Commands & Colors Greek Expansions (1 and 6) Review

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When you’re ankle-deep in streamlined, strategic board games from the European school of worthy but tedious game design, it’s easy to forget sometimes that part of what makes gaming great is the feeling of being there. C&C:A might be a bunch of cards and wooden blocks, but when it works you’re not sat at a 20th century table any more: you’re Scipio on the dusty plain at Zama, Hannibal on the gore-soaked field of Cannae.

I forgot this whenever I used to talk about the C&C:A expansions. Spoiled by the mechanical contrivances added to their respecting games by the expansion boxes for Memoir 44 and C&C:N, I played them and airily dismissed them as not adding sufficient extra strategy or interest to the game in comparison.

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Cracked LCD: Simpler Times- Nostalgia for the Wooden Boot

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I recently picked up a second hand copy of Origin, a game that Asmodee released last year that didn’t really have much of an impact in the face of the countless deckbuilders, Kickstarter zombie miniature games, worker placement titles and LCG add-ons that crowded it out. It just came in the mail and I popped open the colorful box, depicting a friendly scene of some folks playing the game. Inside were all of these wonderful people pawns laid out in the insert each engraved with primitive detail, mimicking the kind of early sculpture the expanding civilizations depicted in the game might have made. For the first time in a long while, I was charmed by the contents of a game box and the presentation of them. Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Monster Derby in Review

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A few years back when the Japanese roll-and-move rumble Magical Athlete was making the rounds, my friend Frank Branham pulled this esoteric and extremely ugly game from the deepest recesses of his voluminous game collection. He said it was a lot like Magical Athlete, and he wasn’t kidding. This 1994 title had a similar “racing monsters with special powers ” concept but it was slightly more complex with die-rolling combat, terrain effects and a mutual control scheme whereby players secretly try to maneuver their win, place and show picks to earn points when- or if- they finish. I was surprised to see that the game was designed by Jeff Siadek, who has become known in recent years for a couple of really good small press titles such as Battlestations, Lifeboat and World Conquerors. Continue Reading…

Jumping the Shark Podcast #206

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Alright, listen up. We have a new episode of JtS. It’s #206. That means… well it means Brandon and I talk about stuff. You know the drill. This week Brandon admires Hitman GO to an extent with which I’m not entirely comfortable . He also completes his Bravey Default adventures and begins a foray into Hearthstone (iOS). (One that I, with much regret, have since joined.) I’m also not quite done with my adventures in FTL: Advanced Edition land. This week I get into more of what I think works best and the stuff that feels a little off-balance. (Spoiler: There’s not much.) Finally, we wrap with a big-time, spoiler lamp is majorly lit, discussion of Captain America: The Winter Solder and its affects on the rapidly improving Agents of SHIELD.

It’s all here. Come get some.

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Cracked LCD- Hearthstone (IOS) in Review

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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: Malefic Curses Review

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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.

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Cracked LCD- Hey Kid, Wanna “Back” a Copy of Catacombs?

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I recently had a moment of weakness. I failed a saving throw and started thinking about “backing” a Kickstarter “project” despite my sincere reservations and general animosity toward the shift the hobby and video gaming industry has made toward crowdfunding everything. I’m not quite sure how gaming consumers could not be tired of the seemingly endless parade of vaporware products sold on cute videos, pictures of prototype miniatures, a phony sense of exclusivity and of course the nonsense notion that you are somehow supporting creators’ dreams rather than just paying up front for a product that may or may not meet expectations. It’s a sad day and age when all of these carpetbagging hucksters shilling zombie dungeon crawl tactical skirmish miniatures games (with REAL metal coins) are making a kind of money that has eluded the hobby industry for a couple of decades now by selling games based on “stretch goals” rather than product quality and company reputation. Continue Reading…

Jumping the Shark Podcast #205

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Brandon and I are back for Jumping the Shark #205. And there was much rejoicing. This week I go soul-reaping with the new Diablo 3 expansion. Brandon has a Second Son and he’s already Infamous, which I believe makes him so famous that he’s, like, more than famous. He’s in famous. Pretty awesome. (And points for you if you know the reference.) There’s also much talk of FTL: Advanced Edition, even more Bravely Default, and we part with a secret that will shake the very foundations of your reality. The Abner? Yeah, we made him up this whole time.

Minds, blown.

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Cracked LCD: The Mushroom Eaters in Review

 

mushroom eaters boardNate 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…

FTL Tips and Strategies

Note: I originally published this article in September of 2012. I haven’t updated it for the Advanced Edition, but with Advanced Edition and the iOS port out today, I thought it worth a bump back up to the front page. Most of the advice herein remains accurate. I’ve only just begun to mess with the AE on iOS, but hopefully (maybe, maybe, maybe) I’ll have some new thoughts to post on it next week. Possibly. I think.  

I am, very likely, the last person on Earth who should be writing tips guides for gamers. Nonetheless, I’ve put in enough time and spectacularly destroyed enough starships (along with going 2 for 2 in victories on Easy) that I feel I can offer you, dear reader, the chance to learn from my mistakes. Without further adu, I present to you 15 tips for surviving to the final boss in FTL:

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