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.

The Isle of Cats is a new Kickstarter project from designer extraordinaire Frank West, best known for the excellent Kickstarter game The City of Kings (2018). In The Isle of Cats, 1-4 players embody citizens of Squall’s End, trying to rescue friendly felines from the eponymous Isle before the evil Lord Vesh arrives. Players collect polyomino cat tiles in one of 5 family colors. Pieces need to fit on the player’s unique boat, optimally with members of the same family touching each other. Fish are a common resource used to purchase both the polyomino cats and useful drafted player cards. Lesson cards give each players unique goals and bonuses for filling their boats, whereas anytime cards gain resources, and can play off each other, creating interesting combos. Treasure and Oshax cards give players access to these special tiles, which can fill gaps in the ship for bonus points. Oshax cats specifically are very friendly, and can act as wildcards, matching with any family color.

“You will need to manage resources as you draft cards to explore the island, rescue cats, find treasures, befriend Oshax and read ancient lessons. Each lesson you collect will give you another personal way of scoring points, in addition to filling your boat and keeping cat families together!”

The Isle of Cats comes with 30 cat meeples, 85 unique cat tiles, 6 Oshax tiles, 64 treasure tiles, 36 lesson cards, 60 rescue cards, 21 treasure and Oshax cards, 31 anytime cards, boats, board and tokens. The game supports Solo and Family play modes, and also available is a 5-6 player expansion with all the necessary extra boards, tokens, tiles and cards. The campaign for The Isle of Cats continues through July 25, and is expected to deliver in March 2020.

Arcane Wonders has announced 2 new games coming out this September, the tile laying game Architectura by designer Pavel Atamanchuk and the loot-and-scoot dungeon crawl Dragonscales by the eminent designer Richard Launius (Arkham Horror).

“Fight, steal, run, and maybe betray! Only one villain can emerge the victor!”

In DragonScales, 3-5 players each take on the role of fantasy villains looking to defeat the three headed dragon within his lair. Each villain comes with its own unique deck of action and action and tactic cards. The cunning scoundrels aim to loot and pillage the lair, collecting treasures and precious dragonscales, and most importantly escape alive. And if you can claim the three heads of the great dragon as trophies, all the better. DragonScales is no slouch with regard to components, coming with 5 player miniatures, 44 custom dice, 25 plastic dragonscales, 136 cards, 109 cubes, markers, screens and board. The game plays in 60 minutes, and inspected to hit stores September 18.

Architectura is a tile laying, city building game for 2-4 players which plays in a reasonable 30-45 minutes. Players take turns laying down tiles, creating a grid of buildings, each of which may enhance or destroy neighboring structures. Additionally, Cards can be rotated for actions and bonuses.
Architectura can also be played in an advanced mode, where each player has a unique deck of buildings to work with.

“Let’s say you’ve just built a magnificent temple. A vulgar market around the corner doesn’t belong there anymore and has to be shut down right away, but a park near the temple’s entrance will definitely be a good match and will even profit from the divine proximity.”

Look for Architectura at your FLGS on September 18, 2019.

“In Gibraltar Station, a fringe outpost in the Void Horizon, free-port merchants and mercenaries play Sovereign’s Chain, a card game that matches strategy, skill, and a bit of rogue luck for its player.”

WizKids today announced Sovereign’s Chain, a fast (30 minutes) hand manipulation card game coming this summer from designer Robert J. Hudecek (Dragon Farkle). In Sovereign’s Chain, 2-4 players take turns placing Class cards from their hand onto the end of an ever growing tableau, called a Chain. These Class cards have numerical values, and come in one of two suits, Planets or Stars. Cards can be played into either a player’s own Chain, or that of an opponent, and the game ends when any players’ Chain reaches a length of 7 cards. The goal of the game is to have the greatest difference in total value between your two suits in your Chain when the game ends.

Cards are usually played face up, activating some ability to manipulate the Chain, perhaps adding value to a card, removing or adding cards, or protecting cards from further shenanigans. The starting card in a chain is played face down, and other cards may be played similarly during the game; these cards are revealed one at a time at game end, adding last minute treachery. Additionally, Event cards add random effects during the game.

Look for Sovereign’s Chain at your FLGS this August. For more details, check out WizKid’s excellent webpage detailing the game.

HABA, the excellent company spearheading chunky components in bright yellow boxes, has two new games coming out this summer, Mountains and Wobble King. Mountains looks to be one of HABA’s more mature game titles, fitting alongside the excellent Iquazu and Meduris. Wobble King is a more classic yellow box children’s games with HABA’s signature unique mechanisms and interesting pieces.  

In Mountains by designer Carlo A. Rossi (Divinity Derby), 2-5 players take hikes in order to collect stamps in their hiking book. Six piles of cards represent the 6 levels of difficulty, and each turn, a player picks one pile to draw from. This card shows what equipment is required for the hike, with more challenging hikes requiring more equipment. If the player has the necessary equipment in hand, they can complete the hike, and earn the rewards on the card. Otherwise, players can use “favor stones” to borrow equipment from other players. If no hikes are possible, players can turn over a card to simply earn more favor stones. After 2 hiking piles are depleted, the player with the most summit stamps wins the game. Mountains comes with great passport books, stamps and ink pads, and is expected to hit stores this August.

King Leo has fallen asleep atop his huge pile of silver, providing a perfect opportunity for players to sneak some of the treasure for themselves. The main board in Wobble King (Kippelkönig) is placed on top of many silver coin meeples. On the main board sits a large precariously balanced King Leo figure. 2-4 Players take turns using a stick to work one of the silver coins out from under the main board. If the board falls, or King Leo topples, the faulting player needs to take a rotten tomato. If you are caught twice, you are eliminated from the game. Look for Wobble King from designer Heinz Meister at your FLGS in August 2019.

The sharp-eyed and -eared among you may have heard Tom Vasel, our illustrious leader, drop a bombshell on the latest episode of Boardgame Breakfast. The next game in the Dice Tower Essentials line of games, will be Smartphone, Inc. originally from Cosmodrome Games and designer Ivan Lashin. The Dice Tower Essentials are games that Tom himself has played, deemed extraordinary, and brought personally to publisher Arcane Wonders for retail publication. Smartphone was originally shown at Essen 2018, and despite having a very small print run, quickly became a darling of the show. Rumors of reprints abounded, but until now the game has been on the grail list of many collectors.

“Back when smartphones were only beginning to conquer the world, it was your destiny to lead one of the most promising manufacturing corporations in the world. Analyze and research customer demand around the globe. Get out of your comfort zone and try to get more profit by setting up new offices in nearby regions. Improve your production and research innovative technologies. Try to get local markets under your control. Find your own way to success—become the producer of an elite high-tech product or a manufacturer focused on the mass market. And don’t forget to keep your plans secret if you want to win this race. Other companies want the same thing you do: to become the most successful (and richest) smartphone manufacturer of all time!”

Smartphone, Inc. is often described as Food Chain Magnate lite, being a strong but elegant economic game for 2-5 players about manufacturing and selling cell phones around the world. At the heart of the game, players manipulate two double sided cards, creating their “pad”. Each half of the pad contains 6 squares of icons, and by overlapping them in specific ways, players create their plan for the round: Visible symbols give actions for the round, while covered squares add additional product for sale, but inherently limit a player’s turn. Players can gain Improvement Tiles from the market each round, more cardboard tiles that can be added to their pad, adding new icons, or flipped to create more phones for sale.

Available actions include changing the sell price of a player’s phones up or down, researching new technologies, spreading and selling to other areas on the world map, gaining Improvements, and making more product. Newer technologies and world expansion give players more locations to sell their product, and each player can only sell in one “slot” per round, creating fierce competition for the markets. Players can focus on creating large amounts of cheaper phones, which allows them to act first, flooding sell spaces and outcompeting their opponents, or they can make higher priced phones to simply make more money. The richest player after 5 rounds emerges victorious.

The components for Smartphone are exceptional, with the entire board using dual layered cardboard, creating recessed slots for player pieces. The pieces themselves are brightly colored clear plastic cubes (phones/goods), office buildings (for territory control), and smartphone bars (representing progress). Individual player storage boxes keep the pieces organized: plastics, the player’s “pad”, and starting innovations. A clean, minimalistic graphic design places the round structure and all rules in easy to understand proximity. Also included in the game is a strong A.I. driven solo mode.

Smartphone Inc. will be available to demo at GenCon, Origins Game Fair, and Dice Tower Con this summer, and Arcane Wonders has stated that the awaited Kickstarter Campaign for reprints will still occur later this year, with retail release to follow in 2020. For more details, check out Arcane Wonders announcement here, and the Cosmodrome official webpage for Smartphone Inc here.

The OP, also known as USAopoly, has announced Astro Trash, a new real time dice rolling game reminiscent of the classic game LCR. Astro Trash has 3-5 players acting as intergalactic janitors, trying to clear their personal planet of trash, by either moving it to another player’s planet, or by flinging it into the sun.

“Thanks to a sanitation spacecraft gone haywire, a collection of debris has been released into the vast universe, covering once inhabitable worlds with disruptive litter! Cleaning up all the Astro Trash calls for one quick-acting champion to literally take the matter into his or her own hands.”

Players frantically roll their three dice in real time. The numbered die dictates how many pieces of trash can be moved, the colored die says what type of trash can be moved, and the direction die says whether they are moved to the left, the right, or incinerated in the sun. If a players’ personal planet is cleared of all trash, they proclaim “Clean!” then take a Trash Trophy. The first player with 3 trophies wins the game.

Astro Trash comes with 5 player mats, 15 custom dice, 50 trash pieces in 6 colors, an oversized playmat and 11 Trash Trophies. For more details about Astro Trash, check out The OP’s press release, or the official web page for the game.

Rock Manor Games has launched a Kickstarter Project for the post-apocalyptic western board game, The Few and Cursed, by designer Michael Gnade (Brass Empire, Maximum Apocalypse). The game is based on the rich and engrossing world from the comic series created by Felipe Cagno and Fabiano Neves, and the art for the game is pulled directly from these stories.  

“The Few and Cursed can best be described as a Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets the Old West comic book series about people trying to survive a world where most of the water evaporated overnight in a mysterious apocalyptic event back in 1840. Even though what was left of mankind found a way to adapt using water, the most valuable asset on the planet, as currency, survival turned the world into a wicked wasteland where it’s either kill or be killed. And evil not only endured, it won.”

1-4 Players take on the role of Curse Chasers, each starting with unique strengths, weaknesses, and asymmetric starting decks of cards. Players deck-build without a market, collecting their cards from an upgrade deck, and choosing which to keep and which to discard. Players meet random encounters, try to complete jobs, capture bounties and find supernatural artifacts. Card play moves the characters across the dry Pacific ocean, gains them resources, improves stats, and generally gains fame or infamy. Dangers lurk all over this world, from fearsome monsters that hunt the heroes, to the ever-present supernatural forces that curse the characters.

“Draw on the darkness too much and you will transform and become cursed… every cursed state has it’s own pros and cons but they all lead towards death.”

The game includes 4 player characters with double layered character boards, minis with 38 starting cards and 90 upgrade cards. Also in the box are 4 monster minis, encounter, shop, artifact, and job cards, and numerous cubes and tokens. A Deluxe Edition adds 60 engraved wooden tokens and a metal first player coin. The Kickstarter Campaign for The Few and Cursed continues through June 27, and the game is expected to deliver in July 2020.

Dice Tower News has previously announced the formation of Gamegenic Ingenious Supplies, a branch of Asmodee dedicated to creating board game accessories. Now, the proverbial elephant in the room has announced that the first project for Gamegenic will be accessories for the immensely popular collectible deck game Keyforge: Call of the Archons.

Keyforge, by designer and gaming demi-god Richard Garfield, hit the scene by storm in 2018, delivering on its unbelievable promise of a game based on completely unique card decks. Each and every pack of Keyforge has a one of a kind name, logo, and set of cards. The game itself is the next evolution of the one-on-one CCG card battle, with players summoning creatures, collecting Æmber, and creating the eponymous keys to win the game. The hook is that cards are based in one of 4 houses, and players can play as many cards as they like, as long as they all belong to the same house.

Gamegenic has announced they will be bringing official deck boxes, sleeves, and other accessories for Keyforge. CEO Adrian Alonso stated, “KeyForge has not only a unique game concept but also special requirements in terms of accessories, which we have incorporated into our product design. As we are all enthusiastic KeyForge players ourselves, we can promise that there will be some truly special products.” The new Keyforge products will be revealed at the traditional Fantasy Flight Inflight Report before Gencon 2019, and the official launch date is August 1. For more information, check out the press release from Asmodee here.

Pencil First Games has announced The One Hundred Torii, a new Kickstarter project from designers Scott Caputo (Whistle Stop) and Eduardo Baraf (Herbaceous), with artist extraordinaire Vincent Dutrait (Treasure Island, New York 1901 and many, many others). The One Hundred Torii is a zen tile laying game, where 1-4 players take turns adding to an ever expanding garden, calling for help from the characters living therein, and scoring for paths between matching landmarks.

“Step into tranquility as you pass through the torii gates, traveling from fountains to flowers to shrines while meeting vendors, poets, and even samurai along the way… “

On their turn, the players take one tile from their hand of 2, and expand the garden. Every tile piece has paths and at least one of the 6 features – Lotus, Bridges, Lanterns, Water Basins, Inari Statues, or Sekimori Ishi (stone features). If a continuous path is created between two matching features, the player scores a landmark token for that feature. If multiple paths are created, the player only scores for the shortest one. If the path passes through one or more Torii gates, bonus tiles are earned; Red Torii give the player multiple matching tokens for the feature, while blue Torii earn tokens for other, different features. When a player earns 5 of the same token, they must be cashed in for a larger 5-point piece. Similarly, 5 more tokens create a 10-point piece. Fully isolated areas of the garden with 2 or more features score special Enclosure Tokens. Other achievements are earned for being the first player to earn all six 5-point tokens, or three of the 10-point tokens.

Another important aspect of the game is the ability to ask for help from one of the five characters who live in the garden. Characters cost coins, or single tokens, but never the larger 5- and 10-point pieces. The Samurai prevents players from placing a tile in a specific location. The Poet covers a single feature, preventing it from completing pathways, or possibly allowing for longer pathways. Both the Samurai and the Poet stay out until another player asks for their help. The Vendor allows players to discard a tile from their hand, and replace it with 2 new ones. The Geisha lets a player place 2 tiles into the garden, although only the second tile scores for a path. Finally, the Gardener allows a player to place a tile on top of another tile. The first and second time a player summons a character, they collect that characters’ token, earning 2 points. However only one player may collect the points for summoning a character for a third time.

At the end of the game, the 5- and 10- point tiles score their points, as well as tiles earned from working with the characters, tiles from creating enclosures, and achievements for being first to earn the larger tokens. The One Hundred Torii also comes with a single player mode, where the player battles against Onatsu, the pilgrim. Onatsu takes the player’s unused tiles, and scores her own points throughout the game.

The Kickstarter Campaign for The One Hundred Torii continues through June 10, and the game is expected to deliver in April 2020.

Courtesy KublaCon

KublaCon is touted as the largest multi-genre gaming convention west of the Mississippi. My 5 days in San Francisco showed that the power of this gathering lies in its people. Mike Eckert, executive producer of KublaCon, expected his staff of 67 to cater to over 4000 people in this 19th year of the convention. Kubla is spread over 3 hotels south of San Francisco and includes Tournaments, Miniatures Gaming, Role Playing, LARPing, Board Games, Collectible Card Games, Painting and nearly every aspect of our strange little world. Special guests abounded, with the program listing nearly 20 designers, authors (I saw Andy Weir watching a game of Terraforming Mars), YouTubers and industry insiders.

The game development and design scene is very strong at Kubla, prompting Scott Rogers (Pantone, Rayguns and Rocketships), game designer and co-host of Ludology Podcast, to call it “one event in the industry I will never miss.” The Protospiel room, spearheaded by Jeremy Commandeur, housed true greats of the industry, who showed each other extremely early designs in a safe, open environment. I was lucky enough to see Matt Leacock (Pandemic, Forbidden Desert) demonstrating a new dexterity game, as well as Scott Rogers showing off Rayguns and Rocketships the Card Game and Castle Climbers. Early designs available for the public to play also included Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky and Wizardz Bluff, as well as Kickstarter projects Papillon, and Fickle. Open the the public, the KublaCon Game Design Contest has 30-40 entries judged by greats in the industry, with the top 4 games open to play throughout the convention. Past years have all created published games, including critical success March of the Ants in 2014.

One of the most impressive features of KublaCon is the community. More than once I saw people leave their prized games with complete strangers, or even in an empty room, with no fear of anything being stolen. Communities banded together in the long lines, feeding each other and reserving prized places waiting for events. The feeling of community was best seen in a tradition of call and echo, where one person will yell out “Kubla!” and the entire hotel will roar with an echo of “CON!” It just makes one proud to hear a sole 8 year old scream out his war cry and be answered by thousands of supportive gamers. For the very young, KublaCon hosts kids’ gaming and crafting rooms, occasionally dressing them up in armor and weapons and marching the army of gamers-in-training throughout the convention halls, intimidating the masses.

I was able to play great games at KublaCon, both rare and relatively unknown (Smartphone Inc) and popular (you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting Wingspan or Terraforming Mars). Impressive giant scale versions of favorites King of Tokyo, Shadows over Camelot, Azul, Tak, and Captain Sonar adorned the front room. I found fantastic deals in the flea market and dealer hall. But the thing I will remember the most from this convention is that every person I spoke to had the most amazing experiences and stories –  from Disney Imagineers to Google Executives to Game Designers to Cancer Survivors to long distance friends rarely seen, Kubla truly was a convention of the people, and I look forward to next year.