This week we feel in full that publishers have realized that now is the time to hype for all the upcoming Essen releases, and BGG got flooded with news announcements.
Can we speak of an actual Age of Innovation though? I don't know, yet another implementation of Terra Mystica (after Gaia Project) doesn't feel too much like so for me. On the game's forums, one user pointed out that this was mostly "tweaking a rule of 2", and got immediately chastised by the designer, who revealed the game was the result of a 5-year design work (I fail to see how the two are mutually exclusive, though). All I know is that now the board is modular. And more relevant news for the solo gamer: the solo automaton developed by the Automa Factory will be adapted to this game as well, and available right out of the box. So if you want a big crunchy Euro with a steampunk Fantasy theme to play solo, this one fits.
In the big Euro category, Evacuation, by designer Vladimir Suchý (Underwater Cities, Messina 1347, among many others) focuses on my most hated activity: moving house. Except here, the scale is a bit up as you need to move an entire planet. So you'll pack resources, people, the whole economic infrastructure, and move it across a long trip through space, up to your new homeland stars away. I guess the people of this planet have never read Cuxin Liu's Wandering Earth, nor seen the high-budget Chinese action movie they made of it.
Also announced from the same designer, Aldebaran Duel, also going on with a Sci-Fi setting. This one is about settling on planets - not to survive, but to expand your empire. You will manage your fleet of ships, build on your planets, develop technologies, engage in diplomatic ventures... So it's a full-fledged civ game in space. Anyway, the most burning question is obviously: where does the solo fit in a game called Something Duel?
The next title brings a complete change of atmosphere: in Flock Together, an intrinsically cooperative game, you play as birds fending off an invasion of predators. The description makes it feel like an actual Tower Defense game, with loot gathered from defeated invaders, and the need to level up your birds to keep up with the increasing threat. The core mechanism is action selection though, for in each round, you must choose only two actions to perform out of a choice of 8. It plays in 25 minutes and comes in a TTR box with illustrations by Andrew Bosley - and if I may, he made quite a show of avian creativity here, and some of the birds are absolutely fun to look at. The Kickstarter prelaunch page is already up.
To stay in the series 'board game illustrated by a big name', I also have Celtae, with art by The Mico, from Portuguese publisher Pythagoras (but it comes in a multilingual version). This is a city-building worker placement game with a rondel, where you will face Roman invasion and ask for the druids' support. One neat innovation of this title is that each round has a 'victor' whose privilege is to mark one of the scoring cards so that it gets activated. This way, you exert control across the game on the scoring conditions, enabling those that will benefit you the most.
And because Celts do like their forests, an opportune next title is The Glade, by Richard Breese (Keyflower and co). From your rack, you play tiles on your personal board, allowing you, if you form the right combinations, to place toadstools on the central board, scoring points in the process. Therefore, it looks like two abstract spatial puzzles interacting with each other. I do not know what the solo mode may look like.
We move on now to indie territory and begin with a game I am not too sure about (is it real? is it digital? is it a sort of role-playing game? I have no clue really). Six Winters puts you in charge of the small region of Brightdune under threat from the Autarch Empire, which is currently working to achieve a fearsome 'sorcerous apotheosis' (that sure doesn't bode well). You have six years to prevent this (hence the title), and each game plays as a year, offering dice-based puzzles to work through. There are even rules if you want to have a look, and quite astonishingly, they have been published on GitHub, a platform usually known for sharing programming code.
Next, I offer you a good old PnP fully available from BGG called José García Saves the Alhambra. The scene is Grenada, Spain, 1812. The city is at the mercy of the fierce French armies led by the warmonger Napoleon, but Spanish forces are coming and the French are forced to withdraw. What's best to do, then? Well, blow up anything of value to leave nothing but ash in your wake of course! What you can't plunder you must burn. So, the French put bombs all over the place and ignited them as they fled. That's where José García enters the stage: despite being a disabled soldier from the Corps of Invalids, he ran over the place to disarm the bombs (and got mostly successful). If you want to revive this crazy adventure with a deck of traditional cards and a single d6, all it takes is to download this postcard game.
As usual, I'll end my post with expansions. The first is Wishland: Dreams From America, a game about developing your theme park. This expansion adds material for a fifth player which considerably elevates the solo player experience, new achievements to work for, a new type of cards, and, well, more stuff.
And I'll end this post with an expansion for Santorini, Riddle of the Sphinx, which has the grace to offer us a solo mode where you must complete specific objectives in a series of scenarios called "riddles", unlocking new game content as you progress further into the campaign. This will be offered on Kickstarter as part of the shiny deluxe reprint edition of Santorini (well, it's not as if the game wasn't quite deluxe to begin with), and it may or may not be offered on its own if you already have the game in your collection.