Tom: …So they were saying that I didn’t care at all about the game, when really that couldn’t be further from the truth! I was super invested!
Ava: Wait what’s going on are you-
Tom: -and I just found myself getting so frustrated because even though my strategy was a little rough around the edges… Ultimately, I did Care, Too!
Ava: Ha! Just like the… Wait did you go back to the start of the article to edit this bit so that you could make the reference first? Nobody is going to have a clue what’s going on.
Tom: It’ll be like Primer. Everyone will have to go back and read it a second time, and we’ll get paid twice as much.
Ava: Well, you certainly will be, with this lovely shiny penny.
Tom: GHOST! TRAIN! IN! A GHOST! GAME! If there’s not a ghost train in ‘Mysterium Park’ I’m suing the owners for damages to my emotional property.
Ava: Mysterium Park aims to be a shorter, more compact version of the classic psychic ghost murder mystery. Moving the spookery to a haunted fairground, and putting everything on a three by three grid, the game promises less set up, and more speed. With just two rounds (no murder weapon to find), and a Codenames style ‘ghost grid’ for establishing who the suspects are instead of matching cards from different decks, plenty of the faff is removed.
Tom: The idea of ignoring the murder weapon seems really strange to me, a Person Who Has Played Mysterium, Like, Twice™. ‘It was Mr LeBlanc! In the drawing room! How did he do it? *shrugs* that’s for the real police to find out’. I’m sure this decision will make sense in the context of the game at large though, and produce something that’s… fine? I’m putting my money on ‘just fine’.
Matt: I’m quietly very optimistic about this one – I love Mysterium but there’s no denying that as a game it would benefit from a substantial de-faff.
Ava:I always thought Kingdom Builder was pretty charming, but not exactly thrilling. Now Donald X Vaccarino is “doing a Frosthaven”: adding a few tactical wrinkles and moving the whole thing to colder climes.
Tom: Kingdom… Chill…der…
Ava: No, Tom. Put that down.
Winter Kingdom initially sounds identical to Kingdom Builder, with players placing cards on a matching terrain type each turn to try and maximise bonuses for adjacency. However, the snowy version adds a few smart details that might be worth a second look. A twist card will add an extra rule to each game, and players can also accumulate money to spend on a selection of special abilities.
Also, thanks to Eric W Martin’s choice of article title, I’ve now got the song from Frozen in my head and I might do a cry.
Tom: Sounds like you need a drink. And a bike. And a RACE.
Ava:In further news poached from the hallowed halls of Boardgamegeek, We’ve got a game that does indeed combine Belgium, beer and racing. Oh yes, that’s right, the deadliest trifecta in the low countries.
Belgian Beers Race has players bouncing between brewers until they’re too drunk to carry on playing (not actually a rule, but stay safe people) or arrive at the Grand Brussels Palace. It’s based on a real beer festival! Picking a route through a variety of modes of transport is the core of the game. Some ways of getting around are more efficient or more reliable than others. My ‘slicing quotes out of context’ ribs got tickled by the phrase ‘on a bus, you are certain to reach your destination, but, uh, you are in Belgium.’ To clarify though, the problem with Belgian buses is that they get delayed, not that they are in Belgium. Belgium’s actually pretty great.
Matt: It IS great! I also visited Ghent last year as a guest at the wonderful Zomerspel Festival – on the night of our arrival they fed us chips and mayonaisse. A meal that still lingers in my memories, and most likely my arteries.
Tom: I second that Belgium is pretty great! I visited last year with some friends and basically played a real-life version of this game, consuming one ludicrously high abv beer every few hours so as to spend the rest of the day in a slight daze, meandering between tourist attractions, halloween bars and antique shops. We were, however, victims of the ‘hangover and other obstacles’ that the game promises, provided that the ‘other obstacles’ they’re referring to are the winding passages of a tintin museum and trying to find every urinating statue in the city.
Ava: Please tell me there’s a urinating Tintin statue.
Tom:You know what Frank Zappa says. Don’t eat the yellow Snowy.
Ava: You know what’s near to Belgium though? France. And do you know what’s in France? Paris.
Paris is new from dreamy designer mega-duo Kramer and Kiesling, and is on Kickstarter now. It promises a lovely round board that will slowly fill with buildings and landmarks and other French fancies in the Belle Epoque. Players will be investing in buildings, and shuffling their keys around to earn money and lay claim to areas, whilst also dancing around a roundabout of bonuses and abilities. It’s the sort of game where the board gives me a headache just looking at it, but these are two of the steadiest hands in the business, so there could be a lot of excitement here. I’m sensing a soupçon of the immaculately mean Mexica in a game where area majority is determined somewhat separately from how the areas are scored.
Tom: My housemate heard me watching the Kickstarter video for this game and said ‘wow, that sure sounds like a board game’. It’s true. You can ‘collect bonuses to gain victory points in all sorts of ways when you choose to activate them’.
Ava: Agreed. Going against our usual policy of Kickstarter ambivalence, I feel confident we can officially say ‘This is a board game’. Just wait to see that pull quote showing up on their site.
And do you know where Paris isn’t? Under the sea. But I’m at risk of referencing my second Disney musical in one week, so we’d better move on.
Ava: Aquanauts is an underwater worker placement game where players build deep sea research laboratories and race to send samples up in a submarine to a waiting research ship. Players will be balancing the need to publish research with the possibility of upgrading their facilities. There’s some bonuses for placing workers in clusters with others, which adds some depth to the worker placement part. Honestly, I just like underwater things and was a bit disappointed in underwater cities, maybe this will scratch that itch. If not, at least it’s using ‘bioplastic’ to make some of its pieces, which at least sounds more environmentally friendly.
Tom: Can we just use the fact you’ve mentioned plastic to link to that ridiculous Matmos album again?
Ava: Yes Tom. Yes we can. And a shiny penny to the first one of us to reference an Ultimate Care II washing machine in the games news.
Tom: The race… begins?
Ava: Matt Leacock’s quarterly report drops some hints about upcoming games, as well as links to a load of interesting interviews where he discusses everything from the sudden surge in popularity of his games to whether he’s getting fatigued by constantly finding new ways to reinvent Pandemic. He’s got a lot of things coming up that might not be Pandemic related too, including some collaborations with unnamed designers, and I’m eager to see him branch further out.
Tom: I feel like dropping Season Three of Pandemic Legacy while the world will be dealing with the legacy of a real pandemic is a little on the nose. Must be a weird time to be the guy that’s made a living off simulating exactly this situation.
Ava: I’ve not had time to watch it, but I’m looking forward to his talk on empathy in game design.
Ava: Just last week we were complaining about the name of Super Skill Pinball 4cade, but now, we’re all aboard the superskillwagon, thanks to a move that experts are calling ‘a nice thing’.
Wizkids have released a free print and play version of one of the roll and write pinball tables, so that self-isolated folks around the world can get their wizard on. It’s a lot fiddlier than I imagined, but there’s some interesting ideas in there. I particularly like that you can nudge, but it means you might tilt if the difference between the dice is two high on the next turn. Geoff Englestein is so smart!
Tom: Speaking of print and plays, a load of people have released their games for free or cheaps on PnPArcade. I wasn’t previously aware of it as a resource, so just wanted to highlight it here – there are all kinds of games for all kinds of quarantine – solo games, roll and writes, two player games or bigger stuff if you’re living with lots of people all in lockdown at once.
Ava:I don’t know anything about it but the title, but It’s highly likely I’ll try out Arcane Bakery Clash, because I do love a mystical bun fight.
Tom: It is the best part of the first semester at Miss Cackle’s Academy.
Ava: And that’s actually only a tiny fragment of the lovely things happening as people try to help each other get through *gestures vaguely at the world*.
Several publishers are announcing direct distribution deals with shops that are potentially at risk as people are being told to shy away from socialising. Haba, Atlas, Hush Hush, Drawlab, Van Ryder and Japanime are all operating schemes where if you buy from them directly, you can nominate a bricks and mortar store that will receive a cut of the sale. Details vary, and it appears to currently only be in America, but I really hope we see more of this sort of solidarity at a tough, scary time.
Tom: Stay safe everyone. Tensions have been running a little high in our group recently now that we’re all stuck in the house together, just the other day we were playing a game of City of the Big Shoulders and I started getting a little fast and loose with my investments towards the end of the game…