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Svarog's Den - Board Games

SPIEL ’23: Coming in 2024 — Civolution, Urbion, Sfynx, River Trek, Fighters of Europe, and The Scepter of Zavandor

by W. Eric Martin

While publishers were finishing booth set-up on Wednesday, October 4 at SPIEL ’23, I had my eyes out for titles due for release in 2024. BGG’s SPIEL ’23 Preview already lists 186 items at the show that are available for demo, so that’s a starting point, but what else do we have beyond that?

• German publisher Deep Print Games is running demo games of Stefan Feld‘s Civolutiontwo daily in English, and two in German — and you need to commit 3-4 hours in order to play, which means at most 64 people will have a shot at playing the full game, and it’s still being developed at this time, so not all details are final. Here’s an overview from the publisher, along with a pic from set-up day:

Hello, student beings! The cosmic faculty of the Technical Academy of Creation is delighted to welcome you to your Civolution, the final exam in Civilization Design!

For this occasion, we prepared a humanoid scenario on an isolated continent. Here, each of you holds the rank of a local deity which is closely linked to its very own civilization and must lead it to success over the other civilizations. Your developmental possibilities are endless and reach from cultural and technical progress to evolutional adaptations. For example, what would you consider more beneficial to your tribes: inventing the wheel or growing wings? Demonstrate your ability to operate your civilization console and show us how well you can adjust to changeable environmental conditions and mild creational chaos.

When the exam ceases after four eras, whoever managed to gather the most success points will not only pass the exam but will become a full member of the Technical Academy of Creation and garner the opportunity to be promoted to the next instance.

Civolution is a medium heavy to heavy Eurostyle game that utilizes a dice-selection mechanism to trigger actions on a tech tree-like structure. As you figure out how to best use your dice and put your unique cards into play, tons of strategies and paths to victory emerge, though each time you play, you will explore only a fraction of the possibilities that the game’s system and many cards provide.

• Speaking of Stefan Feld, at the novelty show for the press, Queen Games displayed all of the currently available and already announced titles in its Stefan Feld City Collection, as well as cities to be featured in ten future releases.

Shadi Torbey of inPatience is focusing on his 2023 releases — Morten Monrad Pedersen‘s Skoventyr and his own Cyberion (designer diary here) — while also reserving a tiny bit of booth space for his 2024 releases.

Sfynx, the first published game from David Purkiss, is a 1-4 player co-operative design that will debut in the first half of 2024. Here’s the short pitch:

Every 25 moons, the mysterious Sfynx open a gateway to their sunken city…but only the adventurers able to solve nine riddles before the clepsydra empties will be granted access to its vanished splendors and forgotten knowledge.

Are you up to the task?

In more detail, players start with a 5×5 grid of symbols, with most of them on their corrupted side, an array of actions, and three goal cards that feature configurations of symbols.

On a turn, a player takes two actions — flipping a tile, swapping two tiles, shifting all the tiles in a row or column — to try to arrange uncorrupted symbols from left to right or top to bottom to match goal cards. As you complete goals, you bring new actions into the game, choosing from among those revealed at random.

To the right of the display is the clepsydra, that is, a water clock that also serves as your clock for the game. As the water drains from the clepsydra, you reveal tokens that complicate your situation — not always negatively, but yes, mostly so.

• Torbey’s card game Urbion — which debuted as Equilibrion in 2012, then was re-issued due to a naming conflict — was his second released game, but it’s been unavailable for a decade.

That will finally change in the second half of 2024 when the second edition of Urbion hits the market. As with the second edition of Onirim when that debuted in 2014, Urbion 2.0 will contain seven expansions instead of three.

Urbion 2.0 mock-up at SPIEL ’23

• Sometimes plans change, and the easiest way to indicate this is through the use of a sticky note on an already published sign. Such is the case with River Trek, a design from Kris Gould of Wattsalpoag Games for 1-4 players. An overview:

River Trek is a strategy game of placing trading posts and moving stacks of explorers along the path of a river.

On your turn, you pick up a stack of explorers, called a caravan, and move it mancala-style by dropping the explorers one at a time off the bottom of the stack as it travels forward. Each explorer dropped on a space earns money if a trading post of the same color is on the space, so other players may earn money on your move. Drop an explorer on a river crossing, and it washes downstream to the previous river crossing. Drop an explorer on an animal token, and the owner of that explorer receives a special ability.

When a caravan reaches the source of the river, the game ends and the player who has made the most money along the way wins.

• Crowdfunding projects abound at SPIEL, but I’m still surprised to see a publisher with a booth that contains nothing but promotional materials for a game that will be crowdfunded…sometime. Maybe Dinner Party from publisher FailureFactory — which has a website, but no BGG listing — will indeed be coming in 2024, but that’s unclear right now.

I do appreciate this callout, though, and would appreciate the drama created by someone including this on actual dinner party invitations. You could then spend the whole evening wondering who at the table is terrible enough to merit that warning, yet still be invited — or maybe it’s you, and you just never realized the effect you have on others. Seek help.

• If you’re a fan of Fighters of the Pacific from Didier Dincher, Frank Garibaldi, Capsicum Games, and Don’t Panic Games, then you can look forward to Fighters of Europe in 2024. (I’m not sure it’s a given that every successful World War II design will have a spinoff on another front, but it’s not unusual.)

Here’s an overview of the design:

Fighters of Europe is a fast-paced and simple tactical warfare game of air battles during WWII in the sky over Britain in 1940. Relive the fury of air combat over Europe during World War II as you direct each airplane in multiple fighter and bomber squadrons to lead attacks on the enemy’s airfields, manufacturing locations, and other ground objectives.

Move each airplane individually on a hex grid. When you maneuver to get an enemy airplane in your sights, it must try to dodge or else take damage. Some airplanes can use bombs to destroy ground installations. Stay in formation to keep the initiative and dominate your opponent. Each airplane has its own attributes in terms of speed, armor, and special abilities. Each piece is illustrated as close as possible to its historical model to maximize your immersion!

The base game contains a large modular board, player aids, and all the tokens you will need to play. This includes several squadrons of Hurricanes and Spitfires as well as Messerschmidt Bf109, Heinkel 111 and Junker 88.

Fighters of Europe is scenario-driven. The base game comes with ten different scenarios. With practice, you will be able to set up your own scenarios very quickly.

• Korean publisher DiceTree Games specializes in fancy editions of older games, and in 2024 it plans to release a new edition of Jens Drögemüller‘s The Scepter of Zavandor, which debuted in 2004 from Lookout Games.

This new version will be released in Korean and English editions, with a German edition possibly to come later in 2024. Here’s a short description on the game:

The Scepter of Zavandor is about magic and power. Players represent young magicians who have gained possession of old magic knowledge, and with it they attempt to achieve the powerful position of archmage, symbolized by the Scepter of Zavandor.

To increase their power and influence, the young magicians enchant jewels and seek out knowledge. An auction mechanism also allows them to acquire artifacts and sentinels. Victory points are earned through active gems, artifacts, sentinels, and knowledge.

• Unrelated to games, I saw this sign on a truck, and now I want to play a game about mathematicians who use geometry to kill people. Yes, I know that “angles mort” means “blind spots”, not “angles of death”, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

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