Spiel is over and I’m still trying to catch up on all the previews that I’ve been meaning to do from my overly ambitious issue #4. But for now I’m going to take a little break from Essen excitement (mostly) and look at some other games that I haven’t been covering due to my Spiel tunnel vision. At the moment that means I’m going to be talking about a bunch of Kickstarter, not always something I do but in this case there are some great looking projects well worth checking out.
Here’s what I’ll be covering this week:
My standout from this week’s batch of upcoming games was:
Outer Earth is a game that caught my attention simply due to the graphical design and then kept my interest after hearing about the gameplay. I decided to show a sample of the artwork rather than a shot of the game in progress to hopefully catch your attention too. But the artwork isn’t the only thing that caught my eye. Outer Earth using an aesthetically pleasing “Pipeline System” which is a fancy way of showing which cards chain into each other. I’ll come back to that in a minute once I get around to what you’ll actually be doing in this game but needless to say it takes a simple concept and makes it satisfying to play out.
In this game you’ll represent a corporation that is bidding for and then developing planets for future habitation. While that sounds pretty noble let’s not forget that you’re a business after all. You’re in this for the money. Once you’ve acquired a planet it will require a certain amount of work based on how uninhabitable it was to begin with. In order to transform the planet you’ll be playing development cards from three different colors. Each development card shows which color(s) can be played after it using the pipeline graphics that I referred to earlier. Once the requirements of a planet have been fulfilled you’ll be able to sell it and move the development cards add were used to your score pile. After being sold the planet will provide a bonus until another planet takes its place.
The turn begins with simultaneous bidding to assign planets to the players followed by action allocation to allow for their development. You’ll have three workers that each represent an action you’ll be able to take to draw cards, play them on your planets, and sell completed planets. I’d like to come back to the pipeline system for a minute because selling a planet can earn additional points if the colors that you played match requirements on the available revenue cards. You’ll have to carefully plan how you’re going to play the developments in order to match the color combination that are currently desired. I really like the simplicity that this system uses but more important the visually appealing way that they decided to present it to players that makes it intuitive to see.
I don’t often back Kickstarter projects because I like to play games before I try them but Outer Earth is a game that is so visually appealing and mechanically compelling that I am strongly considering it as I write this.
I love civilization games and have been particularly drawn to card-based ones that seek to abstract. streamline, and speed up the experience. Innovation is pretty much the best design in that respect as far as I’m concerned but I’m always looking for new ones to try out. ERA puts a unique spin on things by having each player experience a different time period centered around key events and leaders represented by a personalized deck. You can pit any two eras (decks) against each other due to the interesting conflict mechanic. Before the game starts you’ll give your opponent all the conflict cards from your deck and they’ll give you theirs. This allows you to interfere with your opponent directly without needing to “leave” your own era.
The goal of the game is to either meet a certain level of progress in your era (15 points) or bring ruin to your opponents’ (3 devastations). Everything is driven by the icons of cards that you have in play. The compass (Progress) icon will gain points at the beginning of your turn, hammers (Build) let you play cards, swords (Military) let you attack your opponent, and so on. The most interesting icons are Keys which unlock powers that remain unavailable until you play a card with the matching key. Not only does this present interesting decisions but it brings a narrative arc into each era by reinforcing a progression of events and telling a story. This should appeal mechanically to gamers and thematically to those seeking to experience the time period that they’re playing in.
On a player’s turn they will draw 8 cards from their deck and must assign them to three different areas. There’s the build pile that provides the currency that you’ll be spending to play your cards. The conflict pile that can be used together with Military might to interfere with your opponent. And finally, the play pile which are the cards that you can look at and bring into play by spending cards from your build pile. Any cards from your play pile that you don’t play are discarded. When I initially read about this system I didn’t really like that you have to assign all your cards before you can look at the ones that are available to play. But then I started to think of it as how many cards you wished to look at (providing more options) vs how many you wanted to commit as resources. How you split up your cards could depend greatly on your deck, what you have in play, and how close you (or your opponent) are to winning the game. There are also powers that provide flexibility such as the eyeball icon (Vision) which lets you save cards between turns.
I really want to like ERA. It sounds novel, plays fast, and has a ton of variation based on the fact that you can switch out which eras you are pitting against each other. It retains some of the storytelling aspect of the civilization genre but uses a totally icon (abstracted) system to keep things moving along. I’m torn on whether to commit to this one but I do want to give it a try once it comes out.
I previewed Kingsmen in my very first Dragon’s Peak and it has finally made the move from Game Crafter to Kickstarter. I grew up playing traditional card games and think Kingsmen would appeal to any group that is looking for a new card game or already enjoys hidden role partnership games. If you like deduction or traditional card games then it’s definitely worth checking out.
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
Lanterns is a dead simple combination of tile laying and set collection that is beautifully illustrated. If there’s a combination that will likely appeal to a wide audience I’d easily bet on this one. Here’s the premise: you’ll be racing to collect colored lanterns in one of three different combinations – four of a kind, three pairs, or one of all seven colors. Once you fulfill one of those criteria you can turn in your lanterns for a Dedication token (worth points). The sooner you claim one of these the better because they are in a stack with descending point value meaning the points you’ll get for completing a set goes down as they are claimed. So how do you go about actually collecting lanterns? By decorating the lake with tiles of beautiful lanterns, of course!
On your turn you’ll be placing a tile adjacent to one that is already in play, if the placed tile matches sides with any tiles that it touches then you receive a lantern of the corresponding color. But here comes the clever part. Every player at the table will then receive a lantern based on the color from the newly placed tile’s side that is facing them. You’ll be giving your opponents cards every time you place a tile and likewise you’ll get one every time they place one. This continues until all the tiles have been placed at which point everyone gets an extra turn and the points from your dedication tiles are added up.
There are a couple more things that add an extra layer of depth to Lanterns. First, there are Platforms on some of the tiles which provide a favor token when they are played or color-matched to. Two favor tokens can be spent to exchange any lantern card for a different color, this adds some flexibility for when you simply aren’t drawing the colors that you need. Second, the lantern cards are kept open so you can see exactly what the other players are working towards in order to orient your tiles in the optimal way. Last, the piles of lantern cards can run out at which point players will not receive anything if they would normal wish to collect that color. Along with the race aspect of the game, having open information and control over denying colors adds some nice player interaction. Players are additionally engaged through the game due to the fact that cards are handed out to all players each turn. I absolutely love the simplicity and beauty of Lanterns’ design.
Peptide: A Protein Building Game
Peptide is advertised in part as an educational game but to me it’s straight up fun because I love science. This is a game that really embraces the unique theme of RNA Translation and makes it both accessible and true to the process. If you’re a science buff then you’ll be enamored at forming your own personal Peptide Chain with the help of your favorite Organelles. The game mechanics are built around this process in an accurate and entertaining way. It’s educational and fun at the same time (or just fun if you’re already an RNA expert).
From a gamer’s perspective there’s plenty of depth here to be enjoyed with a tactical take on drafting and set collection. Each turn a pool of Organelle cards will become available to be drafted from. Every player will receive two Organelles and then use them to take unique actions in an effort to collect RNA (available in four different colors). These RNA are then matched to Amino Acids to build your Peptide Chain (and score science points!). The most impressive Peptide Chain at the end of the game wins all the science. The gameplay is simple and intuitive with advanced game rules that add an extra challenge. I’ll have a preview coming for this one soon so be on the lookout. In the meantime go check out their Kickstarter.