Mart Leez: is it time for news? I’m always up for newsing the news, but I’m worried my newses might be sad news or old news. There’s plenty more news in the sea. You salty newsdog. News of the World is my favourite Queen album. There’s no news without fire! I’m tired.
Ava: I think it might be time to put Mart to bed. Maybe you should read its favourite bedtime story. You know, the one about what streaming is happening over the next two weeks.
Tom: Ah yes, let me get that one down from the shelf. It’s called ‘This Tuesday We’ll Be Playing Fugitive with Tim Fowers, then on Thursday Matt will be playing some solo Print and Plays’. After that we could read the sequel? That one is called ‘Next Tuesday it’s Oceans with Dominic Crapuchettes.
Ava: Classic titles, one and all. Goodnight, sweet Mart. You were such a convenient joke.
Tom: I’ll get the pillow.
Ava: Hey everybody! It’s time for some news! Probably the biggest (games) news of the last week has been the most grimly inevitable. Yup, it’s official that both Gen Con and Essen Spiel are not going to happen this year, at least not in their traditional form.
Gen Con and Spiel join UK Games Expo and a whole host of other conventions taking the hard but necessary decision to accept that getting huge bundles of people into some big rooms and getting them to hand each other pieces of card and plastic probably isn’t a great idea right now. Gen Con is going digital as is UKGE and many more so there will be some new ways to get your game on over the coming months. Gen Can’t is also remaining distinctly digital, and that’s a nice little project that perhaps has a bit more experience of keeping things online.
I’m definitely finding it pretty strange to have a hobby that brings me so much joy and connection suddenly become something dangerous. I went to Airecon the weekend before lockdown, and spent the whole time a bit nervous that we shouldn’t really be risking it, even if it was technically still allowed.
I’m enjoying getting more involved in the site now that digital gaming removes some of the geographical downsides of my lovely Yorkshire town (I love it here, but it costs a fortune to get to where the rest of the team are), but I’m also really missing my regular pub meet, having people over for games, or travelling to weird cons or pubs or events and just playing games with strangers.
Tom: I know exactly what you mean – I’m enjoying playing games with the rest of the team digitally. I actually omitted a stray thought from the last podcast – namely that I might have enjoyed The Defence of Procyon III a lot more than I would have otherwise just because I was playing it with you lot. But equally I miss the ritual of having a ‘games night’, or going to my local board game cafe. I think the root of what’s bittersweet about it all is that after a digital game, people are just keen to get away from their screens. Personally I find that sitting in a position I most associate with ‘working’ for a long period of time means I just want to be horizontal as soon as possible afterwards – so things tend to end rather abruptly. With game nights, the pre and post game chatter goes on as long as you want it to – the human contact is the heart of the experience – when it’s all digital, the games take precedence over the connection over them and lose something in the process, if that makes sense. Dang. I’m sorry for the doom and gloom.
Ava: You did actually just make me tear up a little. Those post game catch ups are the best.
Matt: Yeah, I used to meet up weekly with a mate and do this – I’d cook dinner, we’d play, then chat. As time went on the games hot shorter and the dinners got bigger. Human stuff is pretty great, you know? Definitely going to do more of that in the future. You heard it here first.
Ava: Just as inevitable and not quite so grim is the Spiel Des Jahres, probably still the biggest award in games.
As is traditional this year’s main prize nominees are ones I don’t know enough about to form a strong opinion. My City, Reiner Knizia’s family friendly legacy polyomino city builder, looks like an interesting hodge podge of recently popular ideas. Nova Luna is a collaboration between Uwe Rosenberg and Corné van Moorsel, in which a new moon orbits a board of tiles that are both your tasks and the colours you’ve got to fulfil those tasks with.
Matt: Ooh! I played Nova Luna – but I literally have nothing to say about it, other than that it was abstract and quite nice?
Ava: Finally, Pictures, by Daniela and Christian Stöhr has players recreating images with blocks, shoelaces, symbols and other oddities. I will say that I’m actually genuinely curious about all of these, which is a good sign.
More significant for most of our dear readers is the Kennerspiel prize, for knowers. It still cracks me up every time I see translated as connoisseur games and remember that’s also what connoisseur means.
Here we’ve got some very familiar faces, with King’s Dilemma already having the full Quinns enthusiasm treatment, and The Crew, which I had five hours of wonderful time with just before the lock down started to kick in, it also crops up in Quinns’ card game compilation video. The final knower’s treat is Cartographers, a lovely game of roll and write fantasy geography, which showed up on stream recently.
I’m calling this one for The Crew. King’s Dilemma feels a little too fiddly to make it past the SdJ jury and Cartographers is nice and smooth but not exactly mind blowing. It’s the SdJ though and they do tend to favour nice and smooth over mind blowing, so I’m probably wrong.
But you should get The Crew. It made me emit all the best noises I’ve made this year.
Tom: As someone who has played both The King’s Dilemma and Cartographers, but not The Crew, I’m almost certain that The Crew will bag it; you’re absolutely right in your observation that the King’s Dilemma is too fiddly and Cartographers is just very, very nice. To that end, I’m going to be acting as your humble Kennerspiel bookie. $5 for one bet on The Crew taking pole position! 2:1 odds on King’s Dilemma NOT winning? Huge payouts! Bet on both and you can’t lose!
Ava: Is this a good time to let readers know that you don’t understand gambling at all.
Tom: Just because it’s something I don’t understand doesn’t mean I can’t profit from it.
Ava: There’s also the Kinderspiel, with Photo Fish, Speedy Roll and We Are The Robots nominated. I know nothing about this and this segment is already far too long. I might just try and see if I can persuade the bosses to get me copies of these so I can throw them at some children and see what happens.
Ava: Not literally.
Tom: I’m often placing boardgames in front of a small collection of younger siblings, and I can attest to the fact that it’s more often the children that are doing the throwing. Also those names are so much more exciting than in the kennerspiel category – we get ‘dilemmas’ and ‘cartography’ and a whole bunch of ‘the’, whilst the kids are getting snappy PHOTO FISH and SPEEDY ROLL. Those sound way more exciting. My siblings have actually found great amusement in my new job, and have taken every opportunity to send parodical versions of my reviews to the family group chat – complete with a fake beard and inability to look directly into a camera lens. Maybe I’ll have to get them to act as Kinderspiel correspondents.
Ava: This sounds genuinely amazing. I’m well up for watching you get owned by toddlers.
Matt: Same, please do provide evidence.
Ava: It feels like something approaching a public service announcement is required to flag up that War of Whispers is back on kickstarter.
War of Whispers was breathlessly reviewed by Matt this year (or a thousand years ago, it’s hard to say which) and joined The King’s Dilemma as the other ‘best Game of Thrones game since sliced dragons’. Officially the kickstarter is for an expansion, but there’s plenty of opportunities to get the standard game. There’s some frustrating deluxe business going on, with twenty cards of mini expansion are only available in the twice as expensive mini-laden pledge level. This seems like an odd choice for a game that I keep hearing Quinns say is ‘the best thing that’s happened to cubes since dice’.
Ava: Nobody said that. I’m making it up.
For all my complaining, the base box is reasonably priced (though beware taxes and shipping), and there’s a survey in one of their updates to chivvy for a mini-expansion of just the cards. Or just the minis, if you’re a pervert.
It looks a bit charming and might be the first time I’ve seen a co-operative roll and write? Players will take turns rolling dice and ticking off boxes on their personal dungeon sheet, leaving a pool for other players to pick scraps from. All this is to further tick off progress on a shared adventure sheet, keeping track of gem collection and that titular escape.
Tom: I feel like they’ve missed a trick with not including a timer (as far as I can see) in this Roll & Write version of Escape. In my head I was conjuring up a real-time roll and write, and gleefully daydreaming about how deliciously horrible that could be – your mistakes now indelible marks on paper sheets that catalogue each and every one of your many failures. How exciting! Instead… Well I’m not sure what we’re getting instead, right now. I don’t want to be the person that wants constant re-iterations of ‘that one thing i like’, but Escape is a game I wish I got to the table more, and the roll and write version looks like something that isn’t exactly going to capture that same spirit of begrudging co-operation and breathless excitement that’s in the original box. This is all conjecture, of course. Queen Games could deploy a sand timer out of nowhere – like a gritty dagger between my critical ribs – and I would look like bobo the fool.
Ava: Honestly, it’s notable that both of us have pored up and down that kickstarter page repeatedly and are not entirely confident whether the new game is real time or not. It’s much more interested in selling us expansions to the original game than actually telling us how the new one works. It’s odd.
Another tiny epic game! Pirates! On the sea! With a little build your own rondel mechanic! This could be quite neat, but I find it so hard to tell the great from the grot with these tiny epic games. The space one was sharp enough, but I’ve bounced off the few others I’ve tried to engage with and I’m not sure I can get excited about this one? But it does have cute little boats.
Tom: BYO…R? BUILD YOUR OWN RONDEL. I’ve never been more excited about a rondel since Glenmore: Chronicles II, and NEITHER HAS THIS KICKSTARTER. We seem to be featuring some kind of pirate game in every single games news recently, and so far nothing has dethroned my excitement for Forgotten Waters (and maybe that’s cheating a bit, because I’ve already played it). This thing does look like it crams a pretty expansive game into a pretty tiny box, though, with players blasting each other to bits, burying mountains of treasure and hiring swathes of dodgy crewmembers to make their ship the finest on the water. It’s looking pretty charming, so maybe this will be a quick pirate fix for your game nights when one of these larger pirate games just isn’t enough – like an injection of grog straight into your eye(patch).
Ava: I know literally nothing about Capital Lux, but it’s getting a sequel, so it must have some fans, right?
Matt: I played it in a bar once and really enjoyed it! Gorgeous art too – I’d definitely dip back for a second look at this colourful card universe.
Ava: I probably shouldn’t be making space in the news for this but it’s by the designer of Die Macher, a political area control game that appeared to have come from another dimension. A dimension that really, really liked maths. I’m slowly getting weirdly attached to Spielworxx’s unusual themes and idiosyncratic classics.
Tribune is a deluxe reprint of a classic, and offers a convoluted take on worker placement, where players take the roles of Roman families attempting to please the various factions of Rome. Collecting the cards of the right faction lets you boost the related actions, or get in the way of other people doing the same. The new edition includes the expansion where one player is using an entirely different set of rules to everyone else, using powerful action cards instead of placing their family members on the board.
There’s a video of the designer of the expansion singing a song in German about the special abilities of all the different factions. I was just about to cut out this whole item as I can’t figure out how to make Tribune sound exciting, and then it threw these acoustic guitar stylings at me.
Tom: That video radiates a powerfully strange energy. I’m here for it. All games should come with musical versions of their rules for the audibly-inclined – it sounds like something that Vlaada Chvatil would be fully on board with; A rock-opera version of Through The Ages, please – I promise it’ll make the game easier to understand.
Matt: Fair! If there’s ever been A Teach that needs an interval…
Ava: In the grim darkness of the 41st Willenium, there is only jiggy.
No. Wait. That’s something else.
Warhammer 40,000 is getting a new edition and I am struggling to figure out what is new about it. There’s an aggressively over-excited video by ‘James Workshop’ (a pseudonym I can get behind, or an incredible piece of nominative determinism) yelling about 9 things I should be excited about in the new edition. There’s a new crusade system for linking battles together with slowly improving troops, a more detailed approach to terrain, and apparently tanks are more tanky. Half of it made no sense to me and the other half was just superlatives, but Warhammer 40,000 is one of the biggest names in the business and a new edition is always an interesting prospect.
Tom: Does the new edition include cool new painting techniques? I never enjoyed Warhammer for the game, but I LOVED painting the miniatures. I remember spending money from my short-lived paper round on paints, paints, paints – so each of my little imperial guardsmen had personalities all of their own. Then I had to play the game with people, and I got to watch all my hard work get immolated time and time again due to my gross inability to understand numbers.
Ava: I was the opposite. I was so bad at painting that it was embarrassing to play the game I so desperately wanted to pour my heart and soul into. If we’re honest, I mostly just read my brother’s hand-me-down out-of-date rulebooks for a mix of the story and getting lost in imagined campaigns I’d never be able to persuade anyone to play with me. So glad everything’s different now! *stares balefully at a shelf full of unplayed role playing games.*
The Sisters of Battle are prominent in the dramatic announcement video, which is notable as I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman in a Games Workshop video before, especially not one that isn’t scantily clad. Unfortunately, it also leans into the idea that the Space Marines are the good guys, which is a habit of latter day Games Workshop that makes me feel more than a little sick.
Perhaps contradicting that, I’m also pretty excited by the tucked away video advertising some animated series including one that looks a bit like the new She-Ra, and my word, if they’ve done a super gay 40k reboot cartoon I’m delighted. (I doubt they’ve done this.)
Ava: No I’m not telling you my theory about Space Orks as queer icons.
Tom: Does anyone know how to make an ellipsis bigger?
Mart Leez: There’s an option to make them bigger in the settings menu – I will be happy to show you how now I’m fully rested and recharged!
Mart Leez: …
Tom: Thanks Mart, I’m glad to hear you’re feeling well rested. All that struggling earlier – it looked like you were having some particularly turbulent dreams!
Ava: This is worse than Dallas.