WizKids’ new tabletop game, Star Trek: Frontiers, hit game shops today with a stiff price that a Ferengi would appreciate: $79.99 USD. I would love to have Star Trek: Frontiers, and my daughter already called dibs on it, but even the online prices might give me pause in this case, so for right now it’s going to The Wish Wall. Not that there isn’t a lot of eye candy on the table for this one:
Star Trek: Frontiers is described as being…
…designed for 1 to 4 players with multiple competitive, cooperative and solo scenarios.
Work together to defeat hostile ships or compete to explore and uncover hidden mysteries. Players will need to overcome obstacles to expand their knowledge and use their leadership as they adventure in order to be victorious in their exploration!
Earlier today, the game publisher Asmodee announced a new addition to its series of StoryLine games, StoryLine: Scary Tales.
Now you can bring your own tales of terror to life with StoryLine: Scary Tales, the newest addition to the StoryLine series. In StoryLine: Scary Tales, three to eight storytellers collaborate to craft a hair-raising story, each taking turns at the role of narrator, contributing characters, places, and events to add spooky twists and turns to the frightfully fun tale. Like StoryLine: Fairy Tales, Scary Tales is easy to learn, and the perfect game for players of all ages. The whole family will enjoy spinning a chilling yarn together in this card-based game. (Source: asmodee.us)
Overall, it sounds just like a game of StoryLine, except for the new theme behind the illustrations and the collaborative story. Each game comes with 30 narrator cards, 100 story cards, and 21 tokens.
Additionally, River Horse has officially announced the upcoming release of a new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic based RPG, called Tails of Equestria. The game has had its own Facebook page for some time, though, so those in the know have been waiting for this news to drop.
The Tails of Equestria MLP RPG will arrive Winter 2016. Game designer Alessio Cavatore, known for his long association with Games Workshop and tabletop games like Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, and Lord of the Rings, had this to say about creating Tails of Equestria:
I wanted to write this game because I both love My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic, after watching every single episode of the TV show (repeatedly!) with my seven-year old daughter. As a professional geek, I also love role-playing games and the fantasy elements that permeate Equestria and its denizens convinced me that the two together would make a great game.
On our most recent viewing of Star Trek: The Original Series, my daughter, as interested in tabletop gaming as I am, was quick to point out all the three-dimensional chess sets on the Enterprise. I have at times wondered if Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan producer Harve Bennett, in his three month screening of ST:TOS episodes, not only arrived at the episode “Space Seed” for his movie’s foundation, but also was inspired by Starfleet’s three dimension chess sets, as the moment of apotheosis in ST II: TWOK is when Kirk and Spock realize that Khan is a two-dimensional thinker and basically board gaming in space.
Since this movie came out in 1982, there has been such a paradigm shift in tabletop games that a similar change in consciousness could be imagined by more advanced tabletop gamers looking from above at Kirk and Spock’s simplistic three dimensional strategy. In plain English, the tabletop games that people are playing and talking about today seem bigger than the games that were played before.
Settlers of Catan is probably the best example of what I see as three different ways to measure the size of games: Span, which is the duration or time-lapse of a game; Scale, which is the space that the game occupies in the material universe; and, Scope, which is the epistemological substance of a game, the space that it occupies in our minds.
Scope will obviously be the hardest to quantify, and sometimes Short and Little games can be Big in scope, e.g. chess obsesses its players to the point that an immense strategic literature exists. Usually the best sense of an overdeveloped Scope in a game is the production of literature associated with the game. There’s lots of volumes about chess, Bridge, and Dungeons and Dragons, but not so many books on Candy Land.
Until I develop subtler scales to measure these terms, I offer three simplified dichotomies, with Span being measured as Long or Short, Scale being measured as Large or Little; and Scope being measured from Big to Small.
And, in truth, most of the games that humans play tend to be hypertrophic in one of these scales, with Monopoly being Long in Span, classic wargaming from Kriegsspiel on being Large in Scale, andDungeons and Dragons being Big in Scope. While modern tabletop gaming may be providing a more hospitable environment for quick games small in all three of these game measurements, one working theory of mine is that games that we bring along with us throughout history are typically sizable enough in one of these scales not to be overlooked.
What makes Catan a great example of all three qualities is that Catan is so overdeveloped in these terms as to be a caricature of them, especially in terms of measuring game time, as the source of most complaints about the game is that it at times occupies an extensive duration in time. However, Catan is not only Long, but also Large, as it takes up an extensive amount of the participating gamers’ visual fields, as well as the tabletop, and Big, as it continues to generate a respectable online literature due to the way that its strategies preoccupy gamers. In fact, one thing that looking at Catan makes me think is that one thing to consider going forward is the way that one measurement can feed into the others, especially the way that preoccupation with the Scope of a game, whether trading or other strategies, can influence the Span of a game.
Days of Wonder has dropped the prices of board game apps by up to 70% off on the Google Play for Android and iOS App Stores, including Small World 2, Splendor, Ticket to Ride, and Ticket to Ride Pocket Edition.
These are all excellent board game apps for you to divert or entertain yourself. Splendor particularly is my personal favorite, not only among all board game apps, but among all game apps.
That said, Small World 2 and Ticket to Ride are excellent for having great options for online play, and local Bluetooth capability as well. If you and your significant other have separate Apple accounts, all you have to do is link them in your settings so that they can download it from your purchased apps, and with one purchase both of you can play each other online. If you have the same Apple account, you can still play each other locally via Bluetooth.
Market Square in Downtown Pittsburgh is hosting Project Pop-Up, a grant giving program that created some interesting permanent fixtures like Amazing Books and Records, and also has lent itself to making some temporary exhibits such as Project Pop-Up: Play.
We discovered the giant Connect 4, Jenga, and checker boards at Project Pop-Up: Play in our trip downtown yesterday. This is my son’s first time playing Connect 4, so any tabletop version is going to be a bit of a let down.
Market Square is a good place for Project Pop-Up: Play, as on a good weather day like yesterday there are a number of chess enthusiasts playing on the metal bistro tables there.
I didn’t snap any pictures of chess players in their natural habitat, but here is a wild Jenga.
No, there was no giant Catan board, probably because making Catan into a life-sized competition might start a life-sized squabble. But if you have suggestions for the group behind this pop-up, there’s an e-mail in the embedded hyperlink above that you can use to get on their newsletter and contact them with your ideas for future play.
Assume the existence of an iconic-to-the-point-of-being-monolithic board game that has been around for over a century. While this game is dead to tabletop gamers due to its reputation for being tired and monotonous, it lives on due to the undeniable clout provided, for better or worse, by its instantaneous name recognition. Hence this dead game has had a long afterlife due to being disentombed periodically from dusty closets and shelves and played by bored casual gamers. If you’re a publisher of this game, always one of the lowest ranked games on BoardGameGeek.com, how do you make it hip, new, and popular so that it isn’t just owned, but played? You can’t really change the rules at this point, as they have ossified over the century to be as unyielding as chess, checkers, or go. You could try to change the rules, but everyone would laugh at the result and go on torturing themselves in the official and canonical way.
If you’re Hasbro, and the game in question is Monopoly,there’s only one point of attack: the theme. And just how do you press Rich Uncle Pennybags‘ tuxedo so that it looks fresh and new after all this time? The theme of economic domination made sense in the early 20th century, a time when there was vast social inequity, economic depression caused by stock manipulation, and other forms of decadently refined money madness that rippled out in waves of poverty and want; a time when the drawn-out grind of Monopoly made intuitive sense to players that didn’t have the strength of soul to question whether they deserved to suffer this game.
Hasbro decided that, as making Monopoly relevant to millennials is a lost cause, they would make it hip, and they have teamed with The Araca Group to bring Monopoly to Broadway as a musical. In Playbill’s report of this partnership a few days ago, the initial premise for the show is that it will be “an immersive-style show, meaning that members of the audience take part in the action.”
Yes, for some reason, in a huge collection of intellectual property that includes GI Joe, My Little Pony, and Transformers, Hasbro has decided to bank on Monopoly as its winning horse in live theater. My first thought is that Mr. Potato Head may have been a more viable property for theatrical development. Simon Waters of Hasbro is more confident, being quoted as saying “…Hasbro is dedicated to delivering new and exciting ways for consumers to interact with all of our brands, and this stage adaptation will do just that….We are excited to work with The Araca Group to bring Monopoly to life on Broadway and across the country.”
The Araca Group is known for its winning productions and co-productions, including Wicked; Boeing, Boeing; A Raising in the Sun; A View from the Bridge; Urinetown; Disgraced; Skylight; and, Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune. With all these under their belt, they’re now going for the money, and recently launched Araca Media & Entertainment to adapt franchised entertainment into live theater. With this new initiative needing projects to justify its existence, it is very likely Monopoly the Musical will become a reality. While Araca CEO Matthew Rego says this opportunity is “almost too good to be true,” it seems that more realistic speculation would wonder whether Monopoly on Broadway will have as short a run as the 1990 Monopoly TV series (12 episodes), or will it stretch as long as Monopoly Millionaires’ Club (20 episodes)?
What board games would you like to see adapted into live theater, or what board games do you think would work as the theme for live theater? Will we ever see a Catan musical in which The Robber keeps coming back to plague the other characters, like Javert in Les Mis?
If you’re a board game enthusiast that has regular game nights, you no doubt have already played the tabletop favorite, Ticket to Ride. It’s a splendid example of the diceless strategy game, in which players have only themselves, and not the gods of the dice, to blame. As Ticket to Ride has such an admirable design, it follows that it has countless admirers, and as any game with a lot of fans also has many costly additions or expansions, Ticket to Ride players often have multiple variations on this game, just like Catan, Dominion or Munchkin. Today, Days of Wonder announced the newest Ticket to Ride train adventure, Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails! will debut at GenCon in August, and everywhere else in September.
Designer Alan R. Moon had this to say about creating a new and “totally refreshing Ticket to Ride experience” in Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails!:
Since our planet is about 70% water, when I started thinking about doing a world map for Ticket to Ride, it just seemed natural to add ships to the game. As I started laying the routes, it also became obvious that I would need some way to accommodate the longer ship routes. The double ship cards were the simple answer. To balance these powerful cards, I decided to put all the Wild Cards be in the train deck.
It was tough to figure out what the optimal mix of ships and trains was in the game. That led to the rules allowing players to choose their own mix of ships and trains at the start. Combining all of these elements created a game that has some fairly diverse strategies and what I hope is a totally refreshing Ticket to Ride experience.
While you can find the rules by following these embedded hyperlinks for The World and Great Lakes, here is Days of Wonder’s more general description of the newest Ticket to Ride variation:
Discover the next installment in our famous train game series: Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails! Including a massive two-sided board featuring the World map on one side and the Great Lakes of North America map on the other, this version will enable you to set sails to new horizons thanks to the new ship routes.
With the new Train and Ship cards, you will be able to claim the routes on the map, and also use them to build harbors and maximize your score. Double-Ship cards are included to quickly cross seas and lakes. Last, but not least, a new type of ticket appears: the Tour tickets, listing between three and five cities, that must be connected together at all costs, and rewarded with many victory points.
Here’s the World map:
And here’s the Great Lakes map:
And here’s the nitty gritty:
Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails is for 2 to 5 players ages 10 and older and takes approximately 90-120 minutes to play. It is a stand-alone game in the Ticket to Ride series. It includes 1 Double-Sided Board featuring 2 Maps: the World and the Great Lakes of North America. It also includes 165 Plastic Trains, 250 Plastic Ships, 15 Harbors, 5 Scoring Markers, 140 Travel Cards (Train, Ship, Double Ship and Wild) and 120 Ticket Cards (65 for the World map and 55 for the Great Lakes map). Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails is expected to be available at GenCon in August, then worldwide in early September at an expected retail price of $80/€70.
The good news for some in this description is “standalone game,” which means that you don’t need to buy any of the Ticket to Ride editions to enjoy this one.
While Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails! hasn’t shown up on Amazon yet, here’s a great place to get started if you haven’t played Ticket to Ride:
As I’ve noted before on Board of Life, I’m a fan of digital board games done right, and until a few weeks ago, the only game I played on my phone or tablet anymore was Splendor, which I still consider not only a dazzling digital rendition of one of my favorite games, but also a great example of casual digital gaming that can be easily played in less than ten minutes. Recently, Ravensburger Digital was kind enough to send review copy codes for some of their games, and today we’re going to look at San Juan and Puerto Rico HD, which, while they haven’t stolen my affections for Splendor, have certainly stolen any of the time that I make to play board game apps.
Because I have plans to explore Puerto Rico in depth later on Board of Life, you won’t find an extensive review of that game here, nor San Juan, because while I do not currently own tabletop San Juan, the app is so fresh and engrossing that the card game has moved to my Wish Wall. Because, while I’ve stated often on Board of Life that Puerto Rico is one of my favorite games, I play the San Juan app more often than Puerto Rico HD because my taste for board game apps runs to strong tabletop simulations in a minimum amount of time. Tabletop Puerto Rico can take two to three hours, and even given speedy AI, Puerto Rico HD can take ten minutes longer than my ten minute sweet spot for board game apps. San Juan, on the other hand, is timed perfectly, and consequently I’ve played about twenty games of San Juan, and three games of Puerto Rico HD, over the last two weeks. Still, it’s been an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast the two games, as well as whet my appetite for owning the tabletop version of San Juan.
San Juan, the card game version of Puerto Rico, has a lot of similarities to its predecessor, except these similarities are scaled back to create a kind of Puerto Rico Lite. For instance, in Puerto Rico, each player every turn picks from one of six role cards: Builder, Captain, Craftsman, Mayor, Settler, and Trader; while in San Juan, players pick from one of five role cards: Builder, Producer, Trader, Councillor, and Prospector. In Puerto Rico, you’re filling the island on the one hand, and the city on the other, while in San Juan this action is conflated so that you’re simply trying to play as many points as you can before someone lays their twelfth in a series of cards that represent both the production of the island and the civil structures of the city.
Puerto Rico’s most unique element, that of socialized strategy, is not only present in San Juan, but due to the streamlining of the other elements, it is easier to observe in action. By socialized strategy, I mean that on every player’s turn, every other player gets to act as well, following the lead of the player whose turn it is. No one gets to act in a vacuum on their turn, as they do in most other board games. Speaking less abstractly, we are speaking of when each player picks their role. When a player picks a role, every other player also gets to act on that role, but at slightly reduced effectiveness. So when each player takes a turn, they not only have to think how their action will affect their own strategy, but also how the action they choose will benefit other players. In this way, strategy—a solitary element in most other games—is socialized in Puerto Rico. While playing the Producer may be drastically effective for you this turn, if it also greatly benefits your opponent, you may prefer to play the Councillor, though you will receive less of a benefit. Alternatively, you may decide to go ahead with the action that is more important to you, even if it means that you watch your opponent thrive due to the unintended charitable side effect of your strategy.
In addition to being able to more easily contemplate this socialized strategy in simplified San Juan, the scaling back of Puerto Rico into its card game cousin also makes for a leaner game, which in terms of comparing the respective apps, means that the San Juan app takes about half as long to play as Puerto Rico HD.
I’ve been extolling a lot on San Juan‘s virtues, so what’s left for Puerto Rico? Well, while San Juan is the definite winner in terms of speed of play and a simplicity that makes it easier to grok the socialized strategy of these games, if I was using purely objective criteria, Puerto Rico HD would be superior to San Juan.
Puerto Rico HD has excellent cut scenes, more articulate music and graphics, smoother animation transitions, and the speed of play for the AI is still fairly rapid. Puerto Rico HD also has the advantage in online play, as it continues to find a match for you in Gamecenter while you are doing other things, or even playing a game against AI. San Juan will just back out of Gamecenter and tell you that it can’t find players. That said, it takes an interminable time to find other Puerto Rico HD or San Juan players through Gamecenter, so you’re better off recruiting your friends to buy this game so they can play with you online directly. Even if you can only get one friend to join in on a game with you, better that and filling up the rest of the table with AI than waiting and waiting for players to drop in.
Despite the discouraging online game waiting room in both of these games that has so far prevented me from enjoying an online game—which means that any of my deep thoughts on socialized strategy in Puerto Rico were ironically gleaned antisocially through interaction with AI—these are much more entertaining and intellectually stimulating than throwing birds at pigs or playing one of those many games with jewels in them. I recommend them for what they are. Because at the current stage of development for board game apps, the best that can be hoped for is that the tabletop enthusiast has a kind of a digital speed bag that they can hammer away at with great speed. The days in which we can satisfy our desire for a long form strategic tabletop bout with a cell phone or a tablet computer are not here, and they may never be, as the interface doesn’t seem to be the issue, but simply the fact that there aren’t enough, and will never be enough, players waiting to be joined to online games. They’re playing these games at game night, or in Meetup Groups, or with players they met on Reddit or in a Facebook group. Technology is bringing these players together in the real world.
(I used to have a column called Do Not Pass Go, in which I talked about waiting on games to drop. This is the rebranded version of that column, henceforth called The Wish Wall.)
While the Jim Henson Company has recently announced multiple licensing partners that will produce merchandise for the 30th anniversary of the movie Labyrinth, one of those products has been in the development for over a year: Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: The Board Game, which will be published this Summer by River Horse, best known as the publishers of The Hunt for Red October, Waterloo—Quelle Affaire!, and Terminator: Genisys board games.
As you can see, it’s a lovely game just for the art value, even if it turns out to be a simple “roll and move” game. Recent images of game play, however, suggest that there is a lot going on in this game, so that veteran tabletop gamers might want this one to play, not just to admire.
If this one moves from the Wish Wall to my shelf, I’ll review it on Board of Life.