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Cracked LCD- March of the Ants in Review

Game Box Cover4

The primary reason I wanted to check out Weird City Games’ March of the Ants, a 4x design written by Ryan Swisher and Tim Eisner, is because I am totally obsessed with the film Phase IV. Without getting into too much extraneous detail and turning this into a film review, this 1971 science fiction picture directed by Saul Bass is about ants suddenly becoming highly evolved, intelligent and capable of making us their servants. It’s all very subtle, understated and weird in that way that 70s science fiction can be. But March of the Ants, even though it’s a solidly designed game, is by contrast not quite weird enough despite the name of the publisher. Continue Reading…

Jumping the Shark Podcast Roundup #226-#228

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Time for another podcast round-up!

Episode #228:
This week Todd galavants across the galaxy in a Mass Effect 1 replay. That is, when he’s not unclogging his city’s streets in Cities: Skylines. Holly and Brandon discuss the unrelenting violence of Hotline Miami 2.

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Episode #227:
While Holly recuperates from moving, Brandon and Todd keep the torch alive with much discussion of GDC happenings – new Valve hardware, VR headsets, Rock Band 4, and Tim Schafer’s sock. Brandon goes pup-hunting in The Order: 1886 and Todd breaks out his best endzone dances for Frozen Cortex.

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Episode #226:
This week Todd takes on the economic realities of managing a Martian colony in Offworld Trading Company, Brandon relives the same three days over and over to glorious effect in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and Holly jumps on zombie faces in Dying Light.

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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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Star Wars X-Wing Scum and Villainy Review

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Recently, I started playing X-Wing against someone who really knew their Star Wars. They knew that Howlrunner was a female pilot, and where the YT-2400 freighter originated from in the expanded universe. They also told me something interesting: that the Hutts and their criminal networks were a faction equal in power to the Rebels of the Empire. What looked like a footnote in the films was actually a major player in the galaxy.

At that moment, I decided I needed Scum and Villainy.

Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Shadows of Malice in Review

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shadowspic2225277_mdIt is almost more illustrative to approach Jim Felli’s Shadows of Malice by explaining what it doesn’t do and doesn’t have than it is to describe its features. This is a fantasy game that doesn’t attempt to simulate a Fantasy Flight or Games Workshop design. Nor does it attempt to weld whatever the mechanic du jour is onto a sword and sorcery framework. It doesn’t attempt to be an RPG for board gamers. There is a story, but it is limited to a couple of paragraphs in the rulebook and an overarching narrative line that informs the entire game system. There is no flavor text on the cards and very little artwork all around. There are no pictures of your characters and in fact no pictures of monsters, either.  The cities you visit in the game don’t even have names.  There are no rote character classes. There are no elves, dragons, orcs or dwarves anywhere to be seen. Continue Reading…

Cosmic Encounter and expansions review

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Cosmic Encounter was one of the first hobby board games I owned, back when I was a teenager. It was the Games Workshop edition. I can still remember being baffled by the rules. It looked and smelled like a conquest game: there were battles and alliances and units died. But what the hell kind of conquest game made you draw and card to determine your target instead of you picking on the weakest player? Where was the fun in that?

Oh sure, you could still make alliances. The encounter each turn with your random opponent allowed each side to invite people to help out. Sure, there was still excitement, with combat determined by the number of ships on each side plus the play of a numeric card. And the draw of a different alien power for each player was a fascinating idea. But where was the sense of narrative, of slowly building friendships and enmities?

Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Super Motherload in Review

 

super motherloadSuper Motherload is a new title out now from Roxley Games. It is not only co-designer Matt Tolman’s second foray into the really non-existent digging game genre- before working with Gavan Brown on this design he also did Undermining over at Z-Man- but it is also based rather unusually on a 2013 Playstation and PC game that was itself built on the foundation of a decade-old Flash game. In its current incarnation, it is effectively a simplistic deckbuilder with a set collection mechanic driving cardplay that results in the placement of tiles on a board representing what lies below the Martian soil. Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Aquasphere in Review

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Prior to Aquasphere, I had only played one other Stefan Feld game. And it was Roma, a fun little cards-and-dice number that is probably least representative of the kinds of more complex Eurogames that have made him a favorite of those who enjoy highly mechanical, scoring-intensive designs. I try to make it a point to keep track of the big names and the big trends in hobby games and I kind of felt like it was an oversight to not have some experience with Feld even though everything I read and heard about his designs indicated that his work isn’t my usual beat. Aquasphere looked appealing with its science fiction deep-sea setting so I emailed Tasty Minstrel to request a review copy.

As if by magic, I got the game less than 24 hours after my request. And before a full day was through, I was pouring over the contents of the box and the rules. The first impressions were not good. It looked as complicated as a Chvatil design but without any readily apparent payoff in terms of narrative or leftfield innovation. It looked like an overly processional game rife with that everything-gets-you-points business that tends to result in close scores as long as everyone follows the rules, and the winner is the one who exploited just a couple of moments where there was a decision between X and X+1 points. I was left asking “What have I gotten myself into?” Continue Reading…

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…

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