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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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Cracked LCD- Yashima: Legend of the Kami Masters in Review


Yashima: Legend of The Kami Masters is a pitched battle between two to four combatants wielding the powers of the martial arts, magic and nature spirits. Think of it something like a cross between the arcade classic Yie Ar Kung Fu, a Chinese Wuxia film and the summoning spells from a Final Fantasy game. It is a focused concept rich with background story and setting, but without many contextual frills. There are no scenarios, there are no resources and there are no objectives other than defeating your foes. It is essentially a card game not unlike Yomi or BattleCon, but it uses hex-based terrain tiles and miniatures to express distance, position and the scope of attacks. I really like what I’ve seen from the game so far, but it also leaves me with a feeling that this design- which has great potential- isn’t quite to where it needs to be just yet. Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Argent: The Consortium (and expansion) in Review


I should be writing a negative review of Argent: The Consortium because it completely flies in the face of everything I want out of board gaming in 2015. The title of the game is terrible; it speaks nothing to the Harry Potter-like “wizard’s school” setting or the themes expressed in the game. It’s a worker placement game, a tired and overplayed genre if ever there were one and it’s one of those really complicated ones at that. The game is way long and overstuffed with multiple resource types, piles of cards everywhere and built-in redundancies. The rulebook overcomplicates the mechanics and there are Euroglyphics everywhere It’s all topped off with an anime-influenced illustration style that I don’t particularly favor. The whole thing teeters on the brink of bloated inaccessibility, and you might – like I did – question if it’s worth the effort.

But it turns out that Argent: The Consortium is also one of the best worker placement games published to date. It’s a brilliant, sometimes brutal but always magical game full of dynamic interaction, thoughtful gameplay and wonderful narrative beats. There isn’t really anything else quite as bold on the market, especially in this particular genre. Continue Reading…

Specter Ops Review


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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Cracked LCD- Reviews Catch-up! (Arena of the Planeswalkers, WWE Superstar Showdown, Forbidden Stars)

magic wwe

I’ve got a small pile to hand in this week- been extra busy over at The Review Corner with some of today’s most popular titles:

Magic: Arena of the Planeswalkers is, in fact, Heroscape meets Magic. It is also a great mass-market game that has tons of potential, if Hasbro will let it come to full fruition. It’s also probably the best value in gaming at only $29.99 retail.  Five star review is here!

WWE Superstar Showdown is Gale Force 9′s latest, and as is par for course it’s not only really good, it’s really good even for non-fans of the license. It is an officially licensed WWE product (hologram and all) so if you know who Daniel Bryant and Roman Reigns are, have I got a game for you. If you don’t, it’s still a great fighting game that is super easy to pick up and play. I wish it had more wrestlers, especially ones I know from like, WrestleMania III. Four star review is here!

Forbidden Stars is FFG’s latest Warhammer 40k Dudes on a Map game, which fortunately avoids the debacle that was Horus Heresy altogether and is instead inspired by their woefully underappreciated StarCraft board game. But it isn’t as good, and for all of its streamlining and refinement they stuck a tacky, overwrought combat system in there that plays out like a full card battling game crammed into an otherwise smooth-running system. This also makes the game too long. We did a special thing with this, a Head to Head review with myself and my lead writer Charlie Theel. He liked it more than me, so there’s some good debate here in my three star (his four star) review!

Cracked LCD- Darkest Night in Review (Part 1- The Base Game)


Darkest Night, designed by Jeremy Lennert and published by lovable underdogs Victory Point Games, doesn’t sound terribly interesting at first pass. I’m almost reticent to lay out the objective facts about the game regarding its process and mechanics out of fear that they’ll put you to sleep. But stick with me. It’s worth it. Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Broom Service in Review

Last week was an 11th hour vacation ending literally hours before back to school for the kids, this week I’m back on the broom for a review of the GREAT Broom Service over at Miniature Market’s Review Corner. This is an outstanding game (based on the earlier Witches’ Brew, which I never played) with a brilliant action selection/trumping mechanic that requires players to announce whether they are going to be brave or cowardly every turn. The setting is a wonderfully whimsical witchy thing, which I have a terrible weakness for (witness the Kiki’s Delivery Service tattoo) and it turns out that this is a design that strikes an almost perfect medium spot between the classical German-style family games and the more complex modern hobby games. It’s easy and fun, but it bites pretty deep. And it won this year’s Kennerspiel prize at the Spiel Des Jahres, well deserved. Check it out here!

Cracked LCD- Drakon in Review @ the Review Corner


Yikes, two stars! Well, that’s one less time than the number of times I’ve owned this game, now in its fourth edition. It’s just not very good- it’s dated in a bad way and there’s not a whole lot that’s engaging about it. Especially when you could play current editions of Wiz-War or DungeonQuest instead and get a similarly quick, fun and nasty dungeoncrawl experience. The best way to look at Drakon is as kind of a fantasied-up design in line with something like Tsuro. Which isn’t really much of a complement. Review @ The Review Corner over at

Skull Review


It’s often not the rules or the components that make a game. With Skull, it’s the little noises. The tut of tongue against teeth. A soft sigh. A full-throated chuckle. Ambigous sounds uttered before a card gets flipped over and all hell breaks loose.

Skull is a bluffing game. Everyone starts with four cards , three showing flowers and one a skull. You place one face down, maybe more. Then you start wagering with other players to see how many flowers you think you can flip.

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Cracked LCD- Evolution: Flight expansion in Review


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…

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