GenCon 2019 was immense and amazing, but has now wrapped up, closed her doors and bid us “adieu”. I was inspired to chime in with a couple picks from the show that really stood out for me among the crowd.
One of the best euro games of 2016 was the exceptional Lorenzo il Magnifico from Cranio Creations and designers Flaminia Brasini, Virginio Gigli, and Simone Luciani. I was able to see a demo for the upcoming card game based on this gem, Masters of the Renaissance by Simone Luciani and Nestore Mangone. In Masters, players still collect resources to buy cards from different tower “levels”, like the original, but now all cards have production ability: in other words, when production is initiated, players collect resources from all of their cards. Additionally, a “market” comprised of a 3×4 grid of colored marbles gives another, easier, source of resources. Players choose any row or column of marbles, and every marble in that line generates its own resource based on its color. After players gain their loot, they push a new marble into the line, bumping al old one from the back. Two things make this market both clever and diabolical: First, clear marbles exist that give no resources at all, clogging up the rows. Second, the resources generated at the market go to a separate storage area, which is severely limited in capacity. This card game version of one of my favorite board games retained the look and feel of the original, added unique mechanisms, but still felt elegant and simplified. Masters of the Renaissance is due to be released at Essen Spiel 2019, this October.
I was particularly impressed by Time of Legends: Destinies by designers Michał Gołębiowski and Filip Miłuński, a joint effort between Lucky Duck Games (Chronicles of Crime) and Mythic Games (Joan of Arc). Destinies is an app-driven fantasy exploration game for 1-3 people which takes place in the same universe as Mythic’s magnum opus Time of Legends: Joan of Arc, and even uses many of the same small scale miniatures as its big sister. In Destinies, players take on the roles of villagers living around the epic stories and battles from Joan. Each player is trying to be the first to fulfill their character’s hidden destiny. The cards in the game, including the character cards, have QR codes in the corner (those black and white checkerboard scanner boxes we see all the time), and scanning a card into the game app leads to context sensitive progression in the game – scanning an item uses it, scanning a character interacts with it, and scanning a weapon fights with it. This system is what made Lucky Duck’s Chronicles of Crime such a fantastic and intuitive story telling game. The game app additionally controls the map, made up of a grid of square cards, in a way reminiscent of the recent blockbuster Journeys in Middle Earth. If that wasn’t enough to make this a magnificent game, Destinies uses an elegant dice system I haven’t seen before for challenges, wounds, and level progression. Three colored stat tracks are on the player board – Knowledge, Strength and Agility, and wooden disks are placed on values along these tracks. To run a test, fight a creature, or even interact with characters, players roll dice, and count how many of these disk values they pass with the roll – this is the number of successes the character achieves. Items can add disks to the tracks, wounds can move the disks to higher, more difficult positions, and experience allows player to buy more disks. Time of Legends: Destinies is scheduled to have a Kickstarter campaign in September 2019.
I was lucky enough to be able to prowl around the GAMA trade show this past week, and have collected some early stories from some of the designers and publishers present. So without further delay, here are some of the stories I found interesting at GAMA.
Designer Keith Matejka talked about Fiends & Familiars, the next expansion for Thunderworks Games popular dice placement game Roll Player. Fiends are small cards attached to the initiative row, which give players a disadvantage when taking the more prized positions, but can be banished by using charisma tokens. Familiars give players 3 more spaces for dice placement, and unique player powers. Also in the expansion are two colored dice, very flexible in placement but only showing up to 4 pips. The Kickstarter for Fiends and Familiars is scheduled for Summer of 2019.
Breaking Games showed off Dwellings of Eldervale by designer Luke Laurie, a complex worker placement engine building game with unique player powers, miniatures, resource collection and card play. Special workers can be earned, and monsters on the board can be a source of both conflict and reward. Dwellings also includes a mechanism allowing players to have a worker “settle down”, and create a permanent dwelling on the board, represented by placing a great roof piece on the meeple. This worker is now lost to the player, but generates unique resources and abilities. Dwellings of Eldervale is expected to come to Kickstarter this summer.
I was able to look at a new, as yet unnamed, variation on an escape room game from the geniuses at Cranio Creations (Newton, Lorenzo Il Magnifico). The game is composed of a cardboard box frame, the size of a standard square board game box. Cards slot into the top of the box. The sides of the box have open windows to peer down, through which one can see the cards, revealing objects and clues. An app tells the player how these objects relate to the story, and how to react – is. Remove a certain card, peer down a certain hall. Look for this innovative puzzle from Cranio in the coming year.
Smirk and Dagger games founder Curt Covert discussed the Cutthroat Caverns Anniversary edition coming this August. The new edition will include the core set with new art and tighter rules, but will be fully compatible with the rest of this classic game. Concurrent with the new release will be the digital Cutthroat Caverns app, which includes several AI opponents, each with their own evil agenda.
Stayed tuned for the second half of breaking GAMA news coming soon.
Walls of York by Cranio Creations and designer Emiliano “Wentu” Venturini was one of the more favored games of Essen Spiel 2018, and publisher Cool Mini or Not has just announced that they will be bringing the title to North America. Walls of York is a 2-4 player game, which combines the feel of a roll and write game with the tactile joy of building blocks. Each game, players create their own landscape from 4 board tiles, after which dice are loaded into a “King’s Tower”, generating the three goals for the game. The start player rolls the Building Die, which dictates a shape of plastic walls all players then simultaneously place around their emerging city. The die will generally dictate 2 or 3 walls, which could be in a straight line, an ‘L’ shape, or a zig-zag. Players use these templates to gradually surround their city, hopefully enclosing the correct number of structures originally dictated by the King’s Tower during setup, then pass the die to the next player and continue. After players completely enclose their city, the Building Dice earn extra coins each roll. Once all players have all finished their city walls, the invasion occurs, and the player with the most Vikings within their walls is invaded, and receives a Viking Invasion token. After two rounds, players earn victory points from coins collected, and lose points for Viking Invasion tokens. Look for Walls of York in stores from CMoN in the first Quarter of 2019.
The International Gamers Awards have been going on since the year 2000, celebrating and recognizing gaming a truly global scale by having a committee of judges from all around the world. Each year they vote for the best game within the General Strategy category, which is split into two sub-categories: Multiplayer and 2-Player. 2017’s finalists have been announced and it’s immediately noticeable that this year’s competition is fierce. So without further ado, the nominees are:
CMON and Cranio Creations’ first collaboration, Unusual Suspects, has hits stores and already they are liking the buzz they are getting, so they want to continue the relationship with two more games. The first game is a Lorenzo il Magnifico, in it “players control prominent families during the Italian renaissance, aiming to become the most influential among the other players. To do so, they must earn victory points by sending the members of their families out to gather resources, gain development cards (representing a multitude of different things, such as new territory, influential people and more), and put those development cards to use. Of course, the families must also pay their respect to the Church or face hard penalties when the time comes.” The game was showcased at Essen 2016 and was well received and so they will publish it in English with the same art and mechanics.
The second game is an updated and revamped version of the game Council of Four, one that Tom Vasel of the Dice Tower tried to get for the Dice Tower Essentials line of games.
In the Council of 4, players take on the rolls of rich merchants in a prosperous Empire that’s divided into three Kingdoms. The Kingdoms are each ruled by a council of four nobles. Players will do whatever it takes to obtain building permits for their Emporiums within the Kingdoms’ cities. Bribery and political power struggles abound; even the Queen is not above being swayed, overlooking the need for permits from time to time. The player that gains the most points through connecting Emporiums, having the most in a Kingdom’s cities, obtaining permits, or increasing their rank on the nobility track will win the game.
The game also contains a modular board and different options for gameplay are chosen at the beginning, making this a highly varied and replayable game. While the mechanics of the game remain largely untouched, they have updated the art of the game and included miniatures, because what is a CMON game without minis? Look for both of these games on store shelves in the second quarter of 2017.
Fresh off the presses come three new releases from Cranio Creations, the Italian publisher responsible for Dungeon Fighter and Steam Park. Keeping their target audience in their crosshairs, Cranio’s 2015 trifecta are all light-to-medium games with striking artwork and manageable playtimes. Beyond that the games are quite different.
Unusual Suspect, designed by Paolo Mori (Augustus, Libertalia) is a light party-style game of deduction that explores perceptions and stereotypes. It plays in thirty minutes and features some cartoony artwork. You can find Tom’s review here.
The Tower of Monster is a quirky dexterity game with some eye-catching components, including some distinct player pawns and a four-story tower with windows to stick your fingers through. Designers Simone Luciani (Tzolk’in) and Antonio Tinto (Egizia) teamed up for this one, and it sports whimsical artwork by Valentina Moscon (Dungeon Bazar).
Finally, Council of Four is the weightiest game of the bunch: a family Euro about Renaissance-era merchants jockeying for position with city councils and attempting to situate their emporium in the most lucrative location. It was designed by Luciani e Tascini (The Voyages of Marco Polo) and the artwork is by the prolific Arnaud Demaegd (Caylus).