Ben: Oh jeez, I’m introducing the news. Please don’t let me break anything. They never let the intern pilot the Enterprise.
Ava: Luke Skywalker was basically an intern when he got a pop on an X-Wing, and he blew up an entire ‘that’s no moon’. Dream big, Ben! Blow something up!
Ben: Hello! It’s time for some gaming news! If you’re ready for it, great, if not let me know and I will tip you out of bed and shout news in your face until you’ve had your fill or I get tired.
Ava: That’s the spirit!
Quinns popped The Fox in the Forest Duet in the news doc, and I immediately wanted to mock him for being excited that one of his favourite two player games was getting a new two player variant. But then I actually looked at it and it’s a co-operative trick-taking game, and my word I’m already enthralled by the possibility.
This game is a follow up to a lovely trick taking game of special powers woven with a fairy tale narrative to nudge you and your opponent into a ruthless game of trying to win just enough, but not too much. Duet adds a shared board to the game, a forest you’re trying to navigate by winning tricks. Details are sparse, but there’s the potential for something lovely here. Trick taking games sing when you’re given plenty of reasons to not want to win, and working towards a co-operative goal without (presumably) being able to communicate is a smart way of doing exactly that. Fox in the Forest was stunningly well balanced, so I’m really excited for this one.
Ben: Maybe it’s my brutally competitive side, but I find small box co-operative games often feel a bit too wooly. They’re normally a bit too quick and small to feel like you’re achieving something epic, and when I’m playing a 2 player card game I usually want a tight 1 on 1 experience. That said, I love anything with foxes (forests, Starfox, Fox’s biscuits, 20th Century Fox, Ultra-Fox), and the art is gorgeous, so I’m certainly as curious as a fox near an unopened bin.
Ava: Stop right there. What on earth is an ultrafox and how can I meet one, and hug one, and call one George?
Ben: Sorry. Ultravox. I always mix those two up.
Ava: This means nothing to me.
Ava: W. Eric Martin is still pumping out all the hottest pre-Essen Spiel news, and he tickled my news gland with this reboot of an old classic.
Spies and Lies: A Stratego Story is a game that takes some of the conceits of Stratego, a classic chess-like game where your pieces’ strengths are hidden from your opponent, and turns it into a bluffing game of cards and mathematics. You and your foe play cards opposite each other, following strict numerical rules and indicating which cards fall within certain thresholds. The cards then face off against each other. It sounds like a smart idea, but I’m worried I’ve got sucked in because of the connection to Stratego, which was one of the first games I fell in love with as a kid.
It was a summer trip to France with my extended family and an attic filled with the sounds of a Weetabix tape of eighties pop hits. The small stack of games we found included Stratego and Escape from Colditz, and while the latter took eight hours and I’m pretty sure my big brother was a bit too excited to get to be a nazi, Stratego was a tight, ruthless and easy to comprehend game of deception and mischief. I’m not sure if it still holds up, but it sure fills me with nostalgia.
All of which amounts to, don’t listen to me when I fall for ‘A Stratego Story’ as a marketing line.
Ava: Come and have Azul if you think you’re hard enough, because the beautiful and mostly abstract tile laying game is getting a third iteration following Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, this time set in a summer pavillion and with the tiles shaped like diamonds! The same tile drafting mechanics of the original Azul lie at the core of Azul: Summer Pavilion, which adds several round rosettes to place pieces on with bonuses for connected tiles of the same colour. Each round will make one colour wild, so presumably you can create unexpectedly different chains each turn? There’s some curious ideas there, but I do wonder if the bottled lightning of Azul is too tough a trick to pull off twice.
Ben: I’m a total sucker for a strong theme, particularly one as unique as Azul’s. That said, designer Michael Kiesling’s dedication to educating people about 16th century Portuguese architecture borders on creepy (I spent 5 minutes trying to beat Ava’s Azul pun and couldn’t, so let’s pretend I came up with something great).
Ava: Ever since Mysterium twisted Dixit’s dreamlike card associations into a mystery solving machine, there’s been a gamut of games asking players to solve mysteries with one player giving vaguely frustrated clues to the rest of the table.
Paranormal Detectives is building hype at the moment, and will have one ghost player helping the titular investigators solve a crime using one of nine different confused methods of communication. Ranging from ‘arrange this noose in an appropriate shape’ to ‘trace the answer on my palm’, I’m unclear whether this is far too many ideas, or just the right amount of too many ideas. Time, and the answer I inscribe upon your palm, will tell.
Ben: Naah, naah, naah, nanana naah, Aaaa-zuuuullllll….
Ben: Sorry, I was still thinking of puns.
Ava: For the second week running, we’re covering something from Magic Maze publishers Sit Down Games. Does anyone know what the statute of limitations is on the ‘no relation’ joke?
House Flippers is a real-time sand timer-spinning real estate market, that will have players racing around the board to profit from buying, repairing and selling buildings. Sit Down is on the road to a reputation for the weirdest takes on real time games. This is certainly more straightforward than the knot-tying Wormlord, but the fact that that’s a phrase I had to write at all indicates a willingness to go weird that I quite admire.
Ben: There’s something distinctly bourgeois about literally watching sand trickle down until your hardworking tenants have to cough up on rent day. It’s now got me genuinely worried that my landlady has a huge 30 day sand timer with my face stuck on it that she just sits and watches, gleefully laughing as I run out of sand.
Actually, scratch that. If doing podcast #99 has taught me anything, it’s to not start a conversation about sand on this site.
Ava: I got a bit over excited about this because Magic designer Richard Garfield plus incredible artist Ian O’toole plus the world’s second best Jeopardy player sounds like a terrible Ocean’s Eleven but for games.
Unfortunately, I can’t see much that makes kickstarter trivia game Half Truth more interesting than asking questions out of a book. The conceit is that you are given multiple choice questions with three correct and three wrong answers, and you’re encouraged to sometimes double down and aim to get two or three answers instead of just one. I imagine there’s an amount of goading and frustration there, but I can’t see it singing. On the other hand, I don’t think I’m in a position to argue with Richard Garfield about what makes a game good. It’s not far off hearing about a new James Brown song and saying ‘hmm, doesn’t sound that funky to me’.
Ben: What do you mean I can’t pull shiny cards!? Pfft. A lot of my family switch off the second I start talking resource management, but finding out who is the smartest is something that they can immediately get behind. Half Truth will either be a Christmas hit at the Winterton household, or cause innumerable arguments. Or both.
Ava: I may have spent too long digging around the news mines, and lost my news-mind a little, but I was tickled by this Design Diary for Capstone’s new edition of Irish Gauge, a simplified train and stock trading game that I’m pretty excited about.
Having looked at a lot of these diaries, they tend to follow a very standard format of dodgy prototypes with numbers and letters on, tales of failed designs and bits that had to be sloughed off and dead ends and publisher meetings and years of refinement. That makes it kind of hilarious to read Tom Russell say ‘yeah, the whole thing popped into my head while I was stuck in some mild traffic and it was pretty great and didn’t need changing’. He doesn’t even sound smug about it, he’s reasonably bewildered by the fact.
Creativity is weird folks! Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking they know how it works.
Quinns: Finally, The Board Game Book: Volume 2 is now on Kickstarter! We covered volume 1 of this unusual almanac when it was crowdfunded last year. Essentially, you’re paying for an enormous tome summarising the year in board games, stuffed full of interviews, observations and a dazzling array of professional photographs.
In all honesty, the team behind The Board Game Book do their job so well that leafing through Volume 1 fills me with anxiety. So many beautiful games! Could the team at SU&SD not have covered just a few more?! We left so many behind…
No. No time for tears. Shut Up & Sit Down will do what it must, and The Board Game Book will be there to pick up the pieces.