GAMES NEWS! 27/05/19

What happens in il castillo, stays in il castillo, (until revealed during scoring)
Edmund 65 comment(s)

Ava: Welcome all, to the Chronicles of Newsia. It’s chronicles month this Majune at Shut Up and Sit Down, and we’re here to bring you the newest, most ancient tales bound in the thickest volumes of web-based e-vellum. Inside this dusty tome you’ll find tales of winners, losers, sickness, war, dragons, castles, birds and Belgium.

Sit down, young acolyte, and let me tell you the okay news.

Quinns: Wow. I think this is going to be SU&SD’s best Chronicles Month *ever*.

Ava: A faster, dicier and just as ill chapter of Pandemic is coming soon. Pandemic: Rapid Response (pictured above) will be the first instalment of the series to see players fighting globe trotting diseases in real time. You’ll be rushing around a tiny plane, rolling dice and stacking boxes, trying to make air drops just in time to save the poorly souls in cities around the world.

This looks like a great way to mix up the well-trodden mechanics of this system. Though I’m curious how much of the base game’s blood will lie in something so different. The game is designed by Kane Klenko, who also made the delightfully frustrating FUSE, so it could well be another healthy board-baby.

Asmodee calls this a new addition to the ‘Pandemic Universe’, and I’m trying to work out if there’s a worse fictional place to live than the version of Earth that is not only painted permanently blue, but also has four world-destroying viruses every week. Sure, there’s hard working scientists saving the day, but just imagine getting a new case of the reds every single time someone shuffled the deck. It’s bleak.

Quinns: Oh, I received a review copy of Rapid Response last week!

Ava: What? Before the press release went out? That’s what I call a Rapid Response.

Quinns: Ava, what you have to understand about the board game business is that news moves in mysterious ways. Sometimes we receive a game before it exists. Sometimes a press release contains no pictures or any sort of information at all. Sometimes we write “news” about a game that – imagine our shock! – came out 10 years ago.

You can’t question it. Instead, let the news flow through you.

Ava: Ooh, ooh. I think I can feel it! Here comes another one!

Ava: The best known award in board games has announced its nominees! The Spiel Des Jahres splits into three categories, regular, kinder, and kenner. That is, games for normal folk, kind folk, and folk called Ken.

The main prize fight will be fought between Werewords, Just One and the traditional annual ‘game I’ve never heard of’, LAMA. The jury for this award always focuses on accessibility, readability and german-ness, so it’s not entirely surprising they’ve picked three incredibly easy to play party games. I found the app-based Werewords a little bland, but Just One is a surprisingly clever little thing. In my opinion Just One makes just one enormous mistake, by giving you an incentive to do the boring thing and pass instead of making a wildly incorrect guess.

Quinns: What?! That’s a rule? None of the groups that I’ve played with has ever done that. (And yes, I’ve played it multiple times, ruining my quip on the podcast that I was interested in playing it “Just Once”)

Ava: Yup, an incorrect guess is supposed to cost you two points, while a pass only costs you one. It’s a bad rule, Quinns. It’s a bad rule. If an easily fixable one.

Quinns: Wild!

Anyway, I’m very interested to see LAMA in there, despite it proving, once again, that Germany is incapable of dressing a card game with art that isn’t repellant. Like you, I hadn’t heard of it, but it’s actually by Reiner Knizia, and I’m thoroughly enjoying this new lease of life that he’s embarked on. After a quiet decade, this legendary designer is designing great games again! What did we do to deserve this?

Ava: Maybe it’s because you were mean to him.

Quinns: Urgh. I do feel guilty about how SU&SD used to make fun of Knizia. In our defense, the games that he was designing when this site was founded were all total toilet.

Ava: Whatever inspired him to turn things around, I’m glad it’s happened.

Ava: The Kennerspiel (for ‘connoisseurs’) has a slightly weightier selection of nominees: Wingspan, Detective, and Carpe Diem. It’s no surprise to see Wingspan in there, as it’s pretty, easy to learn and an incredibly tactile game. I have to plead ignorance about Carpe Diem, my main reaction being shock that a game with that cover could possibly have been made in the last year. Detective is also outside of my wheelhouse. I know that Matt and Quinns absolutely slaughtered the writing in their GenCon podcast, but I’ve heard some people say they’ve really got on with its elaborate deduction.

Quinns: Wingspan and Detective might not be for me, but they’re both great at what they do. I would absolutely recommend Wingspan to someone new to games if they wanted a beautiful little engine-builder, and Detective is tedious in a lot of ways, but the way that the cases link together means that there’s no other mystery of such grand proportions on the market.

As for Carpe Diem, we’ll have to get some coverage on the site in the next year. You wouldn’t know it from watching SU&SD for the last five years, but there was a time that designer Stefan Feld was considered one of the hottest names around.

Ava: The Castles of Burgundy is certainly a tightly wound masterpiece, despite its variegated muddle of tiny brown hexagons.

Quinns: Absolutely! But since then he’s put out a run of forgettable eurogames like AquaSphere, Merlin and The Oracle of Delphi. Supposedly Carpe Diem (Latin for “Carpe City”) is a bit of a return to form. Like Castles of Burgundy, players are using a central thingy (in this case a rondel) to get tiles, and then placing them on a personal board in an attempt to build the fanciest district.

Ava: Finally, the kinderspiel prize deserves a mention. Focussing on games for children, I prefer to think of this prize as the ‘games with names that bring me great joy to say out loud’ category. This year is no exception, with Fabulantica, Go Gecko Go!, and Tal der Wikinger all up for the prize.

That’s a lot of games, folks! I feel like the SdJ hasn’t gone to my favourite game in a given year for a long time, but their very specific focus means they should always be putting something joyful and open hearted in front of shoppers throughout Germany, so I’m very glad it exists. I might also just be glad because I really enjoy German words.

Quinns: It’s certainly no longer an award for hobbyists like us. Someone pointed out recently that the incredible El Grande won the Spiel des Jahres in 1996, a game that today would be considered too complicated even for the Kennerspiel.

Have you played El Grande yet?

Ava: It was one of the first games in my collection! I adore it, and routinely dismiss new area control games as just not good enough because they can’t replicate the perfectly balanced back and forth of El Grande.

Quinns: Mmmmmmmmmmmmm. Keep talking.

Ava: I still want to make a soap based on El Grande, with Wolf Hall style pointed words and smouldering looks as the King tours Spain, devolving into rampant smut whenever anyone gets exiled to the castle. What happens in il castillo, stays in il castillo.

I recognise this is a pretty niche sell, but if there’s any TV execs out there, come talk to me.

Ava: Kickstarter is absolutely swarming with games right now, so it’s getting hard to choose where to point the news cannon. Dragon’s Interest caught my eye as I wanted to make a joke about it being a game about an accountant dragon. It turns out that’s actually what’s going on, with a big fiery lizard lending you the capital you need each turn to develop your own little empire. You’ve got to be careful of when your warm-throated investor demands that titular interest, as the game ends whenever someone can’t pay up, and whoever defaults will be out of the running.

With some interesting hidden price setting mechanisms and an easily burgled tableau of buildings, this looks like it could be a nice little bit of draconic calculus. This is exactly the sort of thing that sees me throttled by my own hubris. Could be one to watch.

Quinns: The Kickstarter that I’d like to point people towards is Crystallo, a solo game. And this happens to be my favourite kind of solo game, namely “One with enough table presence that other people will at least potter over and ask what you’re doing.”

Designer Liberty Kifer was kind enough to send us an advance copy of this card-placement puzzle, which sees you trying to create matching squares of crystals to try and free six mythical creatures from the grasp of an evil dragon. I learned it in 3 minutes, and ended up merrily playing for half an hour. If you’re a fan of meditative 1 player games, I think you should take a very close look.

Ava: I like dropping some further reading into the news, so it’s not just an onslaught of things you might want to buy. This week we’ve got Clio’s board games’ history of Germany. A year long project looking at the end of each decade of Germany’s twentieth century. I airdropped into the post-war division of Germany by the allies and was pretty delighted by what I read.

Each post looks through the lens of a relevant board game, and this one grabs Wir Sind Das Volk, which is on of my fave ludicrously parochial game designs. It’s an economic wargame where the war is fought entirely through living standards, ideology and failing infrastructure. Clio gives you a sense of how the cards in the game fit the context of the time. The best thing about historical games is when they make me thrill for the period and yearn to find out more. This blog feels like an exploration of that exact excitement.

Quinns: And I have a little announcement for any Belgians or Belgian-adjacents in the house! That sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it isn’t.

Matt and I have been invited to be special guests of the Zomerspel gaming convention, taking place in Ghent on the 15th and 16th of June. As in, three weeks from now. So if you fancy a couple of days of gaming in a beautiful historic city, why not grab some tickets and come see us there? We’ll probably try and arrange a meetup on one of the nights.

Ava: Ooh, your tour of games conventions in the North sea adjacent flatlands is getting Beneluxuriant.

Quinns: I know. But I feel like such an idiot! For all of these years we’ve been bludgeoning ourselves with jetlag flying to and from America, when Europe was right there and their games are much weirder.