Tom: Tickets are now available to purchase for the first Games News Gig. Our genre is cardboard and our instruments are words. Join us for a little ditty we like to call ‘The Games News This Week, On The 22nd of June 2020’. It’s going to be OUT THERE.
Ava: Give me a second, I need to look up a very, very, very, niche reference.
Tom: I’ll do a sound check. Let’s play that old classic – ‘The Stream Schedule For The Next Two Weeks Starting On The 22nd of June 2020, Also’.
And a one, and a two, and a one two three four TUUUUESDAY!! PLAYIN’ GLOOMHAYyYY(ven jaws of the lion) THEN THURSDAYYYY!! PLAYIN’ (an rpg called Mothership episode two, catch up on the first episode live on youtube today) TAKE IT AWAY, AVA!
Ava: I’ve lost the words!!
Tom: Huh. I guess we’ll just have to improvise when we get there.
Ava: This one’s for Brian Jones and all the other dinosaurs that got kicked out of the band! 1-2-3-4!
Ava: Capstone Games teamed up with designer Ryan Courtney for last year’s Pipeline, a combo-tastic, oil-filled matrix of mechanics that gave rise to Matt and Tom’s weirdest review yet. Well they’re at it again! Capstone and Courtney that is. Matt and Tom remain safely isolated and entirely unable to cover each other in oil for the foreseeable future.
Tom: I’ve got a super-soaker of vegetable oil ready to go the minute lockdown is lifted.
Ava: Oh dear.
Curious Cargo looks like it’s treading some familiar territory, with a whole web of conveyor belts at the core of each player’s board. A combination of economics, timing and network building gives you a duel-based alternative to Pipeline’s pipelines. Call in a truck at the right moment! Connect an interweaving network of lines! Ship your custom-shaped cargo tokens to your opponent to interfere with their logistics! PVC player boards! It’s all a bit exciting.
Tom: There’s not huge amounts of information on to how the game actually plays, but there are some positively frightening pictures of the board that make the game look like the logistical nightmare that exists in the deepest part of every boardgamer’s amygdala. There are also day and night sides of the board with different difficulties; for when you’re in the mood for a brightly-lit puzzle or a dark and dingy depo. Most of the early days of my internship involved playing plenty of Pipeline against Matt, so an exclusively two-player design from Mr Courtney has me in a state of some kind of imagined nostalgia.
Ava: Star Wars! That was a star war. That was a star, war. That’s a star war.
So goes the theme tune to Star Wars, which I can only assume the app and card based escape room puzzle will belt out at you as you launch into some space wizard hijinks. The cover kind of implies that one of them has you escaping from inside the innards of a tauntaun, and I’ll be honest, I’m here for it. Any puzzle that asks you to carefully tug the correct intestine has to be a winner, right?
Tom: Following that logic, the other two will have you escaping space (difficult, considering it’s what Star Wars is made of, duh) and escaping routine stormtrooper patrol duties. I’m practically salivating.
Ava: Two points of order. Firstly, I had to stop myself going into your sentence and adding ‘duh duh duh DAH duh, duh duh duh DAH duh, duh du duh dah’ after your soitary ‘duh’. Secondly, more escape rooms should be on the theme of just trying to get out of routine duties, it’s highly relatable.
Tom: Coming Q4 2020: ‘Unlock: SU&SD’s Games News’! Escape from bed in the morning, puzzle out some questionable goofery, and tool up for the final boss: Mr Lees.
Ava: Is Mars big? We just can’t tell. It’s too far away for us to know anything for certain, and that’s a fact. What I can tell you, though, is that it’s getting bigger. Or at least, it’s getting a bigger box.
Yes kids, that’s right, Terraforming Mars Big Box has hit kickstarter, and at heart it’s just a big box for all your Terraforming Mars goodies. That’s not quite all that’s going on here, as there’s also some fancy trays for sorting the components and a full set of 3D terrain tiles, to make your Mars more macho. Adding tiny mushroom clouds and adorable forests, it’s all entirely non-essential, but might make your red planet real estate slightly more desirable.
Me? I prefer a small box. This is just too much.
Matt: As someone who was part of the reviewing team for Terraforming Mars, it likely won’t be a surprise that I’m also unexcited at the prospect of More Box. Although oddly, I keep being tempted to buy the App version of the game? Zero box seems my optimal level for this particular beast.
Tom: I like that the first thing you see when you open the webpage is the giant mushroom cloud in the middle of a moderately terraformed mars. I guess nuclear devastation is kind of terraforming…
Ava: Can’t terraform an omelette without splitting a few atoms.
Ava: I am become death, fearer of puns.
Honestly, I’m a bit bewildered that the fourth in the ‘dark cities’ series is set in Bristol. I realise this is just a quirk of geography, but having a series run Salem, Tortuga, Deadwood, Bristol, screams bathos for me. Bristol is most recently a place where statues get rightly thrown in the river, but previously, i mostly associate it with long walks along motorways, a very drizzly hill, and a very expensive whisky in a very unpleasant hotel. It’s weird how exoticism works? I’m sure plenty of people have had drizzly hills in Salem, or been overcharged for liquor in Tortuga, but for me those are sensible places to set a game, but Bristol? It’s like being invited to a music festival in a church hall.
Tom:Ava, you still haven’t told us anything about the game.
Bristol 1350 is a plague cart racing game of dice, deception, and pushing people out of cart and leaving them to die.
Tom: Those little carts do look absolutely wonderful, and I do like that the whole thing folds away very neatly into that dinky little book. You can roleplay a priest hiding a bottle of whisky in a hollowed-out bible – only instead of alcoholism being your sneaky secret, it’s thematically risky boardgames. That or buboes. And speaking of buboes – the main mechanic of the game involves you making sure that you can pass your pustules in regularly scheduled intra-cart ‘mingles’, shuffling your symptoms around like the world’s worst poker dealer – passing off the worst of them off to other passengers so you can gracefully throw them from the cart and onto the street, ready for another cart to take pity on them. With some variable player powers and shaky ‘remedies’ added into the mix, this could be a nice (horrible) little box.
Ava: I don’t know if right now’s the best time to be releasing a social deduction game about whether people have got the plague or not. Though that concern may well be reduced once the box hits the doorstep.
That’s the actual noise I made as I scrolled down The Emerald Flame’s kickstarter page. It’s a box of codes to decipher, mysteries to unravel, and beautiful objects and ephemera to get lost in. The Emerald Flame is a one off puzzling adventure that can be played solo or with friends. It looks like a sumptuous sequence of solvable shenanigans.
Tom: Yeah Ava, sure this is a cool escape room-adjacent experience, but there’s an absolute dearth of tauntaun spleen for the $70 price tag.
Ava: But there’s maps! And alchemical diagrams! And letters with mushrooms on! And wood! Who am I kidding, I hadn’t seen the price when I started rhapsodising. The right kind of person will have an absolute whale of a time with this. By which I mean, a good few hours of studious frustration, which is what everybody associates whales with, right? I’ll trust our dear readers to know if they’ll get enough whalebang for their whalebuck.
Tom: Do you actually look at the words you use after you write them?
Ava: Goonies never say die. Or look back. Or something like that.
Matt: HOT ZONES IN YOUR AREA WANT TO CHAT
The Avril Lavigne: Hey hey, you you, I can’t afford your hot zone. No way no way. Now it’s print and play hey.
Ava: Unsure why The Avril Lavigne dropped in to tell you that the latest micro-edition of the other most awkward game to play right now is available to play for free, but she’s on the money. Pandemic: Hot Zone: North America is now available as a freebie treat, before it’s even hit the shops.
Tom: That title has one too many colons, just like my Uncle Phil! What a story that was, let me tell you-
Ava: -Very much no thank you.
This feels like a canny move for something pitched as the perfect introduction to boardgames. It’s a freely available simplified version of a popular co-op game: anyone could try it! On the other hand, I imagine the type of people who want to try a board game for the first time aren’t the same as those who are up for cutting printer paper into little decks of cards. Either way, it’s a nice freebie.
Meanwhile, Omari Akil, designer of Rap Godz, has a really insightful and challenging piece in The Manifold, a pretty new and pretty exciting board games newsletter. Omari is talking about a set of playtesting feedback that he ignored, because he felt that the systems being criticised were actually an important part of the culture he was representing, and a recognition of the challenges of racism in our culture. It’s a great little read on the assumptions and norms of game design and the things they can reinforce, and be challenged on.
Finally, I want to nod to some brilliant writing talking about unwelcoming spaces, racism and sexism. Fertessa Scott describes some awful experiences at board game shops, and offers ways to make sure this stuff doesn’t happen.
It’s an odd time to be thinking about how to run public game events, as they’re currently pretty much off the cards, but I’m hoping that when we do all come together we’ll all have learnt a thing or two about the importance of challenging norms and hierarchies. We need to make sure we’re welcoming every soul (that’s willing to welcome others without being creeps) to the table properly and consistently.
These last few months we’ve seen the world change overnight, with impossible things happening over and over again. I think we’ve got to keep up that pace, at the gaming table and beyond, and keep making change for better, over, and over, and over, until we live in a world that is the one we really want to live in.
Sorry, I appear to have launched into a ‘Jerry’s final thought’
Ava: OH GOD YOU’RE SO YOUNG
Tom: Matt is consistently existentially horrified when i remind him that i started watching SU&SD when i was FIFTEEN
Ava: Jerry Springer was a minor chaos deity of the nineties. He ran a chat show that was mostly just leering at working class folks and other marginalised groups goaded into yelling at each other. But it always ended with a heartfelt ‘final thought’ about togetherness and understanding.
Tom: Ahhhh I’ve heard of this Jerry. Wait, are we the Jerry Springer of boardgames?
Ava: Hopefully without the leering and goading.