Cardboard Children Post-Essen Shakedown

Hello youse.

Well, it was Essen Shpeel (that’s how you say it). Another big games show, and lots more board game news. So let me just cherry pick a few bits of exciting post-Essen news bites, and then we can knuckle down to weeks and weeks of covering new games that will make a dent in your family’s bank account this Christmas. I’m a games man, not a news man. LEAVE ME ALONE, NEWS.


I liked Star Realms. Carry it in your pocket, pull it out, have a game with someone you love or admire… It’s nice. A nice little distillation of the deluge of deckbuilding games we’ve suffered since Dominion came along and bullied its way into the brains of game designers everywhere. THAT IS ENOUGH OF THE DECKBUILDERS NOW, OKAY.

Well, more Star Realms is coming. Of course it is. There’s a brand new 2-player starter box called COLONY WARS, because that’s exactly what space things get called, you know? This is a new jumping-on point, or you can combine it with the original set and have more cards – doesn’t it seem like “having more cards” is now what life is all about? 400 cards? Not enough. 2000 cards? Not enough. I never want to know how many bits of card I have in my house. Never tell me, Satan.

The other expansion thing is a little one, like the previous expansions, adding a new wrinkle to the game in the form of “gambit cards” that can be used as powerful one-shot gamechangers. And they’re purple, like the terrible superhero Gambit out of the X-Men or whatever they’re called these days.

I’m sorry if I don’t feel incredibly enthused by these expansions, but I do feel I need to report them, because Star Realms is an incredibly popular game. In fact, just last night I saw two owls playing it up a tree.


This is a beautiful looking thing. I’m so sorry that it’s yet another Kickstarter. That’s not my fault. Everything’s a Kickstarter these days, even this column. There’s 14 days to go on this one, and it looks like a really interesting bunch of cards. Oh, bother! Cards again?!

But hey, at least this one is using cards in an interesting way. And in a number of ways. Let’s take a look at these bullet points…

  • Relive the sensation of the adventure books where “you are the hero” that thrilled so many of us in our childhood
  • Okay, this has me interested. You all know I’m a big Fighting Fantasy fan, and I do feel that there aren’t enough games these days that try to capture that beautiful sense of choice that those games provided.

  • No dice rolls! Make difficult choices and face the consequences thanks to the game’s innovative mechanics that determine success or failure!
  • Jury is out here. I’m always nervous when there’s no dice. Those choose your own adventure books? Fighting Fantasy? Can you imagine them without dice? Hmmm.

  • 1000+ 8cmx8cm cards with hundreds of original artworks
  • Only a thousand?!

  • 1000+ minutes of thrilling adventure in a single game
  • Wait, what? Over a thousand minutes in a single game? How many snacks would you have to bring? That’s impossible, surely! I can’t eat that many snacks! Well, I can try.

  • 30 seconds to set-up the game, 30 seconds to save it!
  • Oh. You can save the game. Oh this sounds goooood.

  • Join the expedition partway through if you missed the beginning of the adventure or died prematurely
  • Another great idea. There’s nothing worse than starting a game, then some idiot turns up. And you have to sit there looking at them as they sigh and frown because they can’t play yet. And you tell them to take their chair out into the garden. And it’s raining. And they sit out there looking in through the window at the warmth and the laughter. I hate those people.

  • Live a different adventure every time! There are dozens of random events and several alternatives for a single numbered card
  • I don’t know what it is about “random events”, but I love them. The notion of a “random event” excites me. Games without “random events” never get me going quite as much as games with them. As in games, so shall it be unto life, or something. And shouldn’t life be full of “random events”? To keep you thrilled, excited, alive? Well, as into life, then thus unto games. Or something.

  • The game remembers your actions. If you kill a NPC, he will remain dead for the rest of the game and any option that you would have had by letting him live will be gone… forever!
  • Consequences. A game with consequences is a game for me. I think this game sounds excellent. And I love the look of it too. A really beautiful production. I don’t think I’ll back it, though. I’ll just wait until it comes out normally. Will you be a darling and go back it to ensure it definitely does come out normally? Thank you.


    This is a weird, beautiful time travel game, and it was right there at Essen, impressing people with its loveliness and cool theming. It’s a game where players do runs through scenarios, spending time as they go, and being called back when time is up. They repeat these runs to try to score a perfect one, hitting all objectives in the alotted time.

    Time travel is something I’d love to see explored a bit further in board games. I love Tragedy Looper, but it’s quite a difficult game to teach and explain. Temporum is another game that dabbled with time travel, but it was the very slightest of dabblings, reducing the notion to one key mechanic.

    I’ve heard from friends that T.I.M.E. STORIES might be exactly what I’m looking out for – and with luck I’ll be getting my hands on it very soon. I’ll cover it right here in this column, because that is my job.


    Finally, I wanted to flag this up. Three Kingdoms Redux is looking like my game of the year at this point. Read my review AGAIN.

    It remains shocking to me that the game hasn’t found wider distribution. Well, anyway, at the moment the deisgners themselves are arranging an EU group order for the game – if you’ve wanted to pick up a copy, this might be how to do it. Go take a look.

    I’m not on commission here, or anything. I just want people to play this stunning game.


    The review onslaught begins. I have many new and upcoming games for you. Buckle up!


    1. Sigvatr says:

      You tarnish your honor by eloping in this devilry.

    2. Cardinal says:

      Mysterium is out in the UK now. Cards are gorgeous. Not played it yet, I think it’s going to need a dress-rehearsal. Can’t quite picture how the “game” comes out…

      • elderman says:

        I played Mysterium last weekend. I liked the game, had a good time, but had some problems with it as well.

        It’s a theme and variations on the mechanics of Dixit, set in the context of a séance.

        1. I found the rules impenetrable with terminology (in the French translation). It took us a long time to set up the game correctly the first time.

        2. We found the game easy. We won two out of three times we played.

        3. This might be because the game lacked two key elements of Dixit: the transition between the concrete and the abstract and the limiting factor of not wanting everyone to guess identically. Mysterium doesn’t discourage literal-mindedness.

        However, the role of the ghost is a fun idea. The theme works well. The board is a bit fiddly but beautifully produced.

        We stumbled on an improvement to the rules as well. Instead of showing our cards to the rest of the table, mediums had to describe them. This was both thematically consistent and made the game a little harder.

        • GomezTheChimp says:

          It shouldn`t be easy if you play by the rules. That is: the ghost can`t communicate at all other than to confirm or deny players` guesses, a two minute time limit and a limited view of the last three cards if you haven`t progressed very far on the clairvoyance track.

          • GomezTheChimp says:

            Oops, also forgot the players can`t communicate opinions on the last three cardseither.

            • elderman says:

              We followed all of those rules (though it wasn’t immediately obvious when we supposed to use the timer) and we found it easy. One group’s experience.

      • Jackablade says:

        They’re the same art cards as in the Polish version aren’t they?

        • elderman says:

          I’ve never seen the Polish version, but the French version (purchased just a few days ago) has art that looks partly, but not entirely, different from what I’ve seen online of the Polish version.

        • Deano2099 says:

          The dream cards are the same. The cards with the suspects/location/weapons on are a little different.

      • Josh W says:

        It’s excellent, we didn’t play with time limits, because it’s just too funny when you’re slowly overthinking yourself into nonsense, but the problem was that you never quite went far enough, and the answer was “that square looked a bit like a letter, so of course it was the postman”, or “there’s a man hitting a lizard with a stick, so it’s the policeman”.

    3. cpugeek13 says:

      . That is all.

    4. cpugeek13 says:

      <a href= "link to; Scythe . That is all.

      • cpugeek13 says:

        Sorry, messed up both of my posts. Really wish you edit posts here :-(

    5. pelle says:

      > Fighting Fantasy? Can you imagine them without dice? Hmmm.

      That would be the Virtual Reality series of gamebooks from the 1990’s. Really good actually, and also without any luck you do not have to feel bad about back-tracking to try different routes because if you really wanted to you could start from the beginning and make the same decisions and reach the exact same location anyway.

      link to

      • NathanH says:

        I am normally a big fan of randomization in gamebooks, but The Heart Of Ice is one of the best gamebooks ever written. Anyone vaguely interested in the format who hasn’t tried it should go and do so at once.

    6. AriochRN says:

      The Thunderbirds board game by Matt Leacock has just arrived today link to so that’s me sorted for quite a while (well, until Leaving Earth link to gets past HMR&C that is)

    7. Baines says:

      The 7th Continent looks interesting. It takes some ideas that I’d considered, and adds more.

      But then I saw it includes the scourge of Kickstarter, Kickstarter-exclusive gameplay content. The miniatures were fine, but it already has an expansion locked away as a Kickstarter exclusive with more Kickstarter exclusives as stretch goals. Not only do such things not encourage me to buy into a Kickstarter, they actively discourage me from buying it post-Kickstarter.

      • Baines says:

        Oh, and it looks like it tries to improve on dice.

        Yes, Fighting Fantasy and its ilk relied on dice, but they can be costly devils. Other games have tried a card-draw alternative to try to counter the luck and spread issues of dice rolls, where you draw a specified number of cards and count symbols on them. 7th Continent does the same. It also further ties actions to “life” (as some card games do), and lets you draw additional cards, trading life for additional chances of success. It could work well. Of course it could also just end up more frustrating when you have a run of bad luck…

    8. snesbeck says:

      Any idea where I can buy T.I.M.E Stories in the states? The only online retailer I can find is boardgamewarehouse which is out of stock.

    9. Josh W says:

      If this column is a kickstarer, what are the pledge rewards?