In this video, Dave and Chris discuss this lower player count version of Ticket to Ride. They share insights and discuss strategies for the game
To order a set of tokens, visit Heather’s Etsy Shop: Just The Nerdy Bits
So we’re slowing approaching GenCon! With all the research I’ve done, here’s where my list stands at the moment.
Games of Interest
I have been trying to get my hands on this game for years! This game is my type of game for sure. Set collection, bidding and area control.
Onitama: Way of the Wind
This is an expansion to Onitama which I believe adds new movement cards and new playing pieces which will add some new mechanics.
If you know me at all, I’m a huge fan of werewolf. I know hardly nothing of this but from the descriptions I have heard I will like it. This may have to be my first stop this year!
Council of 4
Here’s another great example of a game that I know has been around a long time but could never get my hands on a copy. The art and minis are nice and all but what really speaks to me are the mechanics: resource management , route building and hand management just to name a few.
Imhotep: A New Dynasty
This is an expansion for Imhotep, which is easily one of my favorite medium weight board games. Games of Imhotep can get very tense really fast. Imhotep to me has the right amount of simplicity with the right amount of strategy and depth that anyone can play! I can’t wait this expansion adds.
I think the box art speaks a lot for this game. I have only played the ZMAN Games version one time and liked it. A nice tableau building card game with surprising deep strategy. Let’s see what Renegade Games Studios does with this neat card game.
Birds on a telephone wire. This game is a light abstract tile placement game. I am sure this gains won’t be fowl.
Events and Other Things of Interest
- Demoing Luxor
- Demoing Cahoots
- Demoing Istanbul Dice
- Participating in the One Night Ultimate Werewolf championship
- This Gencon marks my first cosplay! So if you see me and want a picture or just to say hi, please do!
- Overall as you can see most of the games on this list are reprints or expansions to games I enjoy. In my opinion not a lot has come out and wowed me. I am sure there will be a few hidden gems for me, there always are!
- This year I am more focusing on networking and meeting new people and catching up with those I see but once a year.
Well we are now in the week of Gen Con 2018, which is North America’s largest game convention. I have been browsing the Gen Con Preview list on boardgamegeek.com since Origins Game Fair , keeping up to date with games that will be releasing. I have compiled a list of anticipated games that are releasing that I am looking to explore while at Gen Con. I also have some games pre-ordered that I wanted to make sure I was able to get right away. So without further ado…. lets take a look.
First, games that I have pre-ordered:
- Arboretum (Renegade Games) – Designer Dan Cassar. I already own the Z-Man version but I am wanting the new artwork from Beth Sobel. Plus a second copy can facilitate multiple games running on game days.
- Gunkimono (Renegade Games) Designer Jeffrey Allers. I own Heartland and I like the Feudal Japan theme. Plus there are some rule revisions in addition to the retheme.
- Wendake (Renegade Games) Designer Danilo Sabia. This game was on my interest list from Essen 2017. I like the theme and the mechanics interest me so I jumped on it when it came up for order.
Anticipated Games List
Here are the games I am most interested in that are releasing or supposed to be releasing at Gen Con.
7 Wonders Armada – Repos Production
I saw a sort of vague post from Repos Productions in regards to this being at Gen Con. It was being demoed at Origins Game Fair and this expansion is ready to be released. 7 Wonders is one of my favorite games and the Armada expansion now allows players to interact with more than just their neighbors. This is a must have for me.
Coimbra – Eggertspiele
I like euro games and the dice drafting mechanic has my interest for this one. The designers also worked on Lorenzo il Magnifico and Egizia. This is my #1 most anticipated game that is releasing at Gen Con.
Catalyst – dV Giochi
I am a fan of engine building games and this one also promises strong card combinations. There is a goal that is revealed at the beginning of the game that can alter strategies from game to game. The one thing that has my interest for this is that you build up a bunch of stuff and then set off a chain of actions.
Piepmatz – Lookout Games
This game was described as being in the same vain as Arboretum mixed with Parade….both games I enjoy quite a bit. I am willing to take a chance on this game despite the fact I am not wild about the designers. But hey maybe they can finally make a game I like. And the artwork is amazing.
Newton – CMON
Newton…Deck Building and Hand Management…YES!!!
I like the setting of the game being during the Age of Discovery. Solid designers with some games like Lorenzo il Magnifico, Tzolk’in, Grand Austria Hotel. Plus Cranio Creations which is the publisher has put out some great games.
Spirits of the Wild – Mattel Games
This one was one of the later announced releases and this 2-player game seems pretty cool with the stone-taking mechanism. Players collect sets of stones and also use animal spirits to help them. The coyote adds some interaction between the players. Plus this has a low cost which is even better.
Carson City: The Card Game – Quined Games
I like trick taking games and this is added to make a shorter version of a western theme game that I am interested in. Plus I like the designer and this one should be a hit.
Other Releases of Note
There are some other games and expansions that are releasing that have my interest in checking out maybe picking up:
- Clank! In Space: Apocalypse (Renegade Games) – seems to be a neat expansion for the base game that adds another level of difficulty.
- Downforce: Danger Circuit (Restoration Games) – New track + new abilitiesKingdomino: Age of Giants (Blue Orange Games)- Adds 5th Player and makes drafting a bit more interesting with the GiantsPioneers (Queen Games) – going off of a recommendation from a friend that I would like this one
- Micropolis (Surfin Meeple) – I like Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier as a duo. They did Abyss. This one seems pretty neat as well.
Game: Visitor in Blackwood Grove
Designer: Mary Flanagan, Max Seidman
Players: 3-6 Players
Playtime: 5-15 Minutes
Play Type: Deduction/ Hidden Information
On a dark night in the small town of Blackwood Grove, the peace is disturbed by a sudden crash. Luckily only the Kid is around to see the chaos unfold. Government agents rush to the scene to try to get to the UFO, but there is a force field around it. The Kid and the Alien must build trust to help make a speedy escape before the Agents figure out how to work around the force field.
In Visitor in Blackwood Grove players will take on one of three roles, either the Kid, the Visitor or one of the Government Agents. The Visitor and the Kid are working together to be solve the mystery. All Government Agents work alone, not on a team with the other agents. When setting up, each player will draw a starting hand of seven cards. Then the Visitor will draw two face up cards and place them near the force field. Looking at those two cards, and the seven cards in their hand the Visitor will create a rule for the game. It could be something like, “Things that are red”, “Things that are natural” or “Things that have strings”. The Visitor can make up any rule, but it shouldn’t benefit one party over any one else. If the Visitor is struggling to come up with a rule, there are a deck of examples that can be tweaked to fit the situation.
Then the Visitor will place the two cards according to whether they would fit the rule or not. Cards that fit the rule will be placed face up on the eight card spots in the force field. Cards that do not fit, will be placed face up on the outside of the board. Imagine there are eight spots outside the board as well. There can only ever be eight visible cards surrounding the board. The rest will be stacked on other cards.
Now players will begin playing. The goal of the game is to be the first player (or team for the Kid and the Visitor) to correctly guess the passrule. When it comes time for any player to prove the passrule, they will do so NOT by guessing the rule verbally, but instead by drawing 4 cards and correctly guessing whether they would pass through the force field or they would be repelled by it. Each type of player will have their own actions. Let’s take a closer look at those.
Government Agents will start the game. If you have more than one Government Agent, the one sitting to the Visitor’s left will start. Agents always only have two options on their turn. First they can test an object. They do this by handing the Visitor a face down card. The Visitor will then look at the card, and place it face down on the edge of the force field if it fits the rule, or face down on the player mat if it does not fit the rule. After the card is placed, the Visitor will put that player’s marker on it to differentiate the different piles. Then the Agent will draw up to seven cards.
Once the Government Agent feels they understand the passrule they can instead use their turn to prove the passrule. They will draw four cards and line them up with the four rows on the forcefield board. The Visitor will then take their UFO chips behind the screen and place them to determine whether the items are correct or not. UFO chips on the board are admitted, UFO chips off the board are not. The Government Agent then pushes the cards they feel would be admitted towards the board. The Visitor reveals their answers. If the Agent was correct they win the game. If they were incorrect, the face up cards go into their correct space on the board (face up in the 8 card slots on the board if they were admitted, face up on the outside if they were repelled). When an Agent is incorrect, also move the Trust up between the Kid and the Visitor two spaces.
That is all for the Government Agent. Next let’s take a look at the Kid. The Kid’s available actions are dependent on their position on the Trust Track. They start up being able to predict objects. When the trust track is low, the Kid will do this by placing a card from their hand face up and guessing whether it will be admitted or repelled. The Visitor will then place the card in the correct spot. If the Kid was correct they will get to place another card and repeat the process a maximum of three times, or pass and instead gain one trust for the number of cards they have guessed correctly. If they guess incorrectly, their turn immediately ends and they gain no trust. The Kid only draws cards when they gain trust, so it crucial to gain trust. Once the Kid and the Visitor have two or higher trust, the Kid may also prove the pass rule. This works the same as the agents, but if the Kid is wrong they do not get trust.
As the Kid gains trust, they get additional benefits as well, such as being able to play cards facedown, being able to prove the passrule directly after passing or having agents reveal their face down cards.
The Visitor’s turn is simple. If the Kid’s trust is 0-2 the Visitor takes one card from their hand and places it according to the passrule on the board. If trust is 3+ they do the same thing, except their card is secretly shown to the kid, then placed face down according to the passrule. If the Visitor has no cards at the beginning of their turn, they lose and the agents win.
Turns continue with the Agents going, then the Kid, then the Visitor until someone correctly guesses the passrule or until the Visitor is out of cards.
Visitor in Blackwood Grove comes with 142 object cards, a force field board, a Visitor shield, trust board and wooden meeple, 6 player mats, 10 card markers, 13 example pass rule cards, 4 UFO guess tokens and a component bag.
Overall the components are quality. Everything feels like it will hold up to wear and tear. I really like that the trust board and player mats have clear reminders of what players can do on their turns, and what happens at each stage of trust. It makes explaining the game a easy and painless process. Also, the art is wonderful. It is thematic, yet easy to decipher.
Players who do not like mini cards may be disappointed that the object cards are relatively small. Luckily there is no text included on the cards, so players won’t be struggling to read off the small cards. I do wish that the force field was just a little bit bigger, as it does have a tendency to feel a little crowded towards the end of game play.
Bonus points? The box glows in the dark, which is a pretty cool touch.
- Easy to Teach
- Colorblind Accessible
- Great Artwork
- Replayability in Card Variety
- Set Number of Rounds
- Asymmetric Without Being Overcomplicated
- Minimum of Three Players
- Objects Open to Interpretation
- Forcefield is a Little Small
Many people know, I really enjoy both asymmetric and social deduction games. It should not come as a surprise that I enjoyed Visitor in Blackwood Grove. I think it is a game that can easily be taught to anyone (even non gamers) because turns are simple and options will be right in front of the players because of the player mats. I would even say that you could probably teach a child as young as 6 or 7 to play the game. However, I would suggest having the most experienced player be the Visitor, at least until players grasp the concept of the game. Despite the fact that it is mechanically simple, it can be very difficult to actually win.
You need to be able to predict how another person is going to view the card that you hand over. Some objects can be open to interpretation throughout the game and that can be difficult. For instance, yesterday I played a game where the passrule I created was objects you can find in a school. One of the Agents passed me a card with Saturn on it. I repelled it from the force field, because you won’t find an actual planet in a school. He insisted after the game that you could find them on posters or models. This adds an extra layer of difficulty that players won’t necessarily think about until they are actually playing the game.
I already mentioned that the artwork is beautiful, but it is also colorblind accessible. Any cards that have a color reference will also list the name of the player it is associated with. Thus meaning that color plays almost no role in the mechanics. Unfortunately for some, the game has a minimum player count of at least three players. This makes it not a good fit for players who look for solo games, or for people who just live with one other person. It was something I struggled with while trying to play it for the review. During the week, I am normally only with my husband, so we had to wait until game night to play it.
Visitor in Blackwood Grove felt very similar to Mysterium to me in gameplay. While not exactly the same concept, the Visitor took on a similar role to the Ghost. Both games have similar tension, and in both games the person in this role could choose not to talk at all. In addition to mechanical differences, Visitor in Blackwood Grove is also a lot shorter than Mysterium, allowing players who want a strong deduction experience to do so in a short period of time with limited set up. The set number of rounds ensures that this game will play in under twenty minutes, and set up is easy and does not take up much space. I could easily see taking this to a brewery or public space to play.
In addition to Mysterium, I could see players who enjoy games like Dixit, Muse or Whitechapel enjoying Visitor in Blackwood Grove. It has a similar feel to many of these deduction games but it provides it in a much quicker experience. It also focuses heavily on the visual element of game play similarly to Dixit or Muse. Also, if you enjoy movies like E.T. or Paul, you might enjoy this game themeatically. The idea of taking the role of the alien escaping can be very appealing. Overall, I have found that Visitor in Blackwood Grove will be a keeper for me. I enjoy that it is quick to play and provides an asymmetrical game play experience, but I do wish that it had a two player variant. It will be available to purchase as a Target Exclusive on August 1st, 2018.
Designer: Danny Devine
Published: Renegade Game Studios, Fever Games
Players: 2-4 players
Playtime: 15-30 Minutes
Play Type: Abstract Strategy
It is a bright and sunny day, and a new topiary garden has opened up in town. You plan on visiting the garden, but know it will be crowded on a day like today. You will have to place your visitors carefully to get the best view of the garden, and rearrange the garden so that nothing blocks the spectacular view.
Set up in Topiary is pretty simple. First players will each take a set of visitors in their color, checking to see how many they get based on how many players there are. Then players shuffle the sculpture tiles and create a 5X5 grid in the center of the table, turning the center tile face up. Then deal 3 sculptures from the deck to each player, returning all other sculptures to the box. Set the scoreboard and scoring markers aside, as they will not be used for the time being.
Turns are very simple in Topiary. There are two steps players may do each turn. First, players MUST position a visitor. They do this by placing a visitor so that it has line of sight done a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal row. Only one visitor may be placed on each line of sight. Then the player has the option to rearrange a sculpture by picking up one of the face down tiles in the sight line they picked, and they may then replace it from one in their hand, returning it back to the grid face up. Play continues like this until all players have placed all of their visitors.
Scoring is the most involved part of Topiary. Players will first check all of their line of sight rows and score the points written on the tile for the sculptures they can see. Larger sculptures (determined by the higher numbers) will block line of sight of lower numbers. Then players get points for type bonuses. If a player can see two or more of the same type of tree in a line of sight they can an additional point. Players can gain a type bonus for multiple types of trees in one row. Finally players reveal the card types in their hand. Players will score the face value of their tiles, if they can see at least one of that kind of tree from their lines of sight.
The person with the most points at the end of the three scoring categories is the winner.
Topiary comes with 40 sculpture tiles, 32 wooden meeples, and a scoreboard with 4 colored score markers. Everything about the game is quality, with all pieces being vibrant and sturdy. I was especially impressed with the meeples chosen for Topiary. They come in four different colors, but also in four distinct shapes. One of the shapes also depicts a meeple in a wheelchair. This focus on accessibility made my heart warm as a special education teacher who could potentially use this in a classroom. More functionally, the different shaped meeples also make the game colorblind accessible. The different shapes are also represented on the score tracker, ensuring that the game is completely accessible.
Easy to Teach
- Easy to Teach
- Colorblind Friendly
- Great Artwork
- Simple Yet Thinky
- Easy to Play, Hard to Master
- Some Take That Elements
- Tiles are Loose Inside Box
Topiary is a deceptively simple abstract game. New players will feel comfortable with their turns quickly, as there are only two steps to them. However, as players go on to master the game it becomes very thinky. Players not only have to consider how they place tiles in their current line of sight, but also how it effects their other line of sights, and how other players might in turn change their line of sights in reaction to the move. Every move will count in this game, which is something that I very much enjoy. Players who are planners like me, will also find enjoyment, as there is some variability based on the facedown tiles, but because of the tiles in hand, players to have the capability to plan ahead.
Players who do not enjoy “take that” may become frustrated with Topiary, because there is the potential for players to purposely mess with one another’s scoring by placing sculptures in their line of sight. While I believe that this adds to the strategy and overall enjoyment of the game, some people may not enjoy that.
If you enjoy abstract games like Azul or Photosynthesis, I would suggest Topiary as well. It has a very similar feel to Photosynthesis in many ways, but it is quicker to set up and easier to explain to new gamers. As a teacher who is concerned with making all of my students feel welcomed, I may include this game in my classroom library due to its focus on colorblind accessibility and depicting meeples who are physically disabled. While that might not mean very much to everyone, knowing how it would effect some of my students makes me happy they included that small detail.
Overall Topiary is a quick thinky game. Despite the fact that the game is a filler game, it provides players with the feeling that they are playing a much more substantial game because of the thought that goes on throughout the game. It makes a great opening game for a game night, or a great quick after dinner game.