Cahoona Isle was a new name on me and they had one game, Banana Republika, from designer Michael Heitkamp. I didn’t get the chance to try the game, but it’s apparently an amusing card game that takes the mickey out of party politics. The publishers categorise it as a satirical, role-playing card game for ages 16+.
Cardchess International had the odd-looking – and even more oddly named – H2Olland. Designed by Richard van Vugt and Jeff Widderich, the game has the players as farmers building up their farms. Each turn follows the pattern of the seasons. Players plant their crops and then harvest them. These provide the raw materials to build windmills, farms and dykes and to plant new fields. The combination of windmills and dykes allow new areas of land to be drained of the water covering them. This is a very tactical game that gives players lots of clever things to do to get an edge over their opponents.
The ultimate goal of the game is to plant fields with tulips and cash in on tulipmania (think dot com boom with flowers). While there is some opportunity to do this during the game, the main activity happens at the end. Suddenly everybody is tearing out their crops and planting tulips (assuming you’ve bought plenty of bulbs). The winner of the game is decided in a final race to claim the tulip fields. Strangely, this phase seems to owe little to the build-up that has gone before. When I tried the game, I did badly for six turns, but won the game as my farms turned out to be strategically placed for the end game.
H2Olland is an intriguing game. It looks good – the model windmills are something else – and plays well. But there seems to be little connection between the final, game-winning turn and what’s gone before. Of course, this being Spiel, there’s every chance that we didn’t get the rules right. So it will bear further investigation – and was certainly enough fun that I’ll happily play it again. Worth taking a look at.
König Salomons Schatzkammer (King Solomon’s Treasure Chamber) was the title of an interesting looking game on the Clementoni stand. Designed by Alessandro Saragoza, the game is about an archaeological dig stumbling on the eponymous chamber. This is represented by the ‘board’ – a grid of squares holding tiles. Turning over the tiles will reveal treasures – or curses. Some of the items found will help players excavate or protect them from curses. As you’d expect, the most treasure at the end will win the game. This seems to be a family game, but has some interesting tactical elements (you score points for having the most curses at the end, for example) that make it potentially interesting for gamers. And the original design placed second in the ‘Premio Archimede’ game design competition. One to try.
Stephan “Old Town” Riedel has one new title from his outfit, Clicker Spiele. This is Ostfriesenlauf (called Gotham Race in English – there’s a little story that amusingly explains the name), a boxed edition of a game that was previously available in a diy form. This is a neat race game as the East Frisians (Ostfriesen) compete to find out who’s fastest. The basic mechanics are straightforward: the player’s pawns are moved around the track according to the cards played. First to cross the finish line wins.
What makes this more tricky is that the cards move a pawn in a particular position in the race: “third place moves 2 spaces forward,” for example. And all players choose their cards before any of them is played. So you may try to move your pawn, which is in third place, only to find it’s been overtaken before your card takes effect. The last player is the first to play a card, so s/he will have more control and should be able to catch up. And then lose control again. This is one of those simple games that’s much harder to play. It isn’t particularly deep – a game doesn’t last more than 30 minutes – but it is good fun and offers a bit of a challenge. Good stuff.
Cwali had two new games from main man Corné van Moorsel. Ahoy is a card game where players race across the sea with the help of various creatures. There is a strong memory element and it appears to be very much aimed at children. Aloha looks a more challenging game on the theme of island exploration. It’s a tile-laying game in which players try to find prime locations for holiday resorts and has some significant tactical elements. I didn’t have time to try either, but both looked good.
Italian publisher da Vinci had several new titles for us – including a new expansion for Bang!. The one I tried is a card game designed by Alessandro Zucchini. Lucca Città aims to reproduce the palaces of the eponymous Italian city. Each card (with a few exceptions) shows a storey of a palace in a particular colour. Players build up palaces with matching cards, each choosing a set of cards from those face up on the table. Cards that don’t fit can also be turned over as part of the city walls. Each card shows some windows, which are the points scored when the palace is completed. They also show some shields, which are used to decide the order of play. So completing a palace can mean you take your turn later, making it more difficult to get the cards you want. Ties are broken by the house numbers on the doors to unfinished palaces. So that’s three things to think about on each card.
Players can also score points by ‘opening’ their completed palaces. As the points tally here depends on what other people have in play, there are plenty of tactical options to consider. After a set number of turns, the game ends. Players gain further points from city walls and Towers (the cards that aren’t parts of a palace) – provided the player has enough shields in unfinished palaces to support them. This gives players lots to weigh up when making their decisions. It’s a quick-playing (20 minutes says the box), clever card game. An English language edition is available from Mayfair. Excellent stuff and another of my favourites.
Korean publisher Dagoy Games had a couple of new games for us. Lexio is a version of a traditional Chinese game using Mah-Jongg style blocks (in a very classy black) rather than cards. Lineage II: the board game is a simple wargame in a fantasy setting. The five races (Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs and Dark Elves) fight it out for domination of the land. Presumably this is a tie-in with the online game (which I know nothing about). I didn’t have time to investigate further.
Days of Wonder had lots of expansions to Memoir ’44 and one for this year’s hit, Shadows over Camelot. A Company of Knights is a set of painted figures for the game. They certainly add to the look of the thing. The Memoir ’44 expansions take the game to the deserts of North Africa and the snows of Russia. Excellent stuff!
New publisher Dice Boxx was on PMS Games (otherwise known by the name of their terrific motor racing game, Das Motorsportspiel) with their first game, Taxi and the City. This seems to be along the lines of most taxi games: earn money collecting and delivering fares around a city. Wiesbaden in this case, with different cities in the pipeline. It looked to have similar mechanics for moving the cars as Das Motorsportspiel, so it’s likely to be a tactical game with a large luck element. It looks good, but it probably won’t travel well.
Kris Burm’s Don & Co had the latest and final part of his GIPF series of two-player abstract strategy games. PÜNCT is a connection game played on a hexagonal board with overlapping tiles and there will be an English language edition from Rio Grande Games. Not the kind of thing I like, but those of you who do can find out more at www.gipf.com.
A new game from Doris and Frank (Spiele von Doris & Frank) is an event. Arche Opti Mix is a card game of getting animals into the Ark (which is the title of Rio Grande’s English edition). This is the usual combination of clever mechanics from Frank Nestel and excellent and amusing graphics from Doris Matthäus. The game is about managing the animals and foodstuffs going on to the Ark so that nothing eats anything else and the Ark doesn’t tip over. I haven’t played the game yet, but it looks fun.
Eagle Games were showing off their new, big box games. I was most interested in the new version of Railroad Tycoon – The Boardgame. Credited to Martin Wallace and Glenn Drover, this uses a further development of the Age of Steam/Lancashire Railways/Volldampf system. That is, moving cubes of ‘goods’ to destination cities to increase income to your company, which is financed by issuing shares in the short term. The big plus to this has to be the Eagle Games production, which means lots of good-looking components in a big box. Identifying any differences in the game will have to wait on an opportunity to play it.
Other games from Eagle included a new edition of Conquest of the Empire, originally published by Hasbro in 1984. The game includes the original rules by Larry Harris (with additional work by Glenn Drover) plus a new version “designed by Glenn Drover, inspired by a design by Martin Wallace”. Sid Meier’s Pirates! – The Boardgame, designed by Glenn Drover, is one of Eagle’s usual board game adaptations of a computer game. On the other hand Wench! is a card game of forfeits and penalties designed by MYNDzei Games.
After discovering Neuland last year, I was keen to see the two new games from Eggertspiele – though neither was designed by Peter Eggert. Antike (Antiquity) was designed by Mac Gerdts. The double-sided board shows the eastern Mediterranean and Near East on one side and the whole of the Med on the other. This immediately provokes comparisons with Civilization, but Antike is a very different game. The aim is to get cards representing major figures of antiquity – Plato, Alexander, you get the idea. These come in five different groups and are gained for achieving different things on the board. The first player to get enough cards – depending on how many people are playing – wins the game.
The really clever thing is the mechanism that decides what a player can do each turn. It’s a circular track of eight spaces, around which each player moves a pawn. At the start of a turn, the player can move three spaces for free or pay to move further. Then they can do the action they’ve landed on. Three of the actions generate one of the three commodities used in the game. Another three actions allow players to spend each commodity. Marble builds temples (which enhance the province they’re in), iron builds armies and navies (I don’t think they need explaining) and gold improves knowledge (which provides bonuses like moving further). The actions of acquiring and expending a commodity are, of course, opposite each other. The remaining two actions allow the player to move their pieces on the board – this is how territory is gained, allowing players to produce more.
This means it takes time to do anything. A player can’t simply build a big army and attack. S/he has to get the iron, then the armies and, finally, move. It’s just as difficult to respond to a threat, which puts the advantage with the aggressor. However, the game is not just about territory on the board. This is only one way of gaining the personalities needed to win. And there isn’t enough territory to be able to win just by conquering the world. As with many other games, the trick is to do things that other players aren’t doing. And if you can take them by surprise, so much the better. Terrific stuff and one of my favourite games of the show.
The other game from Eggertspiele is Die Dolmengötter, designed by Thomas Odenhoven. This is a more abstract game played on a board of interconnected octagons, hexagons and squares. These represent stone circles. Players place stones on the corners as they move, slowly building up the circles. Once anyone has a majority of a circle, they get to place a scoring stone. Further scoring stones are added as other people take over the majority. The final score depends on the value of the stone and its position in the stack. Clever stuff, but not my kind of game.
After the success of Leapfrog last year, Scotsmen Fraser and Gordon Lamont (alias Fragor Games) were back with another animal-themed game, Shear Panic. Despite the cute sheep models, this is a strategy game of getting your sheep in the right place at the right time. It sold out almost as soon as the fair began, due to advance orders and the popularity of Leapfrog.
It’s been a while since I’ve noticed anything from Franjos, but they definitely had a couple of new games this year. Friesen-Törn is a dinghy sailing game (designed by Herbert Schützdeller) in which players score points for ramming each other. I don’t know what the Yacht Club would say, but it makes for a fun game – more dodgems than Cowes Week. The trick is to make the most of your movement cards. The game is fairly abstract, played on a small board, but has rather nice playing pieces. Zoodiak is even more abstract, being played with cylindrical pawns on a pattern of dots. It’s a two-player game designed by Torsten Marold. The aim is to use the pawns to create the layout of the constellations on your cards. The pawns are double-ended so you need to get them the right way up! Nice enough, but not my sort of thing.
Fun Factory come from Singapore and had brought two games with them, both designed by Nikki Lim. Dividends is a share dealing game with five companies. The aim is to maximise your wealth through dividends and share value. As fluctuations are governed by rolling dice, you have to gamble rather than plan. Giza is a card game, also aimed at a family audience and based around the great pyramids. The aim is to get three pyramids finished – and interfere with what the other players are up to. It’s a fairly simple game, but has a strong fun element in stitching up your opponents.
Gigantoskop brought us a Russian Roulette last year in the shape of Kablamo. This year they have Badaboom, a card game of bomb-making. Players are goblins testing bombs for “The High Necromancer”. They tinker with each bomb in turn until it goes off. The survivors (!) earn gold – and enough gold will win the game (by bribing the guards so that you can escape!). With lots of tactical options and opportunities to put a spoke in other players’ wheels this looks to be a fast-moving, fun game and I look forward to trying it.
I’ve already seen Goldsieber’s strategy game for this year, Kreta (from Stefan Dorra), but their card game was new to me. Pecunia Non Olet ("Money Doesn’t Stink") has the players as proprietors of public toilets in Ancient Rome. Each has a queue of customers (cards), who will take varying amounts of time to ‘do their business’ and pay varying amounts of money. Clearly a customer who occupies a seat for 1 turn and pays 4 gold is preferable to one who’s there for 4 turns and pays 1 gold. However, the only way to manipulate the queue is by playing action cards. Action cards also let you move cards to, from or around other players’ queues – or even their toilet. And you can play several cards a turn, so chaos is the name of the game. First player to the target amount of money wins the game. The theme may be a bit of poo (sorry), but this is quite a fun game – fans of Family Business and Guillotine will certainly appreciate it.
The big new game from Hans im Glück was Hazienda, designed by Wolfgang Kramer. The pedigree makes this a must try game, but I didn’t get a chance at Spiel. The game is about territory and development as players expand their farms (“Haciendas”) and livestock. It’s also about ending the game at the right point – when you’re winning! I look forward to trying it – probably in the English language version from Rio Grande.
There were four new games from JKLM Games, all of which look very interesting. I didn’t bother trying them at Spiel as I’m sure there’ll be plenty of opportunity to do so back in the UK. The games are: Celtic Quest, by Nigel Buckle, card game Fruit Bandits by Ian Vincent, Kings Progress by Steve Kingsbury and Third World Debt by Dave Thorby.
Kosmos had the usual array of new games. This year’s addition to the Settlers of Catan family is Elasund: der Erste Stadt (called Elasund: the First City of Catan in the English language version from Mayfair Games), designed, of course, by Klaus Teuber. This uses some of the Settlers mechanisms as players compete and co-operate to build the eponymous city.
Kosmos also had Beowulf – die Legende by Reiner Knizia (with an English language edition from Fighting Fantasy games as Beowulf – the Legend). This looks rather like a co-operative game re-telling Beowulf’s story – like The Lord of the Rings. However, the game seems to be more competitive than that as players score points by helping Beowulf in his quests. Thus there are a winner and losers, rather than players winning or losing as a group. Another one that’s certainly worth trying.
Unlike, as far as I’m concerned anyway, Kosmos’s take on a Sudoku board game and Tooor! (Goooal!). The latter is a development by Oliver Abendroth of his card game Finale from a few years back. I just said no!
That leaves Zauberstauber (Magic Duster) by Heinrich Glumpler – the English language edition from Rio Grande is Techno Witches. This is a race game for modern witches – the kind who ride vacuum cleaners rather than brooms (eat your heart out, Harry Potter!). There’s also a programming element as players decide what spells to cast (or moves to make) in advance. This appears to be a rather clever and original game and I’m looking forward to trying it properly.
The nutters at Krimsus Krimskramskiste had two new games for us (leaving aside the role-playing stuff). Both are card games with an Ancient Egypt theme. Die Baumeister des Krimsutep (The Architects of Krimsutep) is about building on the banks of the Nile. The playing area is a grid, in which cards can be played, with the Nile running through the middle. At its heart, the game is about taking tricks. As well as scoring points for cards won, players also get to add buildings to the grid. There are various restrictions on building placement (like Alhambra), so who ends up building what where depends on the outcome of the tricks. More points are scored for placing buildings and there are further bonuses at the end of the game. I’m not a big fan of trick-taking games, but in this game the trick-taking is only part of the story. And winning tricks is not always the goal. This is one I definitely want to try, but the jury’s out at the moment.
The second game is Die Pyramide des Krimsutep (The Pyramid of Krimsutep) and is about exploring the eponymous pyramid. And grabbing the treasure, of course. Play starts with a grid of square tiles face down and the players’ pawns waiting to enter the pyramid. Players now move around the pyramid, turning over the tiles as they explore. They are looking for the ‘canopic jars’ of Krimsutep. Getting one of these back to base allows the player to place a treasure in the pyramid. And the first player to retrieve a treasure wins the game. But – and there’s always a but – the first jar discovered wakes Krimsutep’s mummy. Now players can also manoeuvre the mummy to block their opponents. There are various restrictions on players’ movements around the pyramid – not least the passageways shown on the tiles! This means there’s a planning and calculation element to the game as well as the plain fun. Another one I definitely want to put through its paces.
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