Tom: Welcome to the news, this just in: Ava is the best and Tom smells. Hey, That’s rude – get back in your own voice!
Ava: How’s that? Better?
Tom: YES. Now please never do that again. You’ll confuse the readers and unsettle my breakfast.
Ava: I promise. Only if it’s convenient for the purposes of a joke, or I don’t want to be held responsible for one of my opinions.
Tom: Fine. Wait, what?
Ava: I didn’t manage to spend much time at Spiel Digital, it taking place while I was still hungover from our very own online convention. But I’ll be spending the coming weeks poring through what I can to see if I can dig out any exciting announcements. Please drop by the comments if there’s anything you saw that you’re excited about that we haven’t yet newsed-up. The one thing I did catch was a little bit of a preview of the previously teased new Descent box, and it looks like we finally have enough details to give it a news item.
Descent: Legends in the Dark, aims to mark a break from its predecessor, with Fantasy Flight keen to state that this isn’t Descent: Journeys in the Dark: Third edition, but instead the start of a new line within the same universe. The new Descent will be a fully co-operative, app-addled experience of dungeon crawling adventure, boasting an utter boatload of fancy toys to play with. There’s a 16 episode campaign called Blood and Flame, and multilayered 3D terrain and even miniature furniture: clearly attempting (and succeeding, I think) to out-do Heroquest’s recently announced adventure-dollhouse.
For me the star here is some really gorgeous character art, hopefully the start of FFG lifting their generally fairly bland fantasy world ‘Terrinoth’ to a place where I actually care about it. Mechanically, the company is highlighting the ‘ready’ action which lets you flip character or equipment cards to get a wider set of options from each card. Included in this are double-sided weapon cards that slide into sleeves, allowing you to bladeholster your sword and unquiver your bow. Or in the example, swap your spear for a bell, which feels less likely, but at least uses real words.
I’m curious about whether Fantasy Flight is leaving space to expand that world again with an actual third edition that maintains the one versus many charm of the original. I’m a little surprised at them picking a fight with all co-operative Gloomhaven and Son, when they could’ve been making themselves stand out more by iterating beyond the improvements that Imperial Assault carved for them. Though I guess that would be at risk of cannibalizing their own product. BUSINESS IS HARD.
The whole thing is landing an eye-sweltering recommended retail price of 175 American Dollaroonies, which honestly made me yelp. After comparing it favourably to Heroquest and pondering its ability to go up against Gloomhaven, I’m left having to admit that both those options cost considerably less. Hopefully that means Fantasy Flight is pouring something truly spectacular into this big blue box of dungeons, but I’ll certainly be keeping my wallet shut until I’ve spoken to someone who’s actually played it. Though admittedly, I’m not actually that hype for dungeon crawlers. Your mileage, as the old saying goes, may vary. As may your wallet.
Elsewhere in Spiel-wrangling. One of my post-con tricks is to take a look at which games have suddenly bumped to the top of ‘the hotness’ on boardgamegeek. Mostly it’s stuff we’ve already covered, with The Lost Ruins of Arnak, Hallertau and Praga Caput Regni taking the top spots. But at number four (at the time of writing) is a game I’ve had in the back end of the news for a while, waiting for enough pictures to justify us covering it.
Anno 1800 is new from Martin Wallace, designer of Age of Steam, A Few Acres of Snow and the brownest game in my collection, Mythotopia. Anno 1800 is based on the city building game of the same name, part of a series with a lot of different years in it. It also boasts a tremendous number of buildings which you’ll be filling with people to produce the goods needed to fulfil demand cards. Reading a review of it led me to the delightful idea of a fur coat factory being exactly what you need to turn an engineer into an investor, because that’s what fur coats DO. It sounds delightfully byzantine, with carefully managed production chains being the order of the day.
Tom: I played a little bit of Anno 1800: Computer Videogame and I found it a satisfying little puzzle of managing the different ways you can turn Pig into Useful. It is, regrettably, one of those games that is set in a nebulous ‘new world’ that looks nearer to the equator than its alabaster protagonists might suggest, skirting any discussion about ‘the thing’ with a grace and dignity equalled only by the construction of this awkward run-on sentence. To be fair, I could be wrong about this assertion as I only played a little bit before getting lost in the age-old question of ‘sausage or soap’.
Ava: For some reason I assume that Tom will have played Darkest Dungeon, and will be able to give us the skinny on whether it’s the sort of thing that will transfer well to a board game. Of course, when I did this with The Last of Us, Tom had no idea what I was talking about and I just dropped a load of research on him about a game we had no information about. I guess we’ll see. Take it away Tom!
Tom: Unlike The Last of Us, Darkest Dungeon is something I have played, and I’ve played it a lot! Essentially, it’s a gothic horror dungeon crawler with a heavy, heavy emphasis on the psychological and physical toll of dungeon delving. As well as managing your health bar you’re also managing your mental health bar, and peaking out the latter through witnessing all the horror leads to bad stuff . While crawling through dungeons, you also upgrade a little hub area with various “improvements” that will hopefully lead you to a higher chance of success further down the line, with bosses and a mega dungeon at the end to cap it all off. I played a lot of the game and then bounced stupid hard off of it when I realised what you had to do to finish the thing and thought: no. I have other games to play.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BOARDGAME?! It looks like the core loop is intact – with dungeon-crawling, hamlet-building and perma-deathing aplenty – plus the amount of quirks, items, skills and stresses that can potentially pile onto your adventurer is utterly enticing to me, a fan of ‘games what evolve’. Alas! My potential excitement for seeing a game I like turned into a game I might like has been slightly quashed by twenty one scroll-wheels worth of bonus pledge gubbins – which instantly places this in the territory of Nemesis – ‘a game that is good but I really struggle to recommend to anyone unless you are a household of four people that really like the same kind of boardgames and also playing one game upwards of thirty times’.
Ava: Oh dear, it’s shameless self promotion time. Don’t Get Got was a game of party-based trickery that Quinns loved in his review. In fact, we were so effusive that Big Potato Games reached out and asked us to do an orange, standalone expansion full of even more bizarre and challenging missions to attempt to sneak your friends into doing.
Tom: AND in doubly exciting news, that Kickstarter has been updated with cheaper shipping! AND in TRIPLY exciting news, Big Potato are now including every single challenge from the base game with our expansion for it, if you don’t own the original and want to get get get get got got got got over and over again. I was going to make a joke about this blatant self promotion, but I can’t use the ‘in the pocket of big [blank]’ epithet because we are literally ‘in the pocket of big potato’.
Ava: Is that a big potato in your pocket or are you just……… actually I don’t want to know of any alternative explanation for that, I’m just going to go with the big potato hypothesis.
Under Falling Skies is starting to look like one of the lushest solo productions we’ve ever seen. I’m fully behind the idea of releasing a lovely, solid print and play for free, and then providing a paid for version that is lush, huge, generous and, frankly over the top. Under Falling Skies gains a whole campaign hidden in multiple layers in the box, offering a load of secret variations on the dice selecting planet defender. This design diary digs deep into its creation, and I remain surprisingly hype. I think I’m the one member of the Shut Up & Sit Down editorial team who hasn’t yet dunked themself into a quarantine-induced plunge-pool of solo-gaming. And that’s despite my passion for solo Mage Knight meaning that in the before times, I was the only SU&SD bod who DID play solo games sometimes. Maybe this is the game to dunk me in the lonely end.
Tom: I think everyone on the team was deeply perplexed by how CGE made real sheets of ‘spoiler-blur’ to go in the demo box? You can see chat and Matt react in real time to the actual wizardry of this stuff during CGE’s AwSHUX stream, as well as marvel at how much has been piled behind said blur to make a buy worthwhile. Inhuman Conditions sits in a similar position as a ‘print and play’ gone ‘purchase and play’ in a new genre that I am very very here for.
Ava: Phil Walker-Harding has a hell of a hit rate. Between Archaeology, Barenpark, Imhotep and Sushi Go, he’s carved out a niche as an incredibly sharp designer of incredibly accessible games. I still think about the fact that while Uwe Rosenberg took three swings and misses at making ‘Patchwork but for more than two players’ with the garden trilogy, Phil Walker-Harding just said ‘what about bears’ and absolutely nailed the multiplayer tetromino business. (Though I’m also pretty curious to see if New York Zoo sees Uwe snatching back the polyomino crown). All of which is to ruthlessly tangent away from the actual news, that there’s a lovely interview with Mr Phil on board game geek, and it was only while skimming it that I realised quite how hard I respect this man’s back catalogue.
That’s not a euphemism.
Tom: I love that you’ve spent half a paragraph trying to get two designers into a polyomino battle.
Ava: There’s just not enough beef in the game designer industry! I want to see wrestling match style trash-talking skits before demos at conventions.
Tom: We will not rest until we see Kramer Vs Kiesling. The Royal Reiner-Rosenburg Rumble. The whole clan of Engelsteins facing off against the Fryxelius family.
Ava: More violence in board games, says I, surprisingly.