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Games Seen at Gen Con 2023 III: Humanity, Nucleum, Extra Salt, and Hey, That’s My Fish!

by W. Eric Martin

Gen Con started being a SPIEL launching pad for publishers in the early 2010s, with 2012’s Seasons being the first title I recall selling out almost immediately, then becoming the buzz of the show. These days you can expect to find many (typically European) publishers demoing games at Gen Con that will go on sale a few months later.

• Publisher Board&Dice, for example, was selling copies of Dani Garcia‘s Barcelona (designer diary here), but it felt like the spotlight item was Nucleum, a design from Simone Luciani and Dávid Turczi that will debut at SPIEL ’23 in October.

Candice Harris has played Nucleum and will provide details in a future post.

• French publisher Bombyx showed me the cards in Sea Salt & Paper: Extra Salt, an eight-card expansion for 2022’s Sea Salt & Paper from Bruno Cathala and Théo Rivière.

The cards work as follows:

— When paired with a crab, the lobster is worth 1 point and you draw five cards, keep one, then shuffle the others into the deck.

— The cast of crabs is worth 1 point per crab.

— A starfish can be played with a pair of cards that would normally have an effect, and the starfish is worth 2 points on its own, while cancelling the pair’s effect.

— When paired with a swimmer, the jellyfish is worth 1 point and all other players are frozen for a round.

— The seahorse is a joker that can be added to a set in place of an octopus, shell, etc.

Sea Salt & Paper: Extra Salt will debut in France in early September 2023, then be available at SPIEL ’23.

• I’ve already talked about two other Bombyx releases that will be at SPIEL ’23 — Elawa and Knarr — but in addition to those and Extra Salt, the French publisher will debut Humanity from designer Yoann Levet, who first entered the gaming scene in 2012 with Myrmes, which Bombyx plans to reissue in 2024.

Here’s a basic game overview:

Humanity is a game of anticipation, very close to our future (in 2097). In this tile-and-worker placement game, 2-4 players have to manage resources and their time to build a base that will be used by scientific civilian settlers. Players have to assemble the modules produced by the automated station, too, and carry out experiments to further research.

On a turn, you can choose to produce resources or spend them by sending one of your three astronauts to the automated station to get new base modules or carry out experiments to further research. But time is a tool that must be managed as well; the further you go to get a specific module, the later you will get back to your scientific base to connect it…

At Gen Con 2023, Bombyx’s Yann Droumaguet told me that Levet has been working on this design for eight years, researching what would be necessary to establish a space base on Saturn’s moon Titan, and the game will include a “history” of space travel that starts in the 1950s and goes all the way to the setting of this game.

The resources that players must manage in Humanity are ice, methane, and insects, the latter being a source of nutrition. Over three years (rounds), players take actions to advance on both a science track and a point track, with the science track being reset at the end of each year after players score based on the level they reached and how many players had done less research than them.

Each player starts with a 3×3-ish space station of modules and two astronauts. You can move the astronauts through your space station to take actions, or you can visit the central space station to get new modules (which come in one or two colors), acquire your third astronaut, and do other things. Common objectives can be achieve by all players, with a bonus for whoever does them first. Objectives and modules advance in points and power through the years.

Droumaguet wouldn’t allow me to take a photo of Humanity’s cover as he wants to save it for later, but it’s a beaut in the vein of T.I.M.E Stories.

Günter Cornett and Alvydas Jakeliunas‘ game Hey, That’s My Fish! — which debuted in 2003 as Pingvinas from Cornett’s own Bambus Spieleverlag — is due out in a new edition from Next Move Games in Q3 2023. This version isn’t advertised as a 20th anniversary edition, but it’s effectively a 20th anniversary edition.

Gameplay remains the same as in earlier versions and can be succinctly described as follows: Lay out the hex tiles randomly in a grid, then take turns placing your penguins on spaces that have one fish. On a turn, move one of your penguins in a straight line as far as you wish (with empty spaces and penguins blocking further movement), then pick up the tile you vacated. If you can no longer move a penguin, remove all of your penguins from the game, claiming the tiles they were on. Count the number of fish you collected. Whoever scored the most wins.

The main difference with this edition of the game is the inclusion of a modular plastic grid that both makes set up easier (since you can kind of slide tiles across it and they’ll fall into place) and makes gameplay easier (since you can press on the corner or edge of a tile to raise it from the grid).

I recognize that many publishers are moving away from using plastic in games due to environmental concerns, and in general that’s a good thing, but this is one case in which the plastic improves both set-up and gameplay. I’ve played HTMF a half-dozen times over the years, and I recall set-up being tedious and tile pick-up being annoying, with you sometimes wrecking the grid by pushing a tile instead of wedging it out with your nails.

In any case, if you don’t want a version of the game filled with plastic, buy a used copy or wait five or ten years for the next one because Hey, That’s My Fish! is a classic design that should endure for decades to come.


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