Welcome to the Dragon’s Peak! In this new weekly post I will be doing my best to bring you highlights from the latest and greatest in game announcements, previews, rulebooks, and all matter of forthcoming game excitement. Because this is the official debut of Dragon’s Peak (and Essen is on the way) it’s going to be a jam packed post as I desperately attempt to catch up on all the games that I’m really interested in and excited about. There were so many games that I ran out of time and had to save some for next week so there will be plenty more to come in the following weeks. Eric Martin over at BoardGameGeek News has been working ferverishly to get the Spiel 2014 Preview up to date so I’d like to thank him for bringing so many of these games to our attention and giving me lots and lots to talk about. Without further delay, get ready to check your bank account and replan your whole budget so that you can afford ALL THESE AWESOME GAMES! *Real disclaimer that is really serious: iSlayTheDragon does not condone irresponsible spending but you should probably do it anyway.
Here’s what I’ll be covering this week:
Perfect Storm: Alaska
Raid and Trade
The Golden Ages
Roll For The Galaxy
Every week I will pick one game that I’m most excited about to highlight first. On this, the very first week, I’m happy to share my enthusiasm about:
Pendragon Game Studio
If you didn’t figure it out from the title or the pictures of the tiles over there, Hexemonia is a game about hexes. More specifically, it’s about building a city state from those hexes. But in the world of tile placement, resource management games you’re going to have to do more than just add an extra two sides to the tiles to stick out from the crowd.
I hadn’t heard of Hexemonia until seeing it’s entry in the Essen preview of BGG earlier this week and the artwork on the tiles is absolutely gorgeous and reminds me of a city building computer game. Even though the artwork initially caught my attention it was this preview from last month over on Opinionated Gamers that really sold me on the game.
One of the intriguing ideas in Hexemonia is how you manage your resources. Not only do not need the correct resources to expand your city state (by acquiring new tiles) but you’ll want the right resources on tiles in order to activate them. You’ll have the balance between expanding and keeping your resources around to power your current buildings. Simply producing enough resources to do everything that you want will present it’s own problem by leading to revolts or making you a tempting target to the other players. This leads to the other way that Hexemonia sets itself apart from other tile placement games, by providing more interaction between players. What’s a game set in ancient Greece without a little bit of fighting. Fabio mentions that players might be content to each build up their own city states without bothering each other or they can pick fights to slow down their opponents while advancing their own position.
Hexemonia looks to be a beautiful and innovative step forward for tile laying games that really embraces the struggle of managing limited resources. Also, we could use more games with hexes! Beautiful beautiful Hexes.
This section will be looking at games that were recently announced or that I’ve just discovered. Often times this will mean there isn’t a lot of information about them yet but I’ll work hard to search the corners of the internet (or at least BGG) for every last detail out there.
Kingsmen is a game of hidden identities and partnership. It’s a game of deduction and scheming. But unlike other games where players have hidden roles and must figure out who’s on their team there isn’t any bluffing. At least that’s the premise of the game, but what exactly does that mean?
Role cards are dealt to the four players each round to determine two partnership: the assassins and guards. Assassins are attempting to kill the king by figuring out who their partner is and then striking together to overwhelm the guards. The guards are simply trying to protect the king by keeping the assassins working separately. What makes things interesting is that the players don’t discuss anything as is often the case in hidden role games. There’s no bluffing because you’ll never discuss, or try to lie about, what roles you think the other players have. Instead, each round one of the players is an Advisor who collects one card from each player and reveals them without showing who played which cards. If the cards are played in proper combination such as two Assassination cards then the Assassins succeed in killing the king. The guards main way to win is simply to make it through all eight rounds without the king ending up dead. Each Assassin only has one Assassin card so they will first want to figure out who their partner is before they can time their attack. A Reveal card can be used to look at what role the Advisor is but only if a Defend was not also played. The Advisor changes to another player at the end of each round so at any point there may be either 2 guards or 2 assassins playing cards.
I imagine this ends up playing a bit like a traditional card game mixed with hidden role games such as The Resistance. Each player has an identical starting hand with either an extra Defend card (for the Guards) or an Assassin card (for the Assassins). Card counting, using the information about what’s been played, and anticipating what the other players will do all play key rolls in success for either role.
Kingmen is available now on gamecrafter.
The latest entry in Rosenberg’s 2-player line attempts to shows that he doesn’t just make games about farming. He has become quite well know for masking quite heavy games under very friendly looking exteriors but these 2-player games have simplified the rules and concepts behind both Agricola and Le Havre in order to fit them in a much more manageable package. Patchwork isn’t based on any previous design but takes this philosophy to heart by offering a friendly theme on top of a quick game packed with tense decisions. There’s still an emphasis on spatial reasoning and action optimization but this time around you’ll be making a beautiful quilt instead of digging in the dirt.
Both players start with an empty quilt (9 x 9 grid) that they will be filling up with patches of various shapes and sizes from a ring of available pieces. Inside the ring of patches is a central board that works as a sort of time tracker that provides the player that’s behind on the track to take the next action. That player can either purchase a patch based on the location of the spool which indicates available pieces or pass and catch up to the other player’s current location on the track. Buying a piece costs buttons (the game’s point system) and takes a certain amount of time, advancing that player a given amount of spaces along the time track. Purchased pieces are then placed onto the player’s personal quilt and crossing over a button on the central board will trigger an income based on the number of buttons the player currently has on their quilt. Hopefully your quilt is complete by the time you reach the center of the time track. Any empty spaces will cost you precious buttons and the player with the best quilt, I mean most impressive collection of buttons, wins.
I wasn’t initially drawn in by Patchwork when it was first announced despite Rosenberg being one of my favorite designers. I can confidently say now that I have taken the time to read about the game I am very excited to add it to his increasing offering of excellent 2-player games. Patchwork not only appears to be the friendliest of the three (very impressive considering it has no animeeples) but also with the most streamlined and accessible gameplay.
Perfect Storm: Alaska
Alright, I’ll admit that I might be jumping the gun a little bit with this one but I was very excited to see that the fantastic NSKN Games (Exodus, Praetor, Progress) has four more games planned for the future. For a small publisher this is very impressive news indeed. There are some details for Perfect Storm: Alaska but it’s not projected for release until January 2016 so keep this one bookmarked because it’s going to be a while yet.
However, the description provided is intriguing enough to get my interest if being published by NSKN Games didn’t. Everybody loves the story of a weathered captain and his crew braving a storm and Perfect Storm: Alaska gives you the chance to be that captain in pursuit of a might catch. Well, the king crab that you’re after may not pass for “mighty” but the terrifying storm is very real indeed.
You’ll start out with a humble boat and crew, fishing in shallow waters. But as the game progresses you’ll be able to hire veteran crew members and a sturdy boat to sail deeper for more profitable catches. The weather system presents the players with varying wind speeds that will affect where they can navigate and how big of a risk they’ll take sailing into deep waters. I’m not sure if I’ve played a fishing game that simulates the harsh conditions and excitement of braving a storm but I’m looking forward to hearing more about Perfect Storm: Alaska as 2016 approaches.
Raid and Trade
Malte Kuhle, Charalampos Tsakiris
Raid & Trade sounds to be a pretty gritty and immersive experience for those of you that like the sounds of scrounging around in outskirts of a post World War 3 battered city. Here’s a brief description of what this looks like:
“In each turn, the players can spend action points to do several actions such as moving through the city, raiding buildings, attacking other players, and more. Each player has a specific skill — mechanic, trader, electrician, bodyguard and medic — and has his own unique items to build; those items can be traded off against other items or resources.”
You’re doing all this in hopes of being the first to fulfill the requirements to enter the Golden City, a refuge from the war torn land. What’s interesting is that the players will have the feeling of banding together as they use their own skills to build and barter items unique to their trade. But in the end only one player can gain access to the Golden City so you may find other players refusing to trade with you or even attacking you if you appear to be doing well and not contributing. Another aspect that caught my attention was a fact that you have 15 action points to spend per turn but fulfilling a win condition requires 20 meaning you’ll have to find a way to get another 5 even if you’ve done everything else you needed to win. We don’t have that many details yet but there’s a preview from the designer for those wanting to hear more and see some of the nice artwork and miniatures.
Well, if NSKN Games’ Perfect Storm: Alaska was a stretch to talk about then showcasing Simurgh with the very very little that we know about it might be pushing my luck. But I don’t care because I absolutely love the sound of this game and hope that they can deliver on the concept. After playing Hyperborea I’m certainly excited to see what Pierluca Zizzi comes up with next.
Here’s the brief description which is about all there is to read about Simurgh at the moment:
“Designed by Pierluca Zizzi, Simurgh is a board building game for 2 to 5 players. Set in a fantasy world, humans and dragons alike are fighting for dominance in an ever changing landscape. Featuring an innovative mechanism of board building, every turn players chose which pieces of the game board are available, competing to gain dominance, exploring, harvesting resources and taming the most impressive dragons the world has ever seen.”
Railroad games, they’re a mixed bag for me but one in particular (Railways of the World) has proven that they can be fantastic when they don’t take too long to play or beat you into the ground for your mistakes. You need not say much more than economic pick-up-and-deliver and you’ll have my attention.
R&R Games generally focuses on quicker playing games and Spike boasts a 60 minute playing time which means it won’t have you up until the break of dawn building tracks and upgrading your train. With the promise to let you become “King of the Rails” in the early 1900’s this may become the next step up from Ticket To Ride that you’ve been looking for.
Kickstarters of Interest
There are those that love Kickstarter and those that hate it. I’ll keep the Kickstarter related games in their own section for anyone that’s interested (or would rather just skip the whole thing).
Mr. B Games
Clockwork Kingdom is a worker placement game that takes place in a steampunk setting where the king has died and a successor must take his place. In case that makes you want to make you skip to the next game let me say one thing to you: Clockwork Throne. Yeah, that’s right. If you become king you get to rule this kingdom from the coolest sounding throne since Game of Thrones. If that doesn’t convince you then you may be interested in the twists that Clockwork Kingdom introduces into the worker placement genre.
First off there are different types of workers that you can perform more powerful actions or provide more influence when placed in specific areas. Workers can be placed in all areas regardless of type so you’ll have to decide when it’s worth using a specialized worker for their improved actions or simply to do something that you need at the moment. Another twist is including the concept of area control as players compete for four separate battlefields that are scored every third round. Assigning workers to aid in a battle will mean that they aren’t providing useful resources or cards that can aid you further along in the game.
Clockwork Kingdom sounds do be a pretty thematic worker placement that embraces the steampunk aesthetic and doesn’t just use it as a pasted on theme. The Kickstarter campaign run until Tuesday (September 23) and you can pick up a copy for $45.
Jason Bulmahn and Minotaur Games may be well know for RPG’s (Pathfinder in particular) but Pirate Loot represents a new venture into quick and thematic card games. The concept and gameplay are extremely simple, you’ll recruit one crew member from your hand each turn in order to have the strongest ship when it comes time to split up the loot. Each crew has a faction, strength, and an effect that either triggers when it comes into play or is ongoing while it remains in play. You’ll then draw back up to five cards and play passes to the next player. In the second half of the draw deck is a “Set Sail” card that signals it’s time to split up the loot. The player with the strongest single faction gets first pick of the loot and this continues in descending order with the weakest player getting nothing. If no player has enough loot to win the game then all cards are returned to the draw deck and another round begins.
Pirate Loot is a quick and interactive set collection game that should serve as an excellent gateway game or filler. The Kickstarter campaign is already funded and runs through Saturday (September 20). Copies are available for $20.
I’m both jealous of and grateful for the people that are lucky enough to get sneak peaks and pre-release copies of games that aren’t out yet. I’m not often one of those people so in this section I’ll bring you our community’s previews, designer diaries, playthroughs, and much more.
Czech Games Edition
I heard about Alchemists back at Origins but when the word app was used I immediately wrote it off and didn’t care to hear anything more about it. I normally eat up pretty much everything that CGE puts out but meddling with technology in board games has been a turn off for me recently. After hearing some people talk about it recently and seeing that beautiful board I decided to see what the game was all about and I must say it may just win me over yet.
I’m still not sure I like the idea of bringing my phone to the board game table (other than to take pictures) but the implementation in Alchemists is both clever and extremely helpful. Deduction games can have a history of having a fiddly setup to randomize what you’re trying to deduce or convoluted mechanics to present players with information. Alchemists avoids both problem but let an app do the heavy lifting on both parts. The setup is handled by simply starting the app and information is presented to the players during experiments by holding your phone up to the ingredients you wish to combine and the app displays the results. It’s as simple as that. No elaborate setup or having to remember and enforce rules so that players can get the right information during the game. The app takes care of everything so that players can enjoy the game, it’s an innovation that I very well may break my “no technology in my games ever” rule for. Just maybe.
You can see a demonstration of the app during Eric Martin’s Origins preview on BGG along with an explanation of the game. It sold me on the concept and introduced me to a really interesting worker placement game that I had nearly written off entirely. Seriously, check it out just to see the really cool image recognition software in action.
The Golden Ages
We have a great community where designers and gamers co-mingle. So it’s a great treat when you can get a preview straight from the designer. For The Golden Age Luigi has already shared several designer diaries providing insight into his concept and design process.
In the first entry we learn how Luigi drew inspiration from the classic Sid Meier’s Civilization computer games and the many attempts to translate this experience to a board game. It wasn’t until several version into his design that he learned you have to sacrifice something from the computer games’ overwhelming complexity in order to avoid the flaws of trying to mimic that original experience.
The second entry begins a summary of the rules and focusing on one aspect that Luigi has found to be frustrating in other civilization games, bookkeeping. More specifically focusing on end of turn maintenance, The Golden Ages attempts to remove all counting from the game and keep players engaged and the pace quick. The trick he mentions is that the maintenance of resources was moved to the middle of the round by caring about the acquisition of resources rather than their holding.
Luigi promises more entries in his designer diary so head over to BGG and subscribe to his blog to follow along in the time leading up to The Golden Age’s release.
What’s Your Game?
Marco Canetta, Stefania Niccolini
You should know pretty much right away if you’re interested in ZhanGuo by looking at that board. If seeing several places to place your bits across a board through clever card play and tableau development excites you then you’re in luck. If it looks like a tan, boring, optimization engine-building game of victory point accumulation then you might be better of skipping this one.
For those in the first camp there are already two lengthy previews provided by game explainer extraordinaire, Paul Grogan. The first preview goes over the theme and general flow of the game where part two goes into more details about the specific actions that the players will be taking. The action in the game is driven by cards that can either be played to your personal tableau or to take actions on the board.
Rather than summarizing Paul’s excellent explanation I’ll simply encourage anyone that’s drooling over that board to head over to BGG to take a look.
You’ve been waiting patiently for details about your favorite designer’s new game. And then it happens – the rulebook gets released into the wild. There’s nothing quite like finally sitting down and pouring over the rules for a game that you’ve been clamoring to hear more about. In the Rulebook Corner I’ll share the latest rules (or ones that I just noticed) and give some first impressions from my own reading.
TIKI Editions is going to make their debut at Essen with the release of their first game, Gaia. Formerly known as Creationa which won the public’s award at the Ludic Days of Quebec, Gaia has been renamed and refined for it’s release. Players are tasked with the creation of the world made up of varying landscape and populated by animals and meeples.
Players take turns drawing cards and playing them to build and populate the world in order to be the first to get all their meeples into play. The world expands by playing Nature cards that let you place a new land tile and keep a record of your deeds, working towards objectives. Once there is land to populate it may be filled with man and animals by playing Life cards. Animals come the world in packs and are used to help satisfy the needs of cities. Your meeples can found a city if they can find a suitable spot that fulfills their needs.
If you want to play as a more creative and destructive creator in order to claim the land for your own people you can also include the Power cards which bring weather and disasters to the land. These cards transform the very face of the world in new ways such as changing landscapes, moving them around, or destroying the very life on the world.
Roll For The Galaxy
Rio Grande Games
Wei-Hwa Huang, Tom Lehman
We’ve heard impressions from Gen Con and seen teasers from Tom Lehman but now the rules have finally surfaced for us to read for ourselves. My initial impressions are that Roll For The Galaxy takes the innovative card driven system that Race uses (role selection, currency/building) and replaces the cards with dice in an equally interesting way. The structure of the round and simultaneous play remain the same such that anyone already familiar with Race could jump right into Roll. In fact, I’m excited to see just how much of the card game shows up here. You’ll find your favorite developments, planets, and synergies all with new powers and mechanics built around the new system. I haven’t even played the game or seen many of the cards yet but I’m already excited to pursue some of my favorite tableaus and engines that were so fun to play in Race. It’s similar enough to almost feel like an expansion but different enough to drastically alter the way that we’ll experience the game.
The most exciting things is reading about how Roll approaches dice mechanics in a way that I haven’t seen before (though Nations: The Dice Game tread similar ground). I’ve talked before about searching for a dice game that uses dice in a satisfying way and I have hope that this game will fianlly let me roll handfuls of dice without having the results be random, albeit exciting, nonsense.
Victory Point Games
Traditional games are well respected in modern board gaming but that doesn’t mean you’ll often see chess competing for table space. Victory Point Games already put a modern spin on Chess with their excellent For The Crown to get it to the table again. This time they are drawing inspiration from Backgammon with SnapGammon. Transform the abstract game of moving pieces across a board into one of cow wrangling!
SnapGammon puts several twists on Backgammon by introducing cards that shake up the flow of the game and bend the traditional rules. You’ll be able to hinder your opponent’s position and advance your own with everyone’s favorite Cow Tipping or the explosive Cowmageddon. There are other variants included for players that wish to experience Backgammon in even more exciting ways such as using the Crazy Dice instead of a boring traditional six sided die.