Games News! 13/08/18

nebulous gems, digital gnomes, Pacman-style
Quinns: Oh my goodness. As always, a deluge of announcements came out of Gen Con this year. We should probably start by covering all of the news to gush forth from the excellent studio that is Fantasy Flight Games.

The centrepiece of this press conference? Keyforge. A new card game from Richard Garfield, designer of both Magic: The Gathering and Netrunner, that uses very advanced technology. In fact, the technology behind printing Keyforge is so bonkers that just about everybody in the audience couldn’t wrap their heads around it.

Paul: I coul-

Quinns: So, Keyforge is a game about fantastical factions smashing the crap out of one another in a quest for nebulous gems. The universe is ridiculous and reminds me of League of Legends, but in play the game resembles Magic: The Gathering or even Hearthstone. You play creatures, and then those creatures can spend your turn either attacking enemy creatures OR harvesting the crystals that ultimately win you the game.

But I’m burying the lede! The twist is that to play Keyforge you have to buy a deck, but every deck ever printed for this game will be unique, with its own card back and unique combination of cards. So Keyforge isn’t a game with any deckbuilding whatsoever. You just buy a deck off the shelf and that deck features a unique yet balanced combination of the 200-some cards the game will have at launch.

We’ll have some early impressions of Keyforge on the next podcast, but it’s both crazier and less crazy than it sounds.

Paul: Yeah! We had our first games of it at GenCon last week and there’s plenty to be said!

Speaking of crazy games, though none of us have ever been great lovers of Arkham Horror (don’t mistake the vast amount of time this this enormous game has demanded of us for adoration; it’s impossible to not play Arkham Horror for hours!), nobody can ignore the imminent arrival of a third edition. Thirteen years after the second edition, this is not a dramatic remake and is still an immediately recognisable beast, but it does boast some significant changes. There are still the thick decks of location cards, with their great variety of random events, an armoury’s worth of weapons to collect, clues tokens to be gobbled up Pacman-style, and tiny little Arkham dollars to be spent.

But there’s now also a new, modular board, which allows you to build different towns for different scenarios, as well as an increased focus on developing narrative as each game progresses. Finding more clues or failing to keep the forces of unpleasantness under control can both cause the story to progress and trigger new events. I had a chance to try this at GenCon, also, and it was still very much the Arkham that I recognise (and am not in love with), but undeniably streamlined and sculpted into a newer, slimmer shape.

Quinns: Fantasy Flight also announced a couple of very surprising expansions. Of all things, the classy and now venerable second edition of the Game of Thrones board game (released in 2011) is getting an expansion. Did you miss our review of this? In a nutshell, it’s a fabulously evocative experience where up to six players ceaselessly scheme and backstab their way towards the Iron Throne.

Mother of Dragons will be a dramatic and ambitious box that will add an entire new continent to the game. With this, a player can take on the role of Daenerys, mother of dragons, as well as three cute little marbled dragon pieces that will grow stronger and stronger throughout the game. Additionally, someone can play as the creepy House Arryn, bringing the total player count to eight.

There’s also some cool stuff to do with the Iron Bank and vassal houses and ooh, ooooh, all of this gets me excited! I think it’s great when publishers support the older board games in their stable, rather than just blasting us in new releases that may or may not be good.

In further news of ridiculous additions, Star Wars Armada is getting a laughably large 24-inch “miniature” of a Super Star Destroyer. I won’t be buying it, but I still do like Star Wars Armada and wish I had more time to play it. I wonder how long it takes a Chinese factory worker to paint something like this?

Paul: That is, without doubt, one of the most ridiculous and melodramatic miniatures I’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, far more benign that heaving, hulking space-daggers are the docile dromedaries of Altiplano. Cue Altiplano: The Traveler, an upcoming expansion which adds a new board, more locations and resources to the furry, fuzzy game of resource management.

Quinns: There’s some debate over whether the gentle economic game of Altiplano is better than its predecessor, Orleans. All l I know is that Matt and I like Altiplano quite a bit. Crafting carpets in the Andes is a fabulous setting for a game, and while it’s true that Altiplano can be a little long and features hardly any player interaction, I was still delighted to see the announcement of The Traveler. Because again, I hate to see good games get forgotten in the crush of the new.

The Kickstarter we’d like to point you to this week is the second print run of Bargain Quest. Remember that game? We managed to sell out within 24 hours of our review going live? Yes, erm, sorry about that.

The good news is, the renewed interest in the game has allowed Jonathan and Victoria Ying to launch a second Kickstarter, featuring a new expansion! The Black Market will let players of Bargain Quest dabble in the illegal. By buying Black Market upgrades for your shop, not only will players unleash powerful (and hilarious!) cards from the new Black Market deck in the game’s drafting phase, those players will get first pick.

Paul: Fantastic! I do rather like that game and I’m delighted to see it doing well. Speaking of “doing well,” Games Workshop must be jubilant right now, as news of their profits doubling has been a big enough announcement that it’s reached the mainstream media and was reported by the BBC at the end of last month. GW’s shares have risen by almost 150% this year and those profits they’ve announced reach almost £75m.

That’s no small potatoes for what is supposed to be a relatively niche industry. After not doing so great the last couple of decades, England’s gaming veterans are enjoying an enormous resurgence, something which I have to say I honestly was not sure was coming for a while, but they’ve turned things around, haven’t they?

Quinns: As impressive as these numbers are, they’re also in no way surprising to me! Games Workshop have undergone a tremendous shift in management recently, one that I’d summarise as “Joining the 21st Century”. They’re working to make their games easier to start collecting, with free rules and generous starter sets. They’re licensing out their intellectual property far more freely to developers, and finally helping press to cover their games. In the last few years, Games Workshop went from never responding to the emails of Shut Up & Sit Down to eagerly offering us every new release.

Speaking of which, following on from last month’s news of Warhammer 40k Monopoly, Steve Jackson Games just announced Warhammer 40k Munchkin. Can Warhammer 40k Fluxx be that far away?

Paul: And while we’re on the subject of the gigantic and gargantuan, we have to tell you all about Asmodee Digital’s decision to adapt Gloomhaven, coming “soon” to Steam, Valve’s all-powerful digital distribution platform. This means we could be playing Gloomhaven on our PCs and trawling our way through its complex, convoluted dungeons not long after the new year.

Asmodee have made a point of stating that this is not simply a direct translation, not a paragraph-by-paragraph rules adaptation, but a version of the game that has been tweaked to better suit this implementation and to make the most of the platform’s possibilities. As you can see from the trailer, there’s all sorts of animation and fancy new special effects for the kids, but I’d imagine we can also expect a little more number-crunching, handled effortlessly by our PCs, while we players are left to focus on making key choices. With a computer filing all the paperwork, so to speak (digital gnomes and all that), I think we’re going to be looking at more randomised, deeper dungeons and more detailed encounters.

Quinns: And just to blitz past a few more announcements that made board gaming headlines this week, the 1981 board game of “electronic wizardry” The Dark Tower is being republished by Restoration Games, so that might be fun! 1995 VHS board game Atmosfear is being republished but not by Restoration Games, so that might be less fun.

I still want to get an old VHS player and a bunch of VHS board games. I think that’d be a pleasantly horrific series of items in my board game collection.

Paul: The Star Trek one, I hear, is terrible.