In which I take a quick look at two new games heading your way from UK publishers. I have been fortunate to play prototypes of both games, so I can speak from experience on both. Plus, there are bonus points available if you can spot the special connection between the two designs!
First comes Braggart, a game (and I’m quoting) of heroes, liars and unfortunate fish, from first-time designer Kyle Daniel and publisher Spiral Galaxy Games. This one is a real ‘beer and pretzels’ game as our American cousin might say, but I’m not sure I can sum it up much better than the publisher:
You sit in The Heroes Return, a tavern famed for its heroic clientèle. You’ re not a hero, but you talk a good game. You and your friends are holding court, regaling the crowds with your tales of derring-do. Can you fight your way through a drunken haze to concoct the best boast? The most believable? Or at least ones that are funny? Or will you be called out as the liar you are?
The game’s conceit, then, is that in each turn the players use their cards — made up of Scenes, Deeds, Foes and Results, plus a few instant ‘Take That!’ effects (in the ‘cards that your opponents can throw at you during your turn’ sense, not in the ‘Relight My Fire’ one) — to create the best ‘boast’, a sequence of colourful and often preposterous statements with which to impress their friends. To help illustrate this I’ve used some of the example card artwork posted on BGG to create an example of a rather unlikely boast below. And I must say how exciting it is to see the game come to life through the excellent box artwork and illustrations.
After every player has boasted their best, the best boast (as determined by the sequence with the highest total cards value) is kept face-down by that player, and is completely converted into points. (The card values are at the top of the cards, point values are bottom right.) All other players with at least some sort of boast on the table get to keep only their single best card.
It’s all very light and quick — and, most importantly, fun! — and it may sound like there’s no tactics at all, but there is a little more to this one than met my eye at first, and it certainly isn’t the case that the biggest boaster or the guy with the best hand of cards always wins. The other card effects keep things lively and unpredictable, and in the right crowd — and one not necessarily under the influence of alcohol! — I think this game will be a real winner.
Next up is Totemo, a new game from designer Tony Boydell and collaborators Alan and Charlie of Surprised Stare Games. Last year the same team produced the tricky little robot-building card game Fzzzt!, which has deservedly done well, and will soon be re-released in a new edition by Gryphon Games alongside a 5- and 6-player expansion.
Designed as a family game with enough bite to keep the grown-ups happy, Totemo is delightfully colourful and smart, and I enjoyed my game enormously. The colour-wheel-inspired placement and scoring rules, and the addition of randomly distributed bonus markers on the score track (if you hit one exactly, you get another turn), are really clever and clear mechanics that give the game added intrigue and tactics without weighing it down. Plus, I rather think that the way in which the bonus markers are distributed at the start of the game is clever too.
However, the icing on the cake after the playtest was, for me, the revelation that the playing area and scoreboard were to be printed on a garden-variety tea towel! I love this idea and think it will really add charm to the play experience; cloth is, as far as I’m concerned, a grossly under-utilised board gaming material!
A little while ago Tony wrote a great Designer Diary for BoardgameNews about the development of Totemo, so feel free to go check it out for more information.
And if you are waiting around to see if you’ve earned those elusive bonus points, then the answer could be ‘Yes!’, but only if you spotted that the fantastic artwork for both games was created by the same illustrator: the multi-talented Vicki Paull!