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Read ‘Em And Weep: New Hidden Action Games Are Headed Your Way

Go ahead and cue up the theme song from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly because this week’s games are all about hidden cards, tough choices, and steely gazes.  

Oyabun: First Blood – Gamefound (2 weeks after the app debuts) 

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners.

Organized crime isn’t exactly known for being aboveboard which is whyOYA STUDIOS has made intrigue and clandestine schemes the heart of its futuristic PvP card game.  

We’re in Japan, the year is 2084, and the head of the cyber-punk yakuza, the oyabun, has died. Outwardly everyone is in mourning, but behind the scenes, the fight has already begun to establish a successor.  

Oyabun: First Blood is heavy on bluffing, so it has a minimum of 3 players and allows for up to 6. Sorry, solo gamers. But this is because every player has a secret rank within the yakuza family, and they want it to stay a secret because at the end of the game, the highest-ranking player is the winner.  

Ranks are chosen at random, so it’s possible to start the game with anywhere from the worst (20) to the best (1). But one perk of being employed by the yakuza is that there’s always room for growth. Each player starts the game with 7 Ki points representing their health. Using baseball bats, swords, and guns, you can knock out your opponents and steal their rank to climb the criminal ladder.  

In case you were wondering, cyberpunk baseball is brutal.
Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners. 

But a great crime boss should be respected as well as feared. Successfully attacking or defending against opponents will earn you Honor. The more Honor you earn, the more of your vaunted yakuza tattoo you unlock. Complete your tattoo, and the game immediately ends, forcing all players to reveal their ranks for judgement. Lose too much Honor, though, and you’ll also start losing fingers and possibly even have to commit seppuku.

Fewer fingers means fewer cards in your hand.
Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners.

While it’s a simple game mechanically, guesswork and deduction are a huge component. Each type of attack, Weapons or Crime, have a matching red or blue Oni symbol. Players can lay down one of their cards face down as an Oni to protect themselves from attack. When attacked, your Oni is revealed and, if it matches the symbol of the attackers Weapon or Crime, the attack is deflected. This makes every attack a real gamble since whichever player wins steals Honor from their opponent. As I’ve already mentioned, losing Honor can be very painful in this game. Quickly figuring out who has the high and low ranks is also very important. Throwing resources at a player who turns out to be 6 ranks below you could be a serious waste. Thankfully being a cyper-punk yakuza means literal nerves of steel are standard issue.  

Shake That City – Kickstarter (November 29) 

Despite what the game’s title implies, this is not a game about earthquakes. Instead, this little city builder from AEG is highly reminiscent of Noch Mal only without the roll-and-write component. Designed by Mads Fløe and Torndahl Kjær, 1 – 4 players will spend 15 rounds attempting to create the most well-designed polyomino city. 

Each turn, players will scramble up 32 colored cubes, each representing a different city feature, in the Cube Shaker which then randomly selects 9 cubes and deposits them on the table in a 3×3 square. The active player chooses one color of cube, making it off limits to other players and leaving them to pick over the remains. Each player then takes city tiles equal to the number of corresponding cubes from the color group they just chose. These will be placed on each player’s 6×6 city board.  

Every city planner’s best friend.
Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners.

This is where things get really tricky. When you choose a color of cube, you can’t put its city tiles in just any old place. When placing them on your city board, the city tiles must have the same arrangement as the corresponding cubes and use every one of them. While this makes things tricky enough, different city tiles score points in different ways depending on how they’re placed. For example, Parks score 1 point if they’re touching a factory and an additional point if they are touching a Home. Whereas roads score 1 point a piece for each segment that connects to the city board’s edge.  

Think you’ve got a ton of free space? Think again.
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Oh, but there’s more. Players can score bonus points by completely filling in rows on their city board as well, adding yet another complication to your tile placement. I was able to playtest this one during its development, and I can say that this “simple” game is anything but. Not only will you be scratching your head trying to figure out how to arrange your own city, you’ll also be constantly trying to get into your opponents’ heads and guess which cubes they want most. Which, of course, you will promptly deny them.  

Godsforge – Kickstarter (November) 

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to remember hearing somewhere that card games where players summon monsters and cast spells at each other are pretty popular. And an obscure game called King of Tokyo showed us that the dice-rolling mechanic of Yahtzee still had quite a bit of life left in it. Now, Godsforge from Atlas Games and designer Brendan Stern combines the two into a 2 – 4 player battle royale of sorcerous combat! 

This game moves fast. That’s because of the games innovative twist on spell-powering resources and its emphasis on simultaneous play. Each turn, players start the round with the Forge Phase where all players roll their 4 dice. The numbers “2” thru “4” each represent energy tied to a different element – Earth, Air, Fire, and Water – which players can use to power their Creations (monsters) or Spells. A roll of “1” is a wild, and a “6” is Veilstone, a special resource used to empower Creations and Spells for more potent effects. Really powerful spells require even rarer elements represented by numbers that are impossible to roll: “9”, “10”, etc. To obtain these elements, players must combine individual die rolls. And some elements are so rare that they require players to roll multiples of the same number.  

That’s one wild roll. Ahahaha I’ll just leave now. 
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Once players have their resources, they choose 1 card they can play from their hand and lay it face down in a spell-slinging standoff. Then everyone flips their cards over and immediately attacks the opponent to their right. Damage from Creations and Spells is added up, with the defending player then subtracting any defense they have from the damage total. If there’s any left over, that player loses a corresponding amount of health. Last player standing is the winner.  

Forge your path to victory.
Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners.

Even though this is a second edition reprint of Godsforge, this month’s campaign is bringing 2 new expansions along with it: Return of the Dragon Gods and Twilight of the Great Houses. Dragon Gods comes with a new deck of dragon-themed cards as well as card Upgrades and card synergy. Twilight also includes a new deck as well as Great Houses that provide each player with a unique set of abilities. Both of them also allow for an additional player, so you can have some ferociously frenetic wizard melees.  

by Zane Messina

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