Et voilà — on June 25, 2019 The OP announced the Q4 2019 release of Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising, a 2-4 player game that plays in 45-90 minutes. If you've played Thanos Rising, then you'll have some idea of how this game plays; if not, here's a description for you:
Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising captures the difficulties and terrors Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger face during their fifth year at Hogwarts as they scramble to persuade the wizarding world of Voldemort's return.
In Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising, each player must assemble teams of witches and wizards from the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore's Army, and Hogwarts to fight against the growing threat of the Dark Lord. Starting with either Harry Potter or Hermione Granger representing Dumbledore's Army, Minerva McGonagall or Albus Dumbledore from Hogwarts, or Nymphadora Tonks or Sirius Black from the Order of the Phoenix, players will be able to rally a variety of year-5 characters to their cause, such as Ginny Weasley, Luna Lovegood, Alastor Moody, Mrs. Norris, Severus Snape, and Rubeus Hagrid. The collective armies and players must then work together to stop the spread of dark influence throughout the wizarding world.
Players have to battle Dark Wizards Peter Pettigrew, Bellatrix Lestrange, Lucius Malfoy, and others who bear the dark mark for control of key wizarding world locations, including the Ministry of Magic, Diagon Alley, and Hogsmeade Village. To be successful, players must vanquish Voldemort's Death Eaters and eventually defeat You-Know-Who before they corrupt and take control the wizarding world.
It has long been thought that earthworms were slow creatures with no ambition. It is not so. They dream of conquering the world but suffer from internal conflicts that prevent their great project from taking shape: the reds are convinced that it is up to them to lead the troops. Same for the blues. And the greens. Not to mention the yellows. It was therefore inevitable that they come to blows. Wormlord tells their story.
Wormlord is a game that is played simultaneously, without a turn, and consists of conquering spaces by placing knots. It is possible to repel his opponents by undoing their ropes and returning them to them. The victory condition varies from one tray setup to another, but usually it's about conquering a number of objective spaces.
• Bittner and Cedotal apparently fit the Sit Down! brand perfectly as the publisher plans to release three titles from the design duo at SPIEL '19, with the 2-4 player House Flippers also being a real-time game experience. In the game, each sand timer represents a property generating periodic income, with players investing in decrepit properties to renovate them, sell them, then reinvest the profit. The game has four possible actions, with everyone playing simultaneously: cash in a rental, buy and renovate a new property, hire an expert in lucrative real estate, and grow your savings.
• The other Bittner/Cedotal/Sit Down! production for SPIEL '19 is Palm Reader, a party game for 4-12 players. A summary:
Palm Reader is divided into several rounds, and in each round the active player draws a card and randomly chooses one of five symbols on it. This player then draws that symbol on the palm of the person sitting to their left, while that person has their eyes closed. Go around the circle of players, receiving and tracing on palms (like Telephone). After the final player has received the tracing, reveal the card, then have all players vote on what they believe the starting symbol was. You receive as many victory points as the number of players in a row who successfully guess the symbol.
Once everybody has been the active player once, the player scoring the most VPs wins.
• Designer Tony Boydell of Surprised Stare Games has announced a fascinating-sounding (and -looking) release for SPIEL '19 in partnership with Frosted Games, with this game also providing a real-time playing experience. Three games in one post makes this a trend, right?
Here's a rundown of the solitaire game Lux Aeterna, which bears a playing time of 6-12 minutes:
Your ship has sustained massive damage, is falling apart around you, and is drifting toward the ultimate catastrophe, a black hole. You are alone.
Your challenge in Lux Aeterna is to draw and play all of the cards in the main deck, one turn after another, without the spaceship collapsing completely or falling into the black hole. Cards have multiple functions; you will assign drawn cards to one each of these functions each turn:
—As damage to a system (with six systems available to you); —As an action to help stay alive/fix the ship; or, —As movement toward the black hole.
If a ship's system collapses, the game will get harder for you; if you should repair a system, then you just might avoid the ultimate doom.
Events (called "glitches") can be seeded into the main deck to make things even more difficult, as will reducing the real time that you have to play: 12 minutes -> 10 minutes -> 8 minutes, etc.
Another week, another overview video for a roll-and-write game, this time focusing on Bloom from Wouter van Strien and Gamewright, with this same game design being published with different graphics and slightly different rules in Poland in 2018 under the name Bukiet from Nasza Księgarnia.
In theory, you're trying to deliver flowers to as many customers as possible in Bloom, but in practice you don't care about satisfying the customers as much as getting rid of flowers as quickly as possible, whether or not the customer gets the flower they hoped to bring home. Your business comes first!
Players draft dice each round to remove flowers from their individual player sheet, with the game including sheets in five different designs so that everyone starts from a different layout. You're rewarded for being the first (or second or third) to rid yourself of a particular color of flower — good for your marketing efforts, I suppose — and you also want to empty out flowerbeds (which contain multiple colors of flowers) so that you can plant them anew, although that's an outside-the-game activity that serves only to explain why you'd be rewarded for doing something in-game.
Bloom also contains solitaire rules that function somewhat like the multiplayer rules, although you'll likely miss the "ha ha, you really wanted this die, didn't you?" moments of the regular game.
Tal der Wikinger from designers Marie and Wilfried Fort and publisher HABA has won the 2019 Kinderspiel des Jahres, Germany's children's game of the year award! (In February 2019, the Forts won the As d'Or — France's game of the year award — in the children's game category for Where's Mr. Wolf?, making them multinational award winners for 2019.)
In the game, which will be released in North America under the name Valley of the Vikings by HABA USA before the end of 2019, players try to collect as many coins as possible through a game of "viking bowling". Each player starts the game with a coin in their viking boat and sits near one of the launching sites. All four colored barrels are placed in their starting positions on the game board no matter how many players are in the game.
On a turn, a player places the giant barrel ball on their launching site, then swings the cardboard viking figure to launch it toward the barrels. Whichever barrel colors are knocked over have their matching tokens moved on the placement track at the top of the board, with the active player determining the order in which tokens are moved. This matters since tokens jump over occupied spaces on the track.
The next player sets up the toppled barrels in whichever spaces they wish, then they take their turn.
When a colored token moves off the end of the placement track, falling into the water, a scoring occurs, with players gaining 1-4 coins from the bank if their token sits on the track next to one of the flags that shows coins. If a colored token is next to a flag that depicts a token of a different color, then the first player steals a coin from the second player; if a colored token is next to a flag depicting its own color, then that player steals a coin from each other player.
Playing at BGG.Spring in May 2019
As with the barrels, all four colored tokens are used no matter the player count so that you have coins to steal from other boats, so that players can leapfrog tokens in ways beneficial to them, and so that coins get removed from the bank as the game ends only once the bank is empty. Whoever collects the most coins wins.
HABA plans to copies of Tal der Wikinger for sale and demo at Gen Con 2019, with the German edition of the game including English rules. To see how the game works in a more visual manner, check out this overview video recorded at Origins Game Fair 2019.
In this 2-4 player game, one player takes on the role of the shark, while the 1-3 other players represent Brody, Hooper, and Quint, with all of the humans being part of the game no matter how many players you have. The complete game is played out over two acts, with Act 1 taking place on Amity Island, with the shark trying to eat as many people as possible before the humans can impale it with two barrels. The more the shark eats, the more abilities it has in Act 2 and the less gear the human crew has available to itself for the final face-off on the Orca. If the humans can deal 18 damage to the shark before it either kills all the humans or completely destroys the boat, they win.
At least for now. You know the sequels are inevitable, right? I can't wait to make psychic attacks against Michael Caine!
• LudiCreations has announced that it will release a new version of Sebastian Bleasdale's On the Underground in 2019, with the game featuring new art and graphic design (as one might expect of a thirteen-year-old title) as well as deluxe components and a new playable map of Berlin. The box has two faces, as shown above, with the iconography of the London Underground and Berlin's U-Bahn subtly worked into the game logos.
On the Underground is a rail-building and passenger-moving game that first appeared in 2006 from JKLM Games and Rio Grande Games, and the newly titled On the Underground: London/Berlin features the same gameplay, with some modifications to a London map and other small changes.
On a turn, you can take up to four actions, with those actions being building track or taking branch tokens. Each player has 2-4 colors of track depending on the player count, and normally you can extend a colored line only at the endpoints; if you spend two branch tokens, you can branch off an existing line. After you build, a passenger token moves to one or two stations following particular movement rules, scoring points for those who own the tracks upon which it moves. You know which stations are in play at the start of your turn, so to score points you're both building for those immediate passenger points and trying to connect to particular stations or build loops
Berlin game board
• Another title being brought back to market in a new edition is Klaus Teuber's The Starfarers of Catan, a giant space-based take on (what was then called) The Settlers of Catan that was as famous for its rocket-shaped randomizer as it was for the tendency of parts of that rocket to break off.
In Q4 2019, for the twentieth anniversary of The Starfarers of Catan, German publisher KOSMOS and the U.S.-based Catan Studio will release Catan: Starfarers. This new edition of the game features completely revised graphics and game materials — complete with redesigned mothership pieces! — revised rules, and a variable game board that brings even more variety to your spacefaring expeditions. Catan Studio plans to demo Catan: Starfarers at Gen Con 2019 in August ahead of the game's Q4 2019 release date.
What's the longest, most specific word you can create with the letters E, I, M, R, T, and a joker, with each of these letters being available to you as many times as you want and with the joker representing the same thing each time it's used in this word (should you use it at all)?
I was presented with this situation recently in Letter Jam, a co-operative word deduction game from newcomer Ondra Skoupý and publisher Czech Games Edition. I played Letter Jam twice in near-final prototype form at Origins Game Fair 2019, was offered a mock-up copy from that fair for further playing, played twice more on Sunday night after packing up the BGG booth and having dinner, then played twice more since I returned home.
Like Codenames, the 2015 deduction game that propelled CGE into the party game market, Letter Jam inspires cleverness in both the clue giver and the clue receiver. You're presented with an unusual situation — a situation similar to what you'll see in other playings of this game, but a situation unique to these particular circumstances — and you must create a clue that takes advantage of that situation as best as possible.
Each player in Letter Jam is trying to guess the letters spread face down before them in order to guess the word they were given at the start of the game. Only one letter a time is visible from each word, and these letters are visible to everyone other than the person who "owns" the letter.
In more detail, at the start of play, each player places their leftmost letter in a stand facing everyone else, with dummy letters added to the table so that six letters are visible no matter the number of players. An asterisk representing the joker is placed in the middle of the table. All players think of clues that use letters owned by other players, letters owned by dummy players, and the joker, then they say how long their clue word is, how many players' letters are used (but not which players and how often those letters are used), how many dummy players' letters are used, and whether the joker is used. Anyone can throw out clue parameters, then players debate whose clue they should use.
So what ten-letter clue did I give in the picture below that used all the available letters and the joker?
Note that you don't say your clue word. Instead, you spell out the word letter by letter by placing numbered tokens next to the letter or joker being used. This means I placed the 1 by "M", the 2 by "I", the 3 and 4 by the joker, and so on. (The mock-up game that I have includes only tokens numbered 1-8, so I just pointed at the letters while saying "Nine" and "Ten".)
Each player whose letter was used — all of them in this four-player game — writes down all that they know from what they see, so the player with an "M" would write _I**I_ETER on their personal note sheet, while the player with the "R" would write MI**IMETE_. Ideally you can give a clue that allows each other player to determine with certainty what their letter is. If they do, they put their letter face down on the table — without looking at it! — then place the next letter in their letter row in their stand; if they aren't confident about what the letter is, they might write a few guesses next to the clue word so that they can better narrow down their choices with the next clue they receive.
By the final round of the game, ideally you know all your letters and can anagram them into a word. (If you guess your letters before game's end, you have a chance of earning bonus letters.) You don't necessarily have to create the same word that you were given; if you receive the letters ABDER, for example, you can spell three different words, and any one of them counts for the victory condition. If you goof up on something, as with my notes below in which I recorded GASN, then realized that I couldn't possibly create a word with the fifth letter, you can claim the joker or a bonus letter from the center of the table and overlay one of your letters so that you can form a word.
Wrong guess in the first row! What other words take the form of F*O_?
Letter Jam is a phenomenally smart design. As with Codenames and to some degree Decrypto, you need to give clues to your fellow players that work on multiple layers. Longer words tend to be better for clues because they'll give players more to work with, but sometimes you just can't make it happen! If you're staring at five consonants like F, M, C, G, and W, you could use the joker to clue two people in with the word MIMIC, but you might be better off hoping that someone else can step with a clue of their own.
The more often you give clues, though, the less you learn about your own letters, so you need everyone to participate. You want to use as many player letters as possible, but of equal importance is giving them a clue distinctive enough that people can make a leap, then move on to their next letter. (In a six-player game, I gave a clue of LACTATE that let all five of my teammates guess their letter, and I felt like cheering.) This keeps everyone moving toward victory, but it also just gives players a different assortment of letters each round. In my six games, the worst experience has been getting a couple of short clues that told no one anything and left us staring at the same letters as before.
You're also incentivized to use the dummy player letters, should have fewer than six players, because if you use all of the letters stacked before a dummy, you receive an additional clue token that gives all players one more round in which to deduce what they have.
Three dummy players in a three-player game
To make one more comparison with Codenames, Letter Jam is highly group dependent. I played a game with my ten-year-old son, for example, so the three adults at the table had to pitch their clues toward his age range. During a demo game at Origins, I realized after giving a clue of SUFFERS that I could have given the more detailed clue (sans joker for the R) of SUFFUSES, but a couple of players were having trouble figuring things out — not deducing their letter from the clue of _CON_C, for example — so a clue of SUFFUSES probably would have been as useless as my clue of SUFFERS. So much suffering in that game...
In another demo game at Origins, I hit upon the perfect clue for my four teammates, but I could not possibly give that clue as it was a word I would have used only among people I know extremely well. So be it. Better to lose the game than create a bad reputation for you and your employer — and in the end we all deduced our words anyway.
While Letter Jam shares many traits with Codenames, it's not comparable in ease of play. Each player has to know what they're doing, and if someone can't figure out a letter or two, then all you can do is throw more clues at them or try to race through your own letters so that you can pile bonus letters onto the table that they can use at game's end. If a player can't come up with a clue longer than four letters, at some point you shrug and say go ahead because you need everyone to give a clue in order to unlock a bonus clue round — and maybe that four-letter word will help more than you think. AMOK would be a wonderful clue, for example, as long as it doesn't include a joker because everyone should be able to figure out their letter from seeing _MOK, A_OK, AM_K, or AMO_, right? That's the hope anyway...
Paul Grogan from Gaming Rules! teaches Letter Jam at Origins 2019
In my coverage of Origins Game Fair 2019, I previewedIshtar and Caravan, both of which will be available for purchase at Gen Con 2019, and I wrote upCopenhagen: Roll and Write, which will be available for demo at Gen Con 2019 ahead of a SPIEL '19 release. (I initially thought C:RAW would be a Gen Con 2019 release, but a game being "available" at a show means different things for different people. Lesson re-learned.)
With BGG's Gen Con 2019 Preview now live, it's time to kick off the previews for that show in a larger way — and you're not likely to find a larger game debuting at Gen Con 2019 than Pearl Games' Black Angel from the design team of Sébastien Dujardin, Xavier Georges, and Alain Orban. This game has been in the works for more than six years and was on many "most anticipated" lists for 2017 and 2018 when the game seemed to be nearing completion, so when Dujardin offered me a preview copy at Spielwarenmesse in February 2019, I couldn't pass up the chance to try it out.
Even with only two players, you need a lot of room (non-final components)
I've now played Black Angel six times and had my head broken more than that many times when I discovered that my plans had gone awry, whether due to an opponent taking the die or space that I needed, or the Black Angel traveling through space on the game board, or my poorly calculated efforts as to what I needed to do to make something happen.
You take lots of microturns in Black Angel, but they're not microturns in the sense of Splendor because those microturns compound on one another in complex ways. You often have immediate goals — getting robots, removing debris, taking a certain colored action so that you acquire a mission card of that color so that you can use that card to activate specific technology on the subsequent turn — but layered on top of those are more long-term goals, with you establishing a mission on one turn that you likely won't use for at least ten more turns, at least not if you want to maximize your points from activating that mission.
You're somewhat at the mercy of the die rolls, yet not really given the vast number of rolls you and other players take in the game. You can purchase — well, conduct a forced sale of — an opponent's die to get the thing you need, but they can do the same to you, of course, possibly leaving you to scramble for a back-up plan, then another, then another. You can adjust the value of your own dice, but only if you have the material on hand to do so. You need to be flexible in your plans, but you do need plans in the first place in order to keep yourself from merely jumping from one rock to another only to find themselves disappearing beneath you.
Ravagers overwhelm every sector of the ship, with damage everywhere (non-final components)
Black Angel isn't hard to learn. Each individual action is easy to understand, but the ramifications of those actions — why you'd want to do them in this order at these times in those locations — isn't. Each action often has long-term consequences that you don't realize until later, or rather until it's too late. Even after six games, I feel like I'm just getting a handle on how to play well as opposed to just doing stuff on my turns.
This overview video is far longer than anything else I've done, but that's because the game itself is quite involved and because I've played the game enough to feel that I have some grip on it and can talk about it in a meaningful way. I trimmed many bits of my presentation to remove duplication and keep it of somewhat reasonable length, including a brief aside about Troyes, the first publication from Pearl Games from this same trio of designers. The dice-selection and action-choosing mechanism at the heart of Black Angel is reminiscent of Troyes, according to folks with whom I've played, but I've never played Troyes, so I can't compare the games. I had a toddler when Troyes debuted at SPIEL '10, and that's the only SPIEL I've missed since 2006. I missed out on a lot of games over the first few years of my son's life, and given the number of games being released each year, I never caught up on all of them. C'est la vie!
Italian publisher Horrible Games has announced two new partnerships, with North American-based Luma Games now having exclusive English-language distribution rights for the Horrible Games catalog.
This partnership will begin with the distribution of The King's Dilemma and Similo: Fables, with these titles being available for demo at Gen Con 2019 in August ahead of a Q4 2019 retail release.
For those not familiar with the games, The King's Dilemma from Lorenzo Silva and Hjalmar Hach is a legacy-style game with long-term narrative elements. In more detail:
The King's Dilemma features several branching storylines leading to many possible finales and an evolving deck of event cards at its core. Players represent the various houses leading the government of the Kingdom of Ankist.
You will draw one card from the "Dilemma deck" each round and experience the game story as it unfolds. Each card poses a problem that the Council has to resolve on the King's behalf. As members of the King's inner circle, your decisions determine how the story proceeds and the fate of the kingdom. Each event happens only once: You discuss and bargain with the other players, then finally you make a choice, determining the outcome, progressing the game story, and possibly unlocking more events.
You have to keep the kingdom going, while also seeking an advantage for your own house; this power struggle may lead the kingdom into war, famine, or riot, or it could generate wealth and well-being. This will depend on your choices! The thing is, each decision has consequences, and what is good for the kingdom as a whole may be bad for your family...
Will you act for the greater good, or will you think only for yourself?
BGG recorded an overview of the game at Spielwarenmesse 2019 that shouldn't spoil anything for you, and Jules Vautour, CEO of Luma Games, says that it's working with Horrible to develop a dilemma scenario for use at conventions that conveys the nature of the game without jumping people through the first chapter.
Similo: Fables is a co-operative deduction game from Martino Chiacchiera, Hjalmar Hach, and Pierluca Zizzi that includes a deck of thirty cards. Your goal is to make the other players guess one secret character (out of the twelve characters on display in the middle of the table) by playing other character cards from your hand as clues, stating whether they are similar to or different from the secret character. After each turn, the other players must remove one or more characters from the table until only the right one remains and you win — or it is removed and you lose!
In a press release announcing the deal, Vautour, who used to work for CMON Limited, Horrible's previous English-language publishing partner for titles like Potion Explosion, Dragon Castle, and Railroad Ink, said, "I've had a strong relationship with Horrible Games for many years. They are making excellent, innovative games, and it is humbling to be entrusted with their brand going forward." Luma plans to make reprints of these older titles available once they sell through those earlier editions.