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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Capture Djinn, Can Fish, and Please the Gods of Rome at SPIEL ’23

by W. Eric Martin

The 2023 Origins Game Fair is just around the corner, starting on June 21, but publishers outside the United States are already focusing on SPIEL ’23 in October. Here are a few titles you can expect to see:

• Portuguese publisher PYTHAGORAS has announced two new titles that will be available in Essen, Germany, with one being Gods of Rome, a 2-4 player game from Antonio Sousa Lara that has you compete for the gods’ favor:

In Gods of Rome, players each choose a god-backed tribe at the start of the game and must lead that tribe to gain the gods’ favor. On your turn, choose one of three actions:

— Visit a God: Gain a god’s blessing token, which allows you to take an enhanced action later in the game, and place one meeple in that god’s color — which might also be a player’s color — on the game board in a matching-colored location.

— Activate a card: Place a token on an action space on your player board to add more figures to the board, move figures, and attack opponents. If you have a blessing token of the same color as the location where the action takes place, you can take an enhanced action.

— Score: Advance on the victory track depending on which territories you control in regions that match the gods you have visited (but never your own regions), then clear all action spaces and remove your tokens from the god spaces. Special objectives change the scoring of territories from game to game.

The favor track features three checkpoints, and as players gain favor, they advance on this track; if a player hits a checkpoint, all players score points based on their relative position on the favor track, then they advance to the checkpoint. After a player reaches the third checkpoint, players again score points, then whoever has the highest overall score wins.

Lata is a game for 1-4 players from Costa and Rôla, designers of 2020’s Café, and this design focuses on a different digestible item:

The Portuguese canning industry developed throughout the 20th century, going through periods of great splendor and of extraordinary importance in the social fabric of communities close to fishing centers. After the huge growth due to the immense supply of troops in Europe that World War II brought, the industry went through a period of stability with the consolidation of the quality of the products and the establishment of markets abroad.

Lata (“tin can” in English) is the name of the raw material for the containers in which the fish is packed, and it also turned out to be a popular designation for the product. In this game, players manage local canning companies in the 1950s and produce and sell the famous canned sardines or canned mackerel, the two main canned fish in the first decades of the industry, before the appearance of the very popular tuna.

The game takes place over six rounds. In each round, players buy a batch of fish, tomato or olive oil, which they then can use in their factory. These preserves will then be sold to markets. This operation will result in money that will be used to buy scorecards and increase the factory’s production capacity.

The order in which each batch of raw materials is chosen is given by an auction of action points that players secretly make by sliding their disk to the left on the action track of their individual board. Whoever gives up more opportunities for action chooses the best lot, but it is clear that having more possibilities for action is vital to produce more and reach the best markets!

The player with the most victory points (VP), which are awarded at the end of the game by the scorecards, wins.

• PYTHAGORAS will also feature Celtae at SPIEL ’23, a game from Orlando Sá that I covered in March 2023, but will reproduce the cover of below because I find it so striking:

• German publisher Hall Games has worked with Stefan Feld for its previous three releases (Bonfire, The Oracle of Delphi, and AquaSphere), but for its 2023 SPIEL ’23 title, it’s going with Benjamin Schwer, designer of Hadara and Crown of Emara. Schwer’s new design is Djinn, a game for 1-4 players that takes 60-90 minutes. An overview:

Once your ancestors found or created a source of magic – the exact knowledge of its origin, as far as you know, has long been lost. A small community has developed around the source, which seeks to protect this place and keep it as secret as possible.

Unfortunately, some magical beings — half corporeal, half ethereal — have now tracked down this source. These beings of dubious character, which you call “Djinn”, have appeared in various places of the city to dispute your access to the source. You are young members of the Magic Guild, and to prove your abilities, you are tasked with capturing the Djinn so that they can do no harm. You can control them permanently only if you catch them in special Djinn bottles. To seal these bottles, you also need corks made from the bark of a tree near the magic source.

Whichever of you succeeds best in protecting your small town will be accepted into the inner circle of the Magic Guild and will soon be allowed to learn even more secrets…

In Djinn, you take turns moving across a map that shows thirteen locations. These locations are linked to actions where you can get the resources you need and catch the Djinn that are in six locations. In those locations you can do things like receive bottles and corks, collect magical power, buy magical items, hire mages to accompany you, discover secret passages, and more.

In each round, you can reach only one of two or three of the locations, so you must plan carefully to have all the resources you need in time to catch the Djinn. The game ends when all six “Boss Djinn” have been captured and removed from the map, then you score points for all captured Djinn.


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