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Discover the Origins of King of Tokyo, Flip Circus Performers, and Ready Your Table for Little Soldiers

by W. Eric Martin

To get back to SPIEL Essen 23 coverage, let me take you on a tour of the media room for French publisher IELLO, which showed off many titles on its 2024 release schedule.

• To start, Richard Garfield‘s King of Tokyo: Origins is a new standalone game in the King of Tokyo series that’s meant to serve as an entry point for new players since it’s a smaller, more affordable package. The game includes four new monsters, an assortment of new power cards mixed with older ones, energy cubes, and green dice with yellow characters.

In the United States, King of Tokyo: Origins will be sold exclusively at the Target retail chain, while in France it will be available in all stores for a price of €26.50. As for availability in other countries, time will reveal who has licensed this design as that information was not available during the show.

Where did you come from, Cosmic-Eye Joe?

Gameplay remains the same as in the original King of Tokyo: To win, be the first to score 20 points or be the only creature still standing.

On a turn, roll six dice, which show the following six symbols: 1, 2, or 3 points, energy, heal, and attack. Over three successive throws, choose whether to keep or discard each die in order to win points, gain energy, restore health, or attack other players. When you attack, if you’re outside Tokyo, you hit whoever is in Tokyo; if you’re in Tokyo, you hit everyone else! If someone’s health drops to 0, they’re out of the game. (You can’t heal damage while in Tokyo, and the only way to leave town is to have someone attack you…which might put you at death’s door.)

Sample cards from King of Tokyo: Origins

When you gain energy, you store it in cubes, which you can use to purchase power cards, which have a permanent or temporary effect.

• IELLO also had a mock-up of a poster that lists 92 monsters for King of Tokyo, with depictions of 88 of them. This poster shows all official monsters, along with their year of release and origin — although the four listed as “Coming soon” don’t match those in King of Tokyo: Origins, so….?

The publisher is still deciding how it wants to make the poster available since it’s not an item that would travel well to retail outlets, so you might see this only at conventions or in tournaments — which, of course, is how many of these monsters were originally released, so something along those lines wouldn’t be unusual. We’ll see…

I’m amused that one of Garfield’s initial concepts for Magic: The Gathering was that rare cards would actually be rare, and you might discover that a card exists only by having someone play it against you in a game. The wildfire success of M:TG destroyed that possibility, but King of Tokyo monsters have largely followed that path, with some being unique to a country, others coming from tournaments, and still others winning a “Create a Monster” contest on BGG.

Bruno Faidutti and Alan R. Moon‘s great press-your-luck game Diamant will be released in a new edition in 2024, with new art by Paul Mafayon and a retail price of only €20.

Note that this edition will not be available in the United States since Eagle-Gryphon Games still has this design on the market under the name Incan Gold.

I’ve probably missed an edition or two since I own both the original 2005 edition and an earlier IELLO one, but I’m delighted to see in this edition that the player cards clearly represent whether you are choosing to go further into the cave (by showing a torch) or return to camp (by showing the camp!), unlike early editions of Incan Gold in which you could easily misunderstand which card meant what.

• Another new edition hitting the market is Clash of Magic Schools, a re-themed version of the 2000 two-player game Babel from designers Hagen Dorgathen and Uwe Rosenberg, the former of whom has never released another game and the latter of whom has released at least one other game.

Clash of Magic Schools is due out in France before the end of 2023 and in the U.S. in Q1 2024. The description of the new title on the BGG page is brief:

In Clash of Magic Schools, each player is the headmaster of one of the magic schools facing each other in the finals of the Tournament of Sorcerers. Be prepared to do anything it takes to help your school win this prestigious challenge.

During the game, send your students to face danger in a series of perilous trials across different arenas, while knowing that the rival school will try to steal victory from you at any cost, even by using forbidden magic.

After all these years, I still haven’t played Babel. Now I can not play Clash of Magic Schools as well, I suppose.

• Another two-player game in IELLO’s 2024 line-up is Flip Circus from Julien Gerard, with this being a 15-minute game that takes up little table space, but ideally a decent amount of head space:

In Flip Circus, the artists amaze the crowd as they move about the stage, but you have a larger goal in mind: using their special powers — and your recollection of which artists are where on each side of the tokens — to line up three artists of the same type. Do that, and you collect their portrait from the poster.

Collect three of the five portraits and you win — or maybe you’ll find the five clowns to let you honk your way to the victory circle…

• IELLO is doing its own take on the “escape room” genre with a new line titled “Guilty”. The first release, due out in the first half of 2024, is Guilty: Houston 2015 from Yohan Servais, with the playstyle blending Unlock! and Detective and the setting being along the lines of “Orange Is The New Black”:

Someone has died in the county women’s prison — and not just anyone, but Senator Kowalsky’s daughter.

You’re heading to the prison now with a press conference scheduled for tomorrow at which you have to explain what happened, so you need to find answers over the next few hours.

Mock-up at SPIEL Essen 23

To start Guilty: Houston 2015, you’ll read the introduction, then place the specified cards on the table. Choose a card, then turn it over and read it. What will you find there? Time will keep passing, possibly leading to surprises before you face the journalist pack at game’s end to answer their questions as best as you can.

The game takes 3-4 hours to play, and it will be followed by Guilty: Monaco 1955.

• Another first half of 2024 release is Ancient Knowledge: Heritage, an expansion for Rémi Mathieu‘s 2023 civilization-building game Ancient Knowledge that consists of three elements:

— 16 solo mode cards that allow you to play a campaign. You choose 1-5 objectives, placing them in the artifact slots on the player board (and thereby denying you the potential use of artifacts!), and whichever objectives you complete become powers that you can employ in future games.

Mock-up at SPIEL Essen 23

— 11 cards that you can use in place of the “take that” cards in the original base game should you prefer to do so.

— 36 new builder cards and 12 new technology cards that you can shuffle into the decks, making them 25% larger.

Mathieu has also developed rules in both English and French for a “team play” mode that allows four players to finish in roughly one hour.

• IELLO gave a sneak peek at its Gen Con 2024 release: Little Soldiers, a wargame/party game combo from Florent Baudry and Adrien Fenouillet, based on a concept from Cédric Barbé.

The concept is straightforward: Instead of clearing your table after a meal or homework or whatever, use all of the material on the table for the landscape in a wargame. The initial box is labeled “green vs. yellow”, with each player having five plastic soldiers, cards for those soldiers, action cards, combat dice, a grenade die, “shoelaces of movement”, and other stuff. The game includes multiple scenarios/missions as well as rules for a team mode.

As you might imagine, the Little Soldiers system could be expanded with additional soldiers, with soldiers in different colors, with vehicles, with new actions, and so on.

Pretzel foxhole

• IELLO also highlighted its jigsaw puzzle line, which consists of 500- and 1,000-piece puzzles featuring art from its game line:

Along with “twist” jigsaw puzzles that depict scenes from Royal Visit, Ancient Knowledge, or other games on the box, with the puzzle itself showing the same scene at a later point in time, possibly many years later:

And with a jigsaw puzzle/mystery combo in which you first assemble the pieces, then use the cards to re-visit scenes within the puzzle to…do something.

• Finally, IELLO is the worldwide distributor for the Unmatched game line from Restoration Games, and at SPIEL Essen 23 it showed off acrylic sidekick tokens that can be used in place of what’s included in the boxes.

The IELLO rep mentioned that these token packs will likely be tournament prizes, although the distribution plans haven’t yet been finalized — or at least not yet announced. As is often the case in Essen, sometimes I get partial information in advance, so hold off on swamping Restoration or IELLO with questions right now, and see what gets announced down the road…


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