GAMES NEWS! 11/03/19

smitten by crime, a ghost in a box, a game on a keyring, creamy-white
Matt: Good afternoon, newshunters! Steady thy quiver; wiggle thine swords – new news is blooming in the wildlands just behind you, if you stay very still I’ll shoot over your shoulder and kill a bit of great news that we can have for dinner.

Our top story this week is that I have just returned from a brief holiday and eaten a substantial quantity of tiny fruity meringues. I have never been so ready to be inundated with information about upcoming board games – Quintin, please tell me about a spooky team game, immediately.

Quinns: Yes sir!

Quinns: To date, there have been a few spooky board games where a team of good players are secretly corrupted by a growing team of evil players. None of them have been particularly great, but I’ve got my fingers crossed (and my neck twisted backwards…) for Japanese game Hako Onna (pictured at the very top of this page) which is being brought to English-language markets by WizKids.

Hako Onna pits a cannibalistic, box-dwelling ghost against a team of hapless visitors to her haunted mansion. The visitors need to creep through the house, collecting clues that will help them to either escape the house, or kill or placate the ghost. However! If a player ever opens a box and sees Hako Onna, they’re secretly converted to her team.

There’s also a little dexterity game involved where the team of visitors has to try to stack a tower correctly, otherwise they’ve “made noise” (complicated by the fact that converted visitors will probably be secretly trying to make mistakes), but for me the most spine-tingling feature is that during Hako Onna’s turn, visitor players have to close their eyes as she creeps from box to box. OooOOOOoooh.

Matt: As those who tuned in to our last podcast episode will already be aware, we were seriously enamoured by the slick design and technical wizz-pow of Chronicles of Crime. And what’s cooler than unravelling crimes with your friends? Inventing your OWN crimes! Using the start of the art power of the Personal Computer and Microsoft’s “Windows”, Lucky Duck Games has provided free access to the tool they used to create the scenarios within the game, letting the next generation of Agatha Christies begin murdering fictional people, today.

We were already impressed by the audacity and scope of the game’s design, and the passion and care for detail shines through here too – having provided eight tutorial videos to explain the grittier details of the tool. As someone who grew up tinkering in Unreal Tournament’s level editor I must say I’m smitten by everything about this. What an alarmingly fun toolset to tinker with – I’ll be fascinated to see what people cook up.

Quinns: Holy crap, I believe the technical term is that Games Workshop are now “Churning these mothers out.”

Matt: Quite! Apparently on a roll with their newly found status of being “a company that makes money again”, appearing on the horizon this week are THREE new GW board games. First up is Dreadfane – a rules streamlined small-box version of Shadespire, I think (which we talked about on podcast #70)? It’s interesting how such a rapid expansion after a clean brand reboot has me quickly back in my previous zone of not being *quite* sure what the deal is with Warhammer’s interweaving brands. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but there’s something about this gushing glut of similar-looking games that puts me in mind of Fantasy Flight Games, maybe ten years ago? I can’t quite work out what I’m getting at, to be honest – any ideas Quinns?

Quinns: I’m not sure. Fantasy Flight were always pretty good at simultaneously working on a variety of brands and board game genres. Games Workshop now seem to be making a dozen variations of schlocky-game-that-includes-miniatures-but-isn’t-a-miniatures-game, and it seems to be confusing everybody.

Matt: A lot of those FFG games were great, too – so far I’ve found most of these Games Workshop offerings to be a bit uninspired. Still, it feels like with this latest round of releases Games Workshop have failed to even inspire *themselves*, having also announced Combat Arena – a four player tactical game with a title so alarmingly no-frills that I’d expect to see it listed alongside 98 other games on a gaudy electronic keyring.

Finally, GW has announced Stormvault, a co-operative adventure game that – based on the sole photo of the game available, seen above – looks quite dangerously boring.

Judging things based on appearances is obviously both unwise and uncool, but for a company that’s always thrived on the basis of people-seeing-things-and-immediately-wanting-them, I can’t quite work out what’s going on here. I’m no huge fan of Games Workshop stuff, but there’s a teenage fragment of me who *really still is*, and nothing they’ve put out yet has really managed to speak to me. To be fair though, in the same announcement they also unveiled 40k Funko Pops, so maybe it is I – not the children – who is wrong.

Quinns: Ooh, this is a nice surprise! Days of Wonder has announced a new expansion for superlative World War 2 game Memoir ‘44.

New Flight Plans will add aircraft to the fast’n’furious little wargame, meaning it actually replaces a previous expansion that did the same thing, the 2007 Memoir ‘44 Air Pack. That said, the one problem the old Air Pack had was that it was perennially out of stock. If this new release means that more players can buy the darn thing, and the rules are improved, then I’m all for it.

Now, every time this site mentions its love of Memoir ‘44, someone always pops out of the shadows to say that another game uses this rule system better, whether that’s Commands & Colours: Ancients or Battlelore. To which we say: Sure. But those games don’t let you play the enormous, beautiful team game Memoir ‘44: Overlord, do they?

Gosh, just thinking about Memoir ‘44: Overlord makes me wants to cancel my plans for the week and play it again. Maybe the release of New Flight Plans will coax me into arranging a game of it, WITH the new aircraft rules…

Matt: Adding to the list of genius game ideas that you can’t quite believe haven’t appeared already, We Need to Talk is a game of ridiculous interventions – everyone else knows that you’ve got a problem with uncontrollable interpretive dance, but there’s obviously no way to directly *broach* such a delicate situation. Through a series of directed questions the player with the problem gains points by guessing what the intervention is *about* as quickly as possible, while the friends and family – just like in real life – gain points for dragging the situation on, but get no points if the topic of the intervention still can’t be guessed at the end of the final round.

Such great, simple ideas live or die when it comes to execution – but all being well this feels like a game I’d love to play during one of our live podcast shows. I’m officially adding it to my internal list of Games I Really Hope Don’t End Up Being Wildly Problematic.

Matt: Our Kickstarter darling of the week is Iwari – a boldly chunky reworking of a design previously known as Web of Power, China, and more recently in 2014 – Han. The general vibe seems to be that it’s a fast game that plays brilliantly with three, but gets a bit sloppy and chaotic with five. So, it turns out it’s a board game! Thanks, I’ll be here all week: free the veal.

Seems like a solid box of lots of bits for not a great deal of money, but personally speaking I feel I should warn readers that this is an abstract area control game. What does that mean? It means Matt doesn’t really know how to play it for the first half an hour, and doesn’t especially enjoy himself even once he’s worked it out. I love a good area control game, I love a great abstract – but the two of them together? Chalk and cheese.

Quinns: All I know is, if a game is good enough to be relaunched three times in less than twenty years, I wanna try it!

Quinns: Finally, we’ve got a board gaming podcast that you might want to add to your rotation. Board Game Barrage has joined So Very Wrong About Games as a tabletop podcast where I’ll cheerily listen to every episode. Imagine that!

These guys are concise, entertaining, and (like SU&SD) enjoy everything from heavy games to the most dumbest party games. Their team is also predominantly people of colour, which is a welcome change in the creamy-white board game industry. Also, kudos to them for putting me onto Hundreds of Horses. I expect I’ll be keeping an eye out for that one in discount board game shops from now until the day I die.