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Hall 9 — smaller publishers (part 1)

Spiel '11: Infarkt on displaySpiel '11 report section 4

Heading down the stairs at the back of hall 10 takes you into number 9. This is a good place to find more of the small, independent publishers. It's also where several of the larger companies have extra playing space. The first to get my attention was the Czech Board Games crew, who hauled me off the aisle to look at the new games from their collective.

First up was Infarkt. Yes, a game about heart attacks! The game is designed by Vladimir Brunner and gives each player a board with six health indicators (blood pressure, depression etc). They decide what to do each 'day', but everything they do affects their health. The best thing to do is throw a party-and get the other players to drink, eat and wreck their own health. Sooner or later someone will have a heart attack. Then someone else ... and another ... and the last person standing wins the game. What a wonderfully sick idea for a game! Played in the right way with the right people, this sounds like fun, but it's probably not an ideal family game. I give it an initial 7/10 on my highly subjective scale.

Spiel '11: Speedway Champions on displaySpeedway Champions on display at Spiel '11

Attracting more attention was Speedway Champions with its chunky models of speedway drivers on their bikes. The models have two poses, either driving straight or slewing the bike, setting the direction to move. The players jostle for the racing line, which is prominent on the oval track and the key to the race. However, the first thing players have to do is configure their bikes for the race. They also need a bit of luck as each move is dependent on the roll of 1-3 dice-players choose how many to roll. Speedway Champions is designed by Jan Jaluvka and published by Stragoo Games, who are very proud of having kept the retail price down to €40. I do like race games, so I'm looking forward to trying it.

Spiel '11: Trajan on displayAmmonit Spieleverlag is a new name to me and they have a new game from Stefan Feld. Trajan is set in ancient Rome. The board shows various aspects of the Roman Empire: the provinces, trade, the forum and the Senate. The aim is to advance your own faction while keeping the populace happy with a spot of bread and circuses. As you'd expect from a Stefan Feld game, there are lots of ways of scoring points, so players have to work out what's the best way for them to get more points than their opponents. Out-performing the others is the way to win as there's no direct conflict between players.

Publisher Rüdiger Beyer recommends players mix their tactics, rather than specialising too much. However, they first have to master the Mancala-style mechanism for selecting an action each turn: moving pawns around a ring of bowls. The pawns from one bowl are moved around the ring, leaving one pawn in each bowl. The player gets the action next to the last bowl they leave a pawn in. However, this also advances 'time' by the number of pawns, so players must balance the action they want with how much time that uses up. The game is full of subtleties like this, making it a demanding challenge. It's one I look forward to taking on.

Spiel '11: Casus Belli upgrade kitPD Verlag is the publisher for Mac Gerdts's games – I reviewed their 2010 game, Navegador in issue 118 of To Win Just Once. Their new game, Casus Belli, is essentially a two-player variant of Gerdts's first game, Antike. The game has been overhauled and adapted for two players. In particular, the emphasis of the different elements of the game has been changed for two players. Unfortunately, the game wasn't ready in time for the show. However, Peter Dörsam and the rest of the team at PD were able to demonstrate the game using the upgrade kits they've prepared. Packed in a tube, these provide the amended map and rules for Casus Belli along with action cards (which can also be used with Antike). A limited number of these were on sale, each with a discount voucher for the final version of the game. I look forward to seeing the finished version.

Next section: Halls 8, 7 and 6 – Comic Action, newbies, role-play and wargames
Previous section: Halls 10 and 11 – the big boys (and others)