If I’m going to be charitable about Tash-Kalar: Arena of Ancients, I’ll state that it’s a highly experimental and sometimes oddly compelling design that feels like superstar designer Vlaada Chvatil test-driving some new concepts somewhat outside of his comfort zone. If I’m going to be a little more direct about it, I’m going to declare that Tash-Kalar is an awkward and frequently fumbling attempt at applying both conceptual and executive level theme to an abstract game that mechanically is no more specific than Checkers. If I’m going to be dead level honest about the new Czech Games Edition/Z-Man title, I’ll tell you straight up that it is agonizing to play. And not in a good way.
I’m doing my Barnes’ Best Game of the Year commendation a little differently this year. I’ve been rolling over my short list time and time again over the past couple of weeks and trying to come up with a GOTY nominee that I can feel completely comfortable with selecting over other candidates. This year, there was a higher-than-usual number of not just really good but great games release, despite the influx of mediocre Kickstarter titles. Games that I think are going to be around for years to come. Games that I thought “there’s nothing coming out this year that is going to beat this” when I played them. In all, I think it’s been a great year for high quality, impactful, and innovative designs.
So this year, it’s a Triple Crown. Continue Reading…
Last week I took delivery on a copy of the Ogre Designer’s Edition, the 28 pound monstrosity that Steve Jackson crowdfunded through Kickstarter to the tune of almost a million bucks. No, don’t be silly. Of course I didn’t back it. I bought a copy through a retailer for a cool $65. I’ll take a savings of $35 over a couple of extra counter sheets, not to mention retaining my anti-Kickstarter party line regardless of the fact that this was one of the better justified and better run campaigns that I’ve seen. Ogre is one of the all-time great games, one of the seminal titles in the hobby spectrum, and after being out of print for years I should be thrilled to pieces to have this massive, supposedly “ultimate” edition of the game.
But I’m not. Continue Reading…
Level 7 [Omega Protocol], a new dungeon crawler from Privateer Press, is proof positive that a game doesn’t have to necessarily innovate or reinvent its genre to be a best-in-class example of it. But that’s not to say that this title do any innovating or reinventing of its own. There are a couple of really quite brilliant ideas that help to modernize a title that at its root really isn’t all that much different from some of the top names in the dungeon crawl/”Dudes in a Hall” genre.
If you’re looking at licensing a cult TV show to a board games manufacturer, I’ve got a hot tip for you. Gale Force Nine and the crack team of Aaron Dill, John Kovaleski, and Sean Sweigart should be at the top of your meeting schedule. This company (previously known primarily as a maker of miniatures gaming supplies) and these designers are two for two with last year’s Cracked LCD Game of the Year shortlister Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery and this year’s outstanding board game based on the almost fanatically revered (and short-lived) Firefly TV series. Continue Reading…
You’ll realise, no doubt, that Warage is a clever play on words. Making a compound of “war” and “age” cunningly creates the word “rage”, conjuring the white heat of fantasy melees, the ancient and primal fury felt my elf for orc and vice versa. It’s a smart title.
The game underlying it is not smart. It’s a dumb game, but it’s dumb in a good way, the sort of way that an overly playful rottweiler puppy is dumb, full of teeth and fluff and eagerness. It’s a game where you slap down cards, gloat and chug back beer.
More than few people online and out in the real world complained that last year’s smash hit Lords of Waterdeep was lacking. Lacking depth, lacking substance, lacking narrative, lacking theme, whatever. Frankly, I think these folks are lacking good taste but boy howdy do I have a game on the table for them. If you’re one of these people that liked the core worker placement gameplay- driven by quest cards and featuring more direct interaction and interference than typical of the genre- then Pandasaurus’ Yedo ought to be on your Christmas list this year. The game plays very much like a meatier, richer, and more complicated version of Waterdeep in Feudal Japanese drag but it wouldn’t quite be fair to call it an extrapolation or extension of that game’s concept because it very much marks its own territory in the worker placement genre. I’m not even sure if the designers of Yedo had ever played Waterdeep before working through Yedo’s development, but some notable parallels are definitely there. Continue Reading…
I’ve always loved interaction in games. I’d bet that most gamers do, really, it’s just that those who’ve chosen to embrace the bloodless, over-balanced mechanical model that runs screaming as far from zero-sum games as it possibly can think that logic is more important than interaction. But there is, thankfully, an alternative. Instead of having players taking chunks out of each other, you can instead encourage them to co-operate for mutual gain.
My suspicion is that this what Trains and Stations sets out to do for the light family gaming crowd. Clearly influenced by age-old classic Poker Dice, the game sees you roll a handful of beautifully marbled custom dice, picking what they want to keep and rolling the others again. Except that, in a nod to modern sensibilities of choice and strategy you can actually keep certain dice from turn to turn if you find you didn’t roll the combination you were looking for and you have to pay for each re-roll.
When my children were small and I didn’t get out much I played a lot of solitaire board games, and I decided that I didn’t like solitaire board games all that much. It’s hard to see what they give you that a strategy video game doesn’t, except lots of annoying overhead. There was, however, one exception: Vietnam air-war game Phantom Leader.
It’s part of a whole series of related air combat games from Dan Verssen Games. Hornet Leader is one of the more recent and critically lauded entries, and after my experiences with Phantom Leader I was pretty excited to try it out.