Over the last week, the Tabletop Writers Guild hosted a series of Zoom-based opportunities for board game media authors to connect with publishers to discuss product releases that would have been expected for Gen Con Online this weekend. The DWP had three of our team members present at several of these meetings, and our reports from those discussions are below for your informative enjoyment!
First to be shown was Vampire (the Masquerade): Rivals, an Expandable Card Game whose Core Set will be coming to Kickstarter in August. Set in San Francisco, players will take the role of Clan leaders vying for control of the streets by mobilizing vampires to take control of objectives. The artwork looks great and is notably representative of the diverse population of the Bay Area.
Then there was Raiders of Scythia, Shem Phillips’ reworking of the successful Raiders of the North Sea series formula. But it’s not just a reskin–think of it as one of those standalone Ticket to Ride games with a familiar set of core rules plus an addition of new eagle and horse mechanics to give it that Scythian flavour. Plus there’s a solo mode included in the box. There is also a campaign mode coming for the West Kingdom Trilogy called Tomesaga which I’m very excited about although no details were given.
There’s a big new expansion Bargain Quest: Sunk Costs with new cards and new mechanics to reflect its hearty nautical theme. Designer Jonathan Ying says the hardest part was getting artists who liked to draw ships–apparently that’s not an easy or popular subject, who knew. The whole Bargain Quest series is proving to be a big seller for Renegade; the base game is in its third reprinting already and the new box for the base set is now big enough to hold all the expansions.
Another popular series getting expansion content is Clank! Adventuring Party, which expands the player-count to six and gives each player a unique starting deck. As for new content for Clank! In! Space! I was able to extract the following quote from the Renegade rep (which you should picture being said with an enigmatic smile): “I have nothing to say about that now. When there is something to share, we will share it.” Which I hope means a Legacy game!!!!!
Trick-taking games are definitely making a comeback this year and Gudetama looks very cute, very meme-able. It’s a light game for 2-7 where you’re trying to avoid taking the last trick.
Finally, on the RPG side of things there was Kids on Brooms, the Larry Kotter-style adaptation of the very successful Kids on Bikes, which just released on July 22. For those currently struggling with the legacy of She Who Must Not Be Named, Kids on Brooms provides an opportunity to create your own wizarding school lore.
If Renegade is the TikTok of Tabletop, Rio Grande would be more like a flip phone: stolid, reliable, proudly old-school. So (direct quote): “We’re never gonna put big minis in our games, we’re never gonna do Kickstarters, we like to support local retailers.” But also (direct quote): “We’ve also got a game by a female designer, which is kind of important now…I guess…although we like to publish good games no matter who’s designed them.” (PS: We never did hear about that game, although we got 10 minutes about a game that isn’t even in production yet.)
Rio Grande boasts one of the best-selling catalogues in Tabletop, and apparently 2020 has been berry, berry good to them. Early in the year they ordered enough copies of Concordia to last a long time–or so they thought. They’ve all sold. Container after container after container of Dominion has sold out. Race for the Galaxy has sold out. Roll for the Galaxy has sold out. They’ve got a bunch of copies of this year’s SdJ winner Pictures on the way…I mean, if I were running Rio Grande I’d be feeling sure of myself, too.
In terms of recent and current releases, there’s the newest Dominion expansion Menagerie, which I’ve been playing on dominion.games and I really like it. Many of the new cards revolve around the Horse, which is a one-use +2 Card/+1 Action you return to its pile when you use it and it’s not considered to be “in the Supply” for game purposes. It’s also got Duration cards where you choose to use their Action “now or next turn”. Vaccarino and his gang always seem to have new twists up their collective sleeves.
Then there’s been the surprise hit of Nevada City, which has sold much better than expected. It’s a blend of Euro and Ameritrash, with a “nuclear family” worker placement mechanic, where each family member has a different amount of actions. You can hire on new workers temporarily and eventually marry them into your clan if you have the dowry money. The game’s economy is driven by supply and demand–which the rep thought was pretty innovative but I can think of two games from the past year alone that have that (Pipeline, Coloma) off the top of my head–let alone Power Grid–so I don’t know what he’s been playing.
There are also random events, many of them bad, which you can’t prepare for, which turns Euro players off but are immersive and thematic. Admittedly the game is kind of long, but the game’s rules are really easy to pick up and it has a retro feel reminiscent of 80s and 90s era games which players seem to enjoy. It really shines as a 4 player game, it’s still great with 3, and it’s ok with 2 (they’ve taken steps to deal with it after Rahdo pointed out some problems–the designer is very flexible).
Clearly Rio Grande’s excited about Nevada City. They’ve even done a trailer for it, something they’ve never done before. Jay Tummelson is notoriously conservative about marketing, preferring to let the games speak for themselves and let word of mouth do the rest. But he’s been convinced that, while that might have worked in 1995 or even 2008, it won’t work now. Hence, trailer.
In terms of upcoming games, there’s Blue Skies by Joe Huber (Caravan), a plane game with–surprise–a very old school 80s-style Euro vibe, the new game from Vladimir Suchy, Praga Caput Regni–”Underwater Cities: but with a rondel and no cards”–and Art Decko: a new version with all-new art of the overlooked deckbuilder Promenade by Ta-te Wu, which harkens back the classic Modern Art in more than just its theme, in that you can increase the value of a certain artist’s work but you have to burn a card to do it.
There was also a lot of talk of a secret project, an “unannounced space game” that would be unveiled in late October and was promised as “Terraforming Mars in 90 minutes”.
Finally, there’s a bunch of stuff in the pipeline for 2021 with (and I quote) “That Old School Feel”. So overall, if you’re looking for tried-and-true themes and play experiences, then Rio Grande has you covered.
Running a convenience store can be a tough life – finding the right staff, stocking the products your customers want, and crafting a message to get those visitors into your shop. Adventure Mart is a deck building game, in which players are appealing to wizards, princesses, and prophets, looking to have the items they need at the time they enter your store. Designed by a Scottish studio named DigiSprite, with artwork from Moniek Schilder and Stefanie Bollen, Adventure Mart looks to stand out amidst the crowded deck building genre with brisk, streamlined gameplay, and some of the most adorable artwork to ever be printed on a game card! The game handles between 2 and 4 players, and should last about an hour.
Prisma Arena also plays with 2 to 4 players, and is a fast-paced arena combat game with the potential for persistent upgrades that carry over between games. The upgrades are represented with removable stickers which personalize the combatants being used, while also subtly allowing players to imbue masculine, feminine or non-binary characteristics as their unit evolves after each game. As a parent watching gender stereotypes imprint themselves on my children, I will be thrilled to have this product on my table with them, and look forward to whatever conversations arise as a result!
Both Prisma Arena and Adventure Mart will be available to play on Tabletopia throughout Gen Con weekend. Be sure to check them out, and tell them the DWP sent you!
For families with children young or old, HABA has a broad selection of new releases planned for Gen Con 2020, all of which are available for purchase or preorder through their online store. However, for us Canadians, the most interesting items are two new Animal Upon Animal sets – Dinos and Unicorns! These games will be exclusive to Barnes & Noble after Gen Con, and it doesn’t sound like there’s a plan for distribution outside of the United States. If the FOMO is too much to bear, now might be the time to pull that trigger!
With that out of the way, let’s dig into the non-exclusive goodies:
Did somebody say “dig in”? That’s what your littles will be doing with the latest game in the My Very First Games series, Building Site! Aimed at ages 2 and up, each MVFG title is a way to introduce basic concepts of gaming to a growing mind, and Building Site looks to be another product that manages to act as both a toy and a game simultaneously.
What order does the house get built in? That’s the primary question that growing minds will answer, through elements of memory and matching. For a deeper dive into a previous My Very First Games title, check out our Little Thumbs, Big Thumbs article looking at Flower Fairy!
HABA is also jumping into the roll-and-write pool, releasing two games in the genre – 5er Finden (for adults and families) and Color It! (primarily for children).
Everyone seems to have a hunger for polyominoes these days, and 5er Finden will be asking players to draw plenty of them. The premise is simple – roll five dice, find yourself a shape using the results of that roll, and score some points. Some shapes are trickier to make work, and thus are worth more points.
Shelf space is always limited in my home, and so I’m constantly on the lookout for games that can be enjoyed by adults, both when children are at the table, and after they’ve gone to sleepyland. The abstract nature of 5er will definitely draw in younger players than the average roll-and-write, and even though the advertised age is 7 and up, this product could definitely be used as a pattern matching tool for even younger children.
Colouring by numbers is an activity that has been around for nearly a century, and I’m a bit surprised that it’s taken this long to implement into a tabletop game! Color It! is all about rolling dice, and using the results to colour in matching sections of a sheet. Four unique designs are included in the game, with a total of 80 sheets included in the package.
As with many HABA games, Color It doesn’t have to be played competitively, but the option is available to declare a winner once one participant has coloured every section of their page.
Fortunately, HABA has provided an opportunity to try these games out over Gen Con weekend, with demo sheets available to print directly from their website! Two newer HABA releases will be also available to play this weekend through Tabletopia – Miyabi (2-4 players, 45 minutes, ages 8+), and Cloaked Cats (2-4 players, 20 minutes, ages 7+).
The last HABA game I’d like to point out is In a Flash Firefighters, which is probably the only children’s game you’ll see compared to Galaxy Trucker. With a mess of tiles in the center of the table, players will be simultaneously hunting for tiles to help untangle their fire hose. Once a player’s hose has reached the haystack fire, they win the round and claim a medal, three of which are needed to win the game. The length of the hose required to win can be adjusted per player, meaning that parents can make the game more difficult for themselves, and a bit easier for younger players. Of all the HABA releases, this is the one I’m most keen to get on the table with my beans!
HABA has branched out to offer a variety of games that appeal both to families and adult gamers, and with so many online events available during Gen Con, this might be the perfect time to put one of their games on your radar!
The big news for fans of games of Dr. Finn, is that their entire 2021 lineup of games is going to be made available in a single Kickstarter campaign! August 24th is the launch date for this campaign, and will feature the following four games:
Biblios : Quill & Parchment – The popular Biblios franchise branches out into the realm of roll-and-write with Quill and Parchment, which is expected to play in about 40 minutes for 1 to 4 players. Designer Steve Finn promises a highly interactive experience unique to the roll-and-write genre, with the second half of the game revolving around an auction to prove which monk is the most pious. Playing an auction-based game solo is a particular curiosity, which I’m excited to learn more about over the course of the campaign.
The Butterfly Garden – First released in 2016, Butterfly Garden puts players in the position of having to relocate butterfly habitats away from disruptive construction work. Through this crowdfunding campaign, the game is seeing a new edition with all new artwork from Akha Hulzebos (who also provides art for Quill & Parchment), and also some reworked mechanics. In lowering the maximum player count from 6 to 5 players, Dr Finn is moving counter to the trend of never-ending expansion, and speaks to a commitment to the quality of the play experience. By relocating butterflies to zoos, museums, and botanical gardens, a new set collection aspect will be introduced to the game, giving fans of the original edition a reason to seek out this new version.
Mining Colony – Blind bidding and tile placement are the core aspects of Mining Colony, as players compete to puzzle out and complete their colonies to score the most points. The solo mode that will be included with this game also sounds delightfully crunchy, an automated opponent attempts to keep you from completing your colony before the end of ten rounds. Artwork for this game is provided by Marius Janusonis (Fleet the Dice Game).
Nanga Parbat – Featuring artwork from Ossi Hiekkala (Flamme Rouge, Castell) and Julián Tunni (Tonari), Nanga Parbat is a game for exactly 2 players, in a setting of mountain hiking. Between the bounty of custom meeples and the tactical puzzle inside the box, this could be the most appealing game of the four offered in this bundle.
Backers of the campaign will be able to pledge for any number of the games, although international shipping costs will likely encourage far away fans to seek out the entire bundle. If you’re on the lookout for compact games with a relatively short play time, definitely keep an eye out for Dr Finn’s campaign, which begins in just a few weeks!
Queen have not been much for the digital realm before now, and they’ve leapt in the deep end with Gen Con Online. They’re part of the ‘Looking Glass’ for folks to browse and discover exhibitors, they have deals for current and upcoming releases in their store, and they’re also running their own Discord server as a sort of booth for folks to stop by. You can demo two games with them as part of the convention.
Winter Kingdom – coming this fall, the spiritual successor to Kingdom Builder (and from the same designer, Donald X. Vaccarino). This one sounds like it might be a little heavier for those looking for a challenge. The Kickstarter for this one will fulfill around September/October and be out around the time that Essen Spiel is on.
Zen Garden – the Kickstarter for this fulfilled in Spring this year, but as the pandemic has hit a lot of us in our gaming abilities, it’s flown a little under the radar. It’s a beautiful looking pattern building/tile placement game for those who enjoy a puzzle. (Sounds like a perfect one to try a digital demo of, I may pop in this weekend).
Of course you’ll be able to ask them about upcoming Fall releases, like the aforementioned Winter Kingdom, but also their work fleshing out their current catalogue. Merlin Big Box (with the new Morgana expansion), Fresco Megabox (with everything plus updated components), and two roll & write games of their popular properties Escape, and Alhambra. Coming next month is the first Kickstarter for the Feld series – 8 games that will be a mix of implementations of previously-released Feld games that have been developed since, and new titles from the well-known designer. This first round will include Hamburg (Bruges reimplemented) and Amsterdam (Macao reimplemented). The next couple will be New York (a reimplementation of an as-yet unannounced game) and Marrakech (a new design).
Queen are looking to develop their digital offerings further for Essen Spiel in the fall, including more titles on Tabletop Simulator for demo, as well as hopefully titles on Boardgame Arena (starting with the now-in-beta Kingdom Builder). Looking forward to seeing what is on their digital table for then.