GAMES NEWS! 11/05/2020

Keep your goofs in the gaff, Too many pirates, Stand and de-liver, Step away from the testicles
Matt Lees 59 comment(s)


Ava: What on earth happened to Mart?

Tom: I’ve no idea, it looks like maybe taking an axe to it was a bad idea? It appears to be in some kind of safe mode.

Ava: Once we had a friend, now we have a spreadsheet. Oh woe is Mart, noblest LeesCorp employee, and the running joke too convenient to kill.

Tom: I’ve got a screwdriver, some duct tape and a spare liver in cold storage. I’ll see if we can keep it trucking on until we require its services once more.

Ava: Wait, whose liver have you got?

Time Captain: help


Ava: The latest pandemic promises hot zones in your area.

Oh god it’s too hard to make jokes, tbh. At a time when the US and UK are dreadfully mismanaging a literal pandemic, it’s hard to look at a new edition of Pandemic set exclusively in North America without wincing a little. That said, it’s a game that’s happening, and it’s interesting enough to talk about.

Pandemic: Hot Zone: North America is the first of a series of stripped back versions of the excellent co-operative research-em-up Pandemic. Inspired by the shop distributed demo versions of Ticket to Ride, Matt Leacock has stripped the game back to something that can be played in a much shorter time, with less rules, and less faff. This probably isn’t going to tickle the tickle-spots of many of our readers, but it is a brilliant attempt to reach out to wider audiences.

Pandemic is the game I want to hold the spot Monopoly has in wider society: thousands of iterations of a game where everyone knows the rules and has played it to death. I’m not hugely into it myself, but I think it’s a fine ambassador for the hobby, and a very, very clever design. If this Hot Zone series can make the game even more accessible, I think it could be part of a real step change in how boardgames get seen by the mainstream, and that’s got to be worth something.

Ava: Top of the Kickstarter Blockbusters this week is Sea of Legends, a magical take on Caribbean piracy, adventure and storytelling.

Tom: The Kickstarter video for this one is absolutely baffling – it seems as though they’re trying to condense every possible thing you can do in the game into just 54 short seconds, giving off some fun vibes but I’m struggling to hold onto anything. It’s an adventure? Thing? With pirates? And really, really big miniatures?

Ava: The main selling point here is the huge and diverse range of writers that have been brought on board. Storytelling will take place through a multiple choice app, leaving scope for huge piles of wordstuff. Combined with NPCs that can be either your lover or nemesis, a bevy of optional captains, and an even bevvier bevy of factions to be caught between, there should be a lot of variety and excitement here.

Tom: The binary between NPCs being your ‘lover’ or ‘nemesis’ is really making me chuckle, as is the use of ‘lover abilities’ as a consistent piece of verbiage in the press release ‘Utilize your… “Lover abilities” to gain the advantage’. Oh my.


Ava: You will never find out how advantageous my lover abilities are. Also, eww.

Honestly, I’m a bit baffled at the balance between miniatures and story-telling. This feels like it’s built to let you play with someone else’s dolls and imagination. This looks ambitious and weird and I’m not sure I’m actually as excited about it as I want to be, despite what looks like a lot of gorgeous world and character building. I’m also a bit nervous about any game promising to be a kickstarter exclusive. One of the common refrains around these parts is that any game that is ‘good enough’ will eventually get a retail release. Without that retail release, do they have a proper motivation to make this game solid, reliable and fun?

That said, it’s a stellar line up of writers, and there should be some fascinating stories in this. I cannot decide what I think!

Ava: Adventures in Neverland is also on kickstarter. Another story based adventure game, this one may be a bit frustrated to find it’s up against Sea of Legends, both eating each other’s ‘I wanna be a pirate, but make it magic’ attitude. Adventures in Neverland has you bouncing around the titular island as various characters, either co-operating to tell a story, or, erm, competing to tell a story? More reliant on standees and booklets than minis and apps, this might be the cheaper option, but that doesn’t make it any more reliable a gamble.

I want to highlight how odd it is that we get so many games about Sherlock Holmes and Cthulhu, because they’re out of copyright, but we don’t get much Peter Pan? I guess it’s more a specific story, than a framework you can dump what you want in, but it’s still nice to see that somebody still wants to visit Neverland. Not that I even really like Peter Pan, or games about just bobbing around telling stories. (Though with the right group and a few tweaks to make the game less atrociously problematic, Tales of the Arabian Nights does still have a place at my table).

Tom: I would put actual real money on Peter Pan being an upcoming hero in the Unmatched series of games – with the ‘lost boys’ acting as a gaggle of sidekicks. He’s just the kind of quasi-relevant out-of-copyright ‘hero’ that will fit snugly in between Sinbad and King Arthur. And if he’s not already in the works? Then I’ve just squandered the best idea I’ve had in years. Dang.

But, you know, out of these two adventure-em-ups I think I’m more intrigued by the promise of Adventures in Neverland – perhaps just because there are fewer jumbo miniatures, there isn’t an app to drive the thing, and that board looks absolutely gorgeous. That being said, the potential for an endlessly expandable experience that comes with the Sea of Legends app means that it could be a better investment, but probably only if you’re also looking to shell out for extra plastic…

Ava: To be perfectly honest, out of the two, my money is on secret third option Plaid Hat’s Forgotten Waters, which hits retail in June and so will potentially dock a lot sooner than either of the above. Not that I’m not waiting for reviews (or at least to check out our very own stream) before I dip my toe in.

Matt: I’m super excited to try it – I’ll let you know my thoughts on the next podcast!

Ava: Praga Caput Regni is new from Vladimir Suchy and Delicious games. You had me at ‘action crane’ and then you added some kind of resource bridge. I don’t know much about Prague, but I know how I feel about infrastructure and things that allow me to sound ridiculous when I’m explaining rules.

Following in Troye‘s footsteps as being a game that makes me disproportionately excited about very old building materials, players will be taking an ever shifting crane-ful of actions to set about various projects, all making Prague as fancy as possible for King Charles IV. The game looks like fairly straightforward economic efficiency engineering, but lifts the game off the table with a few little cardboard structures that are absolutely adorable.

When playing one of these big european engines made up of separate but interlocking moving parts, I’m often left feeling like one part of it is much more interesting than the whole. As such, I’m glad to see Vital Lacerda’s latest announcement takes one slice of massive Portugeuse wig-fest Lisboa, and turns it into a much shorter, tighter game.

Mercado de Lisboa is Vital Lacerda’s lightest game to date. It takes the city building portion of Lisboa, and turns it into a battle for customers in a more modern (but importantly, still Portugeuse) covered market.

I bounced off Lisboa as an intersection of great ideas that gelled together in a way that was somehow both ingenious and unsatisfying, The engine worked beautifully, but I wasn’t particularly excited by how it came together. Each portion of the board just felt like an extra obstacle to doing what I actually wanted to do somewhere else. The idea of just picking one part of that game and honing it to perfection sounds great to me. This has gone straight on the wishlist.

Tom: The double bill of games with brutally dry themes is killing me here, as the resident ‘read Ava’s summary of the game and then goof on it’-ator. You’ve got to give me some good thematic grounding here or else everyone will see right through my total lack of insight.

Ava: I do honestly think that dry themes are fertile ground for ridiculous nights at the game table? There’s something about laying out just how important it is to impress the Holy Roman Emperor with a nice new wall, or explaining the niceties of customer service in one tiny marketplace in Lisbon. Dry is the new wet, I say. Those piratical games above actually have to rely on good writing and smart ideas to be funny and functional, and help them step outside the conventions of the genre. These dryer games can focus on being fascinating puzzles, and let the silliness come from inside the house.

Tom: So what you’re saying is that the goofs were there all along, I just needed to dig them out of the ground and present them to the readers like a prize turnip.

Ava: Just tap your heels together and say ‘there’s no goof like ho(ly Ro)m(an )e(mperor)’.

Ava: The Osaka game market isn’t happening, but my favourite part of the boardgamegeek news blog is when it’s delving into the enormously creative Japanese game design scene. As such I’m pleased with this summary of some of the games that would’ve been on sale. There’s a lot to take in here, but I’ll just note that they led with the opportunity to adjust the size of some tanuki testicles.

Tom: So… This one isn’t funny? Because the goof is apparent, the yucks are self-evident, the gaffe is simply too obvious for the news. We should just acknowledge its existence-

Ava: -and move on.

Tom: You know, I think I’m getting the hang of this. There is nothing funny about Tanuki Testicles.

Matt: What are you talking about, Tom? It’s alliteration!

Ava: There’s another game here called ‘You are the ghost’ that takes the ‘everybody knows something, except one person who’s just got to pretend’ set up of Spyfall and A fake artist goes to New York and applies it to listening to a sound through an earphone! This is ludicrous and I’m here for it.

Ava: We don’t often bring up digital games round these parts, but obviously the present circumstances mean that remote play apps are more useful than ever. As such it’s pretty nice that Humble are offering a giant Asmodee bundle (and also probably sheds some light on why they did a litigious round up of all the iffy ports on Tabletop Simulator a few weeks back). There’s some excellent games to try here, and it’s no doubt a bargain, and I imagine Humble and Asmodee will do pretty well out of everyone demanding that their families buy the bundle so they can all play together. It’s both a canny and nice thing. And if you think that they’re being a little too mercenary, you can always just chuck all the money to charity! Mine’s rigged to throw money at Mermaids, a charity supporting trans kids in the UK, and at a time when the government is threatening to take away their access to support, that’s incredibly important to me!


Ava: I have no idea what’s going on here, and am now worried you’ve already started playing Don’t Get Got without me, which is handy as….

Ava: …now you can play Don’t Get Got, in your very own home.

The makers of Don’t Get Got have released a ‘working from home’ edition of the ludicrous party-metagame to play with your digitally enabled co-workers. Each of six players will have a stack of secret missions to fulfil, but if anyone playing the game ever catches you playing the game, you get got.

I’m not entirely convinced additional paranoia and suspicion is what we need right now, but I suspect a bit of ridiculous fun and drama is worth the risk.

Tom: To that end, I am deeply concerned at this game’s potential to turn my living situation into an endless Pinter play. Stirring a light dash of lockdown into its relatively harmless core will almost certainly make the act of ‘getting got’ into a fate worse than death, and the lack of obvious timespan in which to play the game over means that there’s potential for days of uninterrupted dread.

I’m in! Thanks Big Potato!

Ava: Thig Thotato?

Tom: No.