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Tag: Earth Reborn

Adding to Earth Reborn!

Adding to Earth Reborn

I’ve been very interested in Z-man Games’s epic Earth Reborn lately. This is a game that hearkens back to the days of ‘big box’ games by Games Workshop in the 90s like Advanced Space Crusade and Warhammer Quest; a game packed with potential for enhancement, homegrown scenarios, and expansion—a big ‘sandbox’ of a game. Let me tell you a bit more about Earth Reborn, what makes it so much fun, and show you some things I’ve already done to enhance this fantastic post-apocalyptic combat game.

Firstly, the makers of this game have already provided the gamer with endless hours of gameplay, and there’s really nothing that has to be added to what’s in the box and what’s online. The game itself comes with nine scenarios that have a lot of replay value, but the included Scenario Auto Generating System (affectionately dubbed ‘S.A.G.S.’) means that by following specific rules, you can easily generate an infinite number of scenarios yourself. You go through the steps of building a map, assembling teams, selecting equipment, and then drawing a number of Mission cards from the supplied decks, and you’re ready to go. And there’s even a S.A.G.S. system specifically designed for 3 or 4 players.

There’s a lot more stuff for the game at the Earth Reborn website, where you’ll find an community of Earth Reborn players, online and offline map designers, multi-player rules, and player-created scenarios to try.

Anyway, back to the game. I must admit it took me a little time to get my head around the quite original activation and combat systems in Earth Reborn, but once I understood what was going on it all clicked smoothly into place. The basis of the game are Order tiles and Command Point counters. Basically, whenever you activate a character you draw an Order tile from the bag, add it to the selection of tiles and Command Points you have hidden behind your little player screen, then choose a tile to assign to your character. You then assign Command Point tokens to actions on the tile. Each tile has four order types on it—either close combat, move, interact, search, or shoot actions, with a number on each type shown.

You assign CP counters to the orders you want your character to take, as he takes them. For example, you may want to assign 2 CP to a move action, so if your character has a movement value of 5, he could move 10 squares. Then you could assign 1 CP to a close combat action, allowing your character to attack an adjacent enemy. Then you could assign another 1 CP to another move action so he could run off another 5 squares afterward!

You can easily see that this ingenious system gives you an incredible amount of flexibility during your turn—it’s not just ‘move then shoot’. However the selection of tiles and the amount of CP counters you have also give you built-in limits which can be incredibly frustrating and really get you thinking tactically! You may have plenty of options for running around at high speed, but very few for delivering accurate fire or strong attacks, for example. You have to manage your options carefully for the optimal result. This makes every game interesting and different.

I won’t go into all the specifics of the combat system—not to mention all the other possibilities for manipulating equipment, spying, searching for items or even capturing your opponents and torturing them for information!—but suffice it to say they all flow very smoothly and once you get the hang of the Iconographic Phrasing System (I.P.S.—these designers love their acronyms!) you can see at a glance how each special ability works.

In short, if you love an extremely thematic game with a lot of tactical possibilities, detail, and endless opportunity for expansion, you’ll love Earth Reborn. It’s definitely a game for ‘game hobbyists’.

Now, on to my personal improvements for owners of the game. Firstly, I’ve created a comprehensive rules summary and set of reference sheets: download them here. The game rules can be quite daunting at first glance, but the nine scenarios cleverly take you through the rules, adding concepts as you play through them and get used to the way the game works. But once you’re using all the rules you’ll find my summary very useful to give you all the information you need without all the detail and examples that are in the rulebook.

Another thing I did was to redesign the character cards that come with the game (you’ll find them in the above file). Now of course the original cards work just fine, but I decided I’d make them a bit bigger and a bit clearer, and actually write out the special abilities as well as show them with the icon system. These are just an optional extra, but a good example of how a game like this can bring out the hobbyist in some gamers!

Earth Reborn card redesign

Earth reborn character card design: just an example of the kind of thing you can do to modify and enhance your games.

Of course, I’ve already painted all the miniatures that came with the game, and you can check out my Earth Reborn Painting Guide if you need some tips.

Finally, I decided to replace the original box insert with my own, made of that incredibly useful stuff—foamcore. You can find foamcore in art supply shops and it’s very easy to cut with a craft knife and a metal ruler (watch those fingers!), and build with using white glue (and pins for extra strength). Now the plastic box insert that comes with the game is actually custom-designed and has a special place for everything, but I personally like to make foamcore inserts for most of my games. This one is designed with a removable tray for all the counters. In a future article I’ll tell you about the art of foamcore and how to build box inserts and game enhancements.

Earth Reborn box insert

My custom-made foamcore box insert. Note the custom character cards and removable counter tray. Note that the green plastic marker has been added by me as an Iniative token, and the figures originally come unpainted.

As you can see, Earth Reborn is not just a game, it’s a hobby, and I’m sure I’ll come up with even more ways to enhance the game as I play it more often. But then that’s one of the endlessly fascinating things about gaming in general; you don’t have to stop at what you’ve been given in the box!

Gaming Marathon Session Report

Gaming Marathon

Two old friends. Time off from partners and children. A huge boardgame collection. The occasional beer or two (or three…) There’s nothing like an entire day and two evenings of gaming—yes, a marathon session of seven (count ’em, seven) different games, covering the gamut from WWII simulation to spaceship combat to post-apocalyptic skirmishes. In this little photo essay you’ll experience the highs—and in my case, mainly the lows—of the joy of boardgaming!

We decided to get the hardest game out of the way first while our minds were fresh, and brought out Tide of Iron. This game is a really satisfying simulation of World War II combat, but the rules are quite complex, and personally I wouldn’t even try to play without my own reference sheets! We played the first scenario from the excellent hardback book the Designer Series,which is called The Twin Villages and is set during the Ardennes Offensive. As the Americans I failed completely to hold back the German advance, foolishly moving my Sherman tanks into firing range long before I should have, and paying the price.

Tide of Iron

Tide of Iron: the gaming marathon gets off to an intense and complex start.

I’d been itching try out the new Hasbro spaceship combat game Battleship Galaxies (not least so I could write up a review for this blog) and the game definitely didn’t disappoint! As the human ISN fleet, unfortunately, I got my proverbial flagship kicked. Still, there’s quite a bit of luck involved and I refuse to take any responsibility for being wiped out and exposing the Earth to alien invasion. OK?

For an in-depth analysis of Battleship Galaxies, check out our articles: Part 1 and Part 2.

Battleship Galaxies

Battleship Galaxies of Iron: the first play of this new game proved to be a winner.

Pizza had been bought and consumed and it was getting late so we decided to give our brains a rest by playing a game from the distant past, Dark World: Village of Fear. This old 90s kid’s fantasy game is a fantastic example of the kind of over-the-top production that was popular in the wake of the success of Heroquest. It‘s quite a rarity on Ebay nowadays and I’d spent a couple of Sunday afternoons painting up the copious amount of plastic in the box. Unfortunately, despite looking spectacular, it’s not much of a game—very basic, poorly balanced, and somewhat tedious. We gave up before the end. Oh well, file that one under ‘play with young nephews’ then!

Village of Fear

Dark World: Village of Fear: ‘taking a break’ with this early 90s kid’s game wasn’t such a great idea after all.

The next day we started off with another new game, Conquest of Nerath, and this proved to be a highly enjoyable conquest game. The rules are easy to learn and you’re plunged into the confrontations right from the first turn. My opponent played the allied realms of Karkoth (uundead) and the Iron Circle (orcs and goblins) against my allied kingdoms of Vaillin (elves) and Nerath (humans), and he immediately began wiping out a couple of strongholds I held on isolated peninsulas. The game is very easy to pick up, and has an ingeniously simple combat system; basically each unit needs to roll a 6 to hit, but uses a different die, from 6-sided for footsoldiers to 20-sided for the dragons. Throw in a few easy to remember specialised abilities and you’re done. Your heroes can also take side trips to dungeons (some of which old Dungeons & Dragons players will recall, like the Tomb of Horrors) to fight monsters and gain treasures which may help during the battles. Each nation has a separate Event card deck tailored to its fighting style as well. It’s fast, furious and confrontational, and successfully does away with unnecessary ‘rules bloat’. Highly recommended.

Conquest of Nerath
Conquest of Nerath

Conquest of Nerath: easy to play, a lot of fun, this conquest game is just the thing for relaxed but competitive gameplay.

I splurged recently and bought the Dust Tactics premium pre-painted edition, and it’s rapidly becoming one of my favourite games. On the surface this looks like a ‘dumbed-down’ miniatures game, but in fact its simplicity hides some very strategic and enjoyable gameplay. The scenarios are well-designed, the figures are fantastic and we had great fun playing this one—in fact we played two games in a row. This game seems to have been a hit for Fantasy Flight Games, because they are releasing a revised core set (with a whole new selection of figures), various unit expansions, and soon a hardback book called Dust Warfare which details a set of tabletop miniatures rules.

For now, however, I’m really enjoying the simple rules of the Dust Tactics core set. Movement is simply from square to square, and line of sight is measured between the central dots printed on the squares. You have to keep an eye on the abilities of your units and walkers however, as it’s no good, for example, going up against a ‘Ludwig’ Panzer Kampflaüer II-B walking tank with just a unit of Recon Rangers—they won’t be able to so much as scratch its paintwork! Deploying and moving your units optimally is the crux of the game—and a healthy dollop of lucky dice rolling too, of course! Both of our games came right down to a last crucial dice roll, which to me is the sign of a really well-balanced and fun game.

Dust Tactics
Dust Tactics
Dust Tactics
Dust Tactics

Dust Tactics: definitely becoming a favourite. Note the cupped hands about to make that crucial dice throw!

It was time to tackle another new game and I brought out Earth Reborn, the huge new game of post-apocalyptic combat from Z-Man Games. It took us a little while to get our head around this one, but luckily the scenarios ease you into the game, introducing game concepts in sequence so you don’t have to deal with the entire ruleset at once. The only tricky concept is the assigning of Command points to Order tiles. This system gives you an incredible amount of flexibility and a lot of interesting choices, but is quite unusual and may take a few tries to ‘click’: this is a game for hobbyists, not casual Ticket to Ride-style gamers! Once you realise that you can assign multiple points to an order tile, and thus execute multiple types of actions in your turn, it all comes together and you realise how much potential the game has. The scenarios are very thematic and fun—the first one details the excape of a female NORAD agent from a mansion with the aid of a besotted Frankenstein-like creation, and has one of the enemies start in the bathroom! I can see many hours of good gaming in the future with this game, exploring all its possibilitiesa.

Earth Reborn

Earth Reborn: a bit brain-burning but interesting to play (figures in the game come unpainted).

So there you have it! The marathon finished off with a game of Merchants & Marauders, a casual and enjoyable pirate game which lacks a little bit of tension, but makes up for it with being very thematic and a fun experience, rather than a competitive game.

Not surprisingly, we were both pretty exhausted after playing seven games in a row—with breaks for food, conversation and sleep of course! It just goes to show however, what an interesting, fun and rewarding hobby boardgaming can be, and what a great way it is to pass the time. Even if you do have a bad habit of losing, as I do …

Tell us about some of your recent game sessions— do you prefer one-off games, long multi-game sessions, small or large groups, particular styles? Let us know!

The games shown may be custom painted or have personally added or modified components, and don’t necessarily show what comes in the box!

Earth Reborn Painting Guide

Earth Reborn Painting Guide

Earth Reborn is a fantastically detailed skirmish game set on a post-apocalyptic earth that features an incredible array of scenarios and a rich, tactical system. Like all good skirmish games, it comes with some very cool miniature figures, and like all miniature figures, they look a lot better when they’re painted! In the tradition of my Mansions of Madness Painting Guide, allow me to take you through the process of getting your plain plastic figures looking like proper post-apocalyptic warriors!

There are a couple of things about Earth Reborn that make the miniatures easier to paint, and there’s one thing that makes it a little trickier. For a start, you won’t have to worry about the usual wash-in-detergent-and-water and undercoating steps. Your figures are already primed and ready to paint, and I had no problems painting directly onto the figures. As usual, however, I did do a little clean-up with a sharp blade (watch your fingers kids!), removing a few mould lines and imperfections.

Another thing that makes the painting easier is the excellent reference material—in the Earth Reborn Scenario Book you’ll find some large illustrations that are a good guide to colour choices. I chose to follow these pretty closely, but of course you can pick any colours you’re happy with. The Mammoth Mark II has a camouflage pattern, for example, that I didn’t bother to paint on the miniature.

What makes these figures a little trickier to paint are the bases. The figures come glued to bases that already have stickers attached to them (showing the different coloured arcs for line of sight and damage). This means that you’ll either have to remove the figures from the bases before painting, or paint carefully around the feet. I originally removed the figures, but I must admit it probably would have been easier just to paint carefully near the actual sticker, because you can damage it by removing the figure if you’re not careful—and lucky!

Remember, what follows is just my personal approach to painting these miniatures! There are many different ways of painting—lots of people like painting on top of a black undercoat, for example—but I’ve found this technique gives me a nice balance between good-looking playing pieces for my games, and getting them done relatively fast so we can start playing! Some painters may choose more careful, slower techniques, and there’s no doubt these are very detailed character pieces that would benefit from that approach.

My technique, however, is based heavily around a little product from Games Workshop that pretty much changed my life when it came to painting figures faster—yes, I’m talking about that wonderful wash, Devlan Mud! I can’t tell you how much this stuff speeds up my painting. For most figures, all you have to do is paint your base colours, wash the figure in Devlan Mud, then do one or two quick highlighting passes, to get a great looking figure. The trick with Devlan Mud is, after you’ve applied it, use a dry brush to soak up any excess wash in or on the areas where you don’t want it to pool (wipe it on a piece of paper towel each time you soak up some wash). That way you have lots of control over how the shadows and detail are brought out by the wash.

Remember, check out my earlier article A Beginners Guide To Figure Painting, which covers the basics of miniature painting you need to know to get started.

So, let’s have a look at my results, which hopefully will inspire you to get these great figures painted!

Earth RebornEarth RebornFirst we have some of the Salemite figures; left to right: Professor John Kendall Jr, Jeff Keeler, Franck Einstein (groan!), and Jessica Hollister. With all of these close-up photographs the individual brushstrokes tend to stand out more, but at a normal viewing distance the highlights blend in nicely. Remember, I’m going for attractive playing pieces here, not showcase or competition paint jobs! As you can see, the Earth Reborn figures are absolutely covered in fine detail, which really benefits from a tiny brush and a steady hand at the highlighting stage. Luckily your Devlan Mud wash will have brought out all that detail and made it easy to see!

Earth RebornEarth RebornNext up we have some more Salemite faction figures: Jack Saw, Cherokee Bill, and two zombies! Yep, the Salemites are very much into re-using the dead for their own nefarious purposes, and in fact poor old Jack Saw has been dead for quite some time as well. The two zombies took a little more effort to complete, because unfortunately the cards for them (Zombie 1 and Zombie 2) are mixed up. So I went to the completely unnecessary trouble of swapping the zombies on their bases. Then I discovered that this changed the facing of the figures a bit, so I cut and shifted the heads so they were facing the right way! That explains why these zombies won’t look like the ones you get in your game, and the right-hand one is looking like a bit of a reject from Saturday Night Fever! Still, I like the results …

Earth RebornEarth RebornFinally, it’s time for the good guys, who have the biggest, baddest figure in the game—the Mammoth Mk II! The NORAD faction may seem to be badly outnumbered, but nothing is quite what it seems in this game as there are traitors around every corner …

With our giant robot is Colonel Nick Bolter, Lieutenant Monica Vasquez, and Agent James Woo. I gave Bolter and the Mammoth the same base colour so they go together nicely. Woo has a pretty sharp metallic-and-grey look happening, and Vasquez is in no-nonsense browns.

The Mammoth may look like a slightly daunting figure to paint, but the same techniques apply. A thin coat of GW Dheneb Stone, and some Chainmail on the machine parts, all washed with Devlan Mud. Then I went carefully over the miniature with two stages of highlighting. For machines like this ‘edge highlighting’ is particularly effective. With a tiny brush just highlight the edges of all the shapes, imagining a light source shining down from above the miniature as a guide. Don’t forget to highlight the bottom of those little battle damage scars, it really brings them out and gives the robot that ‘in the wars’ feel. The Devlan Mud wash I left pretty rough on this figure, as it nicely represented the oily, used look I was going for with this workhorse combat robot. I bit of a black drybrush around the weapon ports adds to the effect.

The spotlights are easily done: a base blue, with a dark rim at the top, a light rim at the bottom, and a white dot at the top for a highlight and you’re done.

You’re ready for combat in the Earth Reborn! Happy painting!

Universal Head

(As always, head to my Headless Hollow site for a Earth Reborn rules summary and reference sheet. Enjoy!)

Great Games From Z-Man

Z-Man Games

Z-Man Games have been churning out fantastic boardgames for several years now, games that cover the gamut from hardcore Euro strategy games to Amertitrash-style themefests. Here’s a personal look at a batch of Z-Man games I’ve just received that I’m really looking forward to getting onto the gaming table!

Earth Reborn really takes me back to the 1980s and those halycon days of getting the latest big box Games Workshop game home, ripping off the shrink rap and pouring over the goodies inside. It’s chock-full of stuff (the box lid is literally bursting off the box!), both in components and gaming variety, and the official Earth Reborn website is busily creating new scenarios and variants as we speak. This isn’t just a game, it’s a modular sandbox system that is sure to see expansions in the future and will give the dedicated post-apocalyptic skirmish combat gamer many, many hours of gaming pleasure.

Earth Reborn doesn’t throw you in the deep end with a whole lot of complex rules however; it leads you through the rules in a series of nine linked scenarios, ranging from the basics of movement and close combat all the way through to assigning combined orders to your characters. Unlike typical skirmish games, there’s an interesting system of order tiles which players can assign to characters, and using command point markers, assign command points to various actions on the tiles.

The terrain your characters fight and complete missions over is a wide range of fully-illustrated modular board sections that can be combined in near-infinite ways depending on the scenario. Apart from the usual combat options, characters have a whole lot of interactions they can perform with the tiles—activating command consoles for example, or opening sliding doors with magnetic cards, or perhaps turning a cadaver into a zombie in the cryogenic chamber! There’s also an impressive selection of technological items and equipment to use: a deadly virus, a magnetic disruptor, smoke grenades, and a chainsaw—to name just a few.

One of the most impressive inclusions in the game is the set of 12 resin figures, including a huge robot miniature. They’re very nicely detailed and I’m really looking foward to getting them to the painting table to add the finishing touch to the game (look out for my results in a future article).

RattusFor something completely different, the role-selection game Rattus is a compact and beautifully designed little game set during the spread of the Black Death in Europe, 1347! For some reason this theme really appeals to me, but then I’m a history buff. Lovely illustrations and colours really set this game apart, but the gameplay is also a lot of fun, especially when combined with the extra options of the Pied Piper expansion (coming soon to the store hopefully—or ask us to get it in).

Each player chooses a class card each turn, but you can have more than one, and use the special abilities of all your cards. You can also take your class card from another player! Then you place cubes of your colour in regions on the map of Europe, and then move the Plague piece to a region neighbouring its current location. If there are already rat tokens in this new region, the rats spread to neighbouring regions. Then rat tokens are revealed in the region with the Plague piece, and the player’s cubes can be ravaged by the plague! At the end of the game when the rat tokens are depleted, the player with the most cubes still on the map is the winner.

Of course this is just the basics, and the class cards add all kinds of tricky variations to the basic rules, moving cubes and rat tokens, keeping cubes safe in the King’s palace, and adding more cubes to the board. It’s a game that Tom Vasel of the highly regarded Dice Tower reviews calls “a lot of fun” and ‘highly recommended”, and I can hardly wait to introduce it to some friends who enjoy less ‘heavy’ games.

Merchants and MaraudersFrom sc-ifi, to medieval Europe, to everyone’s favourite, pirates! Merchants & Marauders seems to have come closer than any other game so far to the ‘perfect’ pirate game that everyone seems obssessd with. Again, it’s a beautifully produced game—I can see those lovely plastic pirate ships being reused in any number of pirate games—with a stunning mapboard of the Caribbean, lots of cards, tokens and even 3D constructable chests in which to keep your secret stash of gold!

Merchants & Marauders is a true pirate adventure game wth many, many options to explore; you can choose to concentrate on merchant activities, buying and selling goods across the Caribbean, or you can raid other merchant ships and build up your Glory points and a reputation as the most ruthless pirate on the high seas—the choice is yours. Be careful however, as nations will be putting bounties on your head, and other players will be pursuing the glory of defeating you to collect them! Modify your ship—or buy a more powerful one—add special weapons like grappling hooks and chain-shot, follow rumours and react to events and non-player enemies. Curses, rum running, governor’s daughters, hurricanes—anyone who’s ever said ”argggghhh” and squinted through one eye is going to love this game!

Finally, there’s a lot of crazy irreverent fun to be had with Road Kill Rally, and if you’re a big fan of road rage games like me, you’ve probably been missing this chance to combine car racing, high calibre weapons and the fun of running over pedestrians to score points! Road Kill Rally uses modular board tiles to build a track of endless variety, and a card-and-dice-based system to cover everything from hitting the nitrous oxide to re-rolling a bad roll thanks to the luck of your fuzzy dice! Each player has a custom dashboard on which to record their speed, kills and damage, and the unique dice—big red splats on two sides—make it easy to see when you’ve scored a hit. I can see this game being a lot of fun and laughs—go on, who hasn’t ever wanted to whip out an orbital death laser when another car cut you off?

Even this short look at a few of the most recent Z-Man Games reveals the kind of variety in style and theme that the company is renowned for. Any one of these games will bring you endless hours of gaming fun—so grab one and get gaming!

What’s Hot: Earth Reborn

Earth RebornThe end of the world does not come suddenly. It is much more insidious.

500 years after the devastation of the Earth, two factions arise from their underground cities. NORAD, militaristic, scientific, paranoid. Salemites, occultists experimenting with the revival of the dead. Both factions meet for the first time and instantly clash.

Earth Reborn is a highly realistic, scenario-based simulation game which is rich in depth and possibilities.

Although it may seem complex at first glance, it is in fact quite simple and intuitive once you have learned the basics. The rulebook guides you step-by-step through the process of mastering all of Earth Reborn’s secrets as you play through the tutorial scenarios. Start with the set of core rules, then play through the scenarios, progressively adding rules and expanding your gameplay options. When you reach the final scenario, all that Earth Reborn is will have been revealed to you!

Earth Reborn has been called the ‘heavy metal music of boardgames’, and it certainly conjures up the old days of big Games Workshop boxes stuffed with miniatures, full-on art and full-tilt gameplay. It comes with 12 highly detailed miniatures and a heap of fully-illustrated board tiles, and the colourful characters can do everything from straight up combat to blowing up walls to even torturing their foes for information!

There’s also a dedicated website with more scenarios, a scenario builder and more!

The Rise and Rise of Z-Man Games

The boardgame industry is dominated by a few big publishers, with lots of small publishers bringing out occasional games. However, one small publisher that has steadily grown to join the big guns is Z-Man Games. After the last few years Z-Man has released a wide range of games to suit all tastes, from big box, highly thematic extravaganzas to small abstracts and card games. Z-Man Games are known for their variety, so you’re sure to find a few favourites among their catalogue. Here’s a look at some of their better-known games.

First, I must declare a slight bias, since I worked on the graphic design for a few Z-Man games!

Road Kill Rally
There are few things more enjoyable than a good car combat game, and Road Kill Rally is a hilarious example of the genre which adds pedestrian-smashing to the mix! Fans of the old David Carradine camp-classic movie Death Race 2000 will feel right at home here, racing against opponents all eager to destroy you with guns, rockets and flame throwers. Which is all a lot of fun, but the big points come from running over and blasting pedestrians!

Earth Reborn
The game designer Christophe Boelinger is well known for his highly-successful abstract dungeon combat game Dungeon Twister and its many expansions. His newest game is quite a departure—a highly realistic, scenario-based simulation game set in a post-apocalyptic melieu, Earth Reborn. This is a system for those who love detailed, very thematic, big games. Luckily, the rulebook/tutorial/scenario guide leads you step-by-step through the complexities of the game system, and in no time at all you’ll have the factions of the underground cities meeting on the wastelands and in the ruins of Earth, 500 years after its devastation—NORAD, militaristic, scientific, paranoid, and the Salemites, occultists experimenting with the revival of the dead.

This game has been receiving a lot of positive buzz, not only for its highly-detailed and impressive miniatures, but for the huge potential for player modification and publisher expansion. It looks designed to be a big ‘sandbox’ of a game. The support is already in place: the official site already has several new scenarios and scenario tools available.

Of course no article about Z-Man Games can fail to mention Agricola, the classic ‘Euro’ game of medieval farming that even knocked Puerto Rico off its Number One perch at BoardgameGeek, for a time. You start small in Agricola (Latin for ‘farmer’)—as a simple farmer in a wooden shack with your spouse. On a turn, you only get two actions from all the possible things that have to be done on a farm: collecting clay, wood or stone, building fences, even having kids to help with the work—once you’ve expanded your house of course—but then you’ll have to feed them! It’s a game of countless strategies, and also plays as a simpler family version or solo. Agricola has won many gaming awards, including the Deutschen Spiele Preises Game of the Year (2008), and continues to be expanded. If you love games like Puerto Rico and Caylus, you really should try Agricola.

Tales of the Arabian Nights
I’ve written in detail about the graphic design of Tales of the Arabian Nights before in this article, but if you’re a fan of the story-telling possibilities inherent in boardgaming, you really can’t miss this one. A remake of an 80s classic, Tales explores the rich and detailed world of the Arabian Nights stories in a boardgame. It’s not so much about the winning or the losing in this game; it’s all about the story you create as you travel the colourful world of the board, encountering a huge range of characters and going on countless adventures, all detailed in the 300-page Book of Tales. It’s a hugely enjoyable and very funny game, and you won’t even mind if you end up a diseased, penniless beggar at the end, because you’ll have had such a good time!

If you enjoy fantasy adventure games like Talisman, you should definitely check out the excellent Prophecy by Vlaada Chvatil, the designer responsible for such favourites as Space Alert and Dungeon Lords (also from Z-Man Games). As in Talisman, you play a fantasy character adventuring across an imaginary land, but you have more control over your destiny in Prophecy. With the addition of Dungeon Realm and the upcoming Water Realm, there’s an incredible amount of variety available as well, so no two games will ever be the same.

In Prophecy, you battle creatures (and other characters), increase your skills and learn spells at the five Guilds, acquire special items, and eventually may possess enough of ancient artifacts to become the next rightful king. But first you must defeat their guardians in the Astral Planes…

A big new release for 2011 is Ninjato, a thematic strategy game that puts each player in the role of a master ninja. Players practice dojo fighting techniques, learn the sensei’s esoteric skills, raid clan-controlled houses, bribe influential envoys, and spread certain rumors—the pathways to rise as the most legendary ninja of the age. Since I worked on the graphic design, I’ll be writing some special articles in the coming months about this fantastic game, including an interview with one of its designers, Adam West.

Well, that just touches on the huge range of games that Z-Man Games publishes, and I highly recommend checking out their website and exploring the many excellent games they have available. And if Games Paradise doesn’t have your favourite in stock, let them know so they can get it to you!

by Universal Head

For more information about these games, visit Z-Man Games and BoardgameGeek. You can also rules summaries and reference sheets for some of these game at Headless Hollow.

Universal Head has been designing for clients across the globe for more than 20 years, and playing games for much longer than that. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent an entire year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for a computer game. In between he’s designed just about every form of visual communication: corporate identities, websites, packaging, brochures, even postage stamps. He also created the game websites and His blog site is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for boardgames.

Stuff From Essen 2010

The Internationale Spieltage SPIEL 2010 games trade fair in Essen, Germany, has just come to a close. Let’s have a look at just a few of the hot new games on the way.

Mansions of MadnessFor all you Cthulhu fans out there—and I definitely count myself one of them—Mansions of Madness by Fantasy Flight Games will be on your ‘must-buy’ list. Designed by Corey Konieczka, who was responsible for Runewars, Battlestar Galactica, and Starcraft among others, this Arkham Horror-esque adventure game puts the emphasis on plot threads and story while players, as brave investigators, explore the manors, crypts, schools, monasteries, and derelict buildings near Arkham, Massachusetts. It comes with investigator and monster miniatures, and a shed-load of cards, tokens and tiles. Great stuff!

We’ve already introduced you to Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game in a recent article, and we’ll be talking more about this impressive looking civilization boardgame very soon. In the meantime, check out the video.

Earth Reborn is the new game from Christophe Boelinger, maker of the very popular range of Dungeon Twister games. It’s a detailed game of tactical combat in a post-apocalyptic world, with a system driven by Command points and scenarios. The game comes with some very impressive miniatures. Earth Reborn is coming soon from Z-Man Games.

Merchants & MaraudersAlso from Z-Man Games, who has been churning the games out at a great rate of late, is the much anticipated pirate game Merchants & Marauders. Gamers have been looking for the definitive pirate game for a while now after the disappointingly complicated Blackbeard remake. Players seek glory on the high seas of the Caribbean, plundering merchants, completing missions, buying better ships, selling cargo, and of course stashing gold at their home port. The plastic ships look great, too. Cutlasses crossed for this one!

Cadwallon: City of Thieves should be available very soon now. This game was one going to be released by Dust Games until they and Fantasy Flight Games did a deal to release this and the new miniatures system Dust Tactics under the FFG banner. It looks like a relatively easy, fun game of thievery and burgulary in a district of Cadwallon, a fantasy city originally invented by Rackham for their Confrontation games. Fantastic art and wonderfully detailed miniatures are a feature.

Survive: Escape From Atlantis is a re-release by a new company called Stronghold Games. There have been many versions of this game over the years by some major manufacturers; in fact it has sold almost 1.5 million copies worldwide! For those of you who have yet to enjoy it, you try to evacuate your pieces from an island in the centre of the board that is sinking and breaking up. Your evacuees can swim or use boats, but beware the whales, sharks and sea serpents!

Alien FrontiersAlien Frontiers is a game of resource management and planetary development for two to four players. Those of you who enjoy Kingsburg will feel comfortable with the dice placement system used in this Euro/Ameritrash hybrid. Cleverly, the game was funded by players through, a site that allows creators to scare up funding for their projects. The game has had some great feedback and reviews.

Of course there are a lot more goodies: The Resistance, a Werewolf-like social game for 5-10 players; King of Tokyo, a giant monster smackdown game by Richard Garfield (of Magic: The Gathering fame); 7 Wonders, another highly-anticipated Civ-light game; and just too many others to mention!

Upcoming Games

I keep several boardgaming-related websites in my bookmarks list so I can keep an eye on the next batch of games that are in development or on their way. The big North American gaming convention GenCon has recently come and gone in Indianapolis, so a lot of new games saw their debut at the show. Here’s a quick look at some of the new games that should be out this year or early next year.

Fantasy Flight Games is, as you’ve no doubt guessed by now, my favourite publisher, and they have a stack of new goodies in the pipeline for release this year (hopefully). The two surprise announcements recently were Dust Tactics and Cadwallon: City of Thieves. These  were originally to be published by Dust Games, but that company suddenly found themselves short on the resources required, so have done a deal with FFG to hand over the games. Dust Tactics is a tactical miniatures boardgame set in an alternative 1940s world created by the comic book artist Paolo Parente. It’s been in the works for a surprisingly long time; originally it was to be released by Rackham Entertainment, who then went on to release AT-43 instead. Dust Tactics is quite a spectacular-looking product, featuring over thirty detailed, individually-sculpted miniatures (including four huge tank/walker figures). The initial game consists of eight scenarios fought on a set of cardboard terrain tiles (with some model terrain), but later there will be a set of rules released for fighting battles on a tabletop, like a normal miniatures game.

The miniatures in the game come primed in a flat colour which you can paint, if you desire, but there is also a Collector’s Edition set on the way, with all the miniatures fully painted to an incredibly high standard. The Collector’s Edition will be pricey, but for the non-painters, I’m sure it will be worth it.

There are already plans for several expansion sets to the core game of course; introducing such things as artillery robots, strange creatures, new heroes, aircraft, and even an alien race, the Vrills. It’s all shaping up to be an amazing system, and it will be interesting to see the reaction to the core set and watch the future of this game.

The other game to arrive at FFG from Dust Games is Cadwallon: City of Thieves. This fast-paced boardgame of thievery and skulduggery is set in the Rackham fantasy city of Cadwallon, the subject of a short lived roleplaying/combat game. It’s a perfect addition to the FFG stable, with gorgeous art and miniatures dripping with character. You lead a gang of thieves sneaking about a district of Cadwallon, grabbing loot and avoiding the militiamen hot on your tail. Individual scenarios bring variety to the game play. Again, the miniatures are not pre-painted, but you’ll be able to buy a separate set of painted miniatures if you so choose.

Another exciting game from FFG in the works is a Space Hulk-themed cooperative card game set in the Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 universe, called Space Hulk Death Angel: The Card Game. This will accommodate anywhere from 1-6 players, and sees you taking Blood Angel Terminator combat teams into the twisting labyrinthine corridors of an abandoned space hulk, to join combat with the horrific alien Genestealers. The game is playable in under and hour and comes in a small ‘Silver Line’ box. This looks like a great choice if you feel like a quick, theme-rich game experience.

Sticking with card games, there are two more on the way from FFG: The Lord of the Rings Card Game and The Blood Bowl Team Manager Card Game. There’s very little information yet about the latter but it’s certainly exciting news for Blood Bowl fans, and I certainly count myself a member of that group! Apparently it will be a frenzied game of deck-building for 2-4 players, and you can choose from Human, Dwarf, Wood Elf, Orc, Skaven, or Chaos factions and play through an entire season. The LotR Card Game will be another of FFG’s very successful Living Card Games, so they’ll be a long series of expansion card packs after the 216-card core set. 1-2 players (or more if you buy a couple of core sets) cooperate to select heroes, gather allies, acquire artifacts and complete quests in the land of Middle-Earth. Players can shape their decks to create their favourite combination of spheres of influence: leadership, lore, spirit and tactics. It looks like they’ll be lots of spectacular artwork and a huge amount of variety in this game, and hopefully it will be a must for any gamer who’s a fan of Tolkein’s world.

But wait! There’s more. The long-awaited return of the Games Workshop classic, Dungeonquest, is imminent. Anyone who played this cut-throat game back in the 80s knows that it’s tough work surviving that dungeon—but that’s all the fun. FFG have re-themed the game to set it in their world of Terrinoth (and cleverly cross-marketed the new characters by supplying components for them for Descent, Runebound and Runewars). Dungeonquest is a fast and fun game of dungeon exploration for 1-4 players.

Keep an eye peeled for some other FFG games on the horizon as well: Bruno Faidutti’s magnum opus, Isla Dorada, two army expansions for Battles of Westeros, various expansions for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and the Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying games, a quick card game called Dragonheart, Kevin Wilson’s new game, Civilization: The Board Game (inspired by Sid Meier’s video games), a new small-box version of the classic Lord of the Rings Board Game by Reiner Knizia, the new Tide of Iron expansion Fury of the Bear, and a new expansion for Talisman called The Sacred Pool. Not to mention the usual regular Living Card Game releases.

Well, there are other game companies in the world apart from FFG I admit, and another company with a hectic release schedule for 2010 is Z-Man Games. The company is known for releasing an eclectic mix of titles of all different styles and themes. Check out this list of titles: Earth Reborn, Parade, Burrows, The King Commands!, Power Struggle, Magical Athlete, Malta!, Prolix, Kings & Things, Mines of Zavandor, Trollhalla, Inca Empire, Pocket Battles: Orc vs Elves, and De Vulgari Eloquentia. Whew!

There’s certainly been some buzz about the new game from Christophe Boelinger, the creator of Dungeon Twister. It’s called Earth Reborn and it’s a post-apocalyptic scenario-based tactical combat game. It’s also one of the first forays by Z-Man Games into the world of plastic miniatures, and the ones that come with the game are looking mighty impressive. Parade is a quick 30 minute curious card game by Naoki Homma for 2-6 players. Hansa Teutonica is a tense game of route manipulation and economics by Andreas Steding for 2-5 players; players are merchants jostling for position and standing in the Hanseatic League. Power Struggle is a game about becoming the top-dog in a corporate empire by reaching milestones in investing, corruption, influence and position. In Burrows, you’ll find yourself trying to keep a group of fussy Gophers well-housed, using tiles to build a twisted network of burrows. Bottle Imp is a trick taking card game by Gunter Cornett. And of course, don’t forget the car-racing mayhem of Road Kill Rally; the new game by the creator of Duel in the Dark, Duel of the Giants, a tank-battle game; pirate fun with Merchants & Marauders; and a real-time strategy computer game-inspired game called The Ares Project. Zev from Z-Man must be run off his feet!

As for other publishers, there’s a new game coming from Asmodee and Antoine Bauza (Ghost Stories, Mystery Express) called 7 Wonders, a a civilization-building card game. Wizards of the Coast are releasing a Dungeons & Dragons board game called Castle Ravenloft that looks to be a classic dungeoncrawler with a simplified set of D&D 4th Edition mechanics. And Flying Frog Productions, makers of Last Night on Earth and A Touch of Evil, continue their series of crazy, fun games with photographic art with their new one, Invasion from Outer Space: The Martian Game, which pits alien invaders against circus freaks in a Tim Burtonesque carnival.

Well, if that lot doesn’t keep gamers happy I don’t know what will! There’s obviously no shortage whatsoever of great games on the way—all we need do now is somehow find the time to play as many as possible …

by Universal Head

For more information about the games mentioned in this article, visit the publisher sites or BoardgameGeek ( There is a Dust Tactics site at Z-Man Games can be previewed at You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for many games at Headless Hollow (

Universal Head (, has been designing for clients across the globe for more than twenty years, and playing games for much longer than that. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent an entire year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for a computer game. In between he’s designed just about every form of visual communication: corporate identities, websites, packaging, brochures, even postage stamps. He also created the game websites and His blog site is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.