Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Teuber Brings Catan to Cards Once Again

In 2010, designer Klaus Teuber overhauled the two-player Catan card game with the release of The Rivals for Catan – released in Germany as Die F├╝rsten von Catan – and in 2011 Teuber and Mayfair Games present a new multi-player card game set in the Catan universe: The Struggle for Catan.

As in the original The Settlers of Catan board game, players need to manage their resources in order to build settlements, roads, cities, city improvements and knights, all of which grant victory points or special abilities. Control of roads and knights can change hands during the game, so don't assume that what's yours will stay yours. City improvements are expensive, but they bring you additional VPs and other bonuses, so strive to spiff up your cities! The first player to have ten VPs wins the game.

The Struggle for Catan is for 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, with a playing time of 45-60 minutes and a $15 price tag. The game is scheduled for a May 19, 2011 release from Mayfair Games.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Martin Wallace Takes a Trip to Discworld

Traditionally, Martin Wallace's designs for his own Treefrog Games – and before that for Warfrog Games – have been based on real-world history: trains in the UK, battles in Poland, revolutionaries in France, and so on.

Not this time – for Spiel 2011 Wallace and Treefrog Games present Ankh-Morpork, with the setting being the largest city-state in Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Says Wallace, "The storyline is that Lord Vetinari has disappeared and certain factions are trying to take control of the city." Each player has a secret personality with specific victory conditions, which means that you're not sure exactly what the other players need to do in order to win.

The action takes place on a map of Ankh-Morpork, with players trying to place minions and buildings through card play. Each of the 132 cards is unique, and says Wallace, "The cards bring the game to life as they include most of the famous characters that have appeared in the various books. The rules are relatively simple: Play a card and do what it says. Most cards have more than one action on them, and you can choose to do some or all of these actions. Some cards also allow you to play a second card, so you can chain actions."

A team of artists will recreate the city and its residents for the cards, game board and box, with Bernard Pearson coordinating that team. Ankh-Morpork has been sublicensed to Mayfair Games for the North American market and Kosmos for the German market.

Says Wallace, "For fans of Sir Terry this will be a real treat. For those who have not read the book it's still a highly enjoyable game."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Laget & Days of Wonder Offer Cargo Noir

Designer Serge Laget is one of a handful of French game designers who often collaborate with one another. In Laget's case, he's designed Mystery Express with Antoine Bauza, Shadows Over Camelot and Senji with Bruno Cathala, and Ad Astra, Mystery in the Abbey, Castle and Kheops with Bruno Faidutti. This isn't to say that Laget can't design on his own, however, as his Mare Nostrum is one of his best-received games.

In 2011, Laget will go solo once again, with yet another big box game from Days of Wonder: Cargo Noir. (Only Alan R. Moon has as many standalone titles from Days of Wonder to his credit, all based on his award-winning Ticket to Ride design.)

In Cargo Noir, players represent "families" that traffic in smuggled goods in a 1950s noir setting. Each turn, you'll set sail to various ports where cargo is known to get "lost" for the right price – Hong Kong, Bombay, Rotterdam, New York and more – and you'll make an offer for the goods on display. If another family then offers more in that port, you'll need to up your bid or take your money and slink away to look for goods elsewhere. Stand alone in a port, though, and you'll be able to discretely move the goods from the dock to your personal warehouse. Says Laget in a press release accompanying the game announcement, "Everything in Cargo Noir grew from a core auction mechanism that is simple and trivial to explain – you can only bid up, and the last bidder standing gets the goods."

The game board during play

Once you collect goods, you can trade them in to add more ships to your fleet – allowing you to scout for wares in more locations – purchase Victory Spoils, or take other actions. The more goods you collect, the more valuable they can be. As you might guess, the player with the most Spoils at game end wins. Says Laget, "After [putting the auction mechanism in place] game development focused on three areas: fine-tuning the balance so there were always multiple paths to victory; making sure the game shines with two players as well as with five; and finding a theme that would be evocative with a feel that is very different from most other auction or trading games – a Sheep for two Woods it ain't!"

Cargo Noir is for 2-5 players, ages 8 and up, with a playing time of 30-90 minutes. The game retail for $50 / €45 and will be available in stores worldwide in March 2011. I'll publish a more detailed game preview in the future in the new news section of BoardGameGeek.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Monsters Purchase Ticket to Ride, Smash

Trends are a constant in the board game industry, as they are in any industry. Gamers looking back through the years will see pirates, vikings, Rennaissance happenings, European expansion, European merchantilism, haberdashery and many other topics rise and fall among trends in games hitting the market. For 2011, the trend appears to be giant monsters that destroy things, with Richard Berg's Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars coming from Toy Vault, Richard Garfield's King of Tokyo coming from IELLO, and now the newly announced Alvin & DexterA Ticket to Ride Monster Expansion from Alan R. Moon and Days of Wonder.

Alvin and Dexter, you might wonder? Those names don't sound too monstrous, and the first word to come to mind when viewing the homespun artwork of DoW regular Julien Delval probably isn't "panic". Well that may be, but perhaps you'll change your mind once these beasts start smashing your scores in any of the various standalone Ticket to Ride games that Moon and Days of Wonder have released since 2004.

These monsters stymie players both during the game and once it ends. During play, no routes can be built into or out of a city where Alvin or Dexter are currently nesting, and during the final score tallying, any destination ticket showing a city where either monster stands is worth only half its normal value. Desperately need to build a route to Seattle, Paris or wherever else a roaming monster has set up shop? Discard one (or two) wild locomotive cards, and you can move the monster up to three (or six) cities away from its current location. Move a monster more than any other player, and you'll pick up an endgame bonus for your role as monster minder.

An "Alvin" card, given to someone who moves the monster

Alvin & DexterA Ticket to Ride Monster Expansion, which includes twenty monster cards, two bonus cards and rules in eleven languages in addition to the two figures, retails for $13/€10 and will stomp into stores in February 2011.
Dexter takes a look at his surroundings