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Cracked LCD- Champions of Midgard in Review


Champions of Midgard is a really good game. It’s new from Grey Fox Games and designer Ole Steiness (Police Precinct). It’s also one of the best looking games released this year, all done up in a heavy metal Viking motif with rockin’ fonts and illustrations that will make you want to throw up horns and lick the blood off a battleaxe as you ride a flaming longship into Valhalla. There is dice rolling, monster fighting and a brilliant mechanic that allows you to shame your peers that have proven too cowardly to do battle with the local trolls. It’s easy to get folks interested in it, it’s easy to teach and it’s easy to play. And it’s a single purchase title, not a product line with 25 expansions available out of the gate.

There is a lot going for this game, to be sure. In fact, going down my list of desirables, it checks off almost everything from its pricepoint to its play length. But it’s not exactly a strong differentiator that Champions of Midgard is another worker placement game, and that design schematic has become increasingly stale over the past year or so. It’s certainly no fault of Mr. Steiness, who acquits himself quite nicely by bringing dice-rolling combat and a cool setting into a low-complexity example of the genre closer to Stone Age or Lords of Waterdeep than the more elaborate Feldian or Rosenbergian iterations. Before we get deeper into it, I’ll go ahead and state that anyone that likes either of those two games but wishes there was a little more rock n’ roll in them (so to speak) are probably going to love this game.

Each player represents an upstart Jarl, vying for Jarlship (Jarlhood? Jarldom?) of the village. But said village has monster trouble. Trolls and Draugr are bothering the fine folks, and there are also monsters a boatride away that need to be dealt with for fame, glory, the favor of the gods and monetary bounties. Each Jarl has a special ability and starts with four disappointingly generic Meeples with which to select actions on the non-geographic board. The process is fairly routine, and anyone who has played any worker placement game released since Carcassonne will have a handle on what to do without instruction.

So the bulk of competition, as to be expected, comes from placing a worker down on a desirable spot before someone else does. There are a couple of economic conversion functions available, with the resources including favor, gold, wood and food. There are four spaces that are modular and change every turn, reminding me somewhat of the buildings in Waterdeep although they are fixed for the entire game. A merchant ship comes into port each turn and offers a variable conversion rate. There are also a couple of card draw spots, one is for Runes that you must have to carve into a piece of wood since that’s what it costs and these give you a special action as well as points for the end of the game. The other cards are Destinies that are kept secret and function as individual objectives.

But where it gets more interesting is in hiring warriors. There are three types of warriors- swordsmen, spearmen, and axemen. Each are represented by a different color of D6 with differing odds to hit, block, miss or do double damage. If you want to go fight the monsters, you’re going to have to grab some warriors and some monster cards forbid some types of warriors. Other bonuses and abilities affect specific classes. And anyone that you don’t send out to stab Draugrs can also be dispatched to hunt for food.

Fighting the local monsters is as simple as putting your worker down in front of the Troll card or one of the two Draugrs available each turn. After all workers are placed, the warriors do their thing. You roll up whoever you have committed to fighting a creature looking to exceed their armor value with hit results. The monsters also return the favor, and you have to eliminate warriors back to the general pool (Valhalla!) unless you roll shields or have other effects to save them. Any favor tokens you’ve bought or earned can be used to re-roll. Monsters give you points and sometimes bonus resources- they are actually the principle way that to make money in the game.

So you’re going to want to fight early and often. More significantly, somebody has to fight and defeat the troll card for the round or everyone receives a Shame marker, which counts against your score at the end of the game. But it is a one-person-only spot, so whoever does it has to win or their failure impacts everyone. If they beat it, they also get to give one player a Shame marker. I love this. It’s fun and it adds a sometimes hilarious psychological element to the game. And it is also the only aggressive-aggressive point of conflict in an otherwise passive-aggressive design.

Battling monsters in distant lands is a little more complicated but also more rewarding. You’ve got to either rent a publically available longship or build a private one with wood and gold. You can then load your vessel up to capacity with any combination of warrior dice and food that you like- with the provision being that the journey to the closer monster cards requires that you have one food for every two warriors and to get to the more distant ones you have to pack one food for every die. And then there is a journey card that is flipped to see what happens on the way- which may include battling a Kraken. I really enjoy the logistics and risk-taking present in this element of the game. This portion of the game reminds me quite a lot of the Ragnar Brothers’ classic Fire & Axe.

There are eight rounds of play but it almost feels like two too many because it can feel somewhat repetitious. The monster decks are random so there is no sense of ramping up the difficulty or an escalation pushing players to keep up with a power curve. The overall tension in the design is very low, despite some do-or-die dice rolling. This is a game where the worst thing that can happen to you is that you lose all of your warriors. And then on the next turn you might wind up with more than you had last round.

The ups and downs of sending out warriors sounds exciting and it is, but those three spaces are in the center of the board for a reason. Claiming those spaces and sending the warriors out is the most important element of the game and everything orbits around those functions. The result seems to be that the development curve- considering that this is most definitely not any kind of “engine building” game or “efficiency exercise”- seems to be fairly flat across the entire game. Other than players maybe building their own boat or gradually having more Destiny cards to pursue (goals such as “have the most red monster cards at the end of the game” or “have the most wood the end of the game”), it doesn’t feel like turn seven is fundamentally different than turn two aside from a player’s current resource holdings, and I think this is the biggest weakness of the entire package. There is an extra worker that players can unlock and that increases options, but there have been more than a few points where the choices have felt too restrictive. Particularly in the late game.

Reflecting on Champions of Midgard, I’m inclined to argue that worker placement burnout is one reason that I’m not just completely over the moon about it but I think more significantly that the repetition and relatively flat development curve are more culpable. I keep thinking about Lords of Xidit or Waterdeep where there is a buildup to larger battles that takes time, requiring you to make several profitable choices before you can work up to bigger rewards. But in this design, the strongest monsters in the game might hit on the first four turns and go down easy to a player with a strong warrior pool and lots of favor tokens. But hey, that’s fun too. And this game is fun, no doubt. There’s a lot to be said for a game that offers a great meat-and-potatoes gaming experience with broad appeal and an exciting setting and Mr. Steiness has given us exactly that.

Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansions 2 & 3 Review

cca23Britain is pockmarked with standing stones. On a recent holiday we passed them in a dozen different sites. High on windy hillsides or perched above rocky bays, the waves seething over jagged rocks beneath. I love to touch them, to touch my history. They feel like the bones of the country, smooth yet pitted.

Traces of their makers cover the landscape like a swirling tattoo. Hill forts, barrows, buried hoards of gold. Yet they do not speak to me. Their brash Roman conquerors do. Julius Caeser wrote books. His legionaries wrote letters, pleading for thick socks and underthings against the bitter British climate. I had long hoped I might find the voices of the Britons in some forgotten thing. A squashed coin perhaps, or a rusted sword hilt.

I have found them now, in a most unexpected place. In a box, fashioned from green wood and decorated with gaudy stickers.

They are not always Britons. Sometimes they masquerade as Gauls or ancient Germans. It matters little. All these peoples shared a culture, all contributed to my culture and all them were silenced. Their voices drowned out by the shouting of their conqueror, Rome.

At first, Commands & Colors: Ancients seemed a strange place to find them. With its emphasis on lines, leaders and structure, it felt a poor fit for this rabble of proud barbarians. They should be rushing the enemy, half naked and ululating, not trying to scrabble together adjacent units for a line command. I couldn’t see how the system would accommodate them without a lot of extra rules.

The answer is simple. Barbarian armies rely on light units, chariots and warriors. Against them, their Roman empire foes are from the legionary era, with its backbone of heavy infantry. Embellished with the new Marian Legions rule which gives them missile fire to represent their pilums, they are a terrifying force.

The result is a perfect ballet of asymmetry. The Roman army can function like a well oiled machine – providing its commander has a bit of luck and a lot of skill with command cards. The barbarians can’t hope to face them in formal battle lines. Instead they must rely on their maneuverability, flexibility and the momentum advance of the warrior units.

Not that it does all that much good. It’s difficult in many of the scenarios for the barbarians to win. Trying offers a tiny taste of the terror they must have felt. Rough men with rough weapons charging down the most effective military machine of the ancient world. A human tide breaking on a wall of iron.

You might ask why they bothered. The vast contrast between the stickers and capabilities of the two armies offers a clue. These cultures were profoundly different. The barbarians fought to protect those differences. Because they wanted to worship at stone circles under the open sky, not austere temples of marble.

It’s not all about the barbarians. Julius Caesar makes an appearance, alongside his formidable tenth legion. There are special rules to make them appropriately fearsome. There is Spartacus, too, and other slave revolts. They’re allowed to roll burning logs onto the enemy in a unique area-effect attack. When it’s resolved, the slaves themselves lose a block which has to be one of the most appallingly expressive rules I’ve ever seen. It reeks of desperation; and woodsmoke.

The Romans get their own scenario booklet, detailing the brutal civil wars the marked the end of the republic. These are similar to the existing scenarios of Greece and the Punic Wars in terms of the forces offered. There are some new terrain tiles to throw in.

And even though they happened far away, they have their own immediacy. These were not far-flung conflicts in Africa or private violence between city states. These battles were pivotal in western history. Had they gone otherwise, it could have been Mark Antony or Pompey wading ashore at Dover, or no-one at all.

There are over forty new scenarios here. Thanks to subtle use of terrain and novel elements, they offer huge diversity. In place of the blank battlefields of the original there are marshes and coasts, villages and ramparts. Rather than faceless light, medium, heavy toops there are the stoic Legionaries of popular imagination. Waiting in silence as painted devils descend on them from the fog.

I have played wargames where British soldiers fought on British soil from the Wars of the Roses to Operation Sealion. But none felt as personal or evocative as this. With a minimum of rules, these expansion scenarios give voice to a long dead people. They allow us to touch their vanished world like we touch their standing stones. There’s little more one can ask for a conflict simulation.

Cracked LCD- Argent: The Consortium (and expansion) in Review


I should be writing a negative review of Argent: The Consortium because it completely flies in the face of everything I want out of board gaming in 2015. The title of the game is terrible; it speaks nothing to the Harry Potter-like “wizard’s school” setting or the themes expressed in the game. It’s a worker placement game, a tired and overplayed genre if ever there were one and it’s one of those really complicated ones at that. The game is way long and overstuffed with multiple resource types, piles of cards everywhere and built-in redundancies. The rulebook overcomplicates the mechanics and there are Euroglyphics everywhere It’s all topped off with an anime-influenced illustration style that I don’t particularly favor. The whole thing teeters on the brink of bloated inaccessibility, and you might – like I did – question if it’s worth the effort.

But it turns out that Argent: The Consortium is also one of the best worker placement games published to date. It’s a brilliant, sometimes brutal but always magical game full of dynamic interaction, thoughtful gameplay and wonderful narrative beats. There isn’t really anything else quite as bold on the market, especially in this particular genre.

Trey Chambers’ design, published by Level 99 Games is the impossible game. It should be a screaming mess appealing strictly to the kinds of folks for whom Agricola or Caverna is too streamlined. It’s a sprawling piece of work with a tremendous, almost terrifying degree of modular variety and content spilling forth everywhere. The key to its success is that everything is held together with a precise narrative logic and a direct connection between mechanic, player action and representation. It’s scary to behold at first and the first few games should definitely be regarded as “learning” ones, but once players acclimate themselves to Argent’s way of conducting business they’ll find a stunningly crafted, elaborate game that completely earns the rights to be long, complex and overflowing with components.

The setup is that each player takes on the role of a candidate aspiring to be elected to the chancellorship of Argent University, a sort of ersatz Hogwarts where the curriculum includes Planar Studies, Sorcery and other forms of magic. There are twelve voters (the titular consortium) that will each cast a vote for the candidate that matches their criteria and the player that gets the most votes, obviously, wins the game. But the catch is that apart from two electors present in every game, the voters’ criteria are kept secret and part of the game is discovering what each is looking for in their ideal chancellor. Depending on the character, they may vote for the candidate with the most gold, the most assets of a particular type of magic, or the most artifacts. These secret voters, when discovered by the players, act almost like secret objective cards in other games. They provide the player with clear strategic goals and serve to shape the possible paths to victory.

Process is actually quite simple. It’s just that it’s one of those designs where there are a hundred things to consider at once. On your turn, you either place one of your Mages- each color-coded to one of the schools of magic- into a room tile where there is an available space or you take a Bell Tower card, which typically gives you some kind of a benefit such as taking the first player token for initiative. Once the Bell Tower cards are depleted, the University tiles are resolved in order and players collect whatever resources or assets they gain from their position in the room- fairly standard worker placement stuff.

But it’s when you place a Mage that this game really starts to distinguish itself from its peers. Each Mage has a function based on its color. Sorcerous red Mages get to zap another player’s Mage to the infirmary, knocking them out of their position and sidelining them for the turn, barring another effect that heals them up. Green Mages might have enhanced fortitude, rendering them immune to other players’ attacks. And the Planar Studies Mages might get to use a special “shadow” slot next to an occupied place in a room. You draft these mages at the beginning of the game so that you always have two of your candidates color and three of any other colors, so who you pick to be in your coterie has a huge effect on what you can do during the game.

So the worker placement element has more teeth than many might expect, and in fact it takes some adjustment to get used to the fact that anyone can pull a wand on another Mage and shoot them into traction. You’re not guaranteed that your placement is going to come to fruition unless you have some kind of protection, and it can even happen that all of your Mages wind up nursing wounds and you spend the turn collecting a consolation prize. What’s more, there is a finer detail in placing your Mages because even though the top slot tends to have the best reward, you might actually want something lower- maybe a Research or Wisdom token, mana or gold, or a combination of the above.

But the most important aspect of this mechanic is that when you place Mages, it makes narrative sense. When they go Adventuring, it’s easy to connect the rewards to the action. Likewise, going to the Council Chamber to sway supporters to your cause is definitely more concrete than getting a colored cube representing a resource that you will eventually use to make another cube of another resource. Of course you get magic items, potions and other treasures on a trip down to the vault. Even in an eight room, three player game it always feels like there is tons to do, and all of it contributes to the story this game is telling.

It’s almost overwhelming at first. You’re constantly concerned with obtaining Marks, which you use to discover an elector’s criteria. But then you’ve got to concern yourself with researching spells from a big, fat stack of cards. Each requires Wisdom and Research resources, and each one has its own upgrade path with stronger effects. But then you need mana to power those spells, so some workers need to do things that generate that. Maybe you know that an elector will give a vote to the player with the most supporters (which are themselves action cards with a variety of effects), so that means spending time in the Council Chamber. And then you need to worry about accruing Influence points, which are a measure of your overall popularity at the school. Don’t forget earning Merit Badges, which grant you the ability to use special, privileged spots in the rooms.

Every game is just packed full of these elements. Each game offers a different set of electors, which is just one of the ways this game completely embraces the “different each time” mantra. The university is also different every game with 8 to 12 room tiles randomly selected and placed based on the number of players. Some games may have the Archmage’s Study but not the Vault, for example, and the effects on available actions are tremendous. And then each of the room tiles has two sides with different functions, an “A” side that is a little more straightforward and a more advanced “B” side. In addition, each candidate has two sides that correspond to two different starting spells. Beyond that (whew), each Mage power has an A and a B side as well, so their placement powers vary each game.

All of the above results in games where there is tons of mana but no gold. Or ones where everyone has a ton of artifacts but nobody is really researching spells. And then there are games where everyone is just spell-slinging and playing a vicious take-that style strategy and others where there is gentler skullduggery and intrigue. It’s a wild ride no matter what mix of variables are in play, but this kind of variety means that there is a lot of repetition in the game. There’s multiple ways to make money, lots of cards duplicate certain effects between spells, potions and magic abilities. Some rooms feel redundant. I was bothered by it at first, but it became apparent that the repetition is really a design necessity to prevent games from crapping out or locking down when there’s a resource all but excluded from the available options.

The bottom line is that this sprawling, table-consuming masterpiece works and it’s spectacularly entertaining and thoughtfully composed. I haven’t run into a situation that I thought was out of balance or screwy. Beneath all of the narrative gloss and chromed-out setting, it’s a pretty finely tuned machine that pulls off the neat trick of running like clockwork while never foreclosing on player agency, interaction or possibility.

But wait, there’s more. There has been one major expansion released as of this writing, the ‘Mancers of the University. At first, I was reticent to add more content to a game already packed to the gills with it, but after using it I’m convinced that anyone interested in this game should look toward implementing it after the first four or five games. The expansion adds a new magic school (Technomancy) that augments and supports the research component of the game along with several fun, modular add-ons that I wouldn’t want to do without at this point. There are scenario cards that replace the standard five round cards in the base game that give the entire affair a different flavor- there’s even one where players can assassinate the voters. The Bell Tower cards get a huge boost, increasing their attractiveness and utility for players who opt to choose one instead of placing a Mage. More rooms, more spells and more of everything good. The modular add-ons are a la carte, completely optional and all great. It very much feels like content that “belongs” in the base game, but may have been extracted because there was already so much there.

With a Harry Potter license, this game would be one of my all-time favorites. I’ll take Severus Snape over “Larimore Burman” every time. But that’s wishful thinking, and what we have is Argent: The Consortium. The title sounds like a grim, cyberpunk business game and not the colorful, magical campus life fantasy presented here. Regardless of what they called it, Argent is a compelling, vibrant game that even those who have sworn off the worker placement genre should have a look at. Best in class, indeed.




Temple of Elemental Evil Review


Innovation in game design seems to be in short supply nowadays. Yet you can find it in unexpected places. Take all those wargames that use the same basic rules but have new units, maps and mechanical tweaks for different battles. Playing through these franchises can reveal an ocean of wonder inside those tiny details, making history come to life.

So, just because Temple of Elemental Evil is the fourth game in a series doesn’t mean it’s not going to feel fresh and clever. However, in honesty, it’s going to need to pull out all the stops to impress. A sense of staleness was already present in the last Adventure System game, Legend of Drizzt, back in 2011.

For those unfamiliar, the Adventure System is a series of co-operative dungeon crawl games. The rules are based on a pared-down version of 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. Players pick a scenario and build a random stack of dungeon tiles. As they explore the turned over tiles will reveal traps, event and monsters. Each creature has a set of simple AI routines to attack and use its special abilities. Easy rules that bring life and colour to the gray flagstones.

It’s a great system. Separate decks of monster, encounter and treasure cards offer a lot of variety from basic mechanics. Yet for all that accessibility, decisions matter. Many hero abilities are one-shot, and timing can be crucial. A particularly neat twist is that monsters often move per dungeon tile. This leaves precise placement to the players, offering the chance of clever strategic combinations.

It also helps to avoid the boss-player problem that’s such an issue in co-operative games. Each player has their own set of powers and controls their own movement and monsters. They can do whatever they like. Yet the standard balance of abilities across D&D character classes encourages true co-operation. Tanks can tank, but it helps if there are Mages for missile fire and Rogues to bust traps.

The first game in this series, Castle Ravenloft, also used scenario setup to add further interest and imagination. The second, and my favourite, Wrath of Ashardalon, had simpler scenarios but chained them together into a campaign. There was some official and some fan-made material to allow owners to use both games together. By the time we got to Legend of Drizzit, there didn’t seem to be much new to offer any more.

So what do we have in Elemental Evil to resurrect this system? Sadly, not much.


There are precisely two major innovations. First, traps are no longer the result of encounter cards but get placed as tokens on certain tiles. This feels like a step back. They do offer players the choice between spending an action disarming the trap or risking it and hoping for a “clear” result. But many trap tiles don’t have monster spaces, so the tension cranks down. And the actual traps are just numeric damage. A far cry from cool stuff like the rolling rock trap in Ashardalon, which saw players fleeing and scattering like fleshy ninepins.

That leaves us with a new campaign. This was the big draw for me: the campaign in Ashardalon was the reason I liked that game best. The series seemed to be crying out for some more detailed rules. Most of all what people wanted was a way to build their characters beyond the arbitrary second level cap on the cards.

They didn’t get that. Although what they did get offers much of the same feel and is an improvement on Ashardalon’s campaign. Now, most of the treasure cards are gold pieces and you use them to purchase upgrades. A thousand gold nets you second level. Then you buy tokens for things like dice bonuses or power re-use. Players carry these between adventures and can use each token once per scenario.

The campaign itself also does a fine job of linking adventures into a narrative. Together with the campaign rules, playing through them one at a time builds a proper sense of camaraderie. It feels very much like a full-blooded role-playing game, with more strategy and less rules arguments.

The flip side, of course, is that the adventures don’t work so well played as one-shot games. The fact they build in difficulty doesn’t help. Neither does a lack of imagination. Most of these lack the spark of originality seen in Castle Ravenloft.

I don’t want to denigrate this game: Elemental Evil is a good game. It’s worth your time and money. Especially so if you’re really up for playing through the campaign, which is obviously the focus of the design. And I would encourage everyone to own and play an Adventure System game. Maybe even two. They’re ace, and they all integrate well together. But you don’t need all four.

So the question becomes one of which is better. And in spite of the new material on offer here, the answer is still Ravenloft or Ashardalon. Unless, that is, you’re looking for a top value way of obtaining some plastic figures for your Princes of the Apocalypse campaign.

Skull Review


It’s often not the rules or the components that make a game. With Skull, it’s the little noises. The tut of tongue against teeth. A soft sigh. A full-throated chuckle. Ambigous sounds uttered before a card gets flipped over and all hell breaks loose.

Skull is a bluffing game. Everyone starts with four cards , three showing flowers and one a skull. You place one face down, maybe more. Then you start wagering with other players to see how many flowers you think you can flip.

The devil is in the fact that whoever wins the wager has to show their own cards first. So if you put down a skull yet placed a bet, others can catch you out with your own cleverness. After that it’s up to you whose cards you want to turn over.

And then the noises begin.

What do they mean? Is that low whistle a warning or an appreciation of a cunning pick? Do you read that intake of breath as one of shock or anticipation? As the tension unspools like razor wire, each sound ramps it up until it becomes unbearable. What can you turn over? What do you need to leave?

No matter how bad it gets, the choice is yours. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from playing Skull, it’s this: it’s amazing how often good people make bad choices.

The reason it’s so scary is because if you find a skull you don’t just lose the round, you lose a card. Lose all four and you’re out of the game. But the stakes are higher than that because if you manage to get all flowers you win that hand. And it only takes two winning hands to take the whole game.

You won’t want to bet. Once someone’s taken a hand, though, you’ll have to bet. Just to keep them one step away from winning the whole thing. Just to make sure you get another chance to bet when you don’t really want to.


The astute will have spotted that Skull has a lot in common with Liar’s Dice and its commercial variants like Perudo. And so it does. Yet there are no dice here, and no card draw. There is no randomness. There is nothing at all but the bluffing and the revealing and the tiny sounds of terror.

Because you choose other people’s cards to reveal rather than just calling them out on a lie, that terror goes on and on. Like a chase sequence from a horror film. Except sometimes there’s a happy ending. Not as often as you might like, though.

A curious thing about Skull is that the opening rounds are the most chaotic yet the most fun. Early on, lots of people lay skulls and bluff just for the hell of it. Early on, lots of people get the crazy notion to make ridiculous bids. It’s like all that power, that power of deception, goes to their heads.

It’s fun, but I’m not convinced how much the results have to do with determining the winner. As people start to drop out the game becomes leaner and meaner. The rules say inexperienced players should not start with just three playing. They say that’s when Skull is at its most difficult. Yet if you play a game, and you’re left with just three after elimination, that’s also when it gets the most interesting.

You remember whether people bid. You remember what they bid. You start wondering what that means about what they’ve got in their hands. You start to pick up little clues and details that suggest who might have nothing but flowers left to play.

And as all the information comes in, things just get worse. Each wager carries behind it a mortal weight of doubt and half-truths. The noises get a bit louder.

Eventually someone will win. And the fear deflates like a balloon, the gust of air blowing away the uncertainty and making room for relief, even smiles.

Then someone who didn’t win will say “let’s do that again!” And everyone will see that barely twenty minutes have passed, even if they felt like a lifetime, and make little noises of agreement. Then you’re hooked.

Unless you’re part of the perfect logic play brigade that is. If you want to game this game, you can. You can deliberately place a skull and then a silly bid to sacrifice one of your cards to stop someone else winning, for instance. Most gamers will rightly recoil from the mere idea of throwing away an advantage to stop another player.

There really isn’t much more to Skull than I have told. A couple of extra rules for people with just one card left. Small but important distinctions, like the fact that if you flip someone else’s skull you lose a random card but if you flip your own you get to choose. Anyone can play this. Almost no-one can play it well.

There’s not much in the box, either. Just four beermat-like tiles bearing the skull and flower symbols for each player and some rules. The “play mat” which allows you to keep “score” by flipping it over the first time you win a hand is almost an insult. It feels overpriced, although the art is lovely. There’s another edition called Skull & Roses, which looks even nicer.

It’s not all roses: some of it is skull, too. The game feels like it sits on an uneasy line between gamer-fodder and mass-market. It’s perhaps a bit too Spartan for the former, a bit too exotic for the latter. Yet people talk about how deep strategy from simple rules is the hallmark of a great game. Skull has deep fun from simple rules, and it’s just as good a benchmark to judge a game.