You're never quite sure what you'll see from a game publisher at Toy Fair, with the trade show being overshadowed by Gen Con and the Essen Spiel, both of which serve as the launching point for most new game products. Every now and then, though, the timing matches up, and a game times perfectly for a Toy Fair preview. Such was the case at the Publisher Services Inc. (PSI) booth, where the distributor had representatives from Steve Jackson Games, Stronghold Games, and Stratus Games on hand to show off their upcoming releases.
Stronghold Games in particular is on a roll, as the 2-year-old company has yet to publish a game without having it shoot up BoardGameGeek.com's "hotness" sidebar, and even took MTV Geek's own Game of the Year award in 2011 with Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War. New releases for Stronghold sprinkled throughout 2012 include Crude: The Oil Game, Lost Temple, and Revolver: The Wild West Gunfighting Game.
But the big news for this publisher at Toy Fair was the return of one of their first titles, Survive: Escape From Atlantis. After selling through the initial print run, this classic game is now celebrating its 30th anniversayr, and is sporting a brand new box (seen above) to commemorate the landmark. If Stronghold Games is just now coming onto your radar, I recommend going back and getting your introduction to the company with Survive.
After teasing fans with images of this abstract strategy title for months, and even holding a contest to create its name, Steve Jackson Games showed off a final version of Castellan at Toy Fair. The game's concept is easy to grasp: play cards to add sections to a castle under construction. If you create an enclosure, you'll score points, and earn the potential to further subdivide that space to further increase your score.
Castellan will be sold as a 2-player game with red and blue towers for the English-only version, or yellow and teal towers for the international edition. Players who choose to purchase both with be able to merge the games to create a 4-player castle building game. It may seem simple, but Castellan looks to provide a real competition in a small package, and that is always welcome at my table.
Steve Jackson Games also had loads of dice games at their table, coming off the heels of their success with Zombie Dice and Cthulhu Dice. Directly related to those two are Dino Hunt Dice, a kid-friendly re-skin of Zombie Dice, as well as an all-metal Cthulhu Dice, which is exactly what it sounds like and a potentially awesome self-defense weapon. There was also a prototype of Halloween Dice, an all-new dice game where players aim to land their score directly on 13. The twist here is that players can change up the number of dice they roll each turn to tweak the amount of risk they will take.
The last game of note at the PSI booth was DiceAFARI from Stratus Games. While followers of Kickstarter-backed board games will already be familiar with this one, Toy Fair was the first time I had seen the game in person and I came away impressed.
DiceAFARI is a family strategy game that uses a variable map setup (based on the cards in the upper-right corner shown above) of different animal shapes. On their turns, players place their photographer chips on various terrain tiles that match the result of a die roll. By surrounding animals that hang out on the edges of these tiles, players will be able to "photograph" (score the points for) that animal.
Stratus Games is aiming to place DiceAFARI right into the niche of games simple enough to be enjoyed by a casual audience yet deep enough to scratch a hobby gamer's strategy itch, much like their previous release Eruption which was well-received here in its review on MTV Geek.