Welcome to the penultimate episode of my dinner with Shem Phillips. Pies have been eaten. More pies have been eaten. And now we are happily rambling on about games that were, games that are, and games that are yet to be.

DTD: So, was there other new stuff that you wanted to talk about? Brand new Garphill on the horizon? I know about South [trilogy]. Were there other exciting ventures?

SP: So, we’ve also got the Circadians game that we put out a couple years ago, which is our kind of sci-fi universe that we’re working on. 

DTD: Yeah. 

SP: So, the first game was like a dice placement kind of game, that Sam designed. So, we have a follow-up game for that coming out to Kickstarter at some point this year. 

The follow-up game to Sam Macdonald’s Circadians: First Light (2019) will be Circadians: Chaos Order, co-designed with Zach Smith.

DTD: Oh cool!

SP: The artwork is currently being done, but it’s a big 2-5 player asymmetric kind of dudes on a map game, but done in our style, I guess. There’s no minis, but it’s very…

DTD: How can you do a Kickstarter without minis? 

SP: It’s just what we do.

DTD: And a sci-fi Kickstarter without minis. 

SP: I know! We are going to break the mold! But it’s looking amazing. So, my brother is doing the artwork, and I’ve seen all the faction boards. Now I’ve seen all the character cards, and I can show you some one screen if you want. 

Shem Phillip’s brother is artist Sam Phillips, known for Raiders of Scythia, Hadrian’s Wall and the Circadian games.

DTD: Oh cool!

SP: So, here’s one of the cards. Every faction has a bunch of different characters. And in the game, you can upgrade them, so they kind of get heavily armored, so she goes from like…

DTD: I’ve always been a fan of the cards that the upgrade is a simple flip. 

SP: Yeah, yeah. 

DTD: Especially with more predefined rules, like when it upgrades, this value doubles, you flip it over. 

Valletta is a classic game in which upgrading a card doubles it’s resources. This system was recently reimplemented in Lions of Lydia.

SP: Yes, it’s the other little, up in that corner, got their stats, got their ability. And if you upgrade them, they kind of level up a bit. 

DTD: That’s beautiful. 

SP: She gets really strong with her ability. So, you kind of have like three or four of these cards, and there’s going to be much smaller cards which have their faction attributes, that also do the same thing. But it’s a pretty big game, so I’m still not sure how deep the box is going to have to be to fit, but that’s pretty cool. 

DTD: [sarcastically] No, you gotta fit it in the little standard trilogy box.  

The North Sea and West Kingdom trilogies of games have all had a small-ish size game box, and while some of the titles fit just fine, many…do not. I feel it takes a degree in physics to pack up Paladins of the West Kingdom efficiently.

SP: I want to keep our usual size, but it might just be a bit deeper. Well, that’ll be, I guess probably around July or August on Kickstarter maybe. It depends on how fast the all the art gets done. Yeah, that’s looking pretty good.

DTD: That’s very exciting. 

SP: It’s gonna be different for us, because we’ve never done that kind of game, a combat game. So, I don’t know… Most of our fans, there will be some crossover for sure, but a lot of people will be like, “That’s not the usual Garphill kind of game. Like, 3-5 hours? Asymmetric factions?”

Shem is known for 1-2 hour euro games without much direct conflict.

DTD: Where are the cubes?

SP: Yeah, yeah, there will be some cubes, so they might be happy.

Cubes always make games better. Little colored wooden cubes.

DTD: They can throw them at each other…

SP: That’s one of our big ones for the year, alongside the expansions for the West Kingdom. 

DTD: Sure. 

Architects of the West Kingdom had Age of Artisans (2020) and Works of Wonder (2021). Paladins of the West Kingdom just finished the Kickstarter for City of Crowns, coming in November 2021. We can only guess as to the foretold Viscounts of the West Kingdom expansion – Rings of Rondels? Iterations of Inkwells? Heaps of Horses? Coagulation of Cubes?

SP: So, we’re doing one expansion for each of them. And then the solo game I’m working on for next year. I’ve got another game I’ve been working on, for probably like three or four years now, with an artist from Weta Workshop. So, he approached me, yeah, it would have been…probably was four years. Wow, it’s gone by fast. 

Weta Workshop is the New Zealand digital special effects company best known for working on the Lord of the Rings movies. Although they did contribute to a few board games over the years…

DTD: Well, you worked on GKR [Heavy Hitters], right?

SP: Yeah, I did, yeah. So, they brought me on board for that.

Shem worked on the GKR expansions Big Little Buddy, Sweet and Salty Factions, and Urban Wasteland. GKR stands for Giant Killer Robots, by the way. Awesome.

DTD: And that was Weta.

SP: Yeah. So, they brought me on to like basically take this two player game that the guys at Cryptozoic had made, and say, “Can you make this for up to four players, or even 1-4 players? And prepare it for Kickstarter? Like give us stretch goals. Give us add on content, and all that extra stuff.” So that was like a little bit of a job I did for about two months with them. But through that, got to meet a lot of them. And one of the concept artists from GKR approached me about another IP that he’s been working on, and said, “Like, can you make a game in this universe?” So, that’s been on and off a lot for the last three years. There’s been times where I haven’t touched it for like six months, or whatever.

DTD: Wow.

SP: That that may come out this year. But I don’t know. He’s like pouring so much time and effort into the artwork, which looks amazing. Because he’s, you know, he’s a lead concept artist on like Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and all those, that kind of stuff. So, he’s an amazing artist. 

DTD: You know you’re really doing damage to the stereotype that every person from New Zealand is associated with either Weta or Jackson.

I am starting to feel there may be some truth down there.

SP: I know. I know, but I live like an hour’s drive from Weta workshop, so it’s not too bad. But then again, New Zealand is so small. 

For some reason, every internet reference says that New Zealand is the size of Colorado. I don’t know why they all picked Colorado. I am going to go one step further and say the New Zealand has the same surface area as Saturn’s moon Hyperion.

DTD: I’m jealous. That’s great. 

SP: Actually, that’s Paul Tobin is the artist’s name. He and Nikola [Booth], who was the… She was the project lead on GKR. They have now broken off and made their own publishing company called Arkus Games. So that’s one of the games that I… I Kickstarted Shelfie Stacker last year, which I designed, which is another abstract dice game. And now they’ve got a bunch of other Kiwi designers that they’re working with, for future games, which is really cool. So expect, like their games to be very…like, very visual, very pretty, but also kind of more easy, more accessible, than my games might be. So, I’m really excited to see what they do as well. 

Shelfie Stacker successfully raised NZ$97,040 in July 2020.

DTD: Oh, that’s amazing. I am very excited about this. Will be looking forward to that. So, you’ve got a Lord of the Rings game coming then as well, of course. 

SP: No. [laughs] No. I actually find it really difficult to design to IPs. Well, I found that over the time anyway. I got, like… I had the chance to work on District 9, but I ended up turning it down, because I just, I couldn’t think of anything. I couldn’t design in that space, and I’ve had others bring me IPs, and say, “Can you make a game in this, in our IP?” You know, I try and work with it for a bit, and it’s just like, “I can’t do it.” I guess, I’m just not that person to make a game set in someone else’s universe. And even this one with Paul is taking me like three or four years to kind of, get to the point of this now, because it’s just like…it’s just not my natural flow, I guess. I like making the world or making the stuff around it. 

DTD: Well, you did… I’m reaching into the back of my brain, wasn’t Bethel Woods, wasn’t that an IP game? 

SP: Yeah, that was very much like… I think I approached Jessy [Ribordy] before I made the game actually, so I approached him first, and said “I love, I love your audiobook. I love what he wrote. And I’d love to make a game in that universe.” And he was like, “Yes, cool, whatever. That sounds amazing. Do it.”

DTD: “Go for it.”

Bethel Woods is set in the universe of “Hours”, a novel written by Jessy Ribordy, lead singer of the Portland band Falling Up. The novel was included in the experimental album “Hours (The Machine De Ella Project).”

SP: And so, then I set out to make a game based on that, and I think I…I can’t remember the process. But I had the mechanisms kind of working at some point. It’s not an overly thematic game, but it was fun making a game in a universe that I really loved. But it was a bit different, because I had a bit more liberty, because his audio book is so mysterious. And so, everything is unknown and untold by the end. It’s amazing. But I had to basically go to him, I said like, “So, there’s this is orphanage in the story. Is it OK if this has machines on top of it at some point in the future? Like, does it interfere with your other stories you have?” And he’s like “No, that could be, that could happen. That’s fine.” So, he actually let me kind of tell a bit more of the story, that he didn’t have. 

DTD: You got to play with the world. 

SP: Yeah, so that was quite fun, whereas, like if you do like a game for District 9, based off a movie, you’ve really gotta stay within the limits of the movie. Depends on who owns it.

DTD: It was kind of open-ended, but I can see where it’s… You want to deal with the things that happened in the movie.

Prawn aliens, cat food, big heavy social commentary.

SP: Yeah. 

DTD: Wow.

SP: I mean, like some of those designers out there, like Martin Wallace and stuff. And even like Corey Konieczka and stuff, making these games in IPs. It just, I have no idea how they do it. It’s amazing that they can take that, and then make a game that fits with that IP, does it justice, and still feels like it was still a good game.

Martin – call me. Let’s get samosas.

DTD: Oh yeah. 

SP: I don’t know how they, don’t know how they do it. 

DTD: And Corey, aside from having a fantastic first name, has done some really good IP stuff for Fantasy Flight. I mean his Star Wars stuff, and Battlestar [Galactica]. I mean, they’re fantastic games that fit right in the mold. I’m very excited to see what comes out of his his new company. 

Corey – call me. No food necessary. Let’s just hang.

SP: Yeah, I saw they just announced the first one. It’s like a picture of a head with stuff inside the head, I think it was.

DTD: It’s interesting, his game is The Initiative

SP: That’s it, yeah. 

DTD: And it is, it’s almost an escape room game. It’s kind of – if you took an escape room puzzle game, a deductive game, and you made it legacy. You made puzzle after puzzle that link into each other and turn into an inclusive story. I’m excited about that one. 

SP: That sounds cool. 

DTD: I think I have that preordered. 

I just received my copy in the mail on April 7, 2021. I must have pre-ordered it…

SP: Yes. I’d be very keen to try that. Sounds good.

DTD: Yeah, I’m always impressed with what he puts out. He does some really neat stuff. 

SP: Yeah, definitely. So, what’s your kind of, what’s your go-to playstyle for games then? The euro styles or…? 

DTD: I’m usually playing Euro games, but honestly I’m the collector as well. So I’ve got a large collection. I’m usually the person who comes to the board game meet up with all the new games, and I’ll play just about anything. Right now, we’ve been playing HallertauCloudAge. What else? The Crew was a huge hit, we played all the missions in The Crew just nonstop. We played that one like crazy. But then also, you know some of the stranger Japanese Games, and games from Taiwan, Saashi and Saashi Games. We’ll play just about anything. I think my favorite is usually mid-weight eurogames. 

SP: Yes. 

DTD: That’s usually where I’m going. Even heavier eurogames.

SP: Like the Vital Lacerda games?

Vital Lacerda is known for large box, complex, euro games, such as Vinhos, Lisboa, The Gallerist, Escape Plan, and On Mars.

I originally thought that the Portuguese surname Lacerda was a reference to the latin word for “lizard” – lacerta, but it is in fact a modification of the Spanish “la cerda”, meaning a lock of hair, and can be a nickname for someone with thick, long hair.

DTD: I’ve played all the Vital Lacerda games and I like them. I mean, if… He’s probably gonna kill me, but I do think they could use some editing and, you know, get a little simpler…? 

I did not mean it, Vital. Call me. We will have tapas.

SP: Yeah.

DTD: And they would still be very, very good games. 

SP: For sure. I mean, I…yeah, there’s so many things in art… you could probably like take that out, take that out, take that out. But then you’re like…but is the rules-heaviness kind of the thing? That’s why people like his games? I don’t know. 

DTD: I think so. I think the art helps a lot as well. I mean his games are ridiculously beautiful. Lisboa and The Gallerist are just crazy beautiful games, with all that moving, all the moving parts everywhere. But it also takes a good three or four plays to figure out what you actually need to do. 

SP: Yeah, I first tried to play Lisboa solo on Tabletopia, and gave up. And then I tried it again and finished it but lost poorly. And then I think I tried it two-player with Sam on Tabletopia. It finally started to click. And then someone was selling it, like super cheap, with the deluxe components in New Zealand.

I absolutely love Lisboa, but I have no retention for the game. Every time I pick it up, I feel like I am learning the game from scratch.

DTD: Nice.

SP: So, I grabbed it, grabbed it quickly, and then I played it three or four times since. So, I really like that one. On Mars kind of feels like he’s streamlining more, sounds like it.

DTD: Yeah.

SP: It’s much easier to learn than his previous ones. 

DTD: I really like the ideas in On Mars, but it hasn’t really clicked for me yet. I don’t, I don’t grok the whole game yet. 

Grok became a common term in the 1960s following the publication of Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein in 1961. Grok means to fully and completely understand intuitively or by empathy. The original meaning was “to drink,” but this is a metaphor much like “I see” means I understand. “I drink” in this manner means I completely absorb and become one with.

SP: Yeah.

DTD: Did you like that? You like the whole reference: so, you know, you talk about a Mars game, and you use the word “grok?” 

Stranger in a Strange Land is about a human raised on Mars as a martian. Grok is a martian word and concept. Trust me, it was a very clever word choice.

SP: Yes… [laughs]

DTD: See, that’s the way you do it. So, I love the idea that there’s two… It’s a split world and you need to pick your actions from this side, or from this side. But the advantage of jumping from side to side hasn’t really sunk home for that game. 

In On Mars, players are either in orbit, or on the surface of mars. The actions available are different depending where the player currently resides, and the players get opportunities to switch locales during the game.

SP: Yeah, it’s a really interesting tension, I find. Like, do I go back this time or not? And I’ve, I think all the times I’ve done poorly in the game, is when I’ve made a bad choice not to go, and I should have gone.

DTD: The only thing that really got me with On Mars is the very first time I played it, I played with a group of very careful, very defensive players. 

SP: Right? 

DTD: And the game, On Mars, does not progress, unless the players progress the game. 

SP: Yeah. 

DTD: So, we got stuck. Nobody would buy enough stuff or do enough actions to actually move the round. It just never happened. So, we played for hours and hours and hours, and nothing happened. 

I am ashamed to say I rage quit the game after 5 hours.

SP: That’s weird. 

DTD: And it was purely the players, it was the group of people playing, myself included. We just, we didn’t follow the rules.  I always found that interesting, games that only progress if the players force them to progress. It’s a very weird concept. 

SP: Yeah, yeah. You can technically do that in Architects [of the West Kingdom]. You could make the game go on forever, if you wanted to. Just don’t build. With those things you always want to like, incentivize people to do it. So, like in On Mars, you’ve got rewards for doing the LSS, and then you get the, whatever it is. You get a crystal or something, if you do this particular mission that they want you to achieve. Things like that, it’s like you’re encouraged to rush the game, in a way. Doesn’t mean you have to. 

DTD: Exactly. And strange things happen, like the market won’t refresh itself, so you can’t get what you need, unless you do what you’re supposed to do. And that stumbled us. So, the game went on the shelf for a while. Before I pulled it out and played it again. 

SP: Yeah. 

DTD: But I enjoyed it a lot the next time I played it, it’s just the other thing with the Vita Lacerda games is, if I put them on the shelf for a month, I completely forget how to play them. 

Zero retention. I am a goldfish.

SP: Yeah, that’s true. 

DTD: And it is a complete re-learning process to get them back out. 

SP: Yeah, and the first time trying to teach four players to play Lisboa was like, “I don’t know how to teach this game.” 

DTD: Yeah. 

SP: I can barely, I barely know how to play it, and I’m going to try and teach it. And then I think I had spent like 20 minutes discussing how you take actions, and then the three Nobles. And then people are like, “What’s all the stuff over here [pointing]? What’s these cubes on the board?” 

DTD: I don’t want to talk about that. 

SP: I’m like, “I’m getting to that! I’m getting to that.” 

There are, as previously mentioned, a lot of moving parts to Lisboa. But it is a great game. Plus, it is obviously a historical labor of love – Vital Lacerda lives is Lisbon, modern day Lisboa.

DTD: [laughs] I still don’t really understand that part of it. It just happens, and then you know you get excited when they end up in certain spots.

SP: Exactly, yeah. [laughs] 

DTD: I still, I love those games. I just hardly ever play them. It’s hard to get a group to actually sit down and play those. 

SP: Yeah, it’s like… For me it’s like a full-on event. It’s like, “We are doing this huge game.” It’s like a full, big meal that you are going to consume. You prepare for it.

DTD: It is an event. I did that to my family with Hallertau. It’s like, “Get ready. Tomorrow we’re going to play this. There’s going to be a lot of resources, and they’re all shaped like strange vegetables, so just be ready.” But actually, it was a fairly light game. It was not nearly as heavy as I was anticipating, and I like Uwe [Rosenberg]’s games a lot. And it had elements of Reykholt, if you’ve played that one. 

SP: I haven’t played that one yet. 

DTD: The game is in rounds. And the structure of a round is generally that you’re going to collect a whole bunch of stuff, and at the end of the round you’re going to spend it all, moving something up a track. 

And in Hallertau, you are moving a giant building up a track. It is glorious.

SP: All right. 

DTD: So, you can kind of preplan, you know, “I’m going to need clay for this bit of the track, and I’m going to need wheat for this bit of the track, and I’m going to need…” but it’s a little too complicated to perfectly plan.

SP: All right. 

DTD: So, you work your engine, and you work your magic, and you do your actions, and you get a pile of resources. And then you try to shove everything forward at the very end. Reykholt is  a simpler version of that, but it’s collect a bunch of stuff, and then move as far down the racetrack as you can, spending resources each step of the racetrack. 

Reykholt features a long line of picnic tables, each requiring certain vegetables. You collect tons of vegetables, then plow through as many picnic tables as you can at the end of the round. As one is want to do in Iceland.

SP: Alright, yeah. 

DTD: But it’s got that physicality to it, which I really like. You are not just moving your piece along a track, you’re taking this giant cardboard house, and sliding it along the track.

SP: [laughs] OK.  

DTD: As you clear things out of the way. So, when everything is out of the way, the house chunks forward.

And the window of the house reveals how many workers you get next round.

SP: All right. 

DTD: Delightful midweight to light-midweight. Really worked for me. The next one that I’m prepping them for is Bonfire

SP: Oh yeah, yeah. 

DTD: And it seems like a Feld game, where it has a jillion different resources and pieces that are so crazily not attached to each other, but it’ll all kind of workout in the end, I’m pretty sure.

So many pieces, all representing random fantasy bric-a-brac.

SP: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah, he’s pretty good at his point salad games. Feld, he’s kind of the grandfather of them, I think. Yeah, for sure.

And Bonfire is as much a theme salad as a point salad.

DTD: He does really neat stuff, and he still works his day job. He’s a principal of a high school.

Stefan, call me. We will get a nice cafeteria lunch. Who am I kidding? I will get you anything you want.

SP: Wow, that’s a lot of work. I guess, he puts out like 1 game a year, maybe 2 games a year. 

DTD: That sounds about right. I mean, he definitely consistently puts out games. But not a huge number of them. I guess one a year is quite an accomplishment if you’ve got, you know, a regular job. So, he’s doing well. 

SP: Yeah, definitely. I don’t… I think what I was doing, while I was still working full time, I was doing like one a year. And that was enough. Because it’s a lot of work. 

DTD: Well, there’s a lot of waiting time in there, that the public doesn’t see. 

SP: Yeah, it’s actually like, “Work your 8 hours, go home. Work on it for two hours, then try and sleep not thinking about it. And then go back to work and think about it.”

DTD: How can you not think about it? And not have little colored dice all spinning around in your head all night long?

SP: Yep, pretty much. Yeah. At times I wish I had like an off-switch for my brain – dead asleep. 

DTD: It would be handy, wouldn’t it? 

SP: Oh yeah.

DTD: Get it…the old science fiction term, get a droud.  

I don’t know why I went to droud. A droud, term used to effect by Larry Niven in Ringworld, is a wire directly connected to the pleasure center of the brain. It was shown that if a rat had a wire directly stimulating the pleasure center of the brain, they would choose to activate it above every other stimulus, including food. And they would starve to death.

I guess I just wanted a way to directly activate sleep in the brain, and my mind went to “droud”.

DTD: So, you said that mostly you like playing abstract games. You said that was your thing.

SP: No, I figure I just have a sweet spot for them. 

DTD: Sweet spot for them. 

SP: My go-to is just games that have really interesting decision spaces, and tension. So, the ones where you’re just like, “I just don’t know what I want to do, but I…aaaaah!” The kind of stuff that would make people get AP, I guess. Those are the games…when it’s just a really tough choice, and that can be as simple as, like Love Letter. Where you’ve got two cards, and you are like, “If I play this one, that happens. But this one wins. Which is the best move, I don’t know?”

DTD: Well, that’s usually…the perfect one is where you have a choice between…you usually only have two or three things to choose between. 

SP: Yeah. 

DTD: And there’s not an obvious best decision. But for some reason it’s agonizing to decide between these two things. 

SP: And my brain enjoys that for some reason. 

DTD: Well, sure. What’s the definition of a board game? Self-imposed obstruction? 

SP: [laughs] Makes sense, yeah. 

DTD: I remember being really impressed with Le Havre. Just because it was a worker placement game. One worker. You get two choices on your turn. You either collect this big pile of goodies that’s been building up by one every turn, or you place your worker. That’s it. I’ve explained the whole game. 

SP: Yeah. And simplicity is good. 

DTD: Ah. Yeah, those are always fun. Again, playing with it, I guess worker placement games really are my sweet spot for most of this. And just the different things you can do with worker placement. It just makes me happy when I see a new mechanism, where you know you do something strange and different with the workers. It just, it makes my day. You know it’s worker placement, but now you can put as many workers as you want on this space. It just gets better and better. 

Part of the allure of Shem’s games, for me, is that they take well established mechanisms and change them just a little bit. I get the excitement of a new mechanism, without the disorientation of dealing with something completely new.

SP: I think it works, because like in classic games, you have usually got player cards or roll the dice. That’s like your…that’s your turn usually, in most older games. Whereas worker placement kind of fits that same mold of place a worker, like it’s just simple. So even non-gamers can just understand, “I’ve got these people. On my turn I place one.” It’s such an easy concept to grasp on your turn. Whereas if it’s, if it’s action points, “You have four points you can spend. You can do these seven things.” That’s like a lot to take in for you for non-gamers.

DTD: Well, it’s the same thing. You could tell somebody on your turn, you could do one of these seven things. Or you could just give them a board with seven spaces, that have pictures of the things you can do. “I’m gonna put my guy on the blow up the planet space.” That just works, it’s just a a physical translation of action selection. 

“Worker placement games start with an action point system, then turn the board into the cheat sheet or reference card.”

SP: Yeah, yeah. 

DTD: And then when you use multiple workers, that’s just a translation of action points. This space takes 2 workers. This one takes 5. It’s delightful. And by the way, that worker is a little bigger, so he counts as two. And that one is blue!

SP: I really enjoyed Pillars of the Earth when it first came out.

DTD: Oh, that was so good.

SP: That one, yeah, because it had the worker system of like, how you want to pay for your resources, but then also the master builder type worker is like, kind of two tiers of workers going on. Especially with the expansion added in as well.

Pillars of the Earth (2006) by Michael Rieneck and Stefan Stadler has stood out as a critically acclaimed worker placement game, staying in the top 300 on BGG. It has also been historically difficult to find, although a new printing has been hinted at for some time. Pillars is based on a novel by Ken Follett, the first in a trilogy of books, and unfortunately follow-up board games based on the later novels in the series have failed to reach the same popularity.

DTD: Oh, it was great. And I’m kind of surprised that it hasn’t spawned more games like it. It still stands as fairly unique.

One of the big mechanisms in the game is the worker system. All players’ workers are placed in a bag. As the workers come out, players can pay money to execute their actions early, claiming valuable actions before they go away. Or players can choose to execute their actions later for free, after all the paying players are done.

SP: It does, yeah. 

DTD: And it was kind of a weird one-off because the other games in the series were not nearly as good, and they kind of faded. And not a whole lot else has come out from that group.

SP: No. That’s a good one. 

DTD: Yeah, it went out of print and got crazy expensive, and nobody could find it. But I hear there’s supposed to be a reprint. I think it’s out. Including the expansion.

The expansion has been particularly hard to find.

SP: Probably with like a 3D painted castle or cathedral, and probably huge, you know…

DTD: You gotta do the full Cleopatra [and the Society of] Architects, where you build, you know, an enormous thing in the middle. 

Pillars of the Earth was criticized for having large Cathedral pieces, whose only purpose was to count off the rounds of the game. When the game was over, you had a built cathedral on the board made of these enormous wooden blocks. The biggest perpetrator of this crime however, was Cleopatra and the Society of Architects, which had many huge beautiful pieces that had no functional role in the game whatsoever.

SP: Yeah, yeah. The box becomes the cathedral. 

DTD: Yes, with no use other than just a timer for the game that’s made of giant blocks. It was…it was a fantastic game, Pillars of the Earth. Still, I still play it a lot. Rococo, that was another really nice, odd game. 

SP: I have not played that one, because they did the deluxe version last year.

DTD: Yeah. It is really expensive, and really deluxe. Over so, but it’s still, it’s a delightful game. It’s a derivative of  deckbuilding which I think really works. 

Rococo was another difficult to find game that became quite expensive on the secondary market. The new deluxe version of Rococo came out at the end of last year from Eagle-Gryphon, which solved the accessibility problem, but left the price problem almost intact.

SP: Nice. 

DTD: It’s deckbuilding where you kind of have access to your whole deck, but you don’t get to bring your cards back until you’ve used up everything. So, it’s a much more known quantity deck-builder. Which is delightful. 

SP: The classic, that kind of like resting deck-builder, like Century [Spice Road] or Flotilla did that as well. Concordia.

Concordia uses a system I love, wherein players play cards from their hand, one per turn. And one of the cards will return all played cards to hand. Plus players get a bonus if they played most of their cards before retrieving used cards.

DTD: I’ve heard such good things about Flotilla. And I have not played it yet.

SP: It’s quite…it’s quite rules heavy. But it was good. We played at five player. And it took a long time, and the players were starting to fade. They enjoyed it, but it was like, “That was looong.” And it’s cool, yeah.

DTD: There’s a two-player Flotilla, isn’t there? That just was either just announced or just released? 

SP: I think it’s called Seastead, I think it’s a I think it’s a whole new game. Just set in the same universe.

Flotilla was designed by J.B. Howell and Michael Mihealsick, and came out December 2019. Seastead, by designers Ian Cooper and Jan M. Gonzalez released October 2020.

DTD: Seastead. 

SP: I think it’s even a different designer. I think, in memory. 

DTD: Interesting. 

SP: I haven’t played that one, but yeah. 

DTD: I just remember hearing it attached to Flotilla. 

SP: Yeah, for sure. It’s definitely the same universe, I guess. 

DTD: Then have you played Dilluvia Project

SP: No, I haven’t. 

DTD: It was an odd one-off Euro game. Came out of Spielworxx. I was really impressed with it. It was collect resources, and put tiles down, and build little polyomino things, and build buildings to get points, and…but it did it really well. It had a very nice action selection mechanism with a sliding grid of rows and columns, and you pick a row and other people can’t pick that one. And things like that. Really worked for me. Probably 3-4 years old at this point. 

Dilluvia Project by designer Alexandre Garcia came out from Spielworxx in October 2015, then had a second edition from Tasty Minstrel Games in August 2019. So, either 6 or 2 years old. I just instinctively took the average.

SP: Yeah. Yeah, I definitely recognize the name, but so many, so many games I don’t get to play, just because [laughs] there’s so many games

DTD: There’s way too many. And I run, in addition, I run a podcast and I do Dice Tower News. So, I’m always looking at the news level, to see what’s been announced, and what’s new, and what’s coming out, and all this stuff. 

SP: Yeah. 

DTD: So, hard to keep up with all of it. 

SP: Yeah, definitely. 

DTD: Yeah, they just announced 2nd edition Gravwell.

Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension by Corey Young is one of my wife’s favorite games, and was one of the first games I purchased in this new golden age of hobby board gaming. The new edition should be coming out in June 2021.

SP: All right. I haven’t played the first one, so. 

DTD: Very simple but fun. It is a clever little game. Almost entry level, but delightful. 

Come back next week for the final Phillips, where we talk about being evil in games, advanced Architects strategies, and expansions, expansions, expansions. Plus I get the dirt on Mihajlo Dimitrievski, known to many as … The Mico. I have a theory he is secretly an evil supervillain.

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