait, those are still literal puzzles. This game is hard to talk about. It actually does promise ‘the narrative complexity of a good novel with the physicality and challenge of a puzzle-filled escape room’, which would be so incredibly hubristic if they’d picked an adjective more extreme than ‘good’.

I’m so enthralled by the idea of this, and I want someone to buy it and invite me to their house for a weekend, because I have absolutely no idea who would actually be willing to put the time into something this obtusely over the top. Wonderful. Terrible. Maybe I just like puzzles more than I’m willing to admit?

Tom: The ultimate edition is even more bananas – arriving to your home in the ‘auction style packaging’ of a massive wooden crate, with a ‘blank-ish notebook’ and a bunch of vinyl records (for actual gameplay and ‘mood setting’)? Apparently all the backer levels also come with a bonus serving of ‘undying love and gratitude’, if you’re into that.

Ava: And finally, here’s a little treat for tricksy trick-taking fans. It’s a bonus freebie for anyone who already got one of the most generous little boxes of the last year.

The Crew: The Deimos Adventures has a whole new set of missions for anyone who already managed to trump the 50 included in the base game. Considering I’ve only got past eleven once, I don’t know if that’s ever going to be me. But I had a little peek at a few of these and there’s some really playful ideas here. This was already one of the smartest takes on trick taking I’ve ever seen, and it just got trickier. I won’t spoil the challenges though, as I suspect a lot of folk will be looking forward to making their friends groan with slowly dawning comprehension.

Tom: That box is so magic. I played a few games of it the other day and the ‘ooh just another one’ factor is through the roof as you all wait to see what fresh, but slight twist to the formula awaits overleaf after every mission. Adding more of ‘that’ to a box that already has ‘it’ in spades at no extra cost is a fine move, Kosmos. A fine move indeed.

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

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GAMES NEWS! 29/09/20

Matt Lees 31 comment(s)

Ava: Tom, Tom, What’s a good two-syllable word to come after ‘wet news…’ in a song pun for today’s intro?


Ava: Oh dear. I’ve been left on my own and we may never find out what happened to my “wet news quizzy”, which is what I call questions now. I guess it’s time to leap atop of the tremendous pile of crowdfunders that are clogging up the news-pipes. Give me a sec, I’ll need a run up.

Kicking off outside of Kickstarter, we’ve got literally the biggest name in board games purporting to need a crowdfunding pre-order system in order to be able to publish one of the biggest nostalgia kicks in the world. Yes. It’s Heroquest.

Ava: Heroquest is the ur dungeon-crawler: asking you to grab a barbarian, dwarf, elf and wizard to run through a loosely-linked campaign against a dungeon master – whose job it is to throw increasingly ugly people at you, and lay out quite a lot of nice furniture. They are getting some people to design new quest books as stretch goals, which might expand the scope a bit beyond the original, but otherwise this looks like the game you remember from those adverts, with a pre-order bonus of some gender balance.

Honestly, I think this box is expensive, especially when you’ve just seen an advert for the 1991 price of £21.99 (which to be fair, is nearly fifty quids in today’s inflated money). That box has got a lot of nostalgic things in it, and I think for half the price it would be a fantastic set of bits to launch you into the world of role-playing miniatures. I wish they’d included more role playing stuff in the new edition, rather than just polishing up the old rules and shaving off the Games Workshop. The latter results in Chaos replaced with Dread, and getting rid of Fimirs because nobody ever really knew what they were anyway. If money is no object, and you want a great box of fantasy furniture and nostalgic minis, this could be a treat. Though I suspect the game itself isn’t going to hold a candle to your memories.

Matt: I’m aware this is one of those games where the nostalgic love is deeply incendiary, so I’ll tread carefully, but yes – I really don’t recall much about this game other than adoring the tiny furniture that sometimes adorned the rooms. It was deeply atmospheric, I think? But largely I feel like HeroQuest’s shine came from the fact that other games were just dreadful. The best alternative was Talisman, maybe? Otherwise my options back then were Monopoly or Mousetrap. Grim times.

But buying this in 2020 instead of something like Gloomhaven, or Jaws of the Lion, or even Descent, maybe? Well, I know that those games are all substantially fiddlier, but honestly that still just feels like an overall bad decision? I think that’s a hill I’m willing to die on? Another hill I’ll cheerily die on is that the art for this remake is absolutely rubbish – stripping away all of the soul of the original stylings in favour of the Post-World-of-Warcraft chunky sheen that seems to have glazed over literally everything. BOO.

Ava: My memories of HeroQuest are mostly of reading my big brother’s custom quest map that included a tunnel coming out of the side with a dragon in it, and so desperately wanting to play that game, and not the one in the box. I ended up settling for the Amiga adaptation, which did at least have some amazing ominous midi.

Matt: I think “wanting to play the game depicted on the box” was very much par for the course with a lot of these Games Workshop board games. I must have been about seven years old when I saved up my pocket money to buy Dungeon Quest, a game that had possibly the most RADICAL box art I’ve ever seen in my life, and was disappointed to discover a game where you mostly just repeatedly died in a tunnel looking for trinkets. Mind you, I’ve since become a tremendous fan of Dark Souls, so maybe it was an experience I just wasn’t ready for?

Ava:Ooh, look, it’s another expensive box of stuff!

Planet Apocalypse is coming back to kickstarter for a reprint, some new expansions and a D&D role-playing book. It’s a co-operative dice chucker from Sandy Peterson, designer of the Call of Cthulhu RPG and Cthulhu Wars – so someone you can actually rely on for both role-playing and board game chops, which is nice. Quinns actually talked about this in a podcast, and you can get your recommended daily intake of reckons there. Let me just copy and paste a bit of Quinns from the company slack so you’ve got a sample.

A bit of Quinns: I had a lovely time playing this but it’s too expensive considering it’s only a good and not phenomenal co-op game. But it is good.

Ava: Well said. As I was just saying to Hasbro, I think there’s something smart in including a role-playing game with your board game bits, as it really lets people get the most out of their very expensive toys. If you love the (end-of-the) world, love the bits, and want to do some demonic apocalypse role-playing with some fancy minis, maybe this is a good, if pricey, way to scratch a lot of itches at once?

Demonic itches don’t sound great. Maybe get some demonic cream? Hopefully that’s a stretch goal.

Ava: Argh, no. Why is everything so big!

The 7th Citadel is pretty huge, and a follow up to an entire continent (or the 6th citadel? I guess, I’m not quite certain). The 7th Continent was a story-heavy tile-based exploration game that gave you a sprawling continent and a big binder full of cards with numbers that let you go on a story-puzzle-dice-filled adventure. The 7th Citadel is….basically the same thing, in a white box?

Matt: Thankfully though they’ve moved the setting to ‘the collapsing lands’ – the perfect holiday for a man currently trapped in The United Kingdom.

Ava: This game promises an absolutely obscene amount of cardboard bits, which I guess is a breath of fresh air compared to all the minis elsewhere. I feel like this is one of those things that took a lot of the hobby by storm but just never grabbed me? Or possibly anyone on the team? I’ll be honest, when the video said ‘to achieve your goals you’ll have to resolve hundreds of different events’ I did a massive sigh and thought about my to-do list.

Matt: AVA TOO REAL, PLEASE, NO. As a broad reminder, AwSHUX is our online convention – taking place on the 16th to the 18th of October! *slowly inserts knuckle into mouth*

Ava:Right. Listen: this has all been far too cynical. Let’s chuck an octopus in, see if that cheers me up.

Crash Octopus looks like it could be a bit pants, but I don’t care because (a) it’s called Crash Octopus, (b) it’s got a ruddy octopus in it and (c) it’s a dexterity game that asks you to flick stuff around your table with a tiny flag on a cocktail stick.

Matt: I’m just so relieved this game isn’t being designed by David Cronenberg.

Ava:Everything about this looks ridiculous, and probably not quite deft enough to be a truly superb dexterity game. You literally set the game up by dropping all of the other bits on the octopus’s head. The octopus also moves around the table randomly, according to a dice – which is dropped on its head. If you successfully collect treasure by flicking it at your boat, you have to keep it physically on your boat, which means it could all fall back in the water at a moment’s notice. This kind of silliness is just adorable.

Matt: I think I might be a HUGE fan of this? The box pops, the pieces look incredible, even the use of blue string with beady-bits on it as a perimeter for the game is delightfully nautical AND an elegant bit of design – the fact that rolling the dice is also an opportunity to try and bounce it off the octopus’s bonce and into another player’s ship? This very, very silly and I absolutely want to play it.

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