Welcome back to Gaming Shelf, io9's regular column all about the latest in tabletop and roleplaying games. Things are a bit quiet right now, as many gaming companies seem to be saving their best stuff for San Diego Comic-Con in July and Gen Con in August. But we’ve still got some really cool games and stuff, including a new Dungeons & Dragons starter kit, a Stargate roleplaying game, and some news about the Pokémon Go folks diving into augmented reality board games. Check it out!
News and Releases
Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit
Looking to try Dungeons & Dragons for the very first time? Wizards of the Coast has just released a new D&D Essentials Kit that’s designed to bring complete newbies into the roleplaying game. The kit includes everything needed to run a Dungeons & Dragons game with one Dungeon Master and one to five players, including an adventure, Dragon of Icespire Peak, and a rulebook that teaches players how to make characters and journey through the game. It’s currently at Target stores for $25, and will be available elsewhere on September 3.
Origins Award winners
The Academy of Adventure Game Arts & Design has announced the winners of this year’s Origin Awards. Leder Games’ Root won Game of the Year, as well as best board game. Modiphius Entertainment’s Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition won for best roleplaying game, while Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars: Legion nabbed an award for best miniatures. Here’s a full list of winners.
The internet might be all aflutter over Toy Story 4's Forky and his signature catchphrase, “I am trash,” but there’s another game all about the wonders of garbage. USAopoly’s Astro Trash is a fast-paced competitive game where players are trying to clear waste from their planet. You can either throw it into the surface of the sun...or dump it onto someone else’s home planet. It’s all about quick reflexes and a willingness to do whatever it takes to keep your planet clean. Astro Trash costs $20 and is now available.
Stargate Roleplaying Game
Alien isn’t the only science fiction franchise that’s getting a long-awaited roleplaying game. MGM has announced it’s teaming up with Wyvern Gaming to finally create Stargate, a roleplaying game based on the Stargate SG-1 TV show. The game has players exploring the galaxy as SG team members and aiding in “the fight against the Goa’uld Systme Lords,” with missions about retrieving artifacts, rescuing people, assassinating enemies, or other tasks that would be assigned to the SG crew. The game will preview at Gen Con in August, and anyone interested in finding out more can sign up on the website.
Jaws the Board Game
Ravensburger’s Jaws board game is here! This semi-cooperative game is about a group of players working together to find and hunt a deadly shark...who just so happens to be one of the players. I’ve had a chance to check out the game and it’s a lot of fun. Fair warning: As my colleague Andrew mentioned, everyone will be fighting over who gets to play the shark. I was not the shark.
Niantic buys AR board game company
Niantic, the folks behind Pokémon Go and the new Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, could be taking their augmented reality gaming to tabletops. The company has announced that it purchased Sensible Object, a company that specializes in augmented reality for board games and tabletop experiences. Its biggest releases are When In Rome, an Amazon Alexa-supported game, as well as the AR puzzle game Beasts of Balance (where the puzzle pieces come to life in augmented reality). According to the press release, Sensible Object will start by helping with Niantic’s “existing slate of titles,” but will eventually move onto other projects in augmented reality gaming.
Battle for Baldur’s Gate (Dungeon Mayhem)
The family-friendly Dungeons & Dragons card game, Dungeon Mayhem, is heading to Baldur’s Gate with a new expansion. The Battle for Baldur’s Gate expansion includes new characters from Baldur’s Gate, like the range Minsc...who comes with a giant space hamster named Boo. The expansion comes out September 17 and will cost $10.
Path of the Serpent (Mansions of Madness)
Arkham’s investigators are heading to the wilderness of the Amazon jungle to stop a serpent’s curse...unless the serpent gets to them first. Fantasy Flight Games has announced a new expansion for Mansions of Madness called Path of the Serpent, where players journey to the jungle and explore the ruins of a lost civilization, while trying to save themselves and the people around them from stone monsters, killer snakes, and other dangers of the wild. Path of the Serpent is currently available for preorder, and is set to come out by the end of the year.
Red Carnations on a Black Grave
Freedom fighters, assemble! Red Carnations on a Black Grave is a roleplaying game for four to six players that takes place during the Paris Commune, the radical socialist insurrection against the French government that lasted for 72 days. In the game, each player takes on two characters during the two months that the Paris Commune existed...and one of them has to die during the final assault by the French army. Not everybody gets a happy ending here.
The game feels like a living history lesson on an important moment in France’s history, and a great excuse to bring out that Les Misérables costume you’ve had since that high school production where you played Flower Seller #3. Red Carnations on a Black Grave has already been funded, and will stay on Kickstarter through July 18. The minimum pledge for a digital version is $16 (print copy is $40) and it will come out January 2020.
I love roleplaying games that do something different—not just in terms of story, but also in their storytelling. Bleak Spirit feels like one of those games. The game centers around one player, the lone adventurer who’s forced to wander the wilderness alone (kind of like a single-player video game like Hollow Knight or Gone Home). Everyone else shares the collective role of Game Master—taking on different aspects of the environment, enemies, NPCs, and other world-building elements.
Each round is played as a scene, and rotates between players as the game goes on, ensuring that everybody gets a chance to wander this strange and beautiful world. Bleak Spirit has reached its crowdfunding goal, and will be on Kickstarter through July 18. The minimum pledge for a digital copy is $15, though there is a lower-tier $8 option for those experiencing financial hardship, and it’s expected to come out January 2020.
Escape the Dark Sector
The latest game in Themeborne’s Escape the Dark series, Escape the Dark Sector is a sci-fi adventure card game where players take on the role of crew members on an impounded starship, confined to the detention block of a space station. They go on a mission to escape, find their ship, and get home. Of course, they’ll encounter all sorts of threats along the way, whether it’s robotic guards or even deadly aliens. Players work together to figure out how to proceed in the game’s three acts, making it feel and play like a movie where everybody succeeds together...or goes down together. Escape the Dark Sector has been fully funded, and will be on Kickstarter through July 1. The minimum pledge for a copy is $38 and should be coming out in March 2020.
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