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.

Game of Phones is a card game where all you need is your smartphone to take on creative and unexpected challenges. It’s the ultimate digital scavenger hunt!”

In April of 2014, Luke Stern and Sam Wander initiated a successful Kickstarter for the original Game of Phones, a hilarious party game for people and their smartphones. And now, 5 years later, the dynamic duo has begun a new Kickstarter project for the second edition.

In Game of Phones, a group of players draw Challenge Cards in one of 4 categories, puzzles to solve using their phones. “Like” cards have players find photos in their camera roll or take new ones that match a certain category. One judge decides the winning photo. Similarly, “Unfollow” cards have each player eliminate one of the contender photos until only a single entry is left. “Download” cards have each player race to complete a challenge on their phone, such as text a selfie to a relative and get the first reply, or find the oldest message thread on their phone. Lastly, the “Upgrade” cards have all players work together in a group activity, usually to a hilarious conclusion.

The Kickstarter project for Game of Thrones continues through September 24, and the game is expected to ship in November of 2019. The game comes with a starter pack of 100 cards, the original pack, which contains 50 reworked cards from the first edition, and the offline pack, 50 cards that work even without an internet connection.

Yedo (2012) by designers Thomas Vande Ginste and Wolf Plancke is a classic game of missions, politics and subterfuge. In Yedo, 1-5 players bid for useful advantages, place disciples on action spaces within the board while trying to avoid the watch, and fulfill missions by collecting sets of assets. Consistently ranked in the top 500 games on BGG, this long out-of print gem is one many consider a spiritual successor to the likes of Lords of Waterdeep.

NSKN (Board & Dice) has announced a Kickstarter campaign for a new Deluxe Master Edition of Yedo, with upgraded components, new art, and a bigger organized box. This new edition comes with game board, 5 new player boards, hundreds of gorgeous cards with new art, and over 80 custom wooden bits and bobs. The box also is filled with almost 200 cardboard tokens. The new Yedo includes options to lengthen or shorten the game, and the Missions, Actions and Events now come in themed set for more game variety. Finally, new Specialist and Teahouse Modules change some of the core rules.

“Originally published in 2012, Yedo has earned its rightful place in the hearts and on the tables of strategy and thematic gamers around the world. With already a great game on our hands, we decided to update the components to modern standards, add extra polish based on seven years of community feedback and complete the game with extra content straight from the original designers.”

The Kickstarter Campaign for Yedo Deluxe Master Set is scheduled to continue through September 20, and the game should arrive on doorsteps in August 2020. NSKN has stated there are no plans to bring this new edition to retail after the Kickstarter fulfills.

Philosophia: Dare to be Wise is a new self-published game on Kickstarter from designers Joseph N Adams and Madeleine Cole. In Philosophia, 1-6 players take on the roles of famous Greek philosophers, trying to achieve monumental landmarks in debate and rhetoric across the whole of Greece before time runs out. Victory is achieved by amassing 3 labyrinth tokens, which can be accumulated one at a time by completing tasks, or all 3 can be awarded by finishing a player’s secret goal card.

Players can move to any marked location on the map of Greece, and take one of several actions. Players can tutor at a location to collect money, or place a follower (wooden block) at their location. Sophists can be hired for money, in order to convert other players’ followers to your own color. Schools can be built by spending 2 money, or tokens on the locations themselves can be gathered to place on a players board. At a Temple location, 4 money can purchase a study token, used to unlock one of your philosopher’s 3 locked Wisdom Cards. At Oracle locations, special ability cards can be collected, which can grant boons or obstruct your opponents.  

The Acropolis is a special location on the board, offering a further 4 actions. Players collect Sophistry and Syllogism cards by observing debaters, and these cards can be used in the second Acropolis action, to fuel public debate, an interesting card-on-card battle system. Players can progress the timeline at the Acropolis, hastening the end of the game, and finally players can initiate auctions for Athena Tokens, very powerful reward items.

Players earn Labyrinth Tokens by placing all of their followers, founding all of their schools, getting the correct Oracle tokens, unlocking all of their Wisdom Cards, traveling to and collecting each color of Location token, or winning 3 public debates. Once a player has 3 Labyrinth Tokens, they can participate in the final public debate card play to declare themselves victor. Of course, each player has a secret Olympic Card, which grants all 3 Labyrinth Tokens in one fell swoop if completed.

Philosophia is a beautiful, thematic game involving all the intricities that embodied active philosophy in ancient Greece, adding an educational element to varied game mechanics. The Kickstarter Project for Philosophia: Dare to be Wise is scheduled to continue through October 10, and the game should ship to backers by June 2020. For more information, check out the website for Philosophia here.

“At the turn of the 16th Century, King Manuel I commissioned Portugal’s greatest artisans to construct grandiose buildings. After completing the Palaces of Evora and Sintra, the king sought to build a summer pavilion to honor the most famous members of the royal family. This construction was intended for the most talented artisans — whose skills meet the splendor that the royal family deserves. Sadly, King Manuel I died before construction ever began.”

Azul by Michael Kiesling, artist Chris Quilliams, and Next Move Games is one of those games that was recognized as an elegant classic the moment it was released in 2017. The game combined intimately attractive, bakelite style (ie. candy-like) tiles with intuitive, simple gameplay into a package that gamers and non-gamers alike were simply drawn towards. In Azul, players take turns collecting colored tiles from communal piles (factories), however one must pick up all of a single color tile, placing the remainder in a leftover central pile. All collected tiles must be placed on the player board, and extraneous, unused tiles count as negative points. The ever-growing central pile can likewise be mined for tiles in the same manner in future turns.

A sequel, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, was released in 2018. Sintra took this basic framework and added variable player boards, a new mechanism for placing tiles on the boards, and in general more variability. In short, the new game was significantly different, but still felt like “Azul”, and gamers snatched it up in waves. The gorgeous clear square tiles (Jolly Ranchers, as opposed to Starburst) certainly did not hurt the appeal.

Now Next Move Games has announced a third game in the series, Azul: Summer Pavillion. In this edition, the tiles are elongated diamonds, and fit on the player board in 7 circular rosettes – Six in the six tile colors, and one composed of one of each color. Tile selection retains the old Azul feel, with players selecting all of one color from a pool of tiles on a single factory card. However, in each of the 10 rounds, one of the tile colors is considered wild. The wild color cannot be specifically picked, but if any are on the selected factory, these are also collected with the picked color. The tile placement in Summer Pavillion has taken an interesting new tact – players do not immediately place their collected tiles on their board, instead collecting them in a personal supply. Each turn players can place one of their tiles on their board by paying a certain number of same-colored tiles from this supply. The cost depends on which slot in the rosette is being filled, ranging from 1-6.

Azul: Summer Pavillion will debut as Essen Spiel this October, and pre-orders are scheduled to hit gamers’ laps in December 2019. For more details, check out Next Move’s website here.

Abyss was an instant board game hit on its release in 2014. Combining unbelievable art from Xavier Collette with the sublime gameplay from master designers Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier, Abyss managed to transport players into a fantastical and political underwater world. The gameplay in Abyss is a wonderful collection of push-your-luck card collection, resource management of stunning pearls, and card set creation, all simple in their own right but interwoven into a magnificent strategic board game still loved to this day (currently #338 on BGG). The first expansion to Abyss, Kraken, was released in 2015 to critical acclaim, adding the two edged sword of dark pearls. Now, Studio Bombyx has given Abyss fans two new toys to drool over – the second expansion Abyss:Leviathan, and the new card game Conspiracy: Abyss Universe, both coming to western shores this November.

Leviathan replaces the accumulating threat track from the original card game with a border board filled with tremendous monsters. While pulling cards during exploration, if a monster is drawn, the player now has an opportunity to fight a Leviathan on the board. Certain Lords and Allies can give benefit to killing these monsters, and the player with the most kills will earn an extra 5 points at the end of the game.

Conspiracy: Abyss Universe is a card game in the Abyss Universe, sharing similar gameplay and more of that delicious Xavier Collette art. 2-4 Players use Abyss-like cards to create a reverse pyramid, starting with a row of five cards and working down to one. Two matching keys or 3 total keys on cards allow the player to take Location Cards, which add abilities and points. Pearls have their role in this game as well, and the player with the majority of pearls on cards immediately takes the Pearl Majority Card. The game ends when a player has completed their pyramid; groups of connected cards of the same color score points equal to the highest scoring card in the group. The Pearl Majority Card adds 5 points, and the player with the largest colored group scores an additional 3. Highest score claims rightful rule of the depths. For more details, check out Bombyx’s webpage here.

“Bossin‘ Space is a cooperative game of spaceship command, unidentified terror and chaos in the comm room. 1-4 players will try to pilot ONE SHIP together. You will travel across the universe as explorers into the unknown and fight “unwelcoming” aliens along the way. How to survive in space and finish the objective becomes a challenging puzzle.”

Time Slug Studio out of the Czech Republic has a new Kickstarter project, Bossin’ Space by designers Jindřich Pavlásek and Petr Vojtěch (Whales Destroying the World). Bossin’ Space is a chaotic, cooperative card game in which 1-4 players try to jointly captain a space ship in the midst of a game of Space Invaders. Aliens continue to multiply and descent, filling the 4×4 grid board, and must all be defeated to gain access to the boss.

On a round, 4 alien cards are drawn out, and will execute in order from left to right, placing new aliens on the grid, moving aliens, and shooting the players. Each player has a special ability, a hand of 4 cards, and must play a single one face down without communicating to the other players. The current active player then looks at the 4 cards, and plays them in any order, under the 4 alien cards. The cards then execute left to right, player then alien then player, etc. Player cards move the ship, fire the lasers, launch missiles and generally reign down terror on the extraterrestrials. Be careful, more advanced weapons can build up heat, and too much heat can blow our valiant heroes away. As aliens are destroyed, the players gain experience to upgrade their ship capabilities. The goal of the game is to destroy the entire pile of alien cards, leading to a final boss battle.

The Kickstarter for Bossin’ Space continues through September 24, and the game is expected to deliver in April 2020. For more information, check out the webpage for Bossin’ Space here.

“You’ve come to make your fortune on Cooper Island, whose untouched peninsulas stretch out like long arms into the wild Atlantic. With two ships and a few workers, each of you has landed on a separate peninsula, which you hope to explore, cultivate, and settle. But who will do this best? And how? Will you expand your land quickly, or will you instead spend your efforts cultivating it, making it more and more valuable and productive?”

Frosted Games along with Capstone Games have announced Cooper Island, a new complex strategy game from the brilliant mind of Andreas “ode.” Odendahl (La Granja). In Cooper Island, 2-4 players compete as explorers to colonize their island off the Atlantic peninsula. Players have 2 ships and a worker, and place landscape tiles over their island, gaining resources. Resources can be used to build structures with special abilities. Certain areas on the island are inaccessible and need to be cleared to gain access. Supply ships can come in from the Old World, helping the colonization.

As you can see, Cooper Island is a complex set of mechanical interlocking gears, melding together into a satisfying heavy euro game. The point scoring and tracking is yet another unique element to this game; each player marks their points by moving a small ship around the perimeter of their island. However, this ship can discover new lands, granting benefits to the player. After 5 rounds, the player with the most victory points is declared… well, the victor.

Cooper Island will debut at Essen Spiel 2019 late this October. For more information, check out Capstone Games‘ and Frosted Games’ official websites.

“A regal asymmetric party game for 3-6 players with bluffs and betrayals… Reigns: The Council is […] about a monarch seeking harmony in their realm, and their advisors vying to influence them for their own goals.”

Master board game designers Bruno Faidutti (Citadels) and Hervé Marly (Skull) have a new Kickstarter project, the most regal social party game, Reigns: the Council. Reigns is based on the popular same-named app from Studio Nerial. In Reigns, one player takes on the role of the monarch, humbly trying to balance the kingdom on 4 pillars: Church, People, Army and Wealth, all quantitated on the game board from 1-4. The remaining players are the (mistakenly) trusted advisors, but each one has a secret agenda with regards to these 4 pillars. Advisors each take a hand of proposal cards, ideas which will change the pillars depending if the proposal is accepted or rejected by the monarch. Players use the thematic icons on the proposal to tell stories and pitch ideas. The back of the proposal card tells the monarch which pillars will be affected by the proposal, and maybe if the effect is great, but not really if the effect is good or bad. It is up to the advisor to spin a yarn (ie. lie) so well that the King/Queen cannot help but accept.

After the 4 proposals are described, the monarch will pick one and the 4 pillars are shifted up and down according to both the rejected cards and the accepted proposal. If a pillar bumps off of the end of a track, the ruler is killed and a new monarch is established, with new advisors and new secret goals. Monarchs gain points for number of accepted proposals, while advisors gain points for having their story accepted and for meeting their secret goals.

Reigns: the Council is a fun, story-telling social party game for 3-6 players. The Kickstarter project continues through October 1, and the game is scheduled to release in May 2020. For more information, check out Nerial’s webpage here.

“Welcome to Merchants Cove—where you’re not the hero or the villain—you’re just a simple merchant!”

Final Frontier Games and designer Carl Van Ostrand have a Kickstarter project ongoing for the new asymmetric board game Merchants Cove, lovingly illustrated by master artist Mihajlo Dimitrievski. In Merchant’s Cove, 1-4 players manipulate boats of incoming customers, guiding the right type of customer to the island to hopefully purchase their goods for gold. After 3 days/rounds of play, the player with the most gold claims victory. Merchants has two extraordinary mechanisms making it stand out – First, player turns and actions are defined by a time-tracker rondel, with the player in last always taking the next turn. Second, the way each player creates new goods is completely unique.

The main flow of Merchant’s Cove is driven by a central rondel, the time tracker. Players have tokens on the rondel, marking hours in the day. Whichever player is currently in last on the rondel will take the next turn, selecting a location in town to take actions. Actions include collecting townsfolk and rogue cards, and building new items for sale. Each location not only grants actions, but also will advance the player a certain number of hours on the rondel. If the tracker passes certain customer points, that player gets to add a customer from the bag to a boat in the harbor. Customer meeples come in 5 colors representing 5 fantasy tropes – warriors, nobles, wizards, bards, and rogues. When a boat is full, the active player can dock that boat at an available pier, and when all the piers are taken, players sell their constructed goods to the docked customers.

Each of the 4 player characters uses a totally different mechanism to create their goods. The Alchemist uses a marble driven, Potion Explosion reminiscent decanter to fulfill formulae to make items. The Blacksmith uses dice manipulation to represent smelting and management of the heat of the forge. The Sea Captain uses a spinner to sail his fleet around the bay collecting fish close to shore, and searching for treasure far from the beach. Finally the Chronomancer and his assistant manipulate the very time itself, placing fragments to create portals.

Each day, the newly arrived customers determine the price of selling goods. As certain customer types accumulate, the corresponding color good is more valuable to sell (supply and demand, baby). The pier at which the customers land determines what can be sold – Large goods are sold at the bazaar pier, small goods at the grand bazaar, then any leftover goods can be sold at the black market, for a cost in corruption. After 3 days of attracting customers then selling to them, players earn bonus points from layabout customers at the various faction halls around the island… All but those pesky rogues, who take advantage of players’ accumulated corruption to steal gold. The most gold then takes the day!

The Kickstarter Campaign for Merchant’s Cove continues until September 11, and the final game is expected to deliver in June 2020. The game not only includes gorgeous components, but also has options to buy the two mini expansions, the Innkeeper and the Oracle.

“Mutants is an innovative deck-builder where players lead a team of genetically modified gladiators. Starting with a fully symmetric hand of cards, players have 5 rounds to breed the best possible gladiators from their assymetric, uniquely crafted, gene pool and impose their strategy on the arena!”

Mutants – the Card Game is a successful November 2018 Kickstarter Project from producer Lucky Duck Games and designers Sen-Foong Lim (Belfort) and Jessey Wright (Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time). In this 2-4 player deck builder, players mix and match genetics starting with the same cards, but shopping within an asymmetric “gene pool” market. Each player’s gene pool can be pre-constructed or drafted, and the 4 included pre-constructed sets allow easy start to play. Players each get a hand of 6 cards, and the round ends when players run out of cards. Cards can have deploy effects which activate when the card is played, and leave effects for when a card is pushed out of the player board. On a turn players get one of 3 actions: Breed allows players to gain a new card for battle this round. Incubate saves a card for battle next round. Deploy plays a card from a player’s hand to their active mutant slot. Games last 5 rounds, after which players score points for mutants “frozen” into their archives.

For more details about Mutants, check out the completed Kickstarter page here. Mutants is scheduled to hit retail stores this October.