board games

Ticket to Ride (2004) by Alan Moon is arguably one of the most popular board games of the modern era. In this Spiel des Jahres winner, players collect colored cards to place train pieces across the board, connecting cities to score points. This classic has consistently sat in the top 150 games on BoardGameGeek, and its popularity is further proven by the more than 60,000 user ratings.

Days of Wonder has just announced a partnership with Amazon, allowing their personal voice assistant Alexa to play either Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe. The “official Alexa skills for Ticket to Ride” can act as a moderator, guiding players on the setup and rules of the game, as well as keeping score. Alexa can join the game as another player. In addition, Alexa will add thematic background music and sound effects to the game. For more information on this free Alexa program, check out Days of Wonder’s press release here.

Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) has announced a new partnership with theOP to bring new officially licensed factions to Smash Up. This is the first time that the two California companies have worked together, and Smash Up is a perfect forum for bringing in well known properties in interesting ways.

Smash Up (2012) is, of course, the phenomenally popular card game from Paul Peterson, in which players combine two factions decks together (“shufflebuilding”) to create a unique monster force. This new hybrid deck is then used to take over Base Cards for points. Of course, factions would be nothing without special abilities and powers, which can throw all the rules out the window. Previous factions have included Pirates, Zombies, Dinosaurs, Aliens and many others. In fact, with the many expansions already released, Smash Up now has nearly 70 factions.

TheOP (formerly USAopoly) is known for collecting and utilizing numerous intellectual properties, such as Batman, Harry Potter, Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, and others. Previous agreements with other publishers have yielded games such as Talisman: Batman, Talisman: Kingdom Hearts,  Codenames: Harry Potter, Thanos Rising, and Star Wars: Dark Side Rising.

AEG has promised more information about the partnership at their March Smashness event in 2020. For more information, check out the full press release here.

Geek Attitude Games has announced Etienne Espreman’s card game sequel to Bruxelles 1893 (2013), Bruxelles 1897. The original Bruxelles 1893 is a critically acclaimed worker placement game taking place during the height of the Art Nouveau movement. Players spend money to collect art, acquire building materials to construct a house, find patrons, and sell art for money and prestige. The worker placement is modular, with elements of worker control and bidding embedded into the structure of the board.

In Bruxelles 1897, the essence of the game is retained, although this card game version is shorter, more streamlined, and some may argue, more elegant. The workers are replaced with a hand of worker cards, each double sided with two money costs, eg. 1/3 or 2/4 francs. The board is now a grid of cards representing actions achievable in the Art Nouveau area.  Players take one of their worker cards, pay whichever cost they select, then replace a card in the grid with their card. By collecting these cards, players can gain art pieces or building materials, build buildings, or hire patrons. The amount of money that was spent is therefore easily seen in the grid, and players gain bonuses at the end of the round for having spent the most money in a column.

Players can also send their workers to the city, which costs no money, but may land that worker in jail. City actions allow players to activate their patron abilities, gain more money, or collect desperately needed art. One final action is to start an exhibition, in which players display their art for points.

The game continues over 4 rounds, after which the player with the most points has best represented the movement, and is declared victorious. Bruxelles 1897 will be available for purchase at BGG Con, November 20-24, and will come to retail early next year.  

Image from BGG

Gaming suffered a loss as we lost Chad Jensen, one of the great wargame and board game designers, as well as a spectacularly nice person. Chad is best known for his work with GMT Games, where he was designer of Combat Commander: Europe (2006), a seminal wargame, considered an inspiration for the genre. Chad continued changing the hobby with Dominant Species (2010), currently at BGG #51, a beautifully designed area control game which has become a modern classic. In May 2019, Chad was given a diagnosis of late stage cancer. The board game community was there to help with words of support, and a GoFundMe campaign to help defray expenses. Although he fought a valiant battle, the game was designed to be unwinnable, and the dice were rigged against him. His wife and co-designer Kai said it best on Facebook: “Fifty-two laps around the sun and then off to the stars…”

Today the games are a little less fun.

“Marco Polo set out from Venice in 1271 and spent the next twenty-four years traveling and proving his skill as a merchant. Seventeen of those years he spent in China as an ambassador of Kublai Khan, embarking on missions throughout the Mongol Empire and seeing parts of the world most Europeans could scarcely imagine at the time. Will you continue the legacy of one of history’s greatest travelers?”

Z-Man GamesThe Voyages of Marco Polo (2015) by Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini was one of the biggest hits of that year, earning recommendation from Kennerspiel des Jahres and shooting to the top 50 on BGG. Marco Polo used clever dice placement to collect resources, fulfill contracts and travel across Europe from Venice to Beijing in a glorious point salad of eurogamer goodness. The game featured tight money and resources, along with player characters that all felt wonderfully overpowered.

Attention all Marco Polo fans, Z-Man Games has just announced a sequel to this classic, Marco Polo II: In the Service of the Khan, featuring the same design team of Luciani and Tascini. Marco Polo II has the same basic structure as it’s predecessor, with players using their dice as workers to activate action spaces, collecting resources, finishing contracts, and traveling across China. Players can once again use previously occupied spaces by placing their die on top of the growing stack, paying hard cash for the privilege. Additionally, jade now enters the game as a new resource, allowing manipulation of the markets. Players can join various guilds to open new travel routes along the map, opening shortcuts.

Look for Marco Polo II: In the Service of the Khan in 2020, and for more information, check out Z-Man’s website here.

Image from BGG

BoardGameGeek, the repository of all things ludological, recently reported from Blizzard Entertainment’s  Blizzcon 2019 convention that the video game company and Asmodee are joining forces on a future board game: a World of Warcraft version of Small World. Not a lot of details exist at the moment, aside from pictures and a short announcement, but fans of the monumentally popular online game should be able to effectively scratch their board game itch.

Small World (2009), by designer Philippe Keyaerts is a multiple award winning critical darling, currently sitting in the top 250 games on BGG. In Small World, 2-5 players each merge a race with a power to create crazy hybrid troops in an area control board game across a, well… Small World. Players control the rise and fall of their troops, bringing in new races when their current army fades. From the photos, it appears that the Warcraft variant will follow the same path, showing races such as Humans, Goblins, Trolls and Blood Elves, coupled with powers such as Farmer, Herbalist, Ranger, or Enraged. The map in progress looks very small indeed, but is clearly labeled as a “work in progress”

Look for the World of Warcraft Small World project to come to light in Spring 2020, and a great thank you to our friends at BoardGameGeek for breaking this story.

Space! For millennia, humans have marveled at the cosmos. Modern astronomy gives us valuable insight about what’s happening in the universe, but there is still a sense of wonder to be had in looking up at the expanse above us.”

Renegade Games has announced Stellar, a 2 player card game designed by masters Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle (co-designers of Fleet, Piepmatz) about telescopes and stargazing. In Stellar, players calibrate their telescopes to observe a huge variety of celestial bodies, including black holes, planets, asteroids, and even satellites. Cards are played to the telescope and notebook, and after 11 rounds a stunning tableau of the night sky will be created. The stargazer with the most points is then declared victorious. Stellar comes with 24 telescope cards, 60 celestial object cards, scorepad, reference cards and rules.

“The corpses of pixies, goblins, unicorns, cyclops, and dragons have begun to pile up, so you’ve got your work cut out for you… Keep the place organized, as you bury corpses in different areas of the graveyard, or it’s your own grave you’ll be digging!”

Also coming from Renegade Games is the adorably dark card game Gloomy Graves by designer Jeffrey D. Allers (Citrus). In this game, 2-4 players take on the role of fantasy gravediggers, and the bodies are piling up. Pixies are one thing, but the deceased dragons and cyclops can be tricky to work with. Players must manage both their private crypt and the communal graveyard, each with its own rules. Gloomy Graves comes with 90 corpse cards to bury, along with 20 score cards, player aids and rulebook.

Look for both games coming Q1 2020. For more information, check out Renegade Studio’s web pages on Stellar and Gloomy Graves.

Aporta Games has just announced the next in their continuing line of excellent roll and write games, Trails of Tucana. This “flip and write” variant was designed by Eilif Svensson and Kristian Amundsen Østby, both of whom had previously worked on the critically loved gems Doodle City and Avenue. Tucana also features adorable art by Gjermund Bohne.

In Trails of Tucana, players each have a board comprised of a hex map of varying terrain types, such as mountains, desert, jungle, etc. Along the edge of the map are villages, labeled A-F, and within the island are various treasures. Players flip two terrain cards each turn, and draw a trail connecting those two terrains, ie. Mountain to desert, or jungle to jungle. Eventually these connections will turn into a network of trails across the island. After the deck runs through, points are awarded for connecting villages together, or connecting a treasure to a village. The game ends after 2 runs through the deck.

Look for Trails of Tucana in stores soon, and for more information check out Aporta’s website here.

“The legendary King of Tokyo comes to your tabletop in a limited DARK EDITION, where you can discover the dark side of giant monsters clashing. The setting is more wicked than ever, and Tokyo is the prize!”

IELLO had a hit with Richard Garfield’s King of Tokyo almost from the moment it was released in 2011. The game was instantly addictive, combining giant monster battles with city destruction, in an elegant, easy to learn, yet beautiful game. Several expansions and a sequel game, King of New York, helped to elevate the IP to a modern classic.

IELLO has now announced King of Tokyo: Dark Edition. This limited edition game will have only one print run, and will introduce a new, darker, grittier art style, as well as upgraded components, making it a showpiece for any collection. The game will use the standard King of Tokyo rules, plus a new, as of yet undescribed, mechanism exclusive to this edition.

Look for King of Tokyo: Dark Edition in stores March 2020. For more information, check out IELLO’s webpage here.

“The world is your game board. Get ready for CATAN – World Explorers, an upcoming massively multiplayer augmented reality game that transforms the entire Earth into one giant game of CATAN.”

Settlers of Catan (1995) by Klaus Teuber is one of the classic European board games that shepherded in the modern age of board games. Winner of Spiel des Jahres in 1995, and still beloved today, Catan introduced the world to resource collection, trading, and city building.

The world of Catan had already expanded onto digital devices, but now will take over the entire world. Catan World Explorers, announced at Essen Spiel 2019,  is a new digital game in which players explore the real world, a la Pokemon Go, searching for classic Catan resources. Players collect wheat, sheep, wood, etc. on their device, trying to then construct roads and cities. However it won’t be all that easy… your neighborhood may have an abundance of one type of resource, but you will likely have to trade for something else.  Team up with friends for victory points, and compete locally or globally to become seasonal champions.

For more information, check out the Catan World Explorers website here.