Round the Ragged Rondels

Buckle up for some [insert vague setting] action!

What’s a rondel? Good question, Geoff. A rondel is usually circular, but not always. It can also be ovaloid. Perhaps an ellipse, if you want to evoke a space theme. Certainly Scorpius Freighter wants to dazzle you with its space theme. You’re a smuggler, it shouts, so go smuggle! Avoid patrols! Buy upgrades! Make sales! Don’t pay attention to how badly we’re abusing these rondels!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Down below, I’ll explain what a rondel is and talk about Scorpius Freighter. Bonus!

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Not a Single Hermit in Sight

"Ah!" I think. "Finally, I'll be able to put my knowledge of second-century Egyptian wisdom texts to some use!"

The first thing you notice about Hermetica is its crisp, unadorned aesthetic. Okay, that’s the second thing. The real first thing is its rectangular box, unlikely to fit neatly on even an obsessive organizer’s shelf. Then you peek inside. The springy mat, the suitably blank hexagonal pillars, the bright penny gem pieces glinting sharply against the grayscale landscape — evocative of a field of ash, perhaps, or the formless realm of thought, awaiting a kindling spark. For an abstract game, Hermetica sure knows how to pick a suit.

Then you notice something else. But that’s going to require more of an explanation.

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Yesteryear: Apocalypse Chaos

Alternate titles: Conflict Event. Fight Occurrence. Punch Game.

Yesteryear is a feature that reaches into the past and plucks the choicest fruits from the cardboard vine. Some are classics, known and loved but cast aside. Others may have come and gone without notice. Either way, they’re the games we keep hanging onto. This time it’s Brock Poulsen’s turn to harvest from his shelves.

2015 was a wild year for board games. The same could probably be said for several of the last ten or twelve years, but none of those years gave us the likes of Pandemic Legacy, Blood Rage, TIME Stories, and Kingdom Death: Monster. It’s no surprise, then, that a little box like Apocalypse Chaos slipped through the cracks.

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A Cold Drink of Meltwater

Oh yes.

If you want to see an example of what a board game can accomplish, while also being something I’d never recommend as a birthday gift, look no further than Erin Lee Escobedo’s Meltwater. It’s unflinchingly brutal and despairingly perceptive both at once.

Brace yourself. I have thoughts about this one.

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Haven Can’t Wait

Did you know that the human eye can see more shades of green in a Ryan Laukat illustration than any other color?

One of my favorite genres of cardboard is the location-grabber, wherein you and an opponent feud over a line of locations, parceling out cards and strength, engaging in some brinkmanship, and ultimately hoping to nab the best spots when the timing’s right. Picture Omen: A Reign of War, the prematurely strangled Warhammer 40,000: Conquest, the freshly minted Guardians, or granddaddy Battle Line. No, I won’t be strong-armed into naming them Schotten-Tots. I have my dignity.

Speaking of favorites, Alf Seegert has always done yeoman’s work with idiosyncratic designs, especially those that evoke strange worlds and feature smart twists on familiar mechanisms. Heir to the Pharaoh in particular was one of 2016’s most interesting games. A pity nobody’s heard of it.

Well, I’ll be damned if nobody is going to hear about Haven. Illustrated by the preposterously talented Ryan Laukat, this beauty is wickedly smart — and possibly Seegert’s best design yet.

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For Everdell

If this were a scene from Root, suddenly the Woodland Alliance would haul out the guillotines.

Cute lets you get away with a lot. Think of Root, burying its class struggles and Foucauldian biopower beneath a gloss of skittish mice and adorably malevolent felines. Its revolution is as soggy with blood as they come, but you could miss it for all the awwwing.

Everdell is like that, except its cuteness isn’t a mask. Peel away the top layer and there’s more cuteness underneath. Animals preparing for winter, gathering berries and assembling shelter and establishing hierarchies and forming families. Feuding, but only playfully. Snuggling close when the first frosts appear. Cute all the way down.

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Book-Space! #5: The Goblin Emperor

Wee Aquinas regards the lack of imperial devotion to their world's religion as unsettling.

We always knew the day would come — for our first-ever episode about a book without a number in the title! Join Brock, Summer, and Dan as they discuss court intrigues, elf-on-goblin racism, and how on earth to pronounce “Csevet.” It’s The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison! You can either listen below or head over here for a download link.

Next month, we’ll be reading The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin. Share your thoughts at spacebiffbookspace@gmail.com!

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They Didn’t Get the Overwatch License

MY GREATEST HEADER COLLAGE YET

I’ve played Overwatch for all of fifteen minutes, and still they were enough to peg Guardians as an imitator. From the colorful roster of characters to the powerful “ultimate” abilities, this thing practically screams “I didn’t even try to get the license.”

You know what? I don’t care. Seriously, not a jot. Nor a tittle. And I’m unsure why anybody else should, either. Despite one or two hitches, this thing is a sublime location-grabber, and it deserves more attention.

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Crystal Clans, Take Two

On this point we can all agree, the art blows Summoner Wars out of the water.

When writing about Crystal Clans earlier this year, I pointed out that this was a system with a lot to prove. It was fiendishly clever the way it bounced initiative between players, not to mention how it marched to a killer tempo and boasted some cool ideas about unit and hand management. But deck construction and a solid roster of factions were still to be seen. Even more unenviably, the specter of Summoner Wars lingered over the whole thing. Was it possible for Plaid Hat to deliver a tactical card game when they’d already perfected the formula just a few years earlier?

Well, the first four expansion decks are out. Let’s see if they allay any of those concerns.

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My Heart Pumps Neon

I kind of want every alt text to just be the lyrics to Don't Stop Me Now.

With the benefit of hindsight, City of Remnants was a bit of a mess. Crud, it was a mess even without hindsight. Somewhere between the tile-laying, alien-killing, and drug-peddling, it was brimming with cool ideas. Unfortunately, they were held together with bouncy glue. The resultant skyscraper towered high, but also tended to sway precariously. Needed more blurp.

Wait — blurp?

That’s right. Blurp. Neon Gods is a remake of City of Remnants, minus the mess and plus ten points of charisma. And it has more blurp than you can shake a sneeze at.

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