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Cracked LCD- Dragon Con 2013 Post-Mortem (or, The Misanthrope among the Tribes)

Dragoncon-banner

It’s late in the afternoon, Saturday at Dragon Con, and I’m walking by Malcolm McDowell’s table in the room of “celebrities” that I like to call the Career Graveyard. This man was Alex in Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”, one of the defining films of my life and one of the great performances in cinema. 17 year old me would have lost his damn mind. But at 37 and having seen him at the past three Dragon Cons I’m completely unmoved, unphased as I push the stroller containing Peter Pan and Tinkerbell past the dim stars of shows I’ve never even heard of. My wife, who works in film and television, is irritated by the phony glamour of it all as we edge past the morbidly obese on their mobility scooters, past the muffin-topped jailbait skanks desperate for attention in what passes for “sexy” in the minds of the socially decrepit, and through the pathetic tribal boundaries between Browncoats, gamers, otaku, steampunks, and furries. Amidst the sleazy aura of desperation and the stench of sweltering bodies, she asks “why do we still come to this?”

For the first time in the 21 years that I have been going to what is billed as the Southeast’s largest celebration of pop culture, I don’t have a justifiable response.

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Cracked LCD- AEG Card Games Review Rodeo

aeg rodeo 

AEG has certainly come a long way from Tomb, a game I mercilessly panned back in 2008 which remains one of my barometers for modern game design gone…well, just bad. They’ve positioned themselves well with a couple of strong product lines and brand names beyond their tentpole Legend of the Five the Rings, and I’m always curious to see what they’re doing next. Last week, I reviewed (and mostly liked) their US release of the Japanese deckbuilder Trains but I’ve also been sitting on a small pile of recent card game releases from the company and I figure it’s about time to round ‘em up in a Review Rodeo.

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Cracked LCD: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game in Review

pathfinder

My first game of Paizo’s new Pathfinder Adventure Card Game didn’t impress me much. Designed by veteran game maker Mike Selinker, the game is a co-op adventure that at first blush feels like another Talisman-descended flip a card, roll a die at it exercises. The key differentiator seemed to be the character cards packed with as many stats and powers as you’d use in the pen-and-paper RPG on which the game is based. It felt simplistic, too easy, and nowhere near as detailed or complex as the Lord of the Rings LCG or Mage Knight. I had one of those “this can’t be all there is to it” feelings about it as my two characters, a Dwarven scout and a human wizard, tracked down and made quick work of a villain and his bandit henchmen stirring up trouble in the town of Sandpoint. Continue Reading…

1775: Rebellion – A Video Documentary

I’m a big fan of Academy Games’ Birth of America series. 1812: The Invasion of Canada started the series off last year and now 1775: Rebellion has finally been released.

The PLAN was to debut this new video series near the 4th of July — an American revolution themed game, etc. The problems were:

  • I needed to learn the software to the point that I could make one of these nifty videos.
  • Editing a video like this takes an incredible amount of time — at least for me.  
  • It’s been a busy summer of basketball camps, looking into post-bachelor college options, job changes, etc..

So the video was put on hold but now it’s ready and I hope you like it. I’d like to do more of these, time permitting. They’re fun to do and I have discovered that I like doing the video editing work.

A HUGE thanks to Todd for doing the narration. Without it the video just doesn’t work.

Gencon ’13: I Am Tired

Gencon

This year was my first year attending Gencon. Last year I was there for a day, wandered around the Convention Center, realized it was way too crowded, bought a few games and then went to Todd’s place to actually enjoy myself.

The homeless guy you see in the above image is me on day four of the show. I arrived at Gencon cleanly shaven and ready to sell some games. By Sunday I was ragged, unkempt, tired and nearly voiceless. I also resorted to sitting down while I demoed games. The pic makes me look like Tyrion Lannister’s cousin, but I am in fact not three feet tall.

Tomorrow demoed extremely well at the show and had I been able to sell it to the masses rather than be available to specific Kickstarter backers, it would have sold a slew of copies. As is, we took a lot of pre-orders as the game nears its late September release date. I’m excited about its launch.

The New Science was also a hit at the show as I nearly sold out of my stock. We shared space with Academy Games and APE Games and I honestly felt like we had one of the more interesting booths at . With Academy’s lineup of 1812, 1775 and the new Freedom: The Underground Railroad, APE selling Order of the Stick merchandise like it was free (it was not) and our booth selling a game about 17th century scientists and a game about massive global depopulation — we had a lot of angles covered that other booths didn’t. So I was really happy with how it went.

I was running the booth solo most of the time, although my buddy Dave Fitzgerald was there to help a little on a couple of days which was a huge relief. Still, running four tables at Gencon by yourself – I do not advise that.

Here are some show high and lowlights:

*Fantasy Flight Games’ Damon Stone telling me how slick Tomorrow looked when displayed and offering to trade me a copy of it for the Cthulhu card game with one of the expansions after it ships. “Done.”
*Demoing The New Science to a half naked woman in a Cleopatra costume and getting into a discussion about the life and times of Marie Curie.
*Demoing Tomorrow to a grown man in a Riddler costume (complete with question mark cane) and carrying on an adult conversation about population growth. Surreal, indeed.
*Meeting Richard Borg at a bar and telling him how much I loved the Commands & Colors: Ancients series.
*Inadvertently getting in the way of people getting their picture taken with a dude dressed up in a Jawa costume. People seemed miffed at me as I was walking to my booth. I did not care.

Overall, a good time. A busy, busy show and I played absolutely zero games in my four days.

Oh, and I had sushi with Todd and his fiancé. That was ok, too.

Augustus Review

augustus-1

You might pick up a game clearly emblazoned with the legend “Rise of Augustus” expecting a wargame about the final wars of the Roman Republic. But you’ll have been cruelly fooled: the game is actually just called Augustus and is a light family Eurogame that casts you as assistants to the first emperor, controlling provinces and senators through the distribution of resources. Quite how the “Rise of” got tacked on to the English edition is beyond me.

You might also expect a game that comes in a box the size of the original Arkham Horror to be packed with a similar amount of heady cardboard goodness. And in a sense, there is, in the form of a truly colossal box insert to stop the few components rattling around. That’s a little unfair since the game is hardly expensive, but it’s annoying to have something taking up so much shelf space unnecessarily, just to store two sheets of tokens, a deck of cards, a few wooden meeples and a score pad. And it has to be said that the stylised art is wonderful.

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Cracked LCD- Titanium Wars/Mythic Battles in Review

iello

French publisher Iello (say “yellow) stomped into the hobby game world a couple of years ago with King of Tokyo, one of the best light games ever published. Although that game was a Richard Garfield design, many of Iello’s titles are coming from new or unheard of designers and I find that very exciting. I picked out a couple of their most recent titles to review that looked the most interesting to me- a sci-fi card game and a light skirmish wargame. Both games are from French designers and both have what Bruno Faidutti would call a sense of the “baroque”- there’s definitely big theme and big action as well as some cool mechanics. Let’s have a look at Titanium Wars and Mythic Battles. Continue Reading…

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

 

crusoe 

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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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…

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