Economic Games

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.

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.

Splotter Games, the undisputed masters of all things economic, heavy and euro, have just announced an expansion to their hit game Food Chain Magnate (BGG #29), called The Ketchup Mechanism. In Food Chain Magnate, by designers Jeroen Doumen and Joris Wiersinga, 2-5 players collect employees for their growing fast food company, then use each employee to cook food, set up advertising, hire and promote employees, build restaurants, etc. Automated customers then see advertising, get hungry, and drive to the closest/cheapest location where they can buy what they want. The first players to achieve certain milestones in the game gain permanent bonuses, but money determines the winner of this heavy, no luck involved, economic wonder. The Ketchup Mechanism is a modular expansion, adding a number of small changes to the game. The company states that the expansion is still developing, but we can expect a sixth player, new milestones, coffee shops and baristas which customers visit on the way to a restaurant, new buildings, new food types, new employees, and… ketchup. I have to comment on the brilliance and humor behind the expansion name – when people critique Food Chain, or Splotter Games in general, their first comment is about runaway leaders and the lack of … Ketchup. Splotter Games is taking pre-orders for The Ketchup Mechanism, and are aiming for a late 2019 release. For more details, check out the Splotter web page here.

Since Mayfair Games folded their hand earlier this year, we’ve been slowly learning the fate of the games in their catalog.  Now, we have some clarity on Lords of Vegas.  Z-Man Games will take over publishing for the Lords of Vegas line of games, which includes the base game and the UP! expansion.  It appears that Z-Man will start by selling the existing Mayfair stock of games.

“James and I are thrilled to have Z-Man continue the legacy of Lords of Vegas,” says Mike Selinker, the president of Lone Shark Games and co-designer of Lords of Vegas. “When we were presented with the opportunity, many people from Asmodee and Z-Man told us how much they loved and played the game. So it was a no-brainer. We think our fans will like what Z-Man plans to do for Lords of Vegas in the coming years.”

Perhaps the biggest part of this news for existing fans of the game is that the designers and Z-Man will continue development of the ‘Underworld’ expansion, which had been in the works with Mayfair.  Personally, Lords of Vegas is one of my favorite games, so I am glad that it gets to continue on with a publisher like Z-Man.  Hopefully Z-Man will take the opportunity to improve the production quality for future editions of the game compared to the Mayfair version, and possibly revisit the 1950’s era aesthetic.

If you are not familiar with Lords of Vegas, it is an area influence game, with plenty of push-your-luck and the kind of high stakes you would expect from a Las Vegas casino-building themed game.

You can read the full Z-Man announcement on their website.

Rio Grande Games has announced 3 new games coming to game stores in Q1 2018.

Broadhorns has 2-4 players take on the role of St Louis merchants, moving cargo down the Mississippi River in the early 1800s. Players need to buy their boat (the titular “Broadhorn”) and cargo, and will get a greater return on their investment the further down the river they travel. Cargo can be sold anywhere along the way, and new cargo and passengers can be picked up. Cargo can be perishable, and players may want a smaller, faster boat to bring delicate apples, pork or flour further on the river for more profit. The game lasts for a number of trips over the course of a year, with changing seasons playing havoc with travel.

Rob N Run is a cooperative game for 2-5 players. Each round, one player acts as the “boss”, giving his accomplices hints and the necessary tools to best crack safes, rob the gold, get away to the airport and claim the prize. Players need to hurry, but be careful not to be caught by the police on their grand heist.

Transatlantic is a new board game from eminent designer Mac Gerdts, whose credits include Concordia, Antike, Imperial, and many others. Transatlantic takes place in the shipping boom of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and has 2-5 players running their own shipping lines, moving mail, passengers and freight. Actions are card driven, and players can accumulate new action cards as the game progresses. Transatlantic promises to be a high strategy economic game with low luck and tough decisions.

TICKET TO RIDE UK

Get ready for the newest installment from a true titan among train games! Ticket to Ride Map Collection Volume 5 will include a double sided map for the United Kingdom and Pennsylvania as well as new train card and stock share decks that will introduce players to exciting new economic and technological challenges. Ticket to Ride United Kingdom is designed for 2-4 players and is an expansion to the existing popular game series, so you will need one of the stand-alone Ticket to Ride games to be able to play.

TICKET TO RIDE MAPS

Curious to find out more? Check out the full press release below, or visit the Days of Wonder website here.

Days of Wonder announces new Ticket to Ride Map Collection Volume 5 – United
Kingdom Map Expansion
Also includes the Pennsylvania Map

Los Altos, CA; Paris, France – August 25, 2015.

Today, Days of Wonder announced the upcoming release of the 5th volume in the Ticket to Ride Map Collection – United Kingdom. With this new map designed for 2 to 4 players, players will need to develop their technologies to be able to extend their network over the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland during the 19th century. The double-sided map also features the board of Pennsylvania, a state full of railroad history where players will invest in railroad companies to achieve victory.
The United Kingdom map comes with a complete new Train cards deck including additionnal
Locomotives, and Technology cards such as the Mechanical Stoker or the Thermocompressor
that will allow players to develop their Technology level and build faster trains and claim long
routes. The Pennsylvania map comes with 60 “Stock Shares” cards representing the great
railroad companies of Pennsylvania. On this map, claiming a route also allows a player to invest
in a company – having a majority of shares in a given company allows to score extra bonus
points at game end.

“The new Technology system in Ticket to Ride United Kingdom is really challenging”, says
Adrien Martinot, General Manager at Days of Wonder. “You need Locomotives to buy
Technologies, but you also need them to claim vital routes on the map. Finding the proper
balance between your Technologies and the expansion of your railroad network is the key to
victory! On the Pennsylvania map, the challenge is different, but still, you’ll need to make sure to
make the best investments in order to win”.

Ticket to Ride United Kingdom includes a double-sided map: the United Kindom map is
designed for 2-4 players and includes 116 new Train cards, 57 UK Destination Tickets, and 47
Technology cards. The Pennsylvania map is designed for 2-5 players and includes 50 Tickets
and 60 “Stock Shares” cards. Both of these maps require the trains from either Ticket to Ride®
or Ticket to Ride® Europe.

Ticket to Ride United Kingdom makes its debut at the Essen Fair in Germany in October and will
be available in game stores in Europe shortly after. It will be available in the rest of the world in
November.