Paul: This week’s Games News speeds toward us with all the speed and power of a hovercraft. You know why a hovercraft is the most powerful of vehicles? Because it can cross both land AND water. Like a frog. But much bigger. A giant frog. Once again HUMANITY TRUMPS NATURE.
Quinns: OK, first off, a hovercraft is just a poor man’s ekranoplan. But speaking of plans, can we talk a bit about Vital Lacerda’s Escape Plan, which has been confirmed as a 2018 release?
Paul: Ooh, ok! Heist games have been doing rather well at Shut Up & Sit Down this year (we’ve all become big fans of Burgle Bros and Blades in the Dark), so it’s easy to see why you’d be so excited about Lacerda’s latest, which is all about a team of bank robbers trying to get out of town. What’s the best way to get out of town? Put the police on someone else’s tail.
But in a sneaky game of cop-and-mouse, everyone is trying to make everyone else’s tail the tastiest, but creating diversions costs time and money, time and money that’s surely better invested in escaping. Escape Plan looks really interesting and has so many ingredients that whet our appetites, from its modular board to asymmetric roles. Can you wait until next year to try it, Quinns?
Quinns: No! Do you think I’m allowed to break into the studios of publishers Eagle-Gryphon and steal the design notes? Surely that’s thematically justified.
If I’m honest, the real reason I’m excited about Escape Plan isn’t the criminal element. It’s that between Vinhos Deluxe, The Gallerist and Lisboa Mr. Lacerda has shown off incredible design talent. If he can pair one of those heavyweight, thought-provoking designs with some actual storytelling… ? Well, he’d have my money faster than an actual robbery.
Paul: But Quinns! It’s impossible for me to progress an inch further without acknowledging the mammoth in the news room this week. Fantasy Flight Games have just announced that they’ve been quietly gestating a video games division for a while now. While there are already a bunch of digital adaptations of their games out there, FFG say this new division are “not just adapting [more] tabletop games, but creating fresh digital experiences based on Fantasy Flight Games’s most-beloved brands.” They also say that for the time being they’ll be focusing on games for Steam with “Potentially other projects down the line”.
The studio is being lead by a man called Tim Gerritsen, who’s previously had high profile roles at several significant and well-connected studios (such as Irrational Games, who made Bioshock Infinite) and a peek at his LinkedIn profile shows they’ve been busy since spring. What fresh digital experiences can we expect? A competitor for Hearthstone? Tabletop wargaming on your computer? This is quite the leap forward for FFG. Making video games is long and hard. I wish them luck.
But! We must return to the realm of cardboard, for news is spilling out of Spiel ‘17 like water from a collapsing dam. To everyone’s surprise, Ravensburger have announced that they’re the latest publisher working on a legacy game, The Rise of Queensdale, but they’ve held back on saying much more than that it lasts about twenty-five sessions, is a dice management game and is very text-heavy, which suggests a lot of plot and storytelling.
Quinns: Aha, and the designers are Inka Brand and Markus Brand! They’re the game design power couple behind Village and the EXIT games.
There’s so much excellently devious stuff in those little EXIT boxes, I’m sure they’ll have lots of fun putting clever twists into Queensdale.
Paul: The Spiel announcement that has most authoritatively arrested my attention is Across the Iron Curtain, the next game from Polish designer Karol Madaj. Madaj is possibly best known for Kolejka, his game about the struggle to queue for even the most basic of life needs in communist Poland.
Given that pedigree, it’s little surprise that Across the Iron Curtain is another equally sobering game, one that wants to give its players an insight into an experience that many of them will never have had. They’ll work together to help Eastern Europeans escape the communist bloc, something that was a common an effort just a generation ago, and which Madaj hopes will help younger players better understand their past. Will it be entertaining? Possibly. Will it be interesting? Almost certainly.
Exciting news is also being beamed down to us directy from outer space, in the form of a second edition of galaxy-conquering epic Eclipse. Publisher Lautapelit.fi are talking about new miniatures, new custom dice, new graphic design and even an introductory story by sci-fi author Johanna Sinisalo. Coming right after the new (and very good) edition of Twilight Imperium, can it once again take on that industry titan?
Quinns: Ooh, I’m really interested in what they’ll change so that this new edition can eclipse Eclipse. The original Eclipse was great because of how it took an epic game and cramped it down into less time, less space, less rules. I wonder if the designers will be able to resist doing the standard thing for sequels and add more ideas, rules and stuff? Will Eclipse continue to represent the healthy, modern alternative (space-oats) to Twilight Imperium (space-hash browns) in 2018? Or will it become its own thing entirely (space-pancakes)?
We’re big fans of Uwe Rosenberg here at Shut Up & Sit Down, so when we hear that two of his games are getting bigger, it’s Big News™.
Paul, I know you weren’t as impressed by the 2 player Fields of Arle as you were by some of Rosenberg’s other big box agriculture-a-thons, but have you seen the news of the upcoming Tea & Trade expansion? It’s going to add a harbour, fishing and ditches to the game, but more importantly it’ll add tea. Whole gallons of the hot black stuff. By offering pot after pot of tea (with a little dollop of “kluntje”!) to your workers, they’ll become shockingly efficient.
Paul: What is happening
Quinns: I’m not sure. They also announced “Mini Expansion #1” for A Feast for Odin. Found inside this are two new island boards for players to (step 1) claim before anybody else, only to (step 2) frown at for the rest of the game because they have no idea what to do with it and they should have NEVER COME HERE.
Paul: Oh, Quinns! You also wanted us to give a nod to designer Grant Rodiek’s blog this week, where he talks about how Uwe Rosenberg seems to often be iterating on the same game design ideas, gradually improving and expanding them over time. I can get behind so much of what he says here, such as negative victory points focusing you on what is most important and because, yep, I also like A Feast for Odin more than I like Caverna, more than I like Agricola! I feel each has improved upon the latter, though without necessarily making them obsolete.
Quinns: And last, but most definitely not least, is the above fun video analysis of the reality TV show Terrace House, which our business manager Chris showed us this week. It’s a look at how the show has its own in-show commentary about the show’s happening, but also how the people in the show can also watch this commentary and how this both echoes Let’s Plays and livestreams, but also points toward where media might be headed next. Culture that comments even more upon itself?
Paul: I find what this video says about how we watch and engage with media to be really, really interesting, and yes, for sure, we’re definitely engaging with it (and each other) in new ways. But! I don’t know if all of those ways are as radically different as this suggests, or if this is even a new thing. Way back when I was wee and was studying Classics, I was a little confused by the idea of the Greek chorus, the performers-cum-commentators in ancient Greek theatre. First, they helped the audience understand what was happening and what characters on stage were thinking but, in later sort of meta moments, also found themselves getting involved in the action as well. That was a bit odd, right?
And yet it doesn’t look so odd in this light. The way we’ve interacted with media and performance has always changed over the years. Maybe even social media itself performs a function like this, also. Perhaps even the comments section of a website like this. Does that make sense? I’d be interested to know what everyone else thinks.