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
Richard Borg isn’t a name you’re going to see in this space very often, but if you’re a fan of tactical two-player war sims like Memoir ’44, Command & Colors or BattleLore (which are all basically the same system), then you are familiar with most of his notable designs. He is also credited with the classic Liar’s Dice back in 1987, so he’s been around the industry for some time. His latest non-war offering is the fantasy trick-taking card game Dragon Whisperer, which was successfully Kickstarted and published by Albino Dragon just recently. READ MORE
Lords of Waterdeep is still a great game that sees a lot of play in many groups, but maybe it’s getting a little old by now. And did you ever notice that sixth agent space on the round five holding area? Obviously that board was designed with expansion in mind, and that expansion has finally arrived with Scoundrels of Skullport. Or, more accurately, expansions. READ MORE
You can play Deadwood Studios, USA (originally Deadwood in its 1999 incarnation but changed in its most recent printing for a couple of reasons) for free right now by going to the Cheapass Games site and downloading the print and play edition. Or, for $40, you can get the new prettied-up (and rules-revised) Kickstarted edition and take it easy on your printer.
Your move, pardner. READ MORE
Matt Leacock has a knack for designing cooperative board games. The creator of both Pandemic and Forbidden Island is back with a spiritual sequel to the latter in Gamewright’s Forbidden Desert. The streamlined design and ease of access to Forbidden Desert might just make it his best yet. READ MORE
Stefan Feld is having a crazy 2013, with four new titles hitting shelves this year. One of these, Rialto, is an elegant card-driven design for two to five players. Rialto, published in the U.S. by Tasty Minstrel Games, plays out over six rounds, with each round having three phases. The first phase features players selecting a hand of cards from a number of face-up rows of six, then drawing two additional cards from the deck before discarding one. This hand of seven cards will be played out during phase two, which is where most of the action happens. READ MORE
I’ve discussed Reiner Knizia’s Ra before (twice, actually), and it remains both one of the premier tile-based auction games available and a great “gateway” game to modern boardgaming. Auctions are a main mechanic in that game, but you score points via set collection, and there is no small element of “press your luck” when it comes to drawing tiles out of the bag hoping to avoid the dreaded final Ra tile. As it turns out, “press your luck” and set collection don’t only work with tile-based games, as Knizia was also able to substitute square cardboard for plastic cubes with his 2009 spin-off title Ra: the Dice Game. READ MORE