Game Buzz: Above and Between the Bottom

Today’s preview covers three different games currently on Kickstarter.  They’ll all be finished before my next Kickstarter Blitz (one was featured in my last KSB), so I wanted to give them a little attention.  Let’s start with the first campaign to finish.

image by BGG jameystegmaier
image by BGG jameystegmaier

Between Two Cities was designed by Matthew O’Malley and Ben Rosset, and is going to be published by Stonemaier Games.  It’s a 3-7 player game that takes 20 minutes and is all about building cities.  The name is derived by your position – as you play the game, you are building cities to your left and right and are therefore sitting between two cities.  It’s a game that is reminiscent of 7 Wonders, but seemingly with a LOT more interactivity.

The game will come with 108 building tiles, 24 duplex tiles, 14 city tokens, and a scoreboard, as well as 7 reference cards.  A city token is placed between each player, and the matching city token is placed on the scoreboard.  The duplex tiles are shuffled and stacked, and the building tiles are shuffled in the box.

The game is played over three rounds.  In the first round, each player draws seven tiles.  You choose two and pass the rest to the left.  Once everyone has done this, you reveal, and then you need to determine where you will place your tiles.  You’re going to be building up the cities to your right and left, and will therefore need to work with the players to your right and left since they are also working on one of your cities.  You can discuss your choices with your neighbors, but one tile must go to the right and the other must go to the left.  You need to keep in mind that your final city must be a 4×4 square when placing.

Round one continues until there is only one tile left from the initial deal (three placement phases).  At this point, you move on to round two.  Here, you draw three duplex tiles, choose two, and discard the other.  This will be placed in your city just like the regular buildings, except that duplexes are the width of two tiles.  Round three is played just like the first round, except that you pass to the right.

After the third round, you score.

  • Shops are worth 2-5-10-16 points when in a straight connected line.
  • Factories are worth 2-3-4 each depending on majority – the city with the most gets 4 points per factory, second most gets 3, and all others get 2.
  • Taverns are worth 1-4-9-17 points for a where all taverns are different.
  • Offices are worth 1-3-6-10-15-21 for a set.
  • Parks are worth 2-8-12-13-14… if in a connected group.
  • Houses are worth one point each per different other building type in the city, but only one point if adjacent to a factory.

Your final score is the lower score of the two cities you helped build.  The player with the highest score wins.

This game just sounds brilliant to me.  It takes one of the biggest complaints about 7 Wonders (low interaction) and completely turns it on its ear by making you play with your neighbor.  You have to cooperate and build a really good city, but then you can’t neglect the other city since it’s your lower score that wins.  So it becomes a weird conglomeration of cooperative-partnership-cutthroat-competitive game.  And, according to the time on the box, it only plays in 20 minutes.  It sounds great.  The campaign for this one ends on Monday March 16, so go back if you’re interested – it’s already well-funded, and Stonemaier has a history of making some really high-quality stuff so you know if will be well produced.

image by BGG user mechanicalfish
image by BGG user mechanicalfish

Above and Below is a new game from Ryan Laukat and Red Raven Games.  It’s a 2-4 player storytelling/worker placement game that could take up to two hours to play.  In the game, you are building a village both above the surface and in the network of caverns you’ve found below ground (hence the title).

The game will come with a reputation board, 24 house cards, 4 starting house cards, 25 outpost cards, an explore book, 56 goods tokens, a round marker, 4 turn order tokens, 7 dice, 8 cubes, 4 player boards, 30 cave cards, 12 starting villagers, 17 other villagers, 4 special villagers, 10 key houses, and tokens to represent coins, potions, and cider.  Each player gets a player board, 7 coins, and three starting villagers.

Above and Below is played over seven rounds.  In each round, players will take turns taking actions until all have passed.  There are five possible actions:

  • Explore: Draw a cave card and send two or more villagers to do the action.  You then roll a die and compare the result to the chart on the card.  This indicates the section of the explore book that will now be read to you.  This will give you a choice of an action you will attempt, each one needing a certain number of successes.  Once you’ve heard the story and make your choice, you will roll one die per villager you sent to the action.  Each villager has certain rolls that are needed in order to get successes, and some villagers give multiple successes if you roll well enough.  If you need some extra successes, you can choose to exert villagers for automatic success.  Whether you make it or not, the result will be read to you.  The villagers you used are then exhausted (unless exerted – there are separate sections on your player board for each).  If you succeed, you keep the cave card.
  • Build: For this, you need a villager with the build skill.  Exhaust it and pay for one of the available buildings.  You can always build a house above ground, but you must explore successfully in order to have a cave card for building outposts underground.
  • Harvest: Exhaust one or more villagers to harvest goods from houses or outposts.
  • Train: Exhaust a villager with the train skill and spend some money to hire one of the five available villagers.  This villager comes in exhausted.
  • Labor: Exhaust one or more villagers to gain one coin for each.  The first player to labor each round gains a cider, which can be used to wake someone up.

Additionally, you can buy or sell goods.  Once everyone has passed, you move on to the new round.  You can rest one villager per bed you have (you start with three).  If you rest an exhausted villager, it becomes ready.  If you rest an exerted villager, it becomes exhausted.  You will also collect income.  This is determined by goods you have on the advancement track.  After the seventh round, the player who has the most points is the winner.

I’m sure Tales of the Arabian Nights will be invoked in every review of this game, even though this is quite different.  TotAN is more of a pure storytelling game while this one has elements of storytelling to go with the city building aspects.  The whole way the game seems to flow looks very unique to me.  The art, which was done by Laukat himself, looks great.  Overall, the game looks great, and I look forward to seeing how it comes out.

image by BGG user ckirkman
image by BGG user ckirkman

Bottom of the Ninth is a new 1-2 player baseball game from designers Darrell Louder and Mike Mullins that is being published by Dice Hate Me Games (which has recently merged with Greater Than Games).  The basic premise is that it’s…well…the bottom of the 9th inning.  The game is tied.  The home team is up to bat.  Who will take it all?

The game will come with 20 player cards, 2 reference cards, 2 playing field pieces, a pitch die, a pitching control die, a swing die, 4 wooden base runners, 4 wooden pitch tokens, 3 wooden out markers, 2 wooden strike markers, 3 wooden ball markers, 2 wooden fatigue markers, a batter ball and strike count marker, 15 event and scenario cards for solo play, and a sticker sheet.  One player is at bat, the other player is pitching.  The batter chooses four batter cards and sets the order in which they will be taking turns.  The pitcher chooses two pitcher cards and selects one to start.

Each at bat follows the same sequence.  First is the STARE DOWN.  Each player secretly chooses a direction (inside/away) and location (high/low) of the pitch and reveals simultaneously.  Bonuses are awarded to the batter for matches, and to the pitcher for incorrect guesses.  Each pitcher has an Ace Pitch, and if they choose any part of it, they get some fatigue for the parts they used.  If they fatigue an entire direction or location, they cannot use it any more.

In THE PITCH, the pitcher rolls the pitch die to determine if it is a ball, strike, or in the corner.  For THE SWING, the batter rolls the swing die to see the result – ball, strike, foul, or contact.  Bonuses and penalties from the Stare Down can affect this result.  If it’s strike three, the batter is out.  If it’s ball four, the runner advances.  If it’s ball 1-3, strike 1-2, or a foul, go back to the stare down.

If contact is made, it’s time to RUN!  Both players roll a die (the swing die for the batter, the control die for the pitcher) until one player gets a 5 or 6.  If the batter gets it first, they are SAFE!  If the pitcher gets it first, it’s an OUT!  However, if contact is made against a strike with a 6, the ball has been crushed, and the batter rolls again to see what he got – 1-4 is a single, 5 is a double, 6 is a home run.  If a home run is hit, the pitcher rolls the control die.  If they get a 6, the outfielder has made a miraculous catch by scaling the wall and nabbing it, crushing the dreams of some poor six-year-old who thought he was going to catch a home run ball.

At the end of the at-bat, it’s time to CLEAN UP.  The pitcher moves fatigue markers up a total number that equals the number of empty bases.  If the pitcher records three outs, the visiting team has forced extra innings, and most likely will win in the tenth because they are a league powerhouse.  If the batter gets four base runners or a home run, the home team has defied the odds and emerged victorious in front of a jubilant crowd.

Baseball is one of my favorite sports because it can provide such great drama on every pitch.  There is skill and luck involved, but the face off between a pitcher and batter can provide one of the most tense moments in sports.  And baseball is unique among sports because anything can happen – in timed sports like basketball or football, a big lead means that everyone is just going through the motions in the end.  But, in baseball, as Yogi Berra used to say, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”  I like the concept of this game – rather than playing out an entire baseball contest, you’re just coming in at the very end to see if the home team can pull it off.  And it looks like it will be very fun, if pretty dependent on luck.  I like that there’s a real time dice rolling contest going on if there’s contact, and I like that there’s a “clearly I cannot choose the wine in front of me” situation going on in the stare down.  Looks like a fun, quick baseball game, so check it out!

So there are my previews for today.  Thanks for reading!

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