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Games News! 07/05/18

Paul: All right, everyone, stand back. We’ve had reports of some unexploded Games News here and so our team of experts are stepping in to carefully, cautiously and capably dismantle and defuse this thing. This is a complex process and meticulous work.

Quinns: Is it? Nah, let’s dive straight in with the story that’s impossible to avoid: There’s a new edition of X-Wing coming! It gets a wide release in September, after a GenCon reveal, but is it different enough?

Paul: Well! From launch, it will include all three factions (Rebel Bois, Imperial Gals and “Scum and Villainy,” which I think is a cleaning product), drop in special new force powers and also add Resistance and First Order ships as two new “fully-fledged” factions as expansions. Fantasy Flight say all these factions will now feel more distinct and different in how they play and that a new squad-builder app will make squadron recruitment, customisation and organised play easier. This means that point costs and upgrades are no longer listed on cards, but instead tracked by the app. I’m not sure if I like that little detail, but a tool to help you craft and customise your games does sound promising.

Quinns: Peeping closer, there’s also new mechanics for stress, for repairing damaged ships mid-battle, for turrets and and for limited use upgrades. Of course, if you’re already sunk all your space dollars into the first edition, changing up may not appeal. Fantasy Flight are hoping to turn you to their light side (Or dark side? Or soap scum/limescale side?) with conversion kits, one available per launch faction, with more planned for the Resistance and First Order.

Paul: FFG are listing those kits for fifty galactic credits each, so conversion won’t be cheap, but this a story repeated since the dawn of time: A new edition of a game attempts to fix all of the problems with the previous one, with its many expansions and its wobbly meta. Die-hards will be unhappy, others will welcome the rebalancing and heavily-invested veterans will want to cling onto their beloved edition like sloths onto branches. And what’s wrong with sloths? NOTHING.

Quinns: I know what you like to cling to, Paul, and that’s  good ol’ dungeon crawlers like Ravage: Dungeons of Plunder!

Designer and artist Ian Schofield is really diving into the hobby with this colourful debut, which has three different ways to play. As well as the conventional “dungeon master versus team of adventurers,” there’s also a full co-op mode and also the option to play solo, with randomly-generated encounters. Dungeons are built according to a deck of cards, meaning they can be different every time you play, and Ravage promises a lot of variety. Does it tickle your Heroquest itch, Paul?

Paul: It might do! I certainly like the variety and the randomness it looks to be offering. That suggests a lot of expansion possibilities and, though I’ve often been ambivalent about expansions in board games, in a context like this they might have a lot to offer and there could be a long tale on this feisty beast. And who doesn’t like long tails?

I’ve become a bit of a fan of Red Raven Games over the years, really enjoying both Above and Below and Eight Minute Empire, as well as liking-but-not-loving Near and Far. The news that Megaland was coming at the end of the year interested all of my piques, but what particularly caught my attention was word that this quick-playing, push-your-luck game of fantasy adventuring would, like Fog of Love, be another retailer exclusive (Target, this time!).

Quinns: That’s a mixed bag. It means it will be put on a lot of shelves in front of a lot of customers, but it also makes it harder for folks in countries like, say, Anywhere-Not-In-The-US to get hold of. Megaland looks like one of Red Raven’s lighter and more accessible designs and I can see how it would be pitched to a more general audience, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting, nor does it make team SU&SD any less curious to try it, even in the Target-less lands we inhabit (EDIT: See the comments below for an update on this, it looks like Target’s exclusive distribution deal still means “international” stores can order from them).

Re-theming old rules with new concepts is a curious thing, but it’s happened several times over now and the latest example is Gunkimono, a game of area control and tile placement in feudal Japan. The game promises a constant tension between developing your home stronghold and deploying troops across the realm, which is not unlike one of the core concepts in…

Paul: …2009’s Heartland, a game about developing farms and choosing between scoring short-term harvests or making long-term farming investments! Gunkimono is using the same rules, but for an entirely different concept, rather like how we reported on the Greek city state game Attika transforming into U.S. Telegraph, a game about the old west. Change is good, but in both cases I think I prefer the original concepts for being a little more uncommon!

Quinns: Remember how we reported on the release of all those games that the CIA had been using to train its operatives? Diegetic Games have only gone and teamed up with the blog Techdirt to put together a game based on the CIA’s Collection Deck. The project, now called Collect it All (such a coy CIA acronym) is up on Kickstarter and has already abseiled far past its funding goal.

Is this all legal? It sure seems so, as the original CIA game counts as a work of the United States Federal Government and so is not subject to copyright, says Techdirt editor Mike Masnick, in this interview.

PaulHere’s a weird diversion I just had to mention: There’s a Eurovision board game coming where you have to both “test your knowledge” but also prepare to take part in the famous contest. The announcement says precious little more, but teases a costume card that says “Streetwear,” suggesting you can dress up for your performance and…

Wait, you know what Eurovision is, right?

Okay! One of the best things about the Eurovision Song Contest is just explaining it. Every year, countries across Europe all unite in one megaconcert, deploying singers to perform songs of often (deliberately) questionable quality, before then scoring each other’s work and inevitably being biased toward neighbour countries and best buddies. It’s always silly but it’s also always good fun and very rewarding to see so many countries united by one very cheesy event.

A board game interpretation of this could be just the most wonderful thing, especially if it captures the petty rivalries and consensual tackiness that define it. Is this the game that will do that? Maybe? I live in hope. (Or who am I kidding, this could also be HIDEOUS.)

Quinns: There’s just time to defuse one last explosive announcement. Last year, six-year-old designer Vienna Chou worked with her father Hoby to create the print-and-play game My Little Scythe, inspired by Scythe but featuring many more animals. Now Stonemeier Games are releasing a boxed, polished version and it looks just charming. Go on, admit it, this is the Scythe sequel you always wanted.

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

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Podcast #77: Shipping & Deceiving

HONK! After a long journey, the latest Shut Up & Sit Down podcast is now docking with your ears. The pinnacle of opinion-container technology, it’s 400 metres long bow to stern (but you shouldn’t feel a thing since it’s largely metaphorical).

The thing is, the boys have finally played Container, a ridiculous economic game that’ll be enjoying a similarly ridiculous new “Jumbo” edition in July. This podcast also contains chat about Decrypto (see Paul’s recent review) and Medici, each of which deliver big experiences in small containers.

Finally, we spend a whopping 25 minutes discussing two games: Brass: Lancashire, which is the new edition of classic game Brass, and Brass: Birmingham, the hot new “sequel”. We’ve now played both of these much-anticipated games, and you know what? Going against Quinns’ Brass video review, Shut Up & Sit Down can finally recommend Brass. But you’ll have to listen to find out why…

Enjoy, everybody!

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

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Review: Decrypto

Paul: I have never, in my life, seen so much frantic, last-minute lying. I’ve never seen so many misunderstandings over cake. I’ve never thought I’d have to explain to someone how oil is obviously, indisputably associated with Texas. And I never thought a tiny misunderstanding over a simple word like “heat” could, and would, ruin everything.

But that’s Decrypto for you, a game of discord and deception that somehow ends up fraught, funny and absolutely fantastic. It sets you the simplest of challenges and creates the most convoluted complications as you and your friends try to tell secrets out in the open, right in front of each other.

BUT FIRST: The caveat. Decrypto sounds so knee-curlingly boring that when I try to explain it I doubt my own ability to advocate for board games. Please, please, bear with me as I again try to explain it to *you*, my favourite of all our readers, after already practicing on myself, three friends and a cat. When I broke out pens and paper, the friends thought I was giving them homework. The cat fell asleep.

You and your fellow decryptors split into two teams, meaning you’ll need at least four souls to play. Both teams put up a cardboard screen into which they slot four secret words, words the opposing team will never see. Someone on each team draws a card that contains a secret three digit code referencing three of those words, a code which they will get their teammates to guess by writing down other words associated with them. Simple, right?

For example, if they’re staring at words like “Summer” and “Path” and “Egg” and “Psychiatrist,” and they draw a code like 4-3-1, they might write clues like “Couch” and “Bird” and “Sunny.” Their teammates would surely guess that they’re referring first to the fourth word, then the third, then the first and, lo – 4, 3, 1? – they have successfully passed the first round! What could be easier? Do they get a point, you ask? No. They do lose points if the guesses fail. BUT HOW COULD THAT POSSIBLY HAPPEN?

Hold that thought (here, I got you a basket to put it in). The other team also play the same simple guessing game and everyone moves on to the next round, all smiles and success. Everybody loves being right! Right? Then someone draws a new three digit code and writes down three more related clue words. Maybe it’s 1-2-4, with “Warm” and “Winding” and, um, “Brain”? That’s good enough! Nobody associates brains with summer. Or eggs. They guess the code correctly. Everyone grins.

Here’s the catch, the kind of subtle snag that bores into you like a splinter: Both teams are listening to each other. While they never see the other side’s four holy and secret words, they hear the clues that are given and the codes guessed. They know 1-2-4 matches up with “Warm” and “Winding” and “Brain.” They know that first word is related to both “Warm” and “Sunny.” Maybe they’ve guessed it’s “Summer” or maybe not, but they never even need to guess the exact words, they just have to build up enough information to guess the other team’s codes based on the clues they hear. And each turn they’re hearing more and more, collecting clue after clue, so the next time they hear a clue they think is related to “Warm” or “Sunny,” they can guess that it refers to the number 1.

Pretty soon both teams have a collection of clues related to each other’s guesses. You realise that all the other team’s music-related clues relate to their fourth word, while it’s obvious now they deduced “Bird” and “Fry” and “Ovoid” and “Hatch” all lead to the same number and… is that sweat on your brow? You’re safe-cracking with a thesaurus and it’s only a matter of time until one team guesses the other’s latest code, dismantling their clues like some diligent etymilogical detective. Each rival code guessed is a point and by amassing just two points, your team wins the game.

Now you get it. Now you understand how Decrypto is so much smarter, so much sneakier than it first appears. You start offering the dumbest clues you can just to buy time, just to throw your rivals off. What’s a good clue for “Summer” going to be? “Lovin’” maybe? Sure! WAIT WHY DO MY TEAM THINK LOVIN’ IS ASSOCIATED WITH EGGS. I don’t care that Al Pacino was in Heat, says your friend. They’ve never seen Heat. HOW COULD YOU NOT GET TO CUMBERBATCH FROM EGGS LAST TURN. Suddenly, it’s all gone wrong.

These failed code guesses are what dock you points and make your opponents even MORE likely to win, meaning you have to expertly walk the line between vague and incomprehensible, as if trying to pass some sort of lexical sobriety test. And now, now, you’re truly playing Decrypto. Regardless of whoever wins the first game, you say it doesn’t count. The next match has you immediately savvier, slyer, weaving around words like a snake around rocks, trying your best to veer in the weirdest direction you can when you think your enemies are on your tail.

Do you see? Did I sell it well enough? Because I am recommending Decrypto as hard as I recommend our beloved Codenames, particularly if that’s also a game you adore. It lends itself toward the same magnificent miscommunications, the same head-slapping hilarity, though in an entirely different way.

Words are jigsaw pieces that we all assemble according to our own personal protocols and as soon as games ask us to guess one another’s interpretations, to drill down on exactly how the little librarians in each of our brains is arranging their shelves, we quickly become baffled, amazed, astounded and alarmed. Why can’t you think the way I do!?

But I’m sure you can also see that Decrypto is one of the most monochrome things we’ve been excited about since… since Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space. It’s grey and grim, looking like a marriage between an eye test and a tax form, only coming alive in the choices and the chaos that it creates, a paper Frankenstein animated by this human electricity. It’s also a party game that you barely even need the components for. You could play Decrypto almost as well by thumbing through a dictionary four times and using a random number generator to make your codes.

Yet I still love it. I even love how it has to be seen to be believed, first in the teaching and then in the playing, so much so that even ambivalent board gamers I’ve shown it to have come to enjoy it simply because almost everyone enjoys and immediately relates to the act of trying to trick your friends.

Everyone has their in-jokes and secret references, which they try to bust out at just the right moment. Everyone enjoys trying to pretend the clues they were given are VERY BAD AND DEFINITELY NOT IMMEDIATELY OBVIOUS, NO SIR. Everyone enjoys busting out the optional sand timer to make someone else hurry up, just for the sake of being a word-jerk. And who doesn’t want to be a word-jerk?

I do. I want to be a word-jerk. I sure hope you do, too. If that’s never appealed, if word games or party games have never been your bag, Decrypto isn’t going to yank the handbrake on your life and spin your tastes a full 180, but otherwise I recommend everyone else, everyone else, try this. Try it in two teams of two. Try it with ten players. Try it turn-based or SIMULTANEOUS. Decrypto is a game about which I have barely a bad word to say and it reminds me of the mission with which we began Shut Up & Sit Down seven years ago now: To persuade people like you that a few bits of cardboard in a tiny box could somehow conjure magic and magnificence, right there on your table.

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

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Review: Crystal Clans

Quinns: To look at the box of Crystal Clans, the new 2 player card game from publisher Plaid Hat, is to hear the soaring soundtrack of Saturday morning cartoons. The bracing breeze of GI Joe! The salty spray of the Thundercats-

Matt: Quinns this is a family show.

Quinns: It sure is, Matthew, and so is Crystal Clans! This box is a bat-signal that immediately summoned my childhood fascination with not just “fantasy” but the fantastical.

Contained within this game’s deliciously diverse clans are knights that ride bees into battle, necromancers who pursue a romantic Dia de los Muertos aesthetic, time-travelling twins and one massive crocodile. This feels like a world for everybody, and the manual doubles-down on that by using the feminine “She” to refer to the player.

Everything in Crystal Clans has a touch of the revolutionary about it, and that extends to the actual game. This is like no other box we’ve ever reviewed.

It works like this: First, two players each pick a clan with its own unique deck and thought-provoking play style. There are six clans in the base game, from the tiresome psychics of the Water Clan to the teeming hordes of the Skull Clan, but these are just for starters. Plaid Hat has already announced four more clans as imminent expansions, and they’ve stated that in the future they’ll be selling additional cards for each clan to let players customise their decks a little bit.

Once you’ve each picked a side, the game itself is a race to collect four crystals, a job that will require mastery of the numbered “Initiative track” running down the side of the board (seen above).

On your turn you can pay Initiative to take clansfolk from your hand and deploy them onto the board as a squad, you can pay initiative to move them around the board (and optionally fight the other clan’s squads), and if your squads control two of the board’s three “Crystal Zones” you can pay an exorbitant stack of initiative to collect one of the four crystals you need to win the game.

But here’s the twist: You can do any actions you want, one after the other, until you push the sparkly Initiative token onto your opponent’s side of the board, at which point it’s your opponent’s turn to do whatever she wants in whatever order she wishes. If you pay a whopping 9 initiative to claim a crystal or 11 initiative to summon a killer squad, there’s a sense of handing your opponent all the rope she needs to… not hang you, necessarily, but certainly to tangle your squads up in a lasso.

Fortunately, this isn’t the only way to get crystals. Each player’s deck also acts as a timer. Sure, you can play cards onto the board, or discard cards from your hand so you can draw different ones, or play cards to help you in fights, but every time your little 27 card deck runs out and you need to shuffle your discard pile to form a new draw deck? Your opponent gets a free crystal. The horror!

Oh, and I’ve saved my favourite mechanic for last. If a player sends a squad hiking all the way over to their opponent’s side of the board, those cards can “Invade” her castle to slice a wad of cards off of her deck. If your opponent gives you enough Initiative, sending a fast-moving, high-attack character sprinting down the field to the enemy castle to deliver a deathblow to her deck feels EXACTLY like scoring a goal in a football match. Boof!

Matt: Can I be mean now?

Quinns: Ack, is it that time already? I really wanted to like this game.

Matt: I did too! Crystal Clans is so immediately colourful and clever that to begin with, Quinns and I were puzzled as to why we weren’t having much fun playing it. The ideas and aesthetic sizzle and pop, but underneath the colourful exterior there’s a contest that feels stressful and unkind. You’ve been invited to live in Fraggle Rock, but they’d like you to help them to, well-

Quinns: Optimise their employee workflow?

Matt: Or to do their taxes, yeah.

But if Crystal Clans was just a game at odds with a theme, we could look past that. It’s more that this contrast is useful to describe quite how cold and pragmatic this game is. Decisions feel difficult, strategies feel strained, and satisfaction feels hard to come by. It’s rare that you feel truly committed to the tactical choices you make during the game – any flicker of pride sparked from bold decisions is immediately washed out by the floodlights of dread. Should you really have summoned that cool unit? Should you have taken that crystal now?

Quinns: Yeah. The good play in Crystal Clans is often the economic, conservative play- success against a skillful opponent will take every ounce of caution and care you can muster, and we found ourselves thinking about our turns for several minutes. But if you stop paying attention for one second, mistakes will lose you the game in a heartbeat. If you leave the wrong card as the leader of a squad that might mean their destruction, which could lead to giving your opponent board control, which could lead to them claiming their 3rd crystal, which would allow them to recklessly claim the 4th in a kamikaze play. Game over.

Matt: Yep. The apparent freedom offered by the initiative tracker is, in practice, almost the opposite. You can at any point make dramatically *big moves*, but whenever I did so I handed you such a huge boon that every ounce of my brain screamed “THIS WAS A MISTAKE”. Big plays let your opponent make similarly big plays, making Crystal Clans a game of not playing bravely or cunningly, but simply being correct, searching for the single most economic play. Which is, as you say, hard work.

I hope we’re being crystal clear when we say that nobody should buy Crystal Clans because they want to amass majickal gems with a gang of dandelion-wielding fairies. You should buy this game because you enjoy trapping your opponent in a cage of efficiencies.

Quinns: But that’s not right either! We need to talk about the combat cards. Another jigsaw piece that doesn’t quite fit together with the rest of the game.

Matt: Oh gosh, you’re right.

Quinns: So, whenever there’s a fight in Crystal Clans the players look at the strip running along the bottom of the cards in their hand. You each need to pick a card from your hand that is either Bold, Watchful or Tricky, and will have a different, unique effect on combat depending on whether it beats your opponent’s card in a rock-paper-scissors hierarchy.

So now we’ve got a game where you have to think carefully about every move… and yet when two squads fight, you can never be sure what’ll happen, so you can’t plan ahead. Also, while this theoretically makes a minigame out of predicting whether your opponent will play an aggressive, defensive or weird card, in practice players are often holding 1 or 0 cards in their hand (at which point they draw blindly off the deck), making this game of prediction… utterly unpredictable.

But worst of all, this system piles yet more numbers into Crystal Clans’ already-overburdened combat. Whenever two players flip their combat cards to see what happens, there’s rarely a cry of anguish or excitement, but rather the silence of two players figuring out what happened by adding and subtracting as many as sixteen integers spread across eight cards: Your strength of 2+(1×5)+4+4+2 minus my defense of 1+8+4+4, then my strength of 2+2+3+2 minus your defense of 8+4+3. Sums like these aren’t necessarily bad in a board game, but it’s hardly ideal to have them in the throat of every one of Crystal Clans’ most tense moments.

Matt: Yep. It’s a weirdly opaque system that demands a lot of consideration, yet where an unexpected card frequently slam-dunks your plans into a bin in a fashion in which no-one takes a great deal of pleasure because nobody planned it!

As a man who spends most of his life happily losing games, it’s striking how little fun failure is here: you’ll probably walk away with a gut sense of what you did to deserve a loss in a game of Crystal Clans, but all but the most competitive players are unlikely to want to put it into practice.

Quinns: I was definitely eager to play Crystal Clans for as long as it took me to try all six clans and see all of the art and ideas they contained, but after that my interest bottomed out.

Matt: Yeah. I didn’t dislike the time I spent with it, but I’ve absolutely no desire to get better at it, which is a death-knell for a competitive game. And for me, honestly, that feels *deeply unusual*. When we reviewed Tigris & Euphrates we waffled about the importance of appreciating “a fine move” – and I think that’s what’s crucially lacking here. If a player is better than you in this game, they’ll grind you down across thirty minutes of playing correctly and beating you at rock paper scissors. And if Crystal Clans isn’t much fun when you’re losing, it means it frequently isn’t fun for half the people playing. If you then want that same person to keep on playing with you, that might be a problem.

Quinns: And this is where I want to leap in and defend the game, because when two players are having a really close game, I’ve had moments where I’ve been able to see through the tangle of ideas to the design that I think Plaid Hat were aiming for.

A truly great game of Crystal Clans is a delicate, slow-motion fencing match. Each of you spends only as much initiative as you dare, deploying a squad here, advancing one there, only starting fights when you think you have the cards to come out of it better. And it has a really fabulous pace to it, too, where you have a series of small turns, followed by a couple of BIG TURNS that ROCK THE BOARD, followed by both players biding their time and waiting to see what happens.

Matt: And how often do games like that happen?

Quinns: Erm, in my experience? Well, when I started playing Crystal Clans that was about one game in three, but then I got better at the game than my friends and those close games that made the design sing dried up completely. Also, my friends don’t want to play with me anymore. But you and I could fix that! Do you wanna get good at the game together?

Matt: Not really! I don’t think it’s a bad game, it’s just not one I’m interested in playing.

Quinns: Yeah. I am really curious about the other clans they’re releasing, but I think that’s mostly because I want to see more of Martin Abel’s art.

That said, even the art’s made disappointingly small on the cards by the crush of mechanics around them. Which might be a bit of an apt metaphor for the game.

If you’re looking for a one vs. one fantasy card game that’s simpler, more accessible and infinitely more exciting than this one, Plaid Hat’s own Summoner Wars is still pots of fun. If you’ve not yet spent some time with that gem then you can’t go wrong picking up one of the two deck starter sets, and if you enjoy yourself you could splurge on the Alliances Master Set, a box containing a whopping eight decks.

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

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Podcast #76: Long John’s Bad Mind

It’s been a while since the last podcast, but we’ve not been idle! Like a board game version of Nintendo’s Kirby, over the last month the team has been sucking in experiences and now we’re going to expel them at you in a 90 minute special episode. Boomf!

In order of appearance, Matt, Quinns and Paul discuss The Mind, Cardline: Animals, Bye-Bye Black Sheep, Kemet: Set (which is so new it doesn’t even have a Board Game Geek page!), Treasure Island, Fireball Island (which has just 8 days left on that Kickstarter) and Bunny Kingdom. That might be more games than we’ve ever had on a podcast before, and you know what else? They’re ALL GOOD.

Finally, we soothe our aching jaws with a gentle chat about what makes kingmaking (one player causing another player to win) enjoyable in a game, and what makes it frustrating. Lovely stuff.

New podcast feeds (if you’re missing episodes 71 onwards, try these):

iTunes
Google Play
RSS for your favourite player

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

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GAMES NEWS! 23/04/18

Paul: Do you like games? And do you like news? If so, you’re in EXACTLY the right place. Even as I type these words, news about games is forming out of the very air itself. It speckles and shines like morning dew, so here we are collecting only the freshest of drops-

Quinns: paul there has been another SCANDAL

After acquiring the license for the Alien franchise, publisher Wonderdice announced the forthcoming USCSS Nostromo, a co-operative survival horror game about trying to escape from the film’s famous shiny space monster. So far, so promising. However, soon after the announcement, French designer François Bachelart stepped forward to say that the game was a copy of a design he’d already pitched to Wonderdice, four years back.

Paul: Now, we know that game mechanics can’t be copyrighted, but it doesn’t mean that Bachelart can’t still be justified in his frustration, nor be ignored for the work he has done. The French Société des Auteurs de Jeux came out in support of him and expressed their disdain for Wonderdice, which seems to have lead to the publisher approaching Bachelart and, according to their Facebook page, “reaching an agreement.”

Quinns: Hopefully this means that the issue has been resolved as fairly as possible. Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened and it definitely won’t be the last, certainly not as long as board games begin to become more profitable and attract ever more exciting licenses.

Big news today for anyone who started playing the FABULOUS Arkham Horror Card Game after our review, as well as anyone who might be questioning the game’s high price.

This week Fantasy Flight Games announced Return to the Night of the Zealot, the game’s first “Upgrade Expansion” that will allow players to revisit a completed campaign with all sorts of horrid new tweaks and twists. If you also took this opportunity to crank up the difficulty and play with a different player count, you’ll be looking at a totally different experience.

Our biggest criticism of the Arkham Card Game was that campaigns were pretty expensive for what they were. In offering players the chance to play a “New Game+” at a substantially reduced price, this game just got a lot more reasonable. Also, we now finally have a box to store campaigns in. Thank the many-tentacled lord.

Meanwhile, Plaid Hat has announced new expansions for both Ashes, which we reviewed here, and the new game of Crystal Clans, which is literally the top game in my current review stack. I can’t wait to give it a shot, but in the meantime, we filmed this preview at SHUX.

For Ashes, Spirits of Memoria will add Phoenixborn Sembali Grimtongue, while Demons of Darmas will add the dastardly Harold Westraven. They’re just saying nouns at random, and I love it. Meanwhile, in the fay world of Crystal Clans, you can read about the Feather, Fang, Leaf and Shadow clans here. It’s like Saturday Morning cartoons, and I love it EVEN MORE

Paul: On the subject of exciting things, the game that has most grabbed my attention this week is Teotihuacan: City of Gods, by Tzolk’in and Marco Polo designer Daniele Tascini, due out later this year. It’s an elaborate game of dice placement and tile placement in Mesoamerica, due for release later this year, and I’m intrigued by both the setting and the opportunity to build a pyramid, the best of all buildings.

Reiner Knizia is involved in a new title from Chaosium, yet another Lovecraft-inspired horror, though the first from Chaosium since the gigantic, clumsy and yet influential Arkham Horror came out over thirty years ago. Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection looks a lot smaller than Arkham Horror and is far more thematically Lovecraftian, having you chase books around a library instead of monsters around a town. Like so many fancy Kickstarters these days, it is already funded.

Paul: Here’s a curious thing. Stats and metrics website Fivethirtyeight have prodded BoardGameGeek highest rated games and declared that toppling new champion Gloomhaven (see our review here) from the top 100 may be extraordinarily difficult because it has so many 10/10 ratings that it’s average is virtually unassailable. Rather than a spread of ratings, as many other games have, Gloomhaven has more than half those who have rated it giving it the top score. It’s either rated as great, or it’s barely rated at all.

It’s a quick, simple and lucid look at how statistics can work and what they do in a system like that. It’s also, hopefully, a reminder to people that scores are just numbers, and that getting frustrated by ratings and trying to work out what the best board game is not worth as much of your time as getting a good night’s sleep or making sure you’re eating well. I for one, look forward to a future where Gloomhaven is forever rated as the best game, perhaps even the best thing, that has ever existed, since I still haven’t played it and it doesn’t affect how much I enjoy mushroom risotto.

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

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Review: Magic Maze & Maximum Security

Are you ready for what might well be the silliest and most manic game of the year? This week, Matt and Quinns try out the ridiculous Magic Maze and then immediately lose themselves in the expansion, Maximum Security, which has a worryingly serious name for something that looks so bright and barmy.

Can they survive the stress of the Magic Maze? Can they escape with their loot? Why are we asking so many questions today? Are you all right? Have you had a good week? Would you like a muffin?

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

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GAMES NEWS! 16/04/18

Paul: Welcome, friends,welcome, to a Games News packed with surprise, sensationalism and scandal. It’s a cardboard cornucopia, with everything from Battle Royale to Battlestar Galactica. Are you ready? Let’s start with scandal. No kidding, this may well be board gaming’s first big crime story and it involves some serious money.

Southeast Asian company Boarders Tabletop Game Studio has been a Kickstarter distributor for some time now, taking group pledges for projects such as Gloomhaven and helping customers in this not-always-so-well-served region save money. However, as Calvin Wong reports over at BoardGamePrices, things have taken a very shady turn recently, with both customers and publishers saying that the once popular Boarders seem to have evaporated into thin air, taking tens of thousands of dollars worth of games and money with them.

Wong quotes a Kickstarter update from Mighty Boards, who say that Boarders stopped responding to all communication after they received their shipment of Petrichor, and now consider “this cargo (along with our downpayment for fulfillment) as stolen.” It’s since turned out Boarders have failed to pay a host of publishers, many of them very established not what anyone could call naive or new to the industry, including Petersen Games, Roxley Games and Victory Point Games.

Sure, this isn’t the first time a Kickstarter hasn’t been properly fulfilled, but this is so much bigger. An intermediary repeatedly cheating both customers and clients? And on such an extensive scale? Wong reports that disgruntled parties have reached out to both the police and legal experts, and promises he’ll post more updates as the situation develops. This is definitely a story worth following and Wong is doing some strong journalism, so I recommend you read his full feature.

Onto much less alarming topics now, with the news that a space combat game based on Battlestar Galactica is on its way from publisher Ares Games. Designed by Andrea Angiolino and Andrea Mainini, known for their work on the classic Wings of Glory and Sails of Glory series, Battlestar Galactica – Starship Battles will let players “take control of one or more Colonial and Cylon ships, and face each other in furious dogfights and many other different kinds of missions.”

Expect fully-painted miniatures again (not the cardboard prototypes here) and “innovative mechanics” that suggest a new take on the space shoots. The “other different kinds” statement there has me hoping there will be more than just dogfights to try. The Wings of Glory-inspired X-Wing (as well as Armada) has more than sated my appetite for vanilla ship-to-ship combat, so I’m interested to see what this might add to the mix. Special objectives? Bombing runs? Rescue attempts? A lady in a dress that nobody else can see?

Also tickling my ears this week are whispers of a Battle Royale-inspired game called Last One Standing. The explosive popularity of Fortnite and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds has brought forth all sorts of clones of these popular video games, but we didn’t expect to see one of those arrive in cardboard form, parachuting straight toward our tabletops.

Last One Standing will follow that same formula: Players fight to the death in an ever-shrinking combat zone, dashing about to try and find weapons, picking each other off until one victor remains. While player elimination is definitely not everybody’s cup of tea and many of us don’t enjoy sitting out the rest of the game if bad decisions or bad luck kill us off, designer Brendan McCaskell says that the game plays fast and that the bodies only start to fall toward the end of play. There’s a Kickstarter coming next month, so keep your eyes on the horizon.

Speaking of Kickstarters, this week I found my curiosity compass pointing toward the co-operative horror The Faceless. No wonder, as the game features a host of magnets that manipulate and direct its own compass, a curious prop that sits at the center of everything. Players move that compass around a board to collect clues, changing its direction of travel indirectly by moving nearby miniatures that have magnets in their bases.

While I’m not sure if this is a compelling mechanic in itself, I’m sure I was saying years ago (God, I’m old) that there must surely be a clever way to use magnets as props or components in a board game. Am I finally vindicated? Or will I die a visionary who was never appreciated in their own time? Vote now with your phones.

Quinns, Matt and I are about to fly off to enjoy our first ever trip to The Gathering of Friends in Niagra, New York, so I’m going to leave you with just one more bit of very special news this week: WE’VE SOLD 60% OF THE TICKETS FOR SHUX ALREADY and so if you’re interested in coming to our next convention, we suggest you do not delay.

True, this year we’re doing a much larger convention in a much larger venue, but at this rate we could be sold out pretty quickly. Like last year, there is the possibility that we can release a few more tickets as we work out floor plans and make efficient use of space, but our intention is not to cram people in and, oh my goodness, we had so many disappointed people last year who held off. Book early! Sort out your travel arrangements presently! Then you can feel safe and secure in the knowledge that you’re on your way to Canada’s very best board game convention.

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

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SU&SD Play… The World Wide Wrestling RPG!

Did you enjoy watching SU&SD play Dungeons & Dragons under superb GM Mark Hulmes? Well we’re afraid that’s irrelevant, because today we’ve got something completely different.

Anyone who’s been following our RPG reviews will know that there’s a lot more to these games than D&D, and today we’re showing off an absolute belter: The World Wide Wrestling RPG. Contained in this one hour video is a one hour Wrestling TV special, and only one of our contestants can come out on top.

Are you cheering the loudest for Batterin’ Berg, Warrbeast, The Bristol Mudler or Car Boy? Or will you just jeer and throw beer cans at ring? Let us know in the comments.

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

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Review: Through the Desert

Quinns: When I’m teaching games, I always start with a thematic sales pitch. “We’re terrifying wizards out to prove ourselves,” I might tease. “We’re nasty, competitive park planners.” “We’re Scottish lairds exploring our very own island!” It’s a fun way to get people excited and offer a handle on what’s about to happen.

With the recent remake of Reiner Knizia’s Through the Desert, that just had to stop. “We’re all making caravans of camels,” I’d haltingly explain, “But the caravans can’t cross, like how you can’t cross the streams in Ghostbusters. The camels come in five colours, and when we run out of a camel the game’s over. Also, we’re not actually going through the desert? We’re kind of going around it… Mostly we just want water? They probably should have called it Reiner Knizia’s Thirsty Twerps.”

Thank goodness, then, Through the Desert speaks for itself the moment you start playing. This game is absolutely phenomenal. With the fabulous new edition, it’s hard to imagine a simpler, more satisfying, prettier game.

That’s what the board looks like at the start of Reiner Knizia’s Thirsty Twerps. A wet, peaceful desert full of lush oases that everyone can slurp from (marked by palm trees) and pocked with little pond tiles that only one person can drink from.

The next step of setup is for each of your 2-5 players to place the “leaders” of their 5 different coloured caravans, with all of you trying to get the close to the best rewards. Like so:

Instantly, the desert feels crowded, and it’s only going to get worse as players start deploying a nightmarish quantity of camels like big, bumpy barriers.

Playing the game couldn’t be simpler. On your turn you extend any of your five caravans by attaching two camels of their colour. If you manage to connect your caravan to a new oasis, great! That’s five points. If you manage to stretch your caravan onto a pond, that’s just dandy. You pick up the token which might be worth one, two or three points.

But wait! There’s more! If you manage to totally wall off a segment of the board with no other caravans inside it, usually by drawing a semi-circle against one of the board’s edges, you claim all of its water AND get one point for every empty space inside it, which is amazingly human. Congratulations! All those acres of sterile sand are yours and yours alone.

So initially, Thirsty Twerps is thrilling because the points flow like rain upon your point-starved soul. Like a cerebral Hungry Hungry Hippos, players are able to extend their wickedly-placed caravans just an inch here and there, scooping up great handfuls of points. Oasis! Pond! Another oasis! Enclosure!

And then almost imperceptibly, just after Thirsty Twerps has rewarded everybody with easy points and territory and left you wanting more, it sloooowly starts to lock into an agonising area control game. There’s a really nice design lesson in there: if you want players to put in work, you first need to make them care.

The moment you start eyeing up resources that are a little further afield, you realise that this board is a minefield. Any player on any turn might launch out and grab the final parking space at an oasis, or slip past one of your “walls” and ruin EVERYTHING. Worse, because two caravans of the same colour can’t even occupy adjacent hexes (because obviously that would fuse the two caravans in an abhorrent display of ludic inbreeding), an opponent placing just one camel near one of your like-coloured caravans can instantly bar you from three hexes. The camels might only be sweet little pastel-coloured pieces, but the design here means that placing them has incredible gravity, even moreso than in the phenomenally popular Ticket to Ride.

This is what makes Thirsty Twerps such a clever game. Players weigh up the ways they could get points, and then weigh that against the moves their opponents might make, and you know you’ve gotten this balance right when the claiming of a single space with a single teeny camel causes a calamitous cry of “F**K” from one of your opponents because they KNEW they should have claimed that LAST TURN and they DIDN’T.

All of which makes Thirsty Twerps intelligent, but that’s different from what makes it fun. This is a contest with an amusingly human edge. Often you’re counting on players not noticing the hateful play you’re about to make, which means when they do notice and place the camel that blocks you, you can only grin. Did you really expect them to be that stupid? But for the most part, Through the Desert is fun because it encourages you to build castles out of sand, dreaming up plays that seem too good to be true, and then… you get away with them. Because guess what? Other players would like to block you, but mostly, they’re intent on completing their own schemes, and you’re only one opponent in a crowd. Your dreams literally come true: You can wall off a sixth of the board, or have an oasis all to yourself, or slurp down that three point water right next to your friend’s caravan leader.

This is the heart of Through the Desert. It’s a game of fabulous tension, but where you mostly just watch your opponents block one another and feel like you’re getting away with murder (so long as you’re not playing it with just two people, at which point it becomes a lot colder). Similarly, in creating a playing area that’s cramped from the start it seems like THERE’S NO TIME, but the development of the board is actually pretty slow, allowing everyone to get tens and tens of points. It’s a design that manufactures incredible thirst, but also offers plenty of ice cold water. You can have a laugh at players batting the drink out of your hand, but you still get your fill.

And yet you can’t drink yourself into exhaustion, either. Before you can even begin to get tired with all of this decision-making, Thirsty Twerps enters an unusually sedate final act. As if a sun was setting over your desert (or what really looks more like a packed hoofed mammal music festival) the points start to dry up. The stakes of play are lowered, and players idly work towards claiming the last few hexes left on the board. It’s an unusual structure for a board game, which tend to end with a bang as everyone sweats towards their goal, but here it works brilliantly. The relaxed pace of the first and last ten minutes mean that in my head, Thirsty Twerps is a chilled-out game, which makes me that much more likely to get it to the table. I remember it being easy-going, so I’m always excited to play it, but everyone ends up getting incredibly invested.

There’s not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that this is in my favourite Knizia games ever, up there with the similarly soothing Ra and the nightmarish masterpiece of Tigris & Euphrates. It’s the most similar to Samurai, if you’ve played that, but I think this is better, so it’s a no-brainer to say we recommend it wholeheartedly.

Generally speaking, board gamers always think they want more. A bigger box, more stuff, a longer playtime, a more epic experience. But I think the most fun I’ve had this year was playing games like this or the fabulous Ethnos, where you can finish it with enough energy and time left to talk about how good it is. Then the game makes winners of you all.

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