Matt: Hello! Before I hand over to my fictional robotic counterpart, I just wanted to point your attention towards the home of the new unofficial Shut Up & Sit Down forum. We unfortunately had to shut down the servers we were running ourselves, but we wish the new forum all of the best and would highly recommend getting over there for a good old gander – they really are a very lovely bunch. And without further ado, here’s a robot with my face and voice:
Mart Leez: This Tuesday, we’ve got Wingspan with Elizabeth Hargrave, and on Thursday Tom and Matt will be playing some “board games”! Then, next Tuesday, Matt will be playing some Fugitive with Tim Fowers, and having a cosy print-and-play session on Thursday. That’s all from me, your favourite LeesCorp information dispenser. Have a pleasant week!
Tom: Huh. It seems a lot more sprightly this week. Guess the repairs worked after all – I was worried that we’d have to naturally end Mart’s character arc after a slow degradation through relentless employee abuse. But hey – seems like it really is a ‘joke too convenient to kill’.
Ava: I guess that’s the benefit of having complete authorial power over a fictional construct.
Mart Leez: You know I can hear you, right?
Tom: Back in your box, Mart, there’s a news going on.
Ava: Small World of Warcraft is a strong name, and the most inevitable outcome of Days of Wonder collaborating with Blizzard. This very much does what it says on the tin: a new version of Small World, set in Azeroth. Small World’s central conceit is a menu of mix and match special abilities and the factions that love them. It makes for a really nice sense of movement, as each player shifts between various different factions over the course of the game, with each one rising and falling in overlapping waves of history. I’m left sitting here wondering how much it’ll attempt to tweak Small World’s odd cocktail of simple warfare and pedantic rule interactions. It’d be nice to see a whole cross compatible new set of abilities and peoples, but coming up with yet another variant set is a tricky design challenge, especially when even the base game came with rules that required a little bit of lawyering to get through.
Honestly, I’m focusing on Small World to cover up that I only played WoW for about ten minutes while working in an internet cafe, so don’t know anything about it. (Which is a blatant lie, as actually I dropped SEVERAL MANY HOURS into Warcrafts 2 and 3, so I do just about know my Arthas from my elf-bow).
Tom: All of my knowledge of Warcraft comes from the mouths of heartfelt video essayists talking about how much it meant and means to them, so I have a lot of secondhand sentiment for it. I wonder how those guys feel about the game being shrunk down until it’s the size of an orc’s toenail. How are they going to log on now? With a tiny little keyboard, I suppose.
Ava: … are we reading the same piece of news? Did you just read the headline?
Tom: no comment.
Ava: Deep Vents is new from Ryan Laukat’s fabulously illustrated Red Raven Games. This one had me googling ‘archaea’, the one celled organisms that feed on the weirdly fertile deep sea vents of the title and are the currency of the game. Players will be grabbing tiles, and adding them to their own hot, wet ecosystem, which will continue to grow and react everytime a tile is added. You’ll be picking up archaea, or spending them to activate other fancier animals with special interlocking abilities. It sounds a little bit like a deep sea suburbia, and that’s quite a strong elevator pitch.
Tom: Yeti Crab? Goblin Shark? Scaly Foot Snail? Sign me up for these wild creatures as soon as possible. I’m absolutely pumped. Hot Wet Ecosystem is my favourite Hendrix song, as well.
Tom: Ah, so after some googling I found out that the song I thought I was referencing actually turns out to be called ‘Long Hot Summer Night’?
Ava: It’s good you mention that here before our dear readers make the same mistake I did and google ‘Hot Wet Hendrix’ to find some… questionable reading.
Tom: I can only apologise for the trauma I have inflicted.
Ava: Sticking with the sea (but moving swiftly away from any hot wet bits) Wizkids are releasing a two player follow up to a game I didn’t even notice called Flotilla, set in the same ‘universe’ but with totally new mechanics.
In Seastead, players will fish literal rubbish out of the sea, and pick the best bits for themselves, leaving the leavings to their opponent. On your turn you’re either diving or building, adding to the options and bonuses available on your shared flotilla. Building cobbled together habitats and then floating them across the oceans has always been one of my favourite fantasies that would probably actually be horrifically difficult.
Tom: We talked about Flotilla a little on the podcast, and how we found its party trick, in having an asymmetric ‘two-phase’ structure, to be a little lacking. We also found it a little disappointing that direct competition didn’t seem to be at the fore in something that has the veneer of a ‘slowly expanding territory’ game. Colour me interested, then, as it seems that the former has been completely dropped and the latter given more of a focus here. Flotilla was a game that had a lot of promise, and I very much enjoyed the idea of lording it over a big raft of trash – so I’m curious to see if this will tighten up the loose bolts that were holding it all together.
Ava: I’m kinda tickled that the Wizkids blurb here has not noticed there’s a pandemic, talking almost entirely about lunch breaks, cafes and dates. Perhaps it’s aspirational.
Tom: Clearly a few bolts still a little loose, there.
Ava: Am I better than to link to a game that sounds a bit bland and could be played with any 22 cards just because it’s got a cat-based take on tarot’s major arcana? LET’S FIND OUT.
Major Arcana, The Tarot Game is a set of twenty two cards with feline illustrations of the trump suit of the tarot deck. A simple guessing and memory game where players call out numbers for other players to discard, with you hoping to hold on your cards the longest. Honestly, it looks fine and forgettable, but it’s unique selling point is illuminated cat tarot artwork. I’d like to see more people make games with tarot decks. There’s so many narratives and numbers in those decks, that I hope more designers are up for toying with that magic. Though I imagine the trick remains making something you can market out of a deck of cards that can be acquired in a thousand different variations already.
Tom: I’m reminded of a video from The Infinite Review on Tarot, and how they highlighted the existence of ‘Corporate Motivation’, ‘Hip Witches’ and ‘Mobile Suit Gundam Wing’ decks. If you shuffle them all together then blimey, does your future look like a gathering of suit-clad mechs that listen to Anna Von Hausswolff.
Ava: Slightly concerned that my passion for tarot and Anna Von Hausswolff makes me the hip witch in this trifecta. Bring me a poster of a gundam saying ‘Teamwork makes the dream work’ stat.
After being shown Age of Steam, and its Moon map expansion, I’m faintly obsessed with people making train games set on the moon. I could probably even manage a segue about the Moon card in the tarot with that weird lobster shouting at the moon, but it might be an even deeper cut than hot wet Hendrix.
Ava: 21Moon is a ridiculously named entry in the hobby within a hobby of 18xx games, based on Francis Tresham’s 1829. 21Moon takes infrastructure building business-em-up into the future and onto the moon. It’s not actually about trains (boo) but building road networks between mining industries on our lesbian neighbour in space. The actual core of 18xx games is buying stocks and investing in and manipulating each other’s companies, which I guess is as valid on the moon as anywhere else. Although it does seem like a shame to see space finally corrupted by capitalism. Where will Tim Curry hide now? Sticking with trains, we’re choo-chooing to kickstarter with Railroad Ink’s new challenge editions. I’m not going to dive too deep into this as we already mentioned it, but the kickstarter is live, and the green and yellow editions of this locomotive roll and write look lovely. There’s a whole host of boxes and boards and expansions on offer. Looks like now’s the ideal time to get on board this particular bandwagon.
Tom: You know, I’ve actually started to miss the train, which is something I never thought I’d say. Maybe I’ll play a couple of hours of Railroad Ink before and after work as the closest alternative to being treated to Southern Rail’s finest, most humid carriages. Ahh, takes me back…
Ava: At risk of falling terrifyingly deep into train nerdery, the new Railroad Ink editions are dressed in the right livery for Southern Rail.
Ava: Maharaja is from game design hotties Kramer and Kiesling, and is one of those stuffy looking classics that’s getting a new lick of paint and a few fancier components. It’s a game of bopping around India building shrines and statues to impress the travelling Maharaja. The game offers simultaneous action selection, route navigation where you either have to build your own path or pay other people to use theirs. Points and money are on offer for building the most things in the cities, provided you’re on top when the titular King comes to town. There’s a lot of stuff to tie yourself in knots over, and a kickstarter video that attempts to liven up a dry rules explanation with music that sounds like it’s from an action blockbuster.
I’ve played it! I remember liking it, but I can’t remember why. Sorry that’s not actually helpful.
Tom: Opinions are secondary to our swift delivery of all the finest news. Tune in next week, for a comprehensive list of current kickstarters with one joke at the end, and nothing more.
Ava: Don’t tempt me! I could really do with a Monday off!
Ava: Friedman Friese’s The Fight, is now available as a print and play to support the playtesting efforts mentioned in his lockdown design blog. This is being pitched as being in the same vein as The Crew and The Mind, which puts it in hallowed company, but reading about it, I see it more as a co-operative take on Cutthroat Caverns, with a little splash of Welcome to the Dungeon. Players are trying to play cards into a series of battles with card-based monsters, while not able to communicate, and trying to save enough for the next battle. It sounds simple and I’m not sure it’ll work, but (a) I would’ve said the same thing about The Crew or The Mind and (b) presumably that’s why he’s throwing it out to a wider web of playtesters.
Personally, and perhaps unreasonably, I resent a game that says you can’t communicate numbers but you can make vague statements. The Mind and The Crew are both specific enough that it’s pretty obvious what is and isn’t allowed, but I hate when the rules are any less clear. People quickly build their own language for what’s what, even if they’re trying not to, and I’m never quite sure if that means I’m playing the game right or cheating.
Ava: A bundle of British role playing design folks have put together a discounted bundle of games to raise money for the protective equipment for the National Health Service. Ignoring the fact that I’m furious that the NHS is having to rely on charity to get the equipment it needs to keep its workers alive, this is quite a lovely thing.
Tom: Getting sorely needed protective equipment to our vulnerable healthcare service as they’re continually screwed over by “those-who-shall-not-be-named” is one thing, but what’s in it for me? What’s the GAMEFEEL like? There are systems in here that let you run amok in a Kafka-esque bureaucratic nightmare of a magic school, be cosmically horrified by GM-Less lovecraft dread simulator, or do a tarot-themed heist mission with ‘reality bending monsters that wear skin like a suit’. There’s a lot to love here, and a lot to be deeply confused by. I might have to grab a few of these myself!