2017 Random Origins Preview, part I

It’s convention season again, and BGG has gone live with its Origins preview, so it’s time to bust out my random preview series!  For those of you who have missed it the last couple of years, this is where I randomly select 7 games from the BGG list and talk about them.  I’m not going to include expansions or games that I have zero interest in, but my hope is that I find some hidden gems.

This is the first year I’ve done random previews for Origins, which is a trade show that runs in Columbus, OH from June 14-18.  It has been running since 1975, and is run by the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA).  It’s not as big as Gen Con or Spiel, but it is often the public’s first look at some new games that are coming out.  So let’s get started.  As of this writing, the BGG preview list is 117 items long, so here we go.

image by BGG user JTidball

Witches of the Revolution (Craig Stockwell, Atlas Games) is a cooperative game set in the Revolutionary War, and players are witches who are fighting for their nation’s independence.  There are different objectives you may have, and you’ll have to fulfill the recipes necessary for each.  There will be different events to deal with, and you’ll be building your deck as you go.  The twist here is that every time you reshuffle your deck, a moon tracker advances and things become more difficult.  So you don’t want to thin your deck too much, but in order to make it stronger, you’ll have to make it smaller – this is not a deck growth game.  You win if you complete all of your objectives, and you lose by letting things get too out of control.

I LOVE THIS THEME.  I’m not a war game player, nor am I particularly interested in historical games.  But throw in some fantasy elements into real events, and I am there.  I also think the deckbuilding idea here is really interesting, and I look forward to seeing how it works.  My understanding is that this game will just be available for demo, with a possible limited number of copies for sale.  If I were going to Origins this year, this is one I would definitely need to check out.

image by BGG user clayross

Lignum (Alexander Huemer, Capstone Games) was first published by Mücke Spiele in 2015, but now it’s getting a domestic edition.  It’s a game about the logging industry of the 1800s, and you’re trying to run your lumber mill as efficiently as possible.  In each round, you’ll be traveling to a forest, hiring workers, acquiring tools, felling timber, transporting it back to your sawmills, and determining whether to process or sell it immediately.  Whoever can make the most money in the end is the winner.

I first heard about this game on the Heavy Cardboard podcast, and they loved it.  It’s definitely an economic game, and one with a more interesting theme than some – there’s not a whole lot of logging games out there.  I think this is one I’d be interested to check out.  This edition will be debuting at Origins.

image by BGG user IngredientX

Wordsy (Gil Hova, Formal Ferret Games) is a 1-6 player word game from the designer of last year’s hit game The Networks.  In this one, which is a streamlined version of Hova’s 2010 game Prolix, eight letters are dealt to the board.  Your goal is to make the best word you can using the available letters, though you can add whatever letters you like – you are not limited to what’s available, those are just the letters that will score.  The first player to write down a word flips a 30-second timer, and when that’s up, everyone scores their words, scoring bonuses for having a higher score than the fastest player.  The fastest player can also score a bonus for having a better score than half of the others.  After seven rounds, add up your five best scores and the high score wins.

I don’t typically like word games.  This one does not look like one that would change that for me.  It seems far too open ended to me, and I think someone with a good vocabulary will probably dominate.  I really liked The Networks, and am excited to see what Gil Hova does in the future, but this one would be a pass for me.  It will be available at Origins, both for purchase and pickup for Kickstarter backers.

image by BGG user Soeren_Lookout

Bärenpark (Phil Walker-Harding, Lookout Games/Mayfair Games) is a game about building a bear park.  Throughout the game, you’ll be placing new tiles into your park, adding house and enclosures for all kinds of bears (including polar, gobi, panda, and koala, though koalas aren’t actually bears).  There are also tiles for food streets, playgrounds, rivers, and toilets.  As you place, you’ll be covering up various icons that allow you to add new tiles to your supply, or even add new park areas for you to build on (you can’t have more than four of these total).  Once a park area is completed (all spaces except the pit covered), add a bear statue to the pit.  After one player completes all four park areas and everyone else gets another turn, the game ends and points are scored by adding up the value of all tiles in your park.  The player with the most points wins.

I think this looks like a really cool game.  I haven’t played much by Phil Walker-Harding (other than Archaeology, which I love), but I do know Lookout Games are usually pretty good.  This one has that kind of puzzly spatial thing going for it that I tend to like.  It does seem to be quite solitairish – the only thing that I can tell has any effect on other people is that tiles have different shapes and values, and if you grab something another player wants before they get to it, they might be irritated.  Nevertheless, this looks fun, and something I’d want to check out.  It should be available at Origins, with a wide release scheduled for the end of June.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Moons (Robert Burke, Quick Simple Fun Games) is a trick-taking game based on the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus.  At the start of each game, players will lay out three cards from their hand in front of them.  Players lead cards, and all others must follow suit if they are able.  There’s no trump in the game, so the highest card played wins the trick.  The winner of the trick gets a planet token of their choice that matches a card in your tableau, and the lowest off-suit card played gets a token of the suit they played.  The winner leads the next trick, and this continues until all cards have been played.  Whoever won the most tricks gets a planet token of their choice, and if you won no tricks, you get a token matching one card in your tableau.  Once all players have had a chance to deal and lead the first trick once, or when all tokens are gone, the scores are added up and high score wins.

I’ve recently had my interest in trick-taking games rekindled after playing Anansi and the Box of Stories, so I’m interested in this for that aspect.  Plus, it has a cool pasted-on theme (theming trick-taking games is really tough, so I don’t begrudge it) and some interesting ideas in the collection of tokens.  According to my research, this one is already out in the wild, but will also be at Origins for people to try out.  I think it’s one I’d be looking out for.

image by BGG user Vittorioso

Frogriders (Asger Harding Granerud/Daniel Skjold Pedersen, Stronghold Games) is about an elf tribe that rides frogs.  A bunch of frogs are randomly scattered over the board, and players each get personal objectives that tell them how they will score points.  There are a couple of public goals as well.  On your turn, you’ll jump one frog over another, Checkers style, and capture the jumped frog.  You can keep the captured frog for scoring, or return it to the village for a special ability.  The game goes until no one can make a legal move, and the player who has scored the most wins.

This seems like a pretty accessible abstract-style game, similar to Checkers but with a more crowded board and more going on strategically as you look for opportunities to score.  It looks fun, though it’s not one that I think I’d run to look at.  More of a “sure, I’ll give it a try if I have some time” kind of thing.  eggertspiele published the German version in March, and I think Stronghold is planning on releasing theirs in May, so there should be copies available at Origins.

image by BGG user Mark UD OP

The Dingo Ate the Baby (Mike Elliott, Upper Deck Entertainment) is a game about building up your ranch and trying to sabotage your opponents.  Each day, a d10 is rolled and ten is added to find the value you need to reach (but not go over) for the day.  On your turn, you can play a card to your ranch, play a card to an opponent’s ranch, destroy your own protected card, or discard a card/draw a new one.  The day is over when the discard pile equals twice the number of players.  Players who did not go over the target value score a point for each other player they beat.  Play to 15 points.

The title of this game is a reference to Azaria Chamberlain, a two-month-old baby who was killed by a dingo in 1980.  It was later retold in the Meryl Streep movie A Cry in the Dark, and was also mocked in a famous episode of Seinfeld.  It’s probably a little bit of poor taste.  It doesn’t look like a game I’m terribly interested in with probably a bit too much take that.


That will do it for this time.  Thanks for reading!

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