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Cracked LCD- Battle at Kemble’s Cascade in Review


The Battle at Kemble’s Cascade- despite its unwieldy title-stuns at the box level. Z-Man games pulled out all of the stops, graphically. Featuring an illustration straight off of an arcade cabinet circa 1987 with fine detail such as simulated wear, stripes and a just-right font choice, the epic “shoot the core” battle scene twixt spaceship and giant boss tells you right up front that this game is inspired by and pays tribute to classic scrolling shooters like Gradius, R-Type and Raiden If that elevator pitch is enough to get you into the cockpit, ready to dodge a million bullets, then you might be in for a surprise.

Kemble’s Cascade isn’t nearly the twitchy, pew-pew “shmup” you might rightly be expecting given the concept and the absolutely smashing visual presentation aimed straight at the heart of anyone who’s ever played and loved any of these kinds of games- myself included. It’s slower, more puzzle-y and rules laden than I thought it would be. The process is simple enough. On your go, you move one, shoot one and then pay energy to move or shoot more. But you’ve got to move at least as many times as you have Threat built up from your last turn, incurred by getting shot at by enemy ships or other players. If you can’t you lose energy from the hits. Run out of energy and you blow up. The threat/movement equation is one of this game’s more brilliant ideas as it abstracts that whole dodging thing without having you literally move all over the “screen”.

The “screen” is made of rows of cards, each with two spaces on them, laid out in these ultra-chintzy card trays. Some spaces have bad guy ships, some have asteroids, some have other obstacles. When an enemy ship is destroyed, you cover it up with a space card. When the round is over, the bottom row of cards is cleared, the tray goes to the top and is refilled with more cards, which are staged to represent different areas of the game. Player ships still on the bottom? Scroll pushed into whatever asteroid or enemy ship is in front of them. Kaboom!

Anyone who has ever played the classic kid’s game Up the River (most recently released as Race Through Space) will immediately recognize the scrolling mechanic. It’s neat, visual and it keeps the game on a forever forward trajectory- at least until the way to the massive screen-wide boss at the end of each game. It takes anywhere from 75-90 minutes and some change to play through a game, during which time you could possibly complete every level in a Cave shooter on your iPhone five or six times. This game shouldn’t feel draggy, but it sometimes does.

The issue is that there is actually a lot of game here, so much so that I feel like Kemble’s Cascade is overdesigned and somewhat overwrought. There is no randomness, no reflex actions or sense of speed. Instead, there are terribly gamey elements that sometimes speak to the shooter concept, sometimes not so much. There’s a lot going on beyond the appealingly raw move/shoot/dodge/power up/explode conceit of these kinds of games.

There are power-up cards that give your ship a special ability. Then there is a shop action, where you can effectively shop in-flight (huh?) for a range of engine, shield and weapon upgrades that, sadly, do not include some kind of spread shot. Each of those can upgrade as well. You spend money earned from shooting enemies and sometimes just for certain cards showing up on the screen. I find myself thinking the power-up spaces would have been enough without the need for currency and a market.

Then there is the somewhat weird conceit that every ship starts with a rotary cage, a device that lets you spend an energy to shoot in any direction. It’s a cool idea and not without precedent in arcade shooters, but it feels like a bandage applied to a unique issue created by moving a scrolling shooter to a tabletop environment- the enemies do not move, so lining up shots without the rotary cage can be really difficult. You can choose to play the game without it, but then it feels like you really need to have it because the enemies do not actually move- they just scroll down. So you can’t strafe a formation or anything like that. And since PVP is a concern (like it was in no shooter, ever), you also have other players shooting at you and they don’t tend to want to politely stop with your guns up their afterburners. So the game really kind of needs that four-way shooting to work right.

But by far my least favorite aspect of this design are the goals- top to bottom. I do not like the Achievement cards at all. Sure, it’s a modern video gaming concept, but why am I being rewarded for doing ridiculous, anti-success things like crashing X number of times or getting scroll pushed Y number of times? There’s an array of public Achievements that anyone can strive for to earn victory points, and on top of those every player also has a secret mission card. That may give you points for buying things or ending your turn in the top row of cards so many times.

The end goal of beating the boss just gives you VPs for destroying sections of it, but the endgame is really quite dreadful. Rows of cards start dropping off, and the player ships just kind of get pushed up into the boss. Then you count VPs. It feels like there isn’t really so much of an ending as there is a slow-motion crash into a brick wall. It doesn’t feel like a desperate, all-or-nothing battle against an impossible foe. It’s anticlimcatic to say the least.

Here’s the problem at the root of all of the above. I don’t think that the designers of Kemble’s Cascade really have the conviction to make this whole “arcade shooter board game” thing work. It probably should have been that pew-pew spaceship game that you expect from the artwork and box copy, but instead there’s all of this clutter that tries to make it a somehow more legitimate “game”. Why shouldn’t the goal of the game to be just simply SURVIVE the gauntlet and blow up the boss? Why am I counting victory points in a game that is simulating another kind of game where second-to-second survival is the goal? Sure, these kinds of games are all about scoring. But those high scores come from exploiting bonus mechanics and keeping alive long enough to maximize them.

But no, Kemble’s Cascade has you spending all of your energy to get two points for ending your turn with only one energy for four turns. You’re fussing about whether or not to spend an extra energy to move or shoot one more space or to take that rest action (whuzzah!?) to recharge and browse the store. I appreciate that the design is solid, completely works and is actually a pretty good game despite my misgivings and thwarted expectations, but these guys had a tremendous idea and it feels bogged down in appeals to the modern hobby gamer mindset.

There are so many great ideas in this game- the threat mechanic is brilliant. Even though the PVP element is totally out of place, I love that when you shoot somebody you put markers of your color on their card that effectively cash out in VPs for you if they get destroyed. The scrolling mechanic works really well, and I like how the game is staged by the cards. I love the attention to detail- the little plastic ships look just right and I love that one pilot is a Falco-like bird man and another’s name pays tribute to Captain Harlock. And the atmosphere can’t be beat- it does not at any point come across like any other kind of space game, it is very clearly intended to be this particular kind of space game.

But this particular kind of space game on the tabletop is sort of awkward in the final equation. Kemble’s Cascade is a game attempting to simulate another kind of game that isn’t really compatible at all with the qualities of tabletop design. That it works at all is kind of a small miracle, and even though I think this is a shaky, uncertain design that lacks confidence and tries too hard to be a modern hobby game I can’t help but admire the attempt and I remain completely fascinated with how the designers approached the problems of making a scrolling shooter work as a turn-based, multiplayer tabletop game. I love that this game exists in a swelling tide of mediocrity and repetition rippling through the games industry. There just should have been a more editorial eye toward streamlining the game and teasing out the kind of seat-of-the-pants, moment-to-moment action that you’d expect from the concept, and less attention paid on initiative cards, energy budgeting and other fussy boardgamer concerns.

Cracked LCD- My First Carcassonne in Review

my first carc

My First Carcassonne is Z-Man Games’ new reprint of Kids of Carcassonne and as either title would suggest, this game is a junior-sized version of Klaus Jurgen-Wrede’s classic tile-layer. When the game was first released back in 2009, I didn’t have children. But in 2014 I have a four-and-a-half year old boy and an almost three year old girl. River and Scarlett are already playing lots of different games (as long as they’re not too “domplicated”) ranging from the usual Haba and Ravensburger suspects up through titles as complex as Rampage and Zooloretto with a little help from dad, of course. But of the games I’ve played with them, I don’t think any of them have been as big a hit as My First Carcassonne. It’s rare that I get to play a game over 20 times before committing to a review.

Reworked by designer Marco Teubner, the classic Carcassonne gameplay is stripped down to a core lay a tile, lay a meeple village-building process. The more complicated elements such as the proto-worker placement mechanic, multiple scoring methods and wide range of tile variations are pared away to make it suitable for kids as young as four according to the box, three according to this dad. The big tiles have one very different feature from the original game- they all fit together, no matter what you do, road to road. On each road, one or more children corresponding to player colors may be depicted. When a tile is laid that completes a road (meaning it runs from a village building to another one, a well, a chicken pen or other feature) then each player gets to put one of their meeples on the pictured kids that match their color. The idea is to get all of your meeples on the board to win.

This takes about 20 minutes with my kids, but that includes time to make up stories about what the children are doing, to fiddle around with the pieces, and to remind Scarlett that she can’t put a tile back to pick up another one. More advanced kids could probably complete a game in ten minutes but multiple plays in one sitting are quite possible. Parents surely understand the “one more time” demand.

But the good news is that the game is really fun to play with small children and it is absolutely not a drag. It’s pitched just right with just enough rules for there to be an actual game but without overloading young minds with the kinds of rulebook folderol us older folks have had a few decades to get accustomed to. The process is practically fail-safe, and it is easy to instruct kids as to what “good” plays are and what won’t help them. River will want to put a tile somewhere just because he likes the way it looks but when I explain that he’ll help another player score or that he’ll miss a chance to put one of his meeples out he immediately understands the simple strategy. Scarlett requires a little more help, but she has started to grasp that putting together roads with multiple kids of her color (red, of course) is the way to go.

There was one instance in our last game that I thought was pretty interesting. River always plays blue, so he played a tile that had a blue and a green kid on it that closed up a road. I said “River, that is going to give you a point but it’s going to give me one too so you might want to do something else.” He said “no daddy, I want to help you.” I stopped for a second and the gamer gene kicked in and told me “my son is actually negotiating with me.” But then I realized that he really just did want to help his dad get a point too, no strings attached. That was such a sweetly innocent little moment; I just had to help him win the game with a tile I played later on in the game.

My First Carcassonne is a family fixture at this point, after only owning it for two weeks. The kids seem to always want to play it (they call it “the village game”) and even when we’re not playing it together Scarlett likes to set up the tiles and put the children in the village she’s built. The artwork is really good too- very modern, colorful and appealing. When I showed them the box, they both were very excited and interested before the shrinkwrap was even off it.

As for those readers without children wondering if this is one of those kids’ games that adults might like too, I don’t think that the magic would really be there without kids at the table. It’s an extremely well-considered distillation of a very successful design, but it is firmly aimed at the young- not so much the young-at-heart. A table full of adults plays games very differently than kids would and it could come across as much too simplistic- they’d be better off playing the basic Carcassonne game. But if you do have kids or have kids in your family under ten, this is one of the best games for that audience that I’ve played.


Cracked LCD- Pocket Battles in Review

pocket battles

I missed out on Z-Man Games’ Pocket Battles series the first go around. This set of small box, low complexity wargames saw print from 2009-2012 but then they blinked out of print, with at least one of them (Macedonians vs. Persians) appreciating substantially in the aftermarket. The three original games- all designed by Paolo Mori and Francesco Sirrochi- are filtering their way to retailers along with a new title, Confederacy vs. Union. Z-Man was kind enough to send me a review copy of the Civil War set, so after some time with itI can issue forth on what has become something of a cult classic.

These games- which are in some ways the modern equivalent of the old “microgames” from the 1970s and 1980s- retail for $15 and come in a box that is actually small enough to fit in a pocket. Uniformly , each set features two armies with three sets offering historical match-ups and the fourth fostering the longstanding racial hatred between Elves and Orcs. All contain 60 small counters split between the two armies, some dice and a small rulebook. All are completely self-contained but can be mixed and matched at your leisure, in case you want to see the Celts square off against the Union.

These are true microgames with minimal components, a 20-30 minute playtime and requiring very little table space. The rules are fairly simple, overhead is low and action is high. But there is more depth than is immediately apparent beginning with the way armies are constructed. It is a point-based system and once you’ve got the troops you want, you stack them together into units in three battlefield sectors each with a forward and a rear section. Units stacked together support each other and may impart special abilities. Differentiation between infantry, cavalry, artillery, auxillaries, elites and command is pronounced and there are any number of ways to field an effective army and in any number of strategic placements on the battlefield. It’s also entirely scalable, so you can do smaller or larger battles. It’s up to you, and in fact building armies is a major element of the game.

Which may be something of a liability, because it can feel like building an army takes longer than it does to wipe out half of the other side’s total army value to win the game. Once the game gets going and units are charging to engage and getting shot to pieces before they melee, artillery units blasting away from the rear lines and cavalry rushing in to save some infantry bacon it moves at a quick clip. It’s extremely straightforward, even more so than other light wargames such as the Commands and Colours series.

Each side gets an order token for every ten points of troops fielded. On a turn, you place an order token on a unit of stacked troops and they get to take an action- make a tactical move across battlefield sections, charge, continue/retreat from melee, take a shot or use an ability. Combat is simple- you generally roll a die (two if you charge) and compare the result against to-hit numbers on each troop in a unit stack. This is a neat concept that loops back to the importance of building good stacks during setup. Some units might hit multiple times on a single result or you might have made a unit during army construction that pairs or triples up hits on certain numbers. There is a strike back phase in melee, so engagements can be vicious.

I especially like how unit attrition, losses and reductions are handled. If you take a hit, you can either elect to apply a wound to a unit (provided it has more than one health) or you eliminate one troop out of the unit. The catch is, when you choose to apply a wound to keep an elite unit in the game, you have to flip over one of your order tokens and it stays on that unit. So in a 50 point game, making the strategic decision to keep a unit in the fight will reduce you to four available activations in the next round. But that also keeps you from giving points to the enemy, so it’s always an important consideration.

As for historical flavor, I’ve only played the Civil War game but I felt that it reasonably represented the kinds of battles you’d expect to see from that conflict. It is important to note that this game is in no way a simulation, it is an abstraction (with detail) of battle. But that detail is important. There are multiple types of artillery, for example, that have varying strengths and weaknesses. The Union and the Confederacy do not have the same units and each side displays very specific characteristics that can be exploited in both the setup and during the battle. There are no terrain effects or complex command issues, no coherency or supply lines, nothing like that.


Pocket Battles is best approached as a very casual wargame along the lines of Memoir ’44 or Manouvre. It is simple, but there is ample grist there to give it some really fun depth- particularly when players know the system well enough to make informed decisions about army construction and take advantage of tactical possibilities. When I was getting into Pocket Battles I had a chance to get together with a good friend of mine that I used to play a lot of more complex wargames with and we had a great time over a couple of sessions at a coffee shop. By the third game, I felt like we had a good handle on building effective units and maneuvering on the battlefield. But the first game was something of a wreck- we played with too many points and really kind of had no idea what we were doing, particularly in regard to the support units. Who put that drummer in there, anyway?

So there is something of a slight learning curve and it does require a little more commitment than expected, but I don’t think that does much harm to what is ultimately a very appealing, very accessible wargame option. As something of a lapsed wargamer myself I find that the Confederacy vs. Union set in particular puts me back in touch with that segment of the gaming hobby but without pushing me away with levels of specificity and complexity that I am not currently interested in engaging. And at ten bucks street, these games represent a tremendous value and another great example that today’s awesome games aren’t necessarily the ones coming from $100 boxes stuffed with junk.

Robinson Crusoe Review


Mostly, I’m not a big fan of co-operative games. Games suffer terribly without the unpredictability and skill of human opposition, and the whole genre sometimes looks like a collection of semi-functional attempts to solve this big, blaring problem.

But there are a very few that make my grade. And I’ve noticed they tend to have certain things in common: they allow plenty of scope of individual player decision making in the face of the group, offer some sort of simple AI-like mechanics that make it look like the game is reacting to your decisions and have a deep well of variety to add to the narrative and keep things unpredictable.

But the most important quality of all is balancing the need for transparent mechanics that allow for strategic decisions with a strong wind of chance to make sure the game doesn’t become a mere logic puzzle. Lean too far in the former direction and you might as well be solving co-operative Su-doku with your friends. Too far in the latter and you might as well co-operatively shoot craps. It’s a hard, hard proportion to get right and none of the co-ops I’ve played so far, even my favourites, have quite got it right. Until I played Robinson Crusoe.

Robinson Crusoe doesn’t so much nail that balance as drive it through the wall and into a water main. At heart it’s a worker placement game, albeit one with an unusually strong emergent theme for the genre, with all the heavy decision making that implies. Your picks from the bamboozling plethora of options you’re offered every turn will shape the game and nearly always determine your success or failure. Yet skimming across the top of these hard choices is a playful breeze of chance that can, if allowed, turn itself into a hurricane of destruction.

Each player has a specific character with a raft of special abilities and two placement pawns which, each turn, can be assigned to activities like exploration, hunting or gathering resources. Some activities require only a single pawn, others can have one, two or sometimes more and this affects the success rate. Shove enough pawns into the activity and you’re guaranteed success. Fall short and you’ll end up dicing for it, possibly failing or triggering a linked – and usually undesirable – event.

It’s a quite wonderful mechanic. At a stroke, it puts the amount of chaos the players are prepared to endure into their own hands while at the same time offering a series of meaty and difficult decision every round while also enriching the narrative. It also has an unexpected knock-on effect when it comes to group decision making: if there is disagreement, players can still get what they want done if they’re prepared to take a chance.

This injects some inter-player tension that might recur later in the game, and reduces the boss player problem that plagues co-ops as a genre. So does the imponderable random factors that dance around your decisions. These factors do not, however, eliminate the problem, and the possibility of an alpha-dog player arising to direct the game for the other participants remains a black mark against the title for me.

The whole thing is smug with other neat little rules flourishes, interlocking to provide a quirky, absorbing experience. Another favourite is the way events can come back to haunt the players. If, while exploring, you draw a card that tells you you’ve sustained a head injury, you take damage, mark your character’s head with a wound token and shuffle the card back into the main event deck. Draw it again and you suffer recurring headaches causing more problems.

The weight comes from a classic set-up of too much to do in too little time. Characters need food to survive from the off, but they’ll need other things too as the game progresses. Shelter from the weather, tools and inventions to make life easier. To do most of these, and to work toward victory, you’ll need to spend time gathering resources first. You can’t do it all, sacrifices will have to be made and characters will suffer through a simple but effective rule stating that any shortfall in resource requirements must be paid in wounds. If anyone accumulates enough to die, it’s game over.


Winning is hard, and requires practice and skill, but is far impossible. The difficulty level, again, feels just about pitch perfect. Every game feels like a fresh take at a puzzle, but one in which the parameters change subtly, demanding fresh insight, granting a new narrative and keeping things from getting dry and stale.

The inventive mechanics tie up into a game that gives you not only a satisfying balance between strategy and chaos, but which tells a detailed narrative. You’ll pick a scenario at the start of each game, ranging from a standard rescue from a desert island to a bizarre quasi-horror quest to burn out cannibal villages on the isle. There are six in total, widely varied and each playing significantly differently from the others in a rules-light way by tying in different effects to icons on cards, tiles and chits.

But there are also five fat decks of cards, the main event deck, three lots of events for different activities and the wonderful mystery deck, which ensure that no two games are remotely similar. In one, you might be constantly threatened by wild beasts running amok into and through the camp, another might be filled with vicious booby traps left by mysterious previous residents. There’s unseasonable weather to deal with, flotsam from the shipwreck to discover, fires, cliffs, earthquakes and much, much more.

Of course, you pay for it in complexity. You can’t get all that strategy, all that detail, all that variety on a simple rules framework. But it’s not so bad as it might first appear after a trawl through the dreadful rulebook. A lot of the heavy lifting is farmed out to cards, tiles and a seemingly endless parade of tiny icons and with few examples, it takes a while to see how it all locks together. And there’s a lot of wood and card to shuffle about during setup and every turn. But once you’ve got it, games run surprisingly quickly: the two hour play time on the box is not only plausible, but occasionally generous.

Humble pie is rarely tasty, but sometimes you just have to eat a slice. On the basis of rules and reviews I got the impression with was a cumbersome game that did little to solve the inherent problems of the genre, merely one that communicated a convincing theme. The theme is certainly there, the game remains constrained by the inherent problems of the genre and play can be fiddly to administrate. But the poor rulebook hid a wealth of clever mechanics and careful balances that make this one of the few quality co-operative games I’ve enjoyed.

Cracked LCD- Tash-Kalar in Review

tash kalar

If I’m going to be charitable about Tash-Kalar: Arena of Ancients, I’ll state that it’s a highly experimental and sometimes oddly compelling design that feels like superstar designer Vlaada Chvatil test-driving some new concepts somewhat outside of his comfort zone. If I’m going to be a little more direct about it, I’m going to declare that Tash-Kalar is an awkward and frequently fumbling attempt at applying both conceptual and executive level theme to an abstract game that mechanically is no more specific than Checkers. If I’m going to be dead level honest about the new Czech Games Edition/Z-Man title, I’ll tell you straight up that it is agonizing to play. And not in a good way.

Mr. Chvatil, as his legion of acolytes will attest, doesn’t really design bad games. He tends to design games with differing levels of success. The modern classic Mage Knight would be at one extreme and this ill-advised foray into rather hardcore abstract gameplay would be at the other. The design goal was clearly to give an abstract design thematic meaning, but when the rulebook has to tell you to focus on the card’s picture to get its meaning across there’s a problem. That Tash-Kalar is such a spectacular failure is quite surprising, but there’s a part of me that admires him for trying something very different than repeating the successes of Mage Knight, Galaxy Trucker or his other more popular (and larger) designs.

The idea is that the longstanding rivalry between Mages that has raged through countless other games (Wiz-War, Summoner Wars, Mage Wars and so on) has been formalized into a kind of gladiatorial spectacle. Wizards meet in the arena and cast “Kalarite” stones, hoping to form particular patterns that will summon various warriors and creatures into battle from cards depicting the necessary arrangement of units. Each turn, a player gets to do two actions which usually are to place one or two “common” pieces or to identify a pattern of the correct pieces on the board and summon a creature (usually just another common piece) that has a special ability or movement effect.

Game situations or card effects can also cause pieces to upgrade from common to heroic to legendary (call it “kinging” if you must), which generally protects them from being removed from the board when a lower-ranked piece makes a combat move. There are also “Flares”, which are one of the most bold-faced rubber-banding elements I’ve seen in my entire life. The Flares have two this or that functions keyed to how many more pieces the opponent has on the board. So a card may allow a player that has five less commons on the board to place one or two or to make a special move. These get used quite a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever played an essentially abstract game where the board state changes so much every single turn, frustrating plans and causing players to have to reassess strategy almost every turn.

I think it may already be clear from the description where some of the problems with this game lie. Effectively, Tash-Kalar is closer to Go or Shogi than some of the other wizardly duel games out there. The constantly changing, fluid state of the board is really at odds with the kind of tactical placement game that it seems like it wants to be. Some of the summoning patterns are simple and fairly easy to pull off once the board begins to fill up, but others (including a random Legendary creature each player gets at the outset as part of their hand) are very difficult to cast- especially when pieces are coming and going from the board every turn.

Compounding the frustration is the fact that looking at the creature cards and trying to work out if there’s a pattern or potential pattern is absolutely not fun in any way. Turns drag to a halt as players stare at the board, then at cards, then back at the board, then at the cards turned sideways, and so on. Throughout my games- which all seemed excruciatingly long due to downtime- I kept thinking that an IOS version of the game that highlighted the cards you can play along with the patterns would at least make the game feel less mentally punishing.

But there’s still the issue that faction decks, random card draws, and vicious back-and-forth see-sawing do not sit well with fundamental abstract game concepts. It almost seems as if the pattern recognition element is a play for the cerebral aspects of the abstract genre, but Vlaada just can’t let go of more genre-oriented themes. I do actually think that the conceptual theme works here- casting stones into patterns to summon creatures is exactly what you do with the gameplay. But it just doesn’t work as a fantasy battle game because it’s too abstract and it doesn’t work as an abstract because it’s got too much fantasy battle game in it.

I’m also not comfortable with the oddly complicated rules. The “full rules” are on a single piece of paper, front and back, color-coded to incorporate all of the variant rules for whatever mode you’re playing. But the Guidebook (a common thing in a Chvatil game since they usually need some direct explanation outside of a usual rules presentation) is 12 pages long. It also includes some insightful nuggets like the mnemonic bit about the summoning patterns kind-of sort-of looking like the thing that you’re supposed to be summoning. I found myself constantly checking the rules and wondering if the game was really as complicated as it seemed to be or if I was just confusing myself.

The modes are an issue as well. The main game is called “High Form” and for good reason, because it’s really what the game seems to be designed for. It’s a two player contest that includes objective cards that award points for connecting sides of the board, having pieces on colored spaces, killing a certain number of units per turn and so forth. They can be pretty tough to accomplish, again due to the easy come, easy go nature of units. Deathmatch is a straight-up battle for points, and it’s fine for two -probably the most fun way to play since the wholesale slaughter of pieces is the objective. The multiplayer modes for three and four players, including a dreadful team variant, are completely worthless. Playing this game with three or four players placing and removing pieces is a dismal, supremely frustrating experience similar to bludgeoning yourself repeatedly on top of the head with a rubber mallet while someone reads you the myth of Sisyphus.

I do not like Tash-Kalar. I think it’s an almost total miss at a design level and its cause is not helped at all by it being dramatically under-produced and over-priced for a pile of cards and some practically artless counters that you put on a thin, cardstock board. Yet I think this game will have its defenders, mostly human computers who actually like to overthink moves and enjoy the complicated pattern recognition element of the game. But even for that crowd, I don’t think the chaos inherent in the design is going to go over too well.