Stronghold Games Partners with eggertspiele

Have you ever browsed around BoardGameGeek, seen a game that you’re really interested in, and then found out that it’s not available in your country? Yeah, me too…and it sucks. Granted, I live in the US, so it doesn’t happen all that frequently…but it still happens. Because of this, many gamers will take great interest in publishing and distribution partnerships as they will often lead to greater exposure for a good number of games.

This weekend a new partnership was announced that made many people very happy – Stronghold Games will be partnering with German publisher eggertspiele to co-publish releases for the North American market. From the press release:

[well]
Stronghold Games and eggertspiele are proud to announce jointly a Strategic Partnership whereby Stronghold Games will co-publish all future eggertspiele tiles in English for the North American market effective immediately.

Stronghold Games and eggertspiele have worked together previously on several projects, including the just-released Porta Nigra, as well as Time ‘N’ Space (2013), and Milestones (2012). This Strategic Partnership solidifies the relationship and the commitment of the two companies to work together exclusively in the North American market in English for all future eggertspiele titles.

Before the creation of this Strategic Partnership, Stronghold Games had previously announced the co- publication in 2016 of the award-winning Village line of games under license from eggertspiele. The Village line of games will be released by Stronghold Games in 2016 on this approximate schedule:

  • Village (April 2016)
  • Village Inn (April 2016)
  • Village Port (June 2016)
  • My Village (June 2016)

With this new Strategic Partnership, these announced eggertspiele titles also will be co-published by Stronghold Games in 2016:

[divider type=”thick”]

Animals On Board

You have an ark and want to take as many animals on board as you can. Unfortunately, a guy named Noah claims all animal pairs for himself. However, you can gather a herd of three, four or five animals of a species, which is even more valuable! But forming a herd usually requires you to get a pair first…

animals

When the arks depart, will you have the most valuable… Animals On Board?

Animals On Board is an easy to learn, fast game with lots of tricky decisions.

The last time this design team of Ralf zur Linde and Wolfgang Sentker worked together they produced a Spiel des Jahres nominee (Finca, 2009). Ralf zur Linde had another Spiel des Jahres nominee in 2012 with Eselsbrücke.

Street date: April 2016

[divider type=”thick”]

JÓRVÍK – designed by Stefan Feld

You are a Viking Jarl gaining prestige by trading goods, holding big feasts, funding pillages, commissioning craftsmen, and hiring soldiers to defend the city against recurring invasions. JÓRVÍK is a reimagining of Die Speicherstadt (2010), where players utilize a simple yet brilliant worker-placement and bidding mechanism to build up their trading empires.

jorvik

(Note: not final box cover)

JÓRVÍK will include two versions: A streamlined base game and an advanced game, which adds into the game the rare expansion formerly called Kaispeicher.

Street date: Q4′ 2016

[divider type=”thick”]

Great Western Trail

You are rival cattlemen in 19th century America, herding cattle in a circular trail from the south of Texas to Houston, where your cattle are then shipped by train earning you money and victory points. Hire capable staff, such as cowboys to improve your herd, craftsmen to build your cattle posts, or engineers for the railroad line. Upon each arrival in Houston, have your most valuable cattle in tow.

gwt

(Note: not final box cover – will be colorized)

The winner of Great Western Trail will be the player who manages his herd best, and exhibits good timing in mastering the opportunities and pitfalls of the circular trail.

Recent designs by Alexander Pfister include Port Royal, Broom Service (last year’s Kennerspiel des Jahres winner), Isle of Skye, and Mombasa.

Street date: Q4′ 2016

[divider type=”thick”]

Additional titles will be announced at a future date.

Stronghold Games and eggertspiele will print these games together at Ludofact Germany, the leading printer of hobby games in the world. Not only will the games from both companies be of the same great German quality, but this will also enable a virtually simultaneous worldwide release of the titles.

“We are very excited by this Strategic Partnership with the world-renowned company, eggertspiele,” said Stephen Buonocore, President of Stronghold Games. “This strengthens our commitment to bringing great games from Europe to North America and the rest of the world.”

“Joining with Stronghold Games as our exclusive North American partner for English was an obvious extension of the existing relationship between the companies,” said Peter Eggert, President of eggertspiele. “Stronghold Games has been a great partner in the past, and their growth over the past several years will strengthen both brands around the world.”

[/well]

Needless to say, this partnership is going to mean great things for North American gamers!

Quadropolis, Burgundy, and Bears – Oh My!

After a brief break from releasing big box games, Days of Wonder is back on the scene with Quadropolis:

[well]

quadEach player builds their own metropolis in Quadropolis, but they’re competing with one another for the shops, parks, public services and other structures to be placed in them.

The game lasts four rounds, and in each round players first lay out tiles for the appropriate round at random on a 5×5 grid. Each player has four architects numbered 1-4 and on a turn, a player places an architect next to a row or column in the grid, claims the tile that’s as far in as the number of the architect placed (e.g., the fourth tile in for architect #4), places that tile in the appropriately numbered row or column on the player’s 4×4 city board, then claims any resources associated with the tile (inhabitants or energy).

When a player takes a tile, a figure is placed in this now-empty space and the next player cannot place an architect in the same row or column where this tile was located. In addition, you can’t place one architect on top of another, so each placement cuts off play options for you and everyone else later in the round. After all players have placed all four architects, the round ends, all remaining tiles are removed, and the tiles for the next round laid out.

After four rounds, the game ends. Players can move the inhabitants and energy among their tiles at any point during the game to see how to maximize their score. At game end, they then score for each of the six types of buildings depending on how well they build their city — as long as they have activated the buildings with inhabitants or energy as required.

[/well]


 

Next up, Ravensburger has delighted Stefan Feld fans everywhere with word of Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game:

 

[well]

cbcgThe Hundred Years’ War is over and the Renaissance is looming. Conditions are perfect for the princes of the Loire Valley to propel their estates to prosperity and prominence. Through strategic trading and building, clever planning, and careful thought, players add settlements and castles, practice trade along the river, exploit silver mines, farm livestock and more in this top-selling game by Stefan Feld.

 

 

 

 

[/well]


Finally, Stronghold Games keeps the momentum rolling from a huge 2015 with their latest offering, Bear Valley by Carl Chudyk:

[well]

bvalleyIn Bear Valley, you must be the first to survive the treacherous wilderness and escape to the safety of the camp at the end of the valley. Players start as 2-6 campers along the Bear River and must navigate the wilderness, avoiding bears and trying to not get lost.

The map of trails and challenges is built by the players as they explore the wilderness. These wilderness cards feature beautifully illustrated realistic art and have between three and six exit points along with a variety of features, both made-made and natural in origin. No two games will ever play the same.

Gameplay is structured around a clever movement mechanism in which the first player moves one card, the second player moves up to two cards, the third player three, and so on. Each of the six player characters has both advantages and disadvantages that can be used across a variety of play options — short or long play, regular or advanced.

Dive into caves, row canoes, cross bridges, climb mountains, and cut through treacherous underbrush as you stop at nothing — except bears — to be the first to reach base camp. Can you survive and escape Bear Valley?

[/well]

Reprints Abound in 2015

Much to the chagrin of resellers everywhere, a couple of much sought after games are getting reprints later this year.

Ora & LaboraFirst up we have a reprint of Ora & Labora, by Uwe Rosenberg. This one has been out of print for a few years now, which is surprising given how well it was received. Printing will handled by Lookout Games, with Z-Man Games taking care of the English version. This news came straight from Uwe Rosenberg himself, and it looks like the flimsy think cardstock boards will be getting upgrades in this new version. Look for this one sometime in the third quarter of this year.

Another heavyweight title seeing the light of day once more is Luna by Stefan Feld. Since the explosion of Castles of Burgundy, Feld’s older catalog has been in high demand with several of his games falling out of print. Rumors have been swirling about Tasty Minstrel Games picking this one up, and finally this tweet confirmed it all:

Looks like a third quarter release for this one as well, with a confirmed MSRP of $60.

 

Mission: Red PlanetFantasy Flight Games, who could probably just churn out LCG content and ignore the cardboard, also gets in on the reprint game in 2015. They recently released a reprint of Tigris & Euphrates and will also bring forth a reprint of Mission: Red Planet by Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faidutti. Apart from the usual Fantasy Flight treatment where the components get a massive upgrade, it looks like the gameplay is getting tweaked as well:

[well]In Mission: Red Planet, two to six players compete to control as much of Mars and its priceless natural resources as they possibly can. This edition maintains the core mechanics of this fast-paced game while incorporating updates by the original designers. Astronauts can land in a new zone, the moon Phobos, and the Soldier can convey astronauts from Phobos to anywhere on Mars. Missions and Discoveries have been fine-tuned, and new Action Cards join the Event deck. The game can now handle six players, with rules for a two-player variant also included. What’s more, the Victorian steampunk aesthetic has been refreshed with all-new graphic design for a more contemporary look.[/well]

Tiny Epic KingdomsFinally we’ve got a comparatively new game getting a reprint and a new version in Tiny Epic Kingdoms. Gamelyn Games announced that the Scott Almes title will see a reprint with a few minor tweaks to the ruleset and some component changes as well. Nothing but good news for a great game! No firm date on this one yet, but with a Kickstarter for the expansion launching in June I would guess no sooner than the end of this year.

Review: AquaSphere

Board games tend to have a “feel” to them. When you play Kanban, you feel like you’re manufacturing cars. Playing Escape gives you the feeling of urgency like you’re escaping from a temple. And these aren’t just thematic feelings – the game actions add to the experience. Now I want you to picture how you’d feel if you were trying to balance a tray of full coffee cups while wearing roller skates and blindfolded. And you’re only allowed to use one arm. That, my friends, is AquaSphere.

AquaSphere is a game for 2-4 players by Stefan Feld and is published for the U.S. by Tasty Minstrel Games. Play time will vary through the player count, but will average out at a little under two hours. The outer board and center tiles are modular which gives you a random setup, changing each game slightly. Well, possibly. There’s always a chance that the setup is randomly identical to your last play…which would make an awesome band name. “Randomly Identical.”

AquaSphereEach player will take one of two actions on their turn, proceeding in player order until they are unable (or unwilling) to perform more actions at which time they will pass. The first action that can be chosen is to program a bot, choosing a function that the bot will perform once it reaches the facility. This can be done by either moving your engineer to a new spot in the headquarters or by paying three time tokens. The second is to move within the facility and deploy one of your programmed bots to a corresponding station. Once there, they will perform a task based on their location.

After each player has passed there is a round of intermediate scoring, where you evaluate several points: who has control of the most sections of the facility, how many crystals do you have, how many submarines and bots have you deployed, and how many octopods are impeding your progress? Your player board will have this information on it, along with information about end game scoring.

This will be followed by the placement of new lab expansions and research cards. You will also add items (crystals, octopods, time, etc.) to the facility based on the center tile, as well as adjusting the programming order within the headquarters. After four rounds you perform another intermediate scoring and then proceed right on to final scoring where you’ll see who won.

Wrapped inside of a relatively basic ruleset is a clever game where each player will constantly be faced with the agony of choice. For instance, let’s look at the headquarters. There are seven actions which bots can be programmed to perform over the course of a round, and you can only have two programmed bots staged at a time. So you need to keep this limit in mind…which actions do you need to perform, and when do you need to do them?

AquaSphereAlong with that restriction, you’re going to have to choose a path for your scientist to take through the headquarters. Each round you will be able to choose from three of the seven programmable actions, and their placement on the board is different from round to round. So while gathering crystals and dealing with octopods in the same round seems to be what you’ll want to do, if those actions are located on the same row you won’t be able to do both.

Which would make an interesting situation for these researchers. I picture those conversations happening a little like this:

“Hey Sarah? I’m a little short on crystals. Can you send down a bot so I can harvest some?”

“Sure, no problem.”

“Perfect. Okay, and now I could use one to take care of some of these octopods.”

“Um…well…yeah. That’s not really possible. I mean, we can make the lab a bit bigger if you’d like…Bob? Hello?”

“Not cool, Sarah.”

Some games will offer you actions which are suited for different strategies but can be ignored if you’re heading in a different direction. Not AquaSphere. You really can’t ignore any of these actions:

  • Expand your lab: These will expand your resource storage, as well as offering you points for end-game scoring. You also get to place a bot that hasn’t been programmed yet into a section of the station, which may give you the overall majority in the station.
  • Catch octopods: During each intermediate scoring you will lose points for the number of octopods that are in a section that you control. Catching them will remove them, and give you points.
  • Harvest crystals: Perhaps one of the most important actions. There are “breakpoints” on the scoring track past which you cannot move unless you pay a crystal to do so.
  • Place a submarine: Not only will placing a sub give you points based on the center tile, but it will also unlock scoring for another column of your bots…and give you extra time each round.
  • Take a research card: You’ll get points when take these cards, and they will provide you with some benefit – be it extra time, crystals, or some special ability, you won’t be able to forsake these.
  • Take time tokens: Time is required to do almost everything in this game, and having a constant supply is vital to your success.
  • Program a bot: Using this action will allow you to immediately program a bot based on the function shown on the board. One of the only way you can squeeze more actions out of a round.

Ignore the crystals? You aren’t going to score. Don’t deploy subs? You’re going to be short time and score fewer bot points. Let octopods run rampant? You’ll lose a ton of points. If you don’t work to balance out these actions and take as many of them each round that you can, you will find yourself bailing water out of a sinking ship. Or sub, as the case may be.

All of these factors, which are limiting and chaotic, are exactly what make AquaSphere shine. You want to make plans for later rounds, but you really can’t. You’ve got a dozen different things that are going to change with each turn, say nothing about the other players will do to alter the makeup of the board. So the game becomes about looking at what’s available and making the best out of what’s there.

aquasphere02Now this will cut both ways – if you try to play this game with someone that has analysis paralysis? Prepare for the game to drag to a halt every time their turn rolls around. The decision tree forks too many times and there are so many variables that trying to calculate an optimal path will take forever…and be unreliable as all hell. Because while you might be able to see what one other player will want to do, three more players is nigh incalculable.

But I feel that AquaSphere, like some of Feld’s other games, is less about how to perform optimally and more about how to mitigate the problems caused by your inability to do enough actions. It’s not “how can I score the most points”, but “how can I make sure I lose the fewest points” all while trying to keep other players in check as well.

The more plays you get under your belt, the more this will clarify for you. You’ll see where it makes sense to use a bot to take over control of a section even though there are three octopods there and where it makes sense to just take the majority hit and wait until next round to make a move. You’ll be able to shorten your path decisions to manageable structures in your head.

And once you see that this game has a lot to offer; once you embrace the chaos? You’ll find an amazing game that’s going to feel fresh each time you play. There’s something to be said for that. So pick this one up as soon as possible. Because if we’ve learned anything from this game it’s that you need to take advantage of opportunities when you have them…or they go away forever.

Valentine’s Day Gaming

Today is Valentine’s Day here in the States, and for some people that will mean a day full of spending time with the special someone in your life. Some dinner, maybe some chocolates, a little candlelight, and if you’re REALLY lucky…some quality gaming time with the one you love. So in honor of two-player gaming, no matter the reason, I’d like to give a very brief overview of a few games that will accommodate more players, but really shine when played head-to-head.

[divider type=”thin”]

Glass Road

Glass RoadSet in the Bavarian Forest in the Early Modern Age, players will shape the land and build buildings in an attempt to gather resources and produce glass. To help you with this, each player has a starting set of resources and fifteen workers that will perform various tasks. The game will play over four “building periods” and can be easily completed in 45 minutes.

Uwe Rosenberg has packed so much goodness into this game:

Role Selection – The heart of this game is a role selection mechanic. Each player has the same fifteen cards representing the available workers. Each worker will have two actions on their card, and a player will be able to perform at least one (but hopefully both) of them on their turn. Five of these fifteen cards will be used in a building period, and matching cards with the other player is the only way you’ll be able to maximize your actions.

Resource Wheels – To track their resources, each player is provided with two resource wheels. The wheels are set up so there are two sections to each: a larger section in which clay, sand, water, food, and the more common resources are tracked, and a small section that tracks either brick or glass. As resources are earned the markers for each is moved clockwise around the wheel. As they are spent? Shift them back counterclockwise. Of course the kicker is that once you’ve produced enough basic resources they auto-spend themselves to make the bricks and glass you’ll need. So you have to plan that out carefully.

Variable Buildings – There are three types of buildings in Glass Road: anytime use buildings which typically convert resources, one-time use buildings that offer a bonus when built, and end-game scoring buildings which will increase your point total at the end of the game. As buildings are purchased they are replaced once the next round starts. The wonderful thing? There are 93 buildings in the game. You’re seeing new things every time you play.

The building periods will play out with each player revealing their selected workers and then performing that worker’s action. You need to figure out what you need to get done…as well as what you think your opponent needs. Because if you don’t match up at least one of the roles they reveal? You’re going to be short on actions. And if you aren’t VERY careful with your resources? You’ll gain three water and then wind up losing one of each of your resources as you auto-produce glass.

For a game that can be played in a short time it is absolutely amazing, especially with two players. Read through the rules carefully though. There’s a minor change to how the building period plays out with two players that should be noted prior to starting.

[divider type=”thin”]

Seasons

SeasonsIn Seasons, you play the part of a great wizard that is taking part in a tournament to select the archmage. To win this tournament you will need to summon the most amazing creatures, call forth great artifacts, and harness the powers of the very seasons themselves!!! Or, you know, play the cards with the most victory points. I mean, whichever works for you.

The game starts with a card draft, each player selecting nine cards that will be played out through three years. Then the game itself starts with three dice (well, the number of players plus one dice…but this is about the two player game) being laid out for each season. On your turn you roll the dice for that season, the start player selects one, the other player takes a second, and the third set how quickly the seasons advance. You play the action on your dice, play a card if able, and then move to the next turn. It’s that simple.

You’re setting up the flow of your game before the first die is even rolled, so you don’t wind up altering your strategy too much during each year. But it works. The dice can be unforgiving and your opponent might wind up leaching all of your crystals away. But that works too…and adds an element of anxiety that makes each round entertaining.

But they key to the success of this game with two players? It’s quick, and you can keep track of everything without it feeling like a luck-fest. Hell, you can even start with some pre-generated card sets to eliminate the draft and speed that part up. And once you’re into the game things move right along…and you only have one person to keep track of. Those cards can get nasty, which isn’t bad, but with more than two people it feels more like a spreadsheet nightmare than a fun game. “Right, well, I’m taking three crystals for you because of this, and I lose one for that and then I get two wind because it’s past tea time…”

[divider type=”thin”]

The Castles of Burgundy

The Castles of BurgundyAnd last, but certainly not least? Stefan Feld brings us to the Burgundy region of France where we are aristocrats trying to grow our tract of land into a bustling princedom. To do so, each player can choose from an available pool of building, animal, and knowledge tiles, purchasing them with the dice they have rolled.

The flow of the game is quite simple. You get two actions on your turn, and the option to pay for a third special action. Each player will use their dice to take tiles from the main board, place tiles on their personal board, sell goods, or acquire workers. The tiles are the meat of the game, not only because they build your princedom, but also because they will each give you a benefit of one sort or another…but it all depends on the dice.

Unlike some dice games where a rough roll can really put your back to a wall, The Castles of Burgundy offers you a way to combat that: your workers. Say you’ve rolled a 4, but the tile you want to buy is on the 5 spot. Well, you’re not totally out of luck. If you’ve got a worker, you can modify your die roll up or down by one digit, thereby allowing you to acquire that tile and carry on.

Eventually you will create combos with your various buildings that will allow you to take free tiles, more money, place tiles on your board…any number of things. But this isn’t just multiplayer solitaire – all the while you’re trying to keep an eye on the other person. Are they moving towards the same tiles you are? Do you need to maneuver into the start position to go first? By the end of the game you’ll be lamenting that one tile you let go on turn three just to grab the start player away from your opponent. It’s brilliant.

Feld has gotten a reputation for his “point salad” games, and there are certainly a variety of ways to score points in this one. But unlike some games, it never feel overwhelming. Your board will help guide the construction of your princedom, so all you need to do is fill in the tiles. Simple in premise, but if the dice are fickle you better be prepared to work for it.

[divider type=”thin”]

 

So there you have it. Three games that deserve to be looked at when you’ve only got one other person to play with. Each one of them offers something different, but will provide a solid depth of play in a relatively short span of time.

Now go grab one of them and start playing!

Game Day – Revisiting Notre Dame

When we returned from BGG.CON, Laura and I decided to take a hard look at our collection (I guess as we’re getting married next year it is truly OURS now) and trim some of the fat, if you will. Now with a collection my our size, you can imagine that there are a number that haven’t been played. To help determine what should stay and what should we go we’ve flagged the games that haven’t been played since we’ve been together and started working on those.

Tonight we decided to play a game that had been marked. Normally this will help determine if we want to keep a game or not, but this one was in no danger of leaving (hey, baby steps, right?) – Notre Dame by Stefan Feld.

A yellow message waiting to be claimed
A yellow message waiting to be claimed

It’s been quite a while since I’ve played this one…and it still holds up quite well. Some games that are seven years old have started to show some clunkiness and age, where this one shows that it was on the cutting edge of game mechanics that are now widely used.

Laura enjoyed the game and we can see this being a good opening game on a game night. Not too heavy, but not exactly fluff. We played in about an hour, and it would probably be almost half that if we played it again immediately.

I think I’ll have to review this one soon…