• At Gen Con 2023, I played a mixture of new releases and upcoming SPIEL ’23 releases, trying to balance talking about what’s out now between what’s coming in the (near) future. Catch Up Games, for example, showed me its SPIEL ’23 release Faraway, a combo-ish drafting and hand management game for 2-5 players from Johannes Goupy and Corentin Lebrat that will be packaged in four boxes, although the contents of each box are identical.
The game consists of a scorepad and two decks of cards. Cards in the larger square deck are numbered 1-65, with one of four colors on the bottom half, and with some cards having resources at top and some having a scoring condition at bottom and some having both. Cards numbered 21-40 are night cards, while the others are day cards. The smaller rectangular deck has unnumbered cards with the bottom half being in one of five colors and with each card having a resource or scoring condition.
Faraway lasts eight rounds, each of which play out the same way: Choose one of the three cards in your hand, then reveal your choice at the same time as other players, adding your card to the end of your tableau. Whoever played the lowest card drafts one of the available cards from the table, then the next lowest drafts a card, etc.
From the second round on, if the card you play has a higher number than your rightmost card, you draw a card from the smaller deck and place it above your tableau. If you have maps in your tableau, you draw one additional smaller card for each map, then choose one of these cards to put into play, discarding the rest.
The first game was a stinker
Once you’ve played eight rounds, you tally your score — but cards score from right to left, counting only themselves, cards to their right, and cards in your upper tableau, and they score only if you meet the condition on the card!
With the rightmost card above, for example, I needed to have three masks in order to score 3 points for yellow or green card “seen” to that point, but I hadn’t seen three masks, so I scored nothing for that card. I scored 4 from the green card with no condition, but I whiffed on the yellow card to its left, then scored 10 from the blue card for having seen a set of all four colors. (If I had seen two sets, I would have scored 20 points.)
Thus, in your first game of Faraway, you will probably do terrible, just as I did. (If you do well, don’t tell me about it!) Cards with low numbers tend to have more resources, and you want to play them to the right of your tableau so that you’ll have those resources for the scoring cards to their left — but scoring cards have higher numbers, and if you play a low card after a high one, you don’t get the bonus small card, and you want those small cards because they will often fuel your scoring cards, in addition to scoring on their own.
I played two games of Faraway with Catch Up’s Matthieu Bonin, and I scored way higher in the second game, thanks to (1) knowing what I was doing and (2) drafting my starting hand.
When you know the game, you start by drawing five cards and keeping three of them, which lets you craft an opening. I had 44 and 49 in my starting hand, and both of them required a stone and mask to score (with 49 needing a second stone), and 49 was blue, so it would score for 44. By chance, I picked up 46 in the draft as Matthieu had played a higher card, then I got 48 as well, so I drew lots of small cards, with maps giving me the opportunity to take resources that I would need — and thanks to those resources, I could make better choices of which large cards to play.
In your first game, however, drafting makes no sense because you don’t know how the rest of the game will play out, so get your terrible learning game out of the way, then draft!
This two-player game has you re-enact the final match of the 1972 World Chess Championship between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. Each player represents one of these individuals and has a custom deck of 16 cards that reflect their playing style. At the start of each round, you draw cards to your hand limit and collect pawns based on your “mental endurance” level.
Spassky starts with the white queen, which indicates the first player in the round, and since Spassky plays white, Fischer plays black. Why this matters is that you can play cards from your hand only of your current color; each card can be played as white or black, but they have a special power only when played for one of the colors. The two cards at right in my hand below are more powerful when played as white instead of black.
The lead player places a card in an unoccupied lane of their choice, then adds 0-2 pawns to this lane; the strength of the played card increases by 1 for each such pawn. The opposing player plays a card, then they compare strengths. If they tie, nothing happens and the opponent plays first into an unoccupied lane. If one player has a higher strength, the loser of that lane carries out the effect on their card (if any), then the winner gains advantage points equal to the value of the lane (1-4).
When all four lanes are filled or the player who is ahead in advantage can’t be caught, the round ends, and the player with the overall advantage moves their king one space toward victory. If the players are tied, each player advances their king. The white queen changes hands, then player begin a new round.
Candice, trying to intimidate me
Before starting that round and filling their hand, however, players can dump cards in the hope of drawing something more useful. Unfortunately, each time you shuffle your discards to form a new deck, and each time you win the 4-advantage lane, your mental endurance decreases by one. As your mental endurance drops, your hand size might shrink, you might receive fewer pawns at the start of a round, and you might start at a deficit on the advantage track.
Card effects will let you gain mental endurance or force your opponent to lose it, ideally giving you more options and a better start to the round while constricting them.
Whoever moves their king to the center of the match track first wins, with Spassky winning in the event of a tie since he was the reigning champion at the time.
• CDSK is a trivia game being released in English by Canadian publisher Randolph, which in 2020 released this Vincent Burger design in French under the name TTMC: Tu te mets combien?, which seems to mean something like “How much do you want to take on?”
That name would be an odd one on U.S. shelves, so the publisher went with CDSK…which is not necessarily less odd, but the idea is that you will answer questions in four categories: Curious, Delightful, Seasoned, and Knowledge.
You can play individually or in teams, and your goal is to be the first to reach the end of the path, then answer a question. On a turn, someone else will pull a card with ten questions on it from the category matching your location (C,D,S,K), then read you the top line, which is always “On a scale of 1 to 10, how well do you know…” whatever the topic is, such as World War 1, the British Empire, 1990s Boy Bands, and so on. You then choose the difficulty level that you want to answer, the other person reads the question, and if you answer correctly, you move forward a number of spaces equal to the difficulty of the question.
Instead of being on C,D,S,K, you might be on a category space, and if so, someone else will read the category card, which will be a challenge like “In 30 seconds, name seven U.S. states that have stars in their flags” or “Which of these Oreo brands actually existed?” You move forward one space for each correct answer.
If you reach the end of the track, someone else will read a “Hurry Up and Win” question. Get this correct, and you win the game; if not, you’ll get another shot next turn.
As with many trivia games, you sometimes get a lucky category and can give a high number to jump ahead; one of my teammates aced the Oreo question on their own, for example, scoring us 10 points. Sometimes you get a category that no one knows anything about, but even then you can probably get the 2-3 level correct because the question level is so basic. (Level 1 questions tend to be jokes that you couldn’t possibly get wrong unless you’re trying to do so.)
I played CDSK 1.5 times at Gen Con 2023, with the half game coming from me passing a table with people I know and them roping me in. CDSK works like Codewords in that it’s a low-stakes game that people can join or leave as necessary, assuming that you’re playing in teams.
The hidden “press your luck” element is a nice feature of the design. When you answer correctly, you wonder, should we have gone one level higher? Maybe two? Where is the tipping point for the end of your knowledge? And this element adds excitement to the endgame as other teams can take chances to try to catch the leader. “Go for 10!” was heard at the table many times in our games…
• Randolph originated as a chain of gaming pubs in Quebec, so it’s no surprise that its games are aimed at a mainstream audience. During a meeting, director of the Randolph studio Joël Gagnon told me that Romi Rami, a 2-4 player game from Antoine Lefebvre, is an attempt to release a new rummy game accessible to card players of all types, with a bit extra for gamers who are optimizing their play.
Romi Rami uses a deck of cards that are numbered 1-5 in four suits. Each player has a hand of three cards, and the public market is filled with six face-up number cards and four face-up contract cards. Throw the four trophy tokens in the air to determine the endgame bonuses.
On a turn, pick up cards from the market; all cards must share either a number or a suit, and you can pick up at most three cards. Then if you can fulfill a contract by discarding the proper cards, you can choose to do so, claiming that contract. At the end of your turn, refill the market. When a player has claimed a certain number of contracts, which varies by player count, complete the round, then tally everyone’s points, with the trophies going to the single player who best meets the condition on the contracts that they claimed, e.g., collect the most hearts, the most five-card combos, etc.
Contracts are basic things like a full house (as seen on the right above), three pair (next to the full house), a run of three cards and five-of-a-kind, and a pair of 1s and four-of-a-kind.
You need to be flexible in what you’re collecting because (1) you can’t always claim a contract with the cards you picked up that turn and (2) others will swipe the contracts you wanted to claim. The maximum hand size is ten cards, so you can’t just collect cards forever a là Ticket to Ride, but ideally you have options and a favorable market that lets you pick up many cards at once. (Try not to leave a favorable market for others, of course.)