Header image courtesy of Steph Hodge photography.
Ava: Oooh, it’s officially summer (happy solstice everyone) and I’ve had two sunburn near-misses already. I reckon it’s a perfect time to cosy up with a tasty brew, pop my feet up and lean into a cosy warm bed of news.
No time to sleep though. The news waits for no-one. We’ve got gods, gardens, angels, sharks, sails, aliens, objects and finances.
Let’s have a look.
It’s not often a press release is ridiculous enough to warrant being quoted in big lumps, but Quinns forwarded me the press release for Ishtar and it’s a delight. It tells a tale of a gardener trying to plant flowers in the desert, giving up, falling asleep and dreaming of the goddess Ishtar weeping over his fate.
“The gardener woke up with a start; water was flowing, and he did not believe his eyes. He immediately returned to work, and started to build the first fountain. Then, as the days passed, he cobbled together an irrigation system, and sowed some seeds. The first sprouts appeared a few hours later. Thanks to Ishtar’s blessing, the life of the gardener had changed forever.
And so, Babylon was born: the legendary city of a gardener who became a king.”
Ishtar is new from Iello, and a collaboration between Evan Singh and Bruno Cathala (I checked which Bruno it was this time). We don’t have much detail, but apparently mythical PR is the way to get me excited about planting my way to a monarchy. Maybe I should get an allotment. Or a crown.
*Ominous string noises* Oh dear. It looks like the latest Target exclusive tie-in has dropped into the water, and there might just be a frenzy. Keeping their references up to date is Jaws, a hidden movement and deduction game in which one player plays a giant shark, and one to three others take the roles of Quint, Brody and the other one.
The most exciting thing here is the two act structure. The game starts with more traditional hidden movement, bouncing around an island trying to throw barrels at the nearest terrifying fin. Once the shark has had their fill of barrels or humans, the action switches to the open sea. A crunchier, punchier battle ensues, with the shark deciding where to attack before the folks on board have a chance to fight back. It does all look very dramatic.
I’m worried it might be a bit on the faffy side for the Target market, given that it looks like you’ve got to learn two different games in one. In theory it’s simpler as you can save the second part of ‘the teach’ until you’re in the deep water. But I doubt the best response to the line ‘you’re going to need a bigger boat’ is supposed to be ‘let me just check the manual.’
Maybe I’ll let someone else dip their toes in the water first.
Another lovely preview from BoardGameGeek nudged me towards a game that has apparently been ‘most anticipated’ for three successive Gencons. Black Angel is the latest from Sébastien Dujardin, Xavier Georges, and Alain Orban. You may remember those delightfully French names from delightfully dicey cathedral-em-up Troyes. Black Angel has some similar dice manipulation and ‘borrowing’ action going on, but with a whole lot more things to worry about in between those lovely little microturns.
Personally, I’m excited because it’s gloriously pink. I also hope it’s on the fascinating side of the fiddly-as-hell divide. Troyes definitely danced on the edge of being too much crunch with not enough chew.
I have no idea what I just said. But I’m sticking with it.
And we are living in the age of expan-si-on, age of expan-si-on, ooooooh.
What I mean to say is, I’m excited that someone’s finally felt justified in calling their expansion ‘the Age of Expansion’. Words tickle me.
Endeavour: Age of Sail was a pretty successful kickstarted second edition of a pretty successful game of industry, infrastructure and round-the-world exploitation. Endeavour: Age of Expansion, takes that base game and reshuffles the buildings and cards that were available to you, nudging the game into a slightly more industrialised era of colonisation.
It’s a good pun. I’m glad they made it happen.
Another newly opened kickstarter is this curious box of widgets. The ‘Ancient World multi-game system’ is a selection of boards and chits that can be used to play a range of abstract games. There’s just a soupçon of ancient world theming to tie them together. It’s pitched as an opportunity to start designing and sharing your own games, with artfully selected tokens to help nudge your curiosity or give players a hand learning your rules.
I can’t speak for any of the games already on offer, but I think it’s a lovely idea to have a toolkit like this for an aspiring designer. It really does depend on how popular it is whether it’ll create the endless eco-system of designs that would make the box really sing.
After Quinns and Matt weren’t too excited about the megagame in a box ‘Vampire – The Masquerade: Blood Feud’, kind reader Ross McCreedy pointed out that the megagame that blew the hobby open has also been boxed up.
For £170 you can get everything you need to play Watch The Skies, without any of your own cutting and gluing and trips to craft shops. It’s a steep sum, but it’s also a unique experience. You can check out the rest of the team taking a run at Watch the Skies before the game got so successful that it became enormous, and then taking part in the ridiculously oversized Watch the Skies 2 a year later. That’s a lot of drama.
I’m not sure this still qualifies as board games news, but I’m intrigued that Sensible Object, makers of lovely physical-digital animal stacking game Beasts of Balance, have just been gobbled up by Niantic, designers of Pokemon Go and Wizards Unite.
Sensible Object has been less and less involved with physical objects, and more and more excited by augmented reality. I’m not surprised Niantic want a company used to making people wander around and poke things. I remember Sensible Object’s precursor, Hide and Seek, making some really delightful incursions into reality. They once made me pretend a road outside my work in Brighton was a border crossing, and asked me to smuggle a plate of beans across. They also released a ‘boardgame remix kit’ that offered alternative ways of using dusty sets of Cluedo and Monopoly.
Even if they are getting less tabletoppy with the things they make, I’m curious to see what they do next, under the squamous mass of Niantic’s umbrella.
And finally, I stumbled across a Bloomberg piece this week, where we get a look at exactly how the world of finance sees our hobby.
The piece kind of implies that someone has spent $2700 on a gaming table purely so they can play Rising Sun, but has some interesting takes on the market for products around the edge of boardgaming. There’s tables, organisers, fancy tokens and the greedy, greedy eyes of financiers. There’s probably little information you’ll find new there, but it’s always intriguing looking at ourselves through a different lens. There’s definitely some eye-watering numbers on display.