Tom: “HIKING UP THE NEWSTRAIL / SINGIN’ MY NEWSTRAIL SOOONG! / GONNA FIND SOME NEWSES / OH WON’T YOU SING ALONG?”
Ava: No. Today’s news will be presented in a bland monotone with absolutely no musical interludes whatsoever.
Ava:. Don’t be sad Tom, I’m obviously lying. Have you met Shut Up and Sit Down? Pretty much everything we say ends up sung to the tune of some soft rock classic or another.
Tom: We did a musical count in last week too, didn’t we.
Ava: There’s a pandemic and a climate crisis going on, we’re allowed to recycle. One! Two! Many! Lots!
Stonemaier games haven’t quite landed a perfect hit with the review squad here at Shut Up and Sit Down, but they’ve knocked out some beautiful shots, and it’s hard to ignore when they announce something new. Their latest game evolved out of one of their open design days, apparently their highest ever rating prototype, and is now getting the full Stonemaier treatment.
Pendulum promises simultaneous play, sand timers and worker placement strategy. The details are being slowly dribbled out over the coming weeks because hype-building is a dribbly business. So far we know, well, mostly what I’ve already said. The timers provide time pressure as you try and work out where you’re going to put your next batch of workers with tasks to convert, buy and trade resources. With three worker sections, each with their own timer, but also regular breaks to pause for breath, it’s more about slow pressure and careful planning than fast reactions. It sounds like it’s mostly about building an efficient rhythm: making sure that the thing that finishes after forty five seconds will be done enough times before the thing that takes two minutes but needs those resources ready as soon as it’s done.
Tom: This sounds like it could be a wonderful, snappy and unique experience on the one hand, or a total NIGHTMARE on the other. The physical sand timers could provide the sense of urgency and ‘no-take-backsies’ that we’ve observed to be the best feature of playing digital games on BGA, but equally the idea of trying to navigate a chunky euro under time pressure is absolutely horrifying. Whatever it ends up looking like in the end, it’ll most likely be fascinating regardless.
Ava: Looking up details for Pendulum also nudged me towards Rolling Realms, a Stonemaier-retrospective roll-and-write game that mashes up elements from their previous games. It’s one of these lovely print-and-play freebies that publishers have been putting out and now they’re running a survey to see whether people would like a properly published edition. Maybe give it a look if you like rolling dice and referencing games you may or may not have already played.
Tom: You can also play it D I G I T A L L Y or P R I N T E R L Y if you so desire – both versions are available through the above link and it does all look quite charming. It’s also rather sweet that another designer, Seth Jaffee, has also made a Rolling Realms tour through his own designs using the same iconography and core idea of condensing complex systems into little tiny boxes. I’m waiting with bated breath for the Vlaada version. Roll a 6 and make bunny ears above your head to score 8 points – or roll a 3 and chart the rise and fall of an entire civilization for 9 points.
Ava: Staying Vlaada-adjacent but jumping back to unusual modifications of the worker placement genre is the latest deckbuilding resource-fiddler from Czech Games Edition
Lost Ruins of Arnak is designed by the mononymous duo Min and Elwen, new to the CGE fold. It’s built on small decks of cards for each player and a big board of resource gathering and utilising options to go and do an expeditions on the titularly ruined island. I’m once again wondering whether I’m overly excited by CGE because of their highest highs, with no evidence anything actually interesting about this one. The promise of being able to use some of the cards as workers in the worker placement is technically intriguing, but I’m not thrilled by the entirely devoid of information trailer video.
Oh dear, I do appear to have become a bit hype-cynical. I’m sure that’s not going to get irritating or be very inconsistently applied over the course of the news.
Tom: There’s not much to go on here, so take that cynicism and hold onto it for as long as possible, lest ye be swayed by the tumultuous hype-tides.
Ava: I helped Quinns with the playtesting and a little bit of script beavering on his lovely Undaunted: Normandy review, and fondly remember our afternoon of deck building duelry in an actual pub, a million years ago, just before Christmas. It’s a sharp and clever re-invention of deck building, and makes for a dramatic take on World War Two with less rules and faff than I’ve ever seen in a wargame, but quite a lot of the precision. Lovely! It’s since been expanded with a North Africa sequel, which I’m eager to explore, and now BOTH of those games are receiving Reinforcements.
Undaunted: Reinforcements adds new cards, scenarios and bits to both games, and offers a new solo mode, as well as a four player variant. I’m pretty excited, but worry that something so sharp might get a bit wobbly when it tries to expand to four players. That said, when tables are allowed to get a little bit bigger, I’ll be well up for giving it a try.
Tom: We can get the whole gang together post-lockdown to mourn the losses of our favourite soldiercards. Honestly, the meanest thing I can say about Undaunted: Normandy was that I was upset I couldn’t share it with more people. Once I started playing it with one person, it became too much of a grudge-match game to play with anyone else – it’d be unfair ‘Training’ for our next showdown. Playing it with 4 might turn it into a right royal rumble – a cosier alternative to Memoir 44 Overlord, perhaps.
Ava: If I ever brew a beer I’m calling it ‘Cosy Overlord’. In barely-even-news news, Armata Strigoi, a team game of fortress assaulting werewolves ganging up on immortal vampires, is getting a wider publication, but I just want to hear what Tom has to say about Powerwolf, the band that inspired the game.
Tom: I wasn’t aware of Powerwolf until now, but they look like a band that take themselves EXACTLY as seriously as they should. This is very much a stream-of-consciousness ramble at this point, but I just went to the Wikipedia page for Powerwolf and very much enjoyed this quote; ‘When asked if he was a Christian or a Satanist, Matthew Greywolf answered: “I am a metalist, a metal fan. Metal is my religion’, which is hilarious. But more intriguing than that, when I started googling a suggested search was the Wikipedia entry for the ‘Sugababes’, from our recent Mothership stream. What struck me though is the fact that there isn’t an R iN ‘SUGABABES’? I THOUGHT IT WAS ‘SUGARBABES’ LIKE YOU SHOULD SPELL IT. THIS IS THE STRANGEST MANDELA EFFECT???
Ava: It’s definitely always been suga, babes.
Tom: Now I’m thinking about what other musical acts would make good board games. A Nick Zammuto T’Zolkin-alike but it’s about time signatures carved into vinyl? A Moonsick solo RPG about the wistful days of your youth? A cluedo-like that’s set in Pottery’s album, ‘Welcome To Bobby’s Motel’, where you have to collect as many cowbells as you can muster. ! A Godspeed You! Black Emperor Eurogame that takes a literal week to get through, with a cluttered (if wholesome) anti-capitalist tone. A Jai Paul print-and-play! The possibilities are well and truly endless.
Ava: You could remake Fog of Love as a nightmarish five player Fleetwood Mac tribute, entirely about making horrible breakup songs about your band mates. Or how about a deckbulding version of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies? Maybe a Chassol game that’s just a big French role-playing game with an app that plays piano in tune with whatever’s being said and takes poignant loops and lays them over lovely drums. I’m genuinely surprised I can’t get a Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds game already, with a big glitterball and an apocalyptic Victorian London to fight over. I’d also take a role-playing game where you play as your favourite Beach Boy (Dennis) and have to avoid falling into Charles Manson’s cult while going surfing.
Tom: William Basinski: Legacy?
Ava: Environmentally friendly, as you don’t even destroy the cards, you just keep writing things over them again and again forever.
Tom: We probably should have used this time to talk about the game.
Ava: Oh yeah. There’s a game about werewolves and vampires. Maybe read the design diary if that tickles your Powerwolf?
Ava: An Alhambra Roll & Write is on Kickstarter, promising an paper-scratching version of the sprawling palace building original. The games share a scoring system based racing to build the most of certain coloured buildings.. The dicier version features you taking pairs of dice to cross off those buildings, and passing on the leavings to the next player, who gets to do some of their own rolling and taking.
The original Alhambra is the sort of game that needs to have it’s maximum player count cut in half, as the one time I played with six it was an absolute dull-fest, but with three players it’s a pointy little diamond. It contains my favourite rule to teach in any game: ‘just like in real life, if you pay with exact change you get to take another turn’. I’m not quite sure how dice-drafting is going to replace the ruthless currency collection of the original, but I am sorely tempted by the revised edition of the base game, also available on the kickstarter. Of course, this is Queen Games, so not only do I have to decide if I actually want both of the core boxes, (in writey and revisedy flavours), but I also have an enormous bundle of expansions to calculate the cost to value ratio of. I might end up not going for it out of sheer bloody-minded indecisiveness. We’ll see. We’ll see.
Tom: Cynicism-ometer seems perfectly in check here, boss.
Ava: While we’re looking at Queen Games though, I can once again get wound up by hype-dribble, as over on twitter they’ve announced a new ‘city collection’: a set of new boxes based on previous Stefan Feld games, but relocated to new cities. In a move I can only describe as ‘deeply irritating, but it does the hype-job’ they’re slowly teasing out the skyline of buildings that will grace the sides of the boxes, asking people to guess what cities the buildings come from and what games they’re based on. Unfortunately, because all the games are now going to be set in new cities, this gives us absolutely no information about what games are getting rebooted.
Tom: Spoilers; they’re all Burton-On-Trent. It’s a risky move but they’ll have the whole town down at their FLGS.
Ava: I’m so infuriated by the lack of information! BUT, I’m also watching closely, because I’m really hoping that Macao is getting a new version, as that games very particular cube-collecting doom-rondel was one of the most excruciatingly beautiful bear-traps of a mechanic that I’ve stumbled across in the last year. Please let me rotate my distress-inducing cube-compass again, Queen Games.
2000AD publishers Rebellion are teaming up with long-time role-playing collaborators Grant Howitt and Chris Taylor to put together the first in a series of ready-to-play rpgs-inna-magazine. The Adventure Presents… series is breaking ground by being cheap as chips (well, maybe more like a couple of fish and chips at the chippy in town I can’t go to because they cook everything in dripping, but the point still stands). The series will be explicitly designed for lockdown play, with digital materials to make distant play work better. It’s also got lush 2000AD style comic art throughout, and the first episode offers the opportunity to be a veteran, scavenger, influencer or graphic designer, which is not a party set up I’ve seen before.
Adventure presents Tartarus Gate is a slim little volume that will give you everything you need to experience some cosmic horror in the depths of space, which sounds a little bit like how I’ve been spending every other Thursday, so maybe this is all a bit too soon.
Tom: Is that a convenient segue to talk about the STREAM SCHEDULE?
Ava: No I just meant to-
Tom: THIS WEEK you can join THE REAL MATT LEES doing a *checks notes* JIGSAW PUZZLE on TUESDAY, followed by PART 3 of the COSMIC HORROR PICTURE SHOW that is MOTHERSHIP on THURSDAY! If you’ve yet to do so already, follow us on Twitch! Oh, and expect a tumultuous return to streaming for me as I try to keep the entirety of my family out of the room while we’re live. Expect many interruptions from the extended Brewsterverse.
Matt: Oh gosh, getting you to role-play live as Juice Springsteen in front of your FAMILY may be the greatest professional joy I’ll ever know.
Ava: It’s the most ambitious cross-over event of all time.