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From Pollution to Zombies, From Reapers to the Mountains, and From Rome to the Modern City

by W. Eric Martin

As with humans, the number of dead games far outnumbers the number of those alive and well — but unlike with humans, dead games can come back to life again and again, almost as if they were, I don’t know, an undead creature of some sort. I can’t think of what that creature might be, so instead let me cover a handful of undead games that are re-emerging from the grave:

• In Q1 2024, U.S. publisher Trick or Treat Studios plans to release City of the Living, a Reiner Knizia and Sebastian Bleasdale co-design that first appeared in 2013 as Prosperity from Ystari Games.

Here’s a short description of this 2-4 player game:

The zombies have taken over. We must rebuild, but amongst the masses of dead, our cities of the living must do it better than they did in the past. Hold off the zombies and build up your territory to be declared the best leader!

Andy Van Zandt, developer at Trick or Treat Studios, tells me that the gameplay of the two designs is identical, with City of the Living featuring “a fresh coat of paint and a few graphic design and phrasing nudges to make it feel more intuitive”.

• In October 2021, I first covered Trick or Treat Studios, and one of its future releases was to be “a new version of the deck-building game Nightfall…that will feature Universal classic monsters”.

TOTS has now announced that David Gregg‘s Unchained will debut on January 31, 2024. Here’s how it works:

In Unchained, players draft their initial decks for an asymmetric start, then continue purchasing cards on each of their turns while simultaneously sparring with the other players by attacking and defending with cards in their tableau. In more detail, on a player’s turn, they:

— Spar: Compare their total offense to an opponent’s total defense, with a fatigue card going to the player with the lower value.

— Chain: Play cards from their hand by matching icons; opponents may add to the chain as well.

— Learn: Discard cards for effort, then spend effort to acquire cards.

— Draw: Refill their hand to five cards, shuffling as needed and taking a fatigue card on each shuffle.

Each card can chain into other cards, creating powerful combos. Learn the signature moves of the Universal Monsters and try to stay in the fight the longest. The game continues until all fatigue cards have been taken, at which point the player with the least fatigue wins.

Daniel Newman‘s trick-taking game Reapers from 2021 has been re-issued by Japanese publisher 双子のライオン堂 (Twins Lion Do) as Mountain Photographer — which is a hard turn on subject matter that reverses the Prosperity to City of the Living vibe.

Gameplay remains the same as in the original release. Instead of being dealt a hand of cards, players draft their hand from face-up piles of three cards, they score the lowest card from a trick instead of the trick itself being the score, and they can predict how they’ll do in the hand, which can earn them additional points.

Twins Lion Do crowdfunded this release in April 2023, and it’s now being delivered to backers.

• In 2024, Arcane Wonders plans to release Foundations of Metropolis, a scaled-down version of Emerson Matsuuchi‘s Foundations of Rome that will have tiles instead of miniatures and no expansions available upon launch — just the base game experience for 2-4 players for a lower price and less shelf space. (The image at left is not necessarily final, but taken from the July 2023 game announcement video that I saw only recently.)

• Finally, Fantasia Games plans to release a new edition of Wolfgang Kramer and Markus Lübke‘s Colosseum in 2024, with this game having debuted in 2007 from Days of Wonder before being re-issued in 2017 by Tasty Minstrel Games.

This new edition will feature art and graphics by The Mico and Ian O’Toole, as well as a rules update and new expansion modules.

Additionally, in 2024 Fantasia Games will release Colosseum: Ave Titus, a standalone game from Kramer, Lübke, and Jonny Pac, with art and graphics by O’Toole, that the publisher describes as a “highly-thematic, mid-heavy gamers’ game” in which you organize spectacles in the Colosseum.

As you might expect from that description, Colosseum: Ave Titus is inspired by Colosseum, but the setting is more defined within history: “[T]he game will take place in the specific era of Emperor Titus, who celebrated the inauguration of the Colosseum in 80 AD with a series of games and spectacles that lasted for 100 days, often referred to as ‘The Games of Titus’. These games were a lavish display of entertainment and were intended to demonstrate the wealth, power, and generosity of the emperor. They showcased a diverse array of entertainment and were among the most significant and memorable events in the Colosseum’s history.”


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