Forbidden Games

Here is the second and final part of interviews and sneak peeks of what I was able to see at the GAMA Trade Show. Hopefully I’ve saved the best for last.

Frank West, designer of City of Kings, and one heck of a guy, discussed City of Games’ upcoming title Rising Blades, a competitive worker placement / tile placement game with RPG elements. In Rising Blades, players add tiles to a growing map each round, in which they can move, fight monsters and develop their unique asymmetric characters. Expect Rising Blades to hit Kickstarter at the end of the year.

Czech Games Edition (CGE) showed the unique cooperative deduction word game Letter Jam from designer Ondra Skoupý. In Letter Jam, players receive a set of facedown letters delivered from an app, and the goal is to deduce these letters. Each player places one of these cards facing the other players in a style akin to Hanabi, so that you can see everyone’s secret letter except your own. Players then make words with the letters, giving clues as to what other players’ hidden letters may be.

Forbidden Games confirmed an expansion for the popular auction stock market game Raccoon Tycoon by designer Glenn Drover is in the works. The expansion should include a 6th player, more buildings and a new railroad type.

Stephen Buonocore, the evil genius behind Stronghold Games was kind enough to reveal some further details about the 5th and final big expansion to their evergreen hit Terraforming Mars, Terraforming Mars; Turmoil. Turmoil, the only expansion to be released in 2019, will be labeled as an “expert” expansion, meant for more experienced players. In short, this expansion involves politics. Mars has established a Martian Senate, composed of several parties, each with its own agenda. The Red party is interested in keeping Mars pristine and untouched, the Green party wants full terraforming, the Kelvinists want more heat, etc. Players can place delegates, trying to gain control of parties, or even the entire senate. A face-up line of Event Cards show what influences each party will have over the next several turns. Expect Terraforming Mars:Turmoil to hit Kickstarter in April/May.

Railroad Rivals by Forbidden Games and uber-designer Glenn Drover (Empires: Age of Discovery, Raccoon Tycoon, Railways of the World) completed a successful Kickstarter campaign last March, and now the company has announced a new Kickstarter for the anticipated expansion, Robber Barons. In Railroad Rivals, 1-5 players bid for turn order, collect stocks and place city tiles, matching railroad stock symbols on tile edges to create a rail network. Goods are then delivered along those networks, either your own or an opponent’s (for a fee), to increase the value of the stocks. The player with the most valuable portfolio of stocks wins the game. The new Robber Baron expansion adds a 6th player to the game, a new goods type – mail, 1 new railroad stock, 5 new city tiles, new versions of the Boston and New York City tiles, as well as several game enhancements. New Stock Shenanigans tiles can be bid for, and directly manipulate stocks and stock values, and the new specialty city tiles include 2 locomotive upgrades, a new Industry tile and a Railroad Headquarters tile. The Kickstarter Campaign for Railroad Rivals: Robber Barons continues through March 19, and the expansion is expected to deliver in August 2019.

Railroad and resource barons are not strange themes for board gaming, but making an elegant and clean introductory economic engine dominated by anthropomorphic animal businesspersons is one way to make it all more appealing. Raccoon Tycoon, from Forbidden Games, is just that and it’s up for funding right now on Kickstarter. Anywhere from 2 to 5 players try to speculate the value of commodities and luxury goods, auction off railroad shares, and purchase buildings in an effort to be Top Dog.  The game has adequate depth for seasoned gamers while being streamlined enough to be a good introductory title to the genre, and it plays in about 90 minutes.

“In Raccoon Tycoon, players try to produce the most valuable commodities in an ever changing marketplace. They then use those commodities to build towns, or sell them at the best price to secure great profits that can be used to win auctions for the all-important railroads. The profits may also be used to buy powerful buildings that give the players power-ups or bonuses in production. Owning the best towns and railroads determines victory.”

Beyond being a game from veteran designer Glenn Drover, the artwork by Annie Stegg Gerard is downright adorable and hallmarks a solid and satisfying package. The campaign also includes some wonderful stretch-goals to shoot for, including premium currency-quality bills and bigger, better everything. The Dice Tower’s own Mark Streed recorded a Paid Preview of the game for those that want a quick view of how it plays. If you are interested in learning more about Raccoon Tycoon, check out the Kickstarter campaign page for a draft of the rules, more preview videos, play-throughs, community feedback, and updates.

Glenn Drover is a name known to most board game enthusiasts. He founded Eagle Games, designed many games, including Railroad Tycoon (AKA Railways of the World), Conquest of the Empire, and Age of Empires III.

The name Jason Kapalka may be less well-known in our circles, but his accomplishments are not. He is the co-founder and chief game designer at PopCap who make the insanely popular video games Bejeweled, Peggle, and Plants Vs. Zombies.

Those two luminaries are coming together to found Forbidden Games, and they are bringing their unique design aesthetic with them. PopCap Games turned casual gaming on its ear, investing as much into the lighter end of games as most companies did only with their premium games, and making their games visually and aurally superior to others in the same market in the process. Eagle Games made a similar mark, producing mid-weight board games with large, lovely boards, miniatures and attention to detail in components.

Forbidden Games promises to continue this trend, with a mission statement that reads, “We believe a great board game is something you should treasure and play for years to come.” For their first game, Railroad Rivals, which will launch on Kickstarter later this month, they have hired veteran Disney animator Brian Kesinger, who has worked on movies like Tarzan and Moana.