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Cracked LCD- Cthulhu Wars in Review

I was very, very skeptical of Cthulhu Wars to say the least. I’m not a big supporter of the current trend toward crowdfunding in the hobby games market and I’m not entirely on board with the concept of these “Cadillac” games with astronomical presale prices. But there were three things that drove me to ask the publishers if they would send me a press copy. One is that I had heard great things about it from folks whose opinions I trust. The second is that I wanted to see what one of these luxury class games- in this case one retailing for $199- had to offer in comparison with more traditionally priced designs on the marketplace. The third is that Mr. Petersen is certainly not some upstart, armchair game designer selling their product with a flashy video and lots of promises. This is the guy that created Call of Cthulhu, still my favorite RPG of all time. And he also had a hand in designing games like Doom, Quake and other seminal, hugely influential computer games.

So “the Great Old One” himself responded, issuing a command to one of his Servitors to send a copy to me. A few days later I got this 11 pound box in the mail and opened it up to find a big, black box with good illustrations and luxurious embossing. It looked deluxe, sure. Opening it up, I was a little underwhelmed at first. It’s hard to not expect to be completely blown away, but the reality of it is that Cthulhu Wars is still a physical product, not a life-changing experience. But then I dug through the layer of punchboards and the map and saw IT. It wasn’t Cthulhu that caught my eye, it was Hastur. A huge, bright yellow monstrosity that put me in mind more of old fashioned plastic dinosaur figures more than gaming miniatures. I picked it up and just kind of laughed at it. Was it the taint of madness?

Also packed into the hard shell plastic tray were a huge Cthulhu that could be a replica of the statue in the story. There were Dark Young, tentacles frozen in mid-writhing along with their mother, Shub-Niggurath. Nyarlathotep, looking indeed like a Crawling Chaos. And the majestic yet abominable King in Yellow, of course rendered in yellow plastic. It’s been a very, very long time since I have been impressed with miniatures. These impressed me not just with their size, but also their detail and the implication that these were toys meant to be played with. In addition to these incredible pieces, the game is also packed with scads of great-looking monsters and cultists for each of the four included factions. Nightgaunts, Byahkees, Hunting Horrors, Deep Ones, Fungi from Yuggoth- if you know these names, you’ll be thrilled to hold these pieces in your hands.

After the initial sanity check, the reality set in that some of the components simply aren’t as impressive. The cardboard is pretty standard stuff and I’ve seen better in less expensive games. The gate markers in particular could have been and should have been more visually striking. The player mats and tracks are cardstock when they should have been thick punchboard. It’s hard to avoid being disappointed in the bag of plain old black 6mm D6s- games a fraction of the cost of Cthulhu Wars have custom dice. The maps are decent, but the visual design lacks the impact of the plastics.

I don’t usually spend a lot of column inches discussing the physical product in my reviews, but Cthulhu Wars definitely deserves it because of the consumer cost and also because it is such a wild mix of incredible and mundane. The effect is something like driving a Cadillac and realizing that it is just a car after all. It’s still a Cadillac and that matters, but it is important to keep expectations in check. This is still a small press, crowdfunded board game. And it is worth noting that the current “Onslaught 2” Kickstarter campaign offers both free and paid upgrades to several components. You pay extra for the seat heaters and deluxe floormats.

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Out of all of the things I expected out of Cthulhu Wars, the last thing I expected to be quite honest was to encounter an incredibly streamlined, highly refined “Dudes on a Map” design that I think is the best in its class since 2005’s Nexus Ops. This is a spectacular piece of development work that showcases Mr. Petersen’s experience and expertise in creating game systems, mechanics and concepts. This is absolutely a “fun first” design built to put players into a very specific setting, give them the insane powers of an alien god, and then get out of the way as much as possible to let players play. It is highly accessible, approachable and easy to learn. Administration is at a minimum- there are very few tokens to fuss with, no decks of cards to learn and manage, and the bookkeeping is as simple as it gets. In a way, it’s very old fashioned, but it also cuts through a lot of the clutter and bloat that have plagued “conquest” style games over the past decade or so.

The concept is cool and anyone that loves Lovecraft- from the original stories up through recent games such as Eldritch Horror- will immediately appreciate it. What if all of those gate-closing, cult-thwarting, Cthulhu-shooting exploits in other Mythos-inspired games was for naught and the Great Old Ones won? The core game’s map depicts an Earth upon which mankind no longer holds sway, the Great Old Ones along with their minions and monsters struggle for dominance. Cultists spread their abhorrent practices across the post-apocalyptic wastes, establishing gates through which they can summon monsters and even the Great Old Ones themselves. The overall goal of the game is for your faction to earn 30 Doom points. This only takes 60-90 minutes once your group has a handle on the game.

Fundamentally, Cthulhu Wars hews close to the Dudes on a Map tradition that goes back to Risk. Moving pieces and fighting with them is the prime directive. Combat is a matter of rolling dice equal to the combat value of everything in a space with sixes killing any unit (even a Great Old one) and fours or fives resulting in “Pain”, effectively a rout or forced retreat. There are also some other cool concepts at work. For example, if you put a monster in a space with an enemy’s Cultist that does not have a monster of their faction then you can abduct them to earn extra power. So a Nightgaunt can fly in and snatch up a guy left alone holding down a gate.

Each turn, all of the Cultists you have on the board generate a Power Point and you get two for each gate you control. The meager, misguided worshippers are also expendable, so you can sacrifice them for more power. These points are used to pay for movement, battle, gate construction, summoning, kidnapping Cultists and paying to use your faction’s Spellbook powers. These abilities- each player has six- are earned when you complete a specific goal keyed to your faction’s agenda and overall strategic direction. Shub-Niggurath has “achievements” keyed to spreading her “Thousand Young” across the map. Nyarlathotep is focused on control of gates and gaining power. Hastur’s Yellow Sign gang benefits from The King in Yellow spreading desecration into territories, the Undead springing up to serve his majesty. The followers of Cthulhu earn Spellbooks from controlling the oceans and devouring other players’ pieces.

The Spellbooks are outrageously overpowered and unfair. Some of them are at Cosmic Encounter levels of rules bending or breaking. Cthulhu can submerge with a couple of Shuggoths and Star Spawn and spend just one power point later on to pop up anywhere on the map. Nyarlathotep has a Madness ability that allows his player to choose for everyone else where “pained” (routed) figures are moved to after combat. Hastur can move to a Cultist that accidentally spoke his name and then abduct them. The Black Goat faction can turn their congregation into one die combat units.

The point is that all of these appropriately godlike powers are extremely powerful and desirable, while also giving each faction both a unique flavor and a variable, situational strategic direction each game. Some Spellbooks interact with a faction’s units to augment their abilities in movement or combat. They are all well balanced and well written, but it is imperative that new players understand what each faction’s special ability is along with all of their Spellbooks. Unaware players may miss the importance of not allowing the Black Goat’s monsters to run rampant or of keeping the Crawling Chaos player out of gate territories.

Scoring all of the above is quite interesting. In each round, each player get Doom points for each gate they control. Each player also has the option to perform a Ritual of Annihilation wherein power points are spent in exchange to effectively double the points earned from gates and give the annihilating player a secret Elder Sign mark worth one to three points for each Great Old One they control. But it is also at the expense of resources available during the turn. The Ritual becomes more expensive each time it is performed and there is a terminal point at which so many of them ends the game whether someone has reached 30 Doom or not.

This scoring method has a knock-on effect- it keeps the game moving forward, continually escalating the stakes but without creating the kind of “steamroller” effect that often occurs in this type of game. There are a couple of checks and balances in place. If you manage to get two more gates than everybody else on just one turn, you can do the Ritual to get a four point jump in addition to a possible three point boost from an Elder Sign, which also serves to baffle the “beat up the leader” impetus. And then there is a charity provision that enables a player that gets just completely devastated on a turn to earn power points equal to half the leader- which can be a big boon.

This is a very aggressive, very fluid game so fortunes and territorial control can change dramatically over the course of the action. There is no turtling, the close quarters map with few territories simply doesn’t allow it. Rebounding from losses is fairly easy, and “Pain” results are more common than kills. The feeling this generates is one of struggle between equivalent powers punctuated by dramatic shifts in game state.

The immediacy of this game- coupled with its easy play and approachability- makes this one of my favorite designs in this genre space. I love that it is a game that someone can come to my house, see on the shelf, get curious about and I can have them up and running with it in about ten minutes. Setup and commitment are minimized. Impact and engagement are maximized.

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Brilliantly editorial in its design yet over-the-top in production, the final question in regarding Cthulhu Wars is one that has likely been on the minds of any reader who has not yet either bought the game from the previous Kickstarter campaign or pledged on the recent one. “Is it worth it”? It’s a harder question to answer than it seems because in comparison to other products on the market it’s difficult to argue for it when you can easily buy three or even four very high quality, comparable titles for this game’s selling price. And that is before you figure in the expansion material, which is also premium priced with a full set of add-ons costing $600 before shipping.

But here it is. The answer might be regarded as something of a cop-out, but I’m going to tell you, reader, that it is simply up to you. Take a look at what is online, take a look at what is offered in the current Kickstarter, think about what your tastes are and what your group likes to play. Consider if a luxury-class Dudes on a Map game is something you want as a centerpiece in your collection. If you are interested in the Cthulhu Mythos, factor in how much you think that playing with these awesome figures and powers would be fun. Play someone else’s copy- if you dare to tempt yourself.

For my part, I think it is worth it because it is a masterful design that evokes an old fashioned sensibility while presenting itself in a very modern and very innovative set of rules that feels outside of the usual set of influences and antecedents. The miniatures, if you can call them that, do actually impart a sense of grandiose, cyclopean theater to the game and I would not want them to be reduced or replaced by less extravagant components. I appreciate the heart and soul of this game, I value that Mr. Petersen in some sense regards it as a culmination of his life’s work in games. The expansion content lingers in my thoughts like some kind of malignant corruption, the sound of a mystical unseen flute summoning my wallet.

I love this game and I think it is one of the absolute best games released this year and in time it could become one of my favorite games of all time. It is the best crowdfunded board game released to date. Like most of the games I cover, I was given it to review so take from that fact what you will. But if not for Mr. Petersen’s generosity, I would have been on my phone ordering a copy immediately after my first play.

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Dungeon Saga Review

If you know your dungeon crawl games, I can give you the shortest review ever of Dungeon Saga. It’s a cross between Descent and HeroQuest. It has the aesthetics and design philosophy of the latter, but incorporates the overlord versus players setup of the former. Job done.

Still here? Okay then. Dungeon Saga has one standout hallmark. It’s full of smart design decisions which offer a little extra depth, a little extra theme, while keeping things as approachable as it can. That’s impressive. The question is whether it’s enough to make this title stand out in one of the most crowded genres in board gaming.

Let me give you an example. Fighting borrows a combat mechanic from, of all places, Risk. Each player rolls dice and compares the values sequentially, highest dice winning each pair. No great interest there. But if there’s more than one model attacking you, you lose one dice for both attack and defence. If one’s in your rear three squares you lose another dice for that combat.

Anyone can grasp both the rules and the logic of this. Yet this swift stroke brings a sudden element of tactical positioning to your play. In the tight corridors and irregular rooms of the dwarf king’s hold it’s easy to get outnumbered if you’re not careful. So, players must jostle for position, watch each other’s backs, consider leaving good positions to stop someone getting surrounded. A simple combat mechanic with a tiny tweak to give you something to think about.

Here’s another. In this base set, the overlord player represents a Necromancer. He has a limited number of actions every turn. Each of these can either move and attack with a minion on the board, or turn a pile of bones marker into a fresh monster which can’t act that turn. Again: a simple, logical concept. Again, it creates some fun complexity. Do you trade off attacking now for the chance to get better position next turn?

There are a few other things in the bag: ranged combat and spells, doors and chests. But on the whole it’s a simple package well suited for family play. However much care went in to getting maximum bang from the mechanics, there’s too few rules to build major depth. Certainly nothing that can compare with the rich tactical smorgasbord of Descent.

There’s no better example of this than the campaign system, or lack thereof. Heroes start each scenario with pre-determined equipment which gets better as you run through the campaign. Like everything else in the game it keeps things clean and functional, ensuring you can pick individual adventures and find them balanced. Yet it can’t recreate the magic of slowly scaling the ladder of power. You already know how you’ll have improved by the next scenario.

Instead all we have is a setup where adventures get 15 attempts to beat the eight adventures in the book and can earn the occasional extra dice. Yet again it’s wonderfully sparse design, achieving just enough flavour from very little. But again, it offers a limited sense of continuity and may be a barrier to replay value.

Interestingly, the components follow the same pattern of making compromises to maximize value. It’s got little plastic furniture pieces like doors and chests, which are magnificent. Many of the sculpts are excellent too, especially the larger zombie troll figures. The plastic they’re made from isn’t great, though. And the dungeons tiles themselves are thin with generic art. They don’t have jigsaw ends so you can either clip them together and risk damage or lay them out and risk players knocking them askew in the excitement.

Although this is an easy game to pick up and play, it’s part of a wider series. There’s lot more expansions to come and a bigger, thicker set of rules. Kickstarter backers already have some of this material but I’ve not seen it. Part of the charm of this game is its accessibility, but it’s good to know it’s already got plenty of extra material for those as want it.

I like Dungeon Saga. It’s such a smart, compact package, crammed with equal parts invention and nostalgia. So it’s unfortunate that part of what makes it fun is also its greatest weakness. In trying to combine the best bits of other dungeon crawls it had, bizarrely, left itself short of markers to make it stand out in a crowded field.

Descent offers a more crunchy experience for hardcore gamers. The co-operative nature of the D&D Adventure System games make them better for family play. Claustrophobia has richer theme and Dungeonquest is more exciting. But Dungeon Saga is there if you feel the need to add another box of cool dungeon toys to your collection. I kind of hope you do.

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.

But I faltered. A couple of years ago, there was a very cool little dungeoncrawler that came out called Catacombs. Imagine something like Descent, but instead of grid-based movement and keeping track of piles of cards or whatever, you flicked wooden discs around the board to kill monsters. It was an innovative, quirky design that brought a dexterity element into the genre. It also became pretty hard to find. Elzra Games out of Canada launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new edition of the game with some rather controversial new artwork. Controversial, it seems, because some people wanted the game to carry on with the original edition’s tacky, archaic artwork rather than the more modern, Cartoon Network-influenced style. I liked the look of the new art, and it was just $55 shipping inclusive to PREORDER (not “back”, regardless of the bullshit nomenclature). There were a couple of “stretch goal” add-ons that were an additional $30, and I felt like I could justify an $85 outlay for a game that I’ve been wanting for some time in a new and improved edition with extras.

So I set about trying to fund the purchase, as always do, by selling some of my underplayed games. I kept an eye on the Kickstarter page, kind of waffling about it. Should I go ahead and PAY FOR THE GAME (not “pledge”, the liars) or just wait until closer to the end? Would more “stretch goals” unlock and make this an even better value proposition? Or maybe I should just forgo the extras and get the base game? Or possibly just wait to see if my usual online retailers get it in stock when the game is released, presumably in November?

But then, something changed. On April 7th, they added a new pledge tier, as if it were not always planned to be a part of the release. The Caverns of Soloth expansion was added, which meant that the over 1000 people “backing” this game , many of whom were in for the $85 or so to get everything offered, suddenly were looking at an additional pledge to get the expansion. The “all in” package is now $130-odd dollars US. And it does not even include the expansion’s board, offered as another “stretch goal” if the “project” hits $150,000. And get this- the expansion board is boldly noted as a “Kickstarter Exclusive”, which means you better put your money down if you want it. Or pay far more on Ebay later.

I don’t want to get too far into a dissection as to whether Elzra Games needs an additional $50,000 to print 1000 or so mounted boards or not, but the shenanigans here are clear. This is a bait-and-switch tactic more appropriate to a shady used car lot than selling a board game. People were offered a product with some optional additional purchases and they pledged money based on what was on offer under the assumption that they were getting it all. I would have done this myself. Now, the “buy everything” bar has been almost doubled. Sure- you can say “well, you don’t have to buy everything” or “those are optional purchases”. But the bottom line is that this company has lured customers in with the pretense that they’re making an $85 purchase for everything and then surprising everyone with an add-on purchase that shamelessly preys on the consumer’s desire to make a complete purchase. It’s one of those things that isn’t illegal or even necessarily immoral- but it’s the kind of business you’d expect from a shady used car lot, not the games industry.

So I won’t be backing the game- I’ll just pick up the game and the expansion when it hits retail distribution for 30% or more off of its Kickstarter price, thanks. I could not possibly care less about the “exclusives”, not when they are being offered by a company that is delicately towing the line between marketing smarts and a lack of integrity. It’s a shame, this is a good game that I’d like to see do well.

Which, of course, begs the question- does a quality product need Kickstarter in the first place? What happened to selling games based on what the product actually is rather than what it could be if enough people agree to pre-pay for a sight-unseen product? I do not entertain any discussion of Kickstarter that argues that you aren’t actually “buying” a product, you’re being “rewarded” for your support. Anyone that believes that this is the case is quite frankly, a dope that deserves to have their money stolen. You’re preordering products that used to be selected for production by a publisher, who would stake resources (as well as reputation) on what they are selling to the consumer. These Kickstarter “projects” are already far too often ending with a “well, shucks” concession to shameful marketing tactics or a mediocre product from both the game makers and buyers.

Witness Myth, a Kickstarter that recently shipped with a widely criticized rulebook and a pervading sense that the game was not quite finished and needed more time in development. Which is pretty par for course for a lot of Kickstarter games. Backers either roll with the company “fixing” their playtest copy game over time or shrug it off and argue that they can at least sell the game at a profit. Witness any number of Kickstarter games that had a big brouhaha in the run-up to the end of the campaign, released to backers, and have now quietly excused themselves from all games conversation outside of those trying desperately to validate their $200, $300 purchases through forums discussion.

I’ve watched the hobby industry take a beating for a couple of decades now and Kickstarter is a slap in the face to the people that have worked hard and taken financial and personal risks to make hobby games what they are today. It’s an insult to people that have worked hard to put out quality games when Elzra Games poormouths on their Kickstarter page that it’s a “full time job” to make their game, which basically means that your pledge is paying someone’s salary.

I’ve seen publisher after publisher struggle to come up with the Next Big Thing and then fumble trying to market what they think is the Next Big Thing. But now the Next Big Thing is another zombie game with miniatures and a $500 reward tier that lets you put your picture on one of the cards. I’ve seen game stores shuttered, designers give up, companies vanish and an overall self-defeatist assumption that there’s not any money in hobby games. Yet here are these Kickstarter projects like Catacombs pulling in $100k or more. And there’s video game “projects” raking in –millions. I’ve asked this before- where the hell was all of this money to spend on hobby games over the past ten years? How is it that people are now willing to buy games sight unseen without the benefit of a review, word-of-mouth or a demo game?

Part of it is undoubtedly the false democratization of the process, the phony belief that you are “pledging” money to help out a wing-and-a-prayer upstart make something that all of those Big Bad Companies would never produce. You’re a cog in the DIY machine that is going to tear down the other machine, I suppose, and every dollar helps Joe Designer make his dream of a space marine dungeoncrawl with deckbuilding elements come true. Doesn’t matter if Joe Designer has no fucking clue what he’s doing. Or if Joe Designer has no experience in producing consumer goods. You’re supporting games “that never would have been made”, man!

Sorry, but the last thing the hobby games business needs is MORE mediocre trash.

It’s pathetic that the industry is in such a sad state that even large, highly successful companies like Fantasy Flight Games are having trouble marketing big box board games successfully and their only real option is to develop product lines heavily reliant on small, serial purchases. It’s sad that people balk at the rising MSRP of games- the $50 big box game is dead, folks- but they have no compunction about pledging $130 or more for Catacombs. A light finger-flicking game that should be on shelves for $35 street. $70 with the expansion (and a NON-Kickstarter exclusive board).

So the finger turns to point at YOU, games consumer and potential Kickstarter “backer”. Why the hell are you doing this? If a random guy approaches you on the street with a brochure for some great game idea and says “I just need a hundred dollars, brother” do you give it to him? I sure as hell wouldn’t. So what about Kickstarter makes that acceptable, particularly when the people starting these projects can always fall back on the “we weren’t actually SELLING anything, wink wink” excuse? Why do YOU keep allowing companies like Elzra Games to run these kinds of campaigns instead of just selling us games the old fashioned way that supports quality, accountability and integrity?

A moment of weakness, and then resolve. I’m not backing anything. Which is kind of a shame, because I appreciate the DIY spirit of Kickstarter and I have friends and associates that have had or are running successful projects. But now that the games business has been pretty much overrun by endless Kickstarters, I’d just as soon see the whole scheme burn to the ground.

Kickstart This: Chaos Reborn

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Those among you who are long-nailed and hoary-bearded enough to remember my initial posts on NHS may recall my fond reminiscences concerning an 8-bit strategy game called Chaos. I’m not sure how well known it was outside the UK, but its pedigree is sufficient that it’s well known among prominent games journalists this side of the pond and is a common target for fan remakes.

But the fan remakes can go stuff themselves, because the real thing is about to be updated. Its designer, Julian Gollop whose name you’ll likely recognise from the XCOM remake is kickstarting a modern sequel, Chaos Reborn.

I want to play this game. I need to play this game. I haven’t desired a game with such fervour since the manic buildup to Half-Life 2. But it looks like I might need your help to get it, since the kickstarter still needs about $65k with 15 days to go. Rarely have I despaired more of the tastes of the modern gamer.

Go back it now. I thank you. And when you get the game, you’ll probably thank yourself.

Brakketology Goes Pimping for Darkest Dungeon

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There are a lot of games in the pipe that I’m excited for. Like really excited for. Like, man, you guys just don’t even know. Pillars of Eternity? Wasteland 2? The Witcher 3? Dragon Age 3? The iOS edition of FTL? I’m pretty much agog for these titles. So when I tell you that, with the possible exception of Witcher 3, there is no game I’m more looking forward to seeing than Darkest Dungeon, take me seriously. Well, maybe not seriously, but perhaps with an extra grain of salt. We don’t want to go overboard here.

The point is, it’s Kickstarter has launched and I don’t just want to see this tactical dungeon crawler meets psychological horror mash-up meet it’s goal of 75k. I want it to leave that goal so far in the rear view mirror that… well that it can’t be seen anymore, I guess. (Well, that line fell apart fast. Ah well.) So, watch the trailer below, check out the plethora of details on the Kickstarter page, and if you are so moved, help this project get made. Sure, it could end up imploding into so much vaporware, but I’ve got a Good Feeling about this one and I’m almost never wrong. Except when I am. But I’m not this time. Mark it down – this is going to be great.

After the break, a link dump…

My schedule has been nutty the past couple weeks, hence the lack of these posts. I’ve been trapped in New York because of snow –in Atlanta– I’ve been sick, I’ve been juggling kids and work because their schools haven’t found a week yet this year that where they didn’t feel the need for multiple delays or outright cancellations. They’re worse than the game industry in this regard and it’s entirely possible my kids will still be in school come July. The point is, there’s been a lot of new shit, man. But I’ve been collecting a lot of links. Lots of ’em. And now I’m dumping them all out so I can start collecting anew. (And free up some bandwidth to write about the amazing Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Coming soon.)

Football for one. After quite a long journey, good friend of the blog Bill Harris, released Gridiron Solitaire into the wild. You’ll find it on Steam for a mere $10. Brandon and I talked about it quite a bit on this week’s JtS and while it’s not a perfect game, it is good… and addicting… and maddening. If you take the plunge, Bill (H.) wrote up a new player guide that you’ll find here. Congrats, Bill!

The Wolf Cometh. The second chapter for A Wolf Among Us is out. I haven’t gotten into it yet, but the trailer looks delicious:

Yeah, I’m gonna have to play this:

Saga! If you missed the trademark spat between Stoic Entertainment and King it’s worth catching up. In short, Stoic are the good guys. King is full of terrible people. Done. The Story.King Responds.Stoic says, “Bite me.”

Not Quite Microleague. Well, not yet, but OOTP Developments is finally —finally– taking the franchise in that direction with 3D ballparks and modelling in-game ball flight. The plan is to take it further in the next edition. I’ve wanted this to make it into OOTP for a long time now, so fingers crossed.

Well that only took a year. Tomb Raider is in the black. Here’s a thought for Eidos. SPEND LESS MONEY MAKING GAMES.

Dammit, now I have to buy one. 5 Wii U Lies. I love it when Barnes finds something he really, really likes. Except when it’s going to end up costing me money, which this might.

Nobody tell Bill. There’s a Dark Souls 2 trailer.

I never did play Dark Souls, having lost my mind trying to tackled Demon’s Souls, but this looks like the kind of thing that ought to get a Dark Souls fan excited.

It’s not quite dead. When 2k unceremoniously announced the 2k baseball franchise was kaput it looked like there would be no new America’s Game for Xbox players this year. Not so, because MLB Advanced Media is bringing back RBI baseball! Yes, a game coming out this spring with no screens and no feature list, based on a NES-era franchise that’s been gone for 20 years. Oh yeah, and it’s developed by the MLB itself. What could possibly go wrong? (Hint: Everything.)

Gone Home. Danielle, you all might remember her, wrote something beautiful about Gone Home. Go read it. As much as we miss seeing her voice appear on this blog, I love seeing her byline pop up at Polygon.

Swanky! Stardock recently posted about the new game engine they’ve licensed from Oxide Games. It’s bananas:

Obviously, this is merely a tech demo, but it’s nifty. Anyone else want to see a Robotech game using this engine?

Pillars! Update 70 has a bunch of cool details about Pillars of Eternity.