French game publisher Iello had a sensational presence at this year’s GenCon Indy, showing off several exciting new and soon-to-be-released products. From ghosts & zombies to coal-powered theme parks to superheroes & fairy tales, the thematic elements of their upcoming catalogue run the gamut.
Even so, regardless of what the games are all about, there is a satisfying consistency in Iello’s titles both aesthetically and in their actual design. They strive to create gaming experiences with beautiful visual qualities that are both easy to learn and immediately fun – and they succeed quite readily in that regard. Their latest projects, whether targeted towards casual or expert gamers, all follow this philosophy and, even though some are only in their prototype phases, are shaping up to be amazing.
Keep in mind that none of the box art accompanying the info on the following unreleased titles is finalized, but will give you an indication on the direction they’re going. First, we were able to take a look at Zombie 15’, designed by Guillaume Lemery & Nicolas Schlewitz. The “15” in the title references a few different plot devices and design mechanics of the game. Essentially, Zombie 15’ is set in a world where all the adults have mysteriously become flesh-eating monsters, leaving a group of teenagers (all around age 15) to fend for themselves. As they fight through a progressive campaign consisting of 15 scenarios, players will search for food and shelter while meeting other survivors and trying to uncover the cause of the disease infecting their elders. Each scenario will be a timed 15-minute event accompanied by audio cues. Similar to titles like Space Alert and Escape, a CD or mp3 soundtrack will help guide players through their adventure and often call for them to make snap decisions. As zombies are always bearing down on them, players won’t have the benefit of time to mull over the tough calls, keeping the game going at a frantic pace.
Each player can perform actions on their turn, such as moving or searching for weapons – and since these are kids with no advanced training, they’ll have to rely with what they can find. Depending on the weapon a player is wielding, it may make noise and attract the undead to their position. And since each weapon has a limited amount of uses before it is exhausted, it’s usually a good idea to use them wisely. With asymmetrical character builds and great-looking components, including beautifully illustrates tiles that will make up the pre-set play areas for each scenario and over 100 (!) miniatures, Zombie 15’ circumvents pre-conceived notions of what you’d expect from a zombie-themed game and offers something that really pits the players in a cooperative fight against time itself.
I got a brief look at the prototype for Steam Park, a game designed by Lorenzo Silva, Lorenzo Tucci Sorrentino, and Aureliano Buonfino, that tasks players with building an enormous amusement park and making it the most profitable in the region. Each player receives small boards on which to build up their steam-powered rides and attractions while also managing employees and investing in advertising to attract different types of guests. Most importantly, you need to keep the waste your park produces under control, making this sound like a pretty a intense action-taking/dice-rolling game. What I was most surprised by was the art direction. Instead of going with the expected steampunk aesthetic, the art direction is rather whimsical and light-hearted, almost giving the title a wonderful fairy tale air about it. Once I heard that the artwork was by Marie Cardouat (who illustrated the first two sets of Dixit), it totally made sense. Both Steam Park and Zombie 15’ play up to 4 players and will hopefully be out in time for SPIEL in October.
Also on display were early versions of both Guardians’ Chronicles and Heroes of Normandie, designed by Frédérick Condette and Yann et Clem respectively — both of which have recently seen successful Kickstarter campaigns. Guardians is a semi-cooperative tabletop game for 2-5 players in which one player takes the role of a super-villain while the others work together, combining their powers to bring him or her down. Loaded with nearly 40 miniatures, tons of custom dice, and nine double-sided tiles for the action to play out on, the game sports some slick artwork by renowned French comic artists and looks like it plays with a very strong superhero theme. Heroes of Normandie however, plays like a more traditional skirmish-based miniatures game – just without the minis. Inspired by war movies from the golden age of Hollywood, Heroes is a fast-paced, tactical board game in which two players square off in various combat scenarios. And while the game is centered around the WWII struggle between the American and German forces, it keeps the mood light with fun, comic-style artwork and an easy-to-learn rule set. Each box will contain 6 large terrain boards, 30 wooden “order” tiles, 4 dice, 2 decks of 78 cards, and 6 punchboards filled with a ridiculous amount of tokens and chits. Both games should be available by the end of 2013.
In addition to those great upcoming titles, Iello was also showing off many off their recent games that have hit stores in the last couple months. the newly released Phantom Society, a game by Hervé Marly and Frédéric Colombier, players take the roles of either mischievous spirits trying to stay out of sight while ruining a manor hotel or ghost-hunters bent on revealing their hiding places and flushing them out into the open. The components present here are superb-looking while remaining quite minimal – the game is played with just 16 cards, three dozen room tiles, and four ghost tokens to hide under them. Making use of a clever two-level board, ghosts may be placed under any room in the hotel while remaining completely concealed. As the ghost players attempt to outwit their opponents and throw them off from their hiding place, the hunters must observe and deduce which room to explore. Any ghost is able to wreck one of the 36 hotel rooms it is adjacent to, each one being worth a certain dollar amount, and will win if they’ve a pre-determined amount of property damage. The ghost hunters will also need to tear apart rooms seeking out the ghosts, but this will also be counted towards the ghosts damage goals, so it’s important that they put their heads together and figure out the most likely hiding place. Phantom Society features quite an innovative design and offers a quick playthrough (about 20 minutes) for 2-4 players.
Aside from what we’ve already touched on, Iello’s newest release, Three Little Pigs, was available for demo & advance purchase at GenCon (you can read our in-depth impressions here) as well as their new tactical card game, Titanium Wars. Designed by Frederic Guerard, the story of Titanium Wars takes place on the outer reaches of the galaxy. A new form of energy has been discovered that holds the key to unbelievable power and humankind’s greatest factions rise up in a greedy ploy to harvest as much of it as possible. 3-4 players race to expand their fleets, upgrade their spacecrafts, purchasing buildings and new technology, and conquer planets in a desperate bid to seize control of this new resource. All the avaialble locations and items are represented by a grid of cards laid out in the common area while players franticly try to bid on what they can obtain before waging war on their opponents. Titanium Wars looks like a fast, fluid game, dripping with theme and great-looking artwork. This was a stellar showing overall — Zombie 15′ may be what I’m most excited to get my hands. Not only does the audio mechanic make it easy to expand on the adventure for future installments, but I also can’t wait to start painting up all those awesome minis. Keep an eye out for even more exciting announcements from Iello in the coming weeks.