Glenn Drover is a name known to most board game enthusiasts. He founded Eagle Games, designed many games, including Railroad Tycoon (AKA Railways of the World), Conquest of the Empire, and Age of Empires III.
The name Jason Kapalka may be less well-known in our circles, but his accomplishments are not. He is the co-founder and chief game designer at PopCap who make the insanely popular video games Bejeweled, Peggle, and Plants Vs. Zombies.
Those two luminaries are coming together to found Forbidden Games, and they are bringing their unique design aesthetic with them. PopCap Games turned casual gaming on its ear, investing as much into the lighter end of games as most companies did only with their premium games, and making their games visually and aurally superior to others in the same market in the process. Eagle Games made a similar mark, producing mid-weight board games with large, lovely boards, miniatures and attention to detail in components.
Forbidden Games promises to continue this trend, with a mission statement that reads, “We believe a great board game is something you should treasure and play for years to come.” For their first game, Railroad Rivals, which will launch on Kickstarter later this month, they have hired veteran Disney animator Brian Kesinger, who has worked on movies like Tarzan and Moana.
Gilgamesh Games introduces us to their first game, Hive Smashers, a 2-player card battle game that has players fighting with the advanced Bees against the primitive Wasps. The cards in this game are hexagonal, and each player begins the game by building a hive with 18 random clan cards with their Queen card in the center. A deck of action cards and a deck of clans cards are shuffled and placed between the players. Players win the game by building a path to their opponents Queen, then playing cards to defeat the Queen, or if neither player manages to accomplish this, by having more strength in your hive than your opponent at the end of the game.
Each turn you can play cards to increase the strength of one of your clan members locations, or if you have a card with a higher number, you can cover their clan member with yours, and you can even lower their clan members strength by player lower cards of their clan, all of this in their hive, or in your own. Doing this lets you gain Action Cards. You need Action Cards to build tunnels to your opponents Queen, to collapse Tunnels your opponent has built into your Hive, and to (eventually) defeat the opposing Queen.
The Kickstarter for this game closes on April 1st, so if the game sounds interesting to you, be sure to check it out soon.
AZUL has won this year’s d’OR Game of the Year Award at the Cannes Games Festival. In its acceptance statement for the prestigious award, Plan B Games thanked the Jury and the designer of the game, Michael Kiesling, as well as the many fans of the game who have helped make AZUL such a success in France. AZUL is the abstract strategy tile-laying game which has also been such a significant success here at home in the good ol’United States. The game currently has a BGG rating of 8.0.
In other categories, TERRAFORMING MARS reportedly edged out GREAT WESTERN TRAIL and ARKHAM HORROR THE CARD GAME for the win in the EXPERT category while OUTFOXED was the ‘wiley winner’ of the Children’s Game honors.
The As d’Or (Golden Ace) is a games award given out by a jury at the Festival International des Jeux (Wikipedia) and last year’s top honors went to MYSTERIUM.
Long time board game publisher Mayfair Games has announced it’s closure as a publisher.
After 36 years, this was not an easy decision or one we took lightly, but it was necessary.
Board game publishing giant Amodee has purchased all the assets of the former company, including the product lines of both Mayfair Games, Inc and also Lookout Games, GmbH.
Once we had come to this conclusion, we knew we had to find a good home for our games which is when we reached out to Asmodee.
This news marks the latest addition to Asmodee’s now very impressive arsenal who have been aquiring other high-profile publishers over the past few years.
Thank you to the many retailers, reviewers, customers, industry partners, and volunteers, who made us a success over the past 36 years!
With such household names as Catan and Agricola under their belt, Mayfair Games have left an undeniable mark on the industry of board gaming and introduced a generation of fans to what this wonderful hobby has to offer. For me personally the thanks, is very much mutual.
Crokicurl, the sport-like game where crokinole and curling collide, is now being played in multiple cities across Canada.
The game has players competing using crokinole rules, but using curling stones in lieu of wooden discs and competing on a large scale playing surface made of ice. Players still need to aim for the 20 hole and hit competing players pieces, but now they will be doing this by hurling curling stones across a sheet of ice, with wooden posts blocking shots instead of pegs.
The hybrid game originated in Winnipeg in 2017 when a team of architects built the first crokicurl board at the iconic Forks river site.
While the game was the brainchild of the architects at Winnipeg-based Public City Architecture firm and the first rink was built in Winnipeg, Crokicurl has been picked up in other Canadian municipalities. The Acadia Community Association in Calgary found their inspiration from the Winnipeg game, building a crokicurl rink further West.
As a testament to the popularity of both sports, a story about the Winnipeg invention was one of the most popular posts the Calgary based community association had in 2017:
Last year, when the Winnipeg [crokicurl] article came out, I had put it on our community Facebook page… and the engagement on that post alone pretty much outweighs what we [usually] do in the whole entire year.”
While the game has no confirmed place in the 2018 winter olympics, a possible bid by Calgary to host the 2026 Winter Games could raise the hopes of potential crokicurl medalists.
As a disclaimer, I have taken guests to the Calgary crokicurling site. The game is every bit as amazing as you could possibly hope it would be.
Nemesis is a new Kickstarter Project from designer Adam Kwapiński, Awaken Realms (This War of Mine), and Rebel Games (Dream Home). In Nemesis, players take on highly asymmetric roles on board a starship, knowing that an alien presence is on board. Straight out of the SciFi survival horror genre, 1-5 players need to work together to explore the starship for resources, and escape before they are found by the aliens, or the ship launches into hyperspace killing everyone on board.
Each character type (Captain, Scout, Soldier, Pilot, Scientist and Mechanic) has individual strengths and weaknesses which complement each other, but players also have hidden goals, making it difficult to fully trust the other players. Just to make it more difficult, the aliens will not only react to the noise you make on the ship, but will evolve into more fearsome forms as time goes on. Nemesis will ship with options to play as a semi-cooperative or fully cooperative game, with the added feature to have a player control the intruders.
The Kickstarter Campaign for Nemesis continues through February 7, and the game is expected to deliver in September 2018.
Haba introduces a bunch of new games coming in 2018, and a new line of games for kids designed to be more active than your typical board games.
First up we have Iquazu from designer Michael Feldkötter and artist Stephanie Böhm. This fantasy game has players carefully managing a hand of cards and trying to hide precious gemstones in a grid behind a waterfall, with the help of the water dragon, Silon. As players place the gems, they score for majorities in rows and columns, and earn tokens that give them bonus actions. Once all the columns are filled a final scoring takes place and the player with the most points wins.
Karuba was published in 2015, and is a well-regarded tile-laying game from Rüdiger Dorn that has 2-4 players (though if you own multiple copies of the game, more can play) simultaneously building paths using the same tiles, racing to make a network on which their adventurers can reach the temples and earn points. In 2017, it gets not one, but two spin-off titles. Karuba: The Card Game has the 2-6 players simultaneously picking and revealing 2 cards from their hand, with whomever plays the cards with the lowest sum losing one of those cards, then using the cards to build a network of paths to connect their adventurers and temples, collecting points and treasures along the way. Karuba Junior is a cooperative family game of tile-laying for 1-4 players in which you and your fellow adventurers race to find the treasures and avoid the tigers before pirates reach the island and nab them out from under you.
Conex is an interesting looking card game for 2-4 players. The cards show a base color, and also have small corners and edges of other colors overlapping onto themselves. Players attempt to overlap those corners with matching cards from their hands, building out a seemingly random mish-mash tableau of cards overlapping at odd angles, all the while carefully planning ahead as they try to earn the most points. The game plays in about 20 minutes and the way the cards are laid appears to be a unique mechanism from designer Prospero Hall.
King of the Dice (how did it take until 2017 for a game with this name to be announced?) pits the players as monarchs in a quest to attract the most desirable citizens to their realms. Each turn they roll dice up to three times, trying to show the potential inhabitants they they have the requirements the inhabitants need to thrive. Their are special cards that can provide you with benefits, but also may hide dragons and village idiots that can bring your kingdom low. This game of press-your-luck dice-rolling comes from designer Nils Nilsson and artist Gus Batts, and takes about 30 minutes to play.
Gold Rush Fever hits the players in the real-time action/party game Boom, Bang, Gold from designer Alexandre Emerit. 2-4 players compete to collect gold nuggets by simultaneously tossing sticks of dynamite (well, wooden facsimiles thereof, at least) into the mine (the game box) in an attempt to blast the gold face-up. They then have one minute and one hand to grab the face-up tiles and put them on their shelf. If they find a special tile (a bat, rat, snake, or ghost) they call “Watch Out!” and other players must put their had on their head and cry out “Help!”. When no face up tile remain, the round ends. There are also special action tiles that give special abilities to players who use them. Twelve rounds of frantic chaos and whoever has collected the most gold wins.
Now we get to Haba’s bread-and-butter, great kids games. My Very First Games: Tidy Up is for 1-3 kids aged 2 and up. It is a cooperative game where the players help Little Tomcat Tiptop put all his toys in the right places so his room is neat and tidy. The game also has matching and competitive modes.
Then we have five new games for kids 3-4 and up. Sleepy Princess: Pile Up (aka, The Princess and the Pea) is for 1-4 kids of at least 3 years old. The players help the Princess stack her bed with many pillows, mattresses, and blankets. Beneath this fluffy menagerie lies the hidden wooden pea. Remove the pieces without falling to win. The game comes with a copy of the classic tale as well. Ben’s Building Site: Dominoes has 2-6 kids aged 3 and up placing cards with 2 images on them end-to-end, matching the symbols at each end to tidy up the worksite and get rid of their cards first. It’s dominoes with pictures and cards to make it easier for kids to play, and a cute theme they should enjoy. Dragon Rapid Fire: Quartets is a card game for 2-6 players of 4 years or more in which they strive to collect 4 matching cards and earn fire crystals. Whoever has the most fire crystals wins. Game play is similar to Go Fish and the card art and components are charming. Wild Animals: Schnipp Schnapp is a speed game where players try to be first to slap down the crocodile when two of the same animal meet at the watering hole. It adds a cute theme and artwork to the classic Schnipp Schnapp game that is popular with kids and parents in Europe. Finderfox for 2-4 kids 4 and up is memory game where you roll a die to move the Felix Finderfox pawn and you have to guess who is hiding behind the bush you arrive at. Good memory and good luck will help you win.
Haba also introduces three new games for kids 5 and up. In The Hearmees the key to the game is the “Clawky-Talky”, a textured pad that the supervisor (each player takes turns being the supervisor) use a stylus on to try to communicate to the other players which tiles are needed to be built this round. Listen carefully and try to deduce what is being drawn so your building builds fastest, because whoever gets done first wins. Dragon’s Breath has up to 4 kids take on the role of adolescent dragons enlisting the aid of Father Dragon and working to melt a column of ice and extract the precious stones encased within. The players start the game by making a structure of “ice rings” filled with precious stones in the middle of the board, as rings are removed by the father dragon, the stones are freed. Players choose each round which stones they will get, trying to predict which will score best each round. Whoever collects the most stones wins. In Floppy Ears you strive to play out all of your floppy ear cards before the others do, but you can only play cards that match the ones hanging on your ears, and you have to remember which colors those are and play them at the right time.
Then we have Dino World for kids six and up. This dexterity game has 2-4 kids trying to capture the most dinosaur cards by pushing new predators from the top of the box onto the prey below. Aim carefully, and make sure you match the symbols so that you go after the right prey! The game has 52 dinosaur cards in 5 different sizes.
Haba is also introducing a new line of active games for young children (the first four games are designed for kids around 4-5 years old, and older), called Active Kids. These games integrate traditional board games ideas like Set Collection and Die Rolling with physical activities that encourage more movement and a less sedentary lifestyle. The line begins with four new titles: Dog Rallye: Active Kids, Hampeltiere: Active Kids, Rhino Hero Action: Active Kids, and Socken zocken: Active Kids.
Dog Rallye plays in about 15 minutes and has a tube-shaped bone that the 2-4 players stuff with treats and roll on the floor. Players have to move around on all fours, like a puppy, scrambling to pick up the treats that come out of the sides of the toy bone, then they sort them into the matching colored holes on their lawn section of the board. The first player to get the right doggie treats collected wins.
Hampeltiere gets the kids out of their chairs to act out animals in funny situations. Each round, a different player acts as judge, and flips over a card, while the other players try to copy the movement of the animal on the card. The judge decides who correctly did it first, with that player moving their scoring marker one space. When one players makes it all the way around the track, they win the game. The game should take about 10 minutes to play.
Rhino Hero Action follows on the popular Rhino Hero and Rhino Hero: Super Battle stacking games. In this 10-15 minute game, the Spider Monkeys are collecting slime balls to throw at the city residents, but the heroes are trying to take them out of the city to keep it safe. 2-4 players take turns with each being the Hero while the others play the Spider Monkey Gang. The Hero has to collect their wits, skill, and courage, to gather and move more and more slime balls out of the city each round, while the Spider Monkey Gang tries to prevent the hero from making a complete circuit.
And last in the line (for now), Socken Zocken has the 2-4 players running about in their socks for 10-15 minutes, dropping off one sock in each laundry basket. Those baskets have directions that tell them which basket to run to next. Once they have dropped off all their socks, they have to return to the box in the center and put their hand on the sock monster to claim the victory.
The beautifully illustrated deduction game Rising 5: Runes of Asteros is getting a USA release around March 2018 courtesy of publisher Grey Fox Games.
In Rising 5, you and up to 4 other players are cooperating to save the planet of Asteros from the deadly monsters that have been freed from their sealed prison by a malevolent force, where they were confined millenia ago. As a member of the Rising 5 team of heroes, you have to choose wisely from a range of actions (including some unique to each character), to once again seal the monsters behind the Rune Gate, and by working together as a team you are able to improve your chances by lending your support to your team-mates actions.
Mechanically, the game uses an app (that also plays atmospheric music for that full immersion) to generate a random combination of colours and monsters that you have to correctly pair up, and also to arrange them in a specific order. Whilst it might have echoes of the aged stalwart Mastermind, especially in the very core of the game, the decisions you have to make are much more interesting; in fact, you have to earn the right to even guessing at the combination – nothing comes for free!
The wonderfully talented Vincent Dutrait provided the artwork, whilst the game was designed by the team of Gary Kim and Evan Song, and if you need any further convincing, it’s received the Dice Tower Seal of Approval (and also appears on the “2017 Top 10 games list” of at least one of the Dice Tower hosts…).
Outside In Games has started a new Kickstarter Campaign for the hybrid deck building game Stumped. In Stumped, 2-4 players take turns using deck building to construct a tree out of wooden trunks, branches, leaves and fruit. Resource cards are played in stacks at your tree’s roots, the base of the tree, and players attempt to create sets of one each dirt, water and sun cards, which adds a wooden piece to the tree. Cards alternatively can be used to buy either more resources or unique action cards from an open market, some decidedly take-that and destructive, and some more constructive. The first player to complete their tree with 10 leaves wins the game. Stumped comes with beautiful wooden pieces to construct 4 trees, 4 colors of wooden leaves (nearly 2 lbs of wood), and 165 cards, including 42 unique offensive, defensive and growth-related action cards.
The Kickstarter Campaign for Stumped continues through December 6, and is expected to deliver in April 2018.
Blue Orange Games is no newcomer to high-quality games. With hits such as New York 1901 and this year’s Spiel des Jahres winner, Kingdomino, Blue Orange has been diving deeper into the arena of family board games. Well, this year they hit a new plateau with Photoshynthesis. Photosynthesis is a strategy game in where you plant trees and harvest them at the right time to earn points. The sun will traverse the board providing sun points to those trees that have line of site to it (without being in the shadow of another tree).
The game has outstanding components with high-durable trees and beautiful artwork.
The sun shines brightly on the canopy of the forest, and the trees use this wonderful energy to grow and develop their beautiful foliage. Sow your crops wisely and the shadows of your growing trees could slow your opponents down, but don’t forget that the sun revolves around the forest. Welcome to the world of Photosynthesis, the green strategy board game!
Come see this beauty over at booth 1811 at GenCon!
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