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What’s On Our Wishlist – February 2024

wyrmspan gotm

Favouritefoe - Wyrmspan:

I love Wingspan. Why? Well, I love birds, engine building, hand management, tableau creation, gorgeous artwork, and the chilled but satisfying gameplay. I’m not a twitcter, but I do love to watch them fly free in the sky. My husband also loves flying creatures, but his are more fiery than feathered. You see, he is a self-appointed dracologist. He adores everything about dragons. He is even planning a tattoo sleeve based on his favourite from Game of Thrones. So when Wyrmspan was announced by Stonemaier, there wasn’t even time for it to make it to the wish list proper before plans for the pre-order were set! It’s essentially major elements of Wingspan mixed with dragons. Rather than populating habitats, we will be building a sanctuary for lots and lots of dazzling dracos – 183 of them in fact! With sanctuary spaces named Crimson Cavern, Golden Grotto, and Amethyst Abyss, I am already envisioning a resplendent reserve for these mythical and marvellous creatures.

Now, we have been promised that it is not a simple re-skin. Whilst it has been inspired by Elizabeth Hargrave’s winged wonder (and indeed has her resounding blessing!), the designer, Connie Vogelmann, has taken the gameplay in new directions. And Stonemaier Games’ website lists more than 16 ways in which Wyrmspan is different to the box of birdies which set it on its path to publication. I can’t cover them all here, but reading through I am very intrigued by each and every one. I am also super pleased to see eggies are still a feature and the Automa Factory has created a solo play option. Having said that, I very much doubt I’ll be left alone to play it whenever my husband spies me reaching for the box!

Harold Cataquet - Endeavour Deep Sea:

Back in 2018, Endeavour: Age of Sail was released. It was designed by Carl de Visser and Jarratt Graya, and the Burnt Island Games Kickstarter campaign was an update of their 2009 game (Endeavor) which was originally published by Z-man Games. They added a double sided board for varying player counts (it plays two to five, but is probably best at four), variable setups, and new visuals by the original artist (Josh Cappel). The original Endeavor game sits at number 410 on BGG’s list with a score of 7.4, but with all the improvements, they managed to push Endeavor: Age of Sail up to 154 with a score of 7.9.

Each player has four tracks that they have to develop – industry, culture, finance and influence. You can’t really concentrate on just one track, so keeping them balanced is important. At the start of the game, you start exploring territories and then later, you will want to colonize them. This is a 60-90 minute game of exploration (a bit of area control sneaks in later in the game), set collection and engine building that plays really smoothly. The game is still available from Zatu here, and if you become a fan, there’s even an expansion - Endeavor: Age of Expansion - which you only need to buy when you really get into the game (so effectively know the order of the cards in the deck).

In April 2023, Burned Island Games launched a campaign on Gamefound for another update called Endeavor: Deep Sea. I loved the way they ran the campaign, involving all the backers (e.g., asking them to think of names for the teams). The campaign eventually made it’s way over to Kickstarter in May, but for some reason, at the end of the campaign, the total number of backers didn’t match those of the Endeavor: Age of Sail campaign. That doesn’t mean anything, but because the buyers weren’t coming back in the same (or higher) numbers, I hesitated - not just once (on Gamefound) but twice (on Kickstarter as well).

Hype aside, I think the main reason for my hesitancy was the replacement of the board. Age of Sail had a great big board, and you had areas that you could explore and then colonize. I suspect that the designers wanted to move away from negative connotations of colonization and added instead a series of underwater levels that could be developed instead. In Deep Sea, these areas are cards that add more depth and width to the board. As in Age of Sail, when you develop an area, other players can reap some of the benefits if they help you to develop it. But the placement of these on the cards seemed contrived rather than thematic.

Deep Sea also moved the player counts around. The base game plays 1-4 (so there’s now a solo mode), but only the deluxe edition adds a fifth player back in. In addition, Deep Sea can now be played in a co-op mode instead of a competitive mode! Personally, I think Deep Sea plays better in competitive mode.

To get a feel for the game, after the campaign had closed but just about when my regrets about not buying the game were beginning to eat away at me, I decided to play Deep Sea on Tabletop Simulator and now I’m hooked. I think Deep Sea is a bit more streamlined than Age of Sail. Because Deep Sea had its roots in Age of Sail, I could instantly see the similarities and I think this game actually looks better on the table than Age of Sail (not at the beginning the game, but after a few rounds when it’s filled out a bit). There’s a lot of asymmetry in this game (and I love that) thanks to the supply of double sided crew members (specialists) and the variety of map tiles. There’s also quite a bit of iconography

on all these but they are easily referenced. In Age of Sail, you have industry, culture, finance and influence. In Deep Sea, you have reputation (recruitment), inspiration (effort), coordination (reassignment) and ingenuity (technology). Your level in each of these determines how strong a crew member you can choose, how many discs you get at the beginning of each round, how many come back to you at the beginning of each round, and how far your vessel can move.

Each game starts with a choice of scenario (there are 10 in the box), but I found that the choice of scenario doesn’t seem to influence the game very much. You are then going to play six rounds, and each round has three phases

1. Recruitment. You pick a specialist from the tray. You are constrained by your resources, so although the box looks full, you only have a handful to choose from. You start off with the specialist as a junior, but if you manage to acquire a dive token with the promotion symbol on it, you can turn one of your specialists over and use its senior side.

2. Disc Consolidation. The amount of discs you can play is limited. To use the power of a specialist, you have to put a disc on him. To start a sonar action, you have to place a disc on it. So in this phase, you add the number of discs shown in your inspiration track to your staging area, and reclaim the number of discs shown in your coordination track and move these to the staging area. [The rulebook shows these as two separate phases, but I find it easier to think of it as one.] The staging area is just where you keep your unused discs.

3. Action. Now that you have all your supply of discs ready to go, what do you do with them? Choose whatever action (on your specialist card) you can afford. Each player can only play one action and then it’s the next player’s turn to take an action. This continues round and round until everyone passes (ie, no one wants to take an action).

Unlike a lot of games, because your supply of resources limits what you can do, I don’t think Deep Sea is as prone to analysis paralysis as other similar games. I’ve played it a dozen times with other players and the game just zoomed by in just over 90 minutes. The box says it can take up to two hours, but I think that would be a five player game with beginners.

I’m now kicking myself for not backing Endeavor: Deep Sea! So, now, it’s on my wish list. I really think when this hits the shops, it’s going to be a big hit!

Luke Pickles - Sankoré and Merv:

It’s a new month, and we’re moving towards Easter. Regardless of if you celebrate, there’s always a good excuse to look for a new board game to love. For me, the game I’ve added to my wishlist with the highest priority is the newest release from Osprey Games. Sankoré: The Pride of Mansa Musa is the spiritual follow up to Merv: Heart of the Silk Road by Fabio Lopiano and art by Ian O’Toole, which has Lopiano joined by Mandela Ferandez-Grandon and O’Toole returning to design a beautiful looking board. The game is described as a mid-weight Euro game where 1-4 players manage the prestigious University of Sankoré in 14th-century Timbuktu, tasked by the emperor Mansa Musa with spreading knowledge throughout West Africa, even as the great university is raised around them.

I absolutely adored Merv and the crunchy decision making within the game, and from what little information I’ve found so far, Sankoré has even more to do. The weight on Board Game Geek for Merv is a 3.43/5 with Sankoré a 4.05, which already has my brain hurting. Gameplay consists of enrolling and graduating your pupils, teaching classes, adding to your curriculum, and filling the great library with books. The overall goal is to advance knowledge in four main disciplines: theology, law, mathematics, and astronomy. Once construction of the university is complete, the value that the empire places on each discipline will dramatically affect how you score the knowledge you have passed on.

Osprey Games are masters of creating games which have a historical connections and Sankoré looks stunning. I can’t wait to get my hands on this crunchy puzzle.

Sam De Smith - Brazil Imperial:

Top of my wishlist is the magnificent Brazil Imperial, which I was lucky enough to get a game of a couple of weeks ago.

In this asymmetric 4X Euro, you aim to become Emperor of Brazil through managing resources, exploration of the map and so on, whilst aiming to your own (hidden) goal on each of 3 eras. However, as soon as a player completes a goal the era ends, so it's a neat balancing act of powering up and racing for victory, and the game is sufficiently balanced to allow catch up. It's drenched in theme, highly evocative, with a full booklet of the characters and history of the region from 15th-19th C, with real sensitivity and respect to the indigenous peoples that never feels tokenistic.

Each player has a similar board - differences come from military strengths and costs, and your monarch's unique rewards, which can be anything from ongoing cost reductions to extra end game bonuses.

There are a number of maps, depending on player count and how confrontational you want your game to be, a mix of large and small multi-hex tiles - maps in the base set include tracts of unexplored land, Brazil or even the continents, with more available online.

Your board has a series of Action Arches, and players take turns moving their action token for the era between them (in later eras these tokens become bonuses):
Deploy: Build a military unit to explore and defend / attack (and gain a combat card, which give situtational modifiers)
Frame: Buy a painting of a historical figure- effectively hire an ally who helps you, but having it as a gallery is so much cooler and thematic.
Build: Construct everything from farms to cities to generate resources.
Renovate: Overhaul an old building.
Manufacture: Produce basic resources or make more valuable ones.
Harbor: Gain a basic resource (coffee, sugar, cane or cotton).
Trade: Sell your basic resources to receive gold and special cards to improve your empire.

Then, you can move a unit - however, each action also has a corresponding bonus movement, so you can do plenty of sneaky shenanigans too!

The component quality is very high - chunky wooden meeples (the dragoon is especially lovely), distinct palaces with different effects - and the boards clear and accessible. The monarchs feel very different, even between the regional options - Napoleon is much more actively aggressive whereas Queen Victoria emphasises industrial development, for example.

We were bowled over by how good this way: straight to top of the wishlist (my birthday's in June, thanks for asking).

Pete Bartlam - Undaunted 2200: Callisto:

What’s topping my wishlist now and for the foreseeable future is Undaunted 2200: Callisto. I’ve rocked every Undaunted game since Undaunted: North Africa, one of my favourite wargame periods, and culminating in the astounding Undaunted: Stalingrad and the recent air warfare Undaunted: Battle of Britain.

My twin passions from my teenage years were Wargames and Science Fiction. So when I heard the dream team of David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin’s next outing in the Undaunted universe was literally going to embrace the Universe and be set on Callisto, a moon of Jupiter, I was instantly hooked. When you throw in Dávid Turczi and illustrations from Roland MacDonald (I’m sure his friends call him Ronald!) it’s perfect.

The scene is set with tension rising between the corporate conglomerates that own the mineral rights of the Jovian Moon Base and the mining collective who are digging the stuff out. After a series of increasingly fraught protests, strikes and broken contracts, private security forces are sent in and battle commences. With military tech on one side and repurposed mining vehicles on the other with a sprinkling of reactivated disused military mechs thrown in, the battle for Callisto begins.

As ever with the Undaunted series it will be a standalone game but with an adaption of the core mechanics to a new sci-fi setting. It can be played as two-player or four -player and there is also, thankfully a solo version.

Apparently there is a stunningly beautiful illustrated map of the lunar landscape (Can you use lunar to describe any moon or is that term just for our own moon? Discuss) allowing you to mannoeuvre for the all important high ground and wielding your mechs to gain control of the mineral riches.

I can’t wait!