Quinns: Hold onto your unmentionables! Fantasy Flight have apparently decided they had too much to announce at Gen Con later this week, and have revealed a couple of massive new games early. Very wise of them. The SU&SD supercomputer warns us that a press conference of sufficient magnitude might just reduce Indianapolis to a smouldering, game-shaped crater.
Appearing one miserable month after our glowing re-review of the X-Wing Miniatures Game, Star Wars: Armada will offer some strikingly similar 2 player space battles, but EMBIGGENED. The profoundly personal pilot management of X-Wing replaced with cumbersome capital ships and whole, abstracted squads of fighter craft.
Clearly it looks gorgeous, and it sounds like Fantasy Flight are using this as an opportunity to evolve the Wings of War dogfighting rules that powered X-Wing. Players will still simultaneously set maneuver dials for their ships, but to represent the less responsive nature of ships with a crew of hundreds or thousands, you’ll also set extra maneuver dials for the turns after that. And that weird, interlocking, snake-looking thing? That replaces X-Wing’s simple templates for plotting your movements.
On the other hand, speaking as somebody who recently dropped £100 on X-Wing miniatures, it’s an announcement that fills me with a terrible sadness, and I’m not alone. The thread on the X-Wing Reddit containing the news of Armada is an awkward commingling of excitement and dismay.
I don’t doubt for a second that Fantasy Flight have the manpower and talent to develop the two games concurrently. But with both games sharing the exact same appeal, it’s an equally grim prospect to let one of them pass you by, unplayed, as it is to spend double the money to collect both, and play each one half as much.
Their other announcement, though, is something I can plop the full girth of my enthusiasm behind. XCOM: The Board Game is (yes!) Fantasy Flight’s official board game of the recently-revived XCOM video game franchise, and it sounds fantastically inventive. This is a real-time co-op game that uses a companion application for Android and iOS devices, and sees players all taking on different roles.
I’m getting ahead of myself! If you’re not aware, the XCOM video games envision a future where aliens begin a profoundly casual invasion of earth, and the player is tasked with managing a cutting-edge anti-alien taskforce. You make difficult decisions regarding the development of your secret base, dispatch interceptors to shoot down flying saucers, and control little SWAT teams of men and women who fight the aliens on the ground.
I’m really pleased to see that the board game borrows the art and theme of XCOM, but will offer an entirely different experience. A Commander player will manage your base’s funds and aircraft. A Chief Scientist will research technology and equip the other players. A Squad Leader will manage squads and complete missions. Finally the Central Officer holds the actual app, updates the map, attempts to scramble alien transmissions (which sounds a lot like it’ll be a mini-game on the app itself), and co-ordinates the rest of the team.
I know that lots of designers are looking to incorporate smart devices into board games, but weaving a video game on that app into the board game? That’s the exact kind of blurring the lines of game design I live for.
If I’m honest, I’d buy anything if it let me fill my Mascarade box with more of that astonishing art. But not only will the expansion feature twelve new characters, they all sound either hilarious or nuanced. The Princess gets two gold, then orders another player to show their card to every other player, leaving them still in the dark about who they are. Amazing.
Moving onto a Kickstarter that’s caught my attention, [redacted] (that’s the name) is something I’d encourage any Kicklystartlers among you to take a look at. The game sounds fantastic, it has a host of positive feedback from reviewers I trust, and there’s a nice big badge saying that none of the reviews have been paid for. That’s what I like to see.
The game takes lessons drawn from social games like The Resistance, applying them to a board game of spies set in an opulent embassy. Your nationality and objective is secret from everybody else, even though some of those players are on the same team as you, and in addition to running around looking for intel and items you can fight other players (or trade items) to glom more info about their goals.
Did I mention the art looks lovely and the shipping is all Europe-friendly? Take a look!
Remember our Megagame special a while back? I’m hugely happy to say that it managed to drive a lot of interest for these fantastic things, leading to the Megagame Makers putting the manuals for some of their games online, some for free, some for a small fee.
In fact, a group of energetic New Yorkers have just finished their own game of Watch the Skies, the very first international Megagame. You can read about it right here. If you fancy a Megagame in your home town, you can make it happen. Fabulous.
AND FINALLY, we end with a roundup of some stuff deserving your attention. The Dice Shaming tag on tumblr is my absolute new favourite thing. Just follow that link. You won’t be disappointed.
The mighty Eurogamer is doing a series on the future of gaming in the run-up to the 2014 Eurogamer Expo, and they covered us for the installment on board gaming. Lots of lovely footage of Brendan’s flat transformed into a sweatshop, as it does four times a year when we’re shipping out the Gold Club.
And our own Leigh Alexander has published a hot eBook! Clipping Through: One Mad Week in Videogames walks us through her experience at the Game Developers Conference, offering a powerful, personal side to a format that can appear a little inhuman at the best of times. I’ve read it! It’s great. You should read it too.