Ava: It’s Gencon this week, and do you know what that means? We’ve got to get in the news-canoe, sail to the heart of a newsicane, going right by a violent newscano. I’m all on my ownsome, without a Quinns to cling to. Wish me luck, and good news to you all.
This is the news, be careful out there, there’s a lot of it about.
First up we’re taking a trip to Cooper Island, a game that finally answers the question: ‘what if a eurogame, but taller?’
Cooper Island is a colonising explore-em-up, with an ominous cross of a board, covered in hexes that slowly pile with landscape tiles. You’ll be building statues, exploiting the land, and moving a little ship around the edge of the board to measure victory points and despoil even smaller islands. Judging from the pictures it’s going to be a lavish adventure.
This is from Capstone Games, who have so far hit only home runs in terms of production values, and Andreas Odendahl, designer of La Granja and La Granja: No Siesta. It could be one to watch. (Although the idea of making a game, and then following it up by the same game but shouting ‘no sleep’ at you afterwards, seems oddly cruel to me).
I just want to take a moment to say how much I love games that lift off the table like this. Survive, Mexica and Cuzco, all punch above their weight because they are so joyfully three dimensional. Hexes of unusual size, stacking hexes on other hexes, or measuring spiritual grandeur with the size of your pyramids. All of it is really pleasing to the eye and the mind. Plus, there’s nothing quite like hiding your clever move just behind someone’s enormous stack of cardboard.
I’m struggling to get that excited, but there is definitely a new anniversary edition of Ticket to Ride on the way down the track.
The new version of the train-connecting classic will feature player carriages you can see through and a little history of Ticket to Ride pamphlet, which does sound a bit nice. I feel like making the trains distinguishable without colour perception would be more important than making them perspex, but what do I know? It looks like this is just going to be the new standard edition, and I’m sure some people will appreciate being able to hold their choo-choos up to the light and check for glints. To be clear, I’m not remotely cynical about Ticket to Ride itself, which definitely deserves the top spot on the hobby games bestseller lists. Of the big classic introductory board games, it’s the one I’m still happiest to see on the table.
A new Ticket to Ride also gives me an opportunity to point to some slightly out of date news: Asmodee is working on a TV show based on Ticket to Ride. It’s a competition game show where rival teams travel the world completing currently vague ‘challenges’. Hopefully at the very least if one of them finds a rainbow train they’ll get a bit of a thrill.
That said, I was hoping for a dense, experimental drama filmed in real time on a series of ever changing trains. Maybe just loads of slice of life stuff in old timey train wagons? And we never see the ends of anyone’s narrative, only the bits that happen on trains? Why aren’t I in charge of televisions. It’s not fair! (The answer is that if I ran all the networks, everything would star Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys of The Americans, and they’d be frightfully busy.)
TRUDVANG! TRUDVANG! TRUDVANG!
Oh dear, the Trudvang claxon has gone off again, telling us that Eric Lang is leading a charge into mythical norse and celtic weirdness. Trudvang Legends is dripping in fancy miniatures, old legends and beautifully grotesque illustrations by Paul Bonner. It’s safe to say that Shut Up & Sit Down hasn’t always fallen in love with Lang’s CMON miniature spectaculars (see Blood Rage and Rising Sun), but there’s no doubting that they’re alluring and interesting beasts. This new legend adds to the Trudvang setting first seen in role playing game Trudvang Chronicles.
Honestly, I just really like saying Trudvang.
Also barging through the Kickstarter canal this week is Import/Export, now re-releasing in a kickstarter exclusive ‘definitive edition’ with lots of fancy bits and a few usability improvements.
It’s rare I can talk about a kickstarter and actually know any more than can be gleaned from the page, but as a proud owner of the original edition, I can tell you that this is a game I really like! A tribute to container shipping (not unlike this podcast) and Carl Chudyk’s infamously unavailable Glory to Rome, Import/Export combines multi use cards, accidentally giving your neighbours a leg up, a large deck of unique game-breaking special abilities and enough very specific details that it’s a ‘mare to teach. It won’t be for everybody, but if you want a strange economic game with over-powered weirdnesses and a lot of mischief it might be up your street.
While we’re floating in waters near Glory to Rome I might just sneak in a heads up for Chudyk fans that his latest design, Aegean Sea is getting a limited prototype release at GenCon. Some people will be incredibly excited about that, while others shrug. For my container full of thought-goods, Carl is one of the weirdest and most exciting designers out there, so I’ve already nudged Asmadi to try and smuggle me a copy.
Aegean Sea sounds utterly bizarre, with multiple factions with their own deck of unique cards, and those cards making up the islands of the archipelago as well as the temples, people and boats attached to them. This is precisely the sort of intricate faff that has me yelling for more. But be warned, Chudyk’s penchant for ridiculous power moves and very particular rules rub some people the wrong way. It’d definitely be my first port of call at GenCon, but that doesn’t mean it should be yours!
There’s a lovely design diary up at the moment on boardgamegeek, of Osprey’s latest wargame, Undaunted: Normandy. While down in Brighton, I had the pleasure of fifteen minutes with the rule book, and ten minutes getting utterly trounced by Quinns in our first mission. I misjudged enormously, but in a way that felt authentic, and while it was only a brief taste, it was one of the most tantalising first encounters I’ve had this year. It’s the smartest use of deck-building I’ve seen in a while, with a strong flavour of the weighty warbeast Combat Commander, but rules I could teach in a tenth of the time. I’m looking forward to seeing if this lives up to those first impressions.
Our final note is a follow-up to last week’s Spiel Des Jahres news. Winner of the Kennerspiel prize, Wingspan was designed by the excellent Elizabeth Hargrave (whose name I’ve hopefully got right this time). She posted a thread that made me a little misty-eyed, about how many people helped along the way, and then asking for what the rest of the industry was doing to support women, people of colour and queer folk (and the intersections of those) get into the industry.
There’s no doubt that Wingspan has brought more people into board games and shows the benefit that new and diverse voices can bring. The thread left me punching the air and saying ‘let’s do this’ and I wanted to highlight that!