Dominic Crapuchettes is best known for his popular party game Wits and Wagers, but that ought to change with the 2nd edition release of Evolution, a design co-credited to two Russians- another game designer and a biologist. This is a two to six player title that ranks among the most thematically resonant card game designs that I’ve ever played. I’ve become quite fascinated with how each session results in the creation of a unique biosphere in which animals defined by one to three characteristics as well as their size and population struggle to adapt and survive. It’s a game clearly in the same lineage as Evo and Dominant Species, maybe even going back to Karl Heinz-Schmiel’s Tyranno Ex while glancing sidelong at American Megafauna. But Evolution is considerably quicker and simpler – and therefore more accessible. Its concepts are clear and logical, the gameplay immediately challenging and competitive.
The deckbuilding mechanic of Dominion was the most revolutionary thing in the last decade of tabletop gaming. Many other games have build on that creativity. Yet after all that time and all those titles, deckbuilding still feels like a mechanic struggling to find its place in the world.
It’s an inherently insular thing. Demanding significant setup time and forcing players to obsess over their own constructions while ignoring everyone else. Nightfall and Star Realms added more interaction, but it wasn’t enough. A Few Acres of Snow briefly looked like a miraculous saviour but got crushed under the Halifax Hammer.
OK, so for most folks this is a way, way late review since Hearthstone has been out now for over a year, not including time in Beta. It’s also a review that might stir up an obnoxious debate as to whether the digital CCG should be regarded as a video game instead of a tabletop game. And almost certainly, lamentations about it being free-to-play and supported by IAPs – let alone that it is a collectible card game that requires that you actually pay for it if you want to be competitive- will certainly follow. And this is also the second time I’ve reviewed Hearthstone. Last time was just over a year ago here on No High Scores.
But here’s the deal. Hearthstone recently released its long-awaited iPhone-friendly update and I’ve been playing it almost non-stop since. I had played the IOS edition briefly when it first came out as an iPad-only release, but because that device is almost always covered in the sticky remnants of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and clogged up with countless Lego, Disney and Angry Birds apps for the kids I didn’t really dig in for the long haul. Now that it’s in my pocket, I can play it all day long. So now it’s time for me to issue forth (again) on what I think is one of the most significant games to date that has married the strands of tabletop and video game design.
It takes about a New York minute between seeing a copy of the X-Wing base game and wondering what a Star Destroyer model might look like at that scale. In that minuscule time frame, Star Wars: Armada became an inevitability.
In truth, the Star Destroyer in any scale is almost bound to ruin the look of the game. Even here it looks enormous, and dwarfs the spindly Rebel ships that oppose it. The quality of the paint jobs seems to have gone down a notch, too. Armada just doesn’t have the same visual appeal as its illustrious predecessor.
So it’s a good job that it’s a much better game.
My first impressions of Assault on Doomrock, a new co-op adventure game all the way from Poland courtesy designer Tom Stasiak, were “wow, this game is a mess” and after getting completely mauled by the Beasts of Doom in the first battle, “wow, this game is really freakin’ hard.” It took a couple of tentative games worth of head-scratching and rules-checking before the two halves of this stunningly original design coalesced and my reaction shifted to “wow, this game is really interesting.” And then back to “wow, this game is really freakin’ hard”. Continue Reading…
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. Continue Reading…
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. Continue Reading…
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. Continue Reading…
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.