News: August 2018 Edition

Gen Con feels so long ago, but it was actually less than a month ago.  Sad, I know, but that means we have a lot of great games to play, and even more to get excited for in the future!


REVIEWS

This was the first month I started putting out reviews, be sure to check them out if you haven’t already!

Stacey and the Mystery at the Spooky Cabin – A Spy Club Review (8 out of 10)

A Demonic Magical Cat and His BFF Fight a Dinosaur Witch God –  A Grimslingers Review (8 out of 10)


NEW GAME RELEASES

Detective: A Modern Crime Boardgame
Designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek, Przemysław Rymer, and Jakub Łapot
Published by Portal Games
Players: 1-5
MSRP: $50.00

Detective: A Modern Crime Boardgame was the big Gen Con 2018 release from Portal Games, and hit retail shortly after.  Detective is a cooperative mystery-solving game that requires players using the internet to research and solve aspects of the crimes.  The game comes with five cases that are played in order to form a larger story.  Initial buzz has been really positive, and I’m looking forward to trying this out myself.

The Rise of Queensdale
Designed by Inka Brand and Markus Brand
Published by Ravensburger and alea
Players: 2-4
MSRP: $80.00

The Rise of Queensdale is a Euro-style dice placement legacy game from Inka and Markus Brand.  The game has been out in Germany since March, the English edition came out at Gen Con and is available in retail now.  The legacy game is played across nine epochs, with each next epoch unlocking the first time a player has won 1, 2, 3, etc games.  The campaign ends when a player has won 9 games, so a 4-player campaign could last as many as 33 games!  Initial reviews have said games last about an hour and that the core gameplay is solid.  It also comes with a tiny plunger!

Scythe: The Rise of Fenris
Designed by Ryan Lopez Vinaspre and Jamey Stegmaier
Published by Stonemaier Games
Players: 1-7
MSRP: $55.00

The final and largest expansion to Scythe, The Rise of Fenris, features 11 modules that can be added to Scythe, similar to what Tuscany did for Viticulture.  Most importantly, the expansion also comes with an 8-episode narrative campaign that lets players unlock most of the modules over the course of the story and campaign.  Some of the content comes in sealed boxes, but there is no permanent changes to components and the entire campaign can be replayed infinitely.   The campaign includes an automa variant to support solo play.  One of the modules not used in the campaign is a fully cooperative variant of Scythe.

Too Many Bones: Undertow
Designed by Adam Carlson and Josh J. Carlson
Published by Chip Theory Games
Players: 1-2
MSRP: $84.95

Too Many Bones: Undertow is a standalone expansion for Too Many Bones, the “dice-builder RPG” from Chip Theory Games.  Undertow comes with a 3-game campaign mode that lets you build up your characters from game to game with campaign-specific rewards.  The game comes with 2 new gearlocs, which you can use in the base game or bring in gearlocs from the base game or expansions to play with up to 4 players.  Kickstarter backers are getting their copies now, and limited quantities are available for sale on Chip Theory Games’ webstore.

Too Many Bones: Age of Tyranny
Designed by Adam Carlson and Josh J. Carlson
Published by Chip Theory Games
Players: 1-4
MSRP: $24.95

Age of Tyranny is an expansion for the original Too Many Bones that links the 7 tyrants together into a campaign.  The campaign plays different from Undertow’s, you can fight the tyrants in any order you want, and characters can gain scars that carry over from game to game.  Kickstarter backers are getting their copies now, and limited quanities are available for sale on Chip Theory Games’ webstore.

Street Masters Kickstarter Bundle
Designed by Adam Sadler and Brady Sadler
Published by Blacklist Games
Players: 1-4
MSRP: $109.00

Blacklist Games has opened up their webstore with a limited quantity of Street Masters Kickstarter bundles from their 2017 Kickstarter campaign, and are selling them at the same price as the original Kickstarter pledge level.  The bundle comes with the core game, Legend of Oni Kickstarter-exclusive expansion, and all Kickstarter-exclusive stretch goals.  It’s unknown if the upcoming October 2018 Kickstarter for the Street Masters: Aftershock expansion will have these available or not.  Their online store has other expansion content available for sale as well.

MacGyver: The Escape Room Game
Designed by Nicholas Cravotta and Rebecca Blaeu
Published by Pressman Toy Corp
Players: 1-4
MSRP: $29.99

MacGyver: The Escape Room Game is part of Target’s exclusive line of board games, and came out around Gen Con.  It’s a series of five “escape room in a box” scenarios inspired by 1980’s MacGyver episodes.  Scenarios are played in a specific order, as some tools unlocked in earlier scenarios are saved and reused in future scenarios.

Kingdom Death: Monster – Echoes of Death
Designed by Adam Poots
Published by Kingdom Death
Players: 1-6
MSRP: $60.00

Kingdom Death had a surprise mini-expansion release at Gen Con, Echoes of Death, which introduced four new challenge milestones that players can attempt to achieve in their campaigns.  Achieving each of these milestones permanently adds a new fighting art to your game’s fighting arts deck for that campaign and all future campaigns.  Poots is calling this new system the “strain system”, and hinted we may see more of this in future expansions.  2400 additional copies of Echoes of Death went on sale on Kingdom Death’s webstore later in August and sold out within an hour and a half.


Root: Riverfolk Expansion
Designed by Cole Wehrle
Published by Leder Games
Players: 1-6
MSRP: $40.00

I would be remiss not to mention the hotness of Gen Con 2018, Root by Cole Wehrle and Leder Games.  The Riverfolk Expansion adds an AI opponent that players can play against in a solo, cooperative, and competitive mode.  In solo/coop mode, there is also a campaign mode where the AI opponent gets gradually more difficult every time you win.  It’s admittedly about as lazy of a campaign mode that you can tack onto a game, but Root is an amazing game, and this might just be a reason to get you to revisit this game multiple times.  Kickstarter backers have received their copies of Root and The Riverfolk Expansion, the base game of Root is currently for sale on Leder Games’ webstore, but The Riverfolk Expansion is sold out.


 

NEW GAME ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

Machi Koro Legacy
Designed by Rob Daviau, JR Honeycutt, and Masao Suganuma
Published by Pandasaurus Games and IDW

Remember last month how I mentioned that Rob and JR were working on another legacy game?  They announced at the Dice Tower Live event at Gen Con that it is Machi Koro Legacy, being published by Pandasaurus with a Spring 2019 release.  The game is a 10-game legacy campaign that at the end of you will have a unique copy of Machi Koro that you can keep playing after the campaign is over.  People were a little cynical online about its announcement, but Rob said that he only took this project up because he had a good idea for it.   Rob mentions in an interview with Jason Levine that the storyline to Machi Koro Legacy is inspired by Japanese fairy tales and folklore, and is going to be cute, whimsical, and approachable for families to play.

Bloodborne: The Board Game
Designed by Michael Shinall and Eric Lang
Published by CMON Limited

Also announced at the Dice Tower Live was Bloodborne: The Board Game by Michael Sninall and Eric Lang.  This is a separate game from the card game also published at CMON, and aimed towards a more “hardcore” audience.  The game is a “really really hard” cooperative campaign game.  Players are trying to hunt down the final boss, and must defeat other boss monsters along the way to gain insight of who/what the final boss is.  Players will get to join one of the 6 covenants that will each have their own storylines, so the campaign can be replayed multiple times without getting stale.  A campaign consists of up to 5 games (4 “dungeons” and the final boss fight), with each game lasting around 60-90 minutes.  Bloodborne: The Board Game will go on Kickstarter in Q2/Q3 2019.

Discover: Lands Unknown
Designed by Corey Konieczka
Published by Fantasy Flight Games

Fantasy Flight was teasing Discover: Lands Unknown previous to Gen Con, but it wasn’t until over a week after Gen Con that they officially announced it.  Discover is a solo/cooperative survival and exploration game in which over the course of several scenarios are trying to survive and eventually be rescued.  Discover: Lands Unknown is the second in their line of Unique games (Keyforge, announced at Gen Con, being the first).  Each copy of Discover is unique from every other copy, your copy will have a unique combination of environments, characters, storylines, items, and enemies, making ever group’s experience unique.  I’m always a sucker for procedurally-generated stuff, so this is on my wishlist for sure. Discover: Lands Unknown will release in Q4 2018 witCheck out the announcement trailer here.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Heritage
Designed by Babis Giannios
Published by Nice Game Publishing and White Wolf Games

Another legacy announced this month was Vampire: The Masquerade – Heritage, a light card game based in the RPG of the same name.  The campaign starts in the 1300’s and ends in the 1990’s, with players taking on the role of ancient vampires trying to shape and influence historic events.  Players will be able to recruit vampires into their clan, and turn mortals to vampires.  All cards in the game come pre-sleeved (presumably with opaque backs), and you won’t know how a mortal will turn until you take the card out of the sleeve and flip it over to its vampire side. The game touts that it is quick-playing, 20-40 minutes, and supports 2-4 playes.  Heritage will be demoed at Essen 2018, crowdfunded in early 2019, and released at Essen 2019.

Outlaws in a Strange Land
Designed by Stephen Gibson

Stephen is going to be publishing a new game in the Grimslingers universe called Outlaws in a Strange Land.  Stephen has said this is a prequel of sorts to Grimslingers, and is a narrative-driven solo/cooperative adventure card game with deep character progression for 1-4 players.  The game uses a companion app.  At the moment the game will be independently published by Stephen, not Greenbrier Games.  Look at that art!

Defenders of the Realm 2nd Edition
Designed by Richard Launius
Published by Eagle Gryphon Games

Eagle Gryphon Games are creating a second edition of Defenders of the Realm.  Richard Launius is adding a number of new elements to the 2010 game, including a campaign/story mode.  EGG has slyly hinted there may be a legacy expansion as well.  Defenders of the Realm 2nd Edition will launch on Kickstarter in early 2019, no release date estimate given yet.


 

BURGLE BROS LEGACY?

In an AMA thread on /r/boardgames, designer Tim Fowers confirmed that Burgle Bros Legacy is still something he is exploring: “We have put a lot of work into it, but no official announcement yet. I want to make it something special, so I’ve been workshopping a lot of ideas and trying to pare it down.”


FEEDBACK NEEDED FOR SEAL TEAM FLIX EXPANSION

SEAL Team Flix designers Mark Thomas and Pete Ruth are already starting to work on a sequel expansion, and are looking for feedback from players that have played the base game at least three times.  Be sure to let them know what you think if you’ve played it!

 

 

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