Reiner Knizia

Board game enthusiasts rejoice, for we will likely have a main stream television show all to our own. Producer/Director/Actor Travis Oates has been sneaking around behind the scenes for the past 9 months creating a television series called Above Board, targeted to hit one of the popular streaming services we all love so well. According to Travis (who, by the way, is one of the most fascinating people I have ever met), the show has elements of the popular car show Top Gear, combining real love of board games with comedic parody, and Daily Show type tongue-in-cheek interviews. Already included in the show are board game designers Jamey Stegmaier, Stefan Feld, and Dr. Reiner Knizia, companies like Broken Token, publishers Michael Coe of Gamelyn Games and Paul Saxberg from Roxely Game Laboratories. But wait, there’s more – celebrity guests, and a regular segment by our own Tom Vasel. Six episodes are under construction now, hopefully with many more planned. I was lucky enough to screen some clips, and found the humor witty and sarcastic without dumbing down the content. Keep an eye out for this exciting initial foray of our hobby into mainstream media.

The 2017 Spiel des Jahres nominee, The Quest for El Dorado, is getting it’s first expansion – Heroes & Hexes! Reiner Knizia’s deck-building racing game through South America can be expanded to add heroes and demons to the course, injecting riskier decisions and daring rewards. Demon spaces are cheap, costing nothing to enter, and can even offer shortcuts, but all of it is for a price. Demon spaces bring curses, burdening the player with unsavory effects they’ll have to deal with for the rest of the game. It’s not all bad though, as everyone starts with familiars in their deck offering one-off powers and tavern spaces on the board provide heroes that can really give you an edge on your way to the City of Gold.

 “To play with this expansion, you must use the “Caves” variant of The Quest for El Dorado base game in which mountains are loaded with cave tokens. This expansion includes new cave tokens to be mixed with those of the base game, as well as four new types of expedition cards (with three copies of each) that can be pulled into the market once a stall opens. […] The expansion includes six suggested map set-ups — all at medium or hard levels, and all with three new terrain tiles — as well as guidelines for how to create maps yourself.”

Knizia’s games are often mechanically strong, elegant, and lacking frills, so to see an expansion to one of his designs which adds risk/reward systems is exciting. Do you take the path that’s really less traveled, or take the longer route to come out of this race with a clean soul and sounder mind? To me this feels like a must-have expansion for anyone who loves The Quest for El Dorado, as the familiars, cards, and map variability alone breathe more zest into an already rock solid game, all the other bits are an even more pleasing bonus. The expansion is slated to make it to retail soon, or at least before the end of the year as far as I can find, but If you’d like to find out more be sure to check out their website for rulebooks and further announcements.

Blue Orange Games has two new games that will be released at this year’s Gen Con.

First is Blue Lagoon designed by award winning game designer Reiner KniziaBlue Lagoon is a set collection games with an area control mechanic.  Players manage settlers to explore the islands, collect resources, and build villages.  Points are awarded collecting resources and colonizing the islands.

Blue Lagoon plays 2-4 players, ages 8+, in 30-45 minutes.  Contents include game board, 24 wooden resources, 8 wooden statuettes, 20 wooden villages, 120 settler tokens, 1 linen bag, score pad, and rulebook.

Next, Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc have teamed up again to design Scarabya.  Scarabya is an area enclosure game with a tile placement mechanic.  Players are competing archeologist on their own dig site (player board) attempting to place tiles around the golden scarabs on their player board. Each gold scarab enclosed is worth the size of its enclosure, up to four points.  The challenge is that the tiles to create an enclosure come in different shapes, is drawn at random, and is played in order.  All the players draw and place their tiles concurrently and the game continues until the last tile is drawn and played or discarded. The player with the most points in golden scarabs at the end of the game is the winner.

Scarabya plays 1-4 players, ages 8+, in 15-20 minutes.  Contents include 4 sets of 12 tiles, 4 sets of 4 boards, 4 sets of 8 rocks, 4 frames, 72 scarab tokens, 12 mission cards, and rulebook.

Lean more about both these games at Blue Orange Games.

Lost Cities: Rivals turns the two player experience of Lost Cities into a four player experience. While there has already been an attempt at a four player version of the Lost Cities game in the form of Lost Cities: Board Game, many felt that the original experience was lost. Lost Cities: Rivals, designed by the renowned Dr. Reiner Knizia, looks to retain the original experience and build upon it for more players. It supports 2-4 players, aged 12+, and plays in roughly 40 minutes.

“Use your cards to venture down expedition routes that take you to far-flung and mysterious corners of the Earth: to an abandoned mountain temple, a decaying circle of stone, a city sunken under the sea, an ancient Stone-Age settlement, and a town inside of a mountain. Your goal is to plan the routes in such a way that they bring you the greatest possible fame. If you are especially daring, you will also be able to wager on the success of your own expeditions. But watch out: You are not the only one traveling! Which routes will you pursue and how much gold is it worth to you? Plan well and use your resources wisely. Only the player who has collected the most fame at the end of the game will be the winner.” [source]

The goal of the game is to plan the routes in such a way that they bring you the most fame. You’ll also be able to wager on the success of your own expeditions. Expedition paths are created by playing a series of cards in a matching suit of colors in sequence. The publisher, KOSMOS Games, has made the manual available on their website if you’d like more details on the game play.

Lost Cities: Rivals is expected to release August, 2018.

High Society is a classic auction game from Reiner Knizia designed for 3-5 players, aged 10+.

“It’s the turn of the century, and it’s time to live large. As the quintessential bon vivant you must spare no expense following the latest trend and surrounding yourself with the fineries of life that you justly deserve. Assert your status, impress your peers, and avoid at every turn.” [source]

Players must bid against each other for life’s luxuries while avoiding bankruptcy and other pitfalls in the process. This new edition will be published by Osprey Games and features artwork by Medusa Dollmaker and features 16 Art Nouveau-inspired illustrations. Expect High Society’s release at the end of May 2018.

Chaosium, the long time forerunner of the Cthulhu RPG world, has announced a new Kickstarter project, the card game Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection. Chaosium, famous for the Call of Cthulhu RPG, had been out of the board and card game world for quite a while until last year’s release of Reiner Knizia‘s Khan of Khans. Now the studio has returned to the Lovecraftian world with the push-your-luck card game Miskatonic University, also designed by the master, Dr. Reiner Knizia, with Graphic design by Ian O’Toole and art by Victor Leza and Goomi. In Miskatonic University, 2-5 players take turns drawing cards from the library, trying to collect sets of 3 differing Sigil and Grimoire cards. However, if the player draws a duplicate card, they and their students will be expelled from the library, losing their progress that round. Players can use one of their 7 defense cards to mitigate expulsion in different ways, and graduate students can be collected to recharge used defense cards. If players opt to leave the library voluntarily, they earn points for collected sets. The game lasts five terrifying rounds, and the most points from collected lore and saved sanity wins.

The Kickstarter Campaign for Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection will continue through May 8, and the game is expected to deliver in November 2018.

Z-Man Games has announced plans to reprint Taj Mahal by Dr. Reiner Knizia. Originally released by Rio Grande in 2000 as #3 in the Alea box box series, the game had a 2006 reprint but has been out of print now for over a decade.

India has progressed and prospered, but that wealth could collapse at any moment. Instability and unrest plague the courts with petty concerns tearing the people apart. The Grand Mogul desperately seeks new leaders to carry India into a new age. Play your cards right and seize the opportunity to win the Grand Mogul’s favor as he tours across the beautiful provinces of India.
The game places player in Northwest India at the beginning of the 18th century as the rule of the Grand Moguls is fading. Maharishis and princes will take this opportunity to attempt to seize control of the region. Cunning potential rulers will influence forces, build palaces and create a supply of commodities until one one has enough power to win the game.

The goal of the game is simply to gain the most influence points. Influence points can be gained by either building palaces or by acquiring commodities. To build a palace a player first must gain the support of the Vizier, the General, the Monk, the Princess, or the Grand Mogul. The different commodities are gained in the game by taking control of a region or by taking them off of a space where a palace has been built.

The game plays out over twelve rounds, each starting with an auction for region control and for the support of the Vizier, General, Monk, Princess, and Grand Mogul. Using cards in four colors, each player will choose a color to play on each turn and use cards of that color to bid for the most useful auction items. For each member of the court a player has managed to influence more than  their opponents, they will claim the corresponding tokens. By carefully spending their cards players will control more of the board, gain more commodities, build incredible palaces, and gain enough influence to win the game.

Awards
When released in 2000 the game was a critical success, earning a spot on the 2000 Spiel des Jahres Recommended list. Awards and honors included:

Dr. Reiner Knizia

Dr. Reiner Knizia is one of the most award winning board game designers in history. Dr. Knizia has won the coveted Spiel des Jahres multiple times, and is a full time game designer in England. With a PhD in mathematics fueling his game design, he has over 500 games and books published both with self-designed themes and with global licenses including Lord of the Rings, LEGO, Mensa, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, Monopoly, Playmobil, Simpsons and Star Wars.

Osprey Games is publishing Reiner Knizia’s latest game, Sakura.  In Sakura, players are artists who are following close behind the Emperor as he wonders through his garden.  The goal is to be closest to the Emperor when he stops to regard the blossoms of the sakura tree so that you may improve your painting and gain prestige.  But as the artists jostle for position behind the Emperor, they must be carful not to disgrace themselves by accidentally bumping into the Emperor, causing them to lose prestige and fall back.

In Sakura, players simultaneously select their actions by playing cards that move their character, one of their opponent’s character, and the Emperor.  Each card has a turn order that determines the order which the moves are resolved, changing the positions of the characters before the next card is resolved. Sakura is a light tactical game of pushing your luck to gain the most prestige.

The game supports 2-6 players, ages 10 and up, and plays in 20-40 minutes. Contents include playing board, 60 cards, 52 prestige tokens, 6 player figures, and an Emperor figure.

The game will be available on 22 February

AXIO is Reiner Knizia’s redesign of the older game Ingenious, and is a simple abstract strategy game where you just place a tile each turn and score the shapes.  When you score you will score only the shapes matching the tile you put down, and that are connected to that shape in that row or column.  That means as you get shapes to be placed together, the more points you will score in one go.  But that isn’t all there is to it, there are also pyramids that you can place down when you surround an empty space, giving you a points boost just when you might need it.  And why might you need that boost?  Well that is because at the end of the game, your final score is the lowest value on your score track, so you need to make sure you are scoring evenly.

The AXIO Octa app uses all the same rules and scoring, but instead of placing squares you are placing octagons, and there is no pyramid to place so scoring evenly becomes extra important.  The apps come with solo play, online play, and team play as well as in game achievements that you can get.  Art is okay but considering the art of the original (or lack there of) this isn’t too much of a detraction.  You can download the app today on either Android or iPhone, and both will run you about $4.

Grail Games have announced a few games they’ll be publishing by prolific designer, Dr. Reiner Knizia.

Yellow & Yangtze

Yellow & Yangtze, the sister game to Tigris & Euphrates, will be released in 2018. The game is set in the Qin Dynasty (part of modern day China) along the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. It sees the rival states of Qin, Chu, Qi, Yan Han, Whei, and Zhao battling for supremacy in 221 BC and is beautifully illustrated by Vincent Dutrait. Yellow & Yangtze supports 2-4 players, aged 14+, and plays in roughly 90 mins. The designer has improved and tweaked the game play of Tigris & Euphrates so that while Yellow & Yangtze will have a similar feel it will be its own “beast”.

Game play details according to the publisher:

In Yellow & Yangtze, players build civilizations through tile placement. Players are given five different leaders: a Governor, Soldier, Farmer, Trader, and Artisan. The leaders are used to collect victory points in these same categories. However, your score at the end of the game is the number of points in your weakest category. Conflicts arise when civilizations connect on the board. To succeed, players’ civilizations must survive these conflicts, calm peasant revolts, and grow secure enough to build prestigious pagodas. [source]

Criss Cross

Coming in Q1 of 2018 is Criss Cross, a roll-and-write game illustrated by Heiko Günther. This is a custom dice game played over 12 rounds where 2 dice are rolled, and players write the symbols in adjacent squares on their scoring sheet. Groups of symbols in columns and rows score points. While all players share the dice symbols the placement of these will vary across players. Criss Cross supports 1-6 players, aged 8+, and plays in roughly 10 mins.

Stephenson’s Rocket

In Stephenson’s Rocket, players take on the role of rail barons in 1830s England. They can invest in railway lines, transport passengers, build up local industries, and compete for the honor of becoming the most prestigious rail baron. Illustrations are by Ian O’Toole.

On September 15, 1830, the age of the railroad began with the opening of the first line between Liverpool and Manchester. The locomotive that ruled those rails was George Stephenson’s Rocket. With a top speed of 45km/h (28mph) Rocket, was the most advanced engine of the day, and its arrival marked the beginning of the modern railway. [source]

Stephenson’s Rocket supports 2-4 players, aged 12+, and plays between 60 and 90 mins.

King’s Road

In King’s Road, players are nobles attempting to gain power and influence in the king’s provinces. As the king travels along the road in his provinces, he will allow the most influential noble in each region to govern in his stead. Over time the most favored noble will win the game.

King’s Road is an area-majority game. Each player has identical decks of eleven cards. On a turn, players simultaneously select the three cards they will play, and in what order. To win, players not only have to influence the king as he traverses the land, but attempt to read the minds of their opponents.

King’s Road re-implements the game Imperium, previously only available within game compendiums. [source]

This game is also illustrated by the great, Vincent Dutrait and supports 2-5 players, aged 10+. Game play length is around 30 mins. King’s Road is currently available at retailers.

Kashgar: Merchants of the Spice Road

Unlike the prior games in this list, this one is not designed by Dr. Knizia but by Gerhard Hecht with art by Franz Vohwinkel. The core mechanism will be “open deck-building” with players trading spices along the Silk Road from Asia to Europe. The game supports 2-4 players, aged 12+, and plays in roughly 45 mins.

According to the publisher, the game plays as follows:

In the beginning, each caravan consists of three cards that are spread out vertically so that the top part of each card is visible; each card stands for a caravan member with different abilities.

On his turn, a player performs only one action, choosing one of the cards on top of the three caravans and executing one action shown on that card. Then the card is put at the back of its caravan. To use the same caravan member again, a player must first use all the other cards on top of that caravan row. [source]

Kashgar: Merchants of the Spice Road will release in Q2 of 2018.