Can you Escape from Colditz?

In late 2016, Osprey Games released a special edition of Escape from Colditz to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Pat Reid‘s escape from the inescapable German prison. Originally released in 1973 Escape from Colditz was designed by Pat Reid and Brian Degas with art by Pete Dennis. The game was given the deluxe treatment with great new components but the original design is intact.

img_6536

Gameplay

In Escape from Colditz one player will take on the role of the German security officer who will control a number of guards who will patrol Colditz to prevent the escape of the POWs. The POWs will be controlled by one to five players who will play an escape officer who must help their team gather equipment to enable their escape and then make their move.

Each round begins with the escape officer to the German officer’s left rolling two dice. The total of these dice is the amount of movement points the escape officer can use this turn. Movement points can divided among as many POW pawns that the escape officer chooses. If they roll doubles, they roll again (up to three rolls maximum) and add the total of the rolls together for their movement points. If any of the rolls are lower than five, the player draws an opportunity card that will provide them with an item or action that they can take at any time during their turn. Over the course of the game, escape officers must gather the items required to assemble an escape kit ( food, documents, a compass and a disguise) as well as items that will help them scale walls (rope), cut through fences (wire cutters), open doors (keys) and get through checkpoints (passes). The items are gathered by ending a turn with two POWs in rooms where those items are found. Play will proceed clockwise until each escape officer has taken their turn and then it is the security officer’s turn.

img_6519

The security officer begins their turn in the same way as the other players by rolling two dice and determining their movement points. Guard movement is much more versatile since they have the ability to jump from the guard posts to the commander’s office to the barracks, allowing them chase POWs much easier. A roll of less than five will grant them access to security cards rather than opportunity cards. The security cards will allow the guards to recall the POWs to a corral point, take sniper shots at POWs outside the falls, search areas they normally couldn’t enter etc… Guards can arrest POWs and send them to solitary if they are caught with escape equipment and depending on where the POW is caught the item could be removed from the game. At the end of the security officers turn the round marker is moved one position.

img_6518

The game will proceed like this until one of two conditions triggers the end of the game. When the round marker reaches the eagle the escape officers each have one final turn and if the escape conditions aren’t met the security officer wins. Alternatively one escape officer will successfully gather all the required items and get two of there POWs to an escape point, if this happens that escape officer wins.

Components

The treatment given to this game by Osprey Games is really impressive. The first thing that strikes you when getting your hands on a copy of Escape from Colditz is that the box itself is large and very sturdy. The cover art is striking and the graphic tone set by the cover carries throughout the game. The game board is very large and on very heavy stock, it has a lovely touch of the title silk screened in gold on the underside. The inside of the box features a large cardboard insert that holds a box fashioned to look like a Red Cross prisoner care packages which contains the game components. The cards come in matching tuck boxes. The cards themselves have a great aesthetic and vintage art. Throughout the box there are little historical touches like newspaper clippings, postcards and other documents from the prison and the era. All the pieces look and feel great and have a coherent look.

I found that the art and style really brought the theme to life and also really respected the original publication of the game.

 

Conclusion

I know that roll and move words that will make many modern gamers run for the nearest worker placement game but I was really surprised at the depth that was provided with such an old and much derided mechanic. The non-linear aspect of the movement combined with the multiple pawns to move and the many goals those pawns can accomplish make the decisions in Escape from Colditz quite tactical. I found that every turn you had to choose from many meaningful decisions and required some thought beyond just moving your pawns the maximum spaces.

This game is steeped in history and not just its own, which is rich and intriguing enough. Included in the game box is a little booklet recounting the story of Pat Reid’s escape as well as some interesting back story on the prison itself. I played several great games of Escape from Colditz and have no problem telling people to try this game as I think that for such an old game with such simple mechanics it really does a wonderful job of bringing history to life and really is quite fun.

img_6517

Mint Works Review

mint_works.JPG

 

Mint Works is a curiously strong worker placement game designed by Justin Blaske and published by Five24 Labs. The game plays 1-4 players in 10-20 minutes and is suitable for players 10 and up. The objective is to score the most stars for the buildings you have built in your neighbourhood.

Setup

Getting Mint Works out of the tin and onto the table is quick and will have players rolling in very little time.

  1. Place 4 core Locations on the table
  2. Place 2 Deed locations on the table with the “”closed” side up
  3. Shuffle the Plans and make a deck
  4. Draw 3 plans from the deck
  5. Give each player 3 mints and place the remaining mints in a pile
  6. Give the start player token to the first player

mint_works2

The game comes with a variety of additional locations that can be added once players have played a few games and want to change up the strategy and options presented.

Game Play

Each round has 2 phases Development and Upkeep. During the Development phase players will make one of 2 choices:

  1. Place a mint on an available action and perform that action
  2. Pass

That is the extremely simple view of Mint Works, essentially on your turn you are trying to accomplish 3 major things

  1. Get more mints
  2. Get a Plan
  3. Build a Building

Getting mints is relatively simple as long as the producer or leadership council actions are open but the other two require a little planning. To take the Supplier action which allows you to take a plan you must play the amount of mints indicated on the plan you intend to take. In order to build you need to first have a plan in hand and then place on the Builder action space. Getting buildings built in your neighbourhood is key since this is not only how players score but certain buildings will grant the player bonuses during the upkeep phase.

Once everyone has passed they complete the upkeep phase:

  1. Check if anyone has reached 7 stars, if so move onto scoring
  2. Refill the plan supply to 3 plans
  3. Check each players buildings for upkeep effects and resolve them
  4. Check if any played on a deeded location, if so pay the owner
  5. Return all played mints to the mint pool
  6. Each player takes 1 mint

If scoring wasn’t triggered during upkeep play another development phase until the end game is triggered. Once the end game is triggered the player with the most starts in her neighbourhood is the winner.

Components

Mint Works is really well done. The embossed tin looks great and fits nicely in your pocket or back pack. My only minor quibble was that the instruction booklet didn’t pop out of the tin as smoothly as I would like due to its square corners when the tin has rounded corners, this was quickly resolved by trimming the corners. The mints are lovely little wooden bits and even the start player marker is wood. The location and plan cards look great and have a good weight. The overall presentation is excellent, its cute, its functional, and is extremely portable.

Conclusion

Mint Works is the perfect introduction to the worker placement mechanic, it boils the system to its purest form and makes it extremely accessible. It sets up, teaches, and plays quickly. The solitaire option is an excellent addition with several AI opponents included that can prove to be fairly challenging.  The price point and play time make this a great little game to carry with you at all times and I highly recommend looking into this pocket sized power house.

Rob Landeros

When I was in my late teens I built my first PC. I did many crazy things like put in 16MB of RAM and a 400mb hard drive but the nuttiest thing I did was install a CD-ROM drive. I sold the idea of a CD-ROM to my parents by showing them that the ENTIRE encyclopedia Britannica was stored on a single disc, but my real motivation was The 7th Guest!

Released in April of 1993 The 7th Guest was like nothing I had ever seen. It was so different from all the video games I was used to playing. The game featured video clips of actors and pre-rendered 3D graphics that were truly mind blowing at the time. The gameplay was simple yet completely immersive and fascinating. You play “Ego” and you wander around a haunted mansion solving puzzles and games in order to unlock video footage that advanced the story.

Jump ahead 24 years and game designer Rob Landeros is bringing the world of The 7th Guest to the table top with a board game adaption of this landmark video game. The board game will have players taking on the role of one of 6 house guests working their way through the mansion trying to solve puzzles in order to reach and solve the final puzzle before the others. The game will feature 300 puzzles ranging form riddles to logic puzzles to spatial puzzles and more.

7th guest

I wasn’t alone in the To Die For Games crew to be very excited by the announcement of this game and I was quite pleased when Rob agreed to answer a few questions for us about the game and the drive to create it.
rob_landeros

What Boardgames inspired you to go into bringing the 7th Guest to the table top?

Actually, it was Matthew Costello, who wrote the 7th Guest story and helped design the structure of the original game, who prompted me to get off my ass and make the board game version.

But as far as inspiration or models, I kept it in the manner of simple, classic board games. Although I certainly have enjoyed playing some of the more complex and strategic, resource management and development board games, or epic games like Diplomacy, I’ve always mostly been a casual gamer. I find that the average person isn’t surrounded by a coterie of hardcore gamers ready to get together at a moment’s notice or on a regular basis to learn new, complex games that take hours to play. Most folks will suggest to their friends, how about a game of charades, or poker? Or standards like Balderdash, or even Monopoly. Something familiar or friendly and easy to learn. I most certainly and deliberately set out to make a game whose rule book didn’t require more than one page of instructions.

So I think minimalism still has a place in games and gaming. It was Mies van der Rohe, the famous architect, who popularized the aphorism, “less is more”.

Did you approach designing the tabletop version in the same manner as the video game?

Actually the design of the board game was very much dictated by the design of the video game. So in that respect, it was exponentially easier than coming up with something totally different from the original video game or any other board game.

I feel it is my job and duty to protect the 7th Guest brand and IP. And that involves retaining the essence of the back story, the characters, the look and feel, and the gameplay. There are an untold number of people who remember playing and enjoying the game. They all enjoyed it for various reasons, but over the years I have learned that the elements that remain indelible and immutable in people’s minds are the puzzles, the villain Henry Stauf (who is mostly a vocal presence), and not least of all, the environment of the mansion. In fact, you could say the mansion was the main character of the video game.

And I would also point out that the video game was quite minimalist. The puzzles themselves may often have been difficult, but the overall game was easy to learn and play. There was no elaborate manual or complex set of instructions. You weren’t even told how to play the puzzles. It was pure point and click. You were guided by a set of animated cursors that let you know, in a purely binary way, what you could and could not do, and where you could and could not go. (But if you did need help, Stauf would be there to give hints. There were also clues to be found in the Library) So in a sense, the board game could be said to be a bit more complicated than the video game.

So, yes, I approached the design of the game with the goal of staying as faithful to the original as I possibly could. And I think, if nothing else, I achieved that. At least, I have yet to hear differently from the fans who have visited our Kickstarter.

Why did you start designing games and why do you continue designing?

I fell into it, really. I started out as a lowly computer graphics artist, pushing pixels at Cinemaware for games like Rocket Ranger and Defender of the Crown. When CD-ROM technology became a reality, and it was time to make something for that platform, somebody had to come up with an idea that suited it. So my partner and I took it upon ourselves to do so and we sat down and first decided to make a game that took place in a closed environment… one from which you couldn’t escape. Some of our favorite movies, such as Die Hard, Alien, The Shining, would all be examples of that. So we decided on a haunted house. Then it was a question of what you do in a haunted house, and of course, the goal was to survive a night in it, while needing to solve the puzzles and secrets within its rooms in order to escape alive. Or at least, with your soul intact.

But going even a little further back in time, prior to getting into the computer games industry, one of my favorite things was to get my monthly copy of Games Magazine which contained dozens of puzzles of all kinds… crosswords, mazes, logic,  hidden words, chronological sequencing, spatial relations… you name it. I would make it my goal to work my way front-to-back of every issue, solving all the puzzles.  It was epic. Later, I came across a little known game called Fool’s Errand, that consisted of a wide variety of word and logic puzzles that you could solve non-sequentially, but with each solution you would be rewarded with a piece of a map that you would have to put together so that the Fool (you) could make his way to his ultimate goal. So that simple scheme was really the foundation of The 7th Guest, 11th Hour and now, manifest as a board game.

What inspires you to design games?

Fun.

The 7th Guest the video game had such an incredible atmosphere, how well do you think this translated to the tabletop?

It would be nearly impossible to translate the atmosphere into the board game. The best I could do was include faithful renditions of the house and its rooms, and to maintain a mood with the illustrations of the cards and other components. On the Kickstarter page I include a soundtrack of scary music and sounds to try to put our potential backers into the proper mood as they learn about the project. I think it would be best to play the game by lowering the house lights, throw some cobwebs over the overhead lights and put on some scary Halloween music. And if you can get somebody to be the master of ceremonies, they could read the puzzlers in their best Henry Stauf impersonation. 🙂

By the way, we have considered a virtual component in the form of an app to complement and enhance the game. Perhaps even a VR or AR component. That would be cool. But that goal is much farther down the line. First things first.

Is there something you were able to do with the Board Game incarnation of the 7th Guest that you weren’t able to accomplish with the digital game?

Actually yes. We are able to offer three times as many puzzles and brain teasers as were included in the 7th Guest and 11th Hour combined., with the possibility of creating expansion packs for special interests, age groups and demographics. And of course, rather than just a challenge for solo play, in the board game you compete head-to-head against fellow guests, friends and family and so it is much more social. Although I do know – because many people have told me so – that many played the video game collaboratively with a friend or a parent or their child. And the way I have most enjoyed playing the 7th Guest board game is collaboratively with a partner. Because two heads are better than one. I think it was Chang and Eng Bunker who said that. 🙂

I spent many, many hours wandering the digital world created by Rob in The 7th Guest. I have great memories of racking my brain against the infection puzzle with friends and family calling out tips. I look forward to having a similar experience once again on my dining room table and against friends and family.

I you want to help this project come alive head over to Kickstarter and hit that back button. Find the project here: The 7th Guest Kickstarter.

Barbarians: The Invasion preview

Enter the mysterious World of Fenian, a place where barbarian clans rule the wild lands and corrupted civilizations live in their decadent cities. A place filled with powers gifted from ancient gods and treacherous demons.

logo-barbarians

Barbarians: The Invasion is a game from Tabula Games and Hyperborea’s designer Pierluca Zizzi coming to kickstarter on april 26th . The game features glorious high fantasy art from Ivan Cavini and some nice looking miniatures. Pierlucca has been working on and perfecting the core mechanics of the game for years before he settled on a Barbarian/Fantasy theme that worked well with the system. The art and Miniatures caught my eye with this project but what really got me interested was the fact that it’s a Euro style worker placement game which is not what I was expecting from the title and art style.

I have not played Barbarians but I have been provided some promotional materials, background information, and a rough copy of the rulebook so I will share my impressions.

The main game board features a large volcano that is made up of 3 concentric rings with spots to place your warriors to take various actions such as gathering resources, constructing buildings, or send your troops into combat. One distinct design choice that Pierluca made was that he didn’t want direct player combat so the combat is conducted on a map separate from the main game board and is done to conquer lands rather than hinder an opponent. The main game board also features a couple of tech trees that players use to discover knowledge and tactics.

barbarians_game_board_prototype
The game will last 7 rounds or end in the round when a player reaches 100 points. Each round has 3 phases:

1. Maintenance

  • restore spent cards.
  • activate buildings to gain the resources indicated.

2. Action

  • In turn order, place a warrior on an action space of the volcano and perform the indicated action.
  • your first warrior goes on central wheel, the 2nd on the middle wheel is a space linked to the first warrior, and finally the third warrior goes on the outer wheel in  a spot linked to the second warrior.

Some of the possible actions are Gaining Resources, Erecting Buildings, Invoking a God, War, Knowledge Tracks etc…

3. End of round

  • Recover warriors from the volcano
  • In turn order, players resolve this rounds Demon or Event card

Event cards offer the players a chance to pay to gain victory points, you can choose to pay or to do nothing. Demon cards offer players a bonus if they sacrifice something like a troop, resource, gold but unlike the events if a player has the requested item they must pay if they do not have the requested item they lose victory points.

There are a lot of things that have me excited to try Barbarians: The Invasion. First and for most I am a sucker for worker placement games and one that offers me that with miniatures and gorgeous art is going to be high on my list. I am also intrigued to see how the volcano wheels will affect my choices of actions. If a few actions I need to accomplish what I want each round aren’t linked how do you mitigate that? I think this mechanic could offer up some interesting choices. This project definitely has potential and I believe that the combination of a popular mechanic, great art, and nice miniatures is a recipe for a successful Kickstarter and one I will be watching out for when it launches in a few weeks.

Kickstarter Preview: The Grimm Forest

This is a title that has more than one member of the To Die For family very excited. The Grimm Forest is a game by Druid City Games where players must use cards and tricks based on familiar fairy tale characters to play cards and gather resources in order to be the first to finish all 3 levels of their house.

big_bad_wolf

Players are encouraged to use any of the devious tricks they have read about in the many books of Fables found throughout the land. Some will have their plans wrecked by that villain of old, the Big Bad Wolf, while others will gain bricks, straw, and wood by the cart load.

resources

The art on this game is quite nice and the components for the players pieces and the houses are great sculpts. Our very own Board gaming Pinup girl, Mandi has had a chance to play a demo of the Grimm Forest and has had nothing but great things to say about it. Check it out March 21 when the project goes live.

houses

Kickstarter Preview: Dig!

Dig! is a cool little push your luck style game that has a very interesting 8 bit look. Designed by Julien Charbonnier this game looks like it could be a blast to play.

The Hill hides many treasures and all it takes to collect them is to DIG! However, these are not the only things the hill hides… Creatures and traps await, the galleries you will create might either mean wealth or despair.  Delve into the hill and gather ten Gems to win the game! Take some risks, push your luck, hire recruits to dig deeper and win favors of companions (Knight, Wizard, Scout, Hunter…) to protect your galleries from the many creatures (Thieves, Skeletons, Orcs…) and traps the Hill hides.

The artwork really appeals to me and as a man of great height (5’3″) I really appreciate that the shortest player goes first. If retro game art and pushing your luck looking for treasure while fighting of monsters is your cup of tea that check out this game when it goes live March 19th 2017.

Trade & Troll Preview

Trade & Troll is a game for 2-6 players designed by Emanuele Buffagni and Giulio Torlai with Art from Monica Bauleo. The game is published by Good & Evil Games and should live on Kickstarter April 25th. The game is a clever take on economic games that uses tile laying and route building to create a production engine. The rules are simple and easy to learn while still providing players with a framework to make some interesting choices.

pic3427774_md

Set Up

Place closed road tiles on the board in the configuration for your player count, shuffle the building tiles (Resource, Stall, and Market) separately and make 3 stacks next to the board. Turn over 5 tiles from the Resource, Stall, and Market stacks, these are available to purchase. Each player receives 12 merchant meeples and a troll bag, 1 randomly chosen resource tile, 1 road tile (except the last player), and 5 coins. In turn players place a building with a meeple to indicate ownership and a road with the last player placing only a building.

pic3427775_md

Game Play

Each game round is divided into 3 phases:

1. Troll Auction

This phase is skipped during the first round. At the beginning of the troll action the number of coins a player has is open knowledge. Players then take their coins in hand, secretly decide on a bid and reveal the bid once all the players are ready. The player who wins the auction gets a victory point token, the acquisition token and the Troll meeple, in the case of a tie no one receives any rewards. All players then put the coins they bid into their Troll Bag, once in the bag the number of coins is no longer open to the other players. At the end of the game the player with the most coins in their Troll Bag will score 3 victory points and second place will score 1 victory point.
The winning player places the troll either on an intersection to block the flow of resources or on a building to prevent it from being activated. They also place the acquisition token in front of them, this means in the next round they cannot bid on the Troll.

2. Player Actions

Players will take 2 actions (1 action at a time) from the following possible actions:

Buy and Place a Building

Buy and Place a road

Both these actions are pretty self explanatory, buy either a building tile (resource, Stall or Market) or a road tile and put it on the board according to the placement rules.

Activate a Building

This is the heart of your engine, this is how you will gain your points and win the game. On their turn a player can activate any building that has not been previously activated this round. A resource can always be activated as it has no dependency, A stall must have a clear path to the resources it requires (indicated by the colours on it’s borders), and a market must be connected to stalls of the correct type. The resources or stalls you use to activate your stalls or markets don’t need to be your own buildings you can rent buildings from other players but this will cost you 2 coins.

Activated buildings score the following amounts:

Resources – 2 Coins
One Resource Stalls – 5 Coins
Two Resource Stalls – 7 Coins
Markets – 12 Coins

Once you have activated a building you lay the merchant meeple down to indicated that it cannot be activated again this round.

pic3427779

3. End of Round

This is the clean up phase. The first player token moves to the left, merchant meeples are stood up, and the Troll is removed from the board if he is there.
These 3 phases are repeated round after round until the number of free spaces for buildings is equal to or less than the number of players once this happens it triggers the end game sequence. Finish the current round and then play 2 final rounds skipping the Troll Auction phase in these rounds.

Once the final two rounds are player or all the building spaces are filled players complete the final scoring. You score victory points for all buildings that could be activated (resources 1vp, stalls 2vp, markets 7vp) any placed buildings that could not be activated subtract these values, coins give the players 1 victory point for every 10 coins, and final score the troll bags 3 victory points for the player with the most coins in their troll bag and 1 vp for second.

Components and Art

I won’t speak to the quality of the components of Trade & Troll as the version I played was a print and play copy that I printed and assembled myself but I can say that the images I have seen of the design look promising. Monica Bauleo’s art is colourful and interesting but shouldn’t distract from easily analysing the current situation on the board. The design of the building tiles with the coloured borders will make reading the resource type or requirement clear and concise. I look forward to playing a production copy

pic3427778_t

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed all my plays of Trade & Troll. The game was easy to learn and to teach, the tile laying and route building is intuitive and familiar but still feels like a fresh implementation of these mechanics. Going into the game I wasn’t sure how the troll auction would play into what appeared to be a straight forward economic game but I really liked how it added player interaction. The scoring of the coins in the troll bag was also a great incentive to get people to bid even if winning the troll auction wasn’t their end goal. I played mostly 2 player but also a few 3 player games and I feel the game felt good at all counts but the sweet spot is probably around 3-4 players. Overall the game is a solid little resource management, economic euro that almost has a pick up and deliver feel without the pick up. If you like games where you build a nice little engine to score points this game is worth keeping an eye on Kickstarter for.