Tom: Whose idea was it to go steal from the Newseum during lockdown? It’s spooky and it feels, I don’t know, a little wrong to take advantage of a cultural site under public ownershi-
Ava: Shh… keep your voice down. This is where all the best news is kept, if we’re sneaky then we can get some good stuff to put in this week’s games news, and no-one will even know it’s missing until after lockdown. We’ll put it right back when we’re done!
Tom: I’ve only been here a few months, and already I’m doing heists! My contract said ‘all sorts of hijinks’, but I didn’t think we’d be doing actual newscrimes.
Ava: You should’ve read the small print. Hijinks is a very complicated part of contract law.
Tom: So I keep hearing.
Ava: Too big to not mention (even though we’ve mentioned it before), is the game with the biggest box and the coldest setting, which only makes me assume this Gloomhaven sequel will actually be a fully functional fridge.
Frosthaven, from Isaac Childres, is smashing through the millions as quickly as you’d expect the follow up to one of the most lauded games of the last decade. Now that pretty much everyone knows what’s in store from a Gloomhaven game (and if you don’t, check out Matt’s almost as enormous review) it’s no surprise this dungeon crawling, legacy behemoth is covered in big numbers.
Tom: Components, boards, stickers, yada yada yada. The only thing I’m interested in is the first pledge tier, which proudly proclaims that for just $1, Mr Childres will ‘slay an ooze’ in your name, and the event will be captured on video for your viewing pleasure. To make things even stranger, the promise is buried in the very lowest quarter of the page… are you trying to hide the ooze genocide from us, Mr Childres? Are you trying to bury your twisted tendencies under layers of twinkly trinkets? Are you trying to pay off the masses, brainwash them into forgetting, or rather blissfully ignoring the atrocities you are about to commit in their name? Is this whole boardgame designer shtick just a front for you to stamp on slimes? To obliterate oozes? The feds are on their way.
Matt: On a serious note, it’s time for Matt’s Hot-Tip Serious Advice Time! Yes! Frosthaven looks new and exciting! YES, I TOO, VERY MUCH WOULD LIKE IT. But! As someone who’s still got so much of Gloomhaven to explore – I don’t think I really need it, if I’m entirely honest? And so what I’d put the focus on this week, is that Gloomhaven is also available for $80 as an add-on item in this very Kickstarter. So if you’ve yet to play that and you’re tempted by the sequel, I’d ask yourself if you want the game that’s $20 cheaper and widely agreed to be flipping superb, or if you want the new one that might be better but might… not be? Nobody likes a cynic at a wedding, but I’ve spent long enough reviewing video games to know that sequels aren’t always better. We’ll have a review for Frosthaven for you in the future – if you’ve the willpower to defy the hype, grab the original at a great price and we can revisit this sequel in the future.
Oh! And on that topic – just a little note that every week for the forseeable, I’ll be streaming little fun bits of nonsense on Twitch! This week – due to weirdly popular demand – I’ll be continuing to assemble my wooden Gloomhaven organiser, LIVE. Science can’t imagine a broadcast more thrilling, so do pop in and chill out with the community if you’re going a little stir crazy. As I ramp up the tech and get things running smoothly, we’ll be doing cool stuff with it. For now though, pop along, say hello, have a lovely time. 3pm BST/7am PST/10am EST, every Thursday.
Ava: I wanna talk about the kickstarter for a They Live board game, because it’s a film I feel I should have seen and should have opinions on. But I haven’t so I can’t. But I’ll do my best.
They Live: The Assault on Cable 54 includes hidden alien invaders and a pair of glasses you fight over in order to be able to see secret messages and vet player’s loyalties. That’s actual sunglasses revealing secret details on the cards and components. Each player also has their own personal narrative to play through, that promises to be different every game. You’ll be working together to gather supplies from across LA to attack the titular tv channel and stop the evil invaders from taking over the world, unless you’re secretly already one of them.
Matt: I’ve seen it! It’s alright! Far more schlocky than I expected, but some genuinely horrid aliens. Also the main character is quite obviously the main inspiration for Duke Nukem? It’s a wild ride, OK.
Tom: So far this year i’ve played the Jaws and Die Hard licensed games, and I’ve not been all that impressed with them – but maybe They Live will be the one to break the mould – it certainly seems more focused on the themes of the film as opposed to plainly retelling the events, although I’m a little wary of the dice having just two sides – ‘kick ass’ or ‘chew bubblegum’. Yuck.
Nevertheless, I’m cautiously excited – but maybe that’s just because the Kickstarter video is ultra-slick; there’s a little bit at the end where they’ve doctored footage of the film, with Rowdy Roddy Piper donning the glasses to look at a billboard with an ad for the board game on it, only to find the true message is to ‘back on Kickstarter March 31st’. It’s sweet, and it’s self-aware.
Ava: That’s a strong video. Though I suspect adding a John Carpenter soundtrack to just about anything improves the atmosphere a million percent. I’m on the record as claiming that City of Remnants is perfectly accompanied by the soundtrack to Assault on Precinct 13, and captures some of that film’s desperation from an unlikely angle. There’s no way of knowing if They Live is going to hit those heights, but it has made me really want to watch the film.
Matt: The final bit of pointing-out that needs doing here, is that the Matt Lees involved in making this game is not the same Matt Lees you’re listening to now. Apparently there are two of us! Although if it turns out he looks exactly like me but with strangely dead eyes, please remember that it’s him – not me – that needs to be banished back into the mirror realm.
Ava: In a world where we’re not allowed to travel, there’s a somewhat melancholy pall over a game about going on globe trotting adventures.
Trekking the World looks gorgeous though, and some of that lovingly rendered art might be just what you need to remember we’re still in a beautiful glorious world worth fighting for. Looking like a family friendly game, with echoes of Ticket to Ride, players collect cards to help them move around a map and race to see the best sights (by having the right collection of tickets). Straight forward and colourful, this might not be the deepest game in town, and it’s certainly not keen to engage with the impact of globalised tourism on local economies, but honestly, if there’s a time for escapism, it might be right now. You’ll have to act fast, as the kickstarter is closing within 24 hours of the news going live.
Tom: It looks like Tokaido’s maximalist, more flamboyant sibling. ‘Did you enjoy travelling around Japan? Well how about The Whole World™!’. ‘A linear track? Tsk, check out all my colourful routes and connections!’. ‘Putting everything away in the box in a regular insert? Baby you know I’ve got GAMETRAYZ!’.
Matt: Please stop reminding me of that Z, Thomas.
Ava: Co-operative campaign games with scenarios and overarching stories mostly seem to stick to the dungeon crawling climes of high fantasy, so it’s nice to see someone jumping to the other end of the speculative fiction spectrum.
Starlight is a solo or co-operative story set in a fictional future, with players taking a team of ships out on adventures of all sorts, including exploring the depths of space, epic space battles and dungeon crawly on missions on planets and ships.
Tom: Those space battles and exploration missions are also taking place inside of a wider journey taken by the mothership, with its own resource management and narrative considerations too – and there’s opportunities to upgrade your ship with modular card-based gubbins in between missions. The game’s story looks to be powered (optionally) by a companion app, with ‘one free season’ of Starlight content from the get-go, so clearly the developers are thinking pretty long-term on this thing. Having been completely and utterly absorbed by Sea of Thieves recently, I can see similarities between the core loops of each game that are absolutely piquing my interest. I’ll be watching this one.
Matt: I’m waiting for something to pull all this stuff off. Sooner or later, it’ll happen.
Ava: There’s a hell of a lot going on here, and I can’t quite work out if it’s more role-playing, survival economics, pew-pew gunfight adventure or some intergalactic alliance of all of the above. I like the ambition here, and I hope it can pull off the trick.
Do you know how to grab my attention when I’m scrolling through the news looking for tidbits? Apparently, just include a picture of a game I already think is a bit of a masterpiece in your design diary. Treelings may have only taken the bare seed of Arboretum’s ideas, but it’s growing into something that might bear fruit.
Ava: Treelings looks a lot lighter than the brutal walk in the park of Arboretum. The diary tells how it started with a system of arranging cards into columns that only score if their neighbouring stacks are both smaller. In a lovely wrinkle, your neighbouring stacks include those belonging to the people sitting next to you, so your stack might get pushed out of the running by your neighbour, or you might do the same to them. Each turn you’ll either be looking at a shared market and either taking all the cards of one colour onto your columns, or mixing it up by taking every card where you only hold one card of that colour. It sounds simple and pleasant, with a tiny bit of meanness. And we all love trees, right?
Tom: I can’t stand trees. My ex was a tree.
Ava: Why did you split up?
Tom: She left me for someone she met on Timber.
Ava: I’m sorry I axed.
Tom: We’re both going to have to leave our jobs over this aren’t we.
Ava: It’s about time we branched out.
Tom: Maybe we’ll get lucky and Matt won’t twig.
Matt: You’re both firewood. Also – for the record – Tinder is ALREADY a wood-based pun! See me after class.
Ava: Here’s a lovely little box of treats, for anyone stuck home alone. And my understanding is you can play at home with just pen and paper if you prefer.
But with Chroma Cube, you’d be missing out on the lovely wooden blocks that make up this little solo logic puzzle. This looks tactile and lovely, and I’m looking forward to more of boardgamegeek’s solitaire sunday posts, even if I’ll mostly just look at them and think ‘ah, that’s lovely’. For me solo gaming is Mage Knight or bust, though who knows if isolation will break that habit. For those who are interested, Chroma Cube offers a series of puzzles based around placing coloured blocks into a grid, and then attempting to find the right arrangement to fulfil a series of logical commands, it’s a bit like making a seating plan at an incredibly awkward but brightly coloured wedding.
Tom: This does not sound lovely, it sounds like my worst, most colourful nightmare.
Ava: Well, yes, doing it with people is hell, but little coloured cubes won’t passive aggressively sidle up to you at a buffet and try and trick you into being mean to your grandma.
Tom: The cubes are basically people to me now. They’re the only friends I have left after not leaving the house for like, a week.
Ava: So I hear. Pistachio cube has been telling me all about your little… hobbies.
Tom: I thought that was just between me and mustard cube!