During the recent Dice Tower Con 2019 festivities, I was given the rare opportunity to help playtest an early version of Restoration Game’s upcoming title Return to Dark Tower. The original Dark Tower game (1981) was a vivid Christmas memory for me, occupying my every dream when it released in my 13-year old world. The large, foreboding, rotating black tower, electronic buttons and lights, and fantasy story told a story of battle and conquest, admittedly with 8-bit beeps and boops. Plus it ate D cell batteries like a manic golf cart.
Dark Tower (2020) by designers Justin
Jacobson, Noah Cohen,
legacy game deity Rob Daviau,
Childres, is now a story driven cooperative game where heroes work
to gain resources, strengthen their armies, and wage war on the powers within
the tower. The board is reminiscent of the original 4 regions, each containing
a player’s buildings. And in the center of the board will be the namesake
The tower will be a marvel of engineering, a robotic cube
tower with multiple rotating rings, designed by the team behind the exceptional
Balance. The game uses an app, which can communicate with the tower,
turning rings to target players and regions. Each turn the tower rotates and
changes, raining devastation upon the board.
The game I played went magnificently, and we quested
throughout the land, eventually breaching the tower walls. The guardians within
were no match for our group and we emerged victorious. From this early play
test, I am personally excited to see how this game turns out in 2020, hopefully
rekindling my 13-year old obsession with the Dark Tower.
It has been a rumor for some time, but now some details are starting to come out about Machi Koro Legacy from Pandasaurus Games, and designers Rob Daviau (Pandemic Legacy), JR Honeycutt (Fireball Island), and Masao Suganuma (Machi Koro, Diamonsters). Pandasaurus has even hired the original artist Noboru Hotta for all new art. The original Machi Koro hit the gaming world hard in 2012, with people importing the Japanese version in order to experience the quirky minimalist art and elegant game play; In Machi Koro, players buy buildings, which generate income on specific die rolls, which then allows the purchase of more buildings. The legacy game will keep the game play we all love, but will feature a complete story arc over 10 games. For more details, read the press release from Pandasaurus here, and expect the game to hit shelves in Spring 2019.
Calliope Games are releasing a number of games from some very accomplished designers through the 2nd quarter of 2019.
“Ahoy, captain. Set sail for fun, adventure, and riches! Your savvy crew does your bidding, stacking your hold with the most profitable crates. Will you choose glittering treasure, colossal cannons, or perhaps some risky—but lucrative—contraband? Outwit and outbid all others to earn the biggest bounty…but above all, keep everything ShipShape!”[source]
ShipShape is a new game by the legendary designer, Rob Daviau (known for Betrayal at House on the Hill, and Pandemic Legacy), which has each player controlling a ship over the course of 3 voyages. During the voyages (rounds), players bid using numbered crew cards to claim unique crate tiles off the central stack. They then fill their holds with gold, cannons, and contraband, and cover up what they don’t want. At the end of each voyage, coins are scored when players compare what’s visible in their holds against each other. The player with the most scored coins at the end of the game wins. ShipShape caters for 2-6 players, aged 8+, and plays in roughly 20-50 mins.
Everyone Loves a Parade
“Everyone loves a parade! It’s a beautiful day, and your hometown is excited to watch all the fun, pageantry, and spectacle of the event! But first, the floats that will thrill the crowd must be built…and the one who crafts the most exciting floats will become the Grand Marshall!”[source]
In Everyone Loves a Parade, designed by the seasoned designer Mike Mulvihil (known for HeroClix, and Golem Arcana), players act as float designers. They select colorful decoration cards (flowers, balloons, and flags) to add to their floats and win over the crowd. The crowd is represented by dice showing colors and items they wish to see. Decoration cards allow immediate actions which allows players to move or re-roll crowd dice. Players reveal their secret order cards at the end of each round, which allows them to perform one last action, then enter their completed float into the parade in front of a crowd. Players gain points for giving the crowd what they want, and the player with the highest score after 3 rounds wins and becomes the Grand Marshal. Everyone Loves a Parade caters for 2-6 players, aged 8+, and plays in approximately 20-50 mins.
“Direct a vast network of spies all around the world! As the head of a clandestine spy agency, gather intelligence files that have been strategically divided, and use them to maneuver your agents across the globe and accomplish daring missions. Along the way, uncover secret directives and powerful spy gadgets to give your agency the advantage over your rivals. The mission awaits, spymaster!”[source]
Players are in control of intelligence agencies and manipulate their spies all over the world in SpyMaster, designed by Seth Johnson (known for HeroClix, and Golem Arcana). A spymaster deals intelligence cards into stacks of files then, in clockwise order, lets players choose a stock from them using the I-split-you-choose mechanism. The intelligence cards players gather allows them to move agents into position to control areas which meet mission requirements, then claim mission cards. After 5 rounds, the player with the highest value of accomplished missions, along with any bonuses from intelligence cards remaining, wins. SpyMaster caters for 2-6 players, aged 8+, and plays in about 30-60 mins.
Portal Games recently hosted PortalCon 11 in Gliwice, Poland, where they celebrated 20 years of the Board Games that tell stories. At the celebration, owner and Portal head honcho Ignacy Trzewiczek announced several new games and expansions coming from this amazing company in 2019. There are a ton of new announcements, all of which can be read in the press release from Portal, or seen live in the Keynote Address given at PortalCon.
Several new games set in the Imperial Settlers (BGG #145) universe were announced. First on the list is Empires of the North, a standalone card game designed by Ignacy, featuring Scotsman, Inuit and Vikings. Each faction comes with 2 unique card decks allowing a variety of game play styles. 2-4 players can each try to lead their faction to victory by dominating the opposition, developing their economy or defending their land. Also from the big man is Imperial Settlers Roll and Write. Just as the name implies, this new roll and write game takes place in the empire building world of Imperial Settlers, and focuses heavily on engine building, with each big move giving bonuses towards the next. The game includes two modes, one a traditional 2-4 player competitive point scoring challenge, while the second is a new adventure mode. This single player game comes with a pad of 48 unique challenge sheets to complete, each with its own starting points and goals. And just to round out the Imperial Settlers fervor, Portal Games has announced the Imperial Settlers Big Box, a 5 year anniversary of this award winning game, complete with all of the factions and expansions. The Big Box will be exclusively available direct from Portal Games, and includes a plastic insert to hold everything, new commemorative anniversary cards, as well as oft requested single piece faction boards for the Amazons, Aztecs and Atlanteans.
Also coming from the President of Polish Play is a reprint of Prêt-à-Porter, the 2-4 player surprisingly brutal fashion industry board game. Players take turns hiring new employees, gaining managers, designers and models, all in an effort to destroy the competition. This third edition is coming to Kickstarter in 2019, and features new art from acclaimed illustrator Kwanchai Moriya (Dinosaur Island, Catacombs).
Portal also announced new armies for their arena combat board games Neuroshima Hex and Monolith Arena, both from designer Michał Oracz. The Sand Runners are the latest army to dominate the world of Neuroshima Hex, and are a “specialized army of veteran warriors who clashed with the Moloch in the early days of the war”. The Sand Runners feature a double sided HQ tile for versatility, and come with a new Sand Storm tile type. The new army for Monolith Arena are the Academics, focusing on runes, upgrades, and the ability to dramatically weaken their enemy – in fact, their banner directly slows enemy tiles. The Academics armies are few in number, but devastating in ability.
The original Conspiracy, from 1973, was designed by Dr. Eric Solomon. It featured a unique mechanic: Players move secret agents around the board, trying to bring the mysterious briefcase to their HQ and win the game. However, the trick is that the agents don’t belong to any of the players. Instead, players secretly pay the agents. Other players can challenge a move by revealing how much they had paid off, to decide the outcome. This mingles blind bidding with shared piece control – an intriguing combo.
The Restoration Games design team, consisting of Rob Daviau, J.R. Honeycutt and Justin D. Jacobson, kept the core concept from the original intact but made changes to accommodate the tastes of the modern gamer. Some changes include:
The number of agents has been decreased from 8 to 6 to increase player interaction
Train stations were added for easier movement
Each agent has a special power that activates when they are moved
A significant endgame change
The subtitle of the game signals the appearance of Dr. Solomon in honor of the game’s original designer who appears if no one has won after a certain number of rounds. Dr. Solomon enters the scene and at the end of each subsequent round, a die is rolled, which could immediately trigger the end of the game. If this happens, the player who has paid off the most to Dr. Solomon wins. This creates an interesting choice for players: Do I pay off the agents that can help get the briefcase to my HQ or do I pay off Dr. Solomon and play a defensive strategy?
Rob Daviau, Chief Restoration Officer for Restoration Games says: “It’s thinkier than most of our other games. You are playing cat-and-mouse the whole time. The core conceit – you aren’t sure who you are in control of – is magical.”
The announcement from Restoration Games was made in front of a packed audience at the Dice Tower Live Show on the Dice Tower Cruise somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Rob Daviau returns in Betrayal Legacy adding permanent changes and a multi-game story arc that define the legacy game concept. It will not be enough to survive the haunted mansion for one game. The game is told through a prologue and 13-chapter story where players represent specific members of a family, who age over time, and experience the events of the haunted mansion over multiple decades.
Betrayal Legacy plays 3-5 players, ages 12+, in about 75 minutes per game. Go to Avalon Hill to learn more about the game, or visit your friendly local game story today.
Last year, Restoration Games announced their intention to bring back Fireball Island during the Dice Tower Live show at Gen Con. Their project erupted onto Kickstarter and funded exceedingly well, to the tune of 2.8 million dollars. It was no secret then that Restoration Games was going to set it sights to bigger and bolder projects. Today during the same annual show, we learned what the next one will be – Return to Dark Tower, co-designed by Restoration Games’ own Rob Daviau and Isaac Childres, multi-award winning designer of Gloomhaven.
This restoration project is based on the 1981 classic, Dark Tower, a competitive adventure game featuring an electronic tower that took inputs and tracked stats, battles, and equipment. Players would navigate the board to bolster up their forces and brave random encounters on their way to the titular tower in the center in the hopes of being the player to ascend it and quash the denizens within. It was no surprise why it was such a hot toy at the time, being this device-driven game in a high fantasy setting. It’s equally no shock that the game was so highly requested, and now it will get the full Restoration Games treatment with no less level of attention that Fireball Island got, with it’s own Kickstarter to boot in 2019 for a projected 2020 release.
“Daviau and Childres—along with Jacobson and Restoration’s Tinker-in-Chief, J.R. Honeycutt—have been working behind the scenes for months to develop the core game mechanics. The game strives to provide players with interesting choices about which quests to pursue, how to best use resources to keep the growing evil in check, and when to make that final decision to assault the tower. Jacobson revealed that, while the game is still early in development, one of the reasons for the announcement’s timing was to allow them to do significant playtesting without fear of the story leaking.”
The only detail we know that’s been set in stone is that this new iteration of the game will be cooperative. Rob Daviau is quoted via press release in saying, “We always believed that, had it come out today, Dark Tower would have been a cooperative game. The real threat is that imposing tower. It will take all of the players working together to defeat it.” This is a very cool development, and I agree, cooperative games like Legends of Andor have accomplished some of what Dark Tower originally set to achieve within a framework of one of the most classic fantasy tropes – an adventuring party. This shift is a good fit for Dark Tower, and with the team of rockstar game designers and developers at the helm there’s a lot here to be ecstatic about. For more information about this project as it unfolds, be sure to check Restoration Games’ website for updates.
CMON Kickstarter campaigns are often big and exciting, and this newest one is no less the case. Cthulhu: Death May Die is the newest big box game with the sort of high-quality large figures that CMON is known (and named) for. It’s a cooperative game for 1-to-5 players, designed by the rockstar team of Rob Daviau and Eric M. Lang, and artwork by Adrian Smith and Karl Kopinski. If a Cthulhu-themed cooperative romp sounds an awful lot like long-popular Fantasy Flight flagships Arkham Horror or Mansions of Madness, you wouldn’t be wrong. Where Death May Die differentiates itself is, unless the worst befalls your party early, you’re going toe-to-toe with a big nasty Old One in a really clever use of episodic materials that could only be designed by the master of hidden-things-in-small-boxes himself. As described on the campaign page:
“The Death May Die core box contains smaller boxes that hold the modular elements to create each unique game session. Players choose one of the two available Elder Ones and combine their contents with those of one of the six available Episodes. Each of these boxes contain unique figures, tokens, and cards that are only used when playing with those elements. The Mythos deck used in each game is a combination of cards from the chosen Elder One box and the chosen Episode box. Each Episode not only indicates the map setup using the various tiles in the game, but also new actions the investigators can perform in order to accomplish the tasks required to disrupt that episode’s ritual. They each also bring their own Discovery cards for players to explore, and the monsters’ behaviors and abilities are tailored to each unique story.”
While the use of tactile tools to create a narrative-driven experience in a world where app-based dungeon crawls exists may seem like a step backward, the application of the components is demonstrative of the innovation those tools have gone through despite the current ecosystem. It’ll be really cool to see how the game is received for it’s composition and table presence after it arrives to backers who haven’t been crushed under the weight of it’s intimidatingly large, detailed monsters. Between the publishing and design caliber behind it, the miniatures, and the deft application of theme, it’s no wonder that this Kickstarter has already (at the time of writing this) passed 600% funding and trending towards millions of dollars. Update: In fact, all of the early bird waves have sold out, but CMON has responded by creating more expensive waves of limited product to be released further into 2019. If you are interested in learning more about Cthulhu: Death May Die, check out the campaign page for previews, in-depth rules explanations, community feedback, and updates.
The Spiel des Jahres nominees for 2018 have just recently been announced (see Dice Tower News article here), and for the first time since 2010 the judges have awarded the “Sonderpreis“, literally a special award. The recipient is the innovative Pandemic Legacy Season 2 by Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau, published by Z-Man Games. Pandemic Legacy Season 2 uses amazing new mechanics and devices, and blends them with an engrossing story taking place 71 years after the original Season 1, creating a game “all future legacy games will have to be measured” against. Pandemic and Pandemic Legacy Season 1 were both nominated for Spiel des Jahres awards in 2009 and 2016 respectively.
In all professions, networking with your peers is always a good practice to help get your foot in the door to new places and to improve your skill whether it be coding, engineering, or designing board games. So Geoff Engelstein, Tim Fowers, and Jeff Beck has decided to launch a new board game design retreat called Tabletop Network. This will be a two day retreat out in the relaxing Snowbird mountain resort near Salt Lake City, Utah starting on Friday June 8th.
There will be lots of people presenting including Rob Daviau, Ryan Laukat, Tom Lehmann, Geoff Engelstein, Stone Librande, Tim Fowers, and more. Some of the subjects that will be discussed will be engagement, balance, and emerging trends in board games. Also, while there will some time set aside for playing games, this conference is meant to be about learning together and sharing ideas to improve everyone’s board game design skills, so you might want to leave the prototype at home.
In order to fund this trip they are using Kickstarter for selling the tickets. To attend in person a physical ticket will run you $295, while a virtual pass where you can watch all the panels and talks online will run you $55. So if you are itching to rev up your game designing engine, this retreat may be just the jump start you need.