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Bolt Thrower: Gears of War, Bloodborne, Witcher 3

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Welcome to Bolt Thrower, the gaming column that blows your head off. If you’re new to the format, here’s the deal: I link something I’ve written elsewhere and then pontificate a bit on what I’m playing right now that’s not in the review queue.

My link this time round is the first of a new series I’m doing for Gamerati. The column’s called Bytes and Pieces and it’s about dissecting tabletop versions of video game franchises. First under the knife is Gears of War: The Board Game.

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Cracked LCD- Soulfall in Review

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It’s been quite some time since I’ve covered a John Clowdus game. For those uninformed, Mr. Clowdus runs a small, DIY-level company called Small Box Games. His best known, most widely played and critically successful game was Omen: A Reign of War. It’s an exceptional Schotten-Totten/Battline descended two player card game with a sort of classical fantasy setting.  Testament to that game’s ongoing popularity, there’s a new “Omega” edition of it, coming along after a few expansions and enhanced editions but this is a smaller box, somewhat scaled back release- which kind of gets the game back to its roots with just a couple of optional additions. But there’s also a new Small Box Game out and if you’re a fan of Mr. Clowdus’ past work then Soulfall is going to be one you’ll want to check out. (more…)

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Cracked LCD- D&DAS: Temple of Elemental Evil in Review

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I love the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System games, so I was very excited to see that they would continue on after a couple of years’ hiatus. Wizkids is doing them in partnership with Wizards of the Coast and there are some new additions to the simple, accessible and fun hack n’ slasher. By and large, it’s the same game as the past three releases but with a MUCH improved campaign system, an iconic (though somewhat underused) D&D module setting, and some “town” adventures that are really kind of dumb. I love this game, I love this system but this release feels like something of a disappointment overall. It’s too easy, the monsters aren’t that great and it just isn’t the D&DAS 2.0 it could have been. But with that said, any fan of this system should check it out. If you’re new to these games, they are not trying to simulate playing Warhammer Quest circa 1995. They’re really closer to Dungeon! in spirit. Review is at Miniaturemarket.com this week.

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Star Wars Armada Wave 1 Review

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The base set of Armada looked to have the makings of an outstanding game. But it was kind of hard to tell for sure. With just three ships and a handful of fighter squadrons to divide between two sides, all you could do was sense the potential rather than experience it for yourself.

A generous first wave of expansions has now arrived. Each contains a variety of upgrades, many of which can, of course, be used on a variety of ships. And all that extra variety does the job. Armada finally plays like the game that it was shaping up to be.

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Cracked LCD- Seekers of a Hidden Light (Shadows of Malice Expansion) In Review

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seekers 2Jim Felli’s Shadows of Malice, which I reviewed just a couple of months ago, is one of the best games of 2015. It’s a fresh, almost “outsider” design that pretty much throws away the handful of fantasy board game design templates and does a couple of very unique things. With its random creature generation, a paradoxically vague but concrete sense of narrative worldbuilding and mechanics that support a tangible sense of actual cooperation beyond the usual whack-a-amole style of gameplay, Shadows of Malice is a maverick and even experimental design. If that’s all we ever got from Mr. Felli, we’d already have something of a treasure – even if it is, like fine art, not exactly for all audiences.

But there is more, and Mr. Felli is preparing to release Seekers of a Hidden Light, an expansion to Shadows of Malice. He was kind enough to forward me an early copy of it and I’m glad he did. I would regard Seekers as a must-have expansion for those already converted, but those new to the game may want to come to grips with the base game first.

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Cracked LCD- Evolution in Review

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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.

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Tyranny of Dragons and Princes of the Apocalypse Review

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Fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons might be the best ever, but the release schedule is molasses slow. That’s on purpose: fans have said they want it that way to give them time to develop their own campaigns.

What’s out so far, though is epic in scope. There’s the two-volume Tyranny of Dragons comprised of Hoard of the Dragon Queen followed by Rise of Tiamat. Now we’ve got Princes of the Apocalypse. Both are full campaigns, starting at level one and going up to fifteen.

The similarities end there, however. In fact, these two adventures are fine examples of the two main, contrasting, approaches to adventure building.

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Cracked LCD- Fallen in Review

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Fallen-LogoFallen, a new title from Watchtower Games designed by Tom W. Green III and Stephen C. Smith is a very, very interesting piece of work. I don’t think it quite gets to where it needs to be going, but it is definitely headed in the right direction. And that destination is something that has really kind of eluded game designers for decades- using the contained structure of board or card games to tell an RPG-style story. But usually, what happens is that you wind up with either something that is too mechanical (Magic Realm), too simplified (Talisman), more of a tactical miniatures game (Descent) or are quite far removed from the concept of telling a story and rolling dice against some statistics to see what happens (Mage Knight). More specifically, they tend to miss that having a sort of referee that also engages in crafting a collusive, living narrative with you is kind of the point of an RPG.

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Trains and Trains: Rising Sun Review

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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.

Enter Trains.

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Cracked LCD- Imperial Assault Villain/Ally Packs in Review

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Well, I didn’t like Imperial Assault that much but here I am still playing it. Thanks, friends! Since I’m forced into servitude, running this game for them, I thought I’d take a look at the villain and ally packs. I think they’re a pretty crap way to expand the game, basically just serving like day one DLC to complete your purchase of an already expensive base set. The value is negligible, but at least some new options for skirmish are available now. The review this week is at the Review Corner over on Miniaturemarket.com.

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