Review – Ark Nova

Some games have names that make you think one thing when they are really something else.

Whether that’s good or bad, I couldn’t tell you. I guess it depends on whether what you thought it was turns you off or not.

When I first heard of Ark Nova, I was picturing some space game where you are building a huge ark to take animals to some other planet that humans have colonized, in order to try and create something like a second Earth.

Almost like you are an alien Noah.

Of course, while the game is about keeping animals, it’s all very earth-bound and domestic. You are creating a zoo and trying to help conserve animal wildlife the world over.

So not quite the same thing.

Seriously, space arks would be cool.

Anyway, Ark Nova is a 2022 game (technically 2021 but really it hadn’t reached many players until this year) designed by Mathias Wigge with artwork by Loïc Billiau, Dennis Lohausen, Steffen Bieker, and Christof Tisch. It’s published in North America by Capstone Games and plays 1-4 players.

Players are planning and building a modern, scientifically managed zoo where enclosures support the animals’ way of life. You are also forming associations with partner zoos and universities around the world and contributing to conservation projects.

Thus, you are trying to balance conservation and making your zoo attractive to the general public.

How does it work?

Let’s take a look.

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Expansion Review – Smash Up: It’s Your Fault

One of the perks of coming back to work in the office after the COVID lockdowns ended was the ability to play games at lunch.

Namely, Smash Up (though we’ve played a bunch of other games as well).

Way back in 2019, I had bought every available Smash Up expansion that I didn’t already have (with one or two exceptions, like Cthulhu and Munchkin, since I don’t want them).

We were in the process of playing through these, getting enough plays in that I felt comfortable doing a review.

And then chaos happened and that all stopped.

So it was good to get back to things!

While Smash Up: Marvel had to be the first one we played because it was new and I wanted to get it to the table, it became time to go back to the oldies but goodies.

The first old one we played was the It’s Your Fault expansion, the expansion where the fans voted on which factions they wanted to be included.

What was it New York City Mayor Ed Koch said after losing his re-election bid in 1989?

“The people have spoken…and they must be punished.”

In this case, they’re punished with cool stuff!

The expansion was also designed by Paul Peterson and published by Alderac Entertainment Group in 2016. (I’ll name the artists for each faction separately).

This is an unusual expansion in that there are 5 different factions in it.

Five!! That’s, like, one more than four! (I excelled in Math as a kid…can you tell?).

And they’re all pretty cool, in their own way.

As with previous expansion reviews, I’m not going to go over how to play Smash Up. You can go to the original review for that one.

Here are the five factions we’ll be covering today.

  • Dragons
  • Mythic Greeks
  • Sharks
  • Superheroes
  • Tornados

Get it? Sharknado?

I love it.

How are they?

Let’s take a look.

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Stronghold Games Announces 3 Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition Expansions

(Edit 4/29/22) – The Late Pledge Manager is open. If you missed it, go to the Kickstarter page and back it now!

(Edit 3/22/22) – It’s live! Go back this now. Doesn’t look like you can buy any of the expansions individually

I was innocently reading Twitter yesterday, basking in the warm glow of having done two posts in a day when I’ve been struggling to do that in two weeks, when I saw something that made my eyes boggle.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

First reaction:

Second reaction: Why does all the news come out at once? Oh well, I’ll post this tomorrow.

This is amazing news!!

It’s no secret that Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition is one of my favourite games. Hell, it made it into my Top 25 of all time.

Let’s go a bit more in depth into what these expansions offer (in other words, let’s showcase the boxes and do a blurb from BGG).

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Smash Up: Disney Edition Coming Soon

Why does all of the interesting news happen on days where I’ve already done a post?

On the heels of last year’s (was it only last year? COVID has made time kind of wonky) Smash Up: Marvel Edition, The OP and Alderac Entertainment Group have announced the next collaboration between the two game companies: Smash Up: Disney Edition.

Designed by Paul Peterson, this is another edition co-published by AEG & The Op that looks…very interesting, based on the cover.

Hell, they’ve already stated what factions are going to be in it (I think that’s what the product description shows):

“In Smash Up: Disney Edition, players will choose two decks of fan favorite Disney factions and combine their powers to take over Bases, earn the most Victory Points, and win! Choose from Frozen, Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph, The Lion King, Mulan, Aladdin, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Beauty & the Beast to create the most exciting team-ups imaginable!”

I’m not as familiar with the Disney stuff as I am with Marvel, so it will be interesting to see how these characters (not minions!) and factions work.

Colour me intrigued, though.

The rulebook’s already available (PDF), so hopefully this means this will be coming soon.

And the rulebook does reveal some interesting stuff!

It even mentions “Base Mats” to help you keep track of power on the base and showing what sides players should play their cards on.

Will that be in the set as well? I assume so, and this is so cool! How long did it take to get stuff like this?

No word on when this is going to be coming out, but rest assured I will be letting you know when it does.

(Edit: here’s a picture from the OP official release that shows how it will all look on the table!)

Storm Above the Reich – After Action Report – Mission #14

After a long break (sorry about that), it’s time to get back to the Staffel Roy campaign for Storm Above the Reich, the solo game from GMT Games where you are in charge of a “Staffel” (essentially a squadron) of German fighters tasked with defending the homeland from the Allied bombing campaign in World War II.

To recap, since it’s been a little while, I am currently in Season 2, a 10-mission season (#7-16) in mid-1943. In order to “not lose” the season, I have to score 30 victory points. To win it, I need 40 victory points.

With three missions left in the season, I’m sitting at 23 VP. I’ve been gaining 6 VP a mission for the last 2-3 missions, so maybe I might actually win this one?

I don’t think I’m going to lose it at this point, though the dice (and card) gods can be fickle.

Did I just jinx things?

Hopefully not.

It’s time for Mission #14 and let’s see what happened! I don’t even remember at this point.

(Reminder, you can always click on a picture to see it full size. Also, for the specific rules of what I’m talking about, see the Mission #1 & #2 report and the Pursuit rules are detailed in Mission #7)

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New to Me – February 2022

February is the shortest month of the year, but I still managed to not only get a bunch of new to me games in, but they were all good!

I mean, none of them were 1960: The Making of a President good (well, maybe one?) but they were still really fun to play.

I do have to make one confession, though.

One of them was actually played in January.

The horror!

Please don’t punish me.

All of the games are from 2019 or more recent, so the Cult of the New to Me members were giving me the side-eye a little bit.

But I promised them I’d be better in March.

Just in case I’m not, I’ve readied my escape kit.

So without further ado (all of my ado was lost in a gravity well anyway), let’s get started!

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Expansion Review – Clank in Space Adventures: Pulsarcade

Say you’re a power-mad warlord who collects things and holds them in a massive section of your space ship as you roam around the galaxy.

And say that, as said warlord, you’re getting sick and tired of these thieves breaking onto your ship and stealing said artifacts.

They really are truly annoying, aren’t they?

I mean, you have to spend all of your time trying to come up with more and better defenses against thievery.

It gets tiring!

What do you do to try and relax?

No, you don’t take a nice hot bath with your dogs.

You play arcade games and turn your ship into a massive Aladdin’s Castle!

That’s what!

Thus, we get to the latest expansion for one of my favourite games, Clank! In! Space! (and once again, that will be the last time I put all of the exclamation marks in because I’m on a budget)

Clank in Space Adventures: Pulsarcade is the first in the “Adventures” expansion modules for this illustrious deckbuilder. (I”m just going to shorten it to Pulsarcade from now on)

I’m assuming that means there will be more?

Pulsarcade was designed by Paul Dennen and Evan Lorentz with art by Anika Burrell, Raul Ramos and Nate Storm. It has just been published in 2021 by Renegade Games Studios and Dire Wolf Digital.

In the game, Lord Eradikus showcases his massive collection of old arcade game consoles and players have to get high scores on them in order to steal an artifact!

Does this mean that anybody who wasn’t a kid or teenager in the 1980s can’t win the game?

Let’s take a look.

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Undaunted: Normandy coming to Steam Early Access

Two posts in one day after my drought?

Well, when I received this news in my inbox this morning, I knew I had to post today.

Bookmark Games (developer of the wonderful Pavlov’s House solo boardgame app) have announced that they will be bringing the deckbuilding wargame Undaunted: Normandy to Steam and iOS devices (no announcement about Android yet?)

Undaunted: Normandy uses deckbuilding mechanics but you are moving your units around a tiled map that varies each scenario.

The tabletop game was published in 2019 by Osprey Games and was designed by Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson. The artwork is by Roland MacDonald.

From the press release:

Undaunted Normandy is the best-selling World War II deck-building game, placing you and your opponent in command of American or German forces fighting through a series of missions critical to the outcome of the war. Use your cards to seize the initiative, bolster your forces, or control your troops on the battlefield. Strong leadership can turn the tide of battle in your favour, but reckless decisions could prove catastrophic, as every casualty you take removes a card from your deck. Take charge amidst the chaos of battle, hold fast in the face of opposition, and remain undaunted.”

I admit I haven’t tried this one out yet. I do have Undaunted: North Africa but haven’t gotten it to the table yet.

I’m really psyched for this one.

The press release lists the key features in the app, so I’ll just post them here:

  • A faithful recreation of the original board game.
  • An original card and dice driven mechanic making the game highly replayable.
  • All scenarios from the original boardgame plus two additional scenarios.
  • Play individual scenarios or a full campaign (on Full Release).
  • Play solo against three different levels of difficulty.
  • Cross platform online multiplayer (play by email) or local hotseat.
  • Learn the game through a quick and engaging tutorial.
  • 1944 Normandy rendered in 3D maps with animated units.
  • Original music compositions by Gabriel Berger.

And here are a couple of screen shots.

In this one below you can see the terrain tiles laid out almost like they were on your table.

Undaunted: Normandy will be available on Steam Early Access in Q3 of 2022 with the full release (which I assume will include iOS and (maybe) Android).

I can’t wait to get my (figurative) hands on this one!

Let me know what you think about this in the comments.

Top 25 Games Played of All Time – 2022 Edition (#5-1)

Wow.

I was not expecting to take a 2-week break from the blog.

I’m learning to listen to my heart and brain and just take breaks when I need to, and this last two weeks, I just haven’t felt like blogging.

Whenever I thought I should, I’d just load up Phoenix Point instead (what an amazing game on Steam!)

I hope none of you have been holding your breath for a post.

That would be bad.

I have so few readers anyway that I can’t afford to lose you!

In this day and age, when sometimes we wonder if we should even be thinking of doing frivolous things like posting about boardgames, we have to remember that we have to take care of ourselves.

Sometimes that’s trying to maintain a normality that we may not feel right now.

Other times it’s trying to help those people who really need it. But it’s ok if you can’t deal with it all.

Not all of us can. At least not all at once.

If you need it, though, I’m here to talk.

So it’s been 2 weeks since I did one of these posts and it just happened to come when the final one was due.

Yes, we are at the Top 5 games I’ve played of all time, and none of them will probably be a surprise to you if you’ve been reading this blog at all (ok, #1 may surprise you).

Keeping to the theme from the beginning of the other posts in this series, let’s talk about a game that took a tumultuous fall out of the Top 25 back in 2019.

Diamonds is one of my favourite trick-taking games and was in the Top 25 in 2019 (#24). This time, it fell to #69. I think part of that is because I haven’t played the game in a while, but also a big part of it is that there are so many games that aren’t short fillers that have taken its place. While there are some shorter games on my list, still, they are more of the tactical/strategic variety with lots of interesting decisions.

That doesn’t make Diamonds a bad game, but it does maybe make it fall out of the Top 25.

And that’s not a bad thing!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these 25 games and please let me know what you think of them in the comments (either of this post or the post where they are highlighted).

Keep in mind, though, that this is only the top 25 games that I’ve played. I have barely played 50% of the Top 100 games on Boardgame Geek, so it’s very possible that I haven’t played your favourite game.

So to you Agricola fans, go feed your people and leave me alone.

On that note, let’s take this train into the station.

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Space Base – The Mysteries of Terra Proxima coming April 15

Sorry for the long delay on posting. Regular service will be returning soon.

Today I saw the announcement on Twitter that the next “saga” expansion for one of my favourite games, Space Base (designed by John D. Clair and published by Alderac Entertainment Group), is coming to your local game store on April 15. This would be The Mysteries of Terra Proxima.

The “saga” expansions (like The Emergence of Shy Pluto) can almost be considered “story” expansions where you unlock cards as you go along.

The cards can then be used in regular Space Base games, so it’s not like a legacy or campaign game where you are going to be destroying cards or anything like that.

In fact, assuming it’s like Shy Pluto, you could just unwrap all the cards and use them in your regular games without worrying about it.

I really enjoy that kind of expansion, though I haven’t had the chance to play Shy Pluto yet. One day soon, since it’s a lunch time game for work!

Let’s blurb this a bit just to pad my word count (because you know it’s all about the word count):

“Merging the power of Shy Plutonium with new starship technologies has allowed the U.E.S. Science Corps to reach the distant stars of Alpha Centauri, and discover the planet Terra Proxima. Strange ruins and vast fields of fungi cover much of the planet. Eager for knowledge, the U.E.S. authorizes colonization!”

I’m really looking forward to this one!

If you want to see what I think of the main Space Base game, check out my review.