Cracked LCD- Homeland in Review

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I’m going to skip the usual “Gale Force 9 is so great” preamble and cut right to it, their new release Homeland is the first great game of 2015. It is a title that anyone still playing Battlestar Galactica or caught up in the current trend in simpler social deduction/treachery games should seriously look into purchasing for their group. As with all of GF9’s past releases, Homeland is based on a television series but that doesn’t really matter. The design team- also responsible for Spartacus, Firefly and Sons of Anarchy- understands that theme isn’t just pictures and text on cards. It’s what the gameplay represents and how it represents it. If, like me, you’ve never seen a single minute of the titular show it does not matter. What matters is that it is a stunning espionage game rife with suspicion, paranoia and selfishness in the ostensible name of national security. What’s more, the theme of information- acquiring it, exploiting it, manipulating it and fabricating it- comes across as strongly and as profoundly as any other theme I’ve ever seen in a board game. Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Mythotopia in Review

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I thought A Few Acres of Snow was decent, but it felt like yet another Martin Wallace game in that it had some really solid core mechanics, a good sense of setting and a “medium rare” degree of doneness. Wallace’s games often also have some incongruously clumsy elements- like putting 16 cards on the table laden with text that players just kind of need to know in order to choose one effectively. It was my hope that Mythotopia would smooth over some of the more flakey elements (including that notorious “Halifax Hammer”) while also expanding the player count to include three and four player count options.

Mythotopia is almost hilariously underdressed in terms of setting. There’s a bit of fluff text that means nothing and a landmass with a couple of islands, lakes and mountain ranges representing some kind of fantasy empire. I almost think that Wallace is playing some kind of actually pretty funny joke here- the territory names are hysterical, the kinds of nonsense words you might have given to a country in a D&D campaign you ran in fifth grade. There is Fadge, which in our games has officially been dubbed the Duchy of Fadge. I imagine the lands of Remise to be pretty depressing. Maybe there is some kind of rivalry between Grimp and Darb? Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Onward to Venus in Review

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There are two new games out from Martin Wallace’s homegrown imprint Treefrog and I will be covering both with Onward to Venus up first. The other is Mythotopia, a sort of redevelopment of his earlier hit deckbuilding war game A Few Acres of Snow, but this time without the dreaded “Halifax Hammer” exploit and a very lightly applied fantasy setting. Spoiler, I like both games. And both definitely have that Wallace touch- meaning that they have elements that feel oddly underdeveloped given the designer’s talent and attention to thematic details. Continue Reading…

Jumping the Shark Podcast #225

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The gang isn’t messing around this week. We’ve got Holly’s delightful adventures in The Room and her distaste for Betrayer. Bradon’s straight up Gat Out of Hell, the latest entry in Saints Row. Todd’s hiding in a ball in a dimly lit corner of the Darkest Dungeon. Plus, the glorious return of Birthday Uke and a bigtime spoiler section at the very end for Dragon Age: Inquistion.

Thanks for listening! (You can contact Brandon at Brandon@NoHighScores.com/@misterbinky, Todd at Todd@NoHighScores.com/@ubrakto and Holly at @winnersusedrugs.)

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DungeonQuest Revised Edition Review

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DungeonQuest is one of my all-time favourite titles. A fantasy adventure game in which your hero isn’t heroic, but pathetically grateful to escape the nightmarish dungeon alive with a mere handful of gold coins. There’s nothing else like it, and it’s fast, funny and frantic for all that it lacks much in the way of strategy.

So I was thrilled when Fantasy Flight got the licence for a reprint, and sad when it looked like they’d botched it. The expansions to the original game were full of tiny niggles. Like new characters with mismatched power levels and a tedious catacomb under the main dungeon that was largely empty. They had the opportunity to create a definitive version of a classic, and in most respects, perhaps they did. It’s just that no-one cared because they replaced the simple, speedy combat with a deeper but slower system that felt out of place in such a fast, chaotic game.

Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Fantastiqa in Review

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Alf Seegert’s Fantastiqa wasn’t a game that I had much interest in, and I actually didn’t even really know that much about it other than it was yet another Kickstarter title with a ton of irritating micro-expansions and it was pulling in twice its retail value in the aftermarket following its release in 2012. I knew it was a deckbuilder, but wasn’t particularly keen on bringing in a new game in that genre with Dominion suddenly getting some renewed interest with the people I play games with. Gryphon Games did a reprint late last year, but they did something unusual with it. They took out a couple of extravagances like the board and pared down the number of cards to create a “Rucksack” edition for general release. It turned up at one of the retailers I frequent and looking it over, two things struck me. One was that it used actual artwork- not unlike last year’s Battle for Souls- and it was fantasy alright but more along the lines of Lewis and Carroll than Tolkien and Howard. It was fairly inexpensive and it was the holidays, so I took a chance.

Continue Reading…

Claustrophobia & expansions Review

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Back in the days before Space Hulk was common as muck, gamers spent a lot of time and energy discussing possible replacements. Claustrophobia was a game that got mentioned a lot in those conversations, and I never understood why. Not because it was a bad title, but because it shares almost nothing with Space Hulk other than asymmetry, a collection of finely sculpted figures and some six-sided dice.

Instead of a pre-set grid, Claustrophobia has a randomly drawn series of dungeon tiles on which the precise positioning of your forces is meaningless. It’s virtually all melee, with ranged combat restricted to the occasional “blunderbuss” card that has a range of precisely one tile. Cards feature heavily in Claustrophobia and not at all in Space Hulk. I could go on.

Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Eldritch Horror in (very late) Review

 

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When Fantasy Flight Games announced Eldritch Horror, a new game in its Arkham Horror line that appeared to be a simpler version of what had become a bloated shoggoth of a game after nearly a decade’s worth of expansions (including an expansion for all of the expansions), I was one of those people that scoffed at it. Who needs or wants a redevelopment of a redevelopment? Aside from that, at that point I was pretty much over anything to do with HP Lovecraft and the whole Cthulhu Mythos. I’ve been reading that stuff and playing games either based on or inspired by all of it for practically my entire life. In fact, one of the earliest stories I remember from Kindergarten was a book-on-record adaptation of “The Outsider”. Lovecraft fatigue aside, I’ve been burned out on FFG’s house style of flavor text-as-theme and endless piles of cards with overwrought illustrations on them for a couple of years now. If ever there were a game that I didn’t feel had a place in my collection, it was Eldritch Horror. Continue Reading…

Why Dragon Age: Inquisition Fails

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Dragon Age: Inquisition is not a game that feels like a failure. It’s got a world’s worth of stunning environments to explore. Its characters are universally layered with compelling and cliché-defying personal story arcs. The combat can get tedious, sure, but it’s a soundly designed system with some bonkers dragon fights. And certainly it has sold. Yet the game still fails and it does so for the very same reason Mass Effect 3 failed — it doesn’t stick the landing.

Lest I give the impression that I’m picking nits over nonsensical cut scenes and weird star children, my problem with Mass 3′s ending was largely quite different from everybody else’s. I’m not talking about denouement. I’m talking about climax and how it relates to the rest of the game. Star child was incomprehensible, sure, but he’s not what made Mass 3′s climax bad. Likewise, the lackluster final confrontation with Corypheus isn’t what tanks Inquisition either.

The key to a memorable and satisfying ending isn’t the implication of what happens after the camera fades to black or even whatever tedious boss battle kicks it into gear. It’s the question of whether or not it fulfills the promise set up by the rest of the game. Like Mass Effect 3, Inquisition is a game that beats you over the head, telling you over and over that it’s about team and coalition building. You face a threat that requires uniting disparate factions and disparate people to face a common foe. You dare not face it alone or you’ll be too weak. So you spend a good 100+ hours working your way through the world and sending lackeys on assignments in the name of building a better, stronger Inquisition.

Cool. Cool cool. Shouldn’t it follow, however, that when you reach the final stage of events that the strength of your Inquisition should, oh I don’t know, matter? At least a little?

Let’s dive deeper (minor spoilers ahead)…

Continue Reading…

Jumping the Shark Podcast #224

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week Holly brings us through her 100+ hour Far Cry 4 journey, Todd and Brandon continue to dissect Dragon Age: Inquisition, including why Todd thinks it ultimately failed. Brandon talks cheating in Gems of War of all places. Plus, football, football, football! And somebody, we don’t want to say who, has a girl scout cookie mishap.

Thanks for listening! (You can contact Brandon at Brandon@NoHighScores.com/@misterbinky, Todd at Todd@NoHighScores.com/@ubrakto and Holly at @winnersusedrugs.)

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