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Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures game box shot

Collective Action

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures game box shot

I blame X-Wing for a lot of things. I blame it for making me read more than is decent about the expanding universe of Star Wars. I blame it for the gaping hole in my bank balance. Most of all, though, I blame it for turning me from a player into a collector.

Those of your who’ve been with us for the long haul will remember the amount of words I used to lavish on getting people to play their games. All the dire warnings against acquiring another identikit cube pusher when so many gamers already don’t play the ones they have. Part of me still wants to believe that. In reality, the tottering piles of hardly-touched games and expansions tottering out of shelves and cupboards all over my house say otherwise.

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Cracked LCD- XCOM in Review…at the Review Corner @ Miniaturemarket.com!

 

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Cue the fanfare and raise the curtain, it’s time to unveil The Review Corner @ Miniaturemarket.com! This is a project myself and a crack team of writers have been working on in secret since early February and we’re happy to finally roll it out to the public. It’s an idea that was cooked up by my man Charlie Theel- he pitched the concept of starting a regular reviews feature at Miniature Market’s site and they were totally on board. What’s more, they are committed to developing the feature into a leading source for high quality, authoritative games writing. (more…)

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Cracked LCD- Luchador: The Mexican Wrestling Dice Game in Review

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When you open a box of Luchador: The Mexican Wrestling Dice Game, if you don’t crack a smile when  you see that the game comes with a 3D, cardboard wrestling ring with elastic ropes – not to mention lots of custom dice and colorfully illustrated, oversized character stand ups and faux championship belts- then obviously you and I are delighted by very different things. If you also don’t understand right from the get-go that this is a fun-first design geared toward generating as many cheers and jeers as possible rather than one for the pensive brow-furrowing, beard-scratching set, then Luchador might not be one for your collection. But if you are in the market for a rowdy, raucous event game that manages to almost completely encapsulate everything that makes dice games great, then Mark Rivera’s brilliant design is going to put you down for the one-two-three count. (more…)

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Cracked LCD- Bullfrogs in Review

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Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, German publishing house Kosmos had a pretty good run with a line of inexpensive, small-box “Games for Two”. Lost Cities is probably the best known of this lot and it is emblematic of these games- easy to learn, easy to play and with a good mixture of skill and luck that accommodates replayabilty. Kevin Matejka’s Bullfrogs is a decade and a half too late to be one of these games, its  box is the wrong size and it is a one to four player design but it very much reminds me of this type of small-scale Eurogame. If it were 1999 or 2000, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the game next to Kahuna or Hellas. But unlike some of those games that are still popular or at least fondly remembered today, Bullfrogs might not be as evergreen. (more…)

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Cracked LCD- March of the Ants in Review

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The primary reason I wanted to check out Weird City Games’ March of the Ants, a 4x design written by Ryan Swisher and Tim Eisner, is because I am totally obsessed with the film Phase IV. Without getting into too much extraneous detail and turning this into a film review, this 1971 science fiction picture directed by Saul Bass is about ants suddenly becoming highly evolved, intelligent and capable of making us their servants. It’s all very subtle, understated and weird in that way that 70s science fiction can be. But March of the Ants, even though it’s a solidly designed game, is by contrast not quite weird enough despite the name of the publisher. (more…)

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Star Wars X-Wing Scum and Villainy Review

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Recently, I started playing X-Wing against someone who really knew their Star Wars. They knew that Howlrunner was a female pilot, and where the YT-2400 freighter originated from in the expanded universe. They also told me something interesting: that the Hutts and their criminal networks were a faction equal in power to the Rebels of the Empire. What looked like a footnote in the films was actually a major player in the galaxy.

At that moment, I decided I needed Scum and Villainy.

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Cracked LCD- Shadows of Malice in Review

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shadowspic2225277_mdIt is almost more illustrative to approach Jim Felli’s Shadows of Malice by explaining what it doesn’t do and doesn’t have than it is to describe its features. This is a fantasy game that doesn’t attempt to simulate a Fantasy Flight or Games Workshop design. Nor does it attempt to weld whatever the mechanic du jour is onto a sword and sorcery framework. It doesn’t attempt to be an RPG for board gamers. There is a story, but it is limited to a couple of paragraphs in the rulebook and an overarching narrative line that informs the entire game system. There is no flavor text on the cards and very little artwork all around. There are no pictures of your characters and in fact no pictures of monsters, either.  The cities you visit in the game don’t even have names.  There are no rote character classes. There are no elves, dragons, orcs or dwarves anywhere to be seen. (more…)

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Cosmic Encounter and expansions review

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Cosmic Encounter was one of the first hobby board games I owned, back when I was a teenager. It was the Games Workshop edition. I can still remember being baffled by the rules. It looked and smelled like a conquest game: there were battles and alliances and units died. But what the hell kind of conquest game made you draw and card to determine your target instead of you picking on the weakest player? Where was the fun in that?

Oh sure, you could still make alliances. The encounter each turn with your random opponent allowed each side to invite people to help out. Sure, there was still excitement, with combat determined by the number of ships on each side plus the play of a numeric card. And the draw of a different alien power for each player was a fascinating idea. But where was the sense of narrative, of slowly building friendships and enmities?

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super motherload

Cracked LCD- Super Motherload in Review

 

super motherloadSuper Motherload is a new title out now from Roxley Games. It is not only co-designer Matt Tolman’s second foray into the really non-existent digging game genre- before working with Gavan Brown on this design he also did Undermining over at Z-Man- but it is also based rather unusually on a 2013 Playstation and PC game that was itself built on the foundation of a decade-old Flash game. In its current incarnation, it is effectively a simplistic deckbuilder with a set collection mechanic driving cardplay that results in the placement of tiles on a board representing what lies below the Martian soil. (more…)

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Cracked LCD- Aquasphere in Review

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Prior to Aquasphere, I had only played one other Stefan Feld game. And it was Roma, a fun little cards-and-dice number that is probably least representative of the kinds of more complex Eurogames that have made him a favorite of those who enjoy highly mechanical, scoring-intensive designs. I try to make it a point to keep track of the big names and the big trends in hobby games and I kind of felt like it was an oversight to not have some experience with Feld even though everything I read and heard about his designs indicated that his work isn’t my usual beat. Aquasphere looked appealing with its science fiction deep-sea setting so I emailed Tasty Minstrel to request a review copy.

As if by magic, I got the game less than 24 hours after my request. And before a full day was through, I was pouring over the contents of the box and the rules. The first impressions were not good. It looked as complicated as a Chvatil design but without any readily apparent payoff in terms of narrative or leftfield innovation. It looked like an overly processional game rife with that everything-gets-you-points business that tends to result in close scores as long as everyone follows the rules, and the winner is the one who exploited just a couple of moments where there was a decision between X and X+1 points. I was left asking “What have I gotten myself into?” (more…)

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