Games News! 04/09/2017

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Paul: Good News to you, my friends. Or, as we say here in Canada, News Be With You. I’m writing this Games News from atop a rock on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, watching the sun plunge past the horizon, thinking about the final touches we’re putting to SHUX. I’m already considering how to make next year bigger, better and cheaper, so it’s all that I can do to pull my head out of all this and tell you about Fantasy Flight’s BATTLE FOR ROKUGAN.

Quinns: It’s time to have a Really Honorable War.

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Paul: But it’s going to be such a pretty war! Rokugan is the Legend of Five Rings world and Fantasy Flight have turned it into a watercolour wonderland. 2-5 players will fight for control of this feudal, fantasy Japan, with its warring families and that huge wall that blocks off creepy creatures to the south… All of which predates the warring families and huge wall of Game of Thrones!

(The Legend of the Five Rings card game emerged in 1995, while Game of Thrones was published in 1996.)

Quinns: And when this link was first shared in the SU&SD slack channel, our first thought was that it was some kind of remastered edition of the Game of Thrones board game. But while the rules for players placing their orders face-down on the board sounds very familiar, this design supposedly comes “from Tom Jolly with Molly Glover”, so it could be a very different game? It has a lower player count, promising tighter and faster play, special powers that you gain from holding territories and rules for players who lose their territories. You become a stateless ronin, who can still try and win back provinces, being a kind of problematic partisan in the meantime.

But do you know what the exciting part is, Paul?

Paul: Is it that cover art?

Quinns: WELL. That’s a good answer, but I think the best bit is that this box contains no plastic. No little plastic samurai, no plastic fortresses, no nuffink. Also, see how the box is sliiightly thinner than normal? All of that is a sign that this box is entering the market at a lower price point than we’re used to. Everyone’s noticed that board games have been getting more expensive in recent years (mostly due to the rising prices of manufacturing in China), and I think more subdued components is a far preferable solution for a publisher than increasingly expensive boxes of bits.

Paul: Good point! Though that doesn’t answer the question of whether this will be different enough to the Game of Thrones game (of thrones) for someone to want to own both?

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Let me deflect that question by immediately turning to something that is definitely a remake, the forthcoming Manhattan, a new release of a mid 90s classic of area control and skyscraper stacking. The objective is not only to try to have the most skyscrapers, but to also try and have the tallest ones and, as we all know, whoever built the last level on a skyscraper is also the one who owns it. My question to you, Quinns, is does that make them the… sky-est? The scrapey-est?

Quinns: The most scraping? We’ve been really impressed by several re-releases over the last few years, because it turns out quite a few classics from ages past just have rock-solid mechanics that stand the test of time. But while BoardGameGeek’s first look at this new version certainly sounds promising, I’m not expecting anything amazing from the remake. The original game only has an average rating of 6.7 on BGG, so I’d probably want a new edition that updates or improves the original design. Instead, it sounds like we’re getting a straight remake.

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Quinns: Speaking of expensive boxes of plastic, I think I’m fine with that when they look as stylish as Azul.

The second release from Plan B games after the great-but-not-truly-great Century: Spice Road, Azul is an abstract game inspired by the palace of Evora. Beautiful tiles are first doled out onto discs, and players then draft those discs, pop the tiles onto their player board and score points for various patterns and combinations.

Efka from No Pun Included has played Azul and was telling me about it. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said something along the lines of “I had absolutely no idea what was going on and then I figured out what was going on and then it was great.”

For anyone looking for a more exhaustive review, Paul’s copy is already enroute.

Paul: It is?!

Quinns: It is! After all, you’re quite the tile-laying expert these days. And this is the first tile-laying game about laying actual tiles.

Paul: It’s a tile-laying tile layer

Quinns: Exactly!

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Paul: It’s time for us to bungee up to the high altitude and fluffy promises of Altiplano, from Orléans designer Reiner Stockhausen. If you enjoyed putting French things into a bag and taking them out again, you can now do that with South American things taken from all-new wiggly boards.

Although the description of Altiplano in that link sounds as dry as forgotten toast, Jon Bolding was ever so impressed by Orléans when he reviewed it for us, telling us about a game that is complex and conniving, and Quinns would go on to try it and agree. That means that Altiplano absolutely has to go on our to-try list. You know what’s better than pulling a knight out of a bag? Pulling an alpaca out of a bag.

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Giving the ol’ Kickstarter tree a hard shake this week, the first thing that fell out was Tim Fowers’ Now Boarding, a real-time game of the dinkiest possible airplanes co-operating to deliver passengers across the US… In simultaneous, thirty second turns.

What I can’t get past is that unnecessarily overlong video, full of pilots discussing how there’s one passenger they all need to fly across the country to collect, because there was that time they forgot one other passenger and that passenger was ANGRY.

Quinns: Ooh, I actually played a prototype of this at Gen Con and had a lovely time! If anyone’s inclined to back this game, I can tell them to do so with confidence.

Now Boarding has already flown far past its original goal, scoring yet another wild Kickstarter success for Fowers, after Fugitive. And Burgle Bros. And Paperback. And Hardback. And everything we’ve played of his we’ve enjoyed so far. So is it easy to be excited about Now Boarding? Absolutely, not least because you can upgrade your planes so that they can carry MORE THAN ONE PERSON. Imagine.

Paul: It also contains thirty Anger Tokens.

Quinns: Hang on… Paul, this Kickstarter also lets people pay $32 for a 3rd edition of Wok Star! WOK STAR! Another real time co-op game for 1-4 players, and one that I’ve wanted to play for SIX YEARS, according to this article.

Paul: Are you going to pledge, then?

QUINNS: WOK STAR

Paul: What does that–

QUINNS: Wok star.

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Paul: Elsewhere in crowdfunding land, board game tutorial app Dized is up on IndieGoGo and gaining momentum. I got a brief look at this at last year’s UK Games Expo, where a trial version was being used to teach a single game, with the claim that you’d never need to leaf through a rulebook again.

It’s now got a growing roster of games and publishers involved, and if it can take me step-by-step through some of the eurogames that intimidate me, I might have to give it a try. It’s offering subscription-based services, or a pay-as-you go model, with the latter probably getting quite pricey if you play a lot of games. That said, in one or two cases, I would’ve loved to have something like this to hand. I’ve had some slightly traumatic experiences with bad manuals this last year and, if nothing else, a hands-on tutorial would’ve saved me so much time.

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Quinns: Did you see the chap on Twitter who found what now seems to be the earliest example of a choose your own adventure book… from all the way back in 1930? This is so ahead of it’s time! As well as letting you make choices for the narrative’s three characters, the book also contains diagrams that map out those choices!

Paul: Yeah, I remember seeing this teased a little while ago and being hugely impatient to see what was coming. Now we’ve got a story of how two women were pioneers in branching narratives, basically a generation ahead of anyone else. I imagine what they were doing at the time might’ve seemed really odd to some people. I kind of wish I could go back in time and explain they’ve just invented something BRILLIANT.

Oh crap! I knew I knew this guy from somewhere! People could also check out this story of his about a computerised story generator from the early 1960s.

Quinns: Huh. I wonder what 2017 invention is currently being ignored, and will be dug up by game academics in the year 2051?