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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Collect the Penny Black, Ride the Orient Express, and Listen for the Winds of Exchange

by W. Eric Martin

• At Gen Con 2023, Buffalo Games will debut Penny Black, a drafting and tile-laying game for 2-4 players that features a subject I don’t recall seeing in a game:

Seek out prestigious stamps and compete to build the most lucrative collection in Penny Black. In each round, choose which three stamps to add to your collection, then strategically place them in your stamp album to score the most points based on your collection criteria. Each player’s criteria varies, and there’s no telling which stamps will be available next.

Keep an eye out for the Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive postage stamp that ushered in the art of stamp collecting – and that is a highly sought-after prize in this game since it can enhance the value of your album.

The player with the most valuable collection after ten rounds wins!

• Should you be looking for a somewhat more esoteric subject at Gen Con 2023, Chaosium will demo Horror on the Orient Express: The Board Game from Michał Gołąb Gołębiowski and Adam Kwapiński that adapts the Horror on the Orient Express campaign from the Call of Cthulhu RPG for the tabletop.

This 1-4 player co-operative game will be crowdfunded in 2024 for release in 2025, but if you want a short take now in 2023, well, here it is:

Horror on the Orient Express: The Board Game lures you into the luxurious, yet dangerous interiors of the most famous train of the 1920s. The magnificent engine travels into the realm of the Dreamlands — with you on board! From hideous monsters crawling out of breaches to cultists hiding among the decadent passengers, everything is against you, not forgetting an eldritch, blood-thirsty vampire hunting down everything that moves…all against the clock. Can you beat them all as you investigate the dark secrets of the Orient Express?

In the game, you control a character who can develop new skills, gather items, talk to the passengers, discover clues and, ultimately, decide the fate of the train. Who knows, you may even learn a spell or two.

In short, Horror on the Orient Express: The Board Game is a co-operative game in which you and other investigators have to survive on the doomed train. To win, you must discover and hunt out the cultists to stop them performing a hideous ritual, as well as ensuring that the train reaches its destination. With all manner of dangers facing you, the challenge is to survive, stop the horrors of the Dreamlands, and prevent calamity.

KeyForge: Winds of Exchange, the first KeyForge release since 2021’s KeyForge: Dark Tidings and the first release from new publisher Ghost Galaxy, has an August 4, 2023 release date from distributor Asmodee North America, so while Asmodee has not confirmed that it will be available at Gen Con 2023, I would bet on it being available.

This new set introduces an eleventh house to the game of KeyForge, which debuted with a bang in 2018 and ran aground in 2021 when computer troubles prevented production of Winds of Exchange. Christian Petersen’s Ghost Galaxy acquired KeyForge in 2022, ran a crowdfunding campaign that collected more than US$1 million, and is now effectively launching KeyForge anew.

Aside from KeyForge: Winds of Exchange, each pack of which is a standalone deck that can be played against any other deck, Ghost Galaxy is releasing the KeyForge: 2 Player Starter Set.

This item is similar to earlier boxed KeyForge sets, but not identical. It contains two pre-constructed decks, tokens, and a learn-to-play booklet that guides you through a game session turn by turn. It also contains two Winds of Exchange packs that will have random decks, so once you know how to play, you can open them to discover two unique decks — but in the future this same starter set will be sold with two of the latest KeyForge release, whatever that happens to be.

The idea behind this change is that once you know KeyForge, you’ll never need a starter set again, and stores that carry KeyForge have an always up-to-date item to sell without needing to track extra SKUs. (If you’ve worked in retail, you know SKU management is a big, annoying deal.)

To complicate the SKU picture, however, Ghost Galaxy will publish KeyForge: Unchained, a non-tournament legal release with decks that don’t follow normal deck-construction guidelines. To quote the publisher: “Unchained decks will give players decks that can’t be found anywhere else. More Action, Artifacts, or Creature cards than what can be found in a standard KF deck.”

The idea behind KeyForge: Unchained is that these decks are promotional items that stores can get only if they’re involved with special KeyForge events, thereby allowing stores to give players an extra incentive to participate in these events.

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