What's new in tabletop gaming (February 2019 edition)

Here are some recent game releases of note and some of what I've been up to in hobby gaming over the past month or so.

Android: Shadow of the Beanstalk
Fantasy Flight Games, $60, Players, Ages: 12+
I have been looking forward to this book ever since it was announced by FFG following their retirement of the Netrunner card game, also set in the Android universe. Shadow of the Beanstalk is a 256-page sourcebook for use with the Genesys Roleplaying System. Two years ago, I got to talk to the creators of Genesys at NovaCon before they got scooped up by FFG. Genesys is a GURPS-like universal RPG system that allows you to roleplay any time period, setting, theme. Also like GURPS, it is designed to greatly encourage narrative play and DIY themes and settings. Shadow of the Beanstalk is a campaign setting for the Android universe centered on New Angeles, the city that is home to the beanstalk, the space elevator that has afforded humanity cheap and easy access to space (and has subsequently attracted every megacorp, criminal enterprise, and hacker/"runner" faction). When The Worlds of Android background book came out, many said it was so close to an RPG setting, they ached for the game mechanics to actually play it. These mechanics have arrived with Genesys and Shadow of the Beanstalk.

Cosmic Encounter
Fantasy Flight Games, $60, 3-5 Players, Ages: 14+
The classic alien negotiation and conquest game, which many consider one of the greatest board games ever made, is back with a slightly tweaked "42nd anniversary" edition. For over four decades, fans have raved over this diplomacy, colonization, and warfare game that Dice Tower once described as "a negotiation game with tentacles and freaky alien powers!" The new version is basically the same as FFG's 2009 release of the game with the edition of new cover art, a 51st alien (the Demon), colored translucent ships, and a redesigned and much more accessible rulebook. You also get a quick start set of rules in a cool comic book format. The main addition to this version is the inclusion of new Cosmic Combo cards. These are optimized alien match-ups that pit interesting races against each other. You just pick a card at random (or select one), and play with the suggested aliens based on your number of players. If you already have Cosmic Encounters, you won't get much out of this new set, but if this is your first encounter, now is the time to finally jump onto the Hyperspace Gate and let the cosmic expansion begin!

Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth
Osprey Games, $32, 1-4 players, Ages: 14+
One of my favorite games of 2017 was The Lost Expedition, an impressively intense card game of South American jungle survival by Peer Sylvester and Osprey Games. Building on the critical and commercial success of that game, Sylvester and Osprey have released Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth, a game set in the 2000 A.D. universe of Judge Dredd. The game uses a central core mechanic of event/choice/optional action cards similar to Lost Expedition and similar resources (health, food, ammo). Radiation and Violence, two new Dredd-y resource types, have been added. You also have expertise in Survival and Diplomacy to gain and lose. And true to the source, Psionic ability also comes into play in The Cursed Earth. The art for the game is by Judge Dredd artists Dan Cornwell and Rufus Dayglo, it is all new, and it is stunning. As is typical of Osprey Games these days, the entire production is first rate. One of the things I love about Lost Expedition and this game is that you can play in solo, coop, and competitive modes.

Wildlands: The Unquiet Dead Expansion
Wildlands: The Adventuring Party Expansion
Osprey Games, $25 each, 2-4 players, Ages: 14+
Martin Wallace's Wildlands, released last year, was a big hit. And for good reason. It is a fantastic card-driven dungeon-delving boardgame with lovely ink-washed minis and very satisfying gameplay. Two new expansion sets, The Unquiet Dead and The Adventuring Party allow you to bring new factions and new twists on gameplay to the world of Wildlands. The Unquiet Dead comes with six undead miniatures. You can either play them as a faction, or in a fun rules addition, you can reanimate dead characters from other factions and allow them to fight on as zombies. The zombies can't collect shards like other characters (the winning condition) but they can be used to attack others. In The Adventuring Party, a team of classic D&D adventurers, a rogue, a cleric, a barbarian, and a wizard, walk into a bar. Or in this case, the joke is that they wander onto your Wildlands board to steal your stuff! There are only 4 (very lovely miniatures) instead of the normal 5, and you can either play them as a 4-character faction or use them as a looting, NPC-like party that's there to harass the other players. The set also comes with 35 character, action, and faction cards and a rules sheet.

Necromunda House Delaque Gang
Games Workshop, $36
I was thrilled this Christmas when my son gave me a copy of the new edition of Necromunda, the beloved game of brutal hive gang combat set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. I've always had a huge soft spot in my nerdy little heart for the original sci-fi skirmish game of note. Of all of the lower-hive gang houses in Necromunda, the two I was always most attracted to are House Escher (a matriarchal gang that keeps men as breeding stock) and those snoopy, Dark City-like upper hive suck-ups, House Delaque. The new core game box includes a gorgeously-sculpted Escher gang (along with a House Goliath force). For my birthday, the good son gifted me the Delaque Gang boxed set. It contains ten highly-detailed, multipart miniatures--one leader, two champions, and seven gangers, all in different poses with different weapons and wargear. With 12-15 parts per 28mm mini, sometimes even including individual hands and feet, these models were surprisingly challenging to build. There was a fair amount of snipping, cutting, sanding, filing, gap-filling, and gluing. But the results are worth it. Next up, painting them all.

The Wizards' Conclave
Osprey Games, $25
The Wizards' Conclave is a collection of scenarios for the hit fantasy skirmish game, Frostgrave. Contributors include the amazing likes of Alessio Cavatore, Alex Buchel, Andy Chambers, Gav Thorpe, Ash Barker, Chris Pramas, Daniel Mersey, Andrea Sfiligoi, and many more. There are solo scenarios (yay!), mini campaigns, and regular scenarios. There appears to be only one co-op group campaign (a 4-player, 3-scenario campaign, penned by Frostgrave creator, Joseph McCullough), so I guess the conclave of wizards here is more a reference to the game designers that weave the magic of this book. Love the concept. The Wizards' Conclave includes the usual outstanding Frostgrave art from Dmitri and Kate Burmak.

Steve Jackson Pocket Box Games
Steve Jackson Games, $20 per classic pocket box game
SJ Games is finishing up another successful crowdfunding campaign. This one should be near and dear to old-school wargaming nerds. It's the re-release of most of the pocket box games that put Steve and company on the map in the 1980s. The campaign so far includes classics like Car Wars, Illuminati, Undead, and OGRE, but also lesser-known titles like Raid on Iran, One-Page Bulge and Kung Fu 2100, fourteen choices in all (to date), with additional expansions and goodies at stretch goals. The campaign ends on March 1st.

Reichbusters: Project Vril
Mythic Games, $100
A game that I am very excited to see this year is Mythic's Reichbusters: Project Vril. This is a Weird World World game where you play an international elite force at the end of WWII trying to stop Nazi scientists from fielding mutant soldiers and wargear enhanced with occult "Vril" technology. I have watched several play-throughs of this game and it looks incredibly exciting, cinematic, and fun, with lots of cooperative decision-making and planning that makes it feel a lot like an RPG. The KS campaign for the game was another huge success for Mythic. For those who missed it, the post-campaign Pledge Manager for Reichbusters is now live until April 2. One hundred clams gets you the core game and tons of unlocked stretch goals.

Gaslands Battle Reports
Bleeped Up Productions
I'm still mad for Gaslands, the post-apocalyptic vehicular combat game that uses Wasteland-converted Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars as game pieces. The best Gaslands battle reports that I've found on YouTube are on the Bleeped Up Productions channel. The co-host of these reports is none other than James Hall from JH Miniatures, my favorite YouTube channel for Gaslands car conversions.

Bexim's Bazaar
The Tabletop Engineer, $2 per month or $3 per issue
I wrote about Bexim's Bazaar previously. The new issue is out, #2, and I have a new column in it, "Gareth's Table of Tinkering." I will be, monthly, writing about tools, tips, techniques, and resources I discover in the course of my game crafting. Lots of other great content in this issue. In the March issue, I have a fairly lengthy introduction to modeling in the Gaslands universe and a "Tinkering" column on unique hobby tips for Gaslands modeling.


What are your favorite indie games and zines?

I want to do a piece on some of the best indie/"underground"/small publisher games and gaming zines that are out there. If you have favorites, please tell us about them in the comments.