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Games Seen at Gen Con 2023 IV: Mists of Misterra, Magic Maze Tower, Open Season, and Time Division

by W. Eric Martin

Good gosh, I got distracted by SPIEL ’23 info and still haven’t finished covering Gen Con 2023…although in some cases the games to be mentioned overlap, so I’ll be doing two jobs at once, at least with this first item.

• In addition to selling new release Redwood, which I covered in October 2022, Belgian publisher Sit Down! will debut Maps of Misterra from designers Mathieu Bossu, Thomas Cariate, and Timothée Decroix.

This 1-4 player game works as follows:

You play as explorers have discovered a mystical and unknown island. Your goal: Explore the island and complete your personal and hidden objectives while proposing a correct cartography of the island to earn maximum points.

To set up, place a central board representing the island on the table, and give each player a personal map they will use to transcribe their discoveries. Each turn, players choose two actions among these:

— Move their explorer pawn on the central board.

— Discover new terrains close to your explorer pawn, choosing from four randomly drawn tiles.

— Claim control of areas.

A type of terrain on the central island must be explored twice before being validated. Thus, the unvalidated terrain types can change — “You thought you saw grass? You were mistaken.” — and then your personal map will no longer match the central board.

You have to find the ideal balance between your personal objectives, and a correct cartography of the island.

The design sounds very much like a Sit Down! release, with the game having a logic element at its core along the lines of Tiwanaku or Magic Maze in which you’re trying to force what you’re seeing onto others.

• Speaking of Magic Maze, in May 2024 Sit Down! plans to release Magic Maze Tower, a standalone game from Kasper Lapp that retains the feel of the original 2017 title, but scaled down to have the action take place on a single board, i.e. a level.

Many of the Magic Maze elements will be familiar in that you have a number of characters on a level, and you need to move each of them to their matching colored door to escape or move them one at a time to the single dark door to escape. Some spaces allow only one-way travel, and you might need a character to stand on a key so that someone else can move through the matching door. You can’t move through walls or other characters.

That said, each of the five characters has a unique power:

— The elf can pass over another character.

— The barbarian can throw an adjacent character over a space, thereby allowing them to pass a trap.

— The dwarf can cross through orange walls, which are otherwise impenetrable.

— The witch can stand on a portal, then swap places with another character.

— The little sister moves by teleporting, which means she ignores movement constraints, but she can teleport only in a straight line and must land adjacent to another character.

You can find more details about Magic Maze Tower here as Sit Down! is inviting level submissions through the end of September 2023, with the goal of including one hundred levels in the box. Admittedly, this is more a collection of puzzles than a game — unless scoring rules are included in the rules — but it’s akin to the original design, so it’s in the BGG database for now.

• Ahead of that title, in February 2024 Sit Down! will release Open Season, a game for 2-4 players from newcomers Amélie Assié and Romain Lisciandro.

In this game, you are monsters trying to assemble a fabulous collection of human heads on your wall. They’ve disturbed you and your fellow monsters for too long, so now it’s time to eliminate them!

Each round you collect two hero cards from the market of five, placing one of them on your board to affect your scoring conditions and the other in your scoring pile. Your player board has placement conditions that affect whether a hero card can be placed face up or face down, which will affect your score, and you can gain bonus actions by collecting similar types of heroes.

• In addition to seeing the titles above at a Gen Con 2023 media event, I got to check out Time Division, a two-player card game from first-time designer Alexander Schreiber that German publisher HeidelBÄR Games will have available in both English and German at SPIEL ’23.

Time Division contains three decks of cards, one each corresponding to a different era — Ancient Egypt, the Dark Ages, and the 1980s — and you can play a short game of only a single era or play a (still fairly short) campaign through all three eras.

At the start of each era, you draft cards by each drawing three at a time from the 18-card deck, then giving one to yourself, one to your opponent, and the final one to the “independent stack”. After drafting, you have a hand of six cards. Whoever starts with the initiative plays a card face up, then the opponent responds. Whoever plays the higher card gains initiative and immediately decides whether to score their own card and allow the effect on the opponent’s card to take effect or vice versa.

The game board has various zones, so you’re trying to use your knowledge of what you’ve given your opponent, what they’ve given you, and which cards have been placed where to determine which card to lead and how to respond. The player with initiative must lead, so the other player gets to counter with knowledge of that card, and cards scored, discarded, or placed in the independent stack won’t always stay put.

Steph and Michael try Time Division at Gen Con 2023

Time Division feels like a game from an earlier era as you are clearly going to play terribly in your first game, and possibly your first several games. You need to have an idea of all the possible cards so that you can bluff, strategize, and otherwise make smart choices, and even though the game includes large playmats that describe the powers of all cards, that’s no substitute for experience.


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