GenCon 2019

One of the big hits from GenCon 2019 was Matt Leacock’s spiritual successor to Roll Through the Ages, the roll-and-build game Era: Medieval Age. People loved the tactile nature of gathering buildings and walls, and creating a city to score on their peg board. The one criticism people had about the game was that the yellow player boards were difficult to read.

Eggertspiel has heard the mandate of the people, and is now offering sticker sheets for the game to make the labeling more clear. By visiting the Eggertspiel webpage here, players can have these sticker sheets mailed to them for the cost of postage. The company wants to make it clear that retail versions of the game will be coming with sticker sheets attached, so please only request a sheet if your copy did not come with one supplied. Additionally, when Era was displayed at GenCon, the buildings and pieces were neatly organized on a custom mat. People were so enamored with this mat, that Eggertspiel has now made it available in neoprene through their web store. For more details on the mat, please visit Eggertspiel here

Asmodee, the “us” to whom all your board game base belong, has announced that they will be distributing games from the Swiss company Helvetiq in the United States. There are innumerable small game companies around the globe, and Asmodee has made a significant effort in bringing these lesser known gems to the western shores.

“We are always looking for strong local partners that bring our brand to gamers and shops worldwide,” said Hadi Barkat, CEO & Founder of Helvetiq. “With Asmodee USA, we now have a U.S. distribution partner who shares our ambition and passion for the world of games. Their portfolio includes amazing titles, and we are honored to join with a line up that particularly suites casual gamers, families, and design aficionados. We are excited that, together, we will make our games accessible to an even wider audience.”

Helvetiq is the publisher of over 60 games, with their top rated games being Martin Nedergaard Andersen’s Bandido (2016) and Colorfox (2016). Visitors to GenCon earlier this month got the opportunity to try out Helvetiq’s new games  Misty and Kawaii, the latter of which caused quite a buzz with its undeniable cuteness.

Asmodee has pre-order information for one of their hottest games of GenCon 2019, Black Angel. Only the most dedicated line-sitters were able to nab one of the few copies of this spectacular game at the show, as it consistently sold out at the start of the convention each day.

“Humanity, through its irresponsible behavior, has rendered Earth uninhabitable. The greatest nations are forced to share their knowledge in order to create the largest spacecraft ever constructed: the Black Angel. Its mission: Transport the genetic heritage of Humanity to a new home planet.”

Black Angel is the loving brain child of Pearl Games designers Sébastien DujardinXavier Georges, and Alain Orban  – the creators of the cult dice drafting favorite Troyes (2010). In Black Angel, 1-4 players take on the roles of competing A.I. brains, guiding the eponymous unmanned starship on its thousand year mission to deliver mankind’s DNA to a distant world. The game is a dice drafting game, wherein the players have their own dice pool, used to drive action on and around the starship. However, other players’ dice are free game, and can be bought with resources. Dice come in 3 colors, defining the actions they can trigger, with the number of pips on the die being the strength of the triggered action. Actions allow the player to repair the ship, fight back the evil ravager attackers, gain new technological programs, or execute missions in the planets surrounding the traveling Black Angel. Exterior missions are accessed by beautiful robot meeples, which fly around space in small round saucers.  The player board holds a 3×3 grid of technology tiles, which can be activated in unique ways throughout the game. The Black Angel itself “flies” along a conveyer belt board of chevron shaped hex tiles; Strips behind the ship are removed, flipped, and placed in front, propelling Black Angel forward on its journey to a new home world. Mission cards previously played in the disappearing wake of the ship are left behind in space (discarded), giving benefits and scoring opportunities to their owners. All together, Black Angel is a heavy, dice drafting, engine building euro game, sure to be a hit seller once inventory can catch up with the overwhelming demand.

Black Angel comes with game board, 7 chevron space strips, 4 player boards, 64 robot figurines with 20 saucer ships, 18 custom dice, 60 technology tiles, 60 mission cards, 20 ravager cards, clear gem “resource” tokens, red “debris” tokens, scoring discs, and player aids. The game is enhanced by Ian O’Toole‘s fantastically colorful yet minimalistic sci-fi art. A solo mode is included, and the game should be available for purchase in 3rd quarter 2019. For more information, check out Pearl Games’ website on Black Angel here.

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.

image from BGG

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.

“Play as a God of ancient Egypt, competing to survive as society begins to forget the old ways, so that only you and your followers remain. Ankh, the symbol of life itself, that even the Gods must fight for.”

GenCon 2019 was just chock full of incredible announcements, and just when we thought the big ones were in our rear view mirror, Cool Mini or Not has just dropped another bombshell. CMoN has announced the final game in Eric M. Lang’s strategic trilogy, Ankh: Gods of Egypt.

Blood Rage was without a doubt the biggest game of 2015, having just delivered after a million dollar, high profile kickstarter campaign. The game was almost universally loved, bringing full Viking rage and glory to board games. The miniatures by artists Mike McVey and Adrian Smith are beyond imagining, and still remain among the best fantasy sculpts our hobby has seen.

Blood Rage was followed up by Rising Sun in 2017, resulting from a record breaking 4.2 million dollar kickstarter campaign. Whereas Blood Rage demonstrated an all out berserker battle royale, Rising Sun had a calculated well-negotiated war. Once again, the art made everyone swoon, and the unique gameplay made this a modern classic game.

Now, the same team at CMoN, designer Eric M. Lang, miniatures supervisor Mike McVey, and artist Adrian Smith, have announced the third in the strategic trilogy, Ankh: Gods of Egypt. Although details are sparse, just the genealogy behind this release will ensure an incredibly high production, exceptionally well crafted board game to remember for years. Players take on the role of ancient Egyptian gods, summoning monsters, converting followers, and trying to become the sole god over Egypt. A Kickstarter campaign for Ankh will appear towards the end of 2019, and the game is expected to accommodate 2-5 players. For more details, check out the press release from CMoN here.

Keyforge is a game that everyone took notice of since its announcement one year ago at GenCon 2018. This collectible card game from esteemed designer Richard Garfield (Bunny Kingdom, King of Tokyo, and some other famous card games) shook the world when it was announced that each and every deck would be completely unique, with its own logo, its own name, and its own set of cards. But Keyforge delivered, and delivered well, giving the gamers a captivating, unique take on the collectible card game.

This GenCon, Fantasy Flight Games announced Keyforge: Worlds Collide, the third set for this ground breaking game. The initial release and Keyforge: Age of Ascension generally used the same cards and rules, but now everything will change. However, Fantasy Flight has made it clear that Worlds Collide is a companion set and not a sequel, and this new set of cards, while playing well against the initial offerings, does not require the previous sets to play.

The biggest change to Worlds Collide is the introduction of two new houses to the decks. Mars and Sanctum have been rotated out, and have made room for the Saurian Republic and the Grand Star Alliance. Don’t worry though – Mars and Sanctum should make a return appearance in future sets. The Saurians, having existed for 65 million years, are among the oldest races in the Crucible, and pride themselves on philosophy, in spite of their overwhelming prowess. In stark contrast, the Grand Star Alliance are very recent additions, coming from a group of explorers that crash landed in the Crucible. This melting pot, polyglot and multi-race collective has managed to bring dozens of systems into peaceful democratic alliances, amassing quite the technological ability in the process.

Worlds Collide also brings some new mechanisms into the game, such as Warding and Enraging. Wards can now be placed on cards in play, each ward protecting them from a single attack. In contrast, enraging a creature forces it to attack if at all possible. Players can also Exalt creatures, placing a precious Æmber on the card, making the creature more powerful. However, like captured Æmber, when this creature is defeated the Æmber goes to the opponent.

Much like the original games, Keyforge: Worlds Collide will come in individual Archon Decks, as well as a two player starter set with all the necessary tokens and trackers. Additionally the Deluxe Archon Deck will come with a single deck and all the tokens. Finally, the Premium Box will come with two unique decks, 5 tuck boxes to hold sleeved cards, a token box, a chain dial, tokens and stickers. Look for all of the sets of Keyforge: Worlds Collide in stores in the 4th Quarter of 2019. For more information, check out the Fantasy Flight press release here.

The newest game from Portal Games, designer Joanna Kijanka and master imperialist Ignacy Trzewiczek is the brilliant Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North. The original Imperial Settlers has long been a staple of a well-rounded board game collection, marrying hand management, resource collection and engine building. But we forget that Imperial Settlers is part of a knotted bizarre lineage of games, getting better with each iteration. The original 51st State (2010) introduced this world of ephemeral resources, which disappear each round, necessitating efficient resource use and collection. 51st State inspired Imperial Settlers (2014), the poster child game for the genre. Imperial Settlers has collected many expansions over the years (Aztecs, Atlanteans, Amazons, and a few things not beginning with ‘A’), but it also inspired a new game, 51st State: Master Set (2016). I know it’s confusing, but the lineage thus far is 51st State begot Imperial Settlers, which begot 51st State.  And now, the newest game in the Iggy T genealogy is of course… Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North.

Empires of the North not only made resources store between rounds, but added some very clever worker placement and action selection mechanisms to the glorious foundation built by Imperial Settlers. The game comes with 6 very different factions/tribes which all play in clever ways. Some tribes are best at sailing the seas, pillaging and conquering the islands. Some are best as homebodies, collecting resources and living off of the interest. Others just beg to work with the other players, living off of trade.

No sooner had this gem of a game been released, than Portal announced the first expansion, Japanese Islands, of which Ignacy himself claims “The Japanese faction connects the world of Empires of the North and the base Imperial Settlers.” Portal promises two new tribes for the base game, along with new islands to explore. Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North is in limited pre-release now, with copies on sale at GenCon, and full release is dated for August 22. The new Japanese Islands expansion is due to be revealed at Essen Spiel 2019 this October.

Stronghold Games is bringing out a new edition of Diamonds, the popular trick-taking game for 2-6 players designed by Mike Fitzgerald. The second edition includes redesigned player cards, redesigned player aids, as well as the Thief mini-expansion. The new player cards have eschewed the black border look in favor of a more traditional, easier to read visual design, while maintaining the splash of color in the middle of the card.

Gameplay remains the same. Each suit (hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades) has a corresponding suit action that triggers when a trick is won, when a player does not follow the suit that was led, and at the end of a round of ten tricks for the player with the most cards of each suit. Players collect diamonds (acrylic crystals, not the suit), first into their showroom and then moving them into their vault. Diamonds can be stolen from a player’s showroom, but not from their vault. At the end of the game, diamonds in showrooms are worth one point and diamonds in vaults are worth two points. The Thief mini-expansion adds a rotating thief token and changes the suit action for clubs. The new suit action allows the player triggering the action to take a diamond from the showroom of the player with the thief token in front of them.

Diamonds second edition is scheduled for a September release, however Gen Con attendees will get an early opportunity to acquire the new edition of Zee Garcia’s #1 card game (as of this Top Ten from 2016).

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.

Dice Tower News has previously announced the formation of Gamegenic Ingenious Supplies, a branch of Asmodee dedicated to creating board game accessories. Now, the proverbial elephant in the room has announced that the first project for Gamegenic will be accessories for the immensely popular collectible deck game Keyforge: Call of the Archons.

Keyforge, by designer and gaming demi-god Richard Garfield, hit the scene by storm in 2018, delivering on its unbelievable promise of a game based on completely unique card decks. Each and every pack of Keyforge has a one of a kind name, logo, and set of cards. The game itself is the next evolution of the one-on-one CCG card battle, with players summoning creatures, collecting Æmber, and creating the eponymous keys to win the game. The hook is that cards are based in one of 4 houses, and players can play as many cards as they like, as long as they all belong to the same house.

Gamegenic has announced they will be bringing official deck boxes, sleeves, and other accessories for Keyforge. CEO Adrian Alonso stated, “KeyForge has not only a unique game concept but also special requirements in terms of accessories, which we have incorporated into our product design. As we are all enthusiastic KeyForge players ourselves, we can promise that there will be some truly special products.” The new Keyforge products will be revealed at the traditional Fantasy Flight Inflight Report before Gencon 2019, and the official launch date is August 1. For more information, check out the press release from Asmodee here.