Tsuro Phoenix Rising

For the 10th year of the company, Calliope plans a new release in the Tsuro line. Like previous entries, it’s a path-building game that takes up to eight players. But in this one, Tsuro Phoenix Rising (June, $40), players fly their phoenix pawns through a tile to promote any floating lanterns there in to stars. Then the lantern piece is moved to another tile with a matching colored lantern to show that it has now been released in to the air. The first player to promote seven stars is the winner.

In an advanced version of the game, players not only add new tiles to the sky, they can flip and rotate existing tiles as well.

Of course, the copy of the game previewed at PAX Unplugged was just a prototype. However, already I could see that Calliope’s plans should produce a game that looks as elegant as its theme.

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Gen Con 2018—Calliope Games

The next three games in Calliope’s Titan Series games are due later this year.

Everyone Loves a Parade ($25) has players designing parade floats to match the styles and decoration preferences of the crowds. Card play also allows manipulation of the crowds and position in the parade for turn order.

In Spy Master ($30), players control teams of agents, sending them on various missions around the world. To complete a mission and claim its victory points requires playing cards to move agents in to position and to collect specified types of intelligence (surveillance, blueprints, dossiers, or espionage). Each round, the current Spymaster divides available cards for the other players to choose.

Intriguing enough, that’s just the basic game. According to my source at Calliope, not once mentioned explicitly in the rules, there are also instructions for an advanced game hidden and hinted at somewhere in the Spy Master box.

Ship Shape ($30) is a kind of three-dimensional puzzle game in which the players attempt to smuggle the most valuable contraband in the holds of their sailing ships. They bid on crates that are stacked tiles with different gaps. During the bidding process, these gaps provide the players with limited information about upcoming crates. After the auction, they can try to stack these crates to maximize contraband value.

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ASTRA 2017—Calliope

Coming in September from Calliope Games are Ancestree and Capital City.

Ancestree ($30) by Eric Lang is a tile drafting game about genealogy. The idea is to lay out a family tree by matching ancestor tiles by colors and hearts. Points are scored throughout the game by having more matching colors than the players sitting adjacent. And bonus points are scored at the end of the game from matched hearts representing marriages.

Capital City ($25) by James Ernest challenges players trying to settle a frontier town with the competing costs of bringing people west and building the businesses in which they’ll work. Victory points are needed to win but dollars are needed to pay for those things.

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An early adopter of crowdfunding, Tasty Minstrel Games is now looking to raise general operating and marketing funds through equity crowdfunding portal MicroVentures. The company says it has three games in development, 15 in production, and has sold over 400,000 units since 2010. It appears that any return on a crowdfunding investment could only come about through the sale of shares back to the company or if the company as a whole was sold at some point in the future. But equity crowdfunding is significantly more complex that your typical game project. Read those documents carefully.

Calliope Games has been doing a great job with its focus on easier-going strategy games. Next in that line is to be Dicey Peaks, currently funded and aiming for stretch-goals in its final hours on Kickstarter. I got a brief preview of Dicey Peaks at Toy Fair. It’s a push-your-luck dice game of mountain-climbing. To win, players must make their way to the summit while managing their oxygen and avoiding yeti attacks.

With Commands & Colors: Tricorne from Compass Games, designer Richard Borg takes his C&C card-driven system to the American Revolution. The game will include more than 300 wood blocks, printed dice, a mounted map-board, and separate decks of combat cards to represent the differentiated strategies of the British and Colonials.

On the verge of funding is another block war game, Combat Infantry. Columbia Games’s version of squad-level combat in World War II, this one emphasizes fog-of-war with blocks that are single-sided and rotate to record current strength. The box will include six historical scenarios from the invasion of Normandy, as well as four additional generic scenarios.

Tesla vs. Edison: Duel is an abbreviated, two-player card game that covers the same history of early electric utilities as Artana’s full Tesla vs. Edison board game. Most importantly, the company finally included Samuel Insull, my favorite personality of the period.

Kenzer and Company is on Kickstarter for the first time with Aces & Eights: Reloaded, a revised edition of its wild-west roleplaying game. Kenzer promises a second edition “chock-full of new rules, tweaks, art and other enhancements,” while maintaining the game’s unique shot-clock, a targeting overlay for fun old-west style shoot-outs.

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Second Look—Thieves! and 12 Days

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.We put Thieves! on the game table and wound up playing it over and over. This game from Calliope Games has the three to six of you taking on the role of criminals fleeing from a heist. The cops are right on your trail and now it’s every bad guy and girl for themselves. Each turn, you play a card to divvy up the loot: either place a loot card on yourself, face down, or give some loot away to another thief. Why give away that precious money? Because eventually the police hunting you down will recover the largest stash. You’ve got 6 bags of loot showing? Throw three bags to your fellow crew member so she gets nicked instead of you.

The first part of the game has a lot of Take That! action where your crew loads up the others with loot and starts playing police cards to trigger raids (and plays cards to steal from other players’ stashes). The game starts to shift as the end game approaches. As we’ve been throwing our fellow criminals to the cops, getaway cards are revealed from the draw deck. Once seven of the eight getaway cards are revealed, the crew has gotten away and whomever has the most loot wins. It’s a game of pushing your luck, bluffing, and timing.

Thieves! hit our table and didn’t stop being fun. The only downside to the game was the unpredictability of when those last getaway cards would show up — some games it seemed like the last few were grouped together, some games it felt like we were never going to get away from the police. (This could be solved by seeding portions of the deck with getaway cards beforehand, similar to placing epidemic cards in Pandemic, but that’s a bit too much prep for a fast, quick game like Thieves!)

Thieves!: ten bucks, light and fast, easy to learn, easy to play. A really good deal. Buy it at your local game store or direct from Calliope Games.

12 Days and Thieves! from Calliope Games

Also in the package was 12 Days, a Christmas-themed game where you’re trying to give the best gifts of the season. Starting with your hand of twelve cards, you pass one to your neighbor, simultaneously play one card, and whomever has the lowest number showing wins that day. Day cards and Gift cards range from 1 to 12, with each gift card appearing a number of times as it’s rank — there’s one 1, seven 7s, and twelve 12s. (Well, there’s two zero-rank gift cards, but…) At the end of the game, you’ll have eleven gift cards in your hand. Whomever has the most gift cards of that rank gets points equal to that rank.

And that’s pretty much it.

We played 12 Days. Despite it being beautifully-illustrated (with Echo Chernik‘s faux-stained glass artwork), we all wanted to go back to playing Thieves!. When we played that game, we were laughing and joking and loud. When we played 12 Days: silence. We were more concentrated on our cards, trying to determine how best to shuffle our numbers around to gain points.


If you get 12 Days for just $12, you can also use it as a Christmas-themed Pairs deck and a Christmas-themed The Great Dalmuti deck (two games we liked better than the game in the rulebook). Suddenly, you’ve got three games, plus the twenty or so other games that can be played with a Pairs/12 Days/The Great Dalmuti deck (rules are over at Hip Pocket Games), for the price of one.

Calliope Games has 12 Days for sale, as should your local game store.


One copy of Thieves! and one of 12 Days were provided free for review by Calliope Games.

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Crowdfunding Highlights

The Siblings Trouble
Of note this week, The Siblings Trouble calls back to the halcyon days of summer vacation adventures. This card-driven storytelling game is part Goonies, part Hardy Boys, and part Studio Ghilbi. You and family and friends have a grand adventure featuring trolls, the Rat King, and Big Secrets before rushing back home in time for dinner. This game looks insanely cute and fun and I have a feeling I’ll be backing it before it’s over.

I’ve already backed Cucu Dice, a set of a dozen (as of this moment) 16mm dice that are designed to work well with Fantasy Flight Games’ various Lovecraft-themed games. With one red face, two green, and three blue, these dice are designed to easily read successes in these types of games where a six-sided die is used for binary success/fail resolution. A full dozen dice is about $13 shipped to the US. (Honestly, I’ll be using them for my Shadowrun game.)

The Titans SeriesCalliope Games’ Titan Series is a subscription-based casual game series featuring well-established game designers such as Richard Garfield, Mike Selinker, Rob Daviau, James Ernest, and eight other prominent game designers. With a minimum of nine gateway games (plus three more as stretch goals), backers can subscribe to the entire series or pick and choose the games they want to pick up. Games will run from 2-8 players (various player counts on different games) and have a play time of 60 minutes or less. This campaign continues for another month and a half and is nearly funded as of this writing.

Playroom Entertainment’s Sitting Ducks Gallery Deluxe funded within a day of launch. The game is an update to the award-winning (Games 100, Golden Geek, and more) 2005 version. The theme echoes shooting duck galleries on a carnival midway, with players taking out their opponent’s ducks with humorous action cards and trying to be the last duck in the pond. It looks to be goofy fun.

car wars card game It’s a Car Wars Kickstarter, but not the all new version of Car Wars Kickstarter I’ve been waiting for. If you already have Steve Jackson Games’ recent Car Wars Classic (or your set from the ‘80s), you’ll want to pick up Car Wars Arenas, collecting five different arenas from early in the product line now published for the first time at Classic scale. But what excites me about this campaign is they just announced an updated version of Car Wars: The Card Game to be released this summer. Pledging at the $65 Pro Duellist level will get you CW Arenas, CW Classic, and the card game. The updated 150-card game will retail for about $25.

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