Jorge Zhang

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Rulebook Preview 6: Conspirator, Spellslingers, Techlandia, Raid Boss

Hey everyone! Today I am back with another installment of my Rulebook Preview series. In this series, I take a look at tabletop games that have not yet been released or have been very recently released. I have not played these games, but simply reviewed the rulebooks (hence Rulebook Preview). Anyway, without further ado, here are 4 new games that you should keep a lookout for!

  1. Conspirator
  2. Spellslingers
  3. Techlandia
  4. Raid Boss


Similar to Mafia, with a Renaissance theme.

Conspirator is a very neat social deduction game for 8-35 players. This game has actually been published through The Game Crafter’s print-on-demand service. For those who don’t know how this works, people can buy print-on-demand games and the manufacturer will make a single copy right then and there. This can be a bit more expensive than large print runs, but it turns out that this can be a sustainable model as there is no risk of over printing or under printing.

Anyway, in Conspirator most of the players are Citizens or have special roles and are “good,” while there are a couple of “bad” Conspirators, who aim to kill everyone else. You would be forgiven from thinking that this game is a clone of Mafia, but there is a key difference: instead of a democratic vote to lynch a particular player, there is a Monarch who makes the sole decision for who to lynch. The Monarch is revealed at the very beginning of the game so that everyone including the Conspirators knows who he is. The Monarch is invincible, so the Conspirators must kill all the Citizens except the Monarch. This introduces an interesting twist on games like Werewolf and Mafia, and I quite like this change as I would imagine this would speed up the game quite a bit. I believe it would also make the game a lot more organized and easy to play. In addition to the Monarch, there are a couple of other unique special roles that are included in the deck. This keeps the game fresh from each game. The official rules call for a Moderator, and this is crucial to keep the Conspirators secret, but also serves as a way to allow storytelling and roleplaying.

Rulebook: I really liked the “rulebook” as the rules are actually just printed on the cards in the game. This makes the whole game extremely portable, as it is the size of a deck of cards. I would share more details about the rules, but the creator has asked me to keep the rules secret. You can find the game on the Game Crafter website here.


An example of a 2 player game

Spellslingers is a fast-paced card game where several wizards (2-10 players) compete to be the last wizard standing. This game was self-published through Kickstarter, but you can now find it on the company’s website.

Each player starts with 5 cards in hand. Payers then take turns drawing 1 and playing 1. This makes it incredibly easy to pick up and start playing. However, there is more meat to the game than meets the eye. When another player plays a spell on you, you can block that attack by playing a spell of the same color OR a spell with a higher level. OR, you can take a total gamble by flipping over the top card of the deck, and if it is a valid block then you get to keep your life! I really love this mechanic because it provides a push-your-luck element where you may want to take a gamble, but risk losing the game. Once you get accustomed to the base game, you can add in special characters which can shake things up.

What I especially like about this game is the fact that it seems like it would play extremely quickly and not be a drawn out battle like a lot of other “quick” card games (such as Bang!). That’s because players need to discard cards to block, so players will quickly lose cards from their hand and not be able to replenish them easily. However, I was initially very concerned about a stall strategy, since players can skip their turn and there is no hand limit. To make sure that this was not the dominant strategy, I took a closer look at some of the cards and was pleasantly surprised to find 2 things that counter that strategy completely. First of all, attacks seemed to generally be very efficient. Some of the attacks attacked twice, meaning that they would take 2 card to block. Other attacks attacked multiple players. Not to mention needing the correct type and/or sufficiently high level spell to block! This highly encourages players to take the offensive rather than the defensive. The second thing working against stall were many special effect cards, such as one that forced other players to discard cards until they matched your hand size. Due to the nature of the game being so dependent on the cards, it is difficult to say how the game might play just from the rules, but I imagine that this could be a very strong multi-player game. I’m looking forward to hopefully being able to play this game sometime!

Rulebook: The rules were short and to the point, and I was able to immediately grasp the core structure of the game. I also thought that the graphic design of the rules was excellent. You can read the rulebook yourself here. You can find Spellslingers on their website here.



Techlandia is an adventure game where you play as a journalist trying to expose an evil smartphone company (it’s competitive, but has a co-op and solo mode). Be careful: the smartphone company has invented reality distortion, which means that if you get caught in their headquarters and let them brainwash you, you’ll become a fanboy of the company! I thought that the theme was hilarious, but also eerie in a way. Anyway, Techlandia launches on Kickstarter on August 6th, and to the best of my knowledge was created by a first-time designer.

At its core, Techlandia reminded me a bit of Clank!, but without the deck-building. On each of your turns, you have 2 actions. If you are in a room with an enemy, you must spend an action to fight it if possible (otherwise, you wait for your next turn). Otherwise, you can spend your actions moving around or snooping for clues. You need to find 4 QR code fragments in order to make it to their super-secret laboratory, so you’ll probably need to take an “investigate” action. You roll a die and place a QR fragment on that location (or your roll might fail, and you have to fight somebody). This is pretty interesting, because it means that you might actually want to just wait around for someone else to do the hard work of investigating, and then go to the room it is in and take that QR fragment before they can. However, if everybody thinks this way and no one ever investigates, then you’ll eventually run out of time and everyone will lose the game! I think that is really interesting and creates a very unique dynamic.

You actually take your phone and use a QR code scanner to see if you win the game or not. So thematic!

There are a couple of other interesting things, such as how once you get 4 QR fragments, you actually don’t know how they are put together (according to the game there are 4 possible orientations, but I think that in real life there would be a lot more possibilities). So once you are outside the door to the lab and you have all 4 fragments, you draw the top card of the QR deck and actually scan this QR code with your phone in order to see if it is the right code or not. Otherwise, you’re caught and sent back to the start! I thought that this was incredibly thematic and cool. There are ways to mitigate the luck involved by going back and fighting more enemies, but you might just want to press your luck before someone else has a chance to win. I also really liked how you could become a fanboy by losing your grip on reality. In this case, you become a “zombie” character and basically become an enemy trying to hinder the other players. However, at certain points in the game, players regain their objectivity, so you can still win even if you become a fanboy.

I think that the game has a lot of really cool pieces to it, and I imagine that this would be an incredibly unique and interesting experience. That being said, I was a bit concerned by the amount of luck in the game. At the start of the game, there is randomness of drawing gear cards (the amount of resources you start the game with is determined by dice). All of the battles, and even the actions to discover QR fragments are determined through a die roll. I’m not opposed to dice in games, but this might lean too much towards being luck based for me. Maybe there are a lot of gear cards that mitigate this luck, but it is tough to tell without having played through the game. Regardless, this seems like a very thematic and cool experience and I would be very interested in trying it out!

Rulebook: I thought that the rulebook did a great job of setting the theme, and even spliced in some thematic explanations alongside many of the rules. I personally appreciated this a lot, though some may be turned away from the amount of backstory and thematic explanations. Overall the rulebook was fairly solid, and I am looking forward to see how this game develops! You can read the rules yourself here.

Raid Boss

A game of Raid Boss

If you’ve played a lot of online games, you may immediately recognize this layout. That’s right, this board game is based off of boss raiding, a common element of many online RPGs. The board game plays as a cooperative battle puzzle where the players each take the role of a hero and work together to defeat the boss. I really enjoy the theming as the art and design reminds me heavily of video games I enjoy playing that I can now experience face-to-face with others.

At the core of Raid Boss is rolling dice to gain temporary resources, which a player can then spend on their turn to pay to take actions. Players can take any of their 3 actions (all of which are unique) as many times as they would like, as long as they can pay for them! Paying for an action is very simple. Each action has a cost from 1-6, and you “exhaust” dice equal or greater than this cost to pay for it. This leads to all sorts of interesting scenarios! Say you rolled a 4 and a 5. Maybe you want to combine them to pay for your cost 6 ability, though you’ll then only be able to take 1 action. Or maybe you want to go ahead and use your weaker cost 3 ability twice. Because of the fact that you can combine dice together like this, I am not too concerned about overwhelming luck in the game as even a roll of all 1’s would still be valuable. In addition to this, players can obtain and spend temporary bonus dice throughout the game, which adds more to the complexity of the dice mechanic.

Players also get 1 assist ability that they can use at any time. However, if they use their assist ability, they can’t use it again until the next round! This makes for some very meaningful decisions as you may want to save up your really powerful effect just in case there is a better time to use it. However, maybe you’ll save it for too long and not be able to effectively use it. Players also have access to once-per-game effects that allow them to reroll dice or add to their rolls. I think that having plenty of these “panic button” effects is especially great considering that Raid Boss is a cooperative game. My favorite part of playing co-op games is probably when the group collectively feels an oh-crap-we’re-about-to-lose moment, and then works together to come up with a last ditch attempt to pull off a victory. I can see that happening a lot if the bosses are tough enough. After all the players have taken their turn, the boss fights back and deals damage to the heroes, which can cause a hero to die. They aren’t completely out of the game though. In this case, the hero can be revived by another player spending their hero assist, but the revived hero will have a low amount of health and may not be that useful. At the start of the round, KO’d heroes can revive themselves by spending their hero assist (remember that these assists refresh each round). There are a few more rules, but that covers most of the basics. Overall, I think that this has some great potential for a co-op game, but I do worry a bit about alpha-player syndrome where one player plays for all of the other players.

Rulebook: The rulebook did a nice job of creating organized outlines to explain some of the trickier rules. That being said, at times I felt that the authors over-relied on outlines rather than graphical explanations or other ways of formatting. This honestly made it pretty tough for me to get through the rules. It is still a work in progress, so I am sure that the rules will vastly improve once they are finalized! You can check the rules out here. This game is currently on Kickstarter here.

Which of these four excellent games are you looking forward to the most? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

© 2020 Jorge Zhang