Let me start this with a confession. I’m having a problem doing my overviews lately. This blog was born out of a desire to learn new games and talk about them, usually without having actually played them. Lately, though, when I sit down to do a new Game Buzz post, I’m finding that I’m having a problem writing them. I’m trying to blame this entirely on the pandemic and that I haven’t gotten to play as many new games lately, but it also could be that I’m just growing out of this phase of the blog. I don’t want to give it up entirely because, as I said, this is original story of why the blog exists. Trying to contribute to buzz around games is the whole reason I named it Boards and Bees.
That said, I’m going to try something new. Rather than talk about one game in detail, I’m going to do a less detailed overview of FOUR games, just trying to give an idea rather than specifics. This is a lot like what I do when I’m doing con previews, but in this case, I’m trying to give a little more detail than that. We’ll see how it goes. I’m going to try this with four completely unrelated games – though I guess they are a little related in that they have all been recently released or should be very soon. I’ll go through them alphabetically, starting with
Dominant Species: Marine is the follow up to 2010’s Dominant Species, by GMT Games. It was designed by Chad Jensen, who sadly died of cancer in 2019. The original was about trying to become the most dominant species on land. This one is the same concept, just in the water.
Like its older brother, Marine is at its heart a worker placement game. The basic goal is to adapt your species so it can survive in a bunch of places, as well as adapting the environment so it’s friendly. On your turn, you place an action pawn and take the action associated with it. On subsequent turns, you can take your pawns back or take another action that must either be below or to the right of a previously placed pawn. This is very different from the original game, where players put out all of their action pawns before resolving them in a much more round-based format.
Some other differences that I see in the game are the presence of trait cards. You get to pick one of three random ones at the start of the game, that gives you a special abilities during the game. Also, there are only four possible species instead of six in the original.
Of course, take all of this with a grain of salt – I haven’t played the original. It’s one of those games that I feel like I should play at some point, just to say I have. This game seems far more streamlined, however, and might be a bit more accessible to new players. It’s a very nice looking game, and it’s one I definitely want to try.
The Initiative is a cooperative game designed by Corey Konieczka, and published by his company Unexpected Games. Konieczka was part of Fantasy Flight Games for a number of years, and recently started his own studio – I believe this is their first title.
In this game, players are teenagers in 1994 who have found a mysterious board game called Jumanji. Wait, no, the game is called The Key. Apparently, playing this game opens up a real mystery. You play through a 14 game campaign, and the game is driven by an interactive comic book. There’s puzzles to solve, and an advancing story even if you fail a mission.
I’ve still never actually played an escape room game, but this game seems to fall in that category. However, it’s probably more like a legacy game since there’s a story and not just a one-and-done experience. Apparently, there’s also some post-campaign games you can play, so you’re not necessarily done even when you’re done. It seem like a pretty cool game. Konieczka definitely knows what he’s doing with game design, having reinvented what FFG was doing with a lot of stuff, so it’ll be interesting to see how this game works out. And it’ll be interesting to see what Unexpected Games has going in the future.
Lawyer Up is a two-player game set in the high intensity world of the courtroom, designed by Samuel Bailey and Mike Gnade, published by Rock Manor Games. Basically, one person is the prosecution, and the other is the defense, and your job is to build the strongest case.
There are two phases to the game. In the first, Discovery, you’re sifting through the evidence and trying to find the stuff that it good for your case. This is done by drawing three cards, putting one in the Prosecution deck, one in the Defense deck, and burying one piece of evidence. Because both players are adding to both decks, you get to try to put cards in your opponent’s case that won’t be good for them.
After this is the Trial. Players call Witnesses, and try to build their case by matching symbols and using special actions. In the end, it’s all about the jury – depending on the case, you might need a simple majority to convict, or you might have to convince everyone.
I think this is a great, largely unexplored theme for a game. Plenty of games focus on the catching of the crooks, but the court cases around the cases can be just as much of a chess match. This seems like a good one for playing out the process. Abstracted down to cards and symbols, sure, but it looks like a fun attempt at the theme.
Red Rising is the latest game from Stonemaier. It’s based on the novel series by Pierce Brown (which I have not read), and is designed by Jamey Stegmaier and Alexander Schmidt. It’s a kind of futuristic dystopian setting where mankind has colonized Mars and has broken up into different factions.
Red Rising is a card game, and you’ll be playing a card out every turn to one of the locations on the board. This will allow you to take another card from a different location to gain the location’s benefit and try to build your hand. Each player is part of a different faction, and gets different abilities based on that.
As I said, I haven’t read the books. Hadn’t even heard of them until this game came out. Apparently they are very popular (Jamey Stegmaier himself said that it’s his favorite series, and this is basically his dream IP to work with). I always wonder if knowing the original source is important to enjoying a game. Probably not – this game seems like it would stand well on its own, with thematic information that will please fans of the book. Plus, it seems to be a fairly quick card game that is simple to understand and with lots of choices to be made. That coupled with Stonemaier’s high production values, this seems to be a good one to check out.
That’ll do it for today. If you’ve played any of these yet, I’d love to hear about them. Hopefully I’ll get to them myself one day. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading!