Tom: Do you re-mem-ber!
Tom: The fact that it is now September!
Tom: Onwards to Newsville!
Ava: Glow, from publisher Bombyx, will have you going on an adventure across a broodily illustrated board. Players will be acquiring a new friend every turn, in the form of a card-drafting game with added dice. You’ll get more ‘companions’ and you’ll roll more dice, controlling the random chance with clever combinations
This is especially important as some of the companions will come with disadvantages that may crop up when you roll the dice. The splash of colour on black and white illustrations looks really nice, and I love the idea of a gang of adventurers slowly katamari-ing across the land, scooping up friends and arseholes along the way. Even if that does sound like a terrible pub crawl?
Tom: Please, Ava, this is a family show!
Ava: Still baffled by your profound belief that Katamari is 18+.
Ava: Also from Bombyx, Codex Naturalis looks sharp: It’s a card game of building a web of interlocking document fragments. Each card gives you resources or game-winning prestige, but has to be placed so it covers the corner of a card that has already been played – taking away some of your previously acquired stuff. This looks pretty, might be interesting and could potentially eat up your entire table. Curious.
Tom: I’m imagining the organisational horror already, and the inevitable moment where you have to make a perfectly good card completely useless in service of the engine you’re continually adding to. Why am I sweating already? Help.
I’m loving the graphic design here too – making ‘a large pile of documents’ look exciting has got to be tricky, and artist Maxime Morin seems to be positively slaying it with these vibrant little artworks that are unique and lovely without sacrificing readability. I hope. I haven’t played it. This is just news.
Ava: Monasterium leaves us with our second week in a row of flagging up a hot medieval monks game.
Tom: Readers will be saddened to hear that last week’s ‘Monks In A Sauna 3’ has unfortunately been cancelled due to blasphemy and historical inaccuracies.
Matt: Shame, seemed truly innovative to replace the Monk Track with Monk Crack
Tom & Ava: THIS IS A FAMILY SHOW.
Ava: Anyway, this one’s all about the dice. Each turn you’ll be rolling a bundle and looking for duplicates, putting any matching sets towards a menu of different monastic actions. Each time it comes to your turn again, you’ve got to re-roll what’s left – so you never know what you’re getting next. You’ll be pushing a messenger across a board to make introductions so you can stuff novice monks into as many weird churches as possible, whilst also making some lovely windows.
Tom: I’ve never even played HeroQuest, but the brightly coloured rooms here have me reaching for a broadsword?
Ava: I believe that’s the Henry VIII approach to monasteries.
I am torn about Philosophia: Floating World! It uses public domain Japanese art so it looks bloody gorgeous, but I’ve got no idea how well researched and refined it is. It makes some bold choices, promising a sandbox adventure built around not only deck building, but also each turn your opponent splits your hand in half and you’ve got to decide which ones you actually want. Finally, the game plays entirely simultaneously. This sounds an odd mix of chaotic, innovative and just… weird?
Matt: One of the stretch goals is A TEA POT. Is this real? This doesn’t look real.
Tom: I am utterly perplexed by what this box even is, but maybe it’s weird enough to work? That card-splitting mechanic that Ava mentioned could either be a great quirk or an unnecessary bit of faff – the simultaneous play could make a sprawling game pacier, or lead to total chaos. If one thing’s for certain, I really do wish that they’d let the absolutely gorgeous art on the cards not be sullied a little by the graphic design and text – there’s a gif in Kickstarter that shows the art being turned into the cards and they’re looking more interesting pre ‘remaster’. But maybe I’m just being grumpy.
Matt:No, I think I’m with you there – this seems to be taking beautiful things and smushing them into a form that’s quite ugly.
Ava: I’d love to hear from anyone who’s tried the previous Philosophia game to see whether this is something worth getting curious about.
Ava: There’s no reliable trick to get me to take a closer look at your kickstarter – in this case it was just because the location was ‘somewhere very near me’. I took a poke, and I’m glad I did.
The Wretched is one of that growing niche of solo RPG experiences, but this one has some strange prerequisites: to play you’ll need a ‘tumbling block tower’, and a microphone. Yup. This an atmospheric opportunity to play Jenga with yourself, as a metaphor for being very alone in space.
Tom: I’ve actually got a copy of The Wretched’s first print run sitting on a shelf next to me, just itching to be played. It’s the first in a series of games that use the ‘Wretched and Alone’ system, and I’m just as excited to try out ‘The Sealed Library’, another game with the same stressful theming but you’re trying to protect all of human knowledge rather than just your own internal organs.
Out of Space and A Library I know where I’d rather be, and it’s neither of those two places. Either way, I shall go off into space sometime soon and report back on my findings.
Tom: Also in RPG games news, ORBITAL has got just 19 hours left on its Kickstarter at the time of writing.
Nevertheless I want to drop a mention for it here as I really, really enjoyed designer Jack Harrison’s previous solo game, Artefact. ORBITAL looks to have the same penchant for svelte design and gorgeous artwork, but with *gasps* multiple human people.
Players take control of various characters onboard a space station in the middle of nowhere – fending off threats and trying to maintain the sanctity of their cold metal home. Mechanically, ORBITAL is lifting the ‘No Dice, No Masters’ approach from Avery Alder’s Dreams Askew and placing it into a very different setting with a very similar focus – and to top it all off, this one has artwork from Torben Bökemeyer, better known on the internet as turbo.turbo, with a front cover that’s as stunning as it is promising. I’m quietly pumped.
Ava: Okay, I’ll admit it, I grimaced when I saw something claiming to be the first ever poker board game, and a combination of space exploration and actual poker. I’m also not entirely sure that grimace ever left me, but it was eventually joined by a quizzical eyebrow.
Antematter has players shuffling across the galaxy with some abstracted space movement, alternating with hands of texas hold em poker. So far, so chess-boxing. What actually got me interested was that players will be shuffling some extra oddities into the poker deck, encouraging players to play a big bluff or allowing people to mitigate some luck of the draw. Taking the core of poker and encouraging people to play outside their normal habits sounds like it might be fascinating, I’m just not sure I want it attached to a space exploration game. My curiosity wattle is tickled though, so I’ll be keeping an eye out.
Matt:I’ve gotta say, I think I DO want it attached to a space exploration game? Colour me interested.
Tom: Oh I GET IT! Like ante! Like in poker!
Matt: Tom it’s too late, we’ve already packed up this part of the news.
Ava: Finally, I want to briefly mention that the ‘just one small slice, please’ version of Lisboa – Mercado de Lisboa – has hit kickstarter, and we’re doing a stream, which is lucky timing for both the kickstarter and people who want to see it in action before they buy.
Matt: Absolutely! Myself and Tom will be tinkering with Mercado de Lisboa tomorrow from 7pm UK time. Pop along and peer into the room as we squeal with economics-based delight and/or horror.
Ava: And finally, something from a few weeks back that tickled me. Mike Selinker of Lords of Vegas fame did a twitter thread brute forcing a riddle he’d already solved from the The Batman batman trailer, and it got picked up by Forbes. It’s just a sweet thing, like when someone you remember from school shows up in the paper having one a prize.
Tom: Mike’s Twitter is also a continual, wonderful reminder that there’s a whole community of people that REALLY LOVE crosswords. I was recently reading a thread about a particular crossword that got some mixed reviews, and was delighted to learn that a.) crossword reviewers exist and b.) crossword reviewers have a lexicography to describe their art that I absolutely do not understand. It was so confused, it was delightful.