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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Herd Dragons, Build a Temple from Ice, and Travel Europe with Celts at SPIEL ’23

by W. Eric Martin

Publishers have been previewing games that they plan to release at SPIEL ’23, so let’s take a peek at what they’re offering:

Drachenhüter (“Dragonkeeper”) appears to be a small card game from KOSMOS with design and art by Michael Menzel.

Here’s the brief pitch on this 2-4 player game:

Two stacks of cards form the “Magic Book”, which indicates which and how many dragons can be herded. With each card taken by the player magicians, this information changes, but luckily you can cast spells and return your cards to the Magic Book to change it in your favor and score! But which of your dragons can you spare to cast spells?

• The second title revealed by KOSMOS is Nunatak, which is a geological term for a hill or mountain completely surrounded by glacial ice.

In this three-dimensional construction game for 2-4 players from Kane Klenko, you build a step pyramid together in a mountain of ice — but this game isn’t co-operative, so watch your step! In brief:

For each pillar stone placed, you receive cards with different values that will affect your score at game’s end. For every four pillars built in a square, a new level of the monument opens up, with the temple of ice growing step by step. Who can place their stones most wisely and rise to the icy challenge?

• After debuting with Applejack at SPIEL ’22, German publisher The Game Builders is going larger with its next release: Arbor, with design courtesy of Uwe Rosenberg, Michael Keller, and Andreas “ode.” Odendahl.

Here are pics of the prototype from LeiriaCon 2023, a game convention in Portugal that took place on March 23-26:



• Speaking of Portugal, designer Orlando Sá and publisher PYTHAGORAS are prepping the 1-4 player game Celtae for release at SPIEL ’23. Here’s an overview:

Celt — Latin Celta, plural Celtae — were an early Indo-European people who from the second millennium BCE to the first century BCE spread over much of Europe. Their tribes and groups eventually ranged from the British Isles and Portugal to as far east as Transylvania, the Black Sea coasts, and Galatia in Anatolia, and they were in part absorbed into the Roman Empire as Britons, Gauls, Boii, Galatians, Celtiberians, and Lusitans.

Cover artwork by Mihajlo Dimitrievski

Celtae is a “worker swapping” game powered by a rondel in which players choose actions to perform during their turn. On their turn, players swap one of their three active workers with one of the three workers on the action space they wish to perform, then they perform the action — which will be boosted if they have in their worker pool specific types of workers: farmers, builders, soldiers, and nobles.

—The farming action allows players to draw cards, and it’s boosted by farmers. Cards have three types of uses in the game: building, preparing for battle, and engaging with the druid order.

—The build action allows players to build and expand citadels on the board by placing their discs on them, and it’s boosted by builders. At game’s end, only completed citadels will score, and players have to work together to complete them and score their presence on them.

—The battle action, which is boosted by soldiers, allows players to defeat increasingly stronger Roman armies and to garrison the outskirts of the citadels on the map.

—The recruit action, boosted by nobles, allows players to recruit workers to their tribe, increasing the number of available workers to boost future actions. However, if you manage to send certain types of workers from your tribe into the druid order, you’ll get their favor and a druid worker who functions like a joker and boosts almost every type of action.

Each time players engage with the druid order, battle a Roman army, or build in a citadel, they gain a bonus that was randomly assigned during set-up. The combination of these bonuses with a timely performed action often results in powerful combos.

Playtesting the game in March 2023

Every player has a leader card assigned to their tribe at the beginning of the game. If the player meets the requirements of their leader, they can decide to leave it like that and gain a small number of points at game’s end or forfeit those meager points and flip it to its heroic side, which has much harder requirements for much larger endgame points.

Each time the action marker on the rondel completes a full turn, the player who currently holds the favor of Teutates places a progress marker on one of the progress cards next to the game board. At game’s end, only progress cards with progress markers will score, so as the game advances, players determine what will score…and what will not.


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