At some point, I really ought to acknowledge that each of the titles in the Pack O Games consists of only three letters. Speaking as a wordsmith, that alone is an achievement. I picture Chris Handy lying awake at night, struggling to name his latest creation. “GNT? RBY? NYX? DMN?” He furiously blots out the combinations of letters that fill his notepad, then calls out to his wife, rousing her from her sleep. “What’s another word for a bijou?” he asks, wiping away the perspiration on his forehead with the back of his hand.
Meanwhile, GEM is a game about the high-powered world of diamond auctioning.
At long last, Dan Thurot and Brock Poulsen debate the merits of Terraforming Mars, the game that took Argyre Planitia by storm. Is it good? Bad? Will it float? These are the questions that keep philosophers awake at night.
For the duration of the next month, the enormously popular Gloomhaven is back on Kickstarter for a second print run. Perhaps more tellingly, it has blitzed its way onto the BoardGameGeek top ten, currently hovering at number nine. Who does it think it is, Pandemic Legacy?
Personally, I haven’t played enough of Gloomhaven to warrant a review. Even after a dozen-plus hours in its presence, I just haven’t seen that much of it. Some laughs, some battles, some leveling up, some tinkering with character and party builds — yet still only a fraction of the gorilla that is the game’s twenty-pound box. For many games, six plays is easily enough to form an impression. In Gloomhaven, it doesn’t even mean getting your feet wet. Damp, perhaps. Perspiring, maybe. But not wet.
All the same, what follows are ten impressions of those first half-dozen plays. A sort of review-in-progress, as it were.
Easily one of the coolest things about Chris Handy’s Pack O Game has nothing to do with the fact that it’s eight games in one handy-dandy carrying case. Nor that the reception was warm enough to warrant a sequel set. Nor that each of the games has a cutesy three-letter title. Blah blah blah.
No, the coolest thing is that each of these games is literally the size of a pack of gum. And not one of those deluxe gum silos or gum diskettes, or wherever else you commercial teenagers with your ice breath and lack of shirts and easy sex are storing your gum. Rather, one of those tiny cardboard gum boxes that smells of spearmint and gets lost between the cushions. That’s where my real interest lies.
Today, we’re inspecting the opening salvo of the first Pack O Game. Meet HUE.
After playing Richard Amann and Viktor Peter’s Kickstarter success story Trickerion: Legends of Illusion, I vowed that I would try anything else this duo dreamed up. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long. Anachrony — which also features Dávid Turczi in the design column — sports an even cooler pitch than Trickerion’s city of magicians. Here it’s the distant future, the Earth has been trashed, and competing factions vie for supremacy and to survive an impeding asteroid impact. Oh, and there’s some light time travel.
Anachrony, it’s weird how many of my switches you’re flipping.
Unknown is perhaps the most appropriately-titled board game of the past few years. Not only is it about uncovering the darkness of an underground bunker complex after a world-ending disaster, but it’s also relatively, well, unknown. And I aim to put an end to that. The last part, I mean.
Okay. Deep breath. Whew. Gotta shake out these trauma wiggles.
The thing about Russian Roulette is that the stakes are just too high. I mean, I won, and still I’ve been staying up nights just thinking about what could have happened. One in six doesn’t seem so bad at first. That’s only about a sixteen percent chance. But after you pull the trigger the first time, you just keep on pulling. That second pull, your odds are more like twenty percent. Then twenty-five. My buddy Chris, we’ve been friends since high school, and he… well, I won.
Russian Roulette, Final Score: ★☆☆☆☆☆
It’s hard not to simply praise Outer Planets as a worthy expansion of everything Leaving Earth stood for. After all, the original game quickly rose through the ranks of my favorites for its abstraction of difficult spatial and mathematical conundrums, not to mention its absolute delight at the prospect of space exploration. It was as optimistic as it was brainy. So when Outer Planets fleshes out everything that made that first voyage so captivating, does that make it as good as its predecessor?
Absolutely. Or, well, mostly. Maybe ninety percent.
On paper, the pitch for Assault of the Giants sounds downright mighty. Set in fantastical Faerûn, recognizable to many as the principal setting of Dungeons & Dragons, everyone is cast as their own clan of giants, each with their own strengths and… well, “weaknesses” probably isn’t the right word when we’re talking about giants. We’ll call them “lesser strengths.”
Turns out that giants are organized into a continent-spanning caste system, ranging from the high-and-mighty storm giants at the top all the way down to the untouchable hill giants at the bottom. With the old hierarchy crumbling, it’s time for all six clans to come together to have a calm and reasoned discussion about parliamentary procedure and caste reform. That, or smash the pickle juice out of each other until somebody new stands atop the heap.