board games

The Nominees for the 2019 Spiel des Jahres Awards were announced on May 20th, 2019. The ultimate winners of this year’s awards will be announced on July 22nd, 2019 in Berlin.

The nominees for each respective category (along with their designer(s)) are:

Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year):

Just One (Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter)

LAMA (Reiner Knizia)
Werewords (Ted Alspach)

Kinderspiel des Jahres
(Children’s Game of the Year):

Fabulantica (Marco Teubner)
Go Gecko Go! (Jurgen Adams)
Valley of the Vikings (Marie and Wilfried Fort)

Kennerspiel des Jahres (Connoisseur – Enthusiast Game of the Year):

Carpe Diem (Stefan Feld)
Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game (Ignacy Trzewiczek, Przemysław Rymer, Jakub Łapot)
Wingspan (Elizabeth Hargrave)

In addition to the nominees, the selection jury also published a list of recommended games/honorable mentions for each award category.

The official announcement regarding the 2019 nominees can be viewed here.

Designer Glenn Drover (Empires: Age of Discovery) and his company Forbidden Games have started a Campaign on Kickstarter to fund the first expansion for the popular stock market game Raccoon Tycoon. Raccoon Tycoon (2018) has been extremely popular since its release, due to the fantastic artwork and simple but elegant economic mechanisms, earning a Seal of Excellence from The Dice Tower, with Tom Vasel stating “It’s fast-paced high quality fun. This is easily in my top 5 stock market games ever.”

In Raccoon Tycoon, up to 5 players choose from 5 actions to try and earn the most victory points by game end. Central to the game are the Price and Commodity cards, which allow players to gather commodity resources, then increase the price of several goods. As an action, players can sell all of a single resource for the current price, but the price then decreases by the number sold. Money can be used to buy buildings in order to gain special abilities. Railroad cards can be auctioned, and earn increasing points at the game end for completion of sets. Town cards can be bought with resources, and are a necessity in order for the railroad cards to score.

The Fat Cat Expansion adds a number of things to the game, primary among them being a 6th player, and an additional set of Railroad cards, the Jack Rabbit Railroad. To facilitate set collection, Badger Baron Railroad cards can be used as wild cards to complete sets, and new Town cards are thrown into the mix. Additional buildings add variety and new special abilities. New player boards have space to organize resources, buildings, and components. The Fat Cat Expansion also adds new meeple play, with specialized wooden tokens that can be purchased to earn points or bonuses. Housing and Locomotive meeples can be built via specialized buildings, and can be added to Town or Railroad cards respectively for points. Animal and Tycoon meeples can also be acquired during the game, and advance on a point track on the player board. And to add frosting to an already spectacular cake, the Fat Cat Expansion comes with a giant wooden Fat Cat Start Player Marker, matching the impressive Raccoon that came with the original game.

The Kickstarter Campaign for Raccoon Tycoon: The Fat Cat Expansion continues until June 7, and is expected to deliver in November 2019.

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.

It’s that time of year again – the time for the Dice Tower and it’s contributors to vote for the games worthy of an award among a variety of categories, not the least of which is the best game of year. These are the best of the best according to the panel of judges on games released in English in 2018.  You can see previous winners, along with this year’s nominees, on the Dice Tower Awards website, and look forward to the winners being announced at Dice Tower Con later this year.

Best Family Game of the year

Fireball Island
Gizmos
Reef
Space Base
My Little Scythe

Best Artwork

Everdell
Root
Grimm Forest
Cerebria
Rising Sun

Most Innovative

Chronicles of Crime
Nyctophobia
Detective: A Modern Crime Boardgame
KeyForge
The Mind

Best Reprint

Fireball Island
Brass Lancashire
Endeavor: Age of Sail
High Society
The Estates

Best Strategy

Root
Teotihuacan
Brass Birmingham
Coimbra
Underwater Cities

Best Production

Rising Sun
Fireball Island
Everdell
Brass Birmingham
Grimm Forest

Best Expansion

Scythe: Rise of Fenris
Terraforming Mars: Prelude
Roll Player: Monsters and Minions
Great Western Trail: Rails to the North
Root: The Riverfolk

Best Game from a Small Publisher

Root – Leder Games
Chronicle of Crime – Lucky Duck Games
Underwater Cities – Delicious Games
Vindication – Orange Nebula LLC
Obsession – Kayenta Game

Best Cooperative Game of the year

Chronicles of Crime
Just One
The Mind
Detective: A Modern Crime Boardgame
Stuffed Fables

Best Two-Player

KeyForge
War Chest
Duelosaur Island
Haven
Mythic Battles: Pantheon

Best New Designer

Wolfgang Warsch (Quacks of Quedlinberg, The Mind, & Ganz Schon Clever)
David Cicurel (Chronicles of Crime)
Catherine Stippell (Nyctophobia)
Ivan Lashin (Smartphone Inc.)
Tim Eisner (Grimm Forest)

Best Party Game

Just One
Decrypto
The Mind
Drop it
Trapwords

Best Theming

Western Legends
Root
Detective: A Modern Crime Boardgame
Stuffed Fables
Chronicles of Crime

Game of the Year

Root
Teotihuacan
Chronicles of Crime
Underwater Cities
Brass Birmingham
Western Legends
Rising Sun
Architects of the West Kingdoms
Everdell
The Mind

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.

Board and Dice has announced Sierra West by designer Jonny Pac Cantin, a unique game combining deck building, tableau management, worker placement, multi-use cards; in short this game is a tapestry of many interwoven moving parts. In Sierra West, 1-4 players move pioneer workers through paths in the mountains, claiming cards and actions, collecting resources in their pursuit of the american west. Prominent in setup is a large mountain made of a pyramid of overlapping facedown cards, with the top cards visible. 3 cards from the player’s hand are placed in a notched board, revealing 2 rows of icons from the bottom of the cards, representing two different paths the pioneers can traverse. Each space on the path can generate resources, allow actions or present danger. Boot actions on the path allow the movement of the caravan along the road, or the frontiersmen up the card mountain. Frontiersmen allow players to claim new cards from the top of the mountain, while the caravan gives access to special cards below the wagon trail. Additionally, players can build cabins with resources, and place their pioneers on the cabins when they are not on a trail, generally helping the rest of the workers. The game ends when the 6th special card is added to the caravan trail.

All of this sounds like a great game, but Sierra West is a flexible kit, designed to make more interesting, more variable games with the included modules. Each module changes the starting cards, rules for play, type of cabins, and action spaces. The game comes with 4 modules: Apple Hill, Boats and Banjos, Gold Rush, and Outlaws and Outposts, with more expected to release in 2020. Sierra West is expected to be released at GenCon, in August 2019.

First released in 2009, Justin De Witt‘s Castle Panic has been a mainstay of the tower defense genre, spawning successors Dead Panic, Star Trek Panic and My First Castle Panic. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of this classic game, Fireside Games has announced the Castle Panic Big Box, a compilation of the original game with it’s expansions The Wizard’s Tower, The Dark Titan and Engines of War, all in one box. Additionally, the Big Box will come with 12 promo cards, which include all the previously released promos, as well as some new ones just for this edition. Firesidehas also rewritten the rules to make integration of everything more seamless. Look for the Castle Panic Big Box in stores in July 2019, and for more information, check out Fireside Games’ website here.