Getaway Driver would benefit from a soundtrack of frenetic jazz. Asymmetry is all the rage this year, but few games embrace it quite as wholeheartedly as Jeff Beck’s game of cat and mouse and cat and cat and cat — which seems dire until you realize that this particular mouse is riding five hundred horsepower and knows this city by heart. In other words, it’s free-form, kinetic, and apart from a few minor stutters, a real treat of asymmetric design.
One of the things I love most about this hobby is how it constantly surprises me, and not always grand, paradigm-shattering ways. Shards of Infinity is a perfect example. Deck-building as a mechanism has been done, and done, and done again so comprehensively that unless you slap a “hybrid” in front of there, I’m probably going to zone out. It’s about superpowered beings pummeling the snot out of each other? Oh. Snore.
It was the names Gary Arant and Justin Gary, creators of Ascension, that made me perk up enough to hear the elevator pitch. I’m glad I did. Because Shards of Infinity gets one thing totally right. Scratch that, it gets a lot of things totally right, but it gets one thing totally right that no other pure deck-builder has yet to get totally right. And the result is a quiet revolution, one of the baddest-ass pure DBGs I’ve played.
I liked The Expanse. Quite a bit, actually. Now it has an expanse-ion called Doors and Corners. And although expanse-ions aren’t always as interesting to review — especially when they’re a pile of modules that you can add or ignore as you please — this is my comprehensive take on every single tidbit. Think of it like six micro-reviews, beginning with:
New Board: It’s more colorful, but the extra pop unfortunately makes the resource nodes a little harder to see. Then again, it’s more colorful. Final Score: That random spy from near the end of the first season of the TV series. You know, the guy played by the actor who was also Adam Jensen from the new Deus Ex games. As in, I could take it or leave it.
Variable Setup: Here’s my question: Why? I guess if you’re bored of the initial game’s setup, this lets you tinker with that. But the board state can change its mind so quickly and so radically that I don’t really see the appeal. Final Score: Dumb Jim Holden.
Ghosts of the Moor — or Moorgeister in the original German, which sounds like a bodily function run awry — is a dice game collaboratively designed by Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer. It isn’t an amazing dice game, nor is it a game I’d easily recommend.
That said, it is significantly better than I expected. As in, a whole lot. And there’s one key reasons why.
Some folks arrange castle chambers for fun, others arrange castle chambers because they’re about to be smashed to bits by random catastrophes. The people of Disastles — disaster castles, don’t you know — fall into the latter category.
What a peculiar game. Let’s talk about why.
I have a thing for controversial games. If board games can be art in addition to mere product — which is a point I would heatedly defend — then they can also say something about the world around us. National identity, history, aesthetics, social justice, cultural assumptions; it’s all up for grabs. A lot of the time a game will even tell us something without particularly meaning to. Sometimes that thing is even more telling than its actual message.
When I heard that Seth Jaffee’s Crusaders: They Will Be Done had sparked some minor controversy, with complaints ranging from the tone-deafness of its setting to racial insensitivity, I had to get a look. After all, my background is in religious history, up to and including the actual crusades. I’m practically obligated to have an opinion on such things. It’s as reflexive as noshing on potato chips if they happen to be sitting in front of me. Which is why, going in, my assumption was that I’d find the game’s mechanisms compelling but its history uninsightful.
Imagine my surprise when Crusaders tipped my assumption on its head.
Today we’re in for a special treat! Guest contributor Joshua Buergel, designer of The Fox in the Forest and Hocus, is here to talk about a difficult design topic — the limitations and possibilities of storytelling in board games. It’s something that’s been on my own mind for a while, so I’m eager to hear his take.
Joshua, you have the conn.
My grandfather once told me that a good idea is about catching a spark, but good execution is about putting in the years. And while it’s possible this attitude is why ole granddad only accomplished two things in his entire life, I’m inclined to believe he was onto something. After all, there’s Heroes of Land, Air & Sea, which has a tremendous idea — a cardboard version of an old-school real-time strategy (RTS) game, complete with base-building, exploration, and heroes leading armies into battle! — it also so happens that it was executed… well, like this.
To this day, Evolution — and in particular Evolution: Climate — remains one of those accessible games I’ll gladly recommend to nearly anybody. Family friendly, beautiful, fiercely competitive, and effortlessly illustrative of its namesake theory, it’s as easygoing or carnivorous as the people you’re playing with. Sometimes both at once.
But after three major iterations from North Star Games, the last thing I wanted was Evolution: Yet Again. Fortunately, their latest project, Oceans, understands its theme well enough to stay competitive. Which is why it transplants its predecessor’s core experiences — clever cardplay and an ever-shifting ecosystem — to not only beneath the waves, but also into an entirely new shape. And although this shift in DNA results in some castoffs along the way, this new form is fitter than ever.
What’s the commonality between a frozen ice planet, a pastiche of the Prime Directive, and Brock forgetting to use the correct mic? The ninth episode of the Space-Biff! Book-Space!, of course! Join Brock, Summer, and Dan as we discuss A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias. Listen here or download here.
Next month, we’re talking about The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi.