Quinns: Summer is here! That magical time of year when we move from playing board games indoors to playing them outdoors. As a result the entire SU&SD crew now look like boiled lobsters. Bright red, but with a hint of decadence.
Today’s games news will be arranged from stuff that excites Quinns the most to least, starting with THIS: Neuroshima Hex 3.0 has been announced by Z-Man games. You can read our impressions of 2.0 here, but basically it’s a tricky, colourful, inventive strategy game that’s so lightweight as to practically float off the table. Better yet, 3.0 sounds even better.
I’m always interested in board game sequels. This industry’s terrifyingly quick to strip ideas from games to produce brand new titles, but it’s less good at keeping its intellectual properties alive. This is why I like the campaign rules for Memoir ’44 and Descent, or the dozens of varients of Twilight Imperium. I’m given an excuse to get attached to them.
Neuroshima Hex 3.0 is the kind of experiment I like to see. What was already a good game is getting new art, streamlined rules, a fifth army to play with right out of the box, and modes for 1 and 3 players to go with 2.0’s 2 and 4 player games. The (vastly popular) vision for this game isn’t simply being picked over by design vultures. That game, and its community, is being kept alive and grown.
Ooh, I came over all serious there, didn’t I? Well I’m going to sound like a child in this next bit because SAND TIMERS
I said this back in April, but sand timers are my current favourite thing in games forever. Sand timers have it all! They’ve got sand, and timing. I might be going mad. Not sure.
Skipping through this walkthrough should get you up to speed:
Time’n’Space has a really interesting scoring mechanic. You want to fulfill different contracts on other players’ home planets, but your final score is multiplied by how many of your own contracts other players have fulfilled. So you need to strike a balance between coaxing other players to ship their goods to you, with your own actual shipping.
MORE IMPORTANTLY, Time’n’Space gives every players two sand timers. That’s six sand timers right out of the box. Oh, baby!
The thing is, to perform any action in Time’n’Space involves flipping one of these timers on a different part of the board. So, it’ll take real-life minutes for your ship to journey to someone’s planet, perhaps with you changing its course at the last second after some heated negotation. I waaant it.
Next up is Mage Knight: Krang, which was announced this week.
If Paul and I were stolen away by some grimy madman and had absolutely nothing to do but play games all day for his amusement, we’d probably be hugely into Mage Knight by now. We reviewed it here, and came to the sad conclusion that it’s utterly amazing, but a bit too obtuse and demanding to feel like anything other than learning to fly a plane. We just don’t have that kind of time.
Last year Mage Knight: The Lost Legion was released, giving us one more reason to pray we would one day feel the chloroformed handkerchief of the above grimy madman. The Lost Legion was a grand expansion featuring several hundred new components, pictured here:
This week, it turns out they’re NOT EVEN FINISHED. Krang is coming later in the year:
They’re releasing just one new playable character, Krang, in a tiny box. Just a few more tokens. One new miniature. A few wafer-thin cards.
Kind of expecting you’ll buy this, insert it into the superdense Mage Knight box, and the whole thing will detonate like an aerosol can over an open flame.
Meanwhile, Going, Going, GONE! sounds as simple as Mage Knight is bloated.
Auctions in games are great. Almost as good as sand timers. Going, Going, GONE! sounds like it has the admirable goal of making auctions as absurd as possible.
Players take turns to be the auctioneer simultaneously selling five different item cards. They do this by simply counting down from 10 as fast as they like, which is awesome. Other players “bid” on these items by physically dropping (or trying to drop) wooden cubes into each of five different cups, which is awesome. You’re trying to collect sets of items, which is awesome, and at the end of the bidding the auctioneer drops a huge paddle across the tops of all five cups so nothing more can be dropped in them, which is awesome.
You know that with those kind of restrictions, players are going to end up squealing with rage because someone else held their arms back or counted down from 10 in two seconds. Perfect. This one might just eclipse Jungle Speed as my brain-dead drinking game of choice.
Last Wednesday Fantasy Flight announced Winter Tales, a board game of “storytelling and imagination”. I’m a little dubious about this one. It’s a bold step in what I think might be a poorly-chosen direction.
Between 3-7 players take on the roles of various fairytale characters either belonging to the dark forces of Winter (the Mad Hatter, the Wolf), or the actually-still-quite-dark rebels who seek to bring about Spring (grimdark interpretations of Alice, Pinnochio, the Tin Man). On your turn you might travel the thematic board laying traps for the Winter forces, searching for some great thematic artifact, or any number of other thematic tasks which are thematic.
Where things get interesting is that Fantasy Flight are pitching this as a storytelling game. On your turn you’ll draw a number of cards with spooky, scrawled pictures on them, and describing how these pictures factor into your characters’ action allows them to contribute to your success. So, you’ll find yourself puzzling over the picture of a tooth you’ve been hanging onto since the beginning of the game, sweating over how it might help you in a search. Until you realise that if you turn it upside-down, it becomes a mountain you might gaze out from the peak of.
Which is great! …Except I feel like Fantasy Flight doing a storytelling game while also trying to slip this new fairytale universe down our throat might be an awful combination.
Playing Monsterhearts the other week, I read a great deal about how the best storytelling games see players keeping the story “feral”, meaning keeping it alive, wild and not “small enough” to be contained in any one player’s head. The purpose of this is to keep a story surprising, exciting and open to both creativity and interpretation. That’s the fun of telling a story together.
With Winter Tales, the design sounds like it fosters the exact opposite of keeping a story feral. The designer has domesticated it before you get there, leaving you to tell stories in their setting, with the restrictions of the moves your friends lead to you make and the cards you draw at random.
That said, this could be like an Arkham Horror or Talisman, where players are expected to take joy in the story the game tells them, but with us players being given just a little more agency. I just don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t excite me.
What do you think, readers?