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Cracked LCD- Evolution: Flight expansion in Review

flight

Dominic Crapuchette’s Evolution is one of my favorite card games of recent years. Working from a design originally developed by a pair of Russian scientists, Mr. Crapuchettes has created a compelling, highly interactive game that creates a unique biosphere of competing or synergistic animals every time you play it. The themes of adaptation, survival and the co-existence of species are writ in bold face across the entire game. The mechanics are simple and accessible but the combinations of traits that your animals can take on results in an appealing sense of complexity and depth. But it is also the kind of game where it is easy to want more. Specifically, I found myself desiring more traits, more cards, to expand the possibilities of the game. It’s not that Evolution isn’t a complete experience out of the box, it’s that it’s the kind of game that feels open-ended in its potential.

Flight is the first and hopefully not last expansion for Evolution, and as you are likely to suspect it adds flying animals into the mix. And with wings come some new considerations that give players more options and slightly increase the strategic complexity. But more importantly, flying animals serve to expand the core themes of the game and allow for even more diverse species. Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Review Corner Showcase- Charlie Theel, Byron Campbell, Kyle Mann

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Something a little different for this week, then.

For the first time in Cracked LCD’s eight year history, I won’t be writing the reviews. Instead, I wanted to highlight some of the great writers I have working for me at Miniature Market’s The Review Corner. We’re coming up on six months’ worth of writing reviews for this project and let me tell you, applying the ol’ editorial red pen to six or seven reviews a week tends to make you VERY critical. Not that I wasn’t already.

So here are a couple of folks I’d like to bring to your attention- I think they’re doing great work and really carrying the torch for high quality WRITTEN reviews, which I still believe to be vastly superior to the hordes of cutey-poo video reviews that sadly pass for game criticism these days. Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Gale Force Nine’s Latest Expansions in Review

GF9 expansions

By now it should be understood that Gale Force Nine is the leading publisher of licensed games, at least in terms of quality. They’ve more or less carved out a specific niche for themselves doing games that are based on television shows rather than movies or video games and they’ve literally hit paydirt on every release to date. Even if you don’t like or haven’t seen Homeland, Sons of Anarchy, Firefly or Spartacus the games leverage their settings to explore the larger, more universal themes of these programs. And they’re all really fun to play games that fans of these properties should especially love given the attention to detail.

GF9 has also acquitted themselves well in terms of expansions. Their add-ons have run the gamut from simple “more cards” style additions to more substantial ones adding new playing areas and major mechanics. Two new ones have just hit the market, the Shadow of Death expansion for their first hit Spartacus and the Calaveras club expansion for the rather under-appreciated Sons of Anarchy. Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Tigris & Euphrates in Review

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Oddly, I have never reviewed one of my favorite games of all time – Reiner Knizia’s seminal Tigris & Euphrates. I bought the game back when it was only available as an import, and I have only just last week let go of my original copy. And that was made possible by Fantasy Flight Games’ latest edition, which is I dare say the definitive edition of the game despite the lack of the classic Doris Matthaus illustrations. This is a superlative reprint and it bodes well for FFG’s “Euro Classics” line, which I insist must be at least partly inspired by my Eurogames Reclamation Project.

If you haven’t played T&E, now is the time to do so. It is a tremendous game. It isn’t hard to see the influence of Sackson’s Acquire (another all time favorite) on the design, but where this game really comes alive is in is theme. Sure, you’re just playing tiles to a grid and there isn’t a lick of flavor text but the narrative is bold and the subtext rich. It’s one of the key games that I think really illustrates the difference between theme and setting, the latter of which most people mistake for theme. Pictures, card text, nomenclature are not theme. The meaning of actions and their resonance in our minds, emotions and hearts are theme. Just like in film or novels. The five star review is over at The Review Corner this week. And yes, the Editor-in-Chief’s name  is still misspelled on the header.

Barnes. Weeks. Knizia. The Interview.

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This interview with Reiner Knizia was Steve Weeks’ idea so credit where credit is due. If you don’t know who Steve is, he is likely one of the most divisive and controversial figures in the bizarro world of online board games discussion. He is also a damn fine podcaster and a genuinely funny guy. I’ve known Steve for years and he asked if I wanted to jump in on this talk with the premier game designer quite possibly of all time. How could I resist?

This is one of the high points of my games writing and commentating career. This is a man who has done some tremendously profound work (Tigris and Euphrates, Ra, Modern Art and something like 600 other titles over 30 years) and who has deeply influenced my own views on the games medium. Particularly in terms of theme (as opposed to setting) and reducing subtextual elements and narrative to essential player actions. And he best games are just really damn fun to play too.

I was completely starstruck at first, but once the ice was broken (the “antichrist” moment), I found Dr. Knizia to be very open, very amicable, very assured and very wise. I could listen to this guy talk about making games all day because I think he is one of the very, very few artists or authors working in this field. What he has to say about games is something everyone interested in the hobby or the medium should be listening to, even 30 years into his career and with a churning flood of games on the market sometimes drowning out his finest achievements- games that are still better than anything else out there decades after release.

But of course, the highlight as you’ll here (other than Steve’s hilarious “Dr. Reiner” song) is when he told me that he had read my “Reiner Knizia: Master of Theme” article right here at No High Scores and that he felt like I had completely put into words how he feels when he’s designing games. I was totally blown away to hear someone I deeply respect and admire say, essentially, “you got it right”.

So have a listen right here.

 

 

Cracked LCD- Lift-Off in Review

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I went into Pencil First Games’ Lift-Off: Get Me Off of this Planet expecting – and wanting – a Survive! style family game with some mildly cutthroat action to spice up situational cooperation . Featuring a roughly similar high-level concept wherein each player is tasked with evacuating an imminent disaster site, this title delivers all of the above but it is a somewhat more complicated design. The box suggests that it is for ages 13 and up, which puts it more squarely in the hobby zone rather than the family zone, and as such the design comes across as something like an “advanced” casual game that may be especially appealing for those wanting Parker Brothers accessibility with more gamer-facing elements.

Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Soulfall in Review

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It’s been quite some time since I’ve covered a John Clowdus game. For those uninformed, Mr. Clowdus runs a small, DIY-level company called Small Box Games. His best known, most widely played and critically successful game was Omen: A Reign of War. It’s an exceptional Schotten-Totten/Battline descended two player card game with a sort of classical fantasy setting.  Testament to that game’s ongoing popularity, there’s a new “Omega” edition of it, coming along after a few expansions and enhanced editions but this is a smaller box, somewhat scaled back release- which kind of gets the game back to its roots with just a couple of optional additions. But there’s also a new Small Box Game out and if you’re a fan of Mr. Clowdus’ past work then Soulfall is going to be one you’ll want to check out. Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- D&DAS: Temple of Elemental Evil in Review

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I love the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System games, so I was very excited to see that they would continue on after a couple of years’ hiatus. Wizkids is doing them in partnership with Wizards of the Coast and there are some new additions to the simple, accessible and fun hack n’ slasher. By and large, it’s the same game as the past three releases but with a MUCH improved campaign system, an iconic (though somewhat underused) D&D module setting, and some “town” adventures that are really kind of dumb. I love this game, I love this system but this release feels like something of a disappointment overall. It’s too easy, the monsters aren’t that great and it just isn’t the D&DAS 2.0 it could have been. But with that said, any fan of this system should check it out. If you’re new to these games, they are not trying to simulate playing Warhammer Quest circa 1995. They’re really closer to Dungeon! in spirit. Review is at Miniaturemarket.com this week.

Cracked LCD- Seekers of a Hidden Light (Shadows of Malice Expansion) In Review

seekers

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seekers 2Jim Felli’s Shadows of Malice, which I reviewed just a couple of months ago, is one of the best games of 2015. It’s a fresh, almost “outsider” design that pretty much throws away the handful of fantasy board game design templates and does a couple of very unique things. With its random creature generation, a paradoxically vague but concrete sense of narrative worldbuilding and mechanics that support a tangible sense of actual cooperation beyond the usual whack-a-amole style of gameplay, Shadows of Malice is a maverick and even experimental design. If that’s all we ever got from Mr. Felli, we’d already have something of a treasure – even if it is, like fine art, not exactly for all audiences.

But there is more, and Mr. Felli is preparing to release Seekers of a Hidden Light, an expansion to Shadows of Malice. He was kind enough to forward me an early copy of it and I’m glad he did. I would regard Seekers as a must-have expansion for those already converted, but those new to the game may want to come to grips with the base game first.

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Cracked LCD- Evolution in Review

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Dominic Crapuchettes is best known for his popular party game Wits and Wagers, but that ought to change with the 2nd edition release of Evolution, a design co-credited to two Russians- another game designer and a biologist. This is a two to six player title that ranks among the most thematically resonant card game designs that I’ve ever played. I’ve become quite fascinated with how each session results in the creation of a unique biosphere in which animals defined by one to three characteristics as well as their size and population struggle to adapt and survive. It’s a game clearly in the same lineage as Evo and Dominant Species, maybe even going back to Karl Heinz-Schmiel’s Tyranno Ex while glancing sidelong at American Megafauna. But Evolution is considerably quicker and simpler – and therefore more accessible. Its concepts are clear and logical, the gameplay immediately challenging and competitive.

Continue Reading…

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