Paul: If 2011 didn’t spoil us enough with board games, it looks like 2012 will. Below we present our top ten games coming this year. Ten whole games! That’s a towering collection, a veritable Cleopatra’s needle, so you lot had better start commissioning specially-constructed barges to ferry those needles home to you. Games barges. For these towering games needles. Yes.
One thing’s for sure, though. The most exciting games in the coming year are definitely something Quinns and I will both agreed on. Definitely.
Quinns: Oh, god. Let’s get this over with.
Paul: So obviously, the most exciting game of this coming year will be the X-Wing one, where you get to actually have genuine proper space starfighter star fights like in the films. It also fills a (space) void that’s long needed attending to. We want and we need good Star Wars board games, if only to alleviate the horrid nose-dive that the series took with the last three films. And everything since 1999.
Quinns: Of course, last year Fantasy Flight announced they picked up the Star Wars license, and this will be the first fruit of that sale.
Paul: And some of those fruits are pre-painted X-Wing and TIE fighter models, which is a pretty neat way to start.
Quinns: Of course.
Paul: And, of course, it’s got all sorts of expansion possibilities. I think the starter pack is just supposed to be X-Wings and TIEs, but there’s the option for adding all sorts of alphabetti-spaghetti spaceships, with your B-Wings and your Y-Wings and your Millennium Falcons and maybe a chase through an asteroid field and some of the other special ships from the films and the computer games and the series and all sorts of things I mean can’t you just wouldn’t you just surely this can get you more excited Quintin Smith.
Quinns: LOOK, I’m just feeling very cynical about this.
Paul: Pull out, Quinns. You can’t do any more good back there.
Quinns: Shut up! Between me hearing from people who played a prototype at a convention that it heavily leans on the Wings of War rules, the product page boasting quick, intuitive rules “that’ll have you fighting in minutes”, and a general… thin-ness to everything they’ve announced so far, I just can’t get excited. Honestly, what, besides this flaky thematic coating, is there to get excited about?
Paul: Well, come on then, what’s your suggestion for a game to kick off our top ten?
Quinns: I thought you’d NEVER ASK!
Quinns: Right, Wok Star is a real time game where all the players-
Paul: Simultaneously and permanently lose their dignity?
Quinns: -work in the kitchen of the same Chinese restaurant. Everyone’s in charge of cooking different bits of food, different orders require different sorts of co-operation, and there’s a twenty second timer and you’re all rushing and shouting! And then between rounds you can take money you’ve earned and spend it advertising your restaurant, buying new recipes, upgrade your kitchen…
Paul: Upgrade your kitchen.
Quinns: Paul! Would you hurry it up with that chow mein! I need fried rice! Where are the wontons?
Paul: Did you hit your head. Is that what happened. Shall I call an ambulance.
Quinns: WHERE ARE THE WONTONS? Whatever. We’ll play it and that cynicism of yours will crack apart like the crunchy pastry on a spring roll. Last year Space Alert showed me how much fun frenzied co-op against the clock can be, and I want more.
Anyway, what’s next on the list?
Paul: It’s been a while since I was able to let myself get excited about a grand strategy game. Especially a nerdy, beardy, historical one. We’ve not talked about them much so far and, though we reviewed Twilight Imperium in the last series, it was an area I feel we largely avoided.
BUT if we get ourselves a copy of Virgin Queen, we can remedy all that. Look at its expansive map of Europe. Imagine the clash of armies, the plotting of politicians, the conspiracies, the religious conflicts.
Quinns: Imagine your friends making excuses to momentarily leave the table, only to escape the game and your house via a second storey kitchen window.
Paul: No, I’ve already thought of that. I’ve boarded it up. Look, Europe is in turmoil and we can be right in the middle of it!
Quinns: What kind of turmoil. Hang on, let me look this up on BoardGameGeek… Okay, I’m coming around. It says here I can play the Ottoman empire, we can send handgun-equipped assassins at one another, compete for the favour of artists and the game has a “secret negotiation phase”.
Paul: Not yet convinced? Let me say one thing… Marriage: Plus two Victory Points.
Quinns: What are you talking about? Marriage of who?
Paul: …I don’t know. But marriage! Maybe… the marriage of us? Perhaps we-
Quinns: WHAT IS NEXT.
Quinns: Aha! Now here’s a proper space game. This is a brilliant classic from 1988 and, bizarrely, two board game publishers are releasing their own edition of it this year. The original publishers and the original designer both believe they hold the rights, and both sold the rights, so now the two new owners of those rights are both making remakes.
Paul: What? What do you even do in the game? Is it something to do with… merchants? And… love?
Quinns: A love of MONEY! Basically it’s really crunchy economic stuff. You’re flying around, buying low, selling high, you’re permanently changing the supply and demand for different commodities in different regions, you’re building factories, you’re changing your ship, uh, you can be famous… and meet horses…
Paul: This had quite the reputation, didn’t it? I’ve heard it mentioned many a time, but I’ve never played it, and the problem I have now is that I’m not sure what edition I want to play. Both Fantasy Flight and Stronghold Games are going to re-release… hang on, horses?
Quinns: It says right there on the Fantasy Flight page. There are four races in the game, including “Whynom: A strong race of intelligent horses.”
Quinns: Some people ask me, why have horses in this game? I say, why no’? …m.
Paul: Someone somewhere was paid money to come up with that. Whynom.
Quinns: The alien names are all pretty good. You’ve also got Eeepeeep and Qossuth. Uh. Have we got any business-type games that are a little less embarrassing?
Paul: This is another re-release and it actually has something of an exciting story behind it. The original Crude, a game all about the trials and tribulations of managing an energy company, was actually designed by a businessman. It was a cult hit way back in the 70s, then illegally republished by a German company called Hexagames under the name McMulti. What a rubbish name.
All credit is due to Stronghold games who, almost forty years later, managed to get in touch with the original designer and will be re-releasing a shinier, tweaked version this year, with new input from the gent who first made it. And yet who sadly passed away and won’t witness the re-release.
Quinns: Goodness. That is a good story. As for the game, I’m imagining something like Black Gold but a little more depressing.
Paul: Me too. Of course, the problem is that in the intervening years we’ve been spoiled for choice with corporate, capitalist and cash-counting business games. Apparently, Crude has had quite the reputation among dedicated gamers, but I can’t say I’ve ever played it or that I know anyone who has. What’s it like? What’s it about? What mysteries does-
Quinns: Paul, I’m getting bored again.
Paul: Okay, what have we got that’ll wake you up?
Paul: You like games in space, don’t you? It’s the only place your ego will fit.
Quinns: Paul, what is beyond space?
Paul: A battle, clearly. Battle Beyond Space by Z-Man games will be a sort of war game with all of the unnecessary stuff taken out, like common sense and human decency. Three or four players each drag 20 plastic ships into an asteroid field. There is a stupendous fight. You put the game back in its box. Fin. Supposedly it takes less than an hour, too.
Quinns: Less than an hour!
Paul: And look at the size of that guy’s neck on the cover!
Quinns: The artist clearly sent the boss his first mock-up and the reply was a one-line email reading LONGER NECK.
Paul: I really like how this feels very much like a game that’s just about unashamed, unmitigated and shameless war. Laser war in space, but also a fast and furious war, which is how I think wargames should feel. They should have the pace of a battle, they shouldn’t get bogged down in their own minutia.
Quinns: But I like minutia. That’s why I’m looking forward to-
Quinns: REX is actually yet another game tied to an older title, this time to backstabbing board game classic Dune. Rather than seeking to “replicate or replace” Dune, though, Fantasy Flight are instead implementing all sorts of new, modern mechanics to make a game of their own. Including a sexy little system they call the “Simultaneous Dial Based Order System” system.
Paul: Ah. Aha. I wondered when you were going to get onto this. I knew you had it up your sleeve. That, or you had the most incredible boxy-shaped cyst on your arm.
Quinns: That’s gross, Paul. The readers don’t come here to read you being gross.
Quinns: Dune, and by extent Rex (or REX or whatever), are games where many alien factions are trying to gain control of a planet using military and economic resources, but more excitingly negotiation and backstabbery. Where these game get really interesting is that unlike most games of negotiation (Game of Thrones, say) it’s possible for two players to not just form an alliance, but win the game as an alliance. They just have to overcome a tougher victory condition. Which means other players have to test and tease these alliances to encourage one half to break off to pursue a solo victory.
Paul: Dune is a game whose reputation I’m all too aware of, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever get a chance to properly play it. Although this will apparently by a different game, I’m still pretty keen to give it a go and I’m glad Dune’s game mechanics get to see the light of day again. I’m also a big fan of any and all strategy games where you find yourself in tenuous, cracking alliances. Although there doesn’t seem to be anything to do with marriage in this one, does there?
Quinns: I guess maybe you can marry a sandworm.
Paul: We’re really diving into the remakes this year, aren’t we? I suppose that leads us neatly to…
Quinns: Ah yes! Descent. The game Paul and I loved so much we devoted an entire episode of the show to it. Or should that be “the game Paul and I played so much we devoted an entire episode of the show to it to justify those hundreds of hours.”
Paul: Or should that be the game we played so much that we broke it? Like overeager archaeologists, we dived in so deep that we uncovered every one of its flaws and, much as we loved it, we came to see some of the ugliness underneath.
Quinns: Mm. And this year we’re getting a heavily altered, much prettier “second edition”, which is a modest name for what’s sounding like a total overhaul, from the rules to the components. And I couldn’t be happier. I’d be the first to admit Descent needed a reboot following its… five expansions? All of which just added more monsters, skills, treasures, dungeons, until finally the game was a big teetering Jenga tower of rules. I’m also glad that the second edition is going to include, out of the box, the rules for players to embark on epic campaigns rather than just one-shot dungeons, because, let’s be frank, that’s what kept us playing.
Paul: And that’s definitely what this needs most of all, that campaign option right out of the box. It was the best part of our Descent experience and it would be nothing less than cruel to deny new players the opportunity to launch into an epic quest as soon as their miniatures hit the table. My gaming history started with dungeon crawls and I’ve always held the burning fireball of desire within me for new, beautiful and beastly examples of the genre. It’s a tough thing to get right and, believe it not, the Heroica games that Lego are releasing now got me really excited for a while. Then they turned out to be a little-
Paul: I was going to say vapid. Someone forgot to put any rules in the box and, yes, I know Descent’s problems were the rules, but a second edition is a second chance. A fresh start. A new adventure. To battle!
Quinns: To battle!
We’re on the home stretch now. Game number nine is…
Quinns: I reviewed Thunderstone not on Shut Up & Sit Down, but here. It’s a deck building game in the style of Dominion, except instead of you all playing abstract, OCD-afflicted baron trying to snatch more land/points than your opponents, you’re sending a party of adventurers down the mouth of a dungeon in an expedition to recover a relic. It’s all a bit grim, and the card artwork done by Jason Engle is just beautiful.
Anyway, this year Thunderstone’s getting Thunderstone: Advance, which is some kind of all-new game (compatible with any Thunderstone cards you have) that’ll… Advance it?
Basically, the only interesting thing AEG have promised about this game is that it’ll feature “new rules” and a “new board”. Which is a bit like saying the restaurant you’re building will feature new tables and chairs.
Paul: Every time I think of Thunderstone I think of how I haven’t played it enough and I want to give it another go, I want to tie up my pack, purchase a few more torches and, for some reason, recruit that dreadfully dirty looking man who lingers in the town square to come with me.
Sure, it’s a deck-building game, but it really plays with that mechanic in a way I think is so very smart, forcing you to carefully consider every card you add to your collection. It’s an intelligent and very wicked game, and I’m so, so nosy to see exactly what AEG are doing with this new expansion.
Quinns: Paul, do you smell that?
Paul: Smell what?
Quinns: The smell of the BEST SETTING EVER!
Quinns: Just imagine it. 2-4 players slinking up the Congo. Your steamboat sputters onwards, like a key sliding into the lock that will surely unlock Africa itself. Dark jungles crowding in on either side. Crocodiles snapping at your sandwiches. Malaria in your tea. …shit, I’m going to be disappointed in this game, aren’t I.
Paul: I want to say this right off the bat: This has been a long time coming, for me. I’ve always wanted to see more games set in the heart of Africa, and who doesn’t want to set off on a deadly expedition?
Quinns: Mmm. My worry, now I think about it, is that I love this setting so much I’m going to be disappointed if the rules aren’t so absurdly detailed as to include a section on daily moustache grooming.
Paul: I’m a massive child, I suppose, but I also like the fact that it comes with flags. 20 flags, they say. I don’t mind if they’re just tokens and not real flags, I just want to put them everywhere. Maybe I’ll take them out of the box and carry them around with me, too, leaving them dotted about the flat or perhaps just lay them places in London and look at them. Wistfully.
Quinns: Hmm. I guess that’s our ten games. Shame, as I had one more.
Paul: Me too. Oh, sod it. Quinns! We’re adults now! I say we push on.
Quinns: Let’s do this!
Quinns: Wiz-War! This is yet another remake of yet another fantastic 80s board game, one which may have gone on to inspire classic videogame Chaos on the ZX Spectrum. Players all control wizards in a deadly and comedic close-quarters battle, with everyone keeping a hand of unique spells close to their chest. You just don’t know what any of your opponents will do. Ever.
Paul: Chaos! Man, those were the days. Well, usually I’d be groaning like a ghoul at a list of remakes, but my fingers are tingling to try this, as well as everything else we’ve covered, and if there’s one thing we can always rely on Fantasy Flight to do it’s to make things shiny, glossy and indulgent. This is looking ever so pretty. Even magical, you might say.
Quinns: Yessir. Imagine it! Players knocking down walls, producing new walls, turning into slime, turning into mist, flinging lighting, growing arms, summoning thorn bushes, casting counterspells and god knows what else. However many cards get shipped with this game, I’ll wish there were more.
Paul: It all sounds very much like a great big magical toybox, to which you and your friends have been given the glowing keys.
Quinns: Very much Fantasy Flight’s area of expertise, then. I expect great things from this one. Oh god what the hell is this last game on the list.
Quinns: Paul, no.
Paul: Guess who I was born on the same day as?
Quinns: Paul, no.
Paul: Abraham Lincoln!
Quinns: Paul, no.
Paul: So for this game I figured I could put on a hat and I could grow my beard and-
Quinns: And I could shoot you, yes. Let me read out the designer’s description of the game for the good people at home.
“Divided Republic is a card driven two to four player game representing the last calm before the storm that was to become the American Civil War. Players represent the four major parties (Constitutional Unionists, Northern Democrats, Republicans, and Southern Democrats) and attempt to win the presidency by defeating their opponents…
This is a light to medium weight game with intense player interaction… and a play time of about 2-3 hours depending upon how events proceed. There are even a few laughs along the way.”
Paul: Intense player interaction! What’s wrong, Quinns? Can’t you handle that?
Quinns: I’m just glad there are a few laughs along the way because it’s a three hour historical card game.
Paul: Well then, you should enjoy it, seeing as it’s all about division and argument and splitting hairs. It’s political intrigue! It’s campaigning! It’s racing for the White House! You get to accuse your opponents of being scandalous cads, you vie for control of states and try to expand your political influence. As the election gets ever closer, will you manage to gain control of the country? Or will it collapse into civil war, Quinns? …Quinns?
Quinns: Let’s just end on something we can both agree on: Making things bigger.
#13: The Expansions
Quinns: 2012 will see the release of not one, not two, but five expansions for SU&SD favourites. We’ve got:
Quarriors: Quarmageddon, which will add 40 new dice to the cuboid extravaganza in the form of new monsters, new spells and new rules.
Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts, which will apparently repurpose Race for the Galaxy, Paul and my joint favourite game of 2012, into a whole new experience. Players will no longer just build an empire. No, now that empire will merely be a backdrop as we all force our way into an enormous alien spaceship in the centre of the table.
Galaxy Trucker: Another Big Expansion, adding hostile aliens and new components and god knows what else to the funniest game we’ve reviewed to date.
Cosmic Encounter: Cosmic Alliance, chucking another twenty aliens and all-new team rules into the unspeakably beautiful game of negotiation and cunning. I’ll be honest, I’d still buy this if it included just five alien races and a polaroid of Fantasy Flight’s CEO giving me the finger.
Paul: Team rules! Team rules! Empires united in their glory!
Quinns: Ah yes. Cosmic Alliance will also add team rules, where players and their randomly assigned partner must both get the required number of foreign colonies. I have high hopes for this. I’m imagining a kind of super-freaky bridge. And finally, we’ve got:
Seven Wonders: Cities, which should greatly up player interaction and colour in a game that already knits players together in a colourful tapestry.
Paul: Team rules! Team rules! Empires united in their glory in this game, too!
Quinns: For heaven’s sake. Yes, Cities will add team rules too.
Paul: Our first full year with Shut Up & Sit Down looks like it’ll be a busy one and an exciting one. There are so many games I want to try and, of course, there’ll be so many more surprises along the way. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for 2012 to arrive.
Quinns: (It’s arrived already.)
Paul: It has? Hooray!
Quinns: Why do you always have to write conclusions that make you sound like a marriage counselor.
Paul: How do you even know what a marriage counselor sounds like.
Quinns: Look, it was two extra victory points and the guy was a catch. Leave me alone.
Quinns: Two days after publishing this article Paul and I simultaneously slapped our palms to our foreheads, realising we’d forgotten something very special indeed. Vanuatu. So here it is, fashionably late.
Quinns: Check this theme out. Vanuatu (set in the uniquely poor South Pacific volcanic archipelago of Vanuatu) is an economics game that sees the players all striving for wealth. So far, so ordinary.
Except it’s all a bit chintzy. You’re trying to catch fish, poke around ship wrecks, take part in the traditional Vanuatuan art of drawing in the sand and shuttling tourists around to survey these drawings, or just buy tacky stuff at your stalls you’ve built. There’s also some interesting gamey stuff about area control and timing and requesting help from the islands’ ten wise characters.
But there’s a TWIST! In Vanuatu, wealth and success aren’t measured by how much you earn, but rather how much you give away. So while money is a useful thing to have, mechanically, it’s only in buying beef and booze and coconut flesh from foreign ships and handing these out to your fellow Vanuatuans, or simply handing out the money itself, that you’ll be able to transform your intrinsically useless cash into the “prosperity points” that’ll win you the game.
Very lovely. Very zen. You can bet your bottom that the moment this comes out I’ll be inviting my friends over with the phone in one hand and a cocktail shaker full of daquiris in the other. We’ll be bringing you the earliest possible review.