Welcome to the Gaming Shelf, io9's roundup of tabletop gaming news, releases, updates, and interesting crowdfunding campaigns—focusing on sci-fi and fantasy games... for the most part. It’s been quite an eventful couple of weeks, as game companies get ready for the holiday season. We had so many announcements and crowdfunding campaigns, we had trouble picking and choosing! Here are some of the highlights we spotted for the week.
It looks like Conan the Barbarian is getting another chance to hit the table. On the heels of Monolith Edition and Asmodee’s successful Conan the Barbarian tabletop game from 2015, which raised over $3 million on Kickstarter but was also criticized for having a sexist portrayal of women, Shinobi 7 has announced it’s acquired the license for Robert E. Howard’s Conan series to produce a line of games. They plan on starting with a tabletop miniatures game and a card game, featuring a wide variety of characters from the pulp fantasy series. The tabletop miniatures game is expected to arrive on Kickstarter in 2019, with a release date of early 2020.
It’s hard to imagine there could be anything longer than undertaking a Dungeons & Dragons quest, but learning all the ins and outs of spell-casting and skill-building requires a hefty investment of time—and you might not even end up liking the game! Wizards of the Coast’s new Dungeon Mayhem card game sounds like it might be a better place for the D&D curious to start. It takes just five minutes for new players to learn how to wield four unique decks featuring traditional D&D characters like a barbarian, paladin, rogue, and a wizard, and weapons like sling spells and daggers. The last character standing after a quick 15-minute round is the winner, but there’s the potential for even deeper game play over a night of repeated rounds. Available November 16.
Z-Man Games is expanding the Pandemic historical series with an exploration of the Fall of Rome. Only here, it’s not diseases that are bringing down the Roman Empire: It’s hoards of Goths, Anglo-Saxons, and other barbarian tribes. As much as I like the Pandemic series—I binged through three months of Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 last week—I question the idea of drawing a parallel between deadly diseases and groups of people. I mean, you could argue that it’s how Romans saw them, but that’s likely not the reason. I’m guessing it’s because Pandemic is a familiar name. So, it comes across as brand recognition at an uncomfortable cost.
Smirk & Laughter Games have come out with their newest release, Before There Were Stars, a family-friendly game about creating different mythic stories through the stars. Players role dice to create the “night sky,” scanning the horizon for constellation cards that can be used to tell stories of creation, heroic deeds, or even the end of the world. It seems like a great choice for people wanting a quiet evening of encouraged storytelling and conversation. It costs about $40 and is now available.
Capstone Games and Fuereland Spiele have announced they’re releasing a new worker placement game called Magnastorm. Taking place on a distant planet of the same name, players have to mine resources in order to survive and uncover traces of a long-lost civilization. Reward cards are handed out at the end of each match that players can use for subsequent games—not only keeping things varied, but also balanced. It’s set to come out early 2019.
Pandemic isn’t the only game capitalizing on mass disease. European game company OSTIA Spiele is getting into the pandemic fever with Viroid, a limited-edition board game where players take on the role of diseases trying to eradicate the human race. According to The Gaming Gang, only 200 copies are being made (in both German and English) and will cost about $120.
Artists Jacqui Davis and Todd Bright bring a wonderful, cartoony caricature aesthetic to Renegade Games Studios’ new Ghostbusters: The Card Game, which will be available next month for $20. Two to five players compete to collect the most ghosts (with 48 unique apparitions available in the deck) using one of the four original Ghostbusters characters to set up a ghost trap, and 57 other action cards to hunt down things that go bump in the night.
The Tales From The Loop RPG is getting its first official standalone expansion with Things From The Flood. Based on the worlds created by Simon Stålenhag, which are being adapted into a TV show for Amazon, Things From The Flood takes us into the 1990s—a “decade of change, and disaster.” The kids are now teenagers, facing big problems and even bigger stakes (for instance, you can actually die now). Free League Publishing says this expansion is fully playable as a complete game, and you can either import your Tales From The Loop characters or make new ones. The crowdfunding campaign debuts on Kickstarter on September 18.
Arkham Horror is getting a couple of new bells and whistles. Fantasy Flight Games has announced an upgraded expansion for The Dunwich Legacy campaign from Arkham Horror: The Card Game. The expanded expansion, called Return to the Dunwich Legacy, brings players back onboard the train to Dunwich to reopen old cases and examine them through fresh eyes. But there are new tricks and challenges, thanks to 104 new cards. There’s also a new game mat for Arkham Horror Third Edition that’s available for preorder.
It’s nice to see that Wizards of the Coast is firmly invested in its new Transformers Trading Card Game, working with Hasbro to release the first expansion featuring one of the largest Transformers characters of all time: Metroplex. The robot that transforms into a city and back is now officially the largest character in the game, with an eight-inch tall card that must be incredibly satisfying to play. The expansion also includes playable card versions of Metroplex’s robot groupies: Scamper, Slammer, and Six-Gun, and will be available on November 21, about a month after the full game ships on September 28.
Mesozooic is a card-based puzzle game where players build their own Jurassic Park—only with much less murder and mayhem. At least, I think. The newest expansion is a web exclusive from Z-Man Games, and features new advanced card types like: sculpted topiaries, dino cafés, and groundskeepers to help keep things looking beautiful. It’ll cost $7 and should come out later this year.
Until Daylight is a cooperative survival card game that feels like a simpler version of Dead of Winter. Players have to search through rubble to find tools for survival, while surviving hordes of raiders and infected people. If one of you dies, it’s game over. It’s the second release from Flyos Games, and I’m a big fan of the character artwork. Until Daylight has already met its fundraising goal, and will be on Kickstarter through October 8.
Librarian and beekeeper Matt Shoemaker has created a worker placement game that’s more fact than fiction. Players take on the role of bees trying to survive the year. Given the rising risk to honeybees thanks to climate change and overpopulation, it’s a board game that comes with a valuable lesson about the important role that bees play, as well as why we need to work harder to preserve them. Bee Lives is on Kickstarter through October 10.
A tabletop role-playing game inspired by the works of David Lynch? Sign me up! Created by Kira Magrann, Something Is Wrong Here is a single-shot RPG that blurs the line between player and character, telling a story of surreal encounters and subconscious paranoia in a classic Americana-style environment. Something Is Wrong Here has already met its fundraising goal, and will be on Kickstarter through October 4.
Pearlbrook is the first expansion for the popular worker placement/tableau game Everdell, which takes place in a world populated by forest critters. The expansion adds the Pearlbrook River, where a mysterious civilization of waterfolk live underneath. Players send frogs as ambassadors to collect pearls and trade with those who live under the sea. Pearlbrook has already surpassed its fundraising goal, and will be on Kickstarter through September 27.
For those who are of the legal drinking age, Drinks & Daggers is a card game that comes with an optional drinking game attached. It’s set in the world of the Drunks and Dragons podcast, and players take on the role of some of the podcast’s heroes as they battle Drunkeros’ enemies. However, they do say you don’t need to be a fan of the podcast in order to enjoy the game. Drinks & Daggers has met its fundraising goal, and will be on Kickstarter through October 5.
I previously talked about the Horizon: Zero Dawn tabletop miniatures game, and now it’s available to support on Kickstarter. Players take on the role of hunters, trying to survive against the machines, bandits, and Eclipse mercenaries seeking to destroy the world. As someone who enjoyed Horizon: Zero Dawn, I’m really excited about this one. It’s already met its fundraising goal, and will be on Kickstarter through September 28.
A while ago, there was a popular game set in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld universe called Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, by Martin Wallace. Sadly, that game is no longer in print, and very hard to find. However, the mechanics and gameplay have been reimagined in a new board game called Nanty Narking. The game, set in Victorian London, features characters from works by Charles Dickens and other iconic writers of the period. The most interesting thing about this Kickstarter campaign, which has been fully funded, is that it’s interactive. People who fund the Kickstarter get to participate in an ongoing story that will grow with each campaign update, and will change depending on what choices funders make. Nanty Narking will be on Kickstarter through September 20.