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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…

Thrower’s Tallies: Top Eight Designers

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All the discussion about “great designers” that we had a couple of weeks ago left me dissatisfied. Rather than just throwing out names that I thought were good or great, I wanted to put some meat on those bones, some rigour to the process. It wasn’t hard to do. And I found the results startling.

We’re talking about my personal opinion here. What I wanted was a way of recognising people who had form for producing stellar games, regardless of how many games they’d actually produced. Now, I rate pretty harshly because I’m of the opinion that games are supposed to be good. Fun is what they’re for, so a game you’ve enjoyed is merely average. To earn a higher rating, it has to show me an impressive time.

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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…

Bolt Thrower: Volko Ruhnke, Family Gaming

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A while back I interviewed Volko Ruhnke, the designer of Labyrinth and the COIN games, for a feature about political games. I knew it wasn’t going to be a long feature, so I ask for quick, snappy replies.

He gave me a 4,000 word essay.

I couldn’t use most of it as intended, of course. But from a gamer’s point of view, much of what he said was pure gold. Comments touching on mechanics, emergent theme, the relationship of gamers to gaming and that of gaming to reality. It would have been tragedy to let it go to waste.

So I recycled it for Shut Up & Sit Down. Enjoy

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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…

The “Great” Debate

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The excellent Michael Barnes recently conducted an excellent interview with game designer Reiner Knizia. He’s widely regarded as one of the best game designers ever, but his stock has gone up and down around these parts. Currently, it’s up: something I didn’t realise when I waded in to offer a contrary opinion.

The response begs an interesting question: what do we mean when we say “best” in this context? What qualifies a designer for an epithet of “great”?

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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.

 

 

Jumping the Shark Podcast #235

No High Scores Podcast Logo

Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week on Jumping the Shark it’s all E3 2015 all the time as the gang chews over a bunch of new Fallout 4 morsels, Brandon laments that backwards compatibility on the One will in no way improve his life, Holly finds great stories on the show floor, and Todd finds himself feeling joyful about games again (PC Gaming Show excluded).

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

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Bolt Thrower: XCOM TBG, Steam Sale, Witcher 3

XCOM The Final Team

My Gamerati series is actually running a bit ahead of my columns here, so this week you get another one! This time it’s deconstructing XCOM: The Board Game.

In the sense of looking, sounding and playing like the original video game XCOM is an abysmal failure. And this is a good thing. There’s no way a tabletop game could try and replicate the bizarre blend of strategy, tactics, economics and role-playing that made the original such fun.

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