After a lengthy public beta, a general release on PC and Mac and then an agonizingly long one week delay following a “soft launch”, Blizzard’s much-ballyhooed Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has finally hit the platform that could potentially make this free-to-play collectible card game a phenomenon. Hearthstone on iPad is a masterful implementation of a masterfully designed game rich with the kind of polish, refinement and attention to detail that has qualified Blizzard’s best work reaching back to the very first Warcraft. Bar none, Hearthstone is the best card game available on IOS and it may just be one of the most significant examples of video games finally repaying all of that debt they’ve had to tabletop games for all of these years. Continue Reading…
Wiz-War makes me angry. I get angry when I have the wrong cards, when the dice fall wrong, when the wrong people gang up on me. But that’s good anger. The bad anger is all the years I spent not playing this great game while it was out of print, until Fantasy Flight picked up the license for an eight edition. Now, in true Fantasy Flight style, there’s an expansion: Malefic Curses.
The box contains a board and pieces for a fifth player and three new schools of magic. A lot of people have been waiting for this largely for that fifth participant, but I’m not one of them. Wiz-War is a pretty chaotic game, and works best when clipping along at a premium pace. Five, I think, is too many. The additional interaction is fun, of course, but it’s not enough to compensate for the extra downtime.
Still, the fact that the new board is purple is a bonus since it now means no-one has to play the urine yellow mage from the base game when you’re playing with four. So it’s not all bad.
Nate Hayden’s The Mushroom Eaters is a very limited release from micropublisher Blast City Games. You might remember Mr. Hayden from the ravishingly grim black metal brawl Cave Evil from a couple of years ago. He’s shifted gears with this release, producing one of the most profound, transcendental gaming experiences I have ever had in a lifetime of playing games. When I call this game “challenging”, I don’t mean that it’s tough to beat or that the rules are complex. I mean that its theme and the way the subject matter engages the player is especially demanding and in a way that isn’t just rare in the games medium- it’s almost nonexistent. I don’t know that I’ve ever played a more provocative and daring game that risks everything- including core notions of “fun” and “competition”- to illustrate what is ultimately a journey of the mind, body and spirit. And yes, this game is about tripping on psychedelic mushrooms as the title suggests. Continue Reading…
When I cracked the shrink on Splendor (what happened to the missing ‘u’?), I got a nasty surprise. I really thought that so many people had taken the piss out of the overuse of the “Renaissance merchants impressing nobility” theme in games that it had rightly been killed, had its head cut off and its mouth stuffed with garlic-infused meeples that it was gone forever. Yet it it was again, in my hands, in 2014.
But review copies are review copies, so with a heavy heart I began to dig into the box. A deck of cards with some lovely, if rather generic, artwork depicting various scenese of Renaissance life. Some delightfully hefty gem tokens in various colours. A punchboard of nobles and a page of rules. So it was easy to learn, and it looked nice.
Upper Deck’s Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game was released in 2012 and it’s been a successful product line supported by one big box expansions, two small ones and more on the way. Reviews have been mostly positive and for good reason. It’s a fun to play, easy to play deckbuilder that brings forward some of the best elements of previous games in the genre but layered with Marvel Comics characters, an appealing competitive but co-op approach and a touch of storytelling. Fans of Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men and more obscure heroes like Iron Fist and Moon Knight will find a lot to like in this game.
But I’m not here to review the game. I’m already well behind the review curve on and besides that, I just picked it up in a trade and have only just started getting into it. Instead, I’m here to administer a critical beatdown in the name of good taste and aesthetics. Legendary is a visual nightmare, a trainwreck of graphic design that dashes the viewer’s eyes against tacky artwork, horrible layouts, poorly chosen typography, ill-advised effects and an overall failure to visually present a game based upon a highly visual medium. Continue Reading…
My first reaction to Fantasy Flight Games’ Warhammer: Diskwars was “they’re bringing back Diskwars? What’s next, Vortex?” My second reaction, after reading the advance post of the rules was “hey, this actually looks pretty fun.” My third reaction after playing it was “holy shit, I’ve been waiting for this game my entire gaming life.” Continue Reading…
Joel Toppen’s Navajo Wars: A History of the American Southwest, 1598-1864 is the story of the slow-motion apocalypse of a people. The game is, as you might guess from the title, about the Navajo (Dine) people of the American Southwest and their struggle to maintain their families, culture and ways of life in the face of Spanish, Mexican and American encroachment. Long before Kit Carson comes onto the scene during the Civil War to rope the Navajo onto a reservation, it’s clear that this is not a battle the Dine are going to win. This is, quite wilfully, a game about the twilight of these people and your success in guiding their fate is measured by a degree of inevitable failure. The game has much in common with other card-driven wargames in that specific historical beats, personalities and turns of events are unavoidable and your ability to anticipate and mitigate the script of history is critical. But it doesn’t really play like anything descended from We The People.
The world of board games is a largely cerebral one, even at the thinnest end. For most games, physical appreciation begins and ends with the tactile nature of the pieces. But just occasionally, you’ll find a game that breaks out of your head and into your body. The first one I discovered was Labyrinth, which made me feel queasy as I planned massive terrorist outrages across the globe. Space Alert is the second. Space Alert gave me indigestion.
After playing nonstop for several hours – a large number of games since most last only 20-20 minutes, I lay in my bed and failed miserably to sleep as stress and adrenaline coursed through my nerves and acid ate away at my intestine. I wasn’t sure if what I’d just experienced was fun or not, but it was certainly powerful, and utterly unique.
When I first played Michal Oracz’s Theseus: The Dark Project I scrambled for references to try to quantify the experience. I attempted to draw some kind of tenuous connection to Mr. Oracz’s previous success, a little game known as Neuroshima Hex. But that failed, apart from the fact that both are highly abstract, tactical games. I tried to parse how a game that I thought was going to be some kind of Space Hulk thing turned out to be so strange, with unusually restrictive rules and often inflexible gameplay yet with an ample sense of theme and setting. The mechanics were from out of nowhere- I couldn’t draw a sensible lineage to anything other than Manacala, of all things. My initial reaction is best summed up as “what in the hell was that?”
And that, readers, is an awesome feeling.
Everybody Wants to Rule the World, according to a well-known song from a band hailing from my home town. Well now you can experience ruling a small part of it, at least, with Democracy 3.
The new game screen gives you a choice of western nations to choose from, but it’s deceptive: your pick has very little impact on the game. Curiously for a game with this title, the actual different models of democracy like first past the post and proportional representation aren’t modeled at all. Rather, this is a game about the act of governance itself, of raising and spending revenue for the good (or otherwise) of your citizens.