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Now Playing: Lords of Waterdeep

Lords of Waterdeep - a European style worker placement game made by an American company for a fantasy setting

At a pre-Christmas gathering, I ended up chatting to a friend about worker placement games, as you do. He’d enjoyed a lot of Puerto Rico and Agricola with his family but, it transpired, he’d never played Lords of Waterdeep, which I’d been playing loads of on the iPad.

So the next time I visited, I took it round, Skullport and all. We threw in both expansions and played a six-player game. It turned out to be quite a ride: I drew a lord card that got a bonus for each building owned and focused on that instead of quests. As a result I lagged way behind the leader for the whole game, was able to deflect attention away from myself when take-that opportunities came up and then got a truly massive end-game bonus that tied me for the win, only to lose the tiebreaker.

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Cracked LCD- Another AEG Review Rodeo

aeg rodeo

I received another one of AEG’s care packages late last year (delivered to the wrong address, as usual) and I’ve finally gotten around to playing through their most recent review copy bounty. For some reason, I was shorted Cheaty Mages which sucks because I was really looking forward to it, but beggar-critics can’t be choosers.  So here are three capsule reviews of some recent AEG releases.

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Cracked LCD- Eight Minute Empires: Legends in Review


One of the things that I’ve come to value the most about modern board game design is minimalism. Mind you, I still hold a great deal of respect for the sometimes tremendously complex games upon which hobby gaming was built and I still enjoy more detailed, rules-heavy games. But when a game distills the practical essence of a process or even an entire genre down to its barest essentials, I believe what we’re looking at is a highly evolved example of progress in game design. As things get smaller, a lot of dead weight and relatively unimportant content tends to be sloughed off. When minimalist design is at its finest, we get a game like Intrige or Love Letter. Games with zero fat, focused on gameplay rather than elaboration. Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Battle for Souls in Review

battle for souls

When I emailed Robert Burke, designer of Battle for Souls to shamelessly ask for a review copy, he responded that he had sold through what the Kickstarter campaign had allowed him to print but he was more than happy to comply. It seems that he had several game reviewers actually decline the opportunity to review the game because of its subject matter. Naturally, I wanted to review it because of the subject matter. And because any game that uses William Blake paintings has got to have something to recommend it. Continue Reading…

Robinson Crusoe Review


Mostly, I’m not a big fan of co-operative games. Games suffer terribly without the unpredictability and skill of human opposition, and the whole genre sometimes looks like a collection of semi-functional attempts to solve this big, blaring problem.

But there are a very few that make my grade. And I’ve noticed they tend to have certain things in common: they allow plenty of scope of individual player decision making in the face of the group, offer some sort of simple AI-like mechanics that make it look like the game is reacting to your decisions and have a deep well of variety to add to the narrative and keep things unpredictable.

But the most important quality of all is balancing the need for transparent mechanics that allow for strategic decisions with a strong wind of chance to make sure the game doesn’t become a mere logic puzzle. Lean too far in the former direction and you might as well be solving co-operative Su-doku with your friends. Too far in the latter and you might as well co-operatively shoot craps. It’s a hard, hard proportion to get right and none of the co-ops I’ve played so far, even my favourites, have quite got it right. Until I played Robinson Crusoe.

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Cracked LCD- Tash-Kalar in Review

tash kalar

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.

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Cracked LCD- Barnes’ Best 2013: The Triple Crown



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…

Cracked LCD- Too Much Ogre

ogre plus sj

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…

Cracked LCD- Level 7 [Omega Protocol] in Review


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.

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Cracked LCD- Firefly: The Board Game in Review


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…

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