Tough times for the solitaire. Summer is the season of party games, of happy gatherings on the beach while playing trashy take-that card games. Fortunately, the good publishers keep their watch on us, and as we withdraw deep in the woods, in the darkness of our secluded cabins, they offer us a never-ending handful of new releases, so that we may sill have a share in keeping the economy afloat, despite the whole recluse thing. We sure can be proud and grateful.
Still, summer. Starting with a big, giant Punch Bowl. The premise of the game is that giant fruits have popped up for no particular reason, which has triggered everyone to prepare a matching-size punch bowl (apparently they had a fitting bowl already). Factions now compete to bring the best ingredients to their own bowl, working hard to bring in ice cubes big enough to refresh the whole madness. Mechanics feature area control and "deck curation", meaning the deck is shrinking across the game and you need to make sure that the right cards remain in it.
If you're in for a more shamanic-inspired party, Ravensburger brings you the cute Mycelia, a deck-building where your cards allow you to clear a personal field in order to pick up dew drops, because apparently they are tied to victory points in the world of mushrooms. Especially when you bring them to the local spiritual authorities at the center of the forest, looking scoldingly at you from the impetuous height of their 3D cardboard tree trunk. So far, only the German version has been announced, but it looks largely language-independent and an English version might be in the works, who knows.
Sticking with the "random magical stuff" theme, SpellBook is a twist on classical rummy, designed by Phil Walker-Harding, in which the goal is to combine spells to perform some wizardly affairs, seconded by your loyal and helpful familiar, even though it needs to be fed in the meanwhile. The BGG description has two worrying bits, first they say that "as the rounds progress, the game becomes a different experience every time", which, beyond being hard to figure out what it means (how can the game become a different experience every time within the game itself?), seems to imply that all games start exactly alike.But the truly concerning part is how they depict solo gaming: "SpellBook includes a solo mode that closely mirrors the multiplayer experience, offering a high level of challenge and an excellent way to learn the game's rules." So, it's basically an imperfect copy of the multiplayer game which can nonetheless be used as an incomplete training experience until you may finally find other players (hey, come at my board game night so I can crush you now that I have trained so much on solo!).
But even the best sorcerer cannot enjoy petting their dragon for too long, because in case you haven't followed the last few decades of geopolitics, energy sources is usually a nexus of warfare. This is just as true in Fantasy and the evil barbaric forces of monsters never fail to show up whenever they see a good opportunity to seize some mana juice for their own culturally impoverished factions. In Runemasters, it is now up to you to face the horde, and dice are your weapon as you make your stand within the Temple of Mankind. Although Funforge is a French publisher, an English version has been announced as well. Since they have sworn off Kickstarter since their last monumental fiasco, you may expect a retail release.
And since we're at it, you will get further chance in defending the civilized world against brutish bands of monsters whose chief quality is being infallibly evil: Defenders of the Realm: Legends Retold offers a new life to Richard Launius' classic Fantasy twist on Pandemic. That's probably a good way to have revenge for missing the spot in the 1PG Hall of Fame yet again despite being a pretty strong contender for it! I believe this re-implementation has been in the works for years, and we finally hear about it in a more official way. Well, hearing is a big word: we mostly see the cover art, and the BGG description tells us that... well, that it's a modern re-edition of Defenders of the Realm.
Before going on with a second re-implementation, I have a surprise title from Master Rosenberg called Tangram City, aka, yet another tile laying game by JW's favorite designer. Personally, I'm quite disappointed that most of the tiles have not the shapes of the traditional Tangram game (of which I was a fan in my childhood). From the pictures, one of the goal seems to balance red and green tiles in your personal grid. The theme is as vague as it can get, with some made-up stuff about pleasing the Queen with careful urban planning (not much more inspired than doing magic to become a more wizardly wizard). The game is published by Korea Boardgames which, unsurprisingly, is a Korean company, but comes with a multilingual English/German/Korean rulebook while the components look entirely language-independent. It might be some challenge to get your hands on it, though. Provided you want to be a good crown-pleaser, that is.
Do you remember Canopy, a game designed by Tim Eisner and illustrated by Dutrait? A stand-alone sequel/re-implementation will launch on Kickstarter next September: Canopy Evergreen. Good bye, the lush tropical forests of Amazonia, the game now moves toward the Pacific Coast to tickle bear's bellows and bathe in the company of vivid salmons. A fox and prey birds have been added too, because if you are not reminded enough of Cascadia, it's not good for marketing. Anyway, the original title's solo mode hadn't been too well received; and given the newsletter described this re-implementation as "specifically designed for 2 to 4 players", with no mention of a solo mode, we may be afraid that the solitaire cabin indeed got lost in the woods with that one. The KS prelaunch page is already up.
And now, expansions. The first is Industria for Clans of Caledonia, a heavy-euro economic management game set in traditional Scotland. Well, traditional, not for long: with the Industria expansion, trains are now blazing through the Highlands, bringing a newly found prosperity and sense of progress into the Land of the Brave. Yes, English imperialism comes with its benefits after all... Gameplay-wise, the expansion adds a bit of everything and introduces milestones and rewards to achieve, diversifying the way players can score points toward victory.
The other expansion of today's post is Expanded Archives for Ex Libris, a drafting game whose theme consists in collecting magical books to expand your personal library, counting all the while on the benevolent serve of magical 'assistants' (it's not called slavery when the binding is an enchantment) that will fetch dangerous and forbidden books to add to your shelves on occult matters. The Expanded Archives expansion adds new assistants and new artifacts, as advertised on the game box. And, yes, it's a Sasquatch. I checked.
Before we end this post, I have a sympathizing thought for all the Sci-Fi lovers out there: we got nature, magic, Fantasy, and economic development, but no SF! As a consolation prize, I have a free PnP for you named Star Astalos. It's a deck-building game set in space where you try to set up scientific bases on hostile alien planets. If printing and cutting out 208 cards is not too daunting for you, the whole stuff is available all for free here on BGG.