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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Build Tracks, Visit Waypoints, Construct a Village, and Decorate Your House

by W. Eric Martin

Another month, another round-up of roll-and-write games, some bigger than others and some that forgo the roll in place of a flip.

I suppose a more encompassing term for these games would be “paper-and-pencil” since they typically have each player marking their own holdings on a personal record, but “PnP” already stands for “print-and-play”, so I still think of them all as “roll-and-write”. Any suggestions for a more encompassing term? Random-and-write? Marks of fate?

Pioneer Rails is a flip-and-write game for one or more players from Jeffrey D. Allers and Matthew Dunstan that publisher Dranda Games will debut at SPIEL ’23 in October. Here’s an overview:

In Pioneer Rails, you represent a railroad owner who has seen an opportunity to expand your empire across the new lands of the frontier. You’ll compete against other railroad owners to plan your railway in the best way possible to connect establishments to the railroad and satisfy the demands of the locals.

In this flip-and-write game, you use poker cards to extend your railway tracks and build a poker hand at the same time. Each turn, you choose one of the revealed poker cards. The suit of the card helps you extend your railway, connecting you to new towns and surrounding features. When you connect to a town, you gain the ability to do a one-time bonus. When you surround a feature with your tracks, you activate it for endgame scoring. The value of the card is added to your poker hand, for which you’ll score additional points at the end of the round.

Three common goals are also in play each game, giving you incentives to build in different directions.

• In 2018, Taiwanese publisher EmperorS4 released Walking in Burano from designer Wei-Min Ling, a game in which you drafted colorful building cards to attract tourists who wanted to look at very particular things that you were ideally placing on your buildings. This person wants to see cats, that person wants sets of matching awnings, and so on.

Ling and EmperorS4 have now come together again for Walking in Burano: Roll & Write, which debuted in May 2023 and is for 1-4 players. Now you’ll draft colored dice to decorate your houses with plants, curtains, chimneys, and cats while once again trying to satisfy the demands of tourists and inhabitants.

As for your demands, well, maybe you don’t have any — or perhaps you decorate only to draw compliments from others without having any wishes of your own. Perhaps you want to talk to your therapist about that to develop a fuller, more enriched sense of self that doesn’t rely on the approval of others for internal satisfaction…

Villagers of the Oak Dell is the debut title from Two Acorns Games, the acorns being designers Przemysław Fornal and Michał Łopato, who have sprouted this print-and-play, roll-and-write game that will be crowdfunded down the road.

Like many designs in this genre, gameplay is solitaire-ish, with the player count ranging from 1 to 100. An overview:

You are embarking on the development of a new village.

The game spans four seasons, each divided into three rounds. At the start of each round, one player rolls four dice. If any sword symbols are rolled (representing marauder attacks), all players mark them on their sheet. If players don’t hire guards by the end of the game, these swords will result in negative points. Afterward, each player chooses one of the dice (shared among all players) and uses the corresponding resources on their village map.

Each die provides two resources: one based on its color, which is limited in quantity (players mark the use of each die on their sheet), and another based on the symbol on the chosen die (e.g., the green die provides wood and can provide also a villager if its symbol is rolled). Throughout the game, players have opportunities to acquire additional resources by constructing buildings, hiring workers with special abilities, or finding resources in the mine.

Every three rounds, the season ends, triggering special actions for certain buildings. After twelve rounds, players tally their points, which are earned by building structures, recruiting guards, and achieving other scoring conditions.

• Two Acorns Games seems to be following the model of Matthew Dunstan and Rory Muldoon‘s Postmark Games, which ran a Kickstarter campaign in late June and early July 2023 for its third title: Waypoints.

An overview of this 1-100 player game that will later be available on Postmark’s website:

Battle the elements in Waypoints as you hike through a landscape of mountains, valleys, lakes, and woodlands. Climb vast summits or take to the rivers, marking your route and recording your experiences as you go.

Each turn, a die is rolled which determines the weather for that hike and how much time is left of the day. Clear skies mean good hiking, while snow or rain will slow you down. With the weather set, all players simultaneously mark a route on their player sheet, moving from waypoint to waypoint. Mountains and valleys are harder to traverse, but the rewards may be worth it.

After four days, each player will have a unique map of their hike, scoring points for animals and features they have encountered.


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