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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Assemble Sideboards, Capture Courtiers, Avoid the Middle Ground, and Grab — Then Ditch — the Bottle Imp

by W. Eric Martin

• With Spielwarenmesse — the annual toy and game fair in Nürnberg — now underway, German publisher NSV has announced one new title for release in Q2 2024: Sideboards, a 1-6 player game from Hartwig Jakubik in which you score by arranging your drawers the right way.

Yes, you read that right. Here’s how it works:

Each player in Sideboards creates an eight-card sideboard, then sees how they fare against everyone else.

In more detail, the deck contains sideboard cards that each feature five differently-colored drawers on top of one another, with drawer handles of three types. On a turn, everyone plays simultaneously, choosing and playing a card from their hand, passing their remaining card clockwise, then drawing a new card. (On your first turn, however, you start with three cards, play two, then pass the remaining one.) After everyone has played eight cards, you tally your score.

What are you scoring? Three task cards are in play each game from a deck of thirty. One task challenges you to arrange drawer colors in a particular pattern. Another forces you to consider the arrangement and type of handles. The third lets you score for creating rows of color or handles.

Sideboards includes a solo mode in which you compete against yourself for a high score.

• In separate posts in April 2023 and October 2023, I covered two upcoming card games from New Mill Industries: Daniel Kenel‘s Gnaughty Gnomes, a team game for four players in which you win actions on a game board based on your position in a trick, with players trying to gather mushrooms and control parts of the forest, and Carol LaGrow‘s The Six of VIII, a game based on the six wives of King Henry VIII, with the game being played on a timeline in which each Queen’s suit is trump during her reign. The suits, and the years on the timeline, are proportional to the lengths of the reign of each Queen.

New Mill had initially planned to crowdfund these titles, but is now just taking pre-orders directly through the end of February 2024 for delivery in May 2024.

Through its Little Dog Games imprint, New Mill will release an edition of Schafkopf with art and graphic design by Sai Beppu. New Mill’s Daniel Newman describes titles from the imprint this way: “Essentially, they’re games where the designer hands me the finished print files, and I run a pre-order, submit the files for production, and handle fulfillment for. I’ve been calling it ‘Consignment Publishing’. Designers get more of a cut than the standard New Mill treatment, but I also do less of the up-front work. I’ve been talking to a few other designers about more games to run this way in the future, so keep an eye out for more announcements soon.”

New editions of Hinata Origuchi‘s Seven Prophecies and Hugame‘s Backhander (now titled The Icarus Club) will come from New Mill in June 2024, as opposed to the previously announced April 2024.

In the former game, you know what the lead suit will be in each trick of the hand, and you attempt to predict exactly how many times you’ll be first in a trick as well as second, third, and fourth. In the latter, players are gambling in a casino and trying to win the secondmost money because the big winner will be picked up by the police. The lead suit of each trick is dictated, as in Seven Prophecies, but players can use bribes to alter the line-up, which can change the result of tricks played.

October 2024 will bring new editions of Kazuma Suzuki‘s Somnia, in which you must score the most or fewest points each round or else lose a life, and Fukutarou‘s Idle Hands, in which mission cards determine a trick’s lead suit, with the winner taking on that mission…which might not be good.

And February 2025 will bring Sean Ross and Hanibal Sonderegger‘s Dickory, in which card ranks cycle over the course of play, and Sean Ross’s Greasy Spoon, in which two players have a ladder-climbing game about serving menu items to empty their larder first.

• In 2024, French publisher Matagot will release a new edition of Günter Cornett‘s card game The Bottle Imp, with the game losing its definite article in the process.

For those who haven’t played, Bottle Imp is a trick-taking game that contains a deck of cards numbered 1-37 in three suits. The 19 card starts underneath the bottle, setting its “price”.

In general, one player leads the first trick, and everyone else must play a card of the same suit, if possible. The highest card played (regardless of suit) wins the trick and collects the cards…unless a card is played below the price of the bottle, in which case the highest card below the current price wins, with that player taking possession of the bottle (and the trick) and adjusting the bottle’s price to the card they played.

Thus, cards below the price of the bottle are trump and help you win tricks. Unfortunately, the bottle is cursed (as in the Robert Louis Stevenson story that inspired this game), and whoever holds the bottle at the end of the round loses points based on the cards that players ditched at the start of a round, winning zero points for all tricks claimed. Cards are worth 1-6 points, and the tricky aspects of the game come from you judging your hand at the start to decide how much to poison the bottle (or short suit yourself) and ideally controlling the bottle just long enough to win tricks before forcing someone else to “win” it.

Matagot notes that its edition of Bottle Imp will have a five- and six-player mode, as well as a team mode for 4-6 players. Note the 32.5 card in the image above; it features a small 6 in a bottle, presumably indicating that this card is used solely with six players.

In the press release announcing this edition, Cornett says, “The idea to implement a 5 to 6 player version in Bottle Imp resulted in an exciting game, thanks to intensive plays with a group of hooked testers. I’m really happy with all the changes we’ve made to this game, and I thank Matagot for bringing me back to game design.” I hadn’t thought of Cornett as having left game design, but his most recent release was 2016’s Agamemnon, so yeah, it’s been a while.

• Speaking of new editions, Spanish publisher Maldito Games will release its own version of Urs Hostettler‘s card game Tichu in 2024, but to date it’s revealed only the cover, so for now you’ll have to imagine the rest of the cards based on how this looks:


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