Games News! 23/09/13

tea-off, knucklebones, no roses, dice-building, mushroom-nibbling
Quinns: What a news segment we have for you this week! Disasters! Pillaging! A game made of bones! Another game made of SKULLS! It’s all a bit much. I’m going to start off with a nice cup of tea, and a nice game of tea.

Yunnan will be arriving later this year, and it’s a game of controlling a Chinese TEA DYNASTY. That distant, jangling noise you heard was the noise of our entire English readership simultaneously reaching for their wallets.

I’ve had a skim of the English rules, and it sounds entirely lovely. Players are trying to thread nice trade routes through the nearby regions, while striking a balance between developing their dynasty (placing tea houses, trading posts, even building bridges), and actually making the money that’ll win you the game.

Importantly, everything seems to bring you into conflict with other players. Want to do anything? You’ll have to win it in an auction. Want to earn victory points? It’s your income relative to other players that gets ’em. Want to dodge the odious tea inspector? He’ll travel to the region where the most players are.

Throw in all those lovely wooden horses, traders and buildings, and you’ve a very appealing package. Yunnan will begin its profitable journey from the board game plantations of Germany in just a few months.


But this week’s really EXCITING news in economy-focused German board games (look at that sentence! where did my life go wrong? when I was ten I wanted to be a detective) is that a sequel to hugely popular farming game Agricola has been announced.

…So, myself and my friend Tom are agreed that the best thing about Agricola is the theme, which is so grim that it goes right the way around and becomes seductive again. “Want to come over my house and play a game about being 17th century subsistence farmers in central Europe?” You’re horrified, yes, but a little bit intrigued.

Imagine my joy, then, when Uwe Rosenberg’s sequel to Agricola was revealed as Caverna: The Cave Farmers.

Cave farming. The one theme that could possibly eclipse Agricola in the dismal stakes.

Sadly, it turns out Caverna will have a fantasy twist, as opposed to the prehistoric mushroom-nibbling I imagined. You’ll be able to equip your family with weapons and send them off on quests, as well as tunnel deeper into your cave to make more space and find RUBIES! Which all sounds a bit too exciting for me. I’d be much happier drawing a card that tells me my son slipped on cave moss and broke his leg.

Vikings: Warriors of the North

I’d like to get my primitive violence from Vikings: Warriors of the North, instead, but I suspect this recently-announced game might turn out to be rubbish. I’m only posting about it because it’s so high up in “The Hotness” sidebar on BoardGameGeek, which means people the world over are literally clicking on it to find out what it is.

Small tangeant: BGG’s hotness sidebar is both a not-insignificant factor in game sales and total nonsense. A game publisher friend of mine once lamented to me Fantasy Flight’s ability to nudge their own games up it because they’re always releasing panicked erratas to accompany their less-than-perfect manuals, and people check for erratas and rule clarifications via the game’s page, bumping it up the hotness. The horror.

Anyway, Vikings. You each play a little ship and you play cards and you have to “pillage” other players’ villages for their daughters, and take them home to your village, then you win. This cheery treatment of rape aside, I think it’s going to be crap because it comes with a single six-sided die to decide battles with. Have the designers rolled a solitary six-sided die recently? It’s about as satisfying as a poop in a bush on a stormy day. Let’s move on.

(Another tangeant: Settlers of Catan totally wouldn’t be as popular if players rolled 1 die instead of 2. I’m serious.)


Now! Now, Yves Tourigny is a man who knows how to use a die. This week BGG News posted a design diary of Blueprints!(a game I formerly thought was called Structural Integrity, because I am a hot mess), and it looks ingenious.

Each turn players pull a die from a velveteen bag, roll it and place in somewhere on their building, working towards their blueprint, but also veering away from that same design to claim extra points.

The tricky bit is that different kinds of materials are all used in different ways! Grey “stone” dice are worth more the higher up your building they are. Transparent “glass” dice are worth more points the more of them to be found in your building. And most importantly, you can only build on top of a die with a higher number.

This looks like a wonderful filler game. Every time someone uses cards or dice in a new way, I am overjoyed. What can I say? I’m a simple man. Or possibly brain-damaged. Not sure.


Speaking of simplicity, a new, pretty version of Skull & Roses has been announced, simply titled “Skull“.

Great news, because after our review, you all went out and bought it, right? And now your copies are all a little scuffed because you’ve been playing it so much, right? Because it’s the best entry game in the world?


Maunu Kea

And finally, looking an awful lot like the offspring of The Downfall of Pompeii and Survive comes Maunu Kea. A game of fleeing an island AND fleeing a volcano. Double the disasters, then. Double the fun too, perhaps?

It all sounds a little too similar to Survive to be a significantly better game. Players are fleeing the volcano, grabbing artifacts along the way and punctuating their turn by placing yet more glutinous lava tiles in a game of hot, passive-aggressive burglary.

Anyone else feel a SU&SD Disaster Special coming on?



Here’s the Essen release that I might be most excited about. Oss is a faithful restoration of the ancient game of knucklebones, though you’re most likely to know it as Jacks. A rubber ball and a handful of metal pieces, with players bouncing the ball and then grabbing at the pieces.

It turns out knucklebones’ roots run absurdly deep. It’s referenced in both the Illiad and the Odyssey. The Romans played it. Today, there are variants played in Korea, Africa and Brazil. This is one of THE table games, and we should place it on our altar as we do the 52 card deck. And Oss is intent on providing the definitive experience, with metal pieces shaped like old-fashioned sheep knucklebones, a ton of challenges you draw from a deck, even rounds that see everyone working against one another.

I want it. Prehistoric Game Special? Man, ever since donations went live, I’m bloated with ideas. I’m going to have to have some of them surgically removed. See what you guys have done?!