Tile Laying Games

“You’ve come to make your fortune on Cooper Island, whose untouched peninsulas stretch out like long arms into the wild Atlantic. With two ships and a few workers, each of you has landed on a separate peninsula, which you hope to explore, cultivate, and settle. But who will do this best? And how? Will you expand your land quickly, or will you instead spend your efforts cultivating it, making it more and more valuable and productive?”

Frosted Games along with Capstone Games have announced Cooper Island, a new complex strategy game from the brilliant mind of Andreas “ode.” Odendahl (La Granja). In Cooper Island, 2-4 players compete as explorers to colonize their island off the Atlantic peninsula. Players have 2 ships and a worker, and place landscape tiles over their island, gaining resources. Resources can be used to build structures with special abilities. Certain areas on the island are inaccessible and need to be cleared to gain access. Supply ships can come in from the Old World, helping the colonization.

As you can see, Cooper Island is a complex set of mechanical interlocking gears, melding together into a satisfying heavy euro game. The point scoring and tracking is yet another unique element to this game; each player marks their points by moving a small ship around the perimeter of their island. However, this ship can discover new lands, granting benefits to the player. After 5 rounds, the player with the most victory points is declared… well, the victor.

Cooper Island will debut at Essen Spiel 2019 late this October. For more information, check out Capstone Games‘ and Frosted Games’ official websites.

Tasty Minstrel Games has announced an absolute metric tonne of games slated for release in the following months: some new, some reprints, and some just plain interesting. So without further ado, here is the list…

“Planet Earth is overpopulated, but recent technological developments open new possibilities – whole cities hovering high in the skies.”

Dilluvia Project, a game declared “awesome” by our own Jason Levine, is a heavy euro game from designer Alexandre Garcia, originally published by Spielworxx in 2015. Dilluvia is a glorious amalgamation of mechanisms, all coming together into a resource collection, cube management, area control festival where 2-4 players try to best manage a utopian flying city. Players jockey for position around a 4×4 grid of tiles, trying to secure the best resources by pointing to rows and columns. Cube collection leads to control of prime real estate in the city, in which buildings can be placed for points. Even the score mechanisms are unique, with “prestige points” giving the player more opportunity to earn true victory points in this deliciously crunchy mechanism salad. Look for Dilluvia Project to be reprinted this August.

“The journey out west was daunting and fraught with peril, but you made it!”

Old West Empresario from designer Stan Kordonskiy (Dice Hospital) is a tile drafting and placement game for 2-4 players. Tiles can give the player actions each turn, or can score points at the end of the game. Like other tile placement games, everyone is trying to create a prosperous town, where neighboring buildings feed off of each other, generating more points. Look for Old West Empresario to hit stores at the end of August.

Homesteaders is a fast auction game from designer Alex Rockwell, which has garnered understandable love since its release in 2009. TMG has announced a new 10th anniversary edition of this classic, including a new expansion, New Beginnings. In Homesteaders, 2-4 players auction for buildings to place in their burgeoning western frontier town, managing precious resources (9 different types!). Buildings give the player new abilities, income, and point generation, however some buildings require workers to fully function. After 10 rounds, the player with the most points is declared victor, and gets to name their city. The new Homesteaders comes with metal coins and victory point tokens, 53 building tiles, 30 auction tiles, 25 worker meeples, 74 wooden resources, and even a metal start player token.

The new expansion adds a 5th player, more buildings, auctions and components. Look for Homesteaders 10th Anniversary and the New Beginnings expansion in late September.

“Cats all over the world look forward to the Festival!”

Festival of a Thousand Cats from designer Fukutarou is a trick taking card game originally from Japan, which is sought after but difficult to obtain in the west. Tasty Minstrel has gotten the rights to reprint this quirky game, and it should hit western shores in late September. Cards have ranging number values, come in 4 different suits/seasons, and can score positive or negative points. 2 cards to be fought over are placed in the center of the play area, and these cards may have crows (negative points), fish, or milké (an intoxicating mixture of catnip and milk). Be careful – winning too much milké makes the cats sick and both fish and milké points are lost. Players each play one card from their hand, but cannot play the same suits as the scoring cards, unless there is no other option. After all players put in a card, the highest card played wins the higher of the 2 scoring cards, and the lowest wins the lower of the scoring cards. Add to this formula a varying distribution of numbers in each suit, and you end up with a very quirky, interesting take on trick taking.

“Stake your claim, build a mining empire, and keep one step ahead of the competition!”

Rolled West from designer Daniel Newman is the new inevitable roll-and-write version of TMG’s popular Gold West (2015) from J. Alex Kevern. In Rolled West, 2-4 players roll dice to collect resources, in order to make settlements and score majorities for the various terrain types. Players can bank resources on opponent’s turns, fulfill contracts, make sales, or invest in futures. The game comes with 4 custom dice, 4 dry erase player boards, a dry erase score board, and markers.

“Deep beneath the surface of the earth lie gems, artifacts, and other valuable things.”

Big Dig by Shaun Graham and Scott Huntington is a similar 2-4 player flip-and-write, dry erase game, where players flip over cards that dictate what shape of grid squares to cross off (dig) on their board. Digging out areas must proceed from the top or from already cleared areas, and certain areas cannot be excavated, except maybe by blowing them up! Players try to achieve the 3 random goals set on cards, and the first to do so wins. Lots of goals and double sided player boards lend variety to this new roll and write. Look for both Rolled West and Big Dig to come to stores in October 2019.

“Your prehistoric clan needs a little guidance. Hunt, gather, figure out new techniques for doing things and make a little art along the way!”

Dawn of Mankind is coming from designer Marco Pranzo (Historia) and acclaimed artist Kwanchai Moriya. Not a lot of details are known about this title, except that players create the journey of their tribe, involving generations of families. Other players may inadvertently help you along if they proceed along the same story path. At the end of the game, the “story” left by your family translates into points. Dawn of Mankind is due to hit stores in Q4 2019.

Your bear park is expanding … because the grizzlies are coming! That’s right, some of the biggest bears on earth will be making their new home in your park. Their habitats are going to be huge though, so do your best to ft them in any way you can! And with a bigger park, you’ll also need to give your guests a way to get around: that’s where your brand new monorail system comes in. [source]

If you’ve ever felt that your Bear Park needed more bears, and a better way of getting around the park to see them, then the Bärenpark: The Bad News Bears expansion is for you. Designer, Phil Walker-Harding, has added two new modules which can be added to the base game independently, or in combination with each other. Bärenpark is a tile-laying game, where players build their Bear Park in their open park areas by adding attractions and facilities to their parks while trying to accumulate the most points in doing so.

The first module adds a new challenge in the form of Grizzly bears, who need more space than the bears from the base game and make the puzzle of laying tiles more difficult. A new park area is also added, to bring the total available building space to five park areas. The second module adds a monorail that can be added to the park which enables customers to experience the natural behavior of the bears without disturbing them. Monorails add a 3rd dimension to the game board as they’re built by placing towers, in a “zig-zag” pattern, across green areas. Finally, new achievements are also added to create new challenges for expert players.

Expect Bärenpark: The Bad News Bears to feature art by Klemens Franz with its release in August of 2019. For more information, read the original announcement at the Lookout Spiele website where you can also get an advanced look at the rule book.

The Isle of Cats is a new Kickstarter project from designer extraordinaire Frank West, best known for the excellent Kickstarter game The City of Kings (2018). In The Isle of Cats, 1-4 players embody citizens of Squall’s End, trying to rescue friendly felines from the eponymous Isle before the evil Lord Vesh arrives. Players collect polyomino cat tiles in one of 5 family colors. Pieces need to fit on the player’s unique boat, optimally with members of the same family touching each other. Fish are a common resource used to purchase both the polyomino cats and useful drafted player cards. Lesson cards give each players unique goals and bonuses for filling their boats, whereas anytime cards gain resources, and can play off each other, creating interesting combos. Treasure and Oshax cards give players access to these special tiles, which can fill gaps in the ship for bonus points. Oshax cats specifically are very friendly, and can act as wildcards, matching with any family color.

“You will need to manage resources as you draft cards to explore the island, rescue cats, find treasures, befriend Oshax and read ancient lessons. Each lesson you collect will give you another personal way of scoring points, in addition to filling your boat and keeping cat families together!”

The Isle of Cats comes with 30 cat meeples, 85 unique cat tiles, 6 Oshax tiles, 64 treasure tiles, 36 lesson cards, 60 rescue cards, 21 treasure and Oshax cards, 31 anytime cards, boats, board and tokens. The game supports Solo and Family play modes, and also available is a 5-6 player expansion with all the necessary extra boards, tokens, tiles and cards. The campaign for The Isle of Cats continues through July 25, and is expected to deliver in March 2020.

Arcane Wonders has announced 2 new games coming out this September, the tile laying game Architectura by designer Pavel Atamanchuk and the loot-and-scoot dungeon crawl Dragonscales by the eminent designer Richard Launius (Arkham Horror).

“Fight, steal, run, and maybe betray! Only one villain can emerge the victor!”

In DragonScales, 3-5 players each take on the role of fantasy villains looking to defeat the three headed dragon within his lair. Each villain comes with its own unique deck of action and action and tactic cards. The cunning scoundrels aim to loot and pillage the lair, collecting treasures and precious dragonscales, and most importantly escape alive. And if you can claim the three heads of the great dragon as trophies, all the better. DragonScales is no slouch with regard to components, coming with 5 player miniatures, 44 custom dice, 25 plastic dragonscales, 136 cards, 109 cubes, markers, screens and board. The game plays in 60 minutes, and inspected to hit stores September 18.

Architectura is a tile laying, city building game for 2-4 players which plays in a reasonable 30-45 minutes. Players take turns laying down tiles, creating a grid of buildings, each of which may enhance or destroy neighboring structures. Additionally, Cards can be rotated for actions and bonuses.
Architectura can also be played in an advanced mode, where each player has a unique deck of buildings to work with.

“Let’s say you’ve just built a magnificent temple. A vulgar market around the corner doesn’t belong there anymore and has to be shut down right away, but a park near the temple’s entrance will definitely be a good match and will even profit from the divine proximity.”

Look for Architectura at your FLGS on September 18, 2019.

Set in another dimension filled with alien life, Darwinauts, designed by Chris Bryan (Lanterns Dice Game, Favelas, and Dragon Ball Z: Perfect Cell) and illustrated by the prolific Vincent Dutrait, puts you and up to 3 other players in the role of brave researchers tasked with venturing through a portal into this new land to discover, research, and record new species of life.

In Darwinauts, which the publisher describes as a “light-to-medium weight Euro-style game of tile-laying, worker placement, set collection, and action selection,” players take 2 actions on their turn; they can place an explorer, place a tile, replenish tiles and remove explorers, discover a species, or record a species (which then triggers one of five possible bonus actions). Gameplay will continue in this manner until The Rift Tile is revealed, after which the new world will become unstable and players will dismantle the landscape they built and race to complete their tasks and return home before the game draws to a close.

The campaign includes a Standard Explorer pledge which includes just the game and stretch goals, as well as a Decorated Explorer pledge which includes a playmat in addition to the game and stretch goals.

For more information on the game, you can find the official Kickstarter campaign page here.

Ubongo is a fast-paced, easy-to-learn, geometric puzzle game where players race to piece together interlocking tiles. The goal is for players to get them to fit perfectly on their own puzzle boards. Ubongo Extreme: Fun-Size Edition is a smaller, lower-priced, and more portable format of the larger game and adds a higher level of complexity by using polyhex tiles instead of the traditional tile shapes. Ubongo Extreme: Fun-Size Edition is designed by
Grzegorz Rejchtman for 1-4 players, aged 8+, and is expected to release on July 1st, 2019.

Inka Brand & Markus Brand continue releasing games in the popular EXIT series, with the latest iteration being EXIT: House of Riddles. The game is classified at a beginner difficulty level, caters for 1-4 players, and plays in roughly 1-2 hours. Players are detectives who are summoned to an abandoned house to investigate an unsolved mystery. Upon entry, the detectives hear screams and find the entrance shut behind them and need to crack the case to find their way out. Expect EXIT: House of Riddles to release on July 22nd, 2019.

Brainwaves is a series of games developed by neuroscientists and game designers where players challenge their episodic memory (memory of recent personal events). Thames & Kosmos are releasing 3 games in this series which are all for 1-4 players, aged 8+, and play in roughly 15 mins.

Brainwaves: The Astute Goose has players identifying a burglar hiding in a crowd and is designed by Reiner Knizia. Then, designed by Dirk Baumann, Brainwaves: The Brilliant Boar has players collect sets of various animal portraits on cards by utilizing their memory to match those in their hand (facing away from them) to those revealed on the table. In Brainwaves: The Wise Whale, players are collecting colorful sea creatures by matching either their colors or animal types, and is designed by Maureen Hiron. Expect all 3 games to release on July 8th, 2019.

Soaring Rhino newest game, Mammoth, is now on Kickstarter. Mammoth takes a unique approach to biome development in a game and offers two different modes of play.  The gameplay in Mammoth draws from the scientific premise that the mammoth was instrumental in preventing the permafrost from melting and fostering massive grassland growth. 

In the competitive game, players are herds of mammoths moving about the barren tundra and trampling the brambles to make room for the flora and grassland. In this tile placing game, players place either square or octagon tiles to do one of two things: expand the flower patch they are creating with their trampling or extend the path of the herd.  Points are scored for extending and completing flower patches. The game ends when the last octagon tile is placed.  Players will score points for the number of tiles in the flower patch their mammoth occupied at the end of the game.  Points are also scored for each tile in the length of the herd’s path.  The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.  

In the co-operative game, goals and action cards are used.  Now the players are scientists working together to guide the mammoth herds through the landscape to accomplish two goals in shaping the biome: create a flower patch of a specific color large enough to accomplish the color goal, and create a herd path in the manner required to accomplish the path goal.  The group will also have to score enough points required by the two goals.  Player actions are limited by the available action cards, but if the team plans well enough, they can ensure each scientist has the action they need.  If the players accomplish all their scientific goals before the last octagon tile is placed, they win the game.

Mammoth plays 2-4 players, ages 8+, in 30-45 minutes. Components includes game board, 4 plastic mammoths, 4 baby mammoth tokens, 4 animal path tokens, 72 small 1-point biocycle tokens, 48 large 3-point biocycle tokens. 40 double-sided square tiles, 52 octagon flower tiles, 2 octagon lab tiles, 4 penalty tokens, 8 goals cards, 14 action cards, a go first marker, and rulebook. The Kickstarter campaign runs until June 23 with an expected delivery in February 2020. Check out the Kickstarter Campaign to learn more about the game and the science the game is based on.

Pencil First Games has announced The One Hundred Torii, a new Kickstarter project from designers Scott Caputo (Whistle Stop) and Eduardo Baraf (Herbaceous), with artist extraordinaire Vincent Dutrait (Treasure Island, New York 1901 and many, many others). The One Hundred Torii is a zen tile laying game, where 1-4 players take turns adding to an ever expanding garden, calling for help from the characters living therein, and scoring for paths between matching landmarks.

“Step into tranquility as you pass through the torii gates, traveling from fountains to flowers to shrines while meeting vendors, poets, and even samurai along the way… “

On their turn, the players take one tile from their hand of 2, and expand the garden. Every tile piece has paths and at least one of the 6 features – Lotus, Bridges, Lanterns, Water Basins, Inari Statues, or Sekimori Ishi (stone features). If a continuous path is created between two matching features, the player scores a landmark token for that feature. If multiple paths are created, the player only scores for the shortest one. If the path passes through one or more Torii gates, bonus tiles are earned; Red Torii give the player multiple matching tokens for the feature, while blue Torii earn tokens for other, different features. When a player earns 5 of the same token, they must be cashed in for a larger 5-point piece. Similarly, 5 more tokens create a 10-point piece. Fully isolated areas of the garden with 2 or more features score special Enclosure Tokens. Other achievements are earned for being the first player to earn all six 5-point tokens, or three of the 10-point tokens.

Another important aspect of the game is the ability to ask for help from one of the five characters who live in the garden. Characters cost coins, or single tokens, but never the larger 5- and 10-point pieces. The Samurai prevents players from placing a tile in a specific location. The Poet covers a single feature, preventing it from completing pathways, or possibly allowing for longer pathways. Both the Samurai and the Poet stay out until another player asks for their help. The Vendor allows players to discard a tile from their hand, and replace it with 2 new ones. The Geisha lets a player place 2 tiles into the garden, although only the second tile scores for a path. Finally, the Gardener allows a player to place a tile on top of another tile. The first and second time a player summons a character, they collect that characters’ token, earning 2 points. However only one player may collect the points for summoning a character for a third time.

At the end of the game, the 5- and 10- point tiles score their points, as well as tiles earned from working with the characters, tiles from creating enclosures, and achievements for being first to earn the larger tokens. The One Hundred Torii also comes with a single player mode, where the player battles against Onatsu, the pilgrim. Onatsu takes the player’s unused tiles, and scores her own points throughout the game.

The Kickstarter Campaign for The One Hundred Torii continues through June 10, and the game is expected to deliver in April 2020.

IDW Games is publishing a family update to their 2017 release Seikatsu. Seikatsu: A Pet’s Life features adorable artwork by Neytirix and reunites the design duo of Matt Loomis and Isaac Shalev for the same core tile-laying as the original.

In Seikatsu, players place tiles containing a bird of a certain color and a flower of a certain color in a shared garden. Players score groups of birds when tiles are placed, and score rows of matching flowers at the end of the game. Similarly, in Seikatsu: A Pet’s Life, players place tiles containing a type of animal and a color of pillow upon which the animal is sitting in a shared living room. Upon placing tiles, players will score for groups of the same type of animal. Then, at the end of the game, players score rows with pillows of the same color.

Seikatsu: A Pet’s Life has a player count of 1-4, and releases on August 30, 2019.