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Looking Forward: 2016

I am very excited about 2016! This year will be a year of change and a year of firsts in my life. To pair with all the excitement, I also plan to keep reading, playing board games, and blogging! With that, I have put together a short post about what I am excited for this upcoming year in game and book publications and the challenges I am a part of in 2016! The lists are not in order of “most anticipated,” but simply in alphabetical order. I know this list is long, but check them out at your leisure.

Challenges

100×1 Challenge – Exploring Diversity
Play 100 unique games at least one time each. The purpose of this challenge is to explore the board gaming hobby by playing many different games over the year. Last year, I completed the challenge by playing 150 unique games.

10×10 Challenge – Exploring Depth
Play 10 games at least 10 times each. The purpose of this challenge is to explore depth in board games I already own. Last year I completed the challenge barely by playing 10 games 10 times each. This year I am attempting the hardcore challenge, which means I cannot substitute games mid-year in my list.

45 Book Goodreads Challenge
Read 45 books in the year. Last year I completed my Goodreads challenge by reading 31 books surpassing my goal of 30.

Anticipated Releases

Books

I had a very difficult time constructing this list. Most of the “anticipated books of 2016” are filled with young adult books and series, which I am not too interested in. I scoured many lists and came up with the following. This is by no means exhaustive, but when I read descriptions about all of these books, I was excited to read them!

And Again by Jessica Chiarella

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And Again is a literary debut novel with a science fiction backdrop. Four terminally ill patients are picked to enter the SUBlife program – a new medical program giving these people new bodies which are genetically perfect copies of their old bodies. With their illness cured and their new bodies, the characters go back into the world to resume their life. This book poses to explore identity of those who have terminal illnesses and the impact that identity had on their relationships, profession, and life. I am excited to read a novel that explores the development and impact of ability as an identity.

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan

25810398Karan Mahajan comes back with his sophomore novel tackling the effects of terrorism on victims and perpetrators. Mansoor Ahmed is the only survivor out of his friends of a “small” bomb in a Delhi market, causing him physical and psychological tolls. After trying to complete college at an American university, Ahmed returns to Delhi and becomes entangled in a story involving activists, bomb makers, and the families impacted by terrorism.  To me this is an ambitious work of fiction, which tackles many topics such as terrorism, freedom, activism, family, and religion. I cannot wait to immerse myself in the world Mahajan created.

Black Deutschland by Darryl Pinckney

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Black Deutschland promises to push us out of our comfort zone to hear stories and experiences of a marginalized person. Darryl Pinckney introduces to us Jed – a gay black young man looking to escape what it means to be a gay black man in America. He chooses to go to Berlin but quickly finds he cannot fully escape as many of the same issues manifests itself in his new environment. Black Deutschland sounds like a painful, powerful, and compelling story of identity exploration and formation, looking at the intersections of sexuality, race/ethnicity, and national origin. This book is close to the top of my anticipation list because of the subject matter.

Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett

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Black Like Me is a controversial non-fiction account of White journalist John Howard Griffin traveling through the segregated south passing as a black man. His goal was to write about the experiences of black men in America from a personal perspective. The premise Blackass is the opposite – a black man, Furo, wakes up one day and discovers he has turned White. This story explores the dynamic of privilege that opens up to him because of the color of his skin and the choice of how to use those privileges. Will he exploit his opportunities to get ahead and maintain power? And throughout the story, through his transformation, his backside remains black. I am expecting a provocative look at race and privilege in our world.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

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From noted short story writer Nisi Shawl comes a science fiction / steampunk / alternate history novel set in the Belgian Congo. This novel tackles the question of what could have happened in the fallout of the Belgian colonization of the Congo if the native peoples learned about steam technology. Everfair is carved out of the Congo as a utopia for native peoples, a haven for escape slaves, and an asylum for of Africans mistreated in their countries. To me, using the steampunk genre to explore the lasting effects of colonialism in the Congo is brilliant! Everfair is one of the first books I want to read off of this list.

The Happy Marriage by Tahar Ben Jelloun

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From Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun tells the story of a married couple from the point of view of the husband and the wife. The husband suffers a stroke at the height of his career and blames his marriage. He writes a secret book about his marriage. When his wife finds it, she writes a response of her own account of their marriage. Jelloun tackles a sticky issue in our modern society – marriage and what constitutes a happy and successful marriage. With the advancement of social justice issues (women’s rights, LGBTQ rights), we must reexamine and redefine an age old institution. I am sure this book will be difficult to read. In the description the husband and wife already seem to have two different experiences and definitions of a happy marriage. I wonder if the book will offer insight into modern marriage or predict the downfall of traditional marriage.

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

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After the success of Life of Pi, author Yann Martel returns with The High Mountains of Portugal. A young man named Tomás begins a quest to find a lost artifact. Martel weaves characters together through time all centered around the quest for this artifact spanning a century. The span of time reminds me of And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, which tied generations of characters together through one event which split up a family. I am looking forward to finding out the conclusion to this novel of seemingly unrelated characters and their quest to find an ancient relic. After Life of Pi, I expect a beautifully written book full of deep character development, double meanings, and life lessons.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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Homegoing follows the stories of two half-sisters born in Ghana in the 18th century. One sister marries an Englishmen and goes on to live in comfort and start a family. The other sister is shipped off the the Americas and sold into slavery. Yaa Gyasi writes a sprawling novel, covering 300 years from the wars in Ghana, to American slavery, to the Civil War, to 20th century Harlem. Homegoing promises a powerful history that critically examines the current state of our country. With this being her debut novel, I already feel invested in the story, hearing voices that have been systemically eliminated from history. If I were to order my anticipation list, this book would be definitely close to number one.

In a Different Key: The Story of Autism by John Donvan and Caren Zucker

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In my line of work, we have reached a point of redefining the label of disability into “differently-abled.” For all the advances we have had in the mental health field, we still face misunderstanding and stigma in our country and those who are differently-abled suffer the consequences of decisions they were not consulted on. In a Different Key starts with the very first diagnosis of Autism in America, nearly 75 years ago, and explores the experiences, struggles, and stories of those with autism and their families. The authors wrote about the many controversial responses to autism and push for a new understanding that will provide resources, inclusion, empowerment, and celebration of those with autism. As I continue my own growth in understanding of identity, I believe ability is one of the least understood. I am invested in learning the history of autism and hearing the voices of those with autism.

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

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The third and final installment of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy. I admit I have not even read the second on in the series, but nonetheless, I am excited for this release. The Red Rising trilogy can be best described as another dystopian young adult trilogy; however, it did not get the buzz other series have had. I read the first book when it was first released and instantly was gripped by the story. in my opinion, Red Rising is much better than the Hunger Games series. Darker, more intricate with way more character development. If you are a fan of dystopian young adult novels, Red Rising is a must. I am sure you could read the first two books before this one releases in March or April.

Shelter by Jung Yun

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Shelter is a story about family. Kyung Cho is a father feeling the pressure of providing for his family while facing financial crisis by purchasing a house they cannot afford. His parents, on the other hand, are very well off and has all the material items Kyung yearns for his own family. His parents gave him all the advantages when growing up, but he still ends up in lower-middle class. This tension over socioeconomic status has left Kyung estranged from his parents. After an act of violence, Kyung’s parents can no longer live on their own and move in with Kyung and his family. Tensions quickly rise to the surface. Author Jung Yun in his debut novel asks critical questions about family: What does it mean to provide for one’s family? What does it mean to care for one’s parents?

Square Wave by Mark de Silva

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Author Mark de Silva writes what I can only assume to be a gripping and thrilling work of fiction about the psychological effects of a militarized state. Square Wave follows writer Carl Stagg, researching 17th century Sri Lanka,  who teams up with part-time watchman Ravan to uncover the truth of violent attacks that have been happening. As they get closer to the truth, revelations begin to have a profound impact of Stagg’s research. Further, a weather dispersal project, connected to Ravan’s family and funded by the American government, seems to be less about dispersing deadly storms and more about weaponizing them. To me, the premise of Square Wave is intriguing and will combine historical accounts with modern/futuristic weather technologies.

Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov

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A young Bulgarian immigrant to America returns to his home country to seek a better life. When he arrives back in Bulgaria, he starts to discover more about his grandfather, who cut ties three years ago suddenly. He finds himself in the middle of the mountains on the border of Turkey where he finds his grandfather in a small society different from what he has experienced in the past. He starts to reconnect with his grandfather and begin a new life. Stork Mountain sounds like a wonderful story of self discovery, picking up the pieces and starting over again. Another debut novelist on my list and I look forward to read this one.

Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey

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Ways to Disappear is a debut novel about the disappearance of a famous Brazilian writer Beatriz Yagoda who has significant gambling debt. When hearing the news, Yagoda’s translator in the United States and the author’s two children fly to Brazil in order to find her and solve the mystery of the disappearance. This novel sounds like an amazing combination of mystery, thriller, and literary fiction. Although there is not a lot of information about this book, Ways to Disappear is high on my ‘Want to Read’ list. This must be the year of the debut novel because I look forward to yet another one!

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

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From acclaimed author Helen Oyeyemi comes When Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, a novel built around the idea of keys, both literal and figurative. This is a collection of intertwined stories traversing many different times and landscapes. One story centers around a key that opens a library. Another talks about the key that opens a heart. I am always excited to find new collections of short stories with powerful themes and ideas, where one story impacts my understanding and interpretation of the next story. I am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this one when it releases in March!

What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera

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When terror strikes, a young and her mother must immigrate to the United States and reinvent herself as an American teen with the help of her cousin. A story of assimilation and forgetting the past, the main character struggles as these scars from the trauma she experienced as a child follow her into her adult life. Finally, her new life starts to crumble around her and she feels compelled to commit an unforgivable final act. Initially, I was interested in this book because of the author and the cultural representation. I am still interested, but the description pushed it down on my most anticipated list. I will be interested to read other folk’s reviews and potentially pick up this book down the line in a future year.

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

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In the heart of Seattle’s 199 WTO protests, Victor, a runaway from home, sets out to sell marijuana to protesters. As the peaceful protest threatens to turn violent, seven characters live will change forever. The police chief and estranged father to Victor, two convicted non-violent protesters, two police officers in the streets, the financial minister from Sri Lanka, and of course, Victor  himself. With the continued coverage of protests in our country currently, Sunil Yapa takes a look the power relationships between different entities, the rage of protesters, glimpses of humanity, and the limit of compassion.

Board and Card Games

There were so many games announced for 2016 already and I am sure many more will be announced the the first half of the year. I went through BoardGameGeek.com and filtered games by release year of 2016. Then I looked at every game on the list and picked the ones I was most excited about. I think I am in the minority with my picks. Many people are hyped about games like SeaFall and Gloomhaven, but those just aren’t my style (at least for now). I may have missed some games because the list was so long… but I am sure I will see them as more buzz starts appearing!

Agility ~ Brent Povis ~ Two Lanterns Games

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I first heard about Agility when the Kickstarter launched this past year. I was first intrigued at the awesome theme – training dogs to compete in a dog show! Players adopt dogs, select sections of course, and playing actions and/or resources to clear sections of the course. The first player to complete their entire course wins!  With what sounds like an interesting mechanic where one player is able to “partially” take the last action their opponent last executed, this two player action selection, hand / resource management game perks my interest. I play a lot of my games two players and I am always looking for games that play well with two or new games specifically made for two.

Archaeology: The New Expedition ~ Phil Walker-Harding ~ Z-Man Games

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Phil Walker-Harding designed a card game: Archaeology the Card Game in 2007 which actually got a reprint this past year by Z-Man Games. I have heard a lot of positive reviews for the original Archaeology card game and as I understand it, this is a new version of the original with new artwork and potential small changes in order to refine or streamline the rules. From the announcement, it also seems like they may be adding new cards as well. I would have been happy with the original game, but now The New Expedition is announced, I have taken it off my wishlist and replaced it with this one.

Bear Valley ~ Carl Chudyk ~ Stronghold Games

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A Carl Chudyk game from Stronghold games and not Asmadi Games?! I am definitely intrigued! Bear Valley will be a part of Stronghold’s Pocket Line of games, the first being Diamonds – a trick-taking game I really enjoy. There is not a lot of information about this game; however, from the description, Bear Valley sounds like a Chudyk racing game! For those who have not played a Chudyk game (Innovation, Glory to Rome, Mottainai), he is big into multi use chaotic card play. Bear Valley sounds like there might be similar card play and action point allowance involved but the main mechanism is exploring the valley and escaping before the other players. Further, each player will have a unique player power associated with their character. Bear Valley sounds like a lot of fun!

Commissioned ~ Patrick Lysaght ~ Chara Games

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Commissioned is a Christian themed cooperative board game where players are attempting to spread the Gospel by growing the Church and collecting books of the New Testament. At first glance, the goal seems like the anti-Pandemic. In Pandemic, layers are attempting to stop the spread of disease cubes, where in this game, players want to spread the Gospel. I have watched some reviews and play-throughs of Commissioned and I am excited for a few reasons. First, there really are no good Christian themed games in the hobby. I reviewed Journeys of Paul last year and the gameplay was very lackluster and I traded it away pretty fast. Second, I really do like cooperative games, particularly ones that play well with two players. And last, there is a deck building element which corresponds to Faith – a really cool concept  hear works really well mechanically and thematically in gameplay.

Dice Masters: Civil War ~ Mike Elliott and Eric M. Lang ~ WizKids Games

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I think I enjoy the Marvel Dice Master sets the best although DC is very close behind. And who knows, maybe I will really enjoy the TMNT set when it drops this year. Civil War is the full set for the Marvel line and will release around the same time Captain America: Civil War this summer. Although I am not really a fan of repeat characters, I am interested in the different affiliations and powers each character will have because of the Iron Man / Captain America split. More Dice Masters just makes the game more replayable! One of my favorite games and I cannot wait for the new set.

Dreamwell ~ Nick Little ~ Action Phase Games

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First off, I must say I was drawn to look at the game because of the phenomenal artwork. Players are in a dream world trying to find their lost friends. The dream world is a 4×4 grid of tiles which show paths through the world. Players are moving tile to tile and manipulating the paths through the world, finding their friends along the way. While this game does not seem like a deep strategic game, Dreamwell could be a clever, tactical filler game for my collection. The Kickstarter launches at the end of this month. While I probably will not back this on Kickstarter (simply because I rarely back any games), i will be keeping an eye out as more information releases.

Ein Fest für Odin ~ Uwe Rosenburg ~ Feuerland Spiele

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The next big box strategic Uwe Rosenburg game – need I say more? I have played a few of Uwe’s games including Agricola, At the Gates of Loyang, and Patchwork. Ein Fest für Odin takes the usual farming theme to the next level – Vikings! From the information on Board Game Geek, his seems to follow the general formula of Uwe games which include worker placement and resource management. I have heard, Uwe has implemented a pattern building mechanism liken to Patchwork. In addition to resource management, players must pay attention to spatial strategy. I really enjoy Uwe’s games and how they tend to be unforgiving and very tight on resources. I hear his more recent games feel more like a sandbox and I am very okay with that. I am excited to see more development on this game and in the meantime, I will hope for a reprint of At the Gates of Loyang.

Guilds of London ~ Tony Boydell ~ Surprised Stare Games

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I watched a run-through of Guilds of London a couple of years ago and got excited about this game. Now, two years later, this game might finally release! Tony Bodell is the designer of Snowdonia, which I enjoy very much. Tony has been working on Guilds of London for a very long time now and it sounds and looks very different from Snowdonia. Players are vying for control over the different guilds of London by playing cards for bonuses and actions. Once there is a certain number of “people” in a guild, the guild will score and the player with the most influence gets the victory points associated with the guild plus a bonus. I love the idea of using different cards together, streaming actions in order to make a push in area influence. This reminds me of a more strategic Smash Up. I look forward to the release of Tony’s labor of love.

Innovation: Artifacts of History ~ Carl Chudyk ~ Asmadi Games

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This entry and the next entry are expansions for an amazing card game about civilization building by Carl Chudyk. This expansion adds artifact cards into each age that have very powerful abilities. According to the description, these artifacts may be powerful but insinuates players will have a hard time playing those cads and using their abilities. Further a new mechanic is introduced. In the original game, certain cards had an ability called “demand.” A player can use a demand power to demand an opponent to do something if and only if the active player  has more symbols of that action in their tableau than their opponent. A new action type “compel” works the same way if and only if the active player  has less symbols of that action in their tableau than their opponent. I am interested to see how these new additions play out.

Innovation: Cities of Destiny ~ Carl Chudyk ~ Asmadi Games

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Another expansion for Innovation! Hooray! In this expansion, city cards are added for players to supplement their civilization building. Cities give the players more flexibility and power throughout the game by granting more invention symbols to execute dogmas, providing additional action points or actions per turn, or having an achievement to help players meet the end game winning conditions. I think I am slightly more excited for the Artifacts expansion since it adds the new Compel dogma type, but any new expansions for Innovation will be on my anticipation list!

Lunarchitects ~ Dan Cunningham ~ Iron Kitten Games

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I loved Glen More and since it is out of print, I have not had a chance to pick up a copy for my collection. Lunarchitects is a new game with very similar mechanisms as Glen More with a new theme about colonizing the moon. I know there still is controversy around the creation and production in this game. Did the designer have the right to take a pretty close to carbon copy of Glen More’s mechanic? Did they consult enough with the original designer? Who has the license to Glen More and is there infringement on copyrights? The conversation continues, but as far as we know, Lunarchitects is being produced. I like the theme a bit more than Glen More and I wonder if it will be just as good or even better!

Nemo’s War (second edition) ~ Chris Taylor ~ Victory Point Games

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I really really want to back this on Kickstarter but I am sure I will not and probably wait until retail copies come out to even think about buying this one. Nemo’s War is a solo game where the player takes the role of Captain Nemo and the amazing Nautilus. Using an action point allowance system, the player explores, and completes missions in order to win the game! I have heard good things about the first edition, but I hear the second edition printing will have amazing components and more streamlined rules and gameplay. I have not played the first edition, but as I get more and more into solo gaming, I cannot ignore Nemo’s War second edition! When a retail version releases, I’ll report back here.

Project Mars ~ Brian Kumanchik ~ Point ‘n Click Design

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Almost any game in space gets me, especially if that game is a strategy game. At first glance, Project Mars does not look like much but upon reading the description and more about the mechanics, this game sounds like it could be a lot of fun with some depth and strategy! The game looks card driven with a bidding/auction and/or drafting mechanism. Players are trying to acquire specific resources and money to improve their engineering level by launch date in order to win. This game seems like a race to be the first player to launch successfully to Mars. Also, in the description it says launches can only happen once every two years. This may indicate a timing aspect to the game in order to successfully launch.

Smash Up: It’s Your Fault ~ Paul Peterson ~ AEG

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SMASH UP!!!! This is my #2 favorite game I have ever played and I am always excited for more expansions because the combinations of factions increases exponentially! In this expansion, the publishing company AEG asked gamers for suggestions for factions and then had a March Madness type bracket with voting. The top four factions are now in this expansion: Greek Mythology, Superheroes, Sharks, and Dragons. I was very involved in the suggestions and voting and the four that made it in the expansion, I suggested and voted for! I CANNOT WAIT until March and this will be a definite buy for me!! ZOMBIE SHARKS! SUPER GHOSTS! DRAGON KITTIES!

Sol: Last Days of a Star ~ Ryan and Sean Spangler ~ Elephant Laboratories

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I love the theme of a dying star! Players are in control of an ark trying to escape before the sun explodes. The caveat is players need the remaining energy from the sun to power their ark. Players can play it safe and seek resources from the out belt or the can venture closer to the sun for bigger rewards. Sol has an action point system and ship movement in order to do actions by activating a station or create a station from the ship. Players are able to activate opponent’s stations but they must split the reward. Players need to manage their resources and convert their ships to solar bridges in order to enter the sun for more energy. The player who escapes the solar system wins.

Spirit Island ~ R. Eric Reuss ~ Greater Than Games

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Spirit Island is a cooperative game where players play as spirits of an island that is being colonized. The players must fight off the colonists in order to win the game. Each round players simultaneously choose a power card to play, chaining off previous cards played and the cards that other players play. In the next phase, players choose how to reclaim cards into their hand and gain more energy for the following round. When the colonists attack, the indigenous people fight back to aid the spirits. The game will come with different invaders that act in different ways to make the game replayable. First, I love the theme. It creates a space to talk about colonization in the world and how it still impacts America and other countries. Second, I really enjoy the artwork and the general gameplay from what I know. This funded on Kickstart late last year, so I will be looking for a retail copy this year!

Street Kings ~ Luca Vince Caltabiano ~ BOARD TO DEATH

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I looked into this game simply based on the unique theme of street racing. Each round a race type is chosen by the first player. Then, in turn order, players can buy cars, buy upgrades, hire crew members, other actions, or qualify for the race. After, players compete in the race to win trophies and credits (money). Lastly, is the cleanup phase and players start a new round. The first player to win seven gold trophies wins the game! With a cool theme, at it’s heart, Street Kings is a Euro style strategy game where players use their actions to enter the best car and crew into the race based on the current location of the race. It is on Kickstarter right now, but like every other Kickstarter project, I am hesitant with committing.

Terraforming Mars ~ Jacob Fryxelius ~ FryxGames

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I am pretty sure space / science fiction is my favorite themes of board gaming (hence the many games on this list that fits that theme). In Terraforming Mars, players take on the role of giant corporations all trying to terraform Mars for human habitation. Players buy project cards every round and balances buying new cards and playing those cards – both costs megacredits (money). By completing projects, Mars will slowly transform into a mrs habitable planet. With each advancement, players will increase their income and score them victory points. While players are terraforming Mars together, the company with the most victory points wins! I think this game excited me more than the other space games because of the game board and the variety of victory cards. There seems to be multiple paths to victory and enough variability to keep it on the shelf. I am looking forward to seeing a final production copy of this one.

Victorian Masterminds ~ Antoine Bauza and Eric M. Lang ~ Space Cowboys

From acclaimed designers Antoine Bauza (Ghost Stories, Tokaido, Hanabi, 7 Wonders) and Eric Lang (Dice Masters, Blood Rage) comes a big box game from the hot publisher Space Cowboys (Splendor, Time Stories). Sherlock Holmes is dead and players take the role of evil villains. With Holmes out of the way, now is the perfect time to assemble my awesome evil invention! With what seems like a new take on worker placement, I am very excited to play the next “hit” from Space Cowboys.

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Looking Forward: 2016

  1. Hi, Brendon. This is too funny. I stumbled upon your blog searching for reviews of Innovation: Artifacts of History. And imagine my surprise when I saw my own novel (Stork Mountain) on the list of books you’re looking forward to. I hope you like it. And keep gaming! 2015 was such an incredible year for the hobby. Let’s hope 2016 brings us even more great games.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Miro | January 16, 2016, 1:24 AM
    • That is such a coincidence! It’s great to know someone who is involved with both of my favorite hobbies of reading and gaming! I wish you success with your book and look forward to read it and review it! Are you a big Innovation / Carl Chudyk fan?

      I am very excited for 2016 and look forward to more gaming goodness!

      ~Brendon

      Like

      Posted by Brendon | January 16, 2016, 8:50 AM

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