Perhaps to make up for the lack of a convention season, publishers are launching Kickstarter games at a dizzying pace, and it’s awfully hard to choose what to back. Just this week there were several new projects launched (in addition to Dollars to Donuts, which I reviewed on Tuesday), but I didn’t get to write full reviews of these. Here are several that I’m currently following!
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This card-stacking game from a Japanese designer reminds me a little of Rhino Hero, but with penguins and icebergs and a few other twists. Each circular card indicates what will need to be stacked on top of it: folded iceberg cards, penguin meeples, and pieces of ice. The stretch goals so far have added some custom penguin meeples of different types, including some that rock on their bellies just to make things a little trickier. It looks adorable! Note that this is Yabuchi’s first crowdfunding project, so I would take that into account (as well as the final backer number) when figuring your expectations for delivery date.
I don’t typically play many role-playing games, but I’m a sucker for time travel stories and I’m excited for this one. Wait for Me is a journaling game in which you’re being whisked back and forth along your own timeline, and your point of connection to your past (or future?) self is through journal entries. The game will last 21 days: each day you’ll be emailed a writing prompt describing the situation, and you’ll be given an exact word count target. For instance, you might have to compose 60 words about telling your teenage self how to adjust to moving to a new house and a new school. In a 2-player game, the other player takes on the role of the diarist, the one living life chronologically, and seeing these mysterious entries appear.
I got a chance to interview with the designers for the Recorded Tomorrow podcast (with my co-host Jesse Ferguson) and had a great conversation about how the game came to be and how it works. You can give it a listen here. And if you’re looking for something to do with your home-bound kids, it sounds like this could be a cool writing exercise as well. Although the game is primarily written for adults who can reflect on their younger selves, the designers told me that it’s appropriate for middle schoolers and up and will be more about imagining their older selves. Either way, it will involve some self-examination that isn’t always found in the types of games I usually play.
Ascension is one of the earlier deck-building games—it celebrates its 10th anniversary this year!—and has seen many expansions and iterations. Ascension Tactics takes some of the core ideas and gameplay and turns it into a tactical strategy game. You still use runes to acquire new cards, but now your power is typically used to command champions, which are represented by miniatures on the map.
The game has multiple scenarios, which will determine the map layout and the ways that you score points. For instance, in the introductory scenario (pictured above), you score points by having the most units adjacent to the three honor shrines. You’ll have to decide how to best build up your deck: get a better economy so you can afford more cards? Build up a lot of power so you can control more of your units each turn? Constructs now attach to your champions, making them more powerful.
I’ve only gotten to play it once so far in Tabletop Simulator, but so far I like the way that it works. We did have some trouble figuring out the best approach for getting multiple characters out to the shrines, but presumably some further play would help in discovering some better tactics.
Resonym is the publisher behind Visitor in Blackwood Grove and Mechanica (as well as a few others), led by Mary Flanagan. I got to meet Flanagan at Gen Con last year (remember conventions?) and really appreciated her approach to game design. For instance, Buffalo may seem like it’s just a silly trivia party game, but it has some roots in studies on implicit bias, and is actually designed in a way that can help players overcome some of their assumptions, whether they know it or not. Surrealist Dinner Party is a game about hosting surrealist artists, and making sure they get their fill of food, wine, and maybe drama. The artwork is outstanding, and the game features actual surrealists, with a focus on many that aren’t quite as well-known.
The majority of the games I play aren’t quite as complex as those that Mindclash tends to publish, but I’ve enjoyed Anachrony and Cerebria when I’ve put in the effort to play them. They’re mentally challenging because of how much is going on, but they look fantastic and have great themes. This latest project is about a cruise ship that crash-lands on an island inhabited by dinosaurs. Perseverance is actually two stand-alone games that can be played in sequence as a campaign. The first episode is about building up defenses against the dinosaurs that are attacking the camp; the second takes place after the settlement is more established, and the residents are exploring more of the island and expanding.
It’s Steven vs. Steven vs. Steven! Steven Universe is recruiting more copies of himself for his band at the Beach-a-Palooza, hoping to put together the best show for the crowds. But, of course, there are also baddies to fight. The game includes things like fusions when you have the right gems on stage, allowing you to power up for bigger attacks. My kids and I are fans of the show, so this may be a fun way to play around in Steven’s world. If you back within the next few hours, there’s still time to get in on the “First on the Beach” tier that saves you $5.
The Night Cage is a cooperative tile-laying game, with players exploring a dark labyrinth, but there’s a twist: because your candle can only illuminate the tiles directly next to you, tiles will be removed as you make your way through the maze of twisty passages, all alike. When you try to retrace your path, you’ll find that things have changed. Players must find the keys and the gate to escape before their candles run out. There aren’t any grues in the The Night Cage, but you might meet some other nasty creatures instead.
Pop-up books meet escape room puzzles in The Shivers. The game “board” consists of several modular pop-up rooms, and you slide various cards into the backgrounds to change up the clues included in the scene. It’s a cooperative mystery game; the base game comes with 8 episodes, and the deluxe version comes with 6 additional episodes (and some other extras). I really love the look of it, and am envious of those reviewers who got a chance to try it out already! It looks like something my family would really enjoy.
Horror and RPGs are not really my thing, but this project really stands out to me because it’s about a Chinese immigrant family running a restaurant in 1920s Chinatown, and it’s been designed and written and illustrated by a mostly Asian team. Yes, the game features jiangshi—hopping vampires—but it also draws from history, and the family also faces threats like racism and anti-Chinese laws. There are little details I noticed, like the fact that 4s remove the highest die from your pool: “4” is considered an unlucky number because in Chinese it’s a homonym for “death.” This is a game that understands the cultural roots it’s drawing from, and also encourages non-Chinese players to explore this world in a way that is respectful and not exploitative.
Like I said, I’m a sucker for time travel, so I’m really curious about this 2-player game about competing time travelers. One faction is trying to change history by assassinating a Very Important Person in History, and the other is trying to preserve the timeline by preventing that assassination. Players place their agents on a timeline, targeting each other (or the VIPiH) with various actions, and then seeing how the timeline plays out, over and over until the assassination is successful or when further manipulations would destroy the spacetime continuum. I do have some questions about how it works—like, why wouldn’t the assassin simply take the first slot in the timeline on their first turn, so that no other characters could affect their action? But I guess I’d need to see the actual cards to see how they all work. There’s only a few days left and so far it doesn’t look like it’s going to fund, but there’s always hope on the next time through the loop…
The Enigma Emporium is run by Khiara Foss and our very own Logan Giannini, and their puzzle postcards have all the clue-hunting, riddle-solving challenges you’d expect from an escape room, but packed into a tiny package. Season 1 consisted of two sets of postcards: Wish You Were Here and Blowback. Season 2 has four cases involving the Infiniti Institutes, dedicated to hidden truths. You can take an entrance exam, explore cryptozoology, and more. I haven’t seen this new set of postcards yet, but I can guarantee that you’ll be in for a challenge!