After a couple years of dormancy, Race for the Galaxy has re-emerged with a new expansion, Alien Artifacts. However, unlike most expansions, Alien Artifacts is the beginning of a new arc for Race, incompatible with the previous add-ons. Games played with Alien Artifacts will be played with just it and the original base set, providing a fresh new take on these now-classic cards — and a smaller deck to shuffle, which is always nice. READ MORE
After much delay, Sentinels of the Multiverse: Vengeance has arrived to Kickstarter backers. Originally planned as a standalone expansion, it has since been re-branded as a “mega expansion” but could still be played on its own if you don’t mind the lack of HP tokens and possibly needing to download the core rulebook. More importantly, what Vengeance brings to the table is an entirely new way of playing Sentinels. READ MORE
The latest offering from Stonemaier Games, Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia, is one of those awkward games that is easier to play than it is to teach. While certainly not intentional, it does accidentally tie into the game’s dystopian theme of knowledge being dangerous and carefully controlled. In fact, despite the game’s solid mechanics, Euphoria‘s theme is probably its most defining and memorable feature. READ MORE
My fondness for Ascension‘s brand of deckbuilding is very well-documented, with various editions receiving a place in my year-end favorites list for the last four years running. One of the co-producers of Ascension, Rob Dougherty, has teamed up with fellow Magic Hall-of-Famer Darwin Kastle to create White Wizard Games and its first product, Star Realms. This game brings a new twist to the genre, taking aspects of Ascension and tying it in a bit with its creators’ Magic roots. READ MORE
One-on-one fighting games have been a mainstay of gaming culture ever since Street Fighter II dragon-punched its way into arcades. The intricate dance of move and counter-move has played out for decades, and in 2010 Level 99 Games designer (and one-time Snackbar contributor) Brad Talton managed to translate that into a deceptively-simple card game system. Dubbed BattleCON (“Battle Connection”) due to the way players play pairs of styles and bases, the system made its debut in War of Indines after a successful Kickstarter campaign.
To say that the game won over a few fans might be considered an understatement, when you look at what happened with the campaign to fund the follow-up, Devastation of Indines. Blowing past its original goal to the tune of being over 500% funded, a truly mind-boggling final product was created. Everything about Devastation is bigger and better. READ MORE
2013 was a good year for my unplugged gaming, but it could have been amazing. Unfortunately, Kickstarter delays are a fact of life. Of the dozen or so projects I backed scheduled for this year, at least four were delayed beyond my deadline for this column, and two more are currently on-schedule but sadly also due to arrive on the wrong side of my cut-off date. Those five or six games and could have made a strong impact on my list. Instead they will join the various projects already scheduled for 2014 in what could be a crazy year-end process in twelve months’ time.
And then of course there were all of the new games I played this year that had nothing to do with Kickstarter. It can be tricky to balance supporting independent designers and publishers while still making contributions to the bottom line of my FLGS, but both goals are their own reward. After all, without the store I would have far fewer opportunities to play anything, Kickstarted or not. With that, here are the ten new games I enjoyed playing the most this year. READ MORE
Territory control is a tried and true game mechanic. Usually these types of games feature a military conflict, each player wresting control from the others via show of force or trickery such as in Risk or Small World. But direct player conflict isn’t often a theme of European game design, opting instead for more passive tactics like obstruction. Terra Mystica (published by Z-Man in the US) not only eschews combat, but also puts the focus on the terrain itself. READ MORE
A couple of years ago I discussed a pair of Discworld-themed games that attempted to adapt Terry Pratchett’s hilarious fantasy satire universe to cardboard and wood. Of the two, I definitely felt that Martin Wallace’s Ankh-Morpork was the superior design, so I was thrilled to learn that he would be designing more games using the characters and world that I love so dearly. The second such offering, The Witches, has finally arrived. How does it stand up to its predecessor? READ MORE
Most cooperative games pit the players against a sort of cardboard AI, forcing them to bail water against a relentless rising tide until they either achieve victory or drown in the attempt. Antoine Bauza’s Hanabi, however, is a rare specimen, in that there is no simulated opponent or opposing force; the players are simply trying to recreate fireworks displays that had become jumbled through some comic mishap prior to play starting.
Well… maybe “simply” was the wrong word to use. READ MORE
Most games include some inherent element of randomness, typically either the draw of a card or tile, the roll of a die or both. There are some exceptions, notably abstracts or cat-and-mouse deduction games, but even pillars of strategic gaming like Agricola have variables that change from game to game to mix things up. In Canterbury, designer Andrew Parks has offered up an experience with no randomness (other than determining start player) that still manages to play out differently each time. READ MORE