Modern board games are games created after 1900 or so, including early games such as Monopoly and Scrabble, to the latest games from Europe and around the world.

Gen Con 2014—Syrinscape

Gen Con logoI’m really glad I took that appointment with Syrinscape. To be honest, I had dismissed the company as just another producer of ambient-sound tracks. But Syrinscape is much more than that.

While other purveyors of background sounds for tabletop gaming offer fixed tracks meant to be played on loop, Syrinscape’s sounds are generated on the fly with tremendous customization potential. The company offers two players, one for fantasy settings and one for science fiction. The Syrinscape Fantasy Player so far includes about 30 sound sets, each with 5-15 sound elements. For example, the flooded cavern set includes “drip”, “toss a rock in”, “passing waterfall”, “distant wind”, “what was that?”, and ten other components.

With Syrinscape’s players, gamers are not only able to make live adjustments to the balance and intensity of sound elements, they can also combine elements from different sets to fit the unique environments of their games.

Players, which can be downloaded for free, come with two sound sets and run on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. Additional sound sets can be purchased for $4 each. Another option is the subscription rate, which at $6.50 per month includes permanent access to all new releases, as well as the entire back catalog.

Syrinscape releases new sound sets about once a month. The company is also working with Paizo to release custom sound sets for the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path, one for each chapter. Several of those are already available and new ones come out every other month.

Syrinscape Screen Capture

Iello at Gen Con

Gen Con logoI didn’t count them myself but Iello’s Matt Bonin told me that the company released 20 games since last Gen Con!

Among the newest making their appearance at this year’s show, the most anticipated had to be King of New York. I expect it would have made a bigger splash if Iello had more than just 200 available to sell.

Also designed by Richard Garfield, King of New York borrows a lot from its predecessor, King of Tokyo, yet presents players with a few more interesting choices and alternate strategies. For example, in the new game players must not only consider the risks and rewards of entering Manhattan (which replaces Tokyo) but also a location from among New York’s other four boroughs while outside the city center. In each borough, destroying buildings (achieved with certain dice results) earns a player benefits like victory points, energy, and health, but turns those building tokens in to military units, which may later attack the monsters.

King of New York should be available at retail outlets in September for $50.

Night of the Grand Octopus ($40, available October), which we previewed at Toy Fair, is a bluffing and negotiation game with a Cthulhu-like theme. Players move their cultist figures simultaneously around the board trying to collect ingredients for a summoning. Whenever two or more cultists end up in the same location, the players must agree on who will get the ingredient or all suffer a penalty.

The latest in Iello’s Tales & Games series, The Hare & the Tortoise ($30, available now) has players wagering on the result of a race among five animals. In general, card play advances the animals, but not always in a simple relationship. Depending on the talents of a particular animal too many cards could freeze it (when ahead, the hare may decide to take a nap) or it may move forward even if no cards are played (the tortoise is a slow but steady racer).

Friday the 13th is a new version of Reiner Knizia’s weird trick-taking card game, Poison. The game includes three suits: mirrors, black cats, and ladders. Collected cards are negative points, except for the player with the most of each suit, for whom that suit counts as nothing.

Friday the 13th

Looking forward, Iello will be distributing in English several games from French publisher Serious Poulp: Steam Torpedo, a two-player game of tactical submarine combat, 8 Masters’ Revenge, a card game of Kung Fu fighting, and 7th Continent, a solo or cooperative game of adventure and exploration.

Also planned for 2015 are The World of Yo-Ho, a board game about animal pirates that uses smartphones as playing pieces, and a game without a title yet, which features cooperative play, deck building, and fighting monsters.


inlineImages0Bruno Cathala’s Niya is a new 2 player game that takes place in the Imperial Gardens of Japan. Players take turns putting their clan’s influence token in place of a garden tile, but only one that matches the element of a previously chosen tile. The first to create a block, blockade, or row of their clan tiles rules the gardens, and takes power at court.

It’s a beautiful looking abstract strategy, and it also looks very portable.

Niya is for 2 players, ages 7+. It plays in 10 minutes.

Samurai Spirit


Another game by Antoine Bauza, the mastermind behind the 7 Wonders series, Samurai Spirit is a cooperative challenge for 1 to 7 players in 20 to 45 minutes. Everyone takes the role of a samurai, who needs to protect a village from a horde of blood-thirsty bandits.

To survive all 3 assault phases, the samurais have to make quick decisions and plan their defense accordingly. Not much have to be worried though, as each of them is equipped with a unique talent, and can attempt to trigger the superpower “Kiai”. In dire needs, their skills can even be transcended by animal spirits to fight injustice.

English, German and French versions of Samurai Spirit are now available for Essen 2014 pickup pre-order. Each costs 18 Euros and includes a bonus Essen promo card “The 8th Boss”.

Epic Resort

epicresortHeroes have a hard time exploring dungeons and fighting monsters. That’s why you’re here to make sure they have the best damn vacation possible. It’s your job to build and epic resort to draw heroes and tourists in. Be careful, though. The more awesome your resort is, the more likely it is to draw pirates and other nasties. Worse yet, sometimes the heroes you draw in won’t even protect you!

Epic Resort will be out next month for an MSRP of $44.95. It plays 2-4 players, ages 12+ in 1-2 hours.

File this is the “really cool” department. Joshua Tulberg has created this awesome looking turn timer using an Arduino board. The little thing is pretty customization, and he’s looking for interest to whether or not he should Kickstart them or now.

Here’s a little video of the device, and what it can do.

I can see this being super helpful to those who play with those who are afflicted with Analysis Paralysis.

La Isla


Attention Stefan Feld fans: a new Feldian game is on its way. La Isla, to be published in September 2014, is an 1-hour adventure for 2 to 4 players on a decagonal game board, i.e. the uncharted island. It also marks a cornerstone for Feld to publish a game in the Alea medium box series.

Leading a group of explorers, players in La Isla will encircle long-thought-extinct creatures like Dodo and Golden Toad with 3D figures, play cards to gain special powers and deploy resources, and compete to be the quickest to capture the most for scoring VP. For more details, check out La Isla’s rulebook.

Dreaming Spires and King’s Forge

Game Salute has two pretty awesome looking games hitting shelves on August 15th.

The first, Dreaming Spires, is about building an Oxford college from the medieval era to modern day. Players compete by erecting buildings, admitting scholars, and putting on events. Everything from the art direction of the game to the flavor text littered throughout has been carefully crafted to fully immerse yourself in the theme. The game will play 3-5 players from ages 10+, and will retail for $75.

King’s Forge is a game about craftsmen and craftswomen trying to create items off the king’s list in order to become Craftsmaster to the King. It’s a game of dice-rolling resource management with a bit of planning and a bit of luck. 2-4 players ages 14+. MSRP $50.


Monopoly Game Show/Lottery

Mr MonopolyA new Monopoly-themed television game show launches in early 2015. Hosted by actor and comedian Billy Gardell, Monopoly Millionaires’ Club is set to dole out $2.5 million in prizes each episode!

All the potential contestants for Monopoly Millionaires’ Club, however, are already winners. Contestants are drawn from the audience and the audience from winners of the Monopoly Millionaires’ Club multistate lottery.

The lottery, which will begin selling tickets in October, also features an unusual prize structure. As more tickets are sold, instead of increasing the size of the grand prize, it’s the number of $1 million winners that will grow.

[via The Wrap]

The Official Scrabble Players DictionaryA new fifth edition of The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary was released this week by Merriam-Webster. Under license from Hasbro and endorsed by the North American Scrabble Players Association, the Dictionary makes more than 5,000 new words tournament-legal in the United States. Those new words include modern terms like “hashtag”, big-pointers like “quinzhee”, and the winner of the Scrabble Word Showdown, “geocache” [none of which were recognized by my spell-checker].

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