The Walking Dead: No Time Left in Review

It’s hard to review the last chapter of Telltale’s The Walking Dead without reviewing the series as a whole. It’s also hard to review the episode without getting into spoiler territory, as a large part of what makes the episode, and the game in general, so affecting is the plight of its characters. I have no intention of  spoiling the episode for folks here in the intro paragraph so instead, for those that haven’t played it, I’ll just say that when the end of year best of lists come out, The Walking Dead deserves to be on them.

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Bill’s Top 10 Boardgames of 2012

Once again it’s that time where I lay out my picks for the best boardgames of the year. Keep in mind that this isn’t the “best games of 2012″ but rather the best games I played over the past year or so. Boardgames, being the beautiful hobby that it is, tend to age better than, say, a 10 year old PC game.  I loved High Heat Baseball to death back in the day but I’m not breaking out the Sammy Sosa classic anytime soon.

So here we go: a list of my personal 10 from 2012. My list is certified to be better than anything Barnes posts because everyone knows he likes terrible games.

You can trust me. Also, I won’t add any of our own games on the list because that would be a clear violation of some kind of rule.

Last year’s list can be found here. Looking back I still recommend most of those games even though I think I overrated the Blood Bowl card game and A Few Acres of Snow has run its course.

So let’s get to it.

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #153

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Image: Filomena Scalise /

Having emerged from our respective turkey comas, the mad trio are all back together for Jumping the Shark #153. Bill gives us the lowdown on The New Science’s success at BGG Con, the latest developments in Tomorrow, and a few other cardboard bits and pieces that have been on his carving plate, including Spartacus, and the first deck-building game in a long while to grab his attention, Legendary. I spend a few hours with Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition (PC version) and find that, yep, it’s pretty much Baldur’s Gate, only it runs better on modern hardware. I’m also reminded just what it was like to play a so-called hardcore RPG in the 90s era of game design. Things really have changed and, it turns out, some of those changes were for the better. Finally, Brandon wraps up his time with Dishonored and finds a few more shiny spots behind the blemishes of Halo 4.

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Calendar Man – Week of 12/3

Apparently Far Cry 3 didn’t get the memo that last week was the last week of holiday releases. Bad Far Cry 3! No cookie!

Seriously though, that game looks badass. I’ll have to add it to the ever increasing list of backlogged games. Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. The Ni No Kuni demo releasing this week on PSN certainly won’t help either. Curse you Level 5 for making a demo for a game I am incredibly excited about! This week also has the Lord of the Rings MOBA thingy as well as another Skyrim expansion and a turn based Uncharted card game, um, thing. Yeah, I dunno either.

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Merchant of Venus Review

Merchant of Venus box shot

In this glorious age of reprints, there are very few remaining classic titles from the eighties that haven’t seen a rebirth in some form or other. Of those left stranded in the past most of any consequence were by designer Richard Hamblen. Known for his intricate and fiendishly detailed designs, one game in his oeuvre was relatively simple and short and cherished fondly for those exact reasons. And now Fantasy Flight Games has brought it to join the ranks of the resurrected.

Thanks to an amicably resolved licensing dispute between Fantasy Flight and another publisher, Stronghold, Merchant of Venus actually offers two games in one box. One is the original version, re-skinned with lovely new components and some minor rules tweaks and the other has been worked over by Fantasy Flight’s design team. The differences are not minor. While they share the same theme and inspiration the bulk of the components used are distinct even down to providing a double sided board.

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Cracked LCD- Article 27 in Review

I’ve known Dan Baden, the designer of Article 27: The United Nations Security Council for years. The man is (or at least he was, before rehab) an insane game collector. In particular, he’s a collector of proto-hobby games like the old 3M bookshelf games, Sid Sackson classics, and I think he has like four copies of Jati- one of the rarest board games out there. So it’s not very surprising to me that Article 27 feels a lot like those kinds of games. And like the designer games from the late 1960s and 1970s, it’s a little mathy and probably too abstract for modern gamers playing under the mistaken belief that “theme” comes from flavor text and artwork. With that said, if it had come out as one of those 3M bookshelf games or under the early Avalon Hill imprint, we’d likely be hailing it as a timeless classic of the negotiation game genre.

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Tales From Baldur’s Gate II

Today is the release of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition for the PC (iOS and Android versions coming soon) so I thought I’d mark the occasion with one of my absolute favorite gaming moments, from one of my all time favorite games, Baldur’s Gate II. I know, I know, Baldur’s Gate II is its own game, and shouldn’t be lumped in with Baldur’s Gate, but the truth is, while I enjoyed Baldur’s Gate, BG II became a way of life for me. I absolutely adored that game, to the point where I’m not sure if I would play a re-release or not, for fear that my memories would get sullied by harsh reality.

This particular moment comes from the Throne of Bhaal expansion pack, a set of quests that has the player character on a mission to defeat The Five, a collection of five Bhaalspawn who have gotten together to do terrible, rotten Bhaalspawn things. One such member of The Five was Abazigal, a nasty, half-dragon bugger guarded by all manner of foul beasts, including his son Draconis, another nasty, half-dragon bugger. This story is about how my player character, Tipsy McSwagger, the Drunken Thief, singlehandedly defeated Draconis using nothing but guile, trickery and a ton of gear my party had been toting around for like sixty hours.

Come with me, to Tethyr!

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The New Science Rolls Out, Tomorrow Rolls In

I spent the week before Thanksgiving in Dallas, Texas at Board Game Geek Con. It was my first trip to this con and also my first trip to Dallas — not that I saw any of the city. I did go to dinner at a place called Love & War in Texas. A lot of large hats. People in Texas really do seem to love them some Texas. I’m from Ohio. We just like the Buckeyes and various forms of awful chili.

Anyway, the convention was a great time (and an extremely well organized show) and the first chance many of the unclean masses got to sit down and play The New Science. I have grown accustomed to demoing our games to people but this was a continuous stream of patrons. I demoed the game so much that I could recite my 5 minute demo in my sleep. By the end of the show I could literally say it word for word every single time.  My voice was gone.

It’s easy when people show a genuine interest in what you are selling/demoing, though. I ended up playing several full games of TNS at the show and didn’t get a chance to play much else. Such is life of a developer. But I was really in the zone demoing the game with a crowd of people around.

Those who know me seem shocked that I’d enjoy being the center if attention. (Straw time.)

Based on the reaction of gamers both at BGG Con and Buckeye Game Fest I am confident that the reaction to The New Science will be positive. I have no way of knowing how well it well sell, but I’ll be shocked if people who play it dismiss it. It’s a tight game and I’m proud of the work we did on it from the graphic design to the mechanics.

But while I am genuinely excited about The New Science, our next game, a game I am in the middle of developing as we speak, is something I can’t wait to share with everyone.

Our next game is called Tomorrow.

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Calendar Man – Week of 11/26

There’s not much out this week, and that, combined with the lethargy of five days spent doing not much of anything means that I’m not looking to spend a lot of time looking up what is coming out this week. Professionalism, thy name is Brandon.

Two games of note, are releasing, though. Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is looking mighty tempting for either the PC or the iPad. Course, that would mean that I’d have to stop playing my various Skylander games, which probably ain’t gonna happen any time soon. Luckily, Todd is on the case for the PC version, he being a font of Baldurain knowledge. The new Ratchet and Clank game, Full Frontal Assault hits PSN this week and while I”m usually all over R&C games, I care not for tower defense so I’ll pass.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops II in Review

After all of the chic whining about the Call of Duty franchise- whether it’s from retro-obsessed indie hipsters that ironically bemoan its glacial pace of innovation or from so-called “fans” that take to the ramparts over any perceived infraction of entitlement that results in a game lesser than the original Modern Warfare- it all doesn’t make a lick of difference.  The game won, pal.  It’s a cultural phenomenon, the blockbusting-est blockbuster in its medium, and it’s been a consistently successful brand not only from a marketing perspective, but also a design one.  I’m not a Call of Duty apologist, even though I’ve been subjected to the “why don’t you just go back to playing Call of Duty” responses from forumistas chagrined by my not-so-glowing reviews of games like Portal 2 and Fez. I don’t have to apologize for it, it’s a good mainstream game. Every year.

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