I’m working on a few more Kickstarter game reviews again—I had a little gap in April myself but the pace of launches actually hasn’t slowed down much. (I’ve already posted two this week, and Michael Knight has two new reviews today as well!) There are a couple of games in today’s roundup I’ve tried a few times—enough to give you a little deeper dive than I usually do in my roundup posts, but I haven’t had time for a full review. Others are, as usual, things that caught my eye that I think look cool, but haven’t actually played myself.
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New Mill Games is a relatively new publisher founded by Daniel Newman and Tony Miller, with a “punk rock” approach that they explain a little more in a recent update. They’re doing small print runs, sourcing components from US-based manufacturers, and assembling things by hand themselves. They do the graphics and art themselves to keep costs down, pay their designers more, and don’t do any marketing. That probably lead to million-dollar Kickstarter campaigns, but I appreciate the attitude and wanted to give them a boost if I can.
Rivet Heads is a cyberpunk card game: each player has a crew and you’re trying to secure upgrades for them: arms, claws, eyes, gills, and DNA. You’re also trying to beat out your rivals for supremacy in each type of upgrade. The game uses a Kingdomino-esque drafting system, where taking the more valuable cards means that your turn will come later in the next round. Cards are placed in a 3-card “program” that runs in sequence each turn, either generating upgrades or letting you make a trade; or you can flip cards over for a one-time resource, but then use it at the end of the game to increase your standing for one upgrade type. I’ve played a couple times (it’s available to try on Tabletop Simulator) and it’s an intriguing game that plays pretty quickly. The campaign ends on Friday morning, though, so check it out soon if you’re interested!
Genius Games makes some great science-based games, and their latest is Cellulose, a standalone sequel to their cell biology game Cytosis. This one focuses on plant cells, and it’s a worker-placement game inspired by the way that plants actually work—how they gain nutrients, how they use photosynthesis, and how they build up their cell walls. Genius Games also includes a booklet in their games that digs a bit deeper into the science behind the game, explaining how the game mechanics tie into the biology. I haven’t played this one myself, but I’ve enjoyed some of Genius Games’ other titles, and I really love the cellular artwork of both Cytosis and Cellulose—it feels like playing a game on a diagram from a science textbook!
Okay, this one’s not actually a board game, but it is something that goes on your tabletop, I guess? You’ve seen an escape room in a box. Now there’s an escape room in a mug. The conundrumug is a mug that has puzzles all over it, which you’ll solve (with the help of a website) to collect keys, using them together to solve the final puzzle. There are two mugs, a butterfly version and a J29 version that’s tied to Journal 29, an interactive puzzle book that was published in 2017.
If you like peg-and-board games, this project is worth a look. Red Hen Toys has already produced 18 different classic peg games from around the world, and this latest campaign is for 6 more titles. It’s neat to me how many different cultures developed abstract strategy games. I hadn’t seen the previous campaigns from Red Hen Toys, but you can also pick up the games you’ve missed in this campaign. Or, if you just want the rulesets to make your own, you can get all 24 for $15.
Here’s another science-based game, this time about climate change. Inspired by the film 2040, this cooperative game challenges players to transform the world and bring it into balance in 20 years. One of the things that caught my attention about this game is that it’s not just about the environment itself, but also takes into account the ways that climate change (and the steps we take to address it) impact those affected by poverty.
Don Falconi just escaped from prison, and he’s using his infamous “chili boost” to blast through roadblocks. Meanwhile, the police give chase, trying to corner him before he can make it to his secret rendezvous point. This tile-laying game has one player in the role of Don Falconi and the others as the police, building out a network of roads that include overpasses, roundabouts, and U-turns. One of the neat features of the game is that you can play at one of 5 “chili levels” spread across two gameplay modes, depending on how complex you want to make the game.
The easier mode is a little more luck-based, suitable for younger players: you play a tile each turn, and then drive as far as you want to make it to your goal (escape, or catching up to Don Falconi’s car), and increasing the chili levels will add reserve tiles, the chili boosts, and the use of the escape tiles. The harder mode introduces action management: you get a limited number of actions, which you can spend on drawing new tiles, playing tiles, and driving, so you have to decide the best use of your actions. I got a prototype and have played the easier mode a few times with my youngest and she enjoyed it, but I haven’t gotten a chance to try the harder mode yet, which I think would be more engaging for me. If I’m able to get some more plays in, I’ll have a full review during the campaign.
Bad news: the space station is failing and you’ve got to get your affairs in order before it burns up in the atmosphere. More bad news: the secret Project X is currently locked up in the vault, but in all of this chaos it’s possible that somebody might unseal the vault and release the … well, I guess we’ll find out. Bad news again: there are only so many escape pods. The good news? Stationfall is a hilarious, tumultuous game of conspiracies and secret agendas that will leave you with memorable stories each time you play.
Now, just to prepare you: Stationfall is not a simple game. As you can see from the Tabletop Simulator screenshot above, there’s a lot going on. The game includes a huge cast of different characters to choose from, and lots of specialized sections of the space station that each have their own abilities, so it can feel overwhelming when you’re first learning it, and it’s heavier than the games I usually play. But it’s also a lot of fun, and and not nearly as dry as it may appear just based on what you can see here. There are a ton of sci-fi pop culture references hidden in the game, and the clashing agendas of the different characters make for a really engaging experience. If I have time for a full review during the campaign, I’ll share a bit more.