I'm afraid I have to announce another Fantasy special for this week! I am so terribly sorry. It's not me being selfish. It just happens that Fantasy is a terribly popular theme.
But what makes Fantasy Fantasy? Random city names? Anthropomorphic animals? An obsessive nostalgia for idealized medieval times? A little bit of that, probably. But at the core of Fantasy lies magic. Not necessarily a spectacular one, nor particularly effective - more like a general tendency of things to become otherwise, to be altered in ways that should not be possible. Magic is the fundamental instability of reality, an underlying opening towards a different path for the flow of events to thrive on. Mana Source, set for a Kickstarter release, embraces this idea and makes magic the cornerstone of its world - a world that has nonetheless become very similar to ours. Described as a "combat card game of wits and resource management" (an elegant periphrasis for "Magic the Gathering clone"), it should feature a story-driven campaign for solo gamers to play through. And if the similarity with the recent Worldbreakers wasn't strong enough, know that the artist, Nele Diel, has also contributed to the latter.
Our travel brings us through the Arbor Valley, a game of fish-eating foxes and welcoming broccolis. This game offers you to engage in a most noble quest: purchasing furniture to adorn your home with the best possible taste. And because solo players crave a social life they could entirely control, you will also need to engage with town people and befriend them (I guess they are much more at ease with carnivorous critters than with humble herbivores, given their vegetable nature). The mechanics are worker placement and set collecting. (Someone is telling me that this fox is actually a red panda. Oh. I guess that broccoli is about to make a good snack then. Unless the red panda has sworn off all greenery to only eat flesh so as not to cruelly feast on the valley settlers. Who knows?)
Our next stop bring us to pay a salute to the Villagers of Oak Dell (I guess it didn't go too well in Arbor Valley after all). In this about-to-be Kickstarted PnPable roll and write game, you roll dice across a dozen of rounds to collect resources, construct buildings, hire workers, and defend against marauders. I know, Fantasy has become very much mundane these days.
Finally, we arrive at the fabled city of Ignis, the setting of Everstone, another happy greeny euro game of gentle Fantasy revolving around a peaceful and adorable settlement. By trading resources and exploring the surrounding, you will be able to restore relics that may not be particularly useful, but they sure will allow you to achieve a much-coveted prestige among the inhabitants of Ignis. Actually, these relics are not so much of a waste as they will allow you to chain actions to make your rounds more efficient. And that's about the whole extent of what I know about the gameplay.
Our days of wandering across the comforting and cozy lands of Fantasy are over, but nights are not without wonders: in Nocturne at least, it's time for the mystic fox to work their sacred land magic! (And now you won't tell me it's a red panda, I hope.) In this game that will enchant you with yet another pasted-on theme about some arbitrary task of collecting trinkets and performing dubious spells that all end up one way or another to generate some victory points out of the eternal ether, you will engage in bidding against your rivals to achieve the supremacy over the forest sorcery, or whatever garbage they made up. I am seriously agonizing trying to read through the description of the game, with bits like "different conditions of magical control will restrict pathways, leading to strategic situations where players can ‘corner cast’ and secure multiple items with less powerful spells", or "you can always make an offering to the forest sprites - magical mice that have their own cache of treasures they may share with you, giving you further options to expand your collection". Admit it, it's just a messy abstract Euro point salad with a plethora of scoring conditions for people to feel the game is "so crunchy" and "does allow for multiple strategies to win!". At least it's illustrated by Beth Sobel so it shows a bit of originality on this level.
Okay, clearly it's time for a break, I'm saturated with all these Fantasy titles. So what about some video game adaptation for a change? Let me then introduce you to Terraria: The Board Game. Oops. Still Fantasy. Terraria is actually a crafting game where you explore a land, collect resources, build a house, kill monsters, and, well, do all sorts of varied stuff. I tried it once and got stuck in a hole after five minutes of jumping around over the sunny hills, and my personal experience with the game ends there, but apparently, it's a modern classic. Will the base game be able to integrate this impressive palette of features into a cohesive whole? We can't know for the moment, but that's the very goal it is set to. The game is designed as fully cooperative and will launch on KS eventually. The BackerKit-supported subscription page is here if you really can't wait.
It's now time for a bit of action with Heroes of the Sanctum, a strategy card game about the same usual stuff: going to dungeons to tinker with the local ecosystem, shutting down necromancers' mumblings, putting some undead back to their resting place, and showing assassins that your blade is longer and sharper than theirs. The game features a system of quests that you will accomplish by going through a number of locations where you will leave behind a glorious trail of blood and gore. Loot can be found to fill your adventurer's heart with a warming sense of recognition toward fortune and fate. The game is set for a Kickstarter release.
And if the whole thing reminds you of Heroes of Terrinoth, it may be because a remake of the latter is in the air with Dragonbond Quest, the third-ish iteration of the Sadler brothers' system of adventure card game. The previous two have been criticized for their lack of expansion (another way to point out low replayability), so this one will launch on Kickstarter accompanied by two expansions from the get-go, to quench the critics and celebrate the spirit of bloat! The game is now set in the world of Dragonbond, filled with giant miniatures and symbiotic dragons. In this card game, it has been confirmed that you will have the opportunity to Avatar yourself with one of these fabled beasts, in order to overcome your foes and achieve your quests. The game is supposed to offer more freedom in its scenario setting than its two predecessors, leading to a shorter set-up time since you only need to pick up a quest, a villain, and a band of minions to fight through, each in the form of a corresponding deck.
Time for an expansion: designer Tobias Hall is pushing his luck on Betwixt & Between with a second (and allegedly final) expansion, The Faery Queen’s Whim. In this game that could compete with Nocturne about non-sensical magical affairs in lieu of a theme to disguise a purely abstract and convoluted design, you will now face the imperious requests of the Faery Queen that need to be fulfilled every turn. Fortunately, a familiar is now accompanying you to help you in your journey (weirdly enough that's two weeks in a row that I am advertising an expansion introducing familiars).
And we end with our usual PnP of the day: The Crumbling Dungeon. Available for $5 on the designer's itch.io page, Crumbling Dungeon is perfect for the summer vacation: you go through a maze (you can never go back), in the hope of reaching the way out while gathering gems, chests, keys to open them, and fighting monsters with a good old d6 roll. Dead-ends have never been so well named.