At first glance, Xia: Legends of a Drift System sort of looks like another entry in the 4x space empires sweepstakes. But it’s really closer to something like Merchant of Venus or Gale Force 9’s Firefly game. Like those titles, it’s a pick-up-and-deliver game with both mercantile and adventure gaming elements It features a strong “open world”-style emphasis on allowing the player to chart their own course through options that include good honest work as well as criminal enterprise, exploration as well as material advancement. The goal of the game is to set out in a starter spacecraft and earn the most fame points by the end of the game. And how you get them is really up to you. (more…)
Falling is the primordial nightmare. Plunging into the abyss, then wakening with a jolt just before the impact is a fear we’re all familiar with. Yet Euclidean is the first horror game I’ve played which taps that shared terror. Then amplifies it with deliberately clumsy controls and freakish environments beneath your sinking feet.
Its in the design of these other worlds that Euclidean reaches its apogee. Lovecraft’s old saw about impossible geometries is, obviously, impossible to visualise. Yet Euclidean does a fine job of putting you into some truly bizarre places.
Britain is pockmarked with standing stones. On a recent holiday we passed them in a dozen different sites. High on windy hillsides or perched above rocky bays, the waves seething over jagged rocks beneath. I love to touch them, to touch my history. They feel like the bones of the country, smooth yet pitted.
Traces of their makers cover the landscape like a swirling tattoo. Hill forts, barrows, buried hoards of gold. Yet they do not speak to me. Their brash Roman conquerors do. Julius Caeser wrote books. His legionaries wrote letters, pleading for thick socks and underthings against the bitter British climate. I had long hoped I might find the voices of the Britons in some forgotten thing. A squashed coin perhaps, or a rusted sword hilt.
I have found them now, in a most unexpected place. In a box, fashioned from green wood and decorated with gaudy stickers.
Yashima: Legend of The Kami Masters is a pitched battle between two to four combatants wielding the powers of the martial arts, magic and nature spirits. Think of it something like a cross between the arcade classic Yie Ar Kung Fu, a Chinese Wuxia film and the summoning spells from a Final Fantasy game. It is a focused concept rich with background story and setting, but without many contextual frills. There are no scenarios, there are no resources and there are no objectives other than defeating your foes. It is essentially a card game not unlike Yomi or BattleCon, but it uses hex-based terrain tiles and miniatures to express distance, position and the scope of attacks. I really like what I’ve seen from the game so far, but it also leaves me with a feeling that this design- which has great potential- isn’t quite to where it needs to be just yet. (more…)
A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed Victory Point Games’ Darkest Night. Despite the appearance of it being another one of those dime-a-dozen co-op fantasy adventure games, it turns out that this is actually one of the best. It does a couple of things quite differently than its peers, not the least of which is that it creates a bold narrative wherein stealth and avoidance can be as significant to victory as choosing when to “go loud” and attack. Darkest Night is also a very well supported game with multiple expansions available, and since I like playing with all of them it’s only fair to follow-up on that very positive review with a look at the additional content that is available- some of which dramatically changes (and improves) an already great game. The first two expansions, the ones not called From the Abyss and In Tales of Old, are available as part of the “Necromancer Bundle” that Victory Point sells. The last two are, as of this writing, only sold separately.
I should be writing a negative review of Argent: The Consortium because it completely flies in the face of everything I want out of board gaming in 2015. The title of the game is terrible; it speaks nothing to the Harry Potter-like “wizard’s school” setting or the themes expressed in the game. It’s a worker placement game, a tired and overplayed genre if ever there were one and it’s one of those really complicated ones at that. The game is way long and overstuffed with multiple resource types, piles of cards everywhere and built-in redundancies. The rulebook overcomplicates the mechanics and there are Euroglyphics everywhere It’s all topped off with an anime-influenced illustration style that I don’t particularly favor. The whole thing teeters on the brink of bloated inaccessibility, and you might – like I did – question if it’s worth the effort.
But it turns out that Argent: The Consortium is also one of the best worker placement games published to date. It’s a brilliant, sometimes brutal but always magical game full of dynamic interaction, thoughtful gameplay and wonderful narrative beats. There isn’t really anything else quite as bold on the market, especially in this particular genre. (more…)
Hidden movement is the most under-used mechanic in all of board gaming. You can count the quality titles that use it on the fingers of one hand. Fury of Dracula, Letters from Whitechapel, Scotland Yard, Nuns on the Run and that’s about your lot.
Specter Ops still does’t take us on to the second hand. But it expands the genre with a style and energy that has to be played to be appreciated.
I’ve got a small pile to hand in this week- been extra busy over at The Review Corner with some of today’s most popular titles:
Magic: Arena of the Planeswalkers is, in fact, Heroscape meets Magic. It is also a great mass-market game that has tons of potential, if Hasbro will let it come to full fruition. It’s also probably the best value in gaming at only $29.99 retail. Five star review is here!
WWE Superstar Showdown is Gale Force 9’s latest, and as is par for course it’s not only really good, it’s really good even for non-fans of the license. It is an officially licensed WWE product (hologram and all) so if you know who Daniel Bryant and Roman Reigns are, have I got a game for you. If you don’t, it’s still a great fighting game that is super easy to pick up and play. I wish it had more wrestlers, especially ones I know from like, WrestleMania III. Four star review is here!
Forbidden Stars is FFG’s latest Warhammer 40k Dudes on a Map game, which fortunately avoids the debacle that was Horus Heresy altogether and is instead inspired by their woefully underappreciated StarCraft board game. But it isn’t as good, and for all of its streamlining and refinement they stuck a tacky, overwrought combat system in there that plays out like a full card battling game crammed into an otherwise smooth-running system. This also makes the game too long. We did a special thing with this, a Head to Head review with myself and my lead writer Charlie Theel. He liked it more than me, so there’s some good debate here in my three star (his four star) review!
Darkest Night, designed by Jeremy Lennert and published by lovable underdogs Victory Point Games, doesn’t sound terribly interesting at first pass. I’m almost reticent to lay out the objective facts about the game regarding its process and mechanics out of fear that they’ll put you to sleep. But stick with me. It’s worth it. (more…)
Innovation in game design seems to be in short supply nowadays. Yet you can find it in unexpected places. Take all those wargames that use the same basic rules but have new units, maps and mechanical tweaks for different battles. Playing through these franchises can reveal an ocean of wonder inside those tiny details, making history come to life.
So, just because Temple of Elemental Evil is the fourth game in a series doesn’t mean it’s not going to feel fresh and clever. However, in honesty, it’s going to need to pull out all the stops to impress. A sense of staleness was already present in the last Adventure System game, Legend of Drizzt, back in 2011.