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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Control Barbarian Kingdoms, Build Sylvan Dale, and Develop Altay: Dawn of Civilization

by W. Eric Martin

Italian publisher Ares Games releases games of its own, in addition to distributing titles from others, and it’s announced new titles due out in the second half of 2024, in addition to updates on other titles previously revealed.

Ian Brody‘s War of the Rings: The Card Game – Fire and Swords, the second expansion in this game series, was revealed at Gen Con 2023 and is now scheduled for release in June 2024. It includes new paths and battlegrounds; new scenarios for the base game, including one for up to six players; and sixty faction cards that introduce three new factions: Northmen for the Free Peoples; and Easterlings and Ruffians for the Shadow.

Additionally, it features 13 skirmishes, “a new type of battleground to represent the smaller settlements and fortifications of the War of the Ring, places like the Fords of Isen and Bree”.

Sword & Sorcery: Ancient Chronicles – Northwind Tales, a Simone Romano and Nunzio Surace design co-published by Gremlin Project, will see a retail release in mid-2024.

Viking Route is a co-operative game for 1-4 players from Guido Albini, Martino Chiacchiera, and Luca Maragno that uses the “compass-and-magnets” movement mechanism from Chiacchiera’s game The Faceless in a vastly different setting:

In Viking Route, your heroes sail a magical Drakkar to the World’s Edge and beyond. Influenced by magical ravens sent by Odin to steer your course, and by the winds of Fate, you will face powerful and monstrous creatures out of the Norse mythos to fulfill your quests and prepare you for the final challenge to defeat the greatest enemy of the Gods and prevent Ragnarok!

The main game piece — the Drakkar — is represented by a compass, and multiple magnets (representing ravens and wind) are manipulated by players to steer the course of their ship.

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This mechanism is only one of the elements under control of the players, who also have to manage the resources of the Drakkar and their hand of cards to face opponents and achieve the goals of their quests. Multiple quests, using different board layouts, are included in the game; quests can be played either independently, or as a continuing campaign, ending in a final climactic confrontation to avoid Ragnarok.

Altay: Dawn of Civilization has been the BGG database for three years with no release date attached to it, but now Ares states that this 2-4 player design from Paolo Mori and Ole Steiness will be released in the second half of 2024.

Here’s background on the setting of this game that the publisher describes as an “original blend of deck-building, civilization development, and area expansion”:

For endless years in a secluded region deep in the heart of a vast continent, four mysterious people have been developing different cultures, merging magic and technology in a delicate balance with nature and among themselves. Now, they must face a challenge: the arrival of new settlers, bringing with them more advanced crafts and technologies, new weapons and fighting techniques, and an entirely different lifestyle.

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As the leader of one of the original inhabitants of Altay, how will you react to this challenge? Will you be open to accepting the new settlers and merging with them, or will you focus on your ancient traditions? Will you expand your kingdom or develop new knowledge? Will you build monuments to last forever, or crush your enemies with your armies?

In the game, players control one of four factions, each represented by a starting deck with unique cards and with subtle differences in the number of “basic” cards. Each turn, players use their cards to produce resources (stone, metal, wood, knowledge), build new settlements and expand on the board, attack or defend against their enemies, or manipulate their decks or card hand.

The game board represents one of the regions where the four people are in conflict with one another, with each area characterized by a different terrain type and the presence of different resources. Card-playing and board expansions are fully integrated, as many cards will have greater effects if you control the right territories. Using the resources produced by their cards or collected from the board, players can acquire and add to their deck new cards, representing the new settlers and their crafts.

Players can also spend resources to develop “achievements” — special cards that are permanently added to a faction, granting it additional capabilities or providing points.

Victory is granted by the combination of territorial expansion, technological development, and the success in creating long-lasting memories of your civilization’s achievements.

Peter Ridgeway‘s Builders of Sylvan Dale has a more concise description than the previous two titles, but you can still get the gist of what’s going on:

After the Great Disasters, a new chapter in Sylvan Dale’s history has begun. The Elders have called on you and your fellow architects to design a new woodland realm — a haven perched in the high embrace of the Great Trees. Guide the builders of Sylvan Dale as they construct dwellings, bridges, and hanging courtyards.

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Builders of Sylvan Dale is a unique three-dimensional tile placement game in which you play a card and place a new building tile on top of the ever-taller trees in the forest, collecting sets of cards to gain special actions. Get your buildings to stand out high on the trees above those of your peers, and brighten the forest with your colors.

• Finally, in April 2024 Ares Games plans to distribute Barbarian Kingdoms, a Christophe Lebrun design that first-time publisher Jester crowdfunded in 2022.

Here’s an overview of this 3-6 player game:

As the Hun horde swept across Europe, they forced the Germanic tribes into exodus. These warlike peoples spread within the borders of the Western Empire and, by dint of looting and war, will eventually cause the collapse of the Empire. In the twilight of antiquity and at the dawn of the Middle Ages, the so-called “barbarian nations” founded kingdoms on the former imperial territory.

In Barbarian Kingdoms, an asymmetrical and competitive strategy game, each player controls their own nascent kingdom and competes for supremacy over Western Europe. The first player to control seven territories or to eliminate two opposing kings wins. On a turn, each player chooses and resolves a single action of their choice:

— Recruitment: deploy a warrior from the reserve by paying a cost

— Taxation: collect money from the provinces in their kingdom

— Assault: invade a province or attack an enemy unit

— Maneuvers: reposition their units in their provinces or towards the sea

— Claim: try to take control of a province by paying a cost

Assault and claim actions can be immediately challenged by an opponent and resolved by a battle. During the battle, a bribe may be paid to the opponent to try to reverse the outcome.

Players must be vigilant in positioning their forces (with the constraint of a maximum of one unit per province), keep an eye on their opponents, and take advantage of their two asymmetrical powers: that of their kingdom and that of their king.


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