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.

Privateer Quest has announced a new hybrid miniatures board game set in the popular Iron Kingdoms Universe, Riot Quest. In Riot Quest, the battle for the Iron Kingdoms has gone very… badly. You see, “humanity in the Iron Kingdoms was never really supposed to have access to magic. Humans aren’t the most careful or responsible creatures.” So things went the way they often do, and the world has been destroyed. Luckily, some scrappy survivors remain to battle in this apocalypse, collect bounties, and loot the spoils of war. “You’ll need a crackerjack crew, gobs of gear, and lots of love for the chaos of battle if you’re going to score the best leftover loot in the land.”

The Riot Quest Starter Box comes with board, tokens, 15 custom dice, 32 cards, and 5 hobby miniatures with stat cards to start the fight. Balthazar Bamfist is appropriately named for him job. Gubbin, the demolitions expert may be just a little too crazy to carry all that explosives. Sir Dreyfuss is a powerful, technological knight, while Dez is the token big guy with a bazooka. Finally, Eiryss Fortune Hunter of Ios is a dark, mysterious rogue with powers untold.

In Riot Quest, players take their gang of scavengers into the ruins, fighting and looting. Bounty Cards dictate specific conditions in the arena, as well as how to claim the cards for points. A constant market of refilling cards ensures a unique, varied game each time. Game play revolves around a set of custom dice, the stats of the characters, and whatever gear the players can steal and equip. Look for the Riot Quest Starter Box at your FLGS in August 2019, as well as the extra miniature, Riot Quest: J.A.I.M.s (Jacobsen’s Amazing Iron Maiden) Guard. For more information, keep an eye on the Privateer Press website.

Van Ryder Games has announced that they will be partnering with Awaken Games Lite to bring English versions of their games to retail around the world. Awaken Realms has already greatly impacted the board game world with highly thematic, miniatures heavy hits such as Lords of Hellas, and the recent Kickstarter explosion, Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon. Awaken Realms Lite is a subsidiary, specializing in games with “fewer components and lower price points than the parent company.” The first games planned for English translations by Van Ryder Games will be Siege Storm: SiegeMode and Bees: The Secret Kingdom.

Siege Storm: SiegeMode by designers Kamil ‘Sanex’ Cieśla and Marcin Świerkot is a competitive battle card game in a fantasy world, meant to be “a game that feels like a CCG, but that is more accessible and doesn’t have the ‘Pay to Win’ aspects of the CCG model.” A successful 2018 Kickstarter project, this game has distilled a head to head card game to its very essence, with only one card type, simple and intuitive play, and combos galore. Each card can be used 3 ways: it can be sacrificed for mana, the card action can be used, or the card can be deployed onto a track for future use. SiegeMode supports 1v1, team play, or co-op/solo play with a specialized AI deck. Awaken Realms Lite also has support for organized play, and plans for future expansions.

Bees: The Secret Kingdom by Kamil ‘Sanex’ Cieśla is a beautiful, family weight card game “light on rules but featur[ing] interactive gameplay suitable for just about anyone.” In Bees, 2-6 players choose between generating honey and playing a flower card to collect pollen. Playing cards for resources allows all players to collect, however the active player gains the biggest benefit. Bees has 2 different play modes, one for families and small children, and one for more competitive play. Van Ryder Games president A. J. Porfirio quipped “Like a bee to the flower, customers will be attracted by the beauty of the game, but the sweet gameplay is what will keep them coming back.”

Seige Storm: SiegeMode and Bees: The Secret Kingdom are both expected to come to retail stores in the 2nd half of 2019.

Z-Man Games has announced the 2019 season of Pandemic Survival. Survival takes the classic game, but standardizes the roles played, the initial infected cities, the player deck and the infections deck. This means that each and every game session of the 2019 season will start at the same place, allowing for fair tournament play.  This is the 5th year Z-Man has organized Pandemic Survival, and once again players can compete for prizes and the elusive Pandemic Survival World Championship. The ultimate champion will win a trip to any city on the Pandemic board.

Pandemic (2008) by Matt Leacock is the poster child for all great cooperative games, dominating “best of” lists, sitting in BordGameGeek’s top 100, and collecting more awards than one can count. In this classic game, players act to stem the four diseases taking over cities all over the globe, as more and more infections relentlessly appear. Players take on specific roles, such as Medic, Scientist or Operations Expert, each with a special ability. The evil infections deck denotes which cities gain infection cubes each round, and cities with 4 or more cubes will “explode” into neighboring areas, quickly taking down the whole map. Players win or lose as a team by either allowing the world to succumb to infection, or curing all 4 diseases.

There are a few changes in this year’s competition – players must bring their own copy of the original base game, however the card decks will be pre-stacked and sorted, allowing for quicker setup, and “ease of assembly”. For more details, rules for this unique style of tournament play, and the schedule of games, check out Z-Man’s press release here.

Renegade Game Studios and Dire Wolf Digital have announced their compilation project, Eternal: Chronicle of the Throne. Chronicles of the Throne by designer Paul Dennen, is a combination deck building game and strategy card battler which could only have been created by the combined efforts of these two studios. In the game, 2-4 players will “experience fast-paced gameplay as they attack, block, and summon creatures in back and forth CCG-style combat.”

Renegade Game Studios and designer Paul Dennen, are the brains behind the immensely popular games Clank! A Deck Building Adventure and Clank! In! Space! Both of the Clank! games managed to take deck building to a new level, using it as a mechanism in a fantasy board game. Much like deck builders Dominion and Legendary, players can use symbols on their cards to move on the board, buy new cards, or fight monsters. However, the price for many played cards is noise – “CLANK!”, which draws the ire of the dragon below. Players need to judge how deep to delve, trying to collect better and better artifacts, while avoiding becoming the increasingly angry dragon’s wrath.

Dire Wolf Digital is the design team behind Eternal, a popular digital CCG on iOS, Android and Steam. Eternal takes place in a world “where six-guns and sorcery combine”. Much like the heralded Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering Arena, in Eternal players collect cards and construct digital decks for head to head battle. Players use power cards to summon units and cast spells, trying to dominate each other. Eternal: Chronicles of the Throne takes place in this fantastical world, populated by all the art from the digital card game.

Eternal: Chronicles of the Throne should be coming to stores in time for GenCon, in August 2019. For more information about the game, check out the dedicated webpages for the game from Dire Wolf Digital and Renegade Studios.

Last week, I had the great opportunity to visit the set for the upcoming television show Above Board. The brain child of Travis Oates, Above Board is a lifestyle comedy show celebrating our little corner of the vast nerd multiverse – board games, role playing games and collectible card games. The show combines inside jokes about modern board games with tongue in cheek interviews and smart comedy. Above Board will not feature play through videos or reviews, preferring to leave that angle to the people who already do it well – the YouTube personalities we all know and love. (But look for YouTube celebrity cameos). In this article I will review the various segments featured on the show.

The show shines due to its roots in improv sketch comedy. Travis was the owner of the ACME Comedy Theater in L.A. in the 2000s, and most of the cast and crew has previously worked with Travis and with each other through ACME. Everybody on the show has practiced humor, enthusiasm, and charisma that comes from a shared experience in live improv. A majority of the show involves smart banter between the hosts: board game savvy Travis Oates, and the more refined, board game innocent straight man Leif Gantvoort. The humor shines through as Travis continually lies, cheats, and steals in order to embarrass and one-up Leif.

Each show spotlights three board games, beauty shot in a dynamic, close camera fly-by of the board and components (lens flare included). This “car commercial style” has witty narration and ends with a great list of the proper player qualifications for the game. These back of the box “badges” go above and beyond the classic “age 8 and up” in truly surprising ways – think “appropriate for cube fetishists”.

Live skits interspersed in the show allow the rest of the talented cast to shine. Quick Picks has a cast member creating a crazy top 5 list, such as “board games I cannot pronounce”. Retro Spectrum presents an entire line of games, with every version and expansion listed and duly noted. Let Me Spillane It To You features Brian Spillane confidently explaining a board game concept completely wrong. Versus pits two cast members against each other, debating which of two completely unrelated games is superior, often leading to hysterical comparisons – imagine “Gloom vs. Gloomhaven”. Lights and alarms announce surprise game show type competitions between the hosts (usually rigged by Travis) involving crazy tasks. And the frosting on the cake is that our own Tom Vasel does a regular Top Ten List, themed but with surprise twists.

Pre-recorded segments are also an important part of the show. Visits to board game conventions, component factories, and field reporter interviews are reminiscent of The Daily Show or Top Gear. The cast made pilgrimages to both Essen Spiel and GenCon, and the footage and interviews from these huge conventions is priceless. Ludicrous historical newsreels show imagined origins of classic games, and fake commercials for our well known maladies, such as Analysis Paralysis, had the audience in stitches. Role Playing segments feature cast members arguing inane points, then transitioning to the miniatures on the table, having the actual fantasy characters continue the arguments to great effect.

I was initially worried that a television show about board games might take the low road, bashing the eccentric uniqueness of our passion for a cheap laugh, or the opposite and turn into a bland reference documentary. The show consistently exceeded my expectations, balancing smart inside jokes and skits with informed knowledge about the games we love. Above all, the comedy shines through, crafted by a cast well versed in timing, surprise, pathos and satire. I, for one, am looking forward to Above Board and cannot wait for its release.

Cleopatra and the Society of Architects (2006) is a highly regarded game from designers Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc. Unfortunately, this edition from publisher Days of Wonder has been out of print for some time, and is on many a gamer’s grail list. Well fear no more, for Mojito Studios has announced a Kickstarter project for a new edition of this elusive classic, complete with gorgeous art from Miguel Coimbra. In Cleopatra, players take turns collecting stacks of cards from a market, collecting resources in order to purchase large chunks of the famed Cleopatra’s palace. The Worshipers of Sobek can be enlisted to help, although their bonuses come with a penalty. Accumulated corruption needs to be mitigated during the game with treasure scarabs. In this new edition, not only are the famously overproduced pieces of the palace lovingly redesigned, but the designers have included 2 new expansions, compatible with both the old and new editions. The Cult of Sobek includes Sobek miniatures and player aids, while the Whims of Cleopatra involves a giant die and bonus tiles. An upgraded deluxe edition of the game is also available with magnetic pieces, metal corruption amulets and plastic pyramids to store your accumulated goodies. The Kickstarter for Cleopatra and the Society of Architects continues through May 27, and the game is expected to deliver in March 2020.

Hostage Negotiator is a popular single player game created by Van Ryder Games and designer A. J. Porfirio in 2015. In Hostage Negotiator, players use card play to manipulate dice rolls, trying to diffuse the threat of a hostage situation or collect conversation points from the abductor. These points are then used to buy new cards, all the while trying to free the hostages by reducing threat to 0, or through special cards. The Crime Wave expansion followed in 2017, and many Abductor packs added cards to the game. Now all of the previously released content can be combined into an overarching campaign with Hostage Negotiator: Career on Kickstarter. Career simulates 10 years in the career of your character, adding personal and professional stresses, awards of merit, and promotion through the police ranks. Career even adds legacy-like elements, such as secret packets, advanced skills and hidden cards. For fans of this classic solo game, Hostage Negotiator: Career is a beautiful way to turn the game into a full 10 year campaign. The Kickstarter campaign for Hostage Negotiator: Career, including purchase options for all previous content, continues through May 17, and the game is expected to deliver in March of 2020.

The all powerful hive mind that is American Mensa has once again assembled in their hollowed halls to rate the games of 2019. Every year, more than 300 members of Mensa spend a mad weekend of games and judgement to bestow upon a deserving few the title of Mensa Select Winner. So without further ado, the Mensa Select Winners for 2019 are:

Architects of the West Kingdom by designers Shem Phillips and S J Macdonald, Garphill Games and Renegade Game Studios is a wonderful twist on the oft used worker placement mechanism. In Architects, players can improve their actions by adding more and more workers to a single location on the board, but other players can capture a group of opposing workers, to later sell the gang for cash.

Gizmos by designer Phil Walker-Harding and CMoN Games is an elegant engine building game expanding on the Splendor model, centering on a delightful marble dispenser. Players take turns collecting colored marbles, all the while purchasing cards to improve their collection ability, marble color conversions, storage abilities and card building power.

Gunkimono by designer Jeffrey D. Allers and Renegade Game Studios is a re-imagining of Heartland (2009), transforming the original farming motif to one of war-torn feudal Japan. In this quasi-abstract tile laying game, players choose between expansion for points, and building up for future strongholds.

Planet by designer Urtis Šulinskas and Blue Orange Games is a tile laying, city building game on a grand scale. In a move that would have Euclid roll in his grave, players place magnetic terrain tiles on a 3 dimensional “planet”, creating vast areas of desert, ocean, forest, etc. in order to meet specific goals.

Victorian Masterminds by master designers Antoine Bauza and Eric M. Lang with CMoN Games is a breathtakingly beautiful steampunk worker placement masterpiece. Players each take on the role of super villains in the recent wake of Sherlock Holmes’ disappearance, trying to take over the world with their unique doomsday plots.

Steve Jackson Games, the house that Munchkin built, is one of those rare companies that works on almost complete transparency. The company is very good about publicly posting what they are working on, how much money was generated for each project, and what is in store for the future. For those interested in the inner workings of the board game industry, SJG has just posted their 2018 Report to Stakeholders, with a detailed post mortem of all that went down last year – the good, the bad and the ugly. In short, Steve Jackson had a good year, coming out just a smidge lower than 2017, with several good projects such as Kickstarter’s successful The Fantasy Trip, and the continued expansion of the Munchkin Universe. The low point was the ill-fated Muchkin Collectible Card Game, which struggled to find an audience despite good designers and mechanisms. For all the juicy details, check out the Stakeholder Report here.

Acram Digital, maker of fine digital board game conversions, has announced their next A2D project and it’s a doozy. The worker placement legacy game Charterstone, from Stonemaier Games and designer Jamey Stegmaier, will be inserting its electrons on Steam, Apple iOS, Android and Nintendo Switch next year much to the joy of its many fans. In Charterstone, players build up from a simple worker placement game to a monumental resource manipulation, multiple worker type, adorable civilization in a multigame epic. Acram Digital is known for making high quality digital versions of board games, with the impressive translations Istanbul, Steam: Rails to Richesand Eight Minute Empire already under their belt. Expect Charterstone to hit the system near you in early 2020, and for more details check out Acram’s website on Charterstone here.