A Demonic Magical Cat and His Robot BFF Fight a Dinosaur Witch God in the Weird West – A Grimslingers “Tall Tale” Review

Grimslingers (3rd Edition)

Designer: Stephen Gibson
Publisher: 
Greenbrier Games
Players:
 1-4
Playing Time:
60 Minutes
Campaign Mode:
4 chapters, linear narrative, replayable with no permanent modifications
MSRP: $29.95
Logged Plays:
4 games solo, full campaign completed
Copy Purchased By Reviewer


I remember in 2016 going through BoardGameGeek’s Gen Con 2016 preview list looking for hidden gems that might debut there, and one game on the list in particular stood out to me because of its box art.  On the box cover there was a dinosaur with horns, a cute lil’ robot, a cowboy with glowing eyes, some reptile(?) thing with a gun, and a bigger scarier robot.  No, I’m not talking about Smash Up!, I’m talking about Grimslingers by Stephen Gibson and Greenbrier Games.

Dat box.

Grimslingers is effectively two games in one box.  The first game mode, Versus mode, is a 2-6 player competitive card dueling game that can be played 1 vs 1, team vs team, or in a multiplayer free-for-all brawl.   The second mode, Tall Tale mode, is a 1-4 player co-operative narrative campaign-based adventure game.  This review is about the Tall Tale mode specifically (3rd Edition, even more specifically), but the game’s origins is in its Versus mode, so let’s talk about that a bit first.


HIGH MOON AND THE ORIGINS OF GRIMSLINGERS

Grimslingers initially started development as a competitive elemental dueling mobile game called “High Moon,” later renamed to “Grimslingers” to avoid potential trademark issues with a web comic of the same name.  The game had a pixel-art style to it similar to Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, but shared a lot of thematic and mechanical elements of what eventually became Grimslingers:

Designer and artist Stephen Gibson eventually moved High Moon to the tabletop space after having issues keeping programmers staffed on the mobile game.  His eventual goal was to use the profits from the tabletop card game to further fund the mobile game’s development.  When the Grimslingers Kickstarter launched in 2015, the competitive Versus mode was initially the only mode offered.  I won’t go into too much detail about how this mode plays, you can download the rulebook here, but to briefly summarize, each player simultaneously picks and reveals a card from their hand and then resolves the cards in a rock-paper-scissors fashion.  Rounds continue until all but one player/team is left standing.

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A sampling of the game’s gorgeous card artwork.

The cooperative Tall Tale mode was added later in the Kickstarter campaign as an optional add-on stretch goal.  Whereas Versus mode was already designed and developed before the game even went to Kickstarter, Tall Tale mode was just an idea Stephen had at the time of its announcement.  When Greenbrier Games eventually picked up the publishing rights for Grimslingers a couple of months after the Kickstarter wrapped, they gave Stephen the time to flesh out the Tall Tales mode more, and ultimately chose to package it in the core game.

Of the 7 written reviews on BGG (not counting this one), 5 of them are exclusively focused on the Tall Tale mode, and one only briefly mentions Versus mode in passing. Some of the video reviews cover both Versus and Tall Tale mode, but the general consensus from people seems to be that Tall Tale is the better and preferred mode of the two.  Grimslingers may have started as a competitive dueling mobile game, but it found its voice and its audience as a coop/solo tabletop adventure game.


TALL TALE MODE

Grimslingers’ Tall Tale mode can loosely be described as a “weird west” campaign-based cooperative adventure card game.  Players take on the role of Grimslingers, magic-wielding cowboys conscripted by Icarus the Iron Witch.  The campaign takes players (along with their snarky robotic anima sidekicks) through a 4-chapter story in The Valley of Death on a mission of hunting down and killing Icarus’s boss, The Witch King (correction from the designer: The Witch King is not his boss, he’s just a self-proclaimed “king” that thinks he’s the boss).  The world that Stephen has built around this game, The Forgotten West, is an interesting mix of western, magic, sci-fi, and fantasy tropes.  It’s a world where cowboys, bandits, robots, goblins, minotaurs, talking llamas, chupacabras, witches, and vampires co-exist, and it works.  Weird West is a genre that you surprisingly don’t see a lot of in boardgaming, so despite being a strange mish-mash of all sorts of genres, it feels fresh and unique.

Each chapter consists of a series of narrative entries with corresponding objectives that players must complete in order to advance the story and finish the chapter.  Objectives may have you traveling to locations on the map, collecting items, fighting monsters, etc.  The Valley of Death is represented in the game as a small node-based map that players move together as a group around with a single red meeple.  Attack nodes on the map require players to duel an AI opponent similar to how duels work in Versus mode, and reward players with character level-ups and items.  Event nodes have players resolving random events from a deck of event cards.  Landmark nodes give players location specific actions players can take, such as trading with shopkeepers or gambling at the saloon.  Despite being a small piece of cardstock you are pushing a little meeple around, it feels like an open world adventure game that you are free to explore at your leisure.  Between objectives, players are free to mosey about the valley, there is no in-game mechanism or timer forcing players to progress in the story, which is not something you typically see in a cooperative board game.  I found that individual chapters took me around an hour to play solo.

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Example setup of a solo Tall Tale game.

The brisk playtime I had could be due to the fact that I avoiding traveling to attack nodes where at all possible, as I wasn’t a huge fan of the combat system.  Duels lengthened game sessions, they were more dangerous, and weren’t very satisfying to play through.  Across my entire 4-chapter campaign, I only dueled 8 times, most of which were mandatory fights to progress the story.  The combat in Tall Tale mode is similar to Versus mode in that you pick a card every round to play, but the AI plays instead with a custom deck of generic and creature-specific AI cards (6 normal creatures and 1 boss creature come in the game).  Creature AI cards don’t deal with the elemental rock-paper-scissors mechanics that PvP duels do, so for the most part it felt like I was just playing basic spell cards to do a couple points of damage per turn without any real insight into what the AI was going to do.  As you progress through the game and level up, you gain access to advanced spells and items that open up your options a bit, but not by much.

I should also point out that the game is already on its 3rd Edition of its rulebook.  Stephen and Greenbrier have continued to tweak and simplify the rules (as well as fix typos) in the rulebook between print runs over the past 2 years based on player feedback, going as far as stripping out entire sub-systems of the game that players found clunky.  Even in it’s 3rd printing, the rules are a little difficult to parse.  Each different node type on the map is resolved differently and has rules for what you can/can’t do at it.  Duels require learning a whole separate set of rules for combat, and have you flipping back to the Versus rules section for some things.  Player aids for this game would have been a huge help (it is my understanding that these are provided in first big-box expansion, The Northern Territory).

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Creatures, grimslingers, and anima.

Besides doing the art and design of the game, Stephen also wrote the story that goes along with the campaign.  The story is well-written, even humorous at times (sadly something I can’t say about a lot of narrative games on the market).  The characters you meet and places you visit are memorable and evocative of a much bigger and fantastic world that they inhabit.  Rather than spell everything out for you, Stephen’s writing and artwork sets the stage for your imagination to fill in (or question about) this strange world.  The story is linear, which Stephen has said was an intentional choice on his part to tell the story he wanted to tell.  There is only one moment in the entire campaign where players are given a story choice, and it’s a very minor choice at that.

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Examples of some archetypes you can play as.

Character progression in the campaign is pretty linear as well.  At the start of a campaign you will choose one of several archetypes for your character: vampyre, daemon, witchborn, etc.  This will give you a character-specific combat ability as well as your max health/energy values.  As you defeat creatures and complete story objectives, your character will level up, but rewards you get for leveling up are baked into the advancement track, you don’t get a lot of room for character customization over the campaign.  You are able to gain advanced spells as you level up, but a lot of them felt designed for and better suited for Versus mode.  While the campaign is replayable, you could potentially explore playing as different archetypes or taking different routes around the map to get to objectives, this feels like something you would play through once to experience the story and not revisit.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Despite the small package and relatively short campaign that it comes with, Grimslingers’ Forgotten West is actually one of the most interesting, beautiful, and fully-realized worlds that I’ve experienced in a boardgame space.  Fans of weird west fiction and/or gamers looking for a campaign with a unique settings should check this game out.   You can get this game for less than $25 online and a full campaign only lasts 4 hour-long games, so it’s not a huge investment of either your time or money to check out.  Who knows, maybe you’ll even get some mileage out of it as a PvP game as well if you find yourself enjoying the combat mechanics.

I have bought The Northern Territory expansion and look forward to exploring all that has to offer, be sure to come back and check out my review for that in the future!


REVIEW SCORE: 8 out of 10 (Great)

icons8-plus-24 PROS

  • Top-notch world-building, art, and writing, all by the same person!
  • Seriously, I want more games in this universe, Greenbrier
  • “Open world” feel in a small package
  • Games are quick to setup, play, and tear down

icons8-minus-26 CONS

  • AI opponents a little too random and lack of basic spell card diversity limits interesting decisions to be made during duels
  • Rules are a little difficult to parse, even with 3rd Edition rulebook
  • Linear story limits replay value a bit
  • Card stock is difficult to shuffle

Stacey and the Mystery at the Spooky Cabin – A Spy Club Review

Spy Club

Designers: Jason D. Kingsley and Randy Hoyt
Publishers:
Foxtrot Games and Renegade Game Studios
Players:
2-4 (can be played solitaire with 2+ characters)
Playing Time:
45 Minutes
Campaign Mode:
5 games, replayable with no permanent modifications
MSRP: $45.00
Logged Plays:
5 games solo, full campaign completed
Copy Purchased By Reviewer


“When Stacey and the rest of the Spy Club go on a camping trip at their neighbor’s spooky cabin, they awaken to scary messages written in blood on the walls!  Wait, that’s not blood, it’s lipstick.  Is the cabin haunted, or is somebody else behind this bullying from beyond the grave?” – Back of the book of my theoretical Spy Club story

Turns out that it was the neighbor herself all along who was bullying the kids; she was jealous that she couldn’t be part of Spy Club!   Or at least this was the story that unfolded in my head during my campaign, and is one of 18,000+ unique combinations that can play out in a Spy Club campaign.

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The master case of my Spy Club campaign, I scored 91/100 points.

Spy Club is a family-weight co-operative Mosaic (more on that later) campaign game that is an homage to the “kid mysteries” book genre (Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Babysitters’ Club Mysteries, etc).  Players take on the role of a group of kids that form a neighborhood spy club to solve local cases.  Over the course of a game, you need to solve a case by determining the five major aspects of it:  the crime that was committed, the suspect, the motive, the location of the crime, and an object involved in the crime.  The artwork of the game by Bartlomiej Kordowski is evocative of a pre-teen mystery book, richly detailed, and very lovely to look at.

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Spy Club’s artwork nails the source material it is based on.

Despite the detective theming, Spy Club is not a deduction or mystery game, but instead a hand-management and set-collection game. Players each have a hand of 3-4 cards that come in six different colors (five colors associated with each of the five aspects of the case, and a sixth grey “distraction” category that typically junks up your hand), and are working together to collect 5 cards of the same color in the middle of the table, solving one of the five aspects of the case.  When players have solved all 5 aspects by collecting a set of cards for each of the 5 colors, they win the game.

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A player’s “hand” in Spy Club

The game follows the tried and true co-op turn structure of “player gets X actions, then the game does some bad stuff”.  Players are given 3 actions a turn to manipulate their hand of cards and commit cards to the middle, possibly getting bonus actions if they can synergize with other players.  A suspect pawn then moves around the table, performing various bad actions depending on the type of card it lands on.  I won’t go over the rules in extensive detail, The Game Boy Geek has an officially sponsored rules tutorial on his YouTube channel, or you can download the rulebook.  Games are quick and streamlined.  The rules are simple and you can easily play a game in 45 minutes even at a full player count.   Spy Club doesn’t offer an official solo variant, but you can control 2 players’ hands solitaire.  Playing as 2 characters doubles the amount of cards a single player needs to track, and there is a memory element to this game of remembering what is on the backside of each clue card, but it is manageable.

As a standalone game, Spy Club is perfectly functional, and even a bit challenging (I only won 2 out of my 5 plays of the game), but not particularly interesting.   You can really only collect one set of cards at a time in the middle of the table, so if you have cards of that color to contribute it’s a no-brainer what to do, and if not there’s not much else you really can do.  If Spy Club’s core game had been sold on its own as a standalone game, it would be just be one of the dozens (hundreds?) of forgettable card games that come out every year.  But Spy Club isn’t just a simple card game, it’s got a whole lot more going for it that make it go from being an average game to a great game, specifically its exciting and innovative Mosaic format campaign system.


THE CAMPAIGN STRUCTURE

Mosaic format” is a term coined by Foxtrot Games to define a type of campaign that is fully resetable with no permanent modification of components, you only unlock a small portion of the the game’s content over a single campaign, and you can play the campaign multiple times with each being a unique experience.  Spy Club is the first in what I’m hoping ends up being a continuing line of Mosaic games by Foxtrot/Renegade.

Spy Club’s campaign is 5 games long, with the first game playing largely like the base game (who knows, maybe there’s a little twist in it…).  At the end of the game, whether you win or lose, you pick one of the aspects’ clues you were able to solve, and unlock the module associated with that clue.  Each of the 39 different clues in the game has its own unique module, consisting of a small subset of cards pulled out of a 174-card campaign deck (similar to Charterstone, for those that have played it).  These modules can introduce new rules, win/loss conditions, scoring opportunities, player powers, actions, and mini-games.  Since you only unlock 4 of these 39 modules over the course of a campaign, by my calculations there are over 18,000 unique combinations of modules, causing no two campaigns to be the same.  Likewise, it would take a group 10 full campaigns (50 games) at a minimum to experience all the content in this game.

Fans of opening sealed content in legacy games or revealing haunts in Betrayal at House on the Hill will experience a similar dopamine rush every time a new piece of content is introduced to the game.  I’ve only seen 4 modules myself, and I won’t spoil anything about them but they all felt unique from one another and took the game in different directions.  Individual mosaic modules that I experienced were typically only used in a single game and then returned to the campaign deck, so keeping track of new rules remained manageable through the entire campaign.  New content unlocked in a module was usually contained to a card or two of rules text, and a few cards and related tokens.

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The full 174-card campaign deck along with assorted tokens that may get used by modules.

I want to give major kudos to Foxtrot Games for also having a comprehensive rules FAQ page online for each individual module in the game.  I think I only had one minor rule question in my entire campaign about a specific module, but I was impressed by how thorough the FAQ just for that single module was.  I know how frustrating rules ambiguities can be in campaign games and not wanting rules mistakes to be compounded from game to game, so I really appreciate the amount of effort Foxtrot put up front to make this game as smooth of an experience as possible.

Given the variability of what can unlock, the campaign doesn’t have a fixed storyline.  The modules have some flavor text associated to them as to why they’re being introduced to the game, which I found didn’t always necessarily correlate to the clue card that unlocked it.  Players are encouraged to discuss among themselves how the various solved aspects come together to tell a story, and players can share their stories on the official Spy Club website.  The game is very flexible in allowing players to come and go between games.  Players can skip games or leave a campaign without any detriment to the group as a whole, and players who join midway wouldn’t be at a disadvantage or feel like they missed out on key story beats.


FINAL THOUGHTS

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Players choose and name characters at the beginning of the campaign (game comes with removable label stickers)

I think Spy Club is an excellent family-weight intro to campaign gaming.  I plan on holding onto my copy for when my daughter is older, and this very well may be the first campaign game we ever play together.  Spy Club manages to scratch a similar itch to opening a sealed packet in a legacy game, without the commitment of a 12+ game campaign or the overhead of a more complex ruleset.  Players looking for a deeper campaign experience may want to look elsewhere, but Spy Club will be a good fit for younger gamers, families, and game groups that want to play through a shorter campaign game (this would be a perfect choice to take on a vacation or weekend trip).  I think that Foxtrot/Renegade have a hit idea on their hands with the Mosaic format, and I can’t wait to see where they or other designers go next with it.


REVIEW SCORE: 8 out of 10 (Great)

icons8-plus-24 PROS

  • Mosaic campaign format is exciting
  • Games are streamlined and fast even with additional unlocked content
  • Excellent rules FAQ system available online
  • Kid-friendly

icons8-minus-26 CONS

  • Core game on its own is a bit underwhelming

 

Gen Con 2018: Top 10 Hype List

The doors to Gen Con 2018 are just minutes away from opening, and while I won’t be there (#GenCant), this is the shortlist of games that I am most excited about that will be available for sale or demo there.   I waited so long to make this list because I knew there would be a number of really interesting titles that wouldn’t get announced until this week.  3 of the games on this list were just announced in the past 72 hours.  My list is limited to just campaign/narrative games, but there are plenty of other games I am excited about as well!

 

#10 – ARKHAM HORROR THIRD EDITION
Designed by Nikki Valens
Published by Fantasy Flight Games
Available for demo at one of Fantasy Flight Games’ booths 

To be honest, I was a little disappointed in Fantasy Flight’s Gen Con announcements this year, but Arkham Horror Third Edition did pique my interest a little bit.  The big difference that I’m seeing beside the modular board is that the game is scenario-based with branching narrative paths to them.  Based on the initial images, the branching narrative system looks similar to how Fallout: The Board Game handled it with a deck of cards that you seeded based on the choices you made.  A prototype version is available for demo at Fantasy Flight’s booth, and will hit retail in Q4 2018.

 

 

#9 – ULTIMATE WEREWOLF LEGACY
Designed by Ted Alspach and Rob Daviau
Published by Bezier Games
Available for sale at Booth 431, MSRP $60

Rob Daviau + Legacy = Interested.  A legacy campaign version of Ted Alspach’s “ultimate” version of the classic social deduction game Werewolf.  The game focuses heavily on a journal that guides the moderator and villagers through a branching narrative based on the choices of players and outcomes of games.   The game requires a minimum of 9 players to play, so I don’t know if I’ll ever actually have the opportunity to play this, sadly.  Only 300 copies were flown in to Gen Con, but the game will hit retail later in the month.

 

#8 – 1001 ODYSSEYS
Designed by Chris Cieslik
Published by Asmadi Games
Available for playtesting at ICC Room 142

1001 Odysseys is an episodic space adventure game inspired by choose your own adventure books.  Chris has been developing this game for a number of years, and at one point was a hybrid tabletop/app game, but it appears that the game may have moved back completely into the analog space.  1001 Odysseys tells the humorous story of humanity’s first foray into a sector of the galaxy full of “fascinatingly weird” aliens.  Asmadi Games will be demoing a special episode at Gen Con, at time of writing this they only had 9 seats available for demos.  1001 Odysseys is planned for an October 2018 Kickstarter, pending feedback from playtests at Gen Con.

 

#7 – THE RISE OF QUEENSDALE
Designed by Inka Brand and Markus Brand
Published by alea and Ravensburger
For sale at Booth 2113, MSRP $80

Legacy Euro-style game by German designer power-couple Inka and Markus Brand.  I love their EXIT series of escape room games, and I know they also have some pretty highly-regarded strategy games as well.  This game has been out in Germany since March, and early reviews have said that the core gameplay is really solid.  My only major concern with this one is that since the campaign ends when a player wins 9 games, it could take as many as 25 or 33 games in a 3 or 4 player game respectively.  Not sure my friends would be willing to commit to something this long.

#6 – COMANAUTS
Designed by Jerry Hawthorne
Published by Plaid Hat Games
Available for demo at Booth 1537

Just announced last week, Comanauts is the second title in PHG’s Adventure Book series, building on the mechanics and systems introduced in Stuffed Fables, but for a more mature audience (not sure if they mean “mature” in terms of complexity or content). I love Psychonauts and Inception, so I’m sold on the theme of exploring a dreamscape.  Game comes out later this year, but they’ll have it available to demo at Gen Con at their booth.

 

#5 – DETECTIVE: A MODERN CRIME BOARDGAME
Designed by Przemysław Rymer, Ignacy Trzewiczek, and Jakub Łapot
Published by Portal Games
Available for sale at Booth 1850, MSRP $50

I’ll be honest, after First Martians, I was a bit skeptical about Detective.  But the initial reviews and impressions of this game seem to be overwhelmingly positive, so I’ve slowly warmed up to it to the point of being excited about it.  I am a fan of mystery/puzzle games, and I’m curious to see how the digital integration works with it.  Portal Games will have copies for sale at Gen Con, and will hit wider retail later this month.

 

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#4 – FIRE FOR LIGHT
Designed by Walter Barber, Ian VanNest, and Andrew Zimmerman
Published by Greenbrier Games
Available for playtesting in the First Exposure Playtest Hall

Just announced on Tuesday in Greenbrier Game’s newsletter, Fire For Light is a dark adventure game about survival and exploration.  The game is set during a nuclear winter, centuries after whatever initial incident caused it, and players take on the role of two sisters who leave the shelter of their home to explore their harsh surroundings.  The game uses an app  that handles as the storybook as well as tracks players choices throughout the games.  The story of the game is large in scope, but told in smaller quest-sized chunks in individual game sessions.  An early prototype was shown at on Twist Gaming’s stream on Tuesday (at the 3:11:00 mark), and the artwork has a cool comic book feel to it.  This one is still a little ways off, with a Kickstarter in February/March 2019, but they are doing playtesting at Gen Con.

 

Game Mockup

#3 – GEN7: A CROSSROADS GAME
Designed by Steve Nix
Published by Plaid Hat Games
Available for demo at Booth 1537

Just announced this week on Monday, Gen7: A Crossroads Game is the long-awaited Crossroads followup to Dead of Winter.  Players take on the roles of officers aboard an international colony ship to a distant star system.  A terrible mystery has emerged that threatens the entire mission, and the fate of humanity rests on the choices you make.   The game is played across a 7-episode campaign with a wildly branching narrative.  No release date has been given yet (probably Q4 2018), but they will have it available for demo at their booth.

 

#2 – SCYTHE: THE RISE OF FENRIS
Designed by Ryan Lopez Vinaspre and Jamey Stegmaier
Published by Stonemaier Games
For sale at Booth 3019, MSRP $55

The final and biggest expansion to Scythe features 11 modules that can be added to Scythe, similar to what Tuscany did for Viticulture.  The expansion also comes with an 8-episode narrative campaign that lets players unlock the modules similar to sealed content in legacy games, but there is no permanent changes to components and the entire campaign can be replayed infinitely.  I really enjoy Scythe, so I’m excited to play through this campaign and unlock all the surprises.  Hopefully I can play through it with friends, but if not, I can play solo with the automa rules provided.  The game will hit retail August 17th.

 

#1 – KINGDOM DEATH: MONSTER – SCREAMING GOD AND BLACK KNIGHT
Designed by Adam Poots
Published by Kingdom Death
Available for demo at Booth 3003

Adam Poots is a very secretive man, and Gen Con is really the only one time a year that he makes a public appearance.  He’s kind of like if Willy Wonka was into body horror, miniatures gaming, and RPGs.  We have heard little from him in the past half year, but we do know he well have two upcoming expansion monsters, Screaming God and Black Knight, available for demo at his booth!  People have also confirmed that he is selling a promo mini-expansion, Echoes of Death, that adds a couple extra Fighting Arts to your game if you can complete specific achievements.  He should hopefully also have a lot of other sculpts and assets from upcoming expansions on display at his booth.  Kingdom Death: Monster is one of my favorite games, and I can’t wait to hear more information about The Gambler’s Chest and Wave 4 expansions!  And a life-size King’s Man statue!

News: July 2018 Edition

July is always a big month for gaming news, as publishers want to drum up hype for their upcoming releases for sale and demo at Gen Con in August.  This year has proved no exception, with a ton of really interesting news that will excite fans of campaign and narrative gaming!


NEW GAME RELEASES

A couple of campaign games have already hit retail this month before Gen Con (and I assume they will all be for sale there as well):

SEAL Team Flix
Designed by Peter C. Ruth II and Mark Thomas
Published by WizKids

Players: 1-4
MSRP: $59.99

SEAL Team Flix is co-operative tactical dexterity game, a modern warfare “dungeon crawler” in which you flick disks to shoot enemies and perform other tasks.  You know, another one of those. The game comes with a campaign mode with a branching mission structure (17 missions in the box, but you will only see 8 of them in a single campaign playthrough) that allows players to promote/level-up their characters from mission to mission.  

Spy Club
Designed by Jason D. Kingsley and Randy Hoyt
Published by Foxtrot Games and Renegade Game Studios
Players: 2-4 (can be played solo as 2+ characters)
MSRP: $45.00

Spy Club is a family-friendly co-operative set collection game about kid detectives trying to solve a crime in their neighborhood.  It can be played as a standalone game, but the main draw is it’s “mosaic” campaign mode. At the end of each of the first 4 games in the 5-game campaign, you unlock 1 of 40 mini gameplay modules that get added into the next game(s) of the campaign.  You’ll only see a fraction of the game’s content in a single campaign, and would need to play probably at least 10 campaigns to experience all the hidden content!

Sword & Sorcery: Arcane Portal
Designed by Simone Romano and Nunzio Surace
Published by Ares Games
Players: 1-5
MSRP: $49.90

Sword & Sorcery: Arcane Portal is the first expansion to Sword & Sorcery, a co-operative fantasy adventure dungeon crawler.  Arcane Portal comes with a 4-scenario campaign that continues where players left off in the base game’s campaign. The scenarios can be played standalone, but a copy of the Sword & Sorcery base game is required to play this expansion.


 

NEW GAME ANNOUNCEMENTS

Sleeping Gods
Designed by Ryan Lauket
Published by Red Raven Games

Ryan Lauket of Red Raven Games added a new game to BGG’s database called Sleeping Gods, a 1-2 player atlas storybook campaign game.  You play as the captain and crew of a steamship in the 1920’s exploring the seas and islands for 14 hidden totems of the gods so that you can return home.  The game is played on an atlas where each page is a map, and moving off of one edge of a page will move you to another page of the atlas. Sounds very much like Near and Far meets The 7th Continent, so I am excited to hear more details about this game!  It’s currently listed as a 2019 release on BGG.

Comanauts
Designed by Jerry Hawthorne
Published by Plaid Hat Games

Speaking of storybook games, Plaid Hat Games announced Comanauts by Jerry Hawthorne, the second title in their Adventure Book series.  Brilliant inventor Dr. Martin Strobal has fallen into a coma, and you must enter his mind and face his inner demons so that he can wake up and stop one of his own inventions from destroying the world.  The game is played across a co-operative campaign of 11 unique dreamscapes ranging from the wild west to sci-fi based on the cover art. The rules and components make reference to stickers placed on certain cards in the campaign, but it’s not being described as a legacy game.  Comanauts is due to release in December with an MSRP of $69.95, and the rulebook is available for download now on Plaid Hat’s website.

Gen7: A Crossroads Game

Gen7: A Crossroads Game
Designed by Steve Nix
Published by Plaid Hat Games

Plaid Hat Games is stepping up their game this year, as they also announced Gen7: A Crossroads Game, the long-awaited sci-fi Crossroads followup to Dead of Winter.  Gen7 is described as a “grand narrative game with multiple possibilities.”  Players take on the roles of officers aboard an international colony ship to a distant star system.  Things have been going well for the first six generations of humanity that have lived on this ark, but you are of course “lucky” generation number 7!  A terrible mystery has emerged that threatens the entire mission, and the fate of humanity rests on the choices you make.   This game is a semi-cooperative game for 3-4 players where everybody is trying to be the best officer on the ship and look out for their own crew, but also must work together to ensure the success of the mission and humanity.  The game is played across a 7-episode campaign with a wildly branching narrative.  The product page lists that it has 9 sealed envelopes in it, it’s not described as a legacy game.  Given that there is a major mystery plotline to it, it’s not clear at this point if it’s replayable or not.  No release date has been given, but it’s available for pre-order with an MSRP of $99.95.  The rulebook is available for download now on Plaid Hat’s website, and will be demo’ed at Gen Con.

CMON Limited to Launch Trudvang Legends Board Game

Trudvang Legends
Designed by Eric Lang, Guilherme Goulhart, and Fel Barros
Published by CMON Limited

CMON Limited announced they will be launching a Kickstarter campaign for Trudvang Legends by Eric Lang, Guilherme Goulhart, and Fel Barros.  Trudvang Legends is a living world adventure book game based on the Trudvang Chronicles RPG, and is an epic saga told over the course of generations.  Choices made by players will echo through future generations as well as the world itself. The press release refers to the board physically changing, but also says it’s infinitely replayable so it’s likely not permanent change.  No details yet about whether this is a co-operative or competitive game. The Kickstarter is slated to launch in Q2 2019, likely a 2020 release.

Perseverance: Castaway Chronicles
Designed by Richard Amann, Thomas Vande Ginste, Viktor Peter, Wolf Plancke, and David Turczi
Published by Mindclash Games

Mindclash finally added a BGG game entry and details about their next Kickstarter project, Perseverance: Castaway Chronicles.  Perseverance is a dice-drafting / dice-placement euro game about a group of castaways building a city and exploring on a mysterious island with dinosaurs. The game is played across a 5-episode campaign with evolving mechanics.  They are very clear that there are no legacy or hidden/sealed elements to the game, and can be replayed infinitely.  The official player count is 2-4, but designers have mentioned there being a solo mode.  It is listed as a 2020 release on BGG, and last I had heard it would hit Kickstarter in Q4 2018.

Fire for Light
Published by Greenbrier Games

Greenbrier Games teased in their July newsletter about an upcoming Kickstarter project for a “hybrid tabletop/app dark fantasy campaign set in a cartoon world.”  It will be available for demo in the First Exposure Playtest Hall at Gen Con and Twist Gaming will do a preview of it 7/31 as part of their Twitch stream.  No more information at this time, but it sounds promising!

Centauri Saga: Scorched Earth
Designed by Constantine Kevorque
Published by Vesuvius Media

Vesuvius Media announced that they are working on Centauri Saga: Scorched Earth, aka Season 2 of their expansions for Centauri Saga.  I presume this takes place after the events of the first expansion (which I haven’t played yet), Centauri Saga: Abandoned, and it looks like the fight against the aliens has come back to our solar system.  No confirmation yet if this is a legacy expansion like Abandoned, but it was confirmed that nothing from Season 1 is required to play Season 2.  Also sounds like this is part 2 of a planned trilogy.  They aren’t planning to bring this to Kickstarter until Summer 2019, which would likely make it a 2020 release as well.

New heroes...

Sword & Sorcery: Ancient Chronicles
Designed by Simone Romano and Nunzio Surace
Published by Ares Games

Ares Games announced Sword & Sorcery: Ancient Chronicles, a new two-act cycle of games/expansions set it in the Sword & Sorcery universe, before the events of the Immortal Souls/Darkness Falls campaign.  It sounds like it will be a standalone game and set of expansions, but they will provide crossover ability to swap in heroes and monsters from the first cycle. They will launch a Kickstarter campaign for it in Q4 2018, and will be releasing more information on their Facebook page throughout August and September leading up to it.

Talisman: Legendary Tales
Designed by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach
Published by Pegasus Spiele

As part of their line of games set in the Talisman universe, Pegasus Spiele posted details on BGG about Talisman: Legendary Tales, a co-operative family-friendly adventure game.  Players work together through a series of adventures to recover the five legendary Talismans that have been lost.  Adventures must be played in a certain order to tell the story, but any other details about the campaign play are pretty scarce.  A Talisman fansite really broke down all the details found on the back-of-the-box art.  The game should be available for sale this week at Gen Con, where we should know more.

Adventure Island
Designed by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach
Published by Pegasus Spiele

Pegasus Spiele added a BGG entry for another title by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach, Adventure Island.  There are no images of the game, and the only details to go on is the description.  It’s a co-operative game where players are shipwrecked survivors on an island (hopefully without dinosaurs!).  Players must work together to survive, explore the island, and eventually make their way home.  The description implies the story is told across multiple play sessions, and that choices that players make influence the story and unlock new elements.  They provide the standard disclaimer that the game is not a legacy game and is infinitely replayable.  It’s supposedly going to be demo’ed at Gen Con this week, and is listed as a 2018 release, so likely an Essen 2018 release.


GLOOMHAVEN FORGOTTEN CIRCLES DELAYED TO DECEMBER

 

Gloomhaven: Forgotten Circles, a “small” expansion containing a new character class and roughly 20 scenarios is taking a little longer than anticipated to finish developing, so they won’t be making an Essen release date.  This is largely due to the fact that the scenarios in Forgotten Circles will be more complex than the typical “kill all the baddies” scenarios found in the base game. Scenarios will contain branching paths, “choose your own adventure” moments, puzzles, and alternate endings.  It’s worth pointing out that the scenarios for Forgotten Circles are being designed by Marcel Cwertetschka, who wrote some of the side scenarios in the original game.

Cephalofair Games hopes to have it for sale in December, possibly January due to holiday delays, and will be running a pre-sale (not through Kickstarter) for people that want to guarantee a copy in the first print run.  Sign up for his mailing list to be notified! Isaac Childres is working on a much larger expansion for Gloomhaven, but anticipates it could be years before it is released. That gives you plenty of time to finish the 150+ scenarios spread across the core game, solo scenarios, Forgotten Circles, Into the Unknown, and Capital Intrigue!


 

ROB DAVIAU TALKS BETRAYAL LEGACY AT DICE TOWER CON 2018

Rob Daviau was a keynote speaker at Dice Tower Con 2018, and was part of a number of panels regarding his past and upcoming titles.  The Dice Tower was kind enough to film and host these videos on their YouTube channel. Rob gave a very in-depth preview of Betrayal Legacy in one talk, not spoiling anything about the game, primarily focusing just on the core mechanical differences between it and Betrayal at House on the Hill.  It sounds like a lot of work went into unifying common terminology and information layouts for all of the scenarios, so there should be less rules ambiguities. Yay for good UX! Rob also hosted a Q&A panel on legacy games that JR Honeycutt sat in on the last half of as well. Rob mentions in the video that they are doing playtesting on Pandemic Legacy: Season 3 (Matt Leacock also had an open call for playtesters at Gen Con 2018, slots were quickly filled), and that Rob and JR are working on an original legacy game that is expected to release in 2019.


PANDEMIC LEGACY: SEASON 2 AT SPIEL DES JAHRES 2018

 

Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 won a Sonderpries (“special prize”) at Spiel Des Jahres 2018.  This is the first special award to be given out since they added additional award categories in 2011.  

Ten years after the release of the base game, the “Pandemic” family is growing larger. And how! Already with Season 1, Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau opened the gateway to a fascinating game world; with this perfect sequel they have topped even themselves. “Pandemic Legacy – Season 2”, the best version of “Pandemic” so far, is the yardstick against which all future legacy games must measure themselves. The jury would like to honour this extraordinary achievement by this designer duo with this special award.

Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 is the fourth campaign/narrative game to be nominated for a Spiel des Jahres, and the second to win an award.  Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 and T.I.M.E. Stories were nominated for Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2016 (both lost to Isle of Skye), and Legends of Andor won Spiel des Jahres in 2013.


OVERTURN KICKSTARTER OVERTURNED

There was a pretty major Kickstarter scandal in July regarding a campaign for Overturn by Foxtale Games.   Overturn: Rising Sands is (was?) a campaign-based co-operative adventure game set in a Middle Eastern fantasy setting, developed and designed by people from Pakistan.  The game had initially gotten over $375,000 CAD in funding when it initially launched, as there seemed to be a lot of interesting in the setting, as well as the low price point for the amount of content offered in the core game.  Backers slowly started to trickle out over the ongoing weeks due to lack of real gameplay details from the publisher/designer, and doubts that the publisher could deliver on what had been promised. When they finally posted an alpha rulebook, a backer was quick to realize that the rulebook at been largely plagiarized from Massive Darkness’s rulebook.  This launched an internet vigilante mob that uncovered that several other details of the campaign and company were copy-pasted from other Kickstarter campaigns and company bios. The fox tale in their company logo is believed to have been stolen from the Mozilla Firefox logo. More details about the accusations can be found in this article.

A lot of backers were quick to accuse Foxtale of being a scam, and unfortunately I think some of these accusations were motivated because the designers were from Pakistan.  I would like to think that these guys were genuine in their desire to produce this game, but did not do the necessary prep work for a game and Kickstarter campaign of such scale, and cut a lot of corners that ultimately lost them the trust of their backers.  At the end of the day, getting this project cancelled now probably saved a lot of backers and the creators a lot of headaches down the road.


GEN CON 2018 THIS WEEK!

Gen Con 2018 starts this week on August 2nd, and I fully expect there will still be a few more surprise announcements coming.  Fantasy Flight Games is giving their In-Flight Report on Wednesday 8/1 at 7:00 PM EST, so expect to hear a number of new titles announced there.  Maybe we’ll find out what this is about?

I’m going to try to squeeze in a Top 5 To Try and Top 5 To Buy list for Gen Con before it starts, and will do a special post-Gen Con news wrap up next week.

 

Prologue

Welcome to The Campaign Log, the only blog dedicated to campaign, legacy, and narrative-focused board gaming!  My name is TJ and I’ve been pushing cubes since early 2012.  I was introduced to modern board games with gateway titles like CatanTicket to Ride, and Dominion, and quickly fell down the rabbit hole.  Two titles I discovered pretty early on in my journey were Pandemic and Risk Legacy, and both really shaped how I am as a gamer today, as they introduced me to co-op/solo board gaming and campaign/legacy board gaming respectively.

I am primarily a solo gamer, and to me solo campaign gaming is just the analog equivalent of playing an adventure game on my PS4.  I do try to rope my friends into playing through competitive campaign games with me, although given the (in)frequency of our game nights, it can take us several months to work our way through a campaign.  My wife enjoys co-op games as well, so sometimes I play through campaign games with her.  My daughter is still a toddler, but hopefully one day she’ll want to embark on some adventures!

This blog is my attempt to promote this growing sub-genre through news, reviews, and other articles.  We’ll see what the frequency of my posting is, I suspect if more and more campaign games keep coming out, I’ll have plenty to write about!