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.

Spirit Island (2017) by designer R. Eric Reuss has been one of the more interesting cooperative games in recent years, going so far as being a 2017 nominee for multiple Dice Tower Awards, and Golden Geek Awards. Greater Than Games has just started a Kickstarter Campaign for the second expansion to this great game, Jagged Earth. In Spirit Island, 1-4 players control Nature Spirits on a small island, influencing the native Dahan population to rise up and overthrow incoming invaders. And there are invaders aplenty – every round explorers show up on the coast of the island. These remaining explorers will build towns and cities if left alone, eventually creating a blight on the island, eading to the players’ demise. Each spirit type (and there are many) works in a very different way, having their own innate powers and abilities, income of energy, and power cards to instill fear in the unwanted explorers.

The new expansion, Jagged Earth, adds a number of extra features to the already challenging and thinky coop. Jagged Earth adds 8 new spirits to the mix, including Volcano Looming High and Grinning Trickster Stir Up Trouble. 2 of the new spirits come with new play mechanisms, including Badlands and Isolation. The original Spirits are given new life through “Aspects”, a way to swap in new innate powers for old ones. 5-6 players are now supported, using 2 new included island boards for a 6 piece giant board. Tokens are included for increased player count, 2 new scenarios, 2 new adversaries, 50+ new major and minor powers, 30 new events, 6 new fear cards and 6 new blight cards. For fans of Spirit Island, Jagged Earth adds more of what players love with enough new pieces to keep it interesting.

The Kickstarter Campaign for Spirit Island: Jagged Earth continues through November 16, and the expansion is expected to deliver in May 2020.

Legendary fans rejoice, for the next expansion for the classic Marvel Deck Building Game is nigh, and it is both massive and minuscule – Legendary: Ant Man. The Ant Man expansion from designer Devin Low, and Upper Deck Entertainment, brings the world of Hank Pym’s Ant Man and The Wasp to the famous deck builder with 100 new cards, including 5 new heroes, 2 masterminds, 2 villain groups and 4 schemes. Not surprisingly, the “size-changing” keyword, previously used in Legendary: Civil War and Legendary: Champions is back, modifying costs and effects of other cards. The Ant Man Expansion brings this keyword to the very extreme with “Microscopic Size-Changing”, which can stack the keyword, sometimes as many as three times. This ability can reduce a cards recruit cost into negative values, allowing the player to gain recruit points by using it. The same can happen to a villain’s fight value, and a villain with a negative fight value actually gains the player more fight power. But be careful, the Microverse can be an unpredictable place where the very laws of physics do not make sense any more.

For more information on Legendary: Ant Man, check out Upper Deck’s website here. Look for the new expansion in stores on November 7, 2018.

Atlas Games is set to release Cogs and Commissars from designer Matt Haga to your FLGS this November. Originally a Kickstarter Project from January 2018, Cogs and Commissars is a casual take-that style card drafting game, with the varied feel of a deck builder. 2-6 players each take on the role of one of the Glorious Communist Robot Leaders before the Robot Revolution, each with a unique ability, then either draft a deck of cards, or use a preset deck designed for that leader. The goal is to increase the size of your citizen army by gaining or stealing Proletariat (1 point each), Bourgeois (2 points) or Commissars (3 points) – thank you spell checker. Once a player has reached 15 points they can play their revolution card, winning the game. But be careful, powerful blitz cards can be played by anyone out of turn to interrupt actions, or send precious units to the Gulag. Each leader’s deck plays slightly different, and with 6 leaders to choose from, there is a high degree of replayability. The game comes with 192 cards, 84 cardboard tokens for citizens, and a deluxe version is available. For more details about Cogs and Commissars, and instructions on how to get promo cards at release, check out Atlas Games’ website here.

Santa Maria by designers Eilif Svensson and Kristian Amundsen Østby is a well regarded dice drafting and tile laying game from 2017, and now the designers along with publisher Aporta Games have started a Kickstarter Campaign for the first expansion, American Kingdoms. Briefly, in Santa Maria, 1-4 players draft dice, and slide them down or across the associated row or column on their personal board, activating every building the die moves over. However, the last building activated in this manner holds the die, effectively shutting that building down for the round. Players can also buy new tiles for their board, adding buildings, and individual buildings can be activated using money instead of dice. The game emphasizes the timing of when to draft dice, what order to activate rows, and the puzzle solving nature of designing the perfect engine. Santa Maria combines resource collection, racing down tracks for points and bonuses, end game goals with scholars and bishops, and set collection via shipping tiles.

American Kingdoms adds a couple new features, and 4 new modules that modify play. Cacao is a new resource in the game, used for new expensive shipping tiles, but mostly for modifying the dice. New scholars and bishops provide abilities and end game scoring. New 3×1 building tiles can be purchased for player boards, but come with a prohibitive 4 coin cost.

The Governor Module adds a… governor to each player’s board. The governor starts in the upper left corner of the player board, and moves one space whenever a die is used. Governors activate buildings, gaining resources when they land on buildings, but can move back off later, opening the building up again. Players lose points at game end if the governor has not moved far enough, and gain points if he makes it to the lower right of the board.

The Specialists module adds specialist tiles, which are randomly associated with dice. When the dice are drafted, the player can buy the specialist, gaining resources or buildings, but at a cost. Upgraded buildings are expensive, but players get a discount if they replace another building.

The Ambassador Module changes the dice mechanic of the game slightly. Players start with less dice, but there are 2 ambassador dice available each round, one white and one blue. These special dice can be drafted, but all players will be able to use the number when one player drafts. The drafting player is the only one able to modify the die number.

The Mayan Module is by far the most involved. With this addition, the game can play up to 5 players, with one player taking on the role of the native Mayans. The Mayan City has curving roads for each drafted die, rather than the regimented grid of the standard player boards. Mayans have several changes to their game play, and their main goal is to use resources to build multi-level pyramids. The higher the pyramid (up to 3 levels) the more points they earn. Additionally, the Mayan player has a hand of cards for trading with players, changing resources, and generally getting their monuments built. The game even changes the conquistador track, adding a back and forth of Mayans gaining gold and conquistadors stealing the gold from the Mayan player.

Finally, the Kickstarter Campaign also contains a mini-expansion for the original game, the Exploration deck. This deck provides 5 nationalities with varied starting resources for each player, and 21 achievement cards with secret player goals.

The Kickstarter Campaign for Santa Maria: American Kingdoms is set to continue through November 11, and the game should deliver in March 2019.

Fantastic news for anyone lucky enough to attend the Essen Spiel Game Convention in Germany at the end of the month – Board game publisher Pegasus Spiele is once again hosting a fantastic game night, this year taking place Thursday October 25 and Friday October 26, from 7pm – 1am. The event will include a library of over 50 games for lend, including such hits as Azul, Reef, Sagrada, and many more. Additionally, new and notable games from associated publishers Plan B Games, Eggertspiele, Frosted Games and Portal Games will be available to play, such as Blackout: Hong Kong, Camel Up 2nd edition, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, Monolith Arena, Detective, Men at Work, and several others. Guests of honor this year include 2018 Spiel des Jahres winner Michael Kiesling (Azul), Roberto Fraga (Captain SonarDr. Eureka), and Yohan Lemonnier (Captain Sonar). For more information and schedule of events, check out Pegasus’ announcement here.

Euro Game fans rejoice, for publisher Eggertspiele, artist Chris Quilliams, and designer extraordinaire Alexander Pfister (Great Western Trail, Mombasa, Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King) have announced their new game for Essen Spiel 2018, Blackout: Hong Kong. In Blackout, 1-4 players work to restore order from chaos in a future Hong Kong, where the electrical grid has been massively overstressed to the point of failure. Players start by rolling dice to randomly select which 3 of the 6 resources in the game will be available for the round. Next, players select 3 (or 4 with an upgrade) cards, which are placed facedown on their player board. These cards are revealed, and can place control cubes on the board, gain resources, spend resources, give abilities, or provide objectives. Objective cards are then scored, after which players can scout neighboring territories. Scouting is dangerous work, and gives an alternative way to collect needed resources, but players need to assemble cards from their hand to form a team with the required qualifications for the scouting token. Regardless of the outcome, one of the team will be injured, and will end up in the hospital, taking that card out of action. After scouting, players can use money to purchase new cards from face-up lines next to the board. Finally, in clean up, extra cards are discarded from the side of the board, and excess food and water are sold for money. Players score points for territories they control, and can refresh their hand of cards if they have 4 or less. When refreshing, players take back into hand whichever pile on their board is the largest. At the end of the game, money converts into points, and most total points takes the victory. Blackout can be played traditionally, solo, or as a 5 chapter campaign.

For more details, check out Eggertspiele’s website. Look for Blackout: Hong Kong at Essen Spiel 2018 October 25-28.

Stonemaier Games and developer Jamey Stegmaier have announced a new small box expansion for their mega hit Scythe (currently rated number 7 on boardgamegeek). Scythe Encounters started in June 2018 as an invitation to fans to design encounter cards for the game, those random events players find while wandering the countryside. The response was overwhelming, and Encounters represents the best 32 entries. Scythe Encounters is due for release December 8, 2018, however Stonemeier went one step further and had one palette shipped over to the US, so the first 1900 pre-orders will receive their boxes significantly earlier. Check out the Stonemaier Games Newsletter for more information, and as always, a great chart on the progress of new additions from the company.

The Jack Vasel Memorial Fund (JVMF) is a charitable organization started by the Dice Tower’s own Tom Vasel, dedicated to helping gamers in need. You have probably heard of it from podcast outros, announcements on videos, or from the holiday auctions. I have been very lucky and am not a gamer in need, but I wanted to tell a personal story from the other side, from the benefits of being a donor.

My name is Corey Thompson, I write occasional articles for Dice Tower News, and I was able to go to Dice Tower Convention in Orlando, Florida this past July. At the convention, during the live JVMF auction, I bid on a “giant wooden abstract game” from the company Gigamic Games. You can watch the auction on YouTube, I’m the odd tattooed guy in the front row. It’s fun to watch my foibles; I awkwardly bid on several things I didn’t win. At this point, I knew of some of the abstract games by Gigamic, but hadn’t played many of them. However, the auction was for charity, and “GIANT WOODEN GAME”, so I was all in.

Fast forward to September, some lost emails and miscommunications on my part, and Gigamic found themselves in a nationwide driving tour of game stores, showing off their games from coast to coast. It turned out that I lived near their final stop, so Nate Scheidler made the amazing offer to hold a game demo at my house. I scrambled, invited as many gamers as I could think of, and on September 29, my house was a stop on the Gigamic Gigatour.

Nate brought over giant versions of their classic abstract games Pylos, Katamino, Quixo, Quarto, Quoridor, and Marrakech. Each game looked more magnificent than the last, and even though I am not traditionally an abstract game player, it was difficult picking a favorite. Pylos involved carefully choosing moves to conserve my wooden spheres, Quixo was a great combination of tic-tac-toe and a sliding puzzle, Quarto had a unique take on the you-pick-I-choose mechanic, while giant Marrakech was the ultimate tactile area control game with its amazing fabric rugs.

Later in the evening, Nate set out a giant version of the semi-cooperative social game Hellapagos for 8 of us, complete with a giant island. Let’s just say I was voted off the island for shooting people, then eaten by cannibals, and finally resurrected near the endgame, so I’m not really sure how I did. New Gigamic games Squadro, Kontour, Kaosmos (being renamed Cosmic Factory) and Tutti Frutti also made appearances. Nate supplied a fantastic food spread and announced he would match the food costs with another donation to the JVMF.

About 25 people had an amazing day playing light, easy to learn, completely absorbing games, thanks to Gigamic, Nate Scheidler, and one lucky bid at the JVMF auction. I would recommend first hand checking out everything JVMF offers, including the holiday auction on BGG each year, and if you can be in town, the silent and live auctions at Dice Tower Con. Not only is the organization a truly good charity for people in need, but the benefits in games played and people met were for me personally, indescribable.

PS. I got to keep giant Marrakech!

Blue Moon City, the Spiel des Jahres nominee for 2006, designed by Reiner Knitzia and Spaghetti Western Games, is getting a reprint from Cool Mini or Not. In Blue Moon City, 2-4 players take over after the events of the 2 player hit Blue Moon, with the titular city, created from building plan tiles, ready for reconstruction. The players use cards with the races of Blue Moon to construct buildings on their plans, then eventually reconstruct the large crystal Obelisk in the center of the city. Players who help complete buildings earn crystals and Dragon Favors, with the majority contributor getting a bonus. Dragon Favors earn the player crystals, and the crystals are used to gain Markers at the Obelisk. The first player to earn a specified number of Markers wins the game. Blue Moon City comes with 4 player and 3 dragon miniatures, 40 player markers, 80 cards, 54 tokens, 21 tiles and a rulebook. For more information and pictures, check out the CMoN web page here. Look for the second edition of Blue Moon City in late October 2018.

CMoN has also announced Sugar Blast, a board game take on the casual video game “candy crush” genre. In Sugar Rush, a plastic frame holds round candy tokens in a 6 by 6 grid, each space holding one of 6 candy types. 2-4 players take turns swapping two adjacent tokens, trying to make a string of 3 or more identical candies vertically or horizontally. Matching tokens are removed, and the unique tilted frame will allow pieces to slide down and fill the empty space. New pieces are drawn from a bag to fill in the top. Players race to complete objective cards for the victory. Sugar Blast comes with the plastic frame, 32 tokens, 72 colored chips, 24 cards, cloth bag, and the rulebook. Look for Sugar Blast in late October 2018.

Finally, CMoN also announced 4 new boxes of Lannister Armies coming for the Song Of Ice And Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game. The Knights of Casterly Rock have spared no expense on equipment and training, and are fast and hard-hitting units on the field. The Lannister Guardsmen make up in defense what they lack in strength and speed, and can effectively wear down advancing opponents. The Lannister Crossbowmen provide deadly ranged attacks, and may be expensive to maintain, but Lannisters certainly can afford to keep armies strong. The Lannister Heroes Box I contains such famous commanders as the Hound, Tyrion and Lord Tywin Lannister, causing devastation on the field. Maester Pycelle and the High Sparrow work their influence politically, well away from the main battle. Look for all 4 new Lannister boxes in stores at the end of September 2018.

Richard Breese is well known for creating the Key… series of games, starting with Keydom (1998), Keytown (2000) and Keythedral (2002), but best known for the highly regarded Keyflower (2012), which currently ranks an impressive 44 on BoardGameGeek. Now Breese, along with Sebastian Bleasdale and Ian Vincent at R & D Games, have started a Kickstarter Campaign for the latest in the series, Key Flow. Key Flow is a card game, in which 2-6 players create their city by laying building cards, lining up roads in a top row, and the river on the bottom. Buildings on the road can be activated with “keyple” cards, which dictate both how many times keyple cards can be played on each building, and whether the building involved can be your own, or a neighboring opponent’s. Activating a card can upgrade buildings, generate resources, convert resources, or transport resources along the road. Game play itself is by drafting, playing a single card from your hand, then passing the remainder of that season’s cards. Played cards are revealed simultaneously, and the game lasts 4 full seasons, after which points are totaled. Winter cards provide the goals, which include resource collection, keyple card colors, and animal types printed on played cards. Key Flow comes with almost 200 cards, 180 wooden resources, and numerous tiles and tokens.

The Kickstarter Campaign for Key Flow continues through October 11, and the game is expected to deliver in November 2018. Check out the site for pictures, rules and a great instructional video.