Corey Thompson

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A retired veterinarian and ex-cell biologist, Corey spends his time with board games, computer history, banjo music and general useless frivolity. Corey can be found as doccabet on BGG.

“Struggle of Empires is set in the eighteenth century: an age of discovery and sail, a period of colonization and the beginnings of industrialization, and also a time of almost constant warfare in Europe and its far-flung colonies.”

Struggle of Empires (2004) is a highly regarded strategic wargame by master designer Martin Wallace (Brass, Railroad Tycoon, London) originally published by Warfrog/Treefrog Games. This classic game combined colonization-era war and area control with a simple ruleset, culminating in a satisfying heavy experience for the 2-7 players involved. Now, Eagle-Gryphon Games has a Kickstarter Campaign to bring their deluxe edition mastery to this masterpiece, much as they did for previous big box classics Vinhos and Empires: Age of Discovery.

Struggle of Empires contains several unique mechanisms which has kept this game consistently on people’s top lists for the past 15 years. The game takes place over 3 wars, each lasting 5-6 rounds, wherein players compete for control of Europe and the burgeoning colonies. An auction phase exists before each war which forces players into unlikely alliances, making it impossible to fight certain opponents. A large and varied tile set awards special abilities and bonuses. Additionally, the dice based battle system uses the differences in pairs of thrown dice to add power, a relatively unused but interesting mechanic.

The Deluxe Kickstarter edition of Struggle has new variations from Martin Wallace, and new art from João Tereso, the artist behind the beautiful Railways of Portugal (2019). The original rulebook, which was a bit confusing, has been completely redone including multiple game play examples. A myriad of beautiful wooden components fill the box, including over 150 units and over 200 wooden control and alliance markers. The game also contains a large and re-imagined game board, over 50 thick cardboard action tiles, cloth bags, dice, and a wooden gavel for the auction. The Kickstarter Campaign for Struggle of Empires continues through August 30, and the game is expected to deliver in August 2020.

Asmodee, the “us” to whom all your board game base belong, has announced that they will be distributing games from the Swiss company Helvetiq in the United States. There are innumerable small game companies around the globe, and Asmodee has made a significant effort in bringing these lesser known gems to the western shores.

“We are always looking for strong local partners that bring our brand to gamers and shops worldwide,” said Hadi Barkat, CEO & Founder of Helvetiq. “With Asmodee USA, we now have a U.S. distribution partner who shares our ambition and passion for the world of games. Their portfolio includes amazing titles, and we are honored to join with a line up that particularly suites casual gamers, families, and design aficionados. We are excited that, together, we will make our games accessible to an even wider audience.”

Helvetiq is the publisher of over 60 games, with their top rated games being Martin Nedergaard Andersen’s Bandido (2016) and Colorfox (2016). Visitors to GenCon earlier this month got the opportunity to try out Helvetiq’s new games  Misty and Kawaii, the latter of which caused quite a buzz with its undeniable cuteness.

Skellig Games has announced two new titles for release at Essen Spiel this October. Skellig is a small German board game and publishing house known for family weight games. Their first game, Concerto (2018) by designer Uwe Bursik is a well-received memory game with a musical theme.

Ambrosia, also by designer Uwe Bursik is a bee themed abstract game in which 2-4 players move bee “stones” across fields to collect nectar and score points. Different types of bees, such as guardians, berserkers or drones, give special abilities along the way. Stones can both block other players and set up points in this no-luck pure strategy game. The game comes with a double sided modular board and event cards to keep replayability high.

Mice to Meet You by designer Daniel Bernsen is a family friendly roll and write game for 1-5 players, which uses a unique “roll and discard” mechanism. The active player rolls dice to discard their mouse cards, while opponents get to take advantage of the unused dice. The game lasts a short 20 minutes, and the winner is the player with the fewest points in hand.

For more information on Skellig Games’ releases at Essen, check out their website here.

Asmodee has pre-order information for one of their hottest games of GenCon 2019, Black Angel. Only the most dedicated line-sitters were able to nab one of the few copies of this spectacular game at the show, as it consistently sold out at the start of the convention each day.

“Humanity, through its irresponsible behavior, has rendered Earth uninhabitable. The greatest nations are forced to share their knowledge in order to create the largest spacecraft ever constructed: the Black Angel. Its mission: Transport the genetic heritage of Humanity to a new home planet.”

Black Angel is the loving brain child of Pearl Games designers Sébastien DujardinXavier Georges, and Alain Orban  – the creators of the cult dice drafting favorite Troyes (2010). In Black Angel, 1-4 players take on the roles of competing A.I. brains, guiding the eponymous unmanned starship on its thousand year mission to deliver mankind’s DNA to a distant world. The game is a dice drafting game, wherein the players have their own dice pool, used to drive action on and around the starship. However, other players’ dice are free game, and can be bought with resources. Dice come in 3 colors, defining the actions they can trigger, with the number of pips on the die being the strength of the triggered action. Actions allow the player to repair the ship, fight back the evil ravager attackers, gain new technological programs, or execute missions in the planets surrounding the traveling Black Angel. Exterior missions are accessed by beautiful robot meeples, which fly around space in small round saucers.  The player board holds a 3×3 grid of technology tiles, which can be activated in unique ways throughout the game. The Black Angel itself “flies” along a conveyer belt board of chevron shaped hex tiles; Strips behind the ship are removed, flipped, and placed in front, propelling Black Angel forward on its journey to a new home world. Mission cards previously played in the disappearing wake of the ship are left behind in space (discarded), giving benefits and scoring opportunities to their owners. All together, Black Angel is a heavy, dice drafting, engine building euro game, sure to be a hit seller once inventory can catch up with the overwhelming demand.

Black Angel comes with game board, 7 chevron space strips, 4 player boards, 64 robot figurines with 20 saucer ships, 18 custom dice, 60 technology tiles, 60 mission cards, 20 ravager cards, clear gem “resource” tokens, red “debris” tokens, scoring discs, and player aids. The game is enhanced by Ian O’Toole‘s fantastically colorful yet minimalistic sci-fi art. A solo mode is included, and the game should be available for purchase in 3rd quarter 2019. For more information, check out Pearl Games’ website on Black Angel here.

GenCon 2019 was immense and amazing, but has now wrapped up, closed her doors and bid us “adieu”. I was inspired to chime in with a couple picks from the show that really stood out for me among the crowd.

One of the best euro games of 2016 was the exceptional Lorenzo il Magnifico from Cranio Creations and designers Flaminia Brasini, Virginio Gigli, and Simone Luciani. I was able to see a demo for the upcoming card game based on this gem, Masters of the Renaissance by Simone Luciani and Nestore Mangone. In Masters, players still collect resources to buy cards from different tower “levels”, like the original, but now all cards have production ability: in other words, when production is initiated, players collect resources from all of their cards. Additionally, a “market” comprised of a 3×4 grid of colored marbles gives another, easier, source of resources. Players choose any row or column of marbles, and every marble in that line generates its own resource based on its color. After players gain their loot, they push a new marble into the line, bumping al old one from the back. Two things make this market both clever and diabolical: First, clear marbles exist that give no resources at all, clogging up the rows. Second, the resources generated at the market go to a separate storage area, which is severely limited in capacity. This card game version of one of my favorite board games retained the look and feel of the original, added unique mechanisms, but still felt elegant and simplified. Masters of the Renaissance is due to be released at Essen Spiel 2019, this October.

image from BGG

I was particularly impressed by Time of Legends: Destinies by designers Michał Gołębiowski and Filip Miłuński, a joint effort between Lucky Duck Games (Chronicles of Crime) and Mythic Games (Joan of Arc). Destinies is an app-driven fantasy exploration game for 1-3 people which takes place in the same universe as Mythic’s magnum opus Time of Legends: Joan of Arc, and even uses many of the same small scale miniatures as its big sister. In Destinies, players take on the roles of villagers living around the epic stories and battles from Joan. Each player is trying to be the first to fulfill their character’s hidden destiny. The cards in the game, including the character cards, have QR codes in the corner (those black and white checkerboard scanner boxes we see all the time), and scanning a card into the game app leads to context sensitive progression in the game – scanning an item uses it, scanning a character interacts with it, and scanning a weapon fights with it. This system is what made Lucky Duck’s Chronicles of Crime such a fantastic and intuitive story telling game. The game app additionally controls the map, made up of a grid of square cards, in a way reminiscent of the recent blockbuster Journeys in Middle Earth. If that wasn’t enough to make this a magnificent game, Destinies uses an elegant dice system I haven’t seen before for challenges, wounds, and level progression. Three colored stat tracks are on the player board – Knowledge, Strength and Agility, and wooden disks are placed on values along these tracks. To run a test, fight a creature, or even interact with characters, players roll dice, and count how many of these disk values they pass with the roll – this is the number of successes the character achieves. Items can add disks to the tracks, wounds can move the disks to higher, more difficult positions, and experience allows player to buy more disks. Time of Legends: Destinies is scheduled to have a Kickstarter campaign in September 2019.

“Play as a God of ancient Egypt, competing to survive as society begins to forget the old ways, so that only you and your followers remain. Ankh, the symbol of life itself, that even the Gods must fight for.”

GenCon 2019 was just chock full of incredible announcements, and just when we thought the big ones were in our rear view mirror, Cool Mini or Not has just dropped another bombshell. CMoN has announced the final game in Eric M. Lang’s strategic trilogy, Ankh: Gods of Egypt.

Blood Rage was without a doubt the biggest game of 2015, having just delivered after a million dollar, high profile kickstarter campaign. The game was almost universally loved, bringing full Viking rage and glory to board games. The miniatures by artists Mike McVey and Adrian Smith are beyond imagining, and still remain among the best fantasy sculpts our hobby has seen.

Blood Rage was followed up by Rising Sun in 2017, resulting from a record breaking 4.2 million dollar kickstarter campaign. Whereas Blood Rage demonstrated an all out berserker battle royale, Rising Sun had a calculated well-negotiated war. Once again, the art made everyone swoon, and the unique gameplay made this a modern classic game.

Now, the same team at CMoN, designer Eric M. Lang, miniatures supervisor Mike McVey, and artist Adrian Smith, have announced the third in the strategic trilogy, Ankh: Gods of Egypt. Although details are sparse, just the genealogy behind this release will ensure an incredibly high production, exceptionally well crafted board game to remember for years. Players take on the role of ancient Egyptian gods, summoning monsters, converting followers, and trying to become the sole god over Egypt. A Kickstarter campaign for Ankh will appear towards the end of 2019, and the game is expected to accommodate 2-5 players. For more details, check out the press release from CMoN here.

Keyforge is a game that everyone took notice of since its announcement one year ago at GenCon 2018. This collectible card game from esteemed designer Richard Garfield (Bunny Kingdom, King of Tokyo, and some other famous card games) shook the world when it was announced that each and every deck would be completely unique, with its own logo, its own name, and its own set of cards. But Keyforge delivered, and delivered well, giving the gamers a captivating, unique take on the collectible card game.

This GenCon, Fantasy Flight Games announced Keyforge: Worlds Collide, the third set for this ground breaking game. The initial release and Keyforge: Age of Ascension generally used the same cards and rules, but now everything will change. However, Fantasy Flight has made it clear that Worlds Collide is a companion set and not a sequel, and this new set of cards, while playing well against the initial offerings, does not require the previous sets to play.

The biggest change to Worlds Collide is the introduction of two new houses to the decks. Mars and Sanctum have been rotated out, and have made room for the Saurian Republic and the Grand Star Alliance. Don’t worry though – Mars and Sanctum should make a return appearance in future sets. The Saurians, having existed for 65 million years, are among the oldest races in the Crucible, and pride themselves on philosophy, in spite of their overwhelming prowess. In stark contrast, the Grand Star Alliance are very recent additions, coming from a group of explorers that crash landed in the Crucible. This melting pot, polyglot and multi-race collective has managed to bring dozens of systems into peaceful democratic alliances, amassing quite the technological ability in the process.

Worlds Collide also brings some new mechanisms into the game, such as Warding and Enraging. Wards can now be placed on cards in play, each ward protecting them from a single attack. In contrast, enraging a creature forces it to attack if at all possible. Players can also Exalt creatures, placing a precious Æmber on the card, making the creature more powerful. However, like captured Æmber, when this creature is defeated the Æmber goes to the opponent.

Much like the original games, Keyforge: Worlds Collide will come in individual Archon Decks, as well as a two player starter set with all the necessary tokens and trackers. Additionally the Deluxe Archon Deck will come with a single deck and all the tokens. Finally, the Premium Box will come with two unique decks, 5 tuck boxes to hold sleeved cards, a token box, a chain dial, tokens and stickers. Look for all of the sets of Keyforge: Worlds Collide in stores in the 4th Quarter of 2019. For more information, check out the Fantasy Flight press release here.

“Assemble a crew and outfit a longboat to raid settlements for gold and fame!”

Raiders of the North Sea, by Garphill Games and designer Shem Phillips, is a unique worker placement game wherein players collect resources to raid and pillage as Vikings. The game was deservedly nominated for the Spiel des Jahres Kennerspiel award in 2017, and has accrued two excellent expansions over the years. In Raiders players use a twist on standard worker placement: a single worker is held in hand, which is placed on the board to select a first action. A second action is selected by picking a new worker up off of a previously used space. Workers come in three colors, restricting which actions can be done by which workers.

And now, Dire Wolf Digital has taken this modern classic and created an excellent digital version for Steam, mobile devices and the Nintendo Switch. Raiders of the North Sea is part of an ongoing partnership between Renegade Games and Dire Wolf to produce digital versions of their board games, including Lanterns: the Harvest Festival, Lotus, and the Renegade Companion App. The game truly shines in the digital forum, retaining the excellent artwork created by Mihajlo Dimitrievski (The Mico). Additionally, all versions of Raiders of the North Sea include cross-platform play, so you can compete against friends regardless of which system they use. For more information, check out the press release from Dire Wolf Digital here.

The newest game from Portal Games, designer Joanna Kijanka and master imperialist Ignacy Trzewiczek is the brilliant Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North. The original Imperial Settlers has long been a staple of a well-rounded board game collection, marrying hand management, resource collection and engine building. But we forget that Imperial Settlers is part of a knotted bizarre lineage of games, getting better with each iteration. The original 51st State (2010) introduced this world of ephemeral resources, which disappear each round, necessitating efficient resource use and collection. 51st State inspired Imperial Settlers (2014), the poster child game for the genre. Imperial Settlers has collected many expansions over the years (Aztecs, Atlanteans, Amazons, and a few things not beginning with ‘A’), but it also inspired a new game, 51st State: Master Set (2016). I know it’s confusing, but the lineage thus far is 51st State begot Imperial Settlers, which begot 51st State.  And now, the newest game in the Iggy T genealogy is of course… Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North.

Empires of the North not only made resources store between rounds, but added some very clever worker placement and action selection mechanisms to the glorious foundation built by Imperial Settlers. The game comes with 6 very different factions/tribes which all play in clever ways. Some tribes are best at sailing the seas, pillaging and conquering the islands. Some are best as homebodies, collecting resources and living off of the interest. Others just beg to work with the other players, living off of trade.

No sooner had this gem of a game been released, than Portal announced the first expansion, Japanese Islands, of which Ignacy himself claims “The Japanese faction connects the world of Empires of the North and the base Imperial Settlers.” Portal promises two new tribes for the base game, along with new islands to explore. Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North is in limited pre-release now, with copies on sale at GenCon, and full release is dated for August 22. The new Japanese Islands expansion is due to be revealed at Essen Spiel 2019 this October.

“Trudvang Legends is a storytelling cooperative board game where 1-4 players take on the role of Heroes determined to stop the forces of Darkness. Guided by the Book of Sagas and the Legends System, the story unfolds with no gamemaster in a rich fantasy setting where your actions and choices will directly affect the environment and its inhabitants in a Living World”

Cool Mini or Not, with designers Fel Barros (Gekido: Bot Battles) and Guilherme Goulart (Arcadia Quest), and Omega Level Board Game Visionary Eric M. Lang, have just launched a new crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for the story telling magnum opus Trudvang Legends. Trudvang comes from the RPG system by RiotMinds, and is just dripping with Old Norse flavor and theme. The game itself is a branching campaign, spanning many individual play sessions, combining qualities of legacy games with the replayability of scenario based adventures.

Trudvang revolves around a central map board, a saga board, and points of interest board, each with clear plastic pockets to hold cards. These cards contain story elements, important decisions, new elements and lore, and make the very play surface an ongoing legacy of adventures past and present. Additionally, an immense book of sagas tells the story, and dictates decision points during the campaign. And make no mistake, all decisions will come back, for good or for ill, making the world of Trudvang a fluid and ever changing tapestry. This “Legends System” leaves a lasting record of decisions, since important cards are sleeved into the very board.

The combat system of Trudvang is equally unique, revolving around rune tokens, push your luck excitement, and a bag-building mechanic. Players start with a set of earth, wind, fire and water runes in their bag, along with demonic runes that confer failure. Runes are drawn from the bag one at a time to be assigned to weapons, abilities, armor, or whatever is required for the challenge. If runes cannot be assigned, or if they are demonic in nature, this counts as a failure. Players hope to complete the requirements on cards, and every completed set equates to one success. But three failures means the action is a complete failure, and all accrued successes are lost. Numbers of successes can drive the story in multiple directions. Special events can add or remove runes from the bag, equating to further character development.

Players can pick from one of 6 character classes – Bard, Vitner Weaver, Dimwalker, Warrior, Ranger, or Rogue. The mythos of the game is based around Old Norse mythology, and the theme explodes around the incredible art of Paul Bonner. Trudvang comes with over 30 base miniatures, but true to a CMoN Kickstarter, new miniatures and exclusives are being added constantly. The game comes with over 450 cards for items, upgrades, stories, bestiary, lore and much much more. Additionally, almost 150 tokens, 4 rune bags, 3 main boards, 4 player boards and the 100+ page Book of Sagas make Trudvang an epic story telling adventure. The Kickstarter Campaign for Trudvang Legends continues through August 14, and the game is expected to deliver in December 2020. For more details, check out the CMoN website, and the Kickstarter page itself.