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Puzzle Games Saved my Basement

2013-07-17 14.18.49

That right there is a riser, a riser I built as part of finishing my basement. It is in my movie room so that those banished to the back row of seats can see over the heads of their betters, namely those important enough to be allowed to sit in the front row. It is roughly eight feet by eleven feet, a super fortified combination of plywood, two-by-sixes, two-by-fours, sweat, blood and gumption. It is very big. It is very heavy. It is not fun to move, something I can now attest to personally.

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Cracked LCD- Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island in Review



When we talk about hybrids in terms of game design, what we tend to mean are American-style, narrative-focused and explicitly themed games that have accrued certain mechanical and design elements of the “Eurogames”  sensibility.  Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island, designed by Polish designer Ignacy Trzewiczek and published in the US by Z-Man Games, approaches the concept of hybridization backwards. Despite how it may appear on the surface, this title is really a “hardcore”, complex Eurogame. Paradoxically, it is also one of the very best adventure games that I’ve ever played. Its idiosyncrasy means that the design references Agricola more than Talisman, its genius is that it manages to create a tremendously malleable, modular survival story rife with life-or-death decisions, branching narrative paths, and a more complete sense of setting than many other adventure games are able to manage with reams of flavor text or illustrations.

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The Shadowrun Brain Dump

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Based on the campaign length I’ve seen bandied about in reviews, I’m assuming I’m about halfway through Shadowrun Returns. It’s too short for a finished review and too long for an initial impressions post so instead I’m just going to dump all of this info here and let you sort through it. I’m sure there’s a Shadowrun term for it to make it sound all cool and cyber-brainy but I’m just going to stick with brain dump. Come to think of it, Shadowrun would probably call it that too.

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Pandemic Review

pandemic box

Pandemic was the co-operative game that launched a thousand flabby imitators. The genre became fashionable and designers and publishers started churning out identikit games to satisfy the kind of uncritical, rabid demand that only glaze-eyed, obsessed nerds can muster. Most were awful, and the few co-op games that really satisfied did so by breaking the mold and doing something different. And in the morass, Pandemic went out of print and kind of sank out of sight.

But now its back in a spanking new edition. New art furnishes the board and cards, and the wooden disease cubes have been replaced by transparent plastic in suitably lurid colours. The gameplay, aside from a couple of new role cards, has hardly changed. And we’re here to see if we can remember just  why playing Pandemic made the co-operative model so appealing in the first place.

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Cracked LCD- Boss Monster in Review

bosss monster 

Designed by brothers Johnny and Chris O’Neal , Boss Monster is by far the best tabletop homage to NES-era video gaming to date and somehow it also manages to actually hit the target in solidifying that whole “wouldn’t Dungeon Keeper make a great tabletop game” idea everyone has had at some point while reminiscing about Bullfrog’s classic bad guy sim. Trending with the best of recent games, it’s a no-bullshit design that gets right down to what matters the most and doesn’t throw up a bunch of rules and processes to get in the way of its killer theming and fun game play. The 8-bit pixel artwork is absolutely killer, and it is by far the best looking tabletop game I’ve seen this year. The standard edition is designed like the classic NES boxes, the limited Kickstarter edition is done up in homage to the gold Legend of Zelda box that every kid coveted back in the ’80s. Continue Reading…

Free to Die – Time with Ravenmark: Mercenaries

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When it comes to turn based strategy games, I pretty much suck at them. There’s nothing new to report there. I’ve been sucking at strategy games ever since I first sidled up to a keyboard. Sure, I managed to get through all of Fire Emblem: Awakening but I played that on casual and turned permadeath off. Had I played that game on the default settings I’d still be at the first mission.

Despite my ineptitude at strategy games I gave Ravenmark: Mercenaries a spin. It’s free to play so all it cost me was some bandwidth and storage space and my thinking was that maybe it would be lenient enough for a strategy lightweight like me to master.

Yeah, not so. This game is a Strategy game with a capital S and while the monetization schemes may irk some, if you’re into turn based strategy, you really should check it out.

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The Quiet Year Review

Quiet Year cover

The world is full of things that should not work, but somehow do: pineapple on Pizza, or mixing opera and hip-hop, or making jokes about death. Some examples are personal, others largely universal. And to that last list we can now add a game called The Quiet Year.

The Quiet Year calls itself a map-making game, but it isn’t really, even though you do make a map as you play it. A lot of people seem to refer to it as a role-playing game but it isn’t that either, since it actively discourages you from the minutiae of its character’s lives. It’s one of a small but growing group of storytelling games, where a simple structure is used to explore the player’s imaginations.

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In Space No One Can Hear You “Like”

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This probably makes me sound old, but I don’t get Facebook. The entire notion of using a publicly available software platform to reconnect with people I have made no effort to contact in the past two decades doesn’t make much sense to me. Sure, I’m on it, who isn’t, but I don’t use it to do more than occasionally chat with old fraternity brothers and other folks here and there. Let me put it this way, my sister is on Facebook and I had no idea up until I got an email reminding me about her birthday.

After playing Redshirt, the upcoming social sim in space from one woman developer shop The Tiniest Shark, I understand Facebook. I have seen the face of evil and I “Liked” it.

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The Forest of Doom Review

Forest of Doom cover

It’s one of the great ironies of modern gaming that the venerable format of paper gamebooks has made such a huge comeback on mobile devices. And riding the crest of this coolingly nostalgic wave is Tin Man Games. Authors may come and go, designers may build peculiar experimental magic systems into their apps, but the steady Tin Hand ensures a pleasing experience no matter what the content.

Their gamebook adventures engine improves with every release, making combat faster and the interface smoother. And I’ve always loved the eye for detail that goes in to their wonderful collections of achievements and book art, always with knowing winks to consumers of nerd minutiae hidden amongst the titles and the pictures.

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Cracked LCD- Kings of Air and Steam in Review

 kings of air

Kings of Air and Steam, new from Tasty Minstrel Games, had two major strikes against it before it landed on my table. One is that it has a Steampunk theme, which I almost categorically despise, and the other is that it is another Kickstarter title which at this point tends in that particular “movement” to mean an underdeveloped product. I’m very particular about what review copies I request from publishers and I won’t request games that I don’t think have a decent shot at earning a favorable notice, but I gave this game a chance because I love simple rail/transportation games and this one had an interesting combination of a traditional trains-and-tracks scheme paired with a programmed movement airship thing. It sounded kind of crazy and pretty unique. Continue Reading…