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…
One of the unexpected effects of regularly reviewing games is how jaded I’ve become. It takes an enormous amount to impress me nowadays. And even for titles that make the grade, it’s rare that they grip me for a long time. Readers demand novelty, so the old makes way for the new.
Sometimes a game still gets its claws in me and demands play time in the face of all competition. The last video game to achieve that was Hearthstone, early last year. The last board games were Wiz-War and X-Wing back in 2012.
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…
Time for another podcast round-up!
This week Todd galavants across the galaxy in a Mass Effect 1 replay. That is, when he’s not unclogging his city’s streets in Cities: Skylines. Holly and Brandon discuss the unrelenting violence of Hotline Miami 2.
While Holly recuperates from moving, Brandon and Todd keep the torch alive with much discussion of GDC happenings – new Valve hardware, VR headsets, Rock Band 4, and Tim Schafer’s sock. Brandon goes pup-hunting in The Order: 1886 and Todd breaks out his best endzone dances for Frozen Cortex.
This week Todd takes on the economic realities of managing a Martian colony in Offworld Trading Company, Brandon relives the same three days over and over to glorious effect in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and Holly jumps on zombie faces in Dying Light.
Thanks for listening! (You can contact Brandon at Brandon at NoHighScores.com/@misterbinky, Todd at Todd at NoHighScores.com/@ubrakto and Holly at @winnersusedrugs.)
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.
It is almost more illustrative to approach Jim Felli’s Shadows of Malice by explaining what it doesn’t do and doesn’t have than it is to describe its features. This is a fantasy game that doesn’t attempt to simulate a Fantasy Flight or Games Workshop design. Nor does it attempt to weld whatever the mechanic du jour is onto a sword and sorcery framework. It doesn’t attempt to be an RPG for board gamers. There is a story, but it is limited to a couple of paragraphs in the rulebook and an overarching narrative line that informs the entire game system. There is no flavor text on the cards and very little artwork all around. There are no pictures of your characters and in fact no pictures of monsters, either. The cities you visit in the game don’t even have names. There are no rote character classes. There are no elves, dragons, orcs or dwarves anywhere to be seen. Continue Reading…
Cosmic Encounter was one of the first hobby board games I owned, back when I was a teenager. It was the Games Workshop edition. I can still remember being baffled by the rules. It looked and smelled like a conquest game: there were battles and alliances and units died. But what the hell kind of conquest game made you draw and card to determine your target instead of you picking on the weakest player? Where was the fun in that?
Oh sure, you could still make alliances. The encounter each turn with your random opponent allowed each side to invite people to help out. Sure, there was still excitement, with combat determined by the number of ships on each side plus the play of a numeric card. And the draw of a different alien power for each player was a fascinating idea. But where was the sense of narrative, of slowly building friendships and enmities?
Super Motherload is a new title out now from Roxley Games. It is not only co-designer Matt Tolman’s second foray into the really non-existent digging game genre- before working with Gavan Brown on this design he also did Undermining over at Z-Man- but it is also based rather unusually on a 2013 Playstation and PC game that was itself built on the foundation of a decade-old Flash game. In its current incarnation, it is effectively a simplistic deckbuilder with a set collection mechanic driving cardplay that results in the placement of tiles on a board representing what lies below the Martian soil. Continue Reading…
Prior to Aquasphere, I had only played one other Stefan Feld game. And it was Roma, a fun little cards-and-dice number that is probably least representative of the kinds of more complex Eurogames that have made him a favorite of those who enjoy highly mechanical, scoring-intensive designs. I try to make it a point to keep track of the big names and the big trends in hobby games and I kind of felt like it was an oversight to not have some experience with Feld even though everything I read and heard about his designs indicated that his work isn’t my usual beat. Aquasphere looked appealing with its science fiction deep-sea setting so I emailed Tasty Minstrel to request a review copy.
As if by magic, I got the game less than 24 hours after my request. And before a full day was through, I was pouring over the contents of the box and the rules. The first impressions were not good. It looked as complicated as a Chvatil design but without any readily apparent payoff in terms of narrative or leftfield innovation. It looked like an overly processional game rife with that everything-gets-you-points business that tends to result in close scores as long as everyone follows the rules, and the winner is the one who exploited just a couple of moments where there was a decision between X and X+1 points. I was left asking “What have I gotten myself into?” Continue Reading…
I’m going to skip the usual “Gale Force 9 is so great” preamble and cut right to it, their new release Homeland is the first great game of 2015. It is a title that anyone still playing Battlestar Galactica or caught up in the current trend in simpler social deduction/treachery games should seriously look into purchasing for their group. As with all of GF9’s past releases, Homeland is based on a television series but that doesn’t really matter. The design team- also responsible for Spartacus, Firefly and Sons of Anarchy- understands that theme isn’t just pictures and text on cards. It’s what the gameplay represents and how it represents it. If, like me, you’ve never seen a single minute of the titular show it does not matter. What matters is that it is a stunning espionage game rife with suspicion, paranoia and selfishness in the ostensible name of national security. What’s more, the theme of information- acquiring it, exploiting it, manipulating it and fabricating it- comes across as strongly and as profoundly as any other theme I’ve ever seen in a board game. Continue Reading…