The trade fair with the most impact for both Germany and the board gaming hobby is only a smidge more than a month away, and with it come even more hot releases, demos, prototypes, and exciting news just in time for the Holiday shopping season. Taking place this October 13th through the 16th in Essen, the 2016 Spiel is expected to continue the record breaking growth they’ve been experiencing, which is terrific news and further evidence of the oft observed “Golden Age” that this hobby still experiences. According to the press release from Internationale Spieltage:
“[…]SPIEL has grown by more than 50 percent in the last four years. This year it looks as if more than 160,000 visitors will enthusiastically respond to the SPIEL motto “Come and play!”
Over a thousand exhibitors across multiple exhibit halls, each showing off their best and newest releases to the public. It’s not just the size though, that’s exciting. As the press release highlights, there are some interesting trends being showcased this year among the hundreds of entries into the gaming fray. Specifically, this year is seeing a spike in team-building games, the stuff that makes for memorable get-togethers with friends and family. The one-and-done genre of Escape Rooms meant to challenge groups to muster wits and overcome puzzles will be available in a swath of tabletop titles and live-event rooms at the fair. In addition, the instantly popular Codenames: Pictures and Captain Sonar will certainly be drawing large crowds.
This year also marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in Europe, and there are games to recognize it. Notably, two new releases come thematically celebrating Martin Luther and the historic religious change he ushered: Stronghold Games’ Sola Fide and Zoch Verlag’s Mea Culpa. There will also be family-friendly events and quizzes in various locations, topping the already broad, educational, and heatlhy range of activities the fair has to offer.
Let’s not forget the big releases rolling over from Gen Con, which will certainly see the same kind of fervor that I wrote about a few weeks ago. Seafall and Scythe are two of this year’s most anticipated titles and I can imagine the European public wanting to get their hands on copies all the same. I feel obligated to draw attention to a few more titles that will probably be incredibly popular as well. Artipia Games will have their newest Kickstarter title and spiritual sequel to Among the Stars, Fields of Green, available for demo and backer pickup. Hobby World will have Spyfall 2 there, which will add more locations, higher player count, and two spies! Finally, Bombyx will have Legendary Inventors on hand, a game that I played in prototype form and was highly impressed with how deep yet accessible it is.
If you’re interested in seeing more games confirmed to be available at the 2016 Spiel, please check out this preview thread at boardgamegeek.com. Many thanks and much respect to Eric Martin for working diligently to compile all of that for the community. For more gaming news and images regarding the upcoming Essen Spiel, please check out our new Instagram page that joins our news, twitter, and video coverage.
The winners of the prestigious Spiel Des Jahres and Kennerspiel Des Jahres have been announced.
Codenames by designer Vlaada Chvatil published by Czech Games Editions won the Spiel Des Jahres (German for Game of the Year). This team party game has seen great success thus far having one a number of Dice Tower Awards as well. Having already picked up placement in Target stores this award can only aid in its uptake with the non-hobby gaming public. This win was not overly surprising as a result of the overwhelming popularity seen by the aforementioned items.
Isle of Skye: From Chieftan to King by designers Andreas Pelikan and Alexander Pfister Published by Mayfair Games/Lookout Games won the Kennerspiel Des Jahres (German for Connoisseur Game of the Year). This game has received critical acclaim from many within the gaming community. This win was more surprising as a result of the competition it received from both Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 and T.I.M.E. Stories.
For more information you can visit the Spiel Des Jahres awards pages for Codenames here and Isle of Skye here.
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).
Check out Cranio’s press release here.
“What the deuce?!” A Family Guy party game you say? Well this Christmas is the release date for this opportunity to “Offend friends and family” in what seems to be a Family Guy themed take on a “Cards against Humanity” style game.
“This next release from Gale Force Nine games is a side-splitting, fast-paced word game of questionable social value…..not really suitable for anyone”
Comes complete with a spinner as you race to earn martinis but definitely not suitable for minors as the warning on the box indicates there may be some adult Family Guy shenanigans involved.
We all have initial reactions to situations we find ourselves in, and we typically refer to these as “knee-jerk reactions.” Renegade Game Studios has encapsulated this theme into a game aptly entitled Knee Jerk, a party game in which players will hear a situation presented and must shout out an ending for the situation as fast as possible.
For example, such a situation might be “I Feel Panicked At The Beach Because I Saw ______!” Players will be able to shout anything to complete the statement, such as “A shark!”, “A smoke monster!” or even “My grandmother in a bikini!”. The first player to respond receives a point, but if more than one player responds, the host player chooses his or her favorite answer. The forces players to offer creative, witty responses on the fly.
New scenes and situations (Your First Date, A Haunted Mansion to Outer Space, etc.) are presented in rapid-fire-succession, creating a zany, fast, and hilarious atmosphere. The game boasts 150,000 different possible situations. The first player to achieve 3 points is the winner of Knee Jerk.
Knee Jerk is a game for 4-8 players ages 9 and up and plays in 10 minutes. A definitive release date has yet to be announced.
The Café International: All are welcome here! This statement almost brings to one’s imagination a coffee house where everybody knows your name. Or is that a different place? Either way, Café International is a game in which players are trying to accommodate as many international guests as possible into the cafe. These guests all enjoy sitting together and getting to know one another over a glass of wine, a cup of coffee or a slice of pie, and do so together at tables or individually at the bar.
In the game, players will bring as many people into the cafe as possible, seating them at tables or the bar in clever ways. As they do so, they will be scoring each round via black (1 point), red (5 points), and blue (10 points) chips, and may lose points when seating customers at the bar or having unseated guests at the end of the game.
Café International is a game designed by Rudi Hoffmann for 2-4 players ages 13 and up, and plays in 30-60 minutes. The game is scheduled for release in August of 2015.
The board game industry goes through cycles just like any other entertainment industry. With the recent influx of new gamers thanks to the hobby gaining mainstream appeal, new tastemakers are leading the industry in interesting directions. While not all of those directions are particularly healthy, the recent resurgence of party games is most certainly a tick in the win column.
Why are we seeing a party game boom? I think there are a few different reasons. The first, and probably biggest contributor to this shift, is an increasing crop of casual gamers. That mainstream acceptance I mentioned earlier brings with it new faces who’s entry point might have been simple social and party style games. It also seems to me that we’re coming out of a period of rapid heavy game adoption. Where there are peaks, there must come valleys, and even the most hardened gamer needs a bit of a laugh every once in a while.
None of that would matter if the games on the market were junk. I give a lot of credit to companies like Blue Orange Games and R&R Games for publishing some really great quality party games. The market created demanded, and these casual game stalwarts answered it. Did the people bring the games or the games bring the people? Whatever it is that has given rise to this party game-friendly confluence, it’s a really encouraging change of pace. Let’s take a look at some of the recent highlights.
Image from BGG
But Wait, There’s More! from Toy Vault, Inc.
But Wait, There’s More! builds on the grand tradition of Snake Oil by asking players to sell increasingly ridiculous products to the other players. It starts innocuous enough with just a thing and a feature, but when additional features are added into the mix pushing players to really stretch their sales pitches, the game gets really fun. It’s easy to talk about a vacuum cleaner that can be used in 18 different ways, but now it cures acne as well?! There are already several minis expansions that add more cards, support for additional players, and even new games modes.
Cards Against Humanity
Love it or hate it, Cards Against Humanity is a perennial favorite among adult party gamers. The game revels in unabashedly off-color humor reaching into the deepest depths of offensiveness, so if your crowd is into that kind of comedy and isn’t easily offended, this Apples to Apples clone might be for you. In Cards Against Humanity, one player is a judge that draws a black card and reads it to the other players, normally with one or two blanks. The players have a hand of white cards with a myriad of soul-scarring phrases that they select from. The judge then shuffles and reads the responses, declaring one the winner and scoring that player a point. The judge’s role then shifts to the next player and on it goes often with alcoholic beverages in tow.
Concept from Asmodee
Concept is a clever deduction game in which one player draws a card with a series of words or phrases ranging in difficulty from easy to hard. That player then selects a word and uses the central board and a variety of tokens to illustrate their word or phrase nonverbally. The board contains a myriad of images and icons representing both concrete and nebulous concepts. By assigned the marker for the primary and secondary concepts, and using cubes to mark additional clues, players can deduce the word or phrase and score points. It’s a great set up for what boils down to board game charades. Will your teammates guess the word before time runs out or your sense of shame gets the better of you?
The game at the heart of Monikers is actually pretty old. It’s been published as Celebrities and Time’s Up! most recently, but goes by a variety of names and forms. None of those versions are as attractive and broad as Monikers. Regardless of the edition, two teams of players draw from a pool of cards that all feature people or personas.
Image from BGG
These can range from historical figures to fictional characters to celebrities and more. In the first round, players attempt to describe as many of their cards as possible, in the allotted time, without using the cards’ name. Sounds easy enough. In the second round, that same deck of cards is used again but this time they must be described using just one word. Round three ramps things up even more by requiring that no words are used at all, only gestures. I won’t spoil what happens in rounds four and five, but suffice to say, it’s about as funny as party games get.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf from Bezier Games
The classic social deduction game, usually referred to as Werewolf or Mafia, has been streamlined into a shorter experience representing just one night of werewolves hiding among the innocent townfolk. Aided by a tremendous vocal track by the Dice Tower’s own Eric Summerer, players are assigned roles in secret and attempt to use their guile to uncover the werewolves or to throw suspicion on the humans, whatever the case may be. Add to that a whole pile of different roles with unique motivations, ensuring endless replay value.
Spit It Out! from R&R Games
Probably the newest game on the list, Spit It Out! is a deceptively simple game. The box comes with a whole bunch of cards and two regular dice, and all you have to do to win is answer some very basic questions correctly. Huh? Well there’s a twist. Those two dice are rolled to determine which two of the six questions must be answered incorrectly. Those answer not only need to be wrong, but they have to be in the same ballpark as the correct answer. What color is the sky? You can’t say that sky is “firetruck”, you have to answer with another color. It sounds easy, but with a timer ticking down and the conscious effort it takes to trick our own brains away from the correct answers, it’s great fun.
Spyfall from Cryptozoik Entertainment
Spyfall is a social deduction in which players are given secret roles and a secret location. One of those roles is the spy and unlike their fellow payers, the spy doesn’t know the location. Obviously not a very crafty spy. In any case, players take turns asking each other questions.
Image from BGG
The non-spies are trying to determine which one is the spy, and the spy is trying to figure out the location. The fun comes from the ridiculous questions. Knowing there’s a spy, the players will be pretty dodgy not wanting to reveal too much information. All the while, the spy is all-but grasping at straws trying to piece together the subtle clues found in the other questions. Though it rarely happens, if the spy can outwit the other players, it’s a pretty amazing win.
This is just a small slice of the party game pie, and you really can’t go wrong with any of these selections as long as your group is a good fit. Throwing a party game night is a great way to introduce non-gamers to our hobby. It’s also a nice way to break up your regular game events with something a little unexpected. Next time you plan a game night, consider shelving the heavy euros just this once for a night of goofball fun.
One of the most talked about games to come out of Essen last year was Spyfall from Hobby World and designed by Alexandr Ushan. Unfortunately it wasn’t available in North America and was very difficult to obtain anywhere else. But now Cryptozoic Entertainment has picked up the rights to this fantastic little game and is set to release it on June 10th.
Spyfall is a simple game with rules that should only take a minute or two to learn but it will provide you with hours of entertainment and laughter. In the game players are dealt a card with the location all the players share, except one person’s card only says Spy and they have no clue what the location is. Players then ask one other player a question that must be answered. The goal of the game is to figure out who doesn’t know what the location is and therefore must be the spy.
Spyfall is played over several rounds, and at the start of each round all players receive cards showing the same location — a casino, a traveling circus, a pirate ship, or even a space station — except that one player receives a card that says “Spy” instead of the location. Players then start asking each other questions — “Why are you dressed so strangely?” or “When was the last time we got a payday?” or anything else you can come up with — trying to guess who among them is the spy. The spy doesn’t know where he is, so he has to listen carefully. When it’s his time to answer, he’d better create a good story!
Once per round the players get to vote on who they think the spy is, if the spy is caught then the all the other players get a point, if the spy escapes detection then they get a point. At the end of a set number of rounds the person with the most points wins.
Spyfall plays 3- 8 ages 15 and up and comes with 30 different locations in the box each with different illustrations from Sergey Dulin and Uildrim. There is even an advanced game mode that has you take on the unique role printed on each card that will make your answers more interesting.
With simple rules and compelling game play Spyfall is sure to be a hit with gamers and non-gamers alike so if you’re interested head over to your FLGS/OLGS any time after June 10th to pick up your copy.
There is a new game studio from F2Z Entertainment, the same people in charge of Z-Man Games. This studio, Pretzel Games, will focus solely on producing dexterity games made from wooden components. The name comes from the idea that dexterity games and pretzels go together.
From the website:
For as long as we can remember, dexterity games have always been accompanied by a nice big bowl of pretzels and are synonyms of joy:
The joy of spending quality time with family and friends, to play and laugh without taking things too seriously.
The joy of playing with beautiful game pieces and the sound of two wood pieces when they hit each other.
The joy of impressing everyone with an extraordinary play that defies the laws of physics.
The first game from Pretzel Games is Flick ‘Em Up!, a team-based Wild West themed dexterity game where you move and shoot by flicking disks. It looks like a solid first game for the studio, and if you enjoy dexterity games like Terror in Meeple City or Catacombs (which have similar movement mechanics to Flick ‘Em Up!), then Pretzel Games is the studio for you.
For more information, visit their website here.
Toy Vault will be releasing “Firefly: Fistful of Credits” and “But Wait, There’s More: That’s The Best Part” expansion within the next month. These two titles offer you something for a small group of friends or a big party.
Tom Vasel and the Party Gamecast have given very favorable reviews of But Wait, There’s More. Tom’s review here.
Publishers description below
Firefly: Fistful of Credits
Do the job. Get paid. Aim to misbehave.
Firefly: Fistful of Credits is a two-to-four-player cooperative game where players step into the boots of Serenity’s crew to pull off a series of dangerous heists and hopefully walk away with their lives and a tidy fortune! The game features 3 distinct heist scenarios inspired by the episodes Bushwhacked, The Train Job, and Ariel; each with their own highly-detailed board, tokens, and Heist card, which details unique objectives from the show that must be accomplished in order to win.
Players pair up any two of the nine crew members, forming unique teams that work with other players to collect gear, fight, and face both luck and misfortune while racing against the clock to complete the heist. Be careful: triggering an alarm, lollygagging around or sticking your nose in the wrong crate can open up a whole world of ugly – be it Reavers, Alliance, or the sinister Hands of Blue!
Fail and it’s all over…but succeeding means you and your crew walk away with more than a Fistful of Credits!
But Wait, There’s More: That’s the Best Part expansion
Just when you thought you were the king of improvised pitching in But Wait, There’s More!, we’ve gone and created an all-new expansion, “That’s the Best Part!”
Are you such an expert But Wait, There’s More! pitchman that you can sell solar-powered ice to Eskimos? Then this is the expansion for you! A good pitchman is always prepared to answer any question from the audience, and that’s precisely what the “That’s the Best Part!” expansion puts to the test!
After each pitch, the next player plays their That’s the Best Part! card which contains a curious question such as “What happens if Grandma can’t lift it?” or “What happens if it induces vomiting?”. The pitching player responds with a confident “That’s the Best Part!” and has to continue his pitch, quickly improvising his or her answer!
This add-on expansion contains 40 brand new cards and brings a wonderfully entertaining new aspect to But Wait, There’s More! Requires But Wait, There’s More! main game to play.
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