GAMES NEWS! 18/03/19

snicker-snack, 9999 spinoffs, a very white box, a sexy rash
SU&SD 105 comment(s)

Matt: Hot on the tracks of the Shut Up & Sit Down News Train, I am hurtling towards Exciting Board Game Information at a speed of ninety miles-per-hour, after briefly stopping at East Croydon Station.

As those of you who caught our unexpectedly tense stream of The Estates last week will know, today we’re about to start work with Kylie Wroe – our first intern of 2019! You’ll be reading and hearing bits from her in the future, but today you’re still lumped with Little Lees and Daddy Quinns, who will later be meeting to make a dent in our *teetering* stack of review copies.

Mr Quintin: please OPEN THE NEWS DOORS!

Quinns: Our top story this week is that Restoration Games has announced Unmatched, a brand-spanking new reimplementation of Star Wars: Epic Duels, the game that would later become the foundation of much-loved, now-defunct design Heroscape.

Heroscape was a sandbox game that let wildly different characters from across time and space (and different expansions) fight one another, and that’s exactly what Unmatched is offering. However, where Heroscape was defined by the cheap cost of mass-producing plastic miniatures in 2004, Unmatched is defined by a collaboration with Mondo, a collectibles company that’s currently expanding into board games, which has given Unmatched some astonishingly cool art.

As soon as this game was announced, I saw excitement spreading across board game twitter like a sexy rash. Heroscape is a beloved game, and the thought of Restoration Games bringing it back with a new, classy look is quite the proposition.

What’s proved more divisive is Unmatched’s initial selection of playable characters, namely King Arthur, Medusa, Sinbad and Alice (of “In Wonderland” fame), while the first expansion will pit Bigfoot against Robin Hood. Personally, I’m excited by a lineup straight out of classic folklore and literature. Other people are, of course, impatient to see the kind of licensed characters that a platform like this was made for- e.g., The Incredible Hulk vs. She-Ra vs. Starscream.

But with Mondo’s industry connections, it’s likely we’ll see that soon enough.

Matt: Funforge has announced Namiji – “a standalone game in the Tokaido product line”. This press release literally tells me absolutely nothing else about the game, and the News Train WiFi isn’t good enough for watching videos so honestly all that I can tell you is that, just like Tokaido, it comes in a very white box.

Quinns: Haha. I love that rather than leaving this story to me, someone who’s actually played Tokaido, you soldiered on regardless. You’re a good man, Matt.

You can read my review of Tokaido here. First released in 2012, it remains a uniquely lovely game of travelling from Kyoto to Tokyo, and competing with your fellow travellers to have the best time along the way. Mechanically, on your turn you travel as far down the road as you want, and collect the reward from a space that’s then denied to everyone else. In other words, you’re cherry-picking rewards as you attempt to collect sets without going broke.

Namiji will have the same mechanic of travelling down a track, but “what people will be doing” will be different. Judging from the abstract box art, we might expect a little more… fishing? It’s hard to say.

Matt: DUNE! Possibly my favourite science fiction property containing giant worms and/or Sting, for years Dune the board game has been a terrifyingly rare cult hit, later reimagined by Fantasy Flight games as Rex: Final Days of an Empire. I played Rex once about five years ago, and the game ended within about thirty minutes due to an unlikely but frankly beautiful chain of edge-case events. A game of deception, politics, and circular sweeping waves of death, this is one of those rare, gorgeous, odd designs that I’m thrilled to hear will soon be available again.

The new edition will come from Gale Force Nine, the company behind Star Trek Ascendency, Firefly Adventures, and the Sons of Anarchy game that popped up a few years ago. My only reservation at this stage – surprise surprise – is one of aesthetics. Dune as a property is evocative and arcane, luxurious yet doomed. It would be a huge shame if such a momentous reprint failed to capture that admittedly tricky visual benchmark, so here’s hoping that they invest in the required talent to make this production sharp and special.

Matt: This week’s news item that makes Matt feel like a alien is the announcement of Talisman: Batman – Super-Villains Edition. The supersaturation of comic book products over the last decade continues to amaze me, particularly when it comes to Batman – a property that has only produced one truly classic piece of media in the last 30 years. Time will tell if 1997’s Batman and Robin will ever find company in the echelons of greatness, but perhaps Talisman has the star quality to ring the bat-bell?

With USAopoly having bought the rights to Talisman, you can expect to see approximately 9999 spinoffs in the months and years to come – which frankly feels appropriate for a game that this morning I have suddenly realised is effectively just Monopoly For Nerds.

Is that too catty, Quinns? Have I set off the catty alarm? How long do I have before the trapdoor above my train carriage opens and showers me in assorted cats?

Matt: Continuing Quintin’s fantasy of Root being a game that never stops being new, I’m sure he’ll be chuffed this morning to see that the Kickstarter for the second expansion (and a load of other extras!) is doing very well.

Quinns: Yes! The second Root expansion will add Moles and Crows as playable factions, as well as add two new map boards, to be delivered in the first quarter of 2020. The Kickstarter is also offering a brand-new deck of cards to optionally play with instead of the deck in the base set, but that won’t be delivered until late 2020. At which point we should probably expect another Kickstarter for another set of expansions.

Matt, I get the feeling that if the publishers have anything to do with it, we’re going to be playing Root for years.

Matt: Could we see a reality a decade from now where this game features a Cosmic Encounter-style zoo of playable factions? I’m onboard with that in theory, but then again, the base game of Root and both expansions is already $150 (plus shipping). That’s pretty pricey.

Quinns: Sure, but then again, it’s still cheaper than some of the crazy miniatures-heavy Kickstarters of recent years.

Matt: True. Perhaps it’s more telling that the thing I want most of all after scanning through the Kickstarter page is the plushy of the mouse, which looks 100% adorable. Seeing all of these wonderful new screen-printed animals, I can’t help but think how cool it would be if they included a little cardboard concertina of the forest, so you could display the adorable wooden beasts on a shelf somewhere? Bits this beautiful shouldn’t be hidden in a box.

Matt: Finally, we’ve got a little request we’d like to share on behalf of our friends who run Now Play This – an annual interactive exhibition about games that takes place in London’s Somerset House. They want to put together an exhibit made up of cards or components from tabletop games that people have lovingly defaced / amended / personalised / improved.

The idea is to celebrate and examine the way that people personalise their games, and the different kinds of context that can naturally develop within groups of people that play them. It’s a fascinating and wonderful bit of collective voyeurism that I’ll definitely be trying to contribute to myself – and whilst they won’t be able to return the cards received, those included will be documented and stored. IT’S CALLED SUFFERING FOR ART, DAVID. SUFFER FOR IT, THANKS.

I’ll be personally looking forward to visiting the exhibition later this year, so those who send in things will hopefully be – at the very least – mildly entertaining me.