GenCon 51 Preview: Detective from Portal Games



From the publisher:

In Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game you are going to solve FIVE different cases and find out what connects them, you are going to BREAK THE 4th WALL by using every resource you can, you are going to browse the game's DEDICATED DATABASE simulating agency's resources, you will enter a city maze of old mysteries and fresh CRIME, and you will be able to COOPERATE with other agents or solve the mystery on your own.

Take the job of a real detective in a modern setting! In Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, 1-5 players take on the role of investigators, solving mysterious crimes while working as an Antares National Investigation Agency team member. This board game tells rich stories - stories you will participate in. Let's hope that you will be able to deduce the end, before there is another crime... The game will challenge you with five different cases, that has to be played in order. Seemingly unconnected at first, they will unveil an immersive meta-plot based on facts and fiction alike.

Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game brings classic, card-based, puzzle-solving gameplay into the 21st century with the introduction of online elements. You will gain access to the online Antares database that contains data about suspects, witnesses, and documentation from arrests and trials related to your case. Use every tool at your disposal to solve these crimes - consult the Internet, check the facts and constantly discover new clues. You are not playing a detective; you ARE a detective!

Why I Am Interested in It

The combination of using a traditional way to play (a physical board game) and the online aspect intrigues me on how it enhances the enjoyment of the game. There's a proprietary database through the developer you use. However, in an interview with Board Game Geek at the GAMA show this year, Luke Otfinowski from Portal games also mentioned going to Wikipedia and sites like that. I don't mind issuing apps away from the board as long at it makes sense and improves gameplay. Ultimately, it sounds like you'll be utilizing similar tools that real detectives use to solve cases. All that's missing is a fingerprint kit.

And the theme is right up my alley. Most likely I'll be doing Detective solo, so if the length of one scenario is around 3 hours, then getting 15-20 hours out of a $50 (price from the GenCon preview listing) game is well worth it. Some of us pay more for a video game that late the same amount of time or less! Plus, all the single missions combine into one full campaign. That adds more to the endgame content.

Can’t wait to see this game in person. Portal Games will have Detective for sale at their booth located at 1850.




Gregory Gregory Author

Review: Euphoria



Creator(s): Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Year: 2013
Players: 2-6
Game Type: Worker placement with dice rolling and hand management.

OVERVIEW

I love dystopian things. Movies and books. Maybe I’m just a depressing guy that loves watching or reading about a society that never got out of the rut of some major event that turned people against each other in some class, intellectual, or technological way. The board game Euphoria has entered the dystopian-themed universe with a bleak view of the future after the world as we know it ended.

A new world order is created so another apocalypse is avoided. So, the Euphorian elite build high walls around their precious city. Intellect is the most important factor in maintaining this society. To make it to the future, everything is taken away from the citizens. Even knowledge of the past.

But there are three other societies who want to make sure the Euphorians don’t keep rule over the world. There are other ways to the future, and they don’t involve oppression. The Wastelanders are farmers and historians to remember the past. Subterrans, an underground collection of miners and revolutionaries, maintain the tunnels and pipes that lead to each of the societies. The Icarites live in the clouds (literally and figuratively.) They move about in Zeppelins, trying to bring people to them with the promises of everlasting bliss.



GAMEPLAY

Let’s get this out there right now: there are a lot of options for victory in Euphoria. The board is overwhelming at first, as you figure out how you want to proceed. And a strategy for one game may not work with another game. That’s one of the reasons this game is worth owning.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the nitty gritty. Your goal is to place all 10 of your authority tokens. This is done by paying resources for the markets or advancing the allegiance track or resolving your ethical dilemma (if you chose the one that allows you an authority token.) The first person to get rid of your authority tokens wins. So how do you do that?

Except for Icarus, each of the factions have markets you can “open.” You’ll need to produce resources to obtain the materials to get those markets activated. Food, Energy, Water, and Bliss are the resources you can get, and Clay, Stone, and Gold are the materials you use to build the markets. And to collect all that stuff you have workers to use in the form of your dice. You start with two, but you have the opportunity to activate more workers (up to two more) if you wish.

When it’s your turn, you have one of three actions you can make. You can place a worker, retrieve your worker(s), or resolve your ethical dilemma. One of the clever mechanics involving the workers is the Knowledge Check. In this dystopia, you don’t want your workers becoming so intelligent they realize there’s more to their bleak surroundings. Basically, you want to keep them dumb. Anytime you activate a new worker or retrieve your workers or have a worker get bumped from the board, you roll them. Add them up and combine that with where you’re at on the Intelligence Track, and if the total is 16 or over, you lose a worker. That means you can do less on your next turn. That worker’s intelligence is sort of punishing you, isn’t it?

Recruits

Recruit cards. I’m torn on the impact these cards have on the game. These cards have special powers on them to use throughout the game. You start with one face-up (active) and one face-down (to be activated later). Chances to flip the inactive one come through tunneling or raising the allegiance track of the faction your recruit is allied with. Some powers on the cards are useful, but I found most went ignored or didn’t pertain to many of the actions during a game session. Through multiple gameplays, I rarely used a recruit’s power let alone both. And some of the recruits had powers that were so precise, I don’t know if the conditions to meet the powers would ever occur.

The Ethical Dilemma cards add a dimension to the game but aren’t so advantageous in my opinion they’ll drastically change the game. Each card – used once per game – allows you to choose between two dystopian-like choices that shows you are for or against the dystopia. For example, one card lets you choose between “Publish an Expose” or “Publish Propaganda.” The results for or against are the same on all the cards. You’ll either get to Draw 2 recruits to keep one or you will get to place an authority token on the card.

Mutual benefits are a key component in trying to retrieve resources and build markets. There’s a good way to do it and a sneaky way. Each area has a commodity box to obtain resources. They are cumulative, based on your worker’s knowledge score. More than one dice can go in the commodity box (even yours), but the person placing the die gets to resolve the conditions. So, you either want to keep the score low so the next person doesn’t get the best rewards, or you want to add to it so you get the best rewards on a subsequent turn. For the markets, you can build them yourself or more then one player can help build them. When the market is activated, each person who assisted in its construction gets to place an authority token on it. But here’s the kicker: for each person who didn’t help is affected by the penalty listed in the game from then on. However, those who incur the penalty can spend resources later to add their authority token and negate that effect.

Markets

SOLO PLAY/DIFFICULTY

As of right now, there is no official solo version of Euphoria. Although in March of this year, a form thread on BoardGameGeek had a response that an Automata was being developed (along with an expansion.) You can download a PDF document of a fan-made solitaire variant at the link at the end of this review.

When you’re first learning the game, it can be staggering when you look at the board and pore over the rules. But after a few play-throughs, you’ll realize that, while a lot of information is thrown at you visually, Euphoria is whittled down to a few basic actions that potentially garners you several strategies per game. I highly recommend viewing the Watch it Played instruction video (link below); it’s only 25 minutes, and Euphoria is explained superbly.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Euphoria is an expansive game that’s enjoyable to play. Because it makes sense. As I played, I realized – once I had gotten the rules down somewhat – that each action or worker placement or resource gathering or material collecting made sense with one another. You’re in a dystopia and using workers and materials and resources should be limited in what you can do with them. For example, water is a resource vial for the Subterrans. Why? Because they are underground and where do you find water? Underground. You don’t use with other factions. And to build the markets in Subterra you use lots of stone. See what I mean? Creating a better dystopia in Euphoria makes total sense in how you do it.

Really, the only negative I have for Euphoria is the Recruit Cards. Often, I found them useless, just sitting in front of me waiting for me to use them. Opportunities to take advantage of the powers on them didn’t come up very often.


Artifact cards

Using Knowledge Checks with your workers and advancing the allegiance tracks adds a great depth in maintaining your dystopia. Plus, your ability to cooperate or uncooperate with your opponents keeps you on your toes. In some cases, you want to work with others, but then again, you may not want to so their options are limited.

If you like dystopian universes or science fictions games, I recommend this game. It combines several board game mechanisms to journey to victory that rely more on strategy than luck. While there is some dice rolling, it’s minimal. And if the dice roll hurts you on one turn, you can always change that result (i.e. getting your workers back) later. Plus, if you’ve ever wanted to rule a dystopian society and keep the citizens dumb, Euphoria is perfect.

WE ROLL SOLO SCORE

4 out of 5 Solos

PROS
  • Deep, immersive gameplay
  • Multiple strategies to win
  • Great dystopian atmosphere
  • Great with 3-5 players
  • Worker bumping a solid mechanic


CONS
  • Board is somewhat busy in sections
  • Automata is forthcoming (as of March 2018)
  • Recruits’ powers can feel useless

Euphoria Official Site
Euphoria on BoardGameGeek

Watch it Played for Euphoria
Solitaire Variant (fan-made)
Play the digital version at Boardspace.net

Gregory Gregory Author

GenCon 51 Preview: Dual Powers: Revolution 1917



From the publisher: In March of 1917, Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate the throne of Russia. In his place, a conservative Provisional Government formed, representing the official authority of the state. Opposed to the newly formed government stood the Petrograd Soviet, an elected council of workers organized by socialist activists.

Over the following months, an internal struggle for power and influence would dominate the country and spark a social revolution. In this state of dual power, or dvoevlastie, charismatic and powerful leaders would rise with the tide of public dissatisfaction and change the course of Russian politics forever.

Dual Powers had a successful Kickstarter campaign a few months ago, unlocking all the Stretch Goals listed. This area control, politically-themed game uses tokens and cards to influence support for and against a Civil War. Some leaders want it, and some don’t. The game is for 1-2 players.



Why I’m Interested in It

The game focuses on an important time in Russia’s history, and it uses the life and events of real people in Russia’s past to drive the gameplay. The art style fits the theme of the game, with it’s revolutionary-like (maybe even slightly dystopian) colors and sharp lines.

From reading through the Alpha rulebook listed on BoardGameGeek, Dual Powers appears to have an interesting calendar mechanic that is important to obtaining victory points. Plus, there are secret objectives? What game with secret objectives isn’t fun? However, even though the rulebook comes in at only 12 pages, there does look like there’s quite a bit going on for each round. But like most games that appear that way, they aren’t once you get into actual play time.

Most interesting is the Solitaire Variant. Instead of playing an actual opponent, you go against an automated opponent named “The Opposition.” This version will use special Opposing Unit and Difficulty Tracking Tokens that were created for this solo variant. That bodes well for the complexity and replayability of Dual Powers since the creators probably took great care in developing the solo version.



Thunderworks is demoing the game at GenCon. Their location is at 1158.



Gregory Gregory Author

GenCon 51 Preview: Space Park


From the publisher:

Ride a rocket to extraordinary destinations across our galaxy. During your travels you will gather exotic crystals that further our understanding of what's out there. Use these crystals to complete exploration badges and turn them in at the mysterious Outpost 13 to prove yourself as the galaxy's next great space explorer!

Space Park features a modular board where seven destinations are randomly arranged to form a circle between players. During a player's turn, rockets will be on three of the board's seven destinations. These rockets symbolize what destinations are available for a player to travel to. Once a player travels to a destination by performing its action, that rocket moves to the next open destination clockwise.

Destinations feature actions such as gaining a certain type of crystal, acquiring a new badge to work towards, turning in your crystals for Explorer Points, or using your trusty explorer-bot Scout to help out. The player with the most Explorer Points at the end of the game wins.

Why I'm Interested in It

Keymaster Games (Control, Campy Creatures, Claims of Gold) looks like they have a fun and light worker placement game in the style of the pulp science fiction stories of the 40s and 50s. I love the box art, which is reminiscent of those sci-fi novels of that era. Even the artwork of the cards and design of the pieces are gorgeous. And it's basically space exploration? That seals my excitement seal right there.

Solo play involves obtaining Explorer Points against the bot, Scout. Scout runs through the Badge deck to move the rockets and himself. With solo play out of the box, and three rocketship miniatures, Space Park appears as if this game is a great travel game.

I can't wait to get a hands-on demonstration, if the company is providing those, to see the art in person and maybe take it for a solo test drive.

Space Park was funded through Kickstarter, and will be at the Keymaster booth at location 2445. If you can't make it to GenCon, you can pre-order a copy. According to BGG, they will have copies for sale.

Pre-order Space Park

Keymaster Official Website

Space Park at Board Game Geek
Gregory Gregory Author

GenCon 51 Preview: Forbidden Sky



From Matt Leacock comes another game in his Forbidden series. First you had Forbidden Island, then Forbidden Desert, but now get ready for Forbidden Sky.

From the game description:

“Soar to dizzying heights in the electrifying cooperative adventure. Work as a team to explore a mysterious platform that floats at the center of a savage storm. Connect a circuit of cables to launch a secret rocket – all before you are struck by lightning or blown off to the depths below. It’s a high-wire act that will test your team’s capacity for courage and cooperation. One false step and you all could be grounded…permanently!

This latest installment in the Forbidden game series takes you to new heights with several novel challenges, including collectively planning a terrain using only limited information and constructing a real electrical circuit.”



Why I’m Interested in It

As a fan of the other Forbidden games, this one sounds like it’s steampunk theme – at least for me – varies up the mechanics slightly. Although the “storm” element is familiar, there may be a different mechanic in working together. Plus, having various challenges to complete adds to the replayability of the game without getting bored of it. Also, if you look in the above picture, there is a rocketship. A rocketship, people!

In a recentinterview with CoOp Cast, Matt Leacock hinted at the gameplay. Where in Forbidden Island the tiles are removed and in Forbidden Desert the tiles move around, he said in Forbidden Sky, the tiles are added. In a similar fashion as Carcassone.

The box and information found online states the number of players for the game is 2-4. But Forbidden Sky is a cooperative game, and as you know if you’ve played the other Forbidden Games (or other cooperative games), you can simply play more than one character for solo game session.

Forbidden Sky will be for sale at GenCon.

Gregory Gregory Author

Review: Viticulture Essential Edition


Designer:  Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone
Year: 2015
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Players: 1-6
Game Type: Worker Placement

In Viticulture, the players find themselves in the roles of people in rustic, pre-modern Tuscany who have inherited meager vineyards. They have a few plots of land, an old crushpad, a tiny cellar, and three workers. They each have a dream of being the first to call their winery a true success. The players are in the position of determining how they want to allocate their workers throughout the year. Every season is different on a vineyard, so the workers have different tasks they can take care of in the summer and winter. There's competition over those tasks, and often the first worker to get to the job has an advantage over subsequent workers. Fortunately for the players, people love to visit wineries, and it just so happens that many of those visitors are willing to help out around the vineyard when they visit as long as you assign a worker to take care of them. Their visits (in the form of cards) are brief but can be very helpful. Using those workers and visitors, players can expand their vineyards by building structures, planting vines (vine cards), and filling wine orders (wine order cards). Players work towards the goal of running the most successful winery in Tuscany.

Solo Setup

SOLO SETUP
For solo setup, choose your color pieces and matching vineyard. Then choose the color you want for the Automa to have. You will only need to grab the workers, grande worker and victory point tracker marker for the Automa. Place the Automa victory point tracker on the End space of the victory point track. Now place 1 glass token on the 7 rows of the Wake Up chart, these will act as your round counters. Shuffle the Automa deck and set it to the side of the Wake Up chart. Last you will need to remove, or remember to not play any visitor cards that give you a benefit on another players turn, as you are the only player. For the Essential Edition, like I have, you will now take one random Mama and Papa card, and get your starting resources. Now it's time to play.


SOLO GAMEPLAY
NOTE: I am covering this as if you know how to play Viticulture with others already, if not I highly suggest watching Watch it Played's video of how to play. Viticulture solo takes place over 7 years, 4 Seasons per year, which you track with the Wake Up chart. You have 7 turns to try and get more than 20 victory points. So at the start of your turn for Spring, you choose which of the 7 Wake Up actions you want to use. All but one allow for a bonus for that round. Remove the glass token once you choose, and hold onto it for a bonus action during the game. Once you choose, it's time to move onto Summer. Before you do anything in Summer and Winter you turn over the top Automa card. For summer you do what the Green and Yellow sections say, for Winter you use Red and Blue. NOTE: You will only use the ones with a T on them if you are using the Tuscany expansion, otherwise you can disregard them. The Automa will block spaces from you, just like other players would. So you will not be able to take actions you would have wanted to, unless you have a bonus token (glass token taken during Spring), which can only be used once, then place it back into the box, or if you choose to use your Grande worker. So say it's Summer and you are all set to plant that field, well too bad because you just got crop blocked by the Automa. Once you decide to stop taking your worker actions you move into Autumn, and choose a visitor card. Then it's straight into Winter. Take the next Automa card, place workers where the Red and Blue sections tell you, and then it's your turn. When done, it's year end, age your grapes and wines, collect your workers and that is all there is to it.

This deck is evil! 
FINAL THOUGHTS
If you want to talk strategy, and a little bit of luck, than this is the game for you. I've played 5 times, and gotten 15 points once. I need 20 to tie. It's hard damn it! Every time I want to do this, I can't because it's blocked. Or now I want to do that, and the game looks at me and says, "Oh, I'm sorry did you want to come over here? Well too bad cause I wanted to harvest this round!" It takes a good deal of planning in this game to get where you want to be with other players, but playing solo you just have no advantage if the wrong cards come out. And that is what makes it so much fun. It's all the thinking and planning that go into each move. You come to the start of round 5 and you grab a mirror to just yell at yourself, "WHY DID YOU ALREADY WASTE A ROUND TAKING THE EXTRA WORKER!" I'll table flip that Automa deck I swear! Overall, this game is good, really good, and having to play it alone, with such a solid solo experience makes it that much better. Just in terms of appeal for a solo player, this is a must. I haven't been this mad at a game in so long, and all I want to do is get it back out and grow more grapes. Even though I will probably lose again. It's pure fun in losing, but when I get that victory, I'm gonna Lucille Ball the crap out of it.

Oh look, I lost again.
SCORE
4.75 out of 5 Solo's

PROS
• The Automa is so solid, it's near perfect... but I hate its crop blocking ways!
• A serious strategy game, that makes my brain hurt.

CONS
• I'm not into wine, can we make it about cheese?

RECOMMENDED VIDEOS
Solomode Games Solo Playthrough
Watch it Played How To Play Multiplayer Version
DecapDan Royer DecapDan Royer Author

Review: The Lost Expedition


Designer: Peer Sylvester
Year: 2017
Artist: Garen Ewing
Publisher: Osprey Games
Players: 1-5
Game Type: (Solo, Cooperative, Head-to-Head)

Legendary explorer Percy Fawcett marched deep into the Amazon in search of El Dorado. He was never seen again. Your team has gone in search of him, but now you hope to escape the jungle with the greatest treasure of all: your life.

Make the best of your food, your ammunition, and your health in The Lost Expedition as you plunge deep into the jungle. Choose your path carefully to ensure you’re ready for the pitfalls that may occur.

The Lost Expedition can be played solo, cooperatively, and head-to-head, all providing varying degrees of challenges.


SETUP
Setup is really two-fold in The Lost Expedition. Most of the game will remain stationary. However, since there are morning and evening phases, you will “setup” the adventure cards for each phase.

The game takes minutes to prepare. Lay out the 9 Expedition cards, select your three explorers, and divvy out the health, ammunition, and food tokens. Shuffle the adventure cards and deal them out as instructed. (Solo games will deal differently for the morning and evening.)

GAMEPLAY
Once the Adventure cards are down, you resolve them from left to right. Each card shows you various actions on 3 different colored caption boxes. These are how you figure out strategy to reach the Lost City of Z.

Yellow boxes must be resolved. You complete the action, no matter if it’s good or bad. If there’s more than one action to take, you perform them left to right. Red boxes - of which there is usually more than one - also must be completed, but you are allowed to choose which one. Finally, blue boxes are completely optional: you can ignore the box(es) or resolve one or more of them.


As you play, you’ll notice there seems to be an inordinate amount of negative effects that take away your health, food, and ammo. But that’s what makes The Lost Expedition fun. You play the cards you’re dealt, and those you draw, in the best way you feel will keep your explorers alive long enough to reach your goal. Or you can play a totally different way. Like playing cards that move you along the path the quickest. You’ll have opportunities to obtain loot, which can sometimes stand between success and failure.

You play until all of your explorers die. Which sometimes is faster then you had hoped.

There is no right or wrong way to play. It’s mostly up to your style, the cards you’re given, and if you need to focus on food or ammunition for a bit before continuing the journey on the Expedition cards.

SOLO PLAY
First and foremost, solo play is challenging. Frustratingly challenging. But if Osprey Games made an easy game, then you might one-and-done The Lost Expedition. (Tip: on your first few play-throughs, shorten the journey by removing Expedition cards 7 and 8.)


The main difference between solo and the other modes is how the morning and evening phases are handled. For the morning, the 6 Adventure cards are laid out in numerical order. For the evening, you start with one from your hand, but you can place the next 5 at the beginning or end of the Adventure card row. In either case, you have some control in what card you play from your hand.

The random portion of the game exists in the cards you draw for your hand. This requires you to look ahead to formulate a strategy in obtaining loot, staying a alive, or moving along the path. While that randomness is small compared to the strategy involved in everything else, it is possible to get a bad run of cards where you’re giving up food or ammo, or needing to remove health from your Explorers to resolve cards.

Even though the game was mentioned earlier as frustratingly challenging, The Lost Expedition will probably keep you playing until you win one. And then, you say to yourself, “If I won once, I can win again.” But when you don’t, and don’t again, and well, don’t yet again, you’ll play until you do. The cycle repeats.


FINAL THOUGHTS
The Lost Expedition hits all the right notes in terms of fun, strategy, and replayability. One strategy may not work the next time; or the cards you get won’t help you at all. Each game will be different, which makes The Lost Expedition a game to have in your collection.

The art is campy, but it’s the heart. It will remind you of the Tin Tin cartoons, and the story of The Lost Expedition will conjure of images of those British expeditions movies taking place in the 20s and 30s.

Solo play is difficult, but the same theory applies here as it does with the rest of the modes: you’ll keep coming back for more.

So get The Lost Expedition if you can. It’s inexpensive, and games take less than 20 minutes (on the long end). The only major negative is that some people may find the difficulty so overwhelming, they’ll only play it a few times before shelving it.


SCORE
4 out of 5 Solos

PROS

  • Quick games
  • Fun and campy art
  • Easy setup
  • Mid-size footprint
  • Variety of modes to play

CONS

  • Some gamers may give up due to difficulty
  • You will lose a lot. A LOT.

LINKS:
Osprey Publishing (Osprey Games) Website

The Lost Expedition at BoardGameGeek
Gregory Gregory Author