Stonemaier Expands Viticulture & Stronghold Heads to Mars

First up we’ve got a surprise announcement from Stonemaier Games about a small expansion from Viticulture – the Moor Visitors Expansion. In the most recent newsletter from Stonemaier Games, Jamey Stegmaier tells the story of what’s in the box and how these came to be:

moorLast year I had the pleasure of collaborating with one of my design idols, Uwe Rosenberg (Agricola, Caverna, Patchwork, etc), on the Viticulture Essential Edition. On a whim, I asked him if he would be interested in designing a few visitor cards. I figured he might design 3 or 4 cards, and I’d turn them into a promo pack to sell on BGG.

Several days later, Uwe sent me 64 card designs.

I cut some cards that didn’t fit well into Viticulture and honed the rest for balance and wording. The remaining 40 visitor cards now comprise the Moor Visitors Expansion, the name of which is both a play on the word “more” and on Uwe’s “Farmers of the Moor” expansion to Agricola.

Every card is beautifully illustrated by Beth Sobel, and most of the cards feature Uwe’s friends and family. There’s also a special card based on this Viticulture-themed proposal story. In addition to the 40 visitor cards–which fit into any version of Viticulture (they’re marked with a tiny “MV” icon)–we’ve included reprinted versions of the Promoter and the Harvest Machine.

The Moor Visitors Expansion has already been printed, and it will arrive in St. Louis in a few days (along with more copies of Viticulture and Between Two Cities).


Head over to the Stonemaier Games site to see where you can preorder this exciting expansion, which should be out in the next few weeks!

Stronghold Games has really pumped out the titles over the last year or two, and 2016 will be no exception. Their most recent announcement is a game by designer Jacob Fryxelius, Terraforming Mars:


marsTerraforming Mars takes place in the 2400s when the conditions on Earth compel humanity to make Mars a habitable planet. Corporations are competing to transform Mars by spending vast resources and using innovative technology to raise the temperature, create a breathable atmosphere, and make oceans of water. As the transformation of the planet progresses, more and more people immigrate from Earth and opportunities for science and progress increase.

The players in Terraforming Mars each control a corporation with a specific profile and starting conditions. These corporations compete to contribute to the planet’s transformation, to advance human infrastructure throughout the solar systems, and to reach significant milestones and awards. The transformation takes time, however, and each round of the game represents a generation. The corporation that has accomplished the most when the planet becomes habitable wins the game.

While the board for Terraforming Mars is a compelling map of the planet, the most notable feature of the gameplay is the 200 unique project cards. The projects represent early terraforming achievements, such as introducing plant or animal life, to monumental ones, such as hurling asteroids at the surface, mining the moons of Jupiter, building cities, or establishing greenhouse gas industries to heat up the atmosphere. Balancing income, projects, resources, and timing is critical to your success.


Look for this one sometime in Q3 of 2016!

Review: Between Two Cities

I’m always on the lookout for games that will accommodate higher player counts. My group is frequently at six players, and sometimes more, so having a game that will work for a larger number is important. So when I read about Ben Rosset and Matthew O’Malley teaming up with Stonemaier Games to bring Between Two Cities, which would play up to seven, to Kickstarter? Let’s just say I was very interested.

But just because a game will play with seven doesn’t mean that you SHOULD play with seven. After all, Caverna plays up to seven, but you’re in for an incredibly long game at that count. That being said, Between Two Cities sounded like a much quicker game, one that wouldn’t take forever and yet still provided the players with an interesting gameplay experience.

Well, you might ask, does it? Is it worth playing this with seven? Let’s take a look!

Before I get into the gameplay, let’s talk about how the game is set up. Each player will have two cities that they work on during the game: one that they share with the person sitting to their left, and one that they share with the person to their right. Both players will work on both of their cities in each round, so while not a cooperative game, there’s a partnership aspect. To help keep things straight, each city will be assigned a token which goes in between the two players.

IMG_3932At the start of round one, each player will draw seven building tiles. From these, each player will choose two tiles and place them face down in front of themselves, putting their remaining tiles underneath the city token to their left. Once everyone has chosen which buildings they are keeping, everyone flips their tiles face up and thus begins the placement phase.

During placement, each player will work with their partners to determine which tile will go into the city on their left and which one will go into the city on their right. Some tiles will work better than others for a given city, but we’ll get more into that when we look at scoring. There are a few rules about placement:

  1. Tiles have an orientation, and they must be played with the scoring key on the bottom.
  2. Tiles must be played adjacent to an existing tile (they must share an edge).
  3. Once placed, tiles cannot be moved.
  4. Your final city must be 4×4 grid.

Once each player has placed a tile into each of their two cities, they take the stack of tiles which is on their right and this process repeats until you have a hand of three tiles to choose from. Then you will choose two and discard the third onto the scoreboard, removing it from the game. Once placement has concluded, round one is over.

Round two is an abbreviated round with each player receiving three of the larger duplex tiles, choosing two and discarding one. Round three is identical to round one with the exception of passing tiles – those now move counter-clockwise so you pass tiles to your right instead of your left. Once round three is complete, it’s time for scoring.

Now, placement rules are all well and good, but there must be a strategy behind which tiles to put where, right? Correct! At the end of the game the six types of buildings score as follows:

  • Shops: You will score 2|5|10|16 points for each set of 1|2|3|4 shops in a horizontal or vertical line.
  • Factories: Count the factories in each city. The city with the most factories will get 4 points per factory, the second most will get 3 points per factory, all others get 2 points per factory.
  • Taverns: There are four types of tavern tiles. You will score 1|4|9|17 points for each set of 1|2|3|4 different taverns anywhere in the city.
  • Offices: Located anywhere in the city, you will get 1|3|6|10|15|21 points for 1|2|3|4|5|6 your office tiles. In addition, each office will gain a bonus point if it is adjacent to a tavern.
  • Parks: Score 2|8|12|13… points for 1|2|3|4… park tiles in a connected group. Any connected park tiles over three will only give one additional point.
  • Houses: Count the different types of non-house buildings in your city. Each house is worth 1 point per other building type. Caveat: if a house tile is adjacent to a factory, it is only worth 1 point regardless of the normal scoring.

IMG_3935While the scoring rules of Between Two Cities are simple enough, the actual process of scoring each city can create confusion if not done properly. It’s important that each player score the city to their left (or right, I mean…just be consistent) and the person “running” the scoreboard calls out the type of building they are scoring.

Once you’ve scored each one of the cities, the person with highest score of their lowest scoring city is the winner.

Between Two Cities is a breath of fresh air in the recent gaming world. It seems like there are more games than ever coming out, and it’s getting harder to come up with something unique. Sure, you’ll get a new coat of paint on top of some tried and true mechanics, but not much that’s new. Well, Rosset and O’Malley have given us something new here.

First of all, the partnership aspect of this game is great. Your turn finds you wondering what buildings you want to play, and what she will want on your left and what he will want on your right…and whether those are at odds with one another. You make an honest evaluation of both the cities and the players that are next you, truly working together while still competing. It’s frankly amazing that it works so well.

And your choices aren’t always clear cut here. You’ll often be faced with a few tiles that might work well in either of your cities. Here is where the negotiation aspect of the game really comes into play. You’ll need to convince both of your neighbors that your way is the right way. Worst of all is when you get a stack of tiles that are completely useless to one of your cities. Trying to fit a factory into a house dominated city is pretty tough.

The balance of Between Two Cities is amazing. When you look at games with multiple scoring opportunities, especially drafting games, the design needs to be balanced so that one “path” is no stronger than another. Out of the six scoring buildings, I’ve yet to see one that is stronger than the others. This is clearly evidenced by the close end game scores we see routinely.

My only complaint about this game is that the scoring is hard for many people to keep up with the first few times you play. The office/tavern bonuses will trip people up…stressing that you can only get one bonus point per office is necessary. With each marker assigned to a city and not a person players need to call out “green: 12 points” or the scorekeeper will have a hard time moving the right marker. And it’s fairly common that someone forgets the “lowest of your two scores” condition…which leads to premature celebration. It so different from most games that it takes a while for some to adjust.

As Between Two Cities was published by Stonemaier Games, you will find the same level of quality that is present in all Stonemaier products. The art is simple, yet filled with wonderful detail. The tiles are thick and sturdy, and there’s even two different scoreboards for those that prefer a snaking scoreboard to a typewriter style. They’ve even added cards to the game which will tell you what order people should sit in – which we’ve taken to using for other games as well!

I think by now it’s no secret that Between Two Cities was a hit for my group. And that ~25 minute play time? That’s no joke. Regardless of number of players, you’re looking at around 30 minutes per game. Take that, Caverna. So does this one fit in that void when the player count creeps up there nice and high? Well, it sure does. A quick, easy to learn game with some interesting decisions. It’s a good warm up for a night, or even a nice game to wrap up an evening with. This is one that’s going to stay on my shelves.


Kickstarter Update – 10/14/2015

Well, after a brief hiatus to tie the knot, we’re back! Let’s hit the ground running by covering some Kickstarter projects of note!

First up, the crowdfunding veterans at Stonemaier Games hit Kickstarter yesterday with Scythe:


scytheIt is a time of unrest in 1920s Europa. The ashes from the first great war still darken the snow. The capitalistic city-state known simply as “The Factory,” which fueled the war with heavily armored mechs, has closed its doors, drawing the attention of several nearby countries.

Scythe (2-5 players, 115 minutes) is a board game set in an alternate-history 1920s period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and valor.

In Scythe, each player represents a fallen leader attempting to restore their honor and lead their faction to power in Eastern Europa. Players conquer territory, enlist new recruits, reap resources, gain villagers, build structures, and activate monstrous mechs.


Scythe has gotten a ton of acclaim, and will be on Kickstarter until November 5th. [link]

Next up, Ape Games teams up with Board Everyday favorite Scott Almes with his latest offering, The Great Dinosaur Rush:


tgdrThose were cutthroat times and these otherwise reasonable scientists did whatever it took to stand out from their peers. Sabotage and other notorious acts were not uncommon.

In The Great Dinosaur Rush game, some actions will gain players notoriety – secret tokens ranging in value from 1-3. Notoriety is revealed and added to players’ scores at the end of the game. But the player with the most notoriety is called out and their notoriety is subtracted from their score!

The game board consists of the dig site hexes where bones are placed at the start of each round.The green and orange hex rows on the top and bottom are for 4- and 5-player games respectively. During the Field Phase, players move their paleontologists around the board collecting bones from the various sites (hexes).

Players build their dinosaur masterpieces behind their screens – safe from the prying eyes of their paleontologist opponents.

The inside of the screen gives tips on the different bone types/colors and which bones are used for the various museum categories.


This one will be around for a little longer, but don’t dally! The Great Dinosaur Rush will run until November 23rd. [link]

Last, but certainly not least, Asmadi Games brings us a deluxe version of Carl Chudyk’s Innovation:


innodeluxeInnovation is a civilization-building card game that focuses on the ideas and inventions across the ages. There are no maps or battles to fight, and your success is determined by clever use of the special powers granted by the innovations you choose to play. Each of the 105 cards has a unique effect, which can vary from drawing new cards from higher ages, to scoring points, to even demanding other civilizations surrender their innovations to you!

Innovation: Deluxe is a complete set of Innovation and its four expansions, all in the new upgraded art style. The box will contain an insert designed to hold each of the five sets, either sleeved or unsleeved. Two of the expansions, Cities of Destiny and Artifacts of History, are brand new!

Cities of Destiny (known as ‘No Place Like Home’ in beta testing) features City cards with five icons instead of three. They also let you strengthen your dogma effects through the Sponsor ability.

Artifacts of History features unique artifacts from the ages, such as the Declaration of Independence. These cards feature very powerful dogma effects, but are difficult to wield.


There’s only a few days left, so back this one before the October 20th deadline! [link]



Game News – More Stronghold Games Titles, Plaid Hat to Publish a Euro, and Stonemaier Shows Some Scythe

Stronghold Games continues to send out press releases about new games in their pipeline, and their catalog is getting more and more impressive with each announcement. This week was no exception as they announced two new offerings. First was that they had acquired the worldwide rights to the English language version of The Golden Ages, by Luigi Ferrini.


The Golden AgesThe Golden Ages is a euro-style civilization building game, where players lead their civilizations through 4 eras of history. During each era, the civilizations develop technologies, create fine arts, erect buildings, and build wonders. They send explorers to discover the continents, establish cities in distant lands, and send soldiers into battles.

 The Golden Ages offers players varied paths to victory. Civilizations may achieve greatness via the arts, history, wonders, technologies, military, income, secret future technologies, and more. The player who most successfully evolves their civilization through history, overwhelming their opponents on the way to glory, will score the most victory points and be declared the greatest civilization of all.


The Golden Ages will have an MSRP of $59.95 and is tentatively slated for an October release.

In another press release, Stronghold Games announced that they would release Porta Nigra, from the superstar design team of Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling, as the first in their “Great Designer Series”. This honor was originally given to Age of Reason by Martin Wallace, but those plans are on hold indefinitely.


Porta NigraPorta Nigra (or black gate) is a large Roman city gate, located in Trier, Germany, and dating back to the 2nd century. The game is set in that place and time with the players taking on the roles of Roman architects working on the city gate of Porta Nigra.

In Porta Nigra, 2 to 4 players each command a master builder, who moves around a circular track on the game board, enabling players to buy or build only where this master builder is located. Moving the master builder to farther locations along the track is expensive, so players must plan their movements and builds carefully. The number and type of actions that players may perform on their turn is determined from cards that each player has in their personal draw deck.

The buildings in Porta Nigra are erected physically on the game board at the various locations in the city. This is accomplished with 3-D plastic building pieces, which gives Porta Nigra a beautiful and compelling look on the table.


Porta Nigra is set to be released in November of 2015 and has an MSRP of $69.95. Something tells me that this won’t be the last major announcement from Stronghold this year!

phpodcastIn Episode 176 of the Plaid Hat Games Podcast, owner Colby Dauch revealed that Plaid Hat will be taking a step into the world of Eurogames. The game is currently called Caravan, and it seems like they will be sticking with that name. As this is the first Eurogame that Plaid Hat will release, they are taking a very interesting approach by skinning it with two different themes: the “Spice Road Edition” will have players trading goods along the Silk Road, and the “Crystal Golem Edition” which will feature “wee people” that use crystals as magic to create golems which perform manual labor for them.

When asked if there will be content or rules which are different between the two editions, Colby said “my intention is that you don’t buy both. My hope is that you pick one.” He stated the reasoning behind this being that “maybe one style wouldn’t have grabbed your attention where another does.” He went on to explain that this will be very interesting market research which will show how the theme really impacts a game along with opening his markets up for resale.

Personally, I applaud Plaid Hat for their openness about the two games being identical with exception to the theme. There are a few board game companies out there who seem to just do a cash grab with their fans and seem to have no remorse about it. It’s nice to see that there are still good people out there.

Caravan, or whatever it might wind up being called, is still in playtesting, so it might be a while before this one gets announced formally.

ScytheFinally we have an update on Scythe, a Stonemaier Game release which is slated for a mid-October launch on Kickstarter.

In the June Stonemaier Games newsletter, Jamey Stegmaier included a teaser image of the figures that will be included in Scythe with a brief update on their creation:

[well]Jakub Rozalski (Scythe worldbuilder and artist) has been working with 3D sculptors to design the miniatures for each of the characters and each of the mechs. This is our first game that involves miniatures, so we’re sending them to our manufacturer (Panda) very early to avoid running into any miniature-related delays after the Kickstarter campaign.[/well]

Stonemaier’s attention to detail is second to none and it sounds like this game will be no exception. These minis look amazing, and you can see a larger image and read each character’s back story on the Stonemaier Games website.