Essen 2018

It happened again.  Another small publisher was robbed at the Essen Spiel Fair.  You may remember that it was only a couple of years ago that LudiCreations fell victim to an unscrupulous thief who stole their cash box at Essen.  The silver lining to the whole event was the rapid creation of and overwhelming support on Kickstarter for Steal This GameSteal This Game was a tongue-in-cheek theme reflective of the incident inflicted on LudiCreation at Essen.

This time, the thieves targeted Artipia Games, ironically while they were running demos of their new game, A Thief’s Fortune.  Like so many outstanding game publishers, Artipia’s personnel were being ever attentive to their customers and fans.  The thieves took advantage of Artipia’s customer engagement to create a distraction while an accomplice stole the cash register.  Artipia acted quickly, resulting in one arrest but not the recovery of the stolen cash. Thankfully, no one was hurt.  Artipia Games reflected on the incident:

“Our shock and financial loss left a very sour taste in our mouth. Artipia Games is a family indie game publishing business and the sales we make at the Essen fair play an important role in our survival.”

To cut their losses, Artipia Games is running a Kickstarter Campaign for five specially designed promo cards for A Thief’s Fortune, Fields of Green, Kitchen Rush, The Pursuit of Happiness, and Whoosh: Bounty Hunters.  In what is becoming a tradition in our hobby, the theme of these promos is also a tongue-in-cheek reflection of the incident. There are no plans to reprint these promos; there were made only for this Kickstarter campaign to offset the losses from the theft.  The boardgame community has always pulled together in camaraderie and compassion in times of need. Whether you decide to back the Kickstarter for the promos or make a small donation, your support will be greatly appreciated.

 

Multi-game sets have garnered a funny reputation over the years. Everyone knows of them, easily recognizable from their inclusion of Chinese Checkers and other such boards and pieces allowing anywhere from 3 to 30 abstract games to be played. Yet despite a decent value-for-money proposition they are never very popular products, often fated to wind up has coffee table pieces and rarely talked about within our board gaming hobby with any amount of affection. Playford Games seeks to change that a bit by making one such set that’s bursting with theme and uniqueness, and also bringing some new abstract games into the mix with their newest release, The Ancient World Multi Game System. It comes packed with 25 different games, supporting anywhere from 2 to 8 players, all the while showing off images and flair from the Age of Antiquity. As described via press release:

“The Ancient World Multi Game system was designed to capture the beauty and simplicity of classic strategy games like Chess and Go and infuse them with more player interactions to create a shared social experience.The system consists of modular sets of double-sided wooden game tiles that can be used to play up to 25 different abstract strategy games. Each game draws its theme from a different civilization or event in the Ancient World, from the wars of Ancient Egypt and Rome to the Silk Roads of China and the court intrigue of Byzantium.”

What’s even better is that these games support a wide variety of ages and learning levels making this fantastic for families. Each game with The Ancient World‘s 4o page manual is marked with a difficulty level and highlights the story, skills needed, and the level of competitiveness or cooperation required. Looking at it’s lovely, carefully designed aesthetic and uniquely crafted games reminds me of a lot of Looney Labs’ Pyramid Arcade and how unique and fun it accomplished to be, which is good news for Playford Games because that’s a good comparison to make and I doubt I’m the only one that will do so.  If you are interested in learning more about The Ancient World Multi Game System, check out their website where you can read about all the models and games included, and if you’re at Essen be sure to check out their 5H115 where they will be demoing and selling them.

When it comes to spellcasting, the Harry Potter series has a fairly firm monopoly on the idea of swishing and flicking a wand about. While style hardly originated within that fiction, it’s undeniable that the act of drawing intricate patterns in the air with a gnarled stick was taken to new levels of popularity because of J.K. Rowling’s genius world-building. We’ve all been there, we’ve all vainly tried to cast Leviosa with a nice branch or replica at some point, it’s okay. Buzzy Games understands this, and that’s why their newest title, Abra Kazam! is all about it. In this party game arriving this month in time for Essen, 3 to 8 players take turns demonstrating charms from a drawn card, while all other players try to identify the spell based on the movements in order to score them.

“Abra Kazam! offers a friendly and fun experience that brings together all ages, from 7 to 99 years, around a spell-casting contest. Gather up to 8 wizards and make room around the table for the Charms contest. At your turn, grab the magic wand and try to make the others guess your spell by drawing in the air the magic move of your card. The first to find the corresponding card on the table becomes the Wizard. But he will have to play by following the challenge just revealed on the back of the card.”

Guessing the spell correctly, while rewarding you with the card as a point, also binds you to a challenge, which will either limit your speech or your movements, making you work harder to cast or guess. Maybe you’ll have to cast your next spell with your arms outstretched, or maybe you’ve become paranoid of a dragon and you have to shout “It’s coming!!” before making any guess or face a penalty. While the restrictions may or may not work as a catch-up mechanism, they will absolutely be funny and mixing that kind of charm and theme with silly, goofy fun seems like a great mix to me. If you’re interested in learning more about Abra Kazam!, check out the product page on the distributor’s website for full rules and more.

Euro Game fans rejoice, for publisher Eggertspiele, artist Chris Quilliams, and designer extraordinaire Alexander Pfister (Great Western Trail, Mombasa, Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King) have announced their new game for Essen Spiel 2018, Blackout: Hong Kong. In Blackout, 1-4 players work to restore order from chaos in a future Hong Kong, where the electrical grid has been massively overstressed to the point of failure. Players start by rolling dice to randomly select which 3 of the 6 resources in the game will be available for the round. Next, players select 3 (or 4 with an upgrade) cards, which are placed facedown on their player board. These cards are revealed, and can place control cubes on the board, gain resources, spend resources, give abilities, or provide objectives. Objective cards are then scored, after which players can scout neighboring territories. Scouting is dangerous work, and gives an alternative way to collect needed resources, but players need to assemble cards from their hand to form a team with the required qualifications for the scouting token. Regardless of the outcome, one of the team will be injured, and will end up in the hospital, taking that card out of action. After scouting, players can use money to purchase new cards from face-up lines next to the board. Finally, in clean up, extra cards are discarded from the side of the board, and excess food and water are sold for money. Players score points for territories they control, and can refresh their hand of cards if they have 4 or less. When refreshing, players take back into hand whichever pile on their board is the largest. At the end of the game, money converts into points, and most total points takes the victory. Blackout can be played traditionally, solo, or as a 5 chapter campaign.

For more details, check out Eggertspiele’s website. Look for Blackout: Hong Kong at Essen Spiel 2018 October 25-28.

Even in today’s market where there are more and more games to choose from than ever before, Days of Wonder releases still feel exceptional. Their quality control to deliver sweet and beautiful family-weight games is second-to-none and they’re always bringing something new to the realm of “gateway” weight games. Their newest title, The River, follows this trend bringing an interesting blend of tile placement, resource management, and worker placement in a quick, clean, charming package. Designed by Sébastien Pauchon and Ismaël Perrin, it plays 2 to 4 players and is expected to be available in time for Essen this October, later to hit retail in November. As described in Days of Wonder’s announcement:

     “In the game, you embody pioneers embarking down a river in search of a new lands to settle. As you explore the untouched frontier, you will have to work twice as hard to manage your workers as they start to settle down along the way. The player with the most impressive settlement will be declared the winner!”

I’m excited to see such a blend of mechanics enter at this gaming level, because I feel that there needs to be more gateway worker placement games than Stone Age that can do something a bit new with it. While resource management itself is nothing revolutionary, how that interacts with the tile placement here is unique since new tiles have to progress down the titular river and they cover up resources you’d been using up until that point. Deciding which tiles to pick at what time is just as important as where to place workers, and on top of that there are buildings that can be bought and reserved much like the cards in Splendor. There is a good mix here, and it’ll be a highlight of Essen to see how well it’s received. If you’re interested in learning more about The River, be sure to check out Days of Wonder’s news post and also their product page which features the full rules in 6 languages!

Queen Games has just launched a Kickstarter campaign for all their Essen releases.  The Kickstarter campaign supports Bastille, Skylands, and Franchise.  Like all their Kickstarter campaigns, “Queenies”, or expansion modules, are included with each game, and the pledge levels include the option to support one, all, or any combination of the games.

Skylands is a tile laying game where the players build the Skylands kingdom, a kingdom composed of mystical floating islands. On each turn, a player will select one of four actions: Explore, Harvest, Build, or Collect Energy.  Reminiscent of Puerto Rico,  all the players get to take the action, but the player who selected the action gets an advantage.  Players build the kingdom on their tableau, placing forests, mountains, crystals, and cities. Harvesting resources allow for the creation of more islands, power cities, and build special buildings.  The game continues until a player has completely field his or her tableau or until all the tiles have been placed.  The player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins.

Skylands plays 2-4 players, ages 8+ in about 30 minutes.  Contents include 4 action boards, 4 double-sided player boards, 1 supply board, 4 starting islands, 4 wooden player tokens, 4 player markers, 88 island tokens, 32 special island tiles, 60 wooden inhabitants, 1 scoring pad, and 24 victory point markers.  The Kickstarter campaign supporters will also receive 5 Queenie expansions for the game.

In Franchise, players are business owners in the 1960’s expanding their business by establishing franchises across America. While each new franchise adds wealth to the business, it costs money to establish a new franchise, and not all franchise locations are equal.  The cost to add a franchise varies from location to location and the revenue earned, likewise, varies from location to location. Meanwhile, competitors cut into the revenue available from a location when they move into the same city.  Designed by Christwart Conrad, Franchise is a revised edition of his earlier game Medieval Merchant, with updated artwork by Ian O’Toole, whose artwork has been featured in The Gallerist, Lisboa, and Vinhos Deluxe Edition.

Franchise plays 2-5 players, ages 14+, in about 90 minutes. Contents include one gameboard, 5 player boards, 10 income charts, 25 city tiles, 10 region tiles, 20 bonus tiles, 55 dollar cards, 200 wooden franchises, 6 expansion markers, and 5 influence markers. The Kickstarter campaign supporters will also receive 3 Queenie expansions for the game.

Bastille is a bidding game where players are leaders of revolutionary factions in France seeking to strengthen their faction before the revolution begins.  Each player has three influence tokens which they can place in one of seven buildings around Paris. Each building provides a different benefit ranging from money, recruits, allies, missions, or other means to advance closer to the revolution and increase influence.  The player with the most influence in a location receives the benefit of that location. Victory points are earned each round based on the random mission requirements for the revolution.  After eight rounds, the revolution begins and the player with the most victory points is the winner and leader of the Revolution!

Bastille plays 3-4 plays, ages 12+, in about an hour.  Content breakout has not been provided yet, but stay tuned to the Kickstarter campaign for updates. The Kickstarter campaign supporters will also receive 3 Queenie expansions for the game.

The Kickstarter campaign for all three games runs through September 14 with an expected delivery in November 2018. Check out the Kickstarter campaign to learn more.

 

Announced March 14th, Renegade Games is entering a partnership with Frosted Games to bring some of the newest European-designed games to English markets. The first on the docket is Uwe Rosenberg’s newest title, Reykholt, which is slated to be released this fall during Essen with pre-orders for both English and German copies. In Reykholt, 1 to 4 players are competing to be the best farmer of vegetables in Iceland using geothermal energy to grow your crop and meet demand for delicious points. With gorgeous artwork by Lukas Siegmon, this game is an excellent first choice for this new partnership to undertake and impress broader markets. As stated by Scott Gaeta, founder and president of Renegade games, and quoted in the press release:

“Frosted Games has built up an array of top quality games, to be released in the upcoming years. It is such a pleasure to be working with a wonderful partner located right in the center of the modern European game movement. Kicking off this partnership with a game from famed designer, Uwe Rosenberg, sets the bar high. We look forward to exceeding expectations with future releases through this partnership.”

Partnerships such as these are amazing for the board gaming hobby, especially with the ever-growing amount of new games being created across the world. European designs are still wildly popular and the ability to get these games into more hands than before is also bound to be lucrative for both Renegade and Frosted Games. This news also means that there will be even more reason to keep an eye on both of these publishers around Essen as Reykholt is just the start. If you are interested in Reykholt or any future releases from Renegade Games or their partnership with Frost Games, be sure to visit their website for more information.