Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH & Co. (usually more simply just called Kosmos) may be able to lay claim to the oldest publisher at GenCon. Unlike other “elder statesmen” in the toy industry like Mattel, Hasbro, and fellow Germans HABA, who date back to the 1930s and 40s, Kosmos can trace it’s origins to 1822. It’s only six years younger than the state that hosts GenCon! Of course, they weren’t publishing board games that whole time, being a book publisher throughout the 19th century before becoming the publisher of the science and tech magazine Kosmos. They began to resemble their modern iteration in the 20’s, when they began to produce science experimentation kits. Since then, they’ve been one of the world’s biggest producers of educational toys and hobby kits (the kind you’d find at the old Discover Channel Store).
Thames & Kosmos is a little (ok a lot) younger, started in 2001 by a Rhode Island museum director and her son. It’s since become the US arm of Kosmos, helping develop new science kits as well as, more importantly for our purposes, translating their board games for English audiences. The stated goal of Kosmos board games is to make games that are “fun, addicting, and enchanting,” while also being “beneficial and wholesome.” They’re meant to help develop social skills, improve problem solving, math, and a whole other range of benefits (that of course depends on the game). I got to see some of these games up close, especially their newest releases in the board game lines.
Imhotep was one of Kosmos’s biggest hits, winning multiple awards and being nominated for the 2016 Spiel de Jahres. The Duel is the first spinoff of the game, and it takes the original’s pyramid building action and streamlines it for a fast paced 1 on 1 duel. The game now revolves around the great Pharaoh Akenhaten (he of opera fame) and his Great Royal Wife (as opposed to his Just Okay Royal Wife, Jenny) Nefertiti as they compete in a friendly battle of monument building. As you do. It’s likely that the two are working to build up the new capital of Aketaten, and it’s more fun to do it as a duel. In any case, players will have to place their tiles in ways that get them the best materials on their boats and shipped to their construction sites. All of the greatest hits of Egyptian civilisation are represented here: obelisks, tombs, pyramids, and temples. Each have different building requirements and different methods of scoring, and it’s up to you to decide what is most advantageous in your quest to be the best.
EXIT is a line of games from KOSMOS that aims to be an “escape room in a box.” Each is set in a different spooky scary location with its own set puzzles to solve that vary in difficulty from installment to installment. They’re similar to legacy games in that there’s elements of the game that get folded, torn, and messed with during the game, which also means they’re one play only. The Catacombs of Horror has a little more longevity compared to others in the line in that it’s a two parter, and as such you get a little more bang for your buck. It’s set in the bone-filled catacombs beneath Paris, a dark and mysterious world that even the most experienced traveller can get lost in. Players have to find their lost friend and then their way out, solving riddles and using all manner of implements (including a set of matches!) to escape. There’s even a curated atmospheric soundtrack on the KOSMOS app.
Exit: The Catacombs of Horror can be bought online or at any KOSMOS retailer.
Prehistoric man, so hot right now. Tribes is a resource management game where you are entrusted with the chiefdom of a tribe of humans at the beginning of time. It’s a much more historical take on the theme, with players guiding their tribe through major events and milestones of the Bronze Age. Players use shells as currency, spending them on actions to develop their tribe. They’ll settle new lands, develop new tech, and even begin to take steps towards civilization. All of this in a tight 45 minute gameplay time. It’s definitely a gateway game to more intense resource management games like Imhotep, but it’s also a fun game in its own right.
You can find Tribes on the KOSMOS store, as well as most KOSMOS retailers. They were also kind enough to give me a copy to review, so keep an eye out for my thoughts and a more detailed rundown of the game in the near-future.
One of the most unique games I saw at GenCon, Roll For Adventure is a co-op adventure game that lives and dies by the roll of the dice. The game relies on the drafting and placement of dice to gather precious stones and defend the kingdom from the forces of the Master of Shadows. Each player takes on a classic fantasy archetype with their own power, and they work together to place their dice in the best way they can. Each territory has its own requirements, and even in the easiest games require you to earn a territory’s stone multiple times. As time goes on, your number of dice dwindles as the power of the shadows grows. It’s an incredibly fast paced and deceptively hard game, and it has a very pleasing fantasy aesthetic reminiscent of a cheesy 90’s fantasy game.
As usual, Roll for Adventure is available on the KOSMOS store and at your local retailer. I was also lucky enough to receive a copy of this game for review, so I’ll have even more details on it soon.
All images via Thames & Kosmos