Ava: Oh frabjuous Monday! Callooh! Callay!
The borogroves are mimsy with news. Let’s have a gyre and gimble about the wabe, and see if we can slay that news-jabberwocky with our vorpalest swords. Then we can have some uffish thoughts under the tumtum tree, whiffle and burble through the tulgey wood and galumph back home after a job well done.
Let’s get our news-toves slithed.
We’ll start with a manxome bang, and one of the most ambitious setting out of stalls I’ve seen, by one of the few people I think might be able to pull it off.
Oath: Chronicles of Exile and Empire is the latest four letter word (with a subtitle) from Cole Wehrle and Leder Games. It’s hitting the ground running with a design diary full of bold and exciting claims. Oath will be a campaign game where goals and rules shift in response to player actions. Cole describes empires falling and changing the nature of the world you’re building. He rejects the legacy game approach to this, promising something even more ambitious. He talks about generation-spanning stories, and each game creating the rules, goals and setting of the next one. Players will take the role of people close to the great and the good, manipulating history to their own ends, and it sounds like there’s a lot of freedom to choose those ends, and then watch the implications play out.
Here’s a quote:
‘There are no scripted narratives or predetermined end points. The history embedded in each copy of Oath will grow to be as unique as the players who helped build it.’
This is, frankly, a bold statement. I’m incredibly curious to see if Cole can pull this off. He’s coming straight off two very well thought of games (Root and Pax Pamir 2nd edition), and I’ve got a lot of faith in him to not make claims like that that he can’t follow through to at least some degree. Chuck in some slightly darker than Root Kyle Ferrin illustrations and the promise of a campaign game it’s really easy to drop in and out of and play as a series of one-shots and I feel like we’re onto something big.
Shifting down a scale or three, we see Roberto Frago (of Captain SONAR fame) teaming up with Sébastien Decad on a smart take on doodling party games we’ve seen before.
Removing the need for drawing ability from the mix is Dekalko, a game in which players race to trace enough of an image to feel confident that people will guess it. The quicker you finish, the more points you stand to gain. Once everyone’s done, you take turns revealing your traces and shouting out answers. With various shields for covering tracings and the original photos, it’s an over-engineered type of fun, but it sounds just the right amount of hubris-inducement to get me giggling. ‘Of course, I can trace something quickly and have it be legible, it’s child’s-play,’ I’ll say, before looking down to see I’ve etched a Giger-esque monstrosity where a door-knob was supposed to be.
In other party game nonsense news, Sit Down Games has once again made me go ‘what, really?’
Palm Reader requires significantly less tech than Dekalko, as you’ll simply be using a finger to draw on the palm of your neighbour’s hand. They’ll then attempt to pass the symbol you’ve drawn down the line by the same method, and you’re hoping to get it all around the table with people still able to identify it when you reveal what you could’ve been carving. It’s simple, it’s silly, it sounds easy, and it might be hilarious.
Plus everyone gets to feel super awkward about having to touch each other’s hands. Make sure everyone’s okay with that before you suggest it? But then ‘is everyone okay touching their neighbour’s hand?’ is a pretty reliable conversation killer. Who knows. I’m just glad Sit Down Games isn’t giving up on having the weirdest sales pitches, the oddest obstacles, and the most awkward conversations. Keep up the good work.
In Kickstarter politicking news, Christopher Grey has created a game about unions called ‘10 Workers United’, that remixes the doom-laden darkness of role-playing horror game 10 candles into a message of hope and solidarity by putting it in reverse and having the players get more powerful as they unite.
The project is explicitly set up to raise awareness around the attempts of Kickstarter United to gain recognition from Kickstarter as a sanctioned union. (I’ve talked about this enough already, but obviously, keep emailing [email protected] and showing solidarity however feels best for you). It’s also trying to directly teach the benefits of unionising. Which is lovely.
There’s a little hint of Paranoia in one player taking the role of ‘The Company’ while the players are the workers, but it sounds like this one might have a happier ending. We’re still hoping the same is true for the unionisation effort, as if we haven’t already made that abundantly clear.
The nascent union still hasn’t asked for a boycott, so we’re still promoting kickstarters on here. But we’re also still keeping an eye on the situation.
Significantly less politically apposite, but possibly a bit cuddlier, is Calico. Also on Kickstarter, Calico combines two of my favourite themes, cats and quilts.
Calico has you stitching together hexagonal patterns to lure cats with very specific textile kinks to curl up with you. Matching colours gets you buttons, matching patterns gets you cats, and your player boards come with their own specific bonuses for particular achievements. This looks adorable and a little bit ruthless. I’m not convinced of the depth, but I’ve heard some people say nice things.
As we always say (and the same goes for the rest of these projects) it may be worth waiting until the game has hit more tables and a retail release before risking your money.
The opposite of cats is Romans. So it’s no surprise that Rome and Roll, previously played and podcasted about by ‘the boys’, is asking for your money at the same time. Will those centuries old rivals ever make friends? I don’t think this game will let you find out.
Rome and Roll has you rebuilding the titular city after a fire has destroyed most of it. Which is pretty helpful for a game that needs to start with a blank open board. You’ll be rolling dice and drawing tetris shaped buildings, as well as exploring, conquering and generally being a big old Roman. This looks significantly denser than your average roll’n’write, tasking you with building a shared city, alongside your own little player board heaving with rules and tick-boxes.
Quinns dropped this in the news google doc with the words ‘we’ve played this, and it’s good, if extremely heavy’, which is actually a heartier recommendation than the podcast pull-quote used on the campaign page. Maybe worth a look if you want to get your teeth into something chewy and Romey.
Like the cats do.
Honestly, I’ve no idea where I concocted this Romano-Feline beef, but it’s going right in the historical headcanon.
Grabbing my fanciest fancy is the latest weird little thing from my favourite producer of weird little things, Carl Chudyk. And actually, the weirdest thing here is that it’s not that little! I think this might be Chudyk’s first big box game!
Blood of the Northmen looks from a distance like any other Norse-ish brawler, and I was a bit baffled as to how it could be specific enough to follow in the footsteps of ‘posh historical fluxx, but in a good way, I promise’’ Innovation and ‘as ugly as it is brilliant’ Glory to Rome. On closer inspection, it’s a tile laying game where the number of sides of your tile with a particular landscape defines how much you can do the associated action. Slam down some forests, and you’ll be dragging new vikings out of them. Place some lakes, and you’ll actually get to move. Mountains is fighting talk. You get the gist. It’s a weird thing! I’ve no idea how it would actually play!
I’m one hundred percent behind the idea, but it’s worth noting this is more out of doting loyalty to Carl. Chudyk is a designer I love so much that I tracked down a copy of one of his early game-crafter prototypes, which is the equivalent of loving a band so much you hunt down their weird early demo tapes. I am not to be trusted!
I try to make my ‘and finally’ something other than a game. But this tickled me in the right way to break my rules. Kira Magrann has made a one page rpg about hallucinating mooses. Not in a silly ‘lol random’ way, but in a gentler ‘let’s think about how beauty in the world can be experienced by taking on different perspectives’ way. I’m here for it.
If you /aren’t/ tickled by the idea of something with enormous horns taking psychedelics, then I’m just gonna have to give up on the concept of tickling.
It’s called Moose Trip.
We live in a beautiful world, people. Never forget that.