January 2021 News

In Case You Missed It...

Slay The Spire

Early in January, Contention Games (best known for their tabletop adaptation of the digital game Imperium) announced a new board game version of the hit PC game Slay The Spire. There aren't very many specifics known about this adaptation outside of this brief summary listed on the Contention Games website:

Slay the Spire is a cooperative deckbuilding adventure. Craft a unique deck, encounter bizarre creatures, discover relics of immense power, and finally become strong enough to slay the spire!"

Slay The Spire is a game for 1 - 4 players that plays in about 45 minutes per player. The PC version of Slay the Spire, which was released in 2017, is a single-player game also based around deck-building in which players choose from a variety of different characters and craft a deck from that character's unique set of cards in order to fight creatures, discover relics and slay the spire. The game plays very much like a dungeon-crawler, where players will play progressively harder and harder levels as they make their way through a branching tree of level and story options.

Slay The Spire: The Board Game is set to launch on Kickstarter sometime in the Spring of 2021. You can sign up to be notified of the project on launch HERE.

Waddle Downtown

Penguin Meeples? Yes please! WizKids recently announced their next new release, Waddle Downtown. Arguably best known for their 2011 release Mage Knight, Wizkids newest release is billed as more of a family-friendly game designed for 2 -4 players and taking about 30 minutes to play. Here's what we know about this adorable new game from this brief summary listed on the WixKids website:

"In this fun, friendly, and accessible game from legendary video game designer Raph Koster (Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies) and tabletop guru Isaac Shalev, players will take an adorable group of curious penguins sightseeing around the city trying to match the patterns on their cards with the locations the penguins travel to. The game board is a set of 5-10 places (depending on the player count) each with room for 5 penguins, and an adorable illustration of said penguins wreaking havoc at restaurants, libraries, or even the opera! The Penguins are screen-printed custom wooden meeples, divided into yellow and red groups, with matching bow ties!"

I mean, just take a look at these. awesome penguin meeples. I can't wait to get my hands on them!!!

According to BoardGameGeek, gameplay is primarily centered around pattern movement and recognition. No player "controls" any one penguin. Instead all players are trying to manipulate the sets of penguins to best fit their own personal scoring cards.

Waddle Downtown is set to release in February of 2021. Preorders are now available at a variety of different online sellers and friendly local game stores.

Umbra Via

Pandasaurus Games has announced their first major 2021 release, Umbra Via. So far, there is a solid amount of detail about the new the game that has been officially confirmed. But first, here's a brief overview from the official game page:

"Unlock the secrets of Umbra Via... Just beyond the towering vines lies an ancient pathway into the unknown. Push back the thorn-riddled stocks to discover a clandestine garden, blooming with mysterious vigor. Vivid colors mark the way to intricate tiles zigging and zagging through the green. Within the flowers lies the key to greater meaning. An explanation for all things unknown...

In Umbra Via, players compete to control and complete the most cunning paths. Reach into your bag to select wooden flowers, then place them on your secret board in the order of the paths you want most. But when players reveal their choices, things get delightfully tricky. Experience the magic of Umbra Via and find out why this award-winning design belongs on any table.

The game was designed by Connor Wake and originally won the 2019 Cardboard Edison Award, a game design competition for unpublished games. Umbra Via is an abstract strategy game, combining elements of tile placement, are control and bidding. It was originally designed for 2 players, but the game is now listed as being for 2 - 4 players and takes about 30 - 45 minutes to play. Preorders are available now from Pandasaurus Games.

The Initiative

Last year, Asmodee announced Unexpected Games, a new publishing division spearheaded by designer Corey Konieczka. Now, they're announcing their first major release of 2021, The Initiative. From the official page on Board Game Geek:

"The Initiative — a unique co-operative board game of story, strategy, and code-breaking — lets players take on the role of teenagers in 1994 who have found a mysterious board game called "The Key". Not only will they play The Key, but players will help the teens through a pivotal chapter of their lives by following a series of missions linked together via an interactive comic book."

The game is a cooperative campaign game, with each scenario taking around 30 - 60 minutes to play. Win or lose, the story will advance, but winning will provide extra advantages going forward. Designed for 1 - 4 players, it is expected to release sometime in the second quarter of this year.

Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition

Fryx Games and Stronghold Games have announced the newest addition to the Terraforming Mars line of games: Terraforming Mars: The Are Expedition. Not much is known about the game outside of this very brief description from Board Game Geek:

"Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition is an engine-building game in which players control interplanetary corporations with the goal of making Mars habitable (and profitable)."

The game is set to be a card-driven game and was designed by Jacob Fryxelius, Sydney Engelstein, and Nick Little. It is a game for 1 - 4 players and takes about 45 - 60 minutes to play. It is expected to launch on Kickstarter sometime this year. You can sign up to be notified of the launch here.


Late in the month, AEG (best known for hit games like Mariposas, Calico, Tiny Towns and more) announced their first upcoming release of 2021: Cubitos. A racing game game of dice pool building and push-your-luck, there are already review videos out now from Tantrum House and The Dice Tower. Here's a more full description of the game from the AEG website:

"Players take on the role of participants in the annual Cube Cup; a race of strategy and luck to determine the Cubitos Champion. Each player has a runner on the racetrack and a support team, represented by all the dice you roll. Each turn you roll dice and use their results to move along the racetrack, buy new dice, and use abilities. But you must be careful not to push your luck rolling too much or you could bust!"

"Get ready to race with the wackiest group of characters to ever tie on some running shoes! And with four tracks to choose from, and multiple variants of each character, there are countless ways to play."

The game is designed for 2 - 4 players and plays in about 30 - 60 minutes. It is set to have a retail release on February 19th which you can sign up to be notified of via the AEG mailing list here.


Plan B Games (best known for the hit Century Spice Trilogy and Azul) have announced a new June release from legendary designer Reiner Knizia. Equinox is a game of betting and hand management... Here's an official description from Board Game Geek:

"In Equinox, mysterious creatures gather in the forest in an effort to write themselves into the legendary storybook and for tales to be shared for countless generations. However, there is room for only four more stories — not every story will be recorded, so the creatures have to be cunning and clever to outwit their opponents and make the cut."

"Equinox is a deeply satisfying betting game that gives players agency to influence the outcome of this competition. Each round, players place numbered power cards in front of the creatures, with the lowest-valued creature being eliminated from play. Players also place bets on which creatures they think will make it into the storybook, and you can use the special powers of these creatures to ideally turn things to your advantage."
"Fans of Dr. Reiner Knizia might recognize Equinox as a revised edition of the previously released game Colossus Arena, but with two new creatures. Of the fourteen unique creatures, only eight are played in a game, which means more than three thousand different combinations are possible. To celebrate the equinox occurring twice a year, players can select from two distinct box covers, but note that the contents in each box are identical."

The game is designed for 2 - 5 players and plays in 40 - 60 minutes. It is set to have a retail release in June of this year, with preorders opening now from the publisher's website.

Keystone: North America

This past week, designers and long-time friends Isaac Vega (Dead of Winter, Forgotten Waters) and Lindsey Rode (Labyrinthos) announced the launch of their brand new entertainment company, Rose Gauntlet Entertainment. A company intended to release not just board games but also video games and RPGs, Rose Gauntlet is an outlet for storytelling. Here's a more full description of the idea behind the company from the Rose Gauntlet website:

"The vision behind Rose Gauntlet was created from two great needs they both felt were missing in their careers. The first need was to have complete freedom over their art, and to tell the stories that would reflect parts of who they were. The second need was to build a home for their community, that could foster a welcoming, engaging, and creative environment where people would be able to connect with others through a love of gaming. With Rose Gauntlet they hope to create a company that will build incredible worlds, tell lasting stories, welcome diverse communities, and give back to the next generation of gamers and creators."

Their first tabletop game that they've announced (slated to launch on Kickstarter in the 2nd quarter of 2021) is Keystone: North America. A strategy game inspired by a passion for wildlife conservation, Keystone is a game of careful card placement and planning. Not many details about the gameplay have been announced yet. We do know, however, that it is intended for 1 -4 players and has a listed playing time of 40 - 90 minutes,

At this years virtual PortalCon, Portal Games announced a massive 2021 lineup which includes 3 brad new standalone games and 2 new expansions for Empires of the North and Neuroshima Hex. While plans can change, here's a look at the standalone games they have in the pipeline:

Dune: House Secrets

Dune: House Secrets was the biggest announcement of the convention. A collaboration between with Gale Force Nine, Legendary Entertainment, and Genuine Entertainment, Portal Games is bringing the iconic Dune universe to the tabletop. The first in a planned trilogy of games, Dune: House Secrets is set to include story-driven, cooperative gameplay similar to the system found in Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game. While there aren't too many details or photographs available yet, we do have a brief description of the game from the publisher's website:

"In Dune: House Secrets, players take on the roles of rebels who must solve a series of challenging missions with a finite amount of time and resources. Players cooperatively make decisions on how to progress the story, as they decide to explore different regions of the world, follow leads, leverage allies, and overcome the opposition of all kinds. During gameplay, players utilize a variety of physical and digital game components to steer the narrative in fun and surprising directions – a deck of cards with essential clues and plot twists, a dozen physical handouts, and a dedicated website with additional resources – for a truly immersive experience."

The game is designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek and Przemysław Rymer (the team behind Detective) and is set to release in quarter 4 of this year.


Have you ever wanted to manage your own football (soccer) club? Now you can with Eleven! An economic, scenario-driven game, Eleven tasks 1-4 players with the role of managing staff members, sponsors, stadium infrastructure and more all while simultaneously handling their team on and off the pitch. The game lasts 60 - 90 minutes and is set to launch on Kickstarter in June of this year.

Dreadful Circus

"No longer do you anxiously await the arrival of the wicked – for they have just arrived! In the dead of night, the gloom rolls in. Melodies whisper in slow rhythms as children wake from their slumber. Leaping from their beds, they rush to their parents and startle them awake. The mix of fear and excitement fills the room. The lure of exotic sweets waft in on the warm summer wind. The lives of this dull, small town are revitalized with the anticipation of this dreadful circus."

Dreadful Circus is a set-collection in which players will compete to build the best circus... but with a twist! As your circus evolves, so does your own rules for scoring. No two players will score the same way, which means you have to pay close attention to both your own goals and your opponents. Designed by Bruno Faidutti (Citadels, Mission: Red Planet), the game is designed for 4 - 8 players, plays in about 30 minutes, and is also set to release sometime this year.

For full details about these announcements about these games and the two new expansions

coming from Portal Games, check out their full press release here.

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