Tom: Ava, I have placed the news under arrest. I found it stealing lollipops from toddlers and pelting old people with bricks.
Ava: One of those crimes definitely seems worse than the other.
Tom: How about stealing bricks from toddlers and pelting old people with lollipops? Either way, the news has been thoroughly cancelled and we’re going to have to manage this week without it. I hope you’ve brought all your best ‘News?’ to the table.
Ava: Erm. We’ll see?
It’s beginning to look a lot like winter, and that means new game announcements are slowing down and I’m starting to run out of things to cover.
Thankfully it also means that it’s a great time to launch a sparkly game box like Winter Queen, an abstract game that promises a load of crystal-shuffling shenanigans.
Tom: The setup in Winter Queen is pretty straightforward – you can place crystals on a board to get spellbooks, place crystals in those spellbooks to prime them, and then activate those spellbooks to score specific crystal layouts on the main board. It’s a crystal and spellbooks ouroboros of choices! Decisions! Winter! Gems!
The whole gem-scoring system is wrinkled by the ability to take those pretty shiners off the board when you score, disrupting plans and spannering the works; but following in most abstracts, understanding the fun is like explaining circular gemstone to medium square.
You know what? I’ll be medium square with you, reader. When faced with the prospect of writing anything about a game, my brain immediately starts shuffling for jokes by rearranging letters. The best I’ve got here is ‘Quinter Ween’ a game about the band Ween being cloned once and then half cloned again. It’d be a territory control deal where two rival Weens fight for musical dominance in the nineties indie scene while a 5th, superior Ur-Ween adjudicates proceedings with their fully integrated Weenbrain. Then you flip the board to play the noughties, with your success in the first round determining whether you get your own label or have to keep relying on Elektra to fund your subsequent ‘bad records’. There’s obviously a fishing minigame.
Ava: This could be a whole new way of reviewing games. Which do you reckon is going to be better, Quinter Ween or Winter Queen?
Tom: I’m sure our readers feel suitably informed to make a decision after reading such rigorous journalism.
Ava: I feel a bit awkward talking about Alhambra being on kickstarter for like, the second time this year? I feel bad for anyone who jumped on the Alhambra Roll and Write to get themselves a load of Alhambra stuff, when now there’s another big pile of boxes you can get your hands on.
That said, I quite like Alhambra. It’s a solid but fusty tile laying game of collecting majorities in your own little palace. It’s got a really nice currency system that means it’s hard to judge what stuff costs, and collecting the right coinage is more important than collecting lots. It’s got one of my favourite rules to teach, that ‘just like in real life, if you pay with correct change, you get an extra turn’. It’s a little bit dry, and it’s terrible at high player counts, but if you fancy a nice little game covered with a million inconsistently-necessary appendages, maybe this is the big box for you? You can give the game a try on board game arena, which at least means you won’t be going in completely unaware.
Tom: Honestly, it’s a bit of a slow news week. I think the newspipes might be starting to freeze up for the winter.
Ava: Port Royal getting a new big box edition isn’t really news either. There’s two reasons I’m linking though, firstly, it’s a solid push your luck game with a nice central choice and a load of interesting efficiency wrinkles and several expansions. Secondly, there’s a small chance the new edition is happening entirely because Quinns is on the record as really not liking Klemens Franz’s artwork.
The new big box of the small but swashbuckling game will include all the many expansions, and a totally new set of artwork, except for the iconography, which will remain the same so you don’t have to relearn a new set of symbols if you’ve played the old ones. As the owner of a single ‘expandalone’ box, that wasn’t really enough of the game to stand alone, I may well jump on this, as I have some fond memories of Port Royalling at conventions and in a Glasgow pub.
Tom: Continuing in the slow news theme, this is absolutely not news as it happened MULTIPLE weeks ago – but it’s NEWS TO ME so I thought I’d jump in to include it. As I ventured over to BGA to set up a game of Alhambra (fueled by the excitement of the above news item) I found out that the folks running the site are adding a new game into the database on every day of December ? That’s wild! Isn’t it? A new game every day! I think it’s wild. Sorry, carry on with the news.
Ava: I know! It’s a lot of games. I found myself looking up the rules for ‘Solo Whist’, which I regret to inform you is a four player game, although it does have the weird wrinkle of dealing cards (sometimes intentionally not shuffled to create weird bundles) and then having you bid to decide what game you’ll be playing, varying from a two v two team game to various three versus one variants, including one where one player has to try and lose every trick, despite playing with an open hand. Ridiculous, and the betting rules sound vicious.
Ava: Some nice newsy news is that Omari Akil has been brought in as the new president of the Indie Game Developer Network, who support a range of smaller publishers and developers of table top thingummies. They offer scholarships, awards, mentoring and coaching and with a particular focus on diversity in the industry.
I’m pretty excited to see Omari driving that forward, as we’ve already seen he’s a man that gets things done. I’d not heard of the IGDN until he tweeted about it, but it sounds like a good project, and I’m already bookmarking and following a load of extra people as a result. Lovely.
Ava: Omari also drops a page or two into The Ultimate Micro-RPG book, a collection of tiny tabletop story games that aims to make it super easy to get playing. Edited by James D’Amato, this comes close to being exactly the sort of thing I’m looking for in RPGs these days. Simple, easy-to-start stories that I can just put in front of people and get playing. Forty is a lot of games! There’s one about being teenage crows. The book is available now in the US, and should be heading further afield soon hopefully.
Tom: My sluggish jokebrain immediately started scrambling for ways to connect Counting Crows to the Teenage Crow RPG, but I just got completely lost reading the lyrics to ‘Mr Jones’. Have you read the lyrics to that song? It’s -OW!
Ava: ‘Ow?’ What happened? Did you get hit by a brick or something?
Tom: Lock up your oldies, the news has escaped.