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Ticket to Ride: United Kingdom & Pennsylvania Review

I’ve nurtured a long, slow hatred of American cultural imperialism. As a developer, having to spend every working day spelling “colour” wrongly in your code will do that to a man. So, petty as it is, wherever possible, I’ll pick a British version of a thing over an American one. And if a British one doesn’t exist, I’ll seethe quietly while I wait for one.

So it feels like about time that there’s a local version of Ticket to Ride for me. With it being such a great family game, my kids know the routes between Seattle to Atlanta and Essen to Sevastopol better then their own home town. Now they can learn the way around their own country too, with the help of some little plastic trains from either original set.

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Bolt Thrower: #2015 Game of the Year

This time last year, I was so tired of the generic nature of most new board games that I’d started to wonder if my favourite hobby had passed its glory days. I’ve never been happier to have been proved wrong. After a couple of years of wretched releases, 2015 has been a stellar time for tabletop gaming.

When there was so much chaff in the machine, I couldn’t bring myself to do much more than pick a top three for my best-of-year posts. Sometimes it was difficult to find even three. This time I’m faced with an embarrassment of riches.  I’ve never liked the idea of honouring games by category: it feels artificial. If the two best games this year were both dexterity games (they weren’t) then both deserve a mention.

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Codenames Review

I love me some Vlaada Chvatil. I delight in his imagination and skill in welding together unlikely elements to create brilliant games. He likes pushing dexterity into unlikely place. Or adding depth of strategy to genres and mechanics that have not, traditionally, had much. So it came as something of a surprise to find that his latest game, Codenames, is a simple party game.

Except, of course, this is Vlaada Chvatil. And that means appearances can be deceptive.

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Bolt Thrower : StarCraft, Civilization, X-Wing, Hard West, Journey

It’s been a while since I steered anyone toward my series on tabletop versions of video games over at Gamerati. But since I did one on the StarCraft board game to coincide with the final digital game in that series, Legacy of the Void, I figured it was time for a reminder.

However great the StarCraft board game was, I think it would have been better with looser ties to the source material. It would almost certainly have resulted in a similar game but one which was a lot less complex to digest. In that respect it’s almost the opposite of the Civilization board game which, as I argued in another column, is a quite brilliant reduction of the digital essentials to tabletop format.

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Fury of Dracula 3rd Edition Review

The original Fury of Dracula was a seminal game of my childhood. Whisked off the shelf as a curio on a trip to get some gaming miniatures, it quickly became a staple. Van Helsing and his pupils spent hours sweeping Europe, seeking for the Count. Instead they often found feral wolves and savage gypsies as the vampire secretly spun his wicked web of intrigue across the continent.

That copy is tattered now, worn down by love. The chits are soft at the edges, the box battered and the figure of Dr. Seward snapped off at the knees. He still struggled manfully after his quarry, those paired feet creeping into my adult years like the memory of childhood sins. Yet a little of the magic had gone. The game could be frustratingly random, and it needed an aggressive Dracula player to make it work.

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Dungeon Saga Review

If you know your dungeon crawl games, I can give you the shortest review ever of Dungeon Saga. It’s a cross between Descent and HeroQuest. It has the aesthetics and design philosophy of the latter, but incorporates the overlord versus players setup of the former. Job done.

Still here? Okay then. Dungeon Saga has one standout hallmark. It’s full of smart design decisions which offer a little extra depth, a little extra theme, while keeping things as approachable as it can. That’s impressive. The question is whether it’s enough to make this title stand out in one of the most crowded genres in board gaming.

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Thrower’s Tallies: Top 5 Horror Board Games

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I have an uneasy relationship with horror. Perhaps that’s appropriate. To me, there’s a clear dividing line between the chilling supernatural and gruesome gorefests. I detest the latter, and love the former. To have a book, film or video game slowly convince me there are mysterious shades flitting beyond the veil of night is a special pleasure.

It gets more complicated with board games. You can throw all the gothic trappings you like into a horror game and the result rarely feels like horror. They never make you feel nervous or uncomfortable. After playing Amnesia: The Dark Descent one night I almost threw a fit after finding an unexpected tea towel on the back of the kitchen door. No board game has ever done that to me.

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euclidean

Euclidean Review

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Falling is the primordial nightmare. Plunging into the abyss, then wakening with a jolt just before the impact is a fear we’re all familiar with. Yet Euclidean is the first horror game I’ve played which taps that shared terror. Then amplifies it with deliberately clumsy controls and freakish environments beneath your sinking feet.

Its in the design of these other worlds that Euclidean reaches its apogee. Lovecraft’s old saw about impossible geometries is, obviously, impossible to visualise. Yet Euclidean does a fine job of putting you into some truly bizarre places.

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Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansions 2 & 3 Review

cca23Britain is pockmarked with standing stones. On a recent holiday we passed them in a dozen different sites. High on windy hillsides or perched above rocky bays, the waves seething over jagged rocks beneath. I love to touch them, to touch my history. They feel like the bones of the country, smooth yet pitted.

Traces of their makers cover the landscape like a swirling tattoo. Hill forts, barrows, buried hoards of gold. Yet they do not speak to me. Their brash Roman conquerors do. Julius Caeser wrote books. His legionaries wrote letters, pleading for thick socks and underthings against the bitter British climate. I had long hoped I might find the voices of the Britons in some forgotten thing. A squashed coin perhaps, or a rusted sword hilt.

I have found them now, in a most unexpected place. In a box, fashioned from green wood and decorated with gaudy stickers.

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Specter Ops Review

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Hidden movement is the most under-used mechanic in all of board gaming. You can count the quality titles that use it on the fingers of one hand. Fury of Dracula, Letters from Whitechapel, Scotland Yard, Nuns on the Run and that’s about your lot.

Specter Ops still does’t take us on to the second hand. But it expands the genre with a style and energy that has to be played to be appreciated.

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