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Create SpellBooks, Escape from Sharks, Ride Dinosaurs, and Build Islands at Gen Con 2023

by W. Eric Martin

• With Paolo Mori‘s Archeos Society on the market in Europe and due out in the U.S. on June 23, 2023 — designer diary to come! — French publisher Space Cowboys has announced its next release: SpellBook, a 1-4 player game from Phil Walker-Harding. An overview:

Become the greatest wizard of the Annual Grand Rite by collecting and managing your Materia to feed your familiar and learn your spells. Act quickly to use your powers early…or wait to unleash them at full strength. Your path to victory is full of choices and combined tactics!

In SpellBook, each player, accompanied by a familiar, possesses a grimoire and collects Materia to master spells and feed their familiar. The game provides pre-drawn spell sets for use in the early rounds, but soon players start drawing spells randomly or create their own spell combinations that are common to all players. Each spell combination gives an effect that lasts the rest of the game, and the more ingenious the combination, the more powerful the effect. As the rounds progress, the game becomes a different experience every time, with more than 2,100 spell combinations being possible.

The game ends as soon as a magician’s grimoire is complete or a familiar is fully fed, then the player with the most points wins.

SpellBook includes a solo mode that closely mirrors the multiplayer experience, offering a high level of challenge and an excellent way to learn the game’s rules.

In a press release announcing the game, Walker-Harding says, “SpellBook is the result of my fascination with rummy combinations. Learning spells turned out to be the perfect theme, and the game came to life thanks to the extraordinary work of Space Cowboys. I hope players will enjoy learning some magic tricks!”

SpellBook is due out September 29, 2023, with demos at Gen Con 2023 and according to distributor Asmodee NA, “a few early boxes available for sale”.

• What else can you demo at Gen Con 2023? How about Kelp, a 2024 release from designer Carl Robinson and publisher Wonderbow Games?

Here’s a rundown of this two-player game that features another killer cover from Weberson Santiago:

Sunlight filters down through the sparkling water as the kelp sways back and forth with the rhythm of the tide. In the shadows deeper down, an octopus slinks by. Eyes watching. Tentacles touching. Searching for food, it squeezes between two rocks covered in sea urchins, hoping anything that follows will get trapped there. If it can score a meal, then life will be that little bit easier, but the most important thing above all is survival. For a moment, it hesitates and not a moment too soon…

A flash of blue-grey catches the octopus’ attention — it’s a pyjama shark on the prowl. Ruthless and determined, the shark is driven by one thing, and attacking the octopus is it. In this battle for survival, there can be only one winner.

In Kelp, players take on the role of the octopus or the shark, with each player having a unique path to victory. The octopus player sneaks around on the board by playing cards and managing their hidden and revealed pieces, while the shark player patrols their territory and tries to hunt down the elusive octopus by rolling dice and using special abilities to mitigate their luck. This asymmetrical game is a mix of deck-building and dice bag-building, as well as hide-and-seek, bluffing, and manipulation.

The player who controls the octopus wins by surviving until the end of the game or by successfully hunting four food sources. The player who controls the shark wins by successfully attacking the octopus.

• Thames & Kosmos, the U.S. branch of KOSMOS, has confirmed that Reiner Knizia‘s My Island, a standalone sequel to his 2020 Spiel des Jahres-nominee My City, will be available for demo at Gen Con 2023, with the game due out in the U.S. in Q3 2023 — possibly earlier than the German edition will hit the market!

The publisher will also demo Michael Rieneck‘s The Lord of the Rings: Adventure to Mount Doom and Michael Menzel‘s The Legends of Andor: The Eternal Frost. If the shipping wizards do their magic and octopuses don’t interfere, maybe copies will show up in time for sales at the show, but demos are guaranteed to happen.

Mindclash Games will also be at Gen Con 2023 to demo a game due out in 2024 — two games actually, although they’re packaged in the same box: Perseverance: Castaway Chronicles – Episodes 3 & 4.

These games from Richard Amann, Thomas Vande Ginste, Viktor Peter, and Dávid Turczi continue the story begun in 2022’s Perseverance: Castaway Chronicles – Episodes 1 & 2 of time-lost survivors on a dinosaur island, with the games being playable on their own or in sequence as one continuous story.

Here’s a bit of the setting and what’s new in Episode 3:

As the months since the shipwreck turn into years and memories of our past life fade, we now call this strange new land our home. Perseverance has grown from a weathered foothold to a bustling city, where new landmarks improve our living standards and expansive ranches contribute to society’s welfare and the ongoing exploration. The once ferocious Shieldheads now walk among us tamed, and our brave Dino Riders are finally able to chart even the most distant parts of the wilderness.

They come back with tales of abandoned structures in the far reaches of the island, similar to the one that held the secret of Shieldhead taming. If the rumors are true, we may be able to make our peace with even the stalwart Thunderhorns and the fearsome Ironjaws, and our society’s influence will soon span the entire island!

In Episode 3, Perseverance is finally safe from the dinosaur attacks and has grown into a bustling city. As players discover how to tame and ride the dinosaurs (including the new Thunderhorn and Ironjaw species), as their primary action, they may now choose to send a Dino Rider into the far reaches of the island instead of placing a die in the city. Besides streamlining some of the usual area majority elements, Episode 3 takes a new approach, focusing on engine and tableau building. City landmarks provide powerful passive benefits, while players may build and customize their own ranches on their player boards, activating them as a secondary action using the new supply resource acquired from the wilderness.


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