Cataclysm Is a Giant “What If?”

When I first saw this image from a distance, I thought it was the A-bomb detonation and went, "Well, that's a tad distasteful, isn't it?"

Every time an undergrad asks What if?, a history professor gets her tenure. Yet there’s an undeniable appeal to that question. What if Hitler had been shrewder about invading Russia? What if the United States had gone all-in on the Pacific rather than entering the European Theater? What if both Axis and Allied powers had teamed up to battle aliens? There’s no way to know, man.

Other than that last one, those are the questions at the heart of Cataclysm: A Second World War, Scott Muldoon and William Terdoslavich’s take on the devastating twentieth-century conflict. And they’re also the questions that arise approximately every two minutes while playing.

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Rootin’ Around

MISTAKE: The bunny faction never overpopulates.

The cats are in charge. The noble birds are swooping from their roosts. A gathering of woodland smallfolk agitate in their holes and burrows, whispering, whispering. And a winsome raccoon packs his rucksack and sets out for adventure.

Adorable and ferocious in equal measure, Cole Wehrle’s Root is Redwall by way of A Distant Plain. And it’s both a total delight and the most accessible asymmetric experience Leder Games has produced thus far.

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Rainbow Flix

I suspect the unfortunate font is intentional. These guys FUX.

There’s something perfect about the eco-terrorist baddies of Mark Thomas and Pete Ruth’s SEAL Team Flix. Maybe it’s because they’re a throwback to Rainbow Six, a reminder of the tactical shooter’s spy thriller roots. Or maybe it’s because they’re threatening and preposterous in equal measure, a tightrope act between deadly serious and clowning silliness. Much like SEAL Team Flix itself, come to think of it.

Either way, ring the wedding bells and fetch the preacher, because I’m in love.

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An Untimely Decapitation

Taking a break from our usual striving-but-not-quite-reaching-humorous alt-texts, today I'd rather discuss ratings. And in particular, why it's disappointing that so many of Carthage's ratings appear fake.

Ah, the stench of the arena. The sharp bite of steel, the tang of blood, the musk of fur and man-sweat barely concealed by a splash of olive oil. Breathe it in. Breathe it, I said. Because this is serious business, this gladiator stuff. Gladiat-ing has never been for the meek.

Carthage isn’t the first game to sashay into the arena, not by a long shot. But it just might be the first arena-smasher that’s actually a deck-building game. So: thumbs up or down? Let’s find out together.

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Back to the Future, Past, and Present

What's up, Old Lord Time? Still haven't found a spare moment to clip those nails, I see.

Some games I appreciate for their elegance. Their brightness. Their sheer go-where-nobody-has-gone-before-ness. Others I appreciate because they’re garbage. Delicious, sugary, make-you-look-like-a-tire-swing-got-wedged-around-a-telephone-pole garbage.

See where I’m going with this?

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It’s Pronounced “Dragger”

It's Old Norse for "daughter."

It’s a tale as old as time. Boy meets girl. Girl isn’t interested. The town of Stjørdal gets invaded by flesh-hungry undead. Flesh-hungry undead are the only ones who can pronounce “Stjørdal,” so by ancient tradition they now own the town. Boy, with nothing better to do with his misdirected masculinity, loads up on iron stakes and vials of holy water. It’s on.

We haven’t covered anything by prolific print-and-play designer Todd Sanders for a while, but the recent envelope printing of Todd’s solo microgame The Draugr by BoardGameGeek seems like as good a time as any to jumpstart our moldering heart. So listen up, because this one’s lean, gorgeously ugly, and arrives printed on paper you might bring groceries home in.

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Sumter’s Going On Here

I always think that little airburst cannon shot is a plane bombing the fort. Because I R dumb

After spending six, seven, and eight hours respectively on the full campaigns of Churchill , Fire in the Lake, and Pericles, a bracing twenty-minute tug of war was the last thing I expected from Mark Herman. Yet here it is: Fort Sumter, a wargame more in the vein of 13 Days than Herman’s usual wheelhouse. But as an experiment in capturing the stresses of the U.S. Secession Crisis in as few minutes and moves as possible, it’s largely successful.

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Introducing the Space-Biff! Book-Space!

Unlike most board game nerds, Wee Aquinas inhabits that slender Venn crossover between a love of board games and a love of books. How peculiar.

In addition to board games, I’ve always had an abiding love for science fiction, fantasy, horror, post-apocalypsopoda, and… princess books? Yes. That’s me.

Now, in collaboration with Brock Poulsen and Somerset Winters-Thurot (no relation), comes the world’s first podcast about that very subject. Every month we’ll be reading and discussing one book — spoiler-heavy, no-holds-barred, all arguments and spats and talking points laid bare for all to witness. With your ears.

For our inaugural episode, we’re talking about The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin, the first entry in the Broken Earth series and winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2016. If you’ve read The Fifth Season, you can listen to our jabbering either down below or over here.

Or read ahead and shoot your thoughts over to spacebiffbookspace@gmail.com to contribute to next month’s discussion of The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin.

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Spew-Quiff!

More of this in every game, please.

There’s something about Grant Rodiek’s most recent designs that’s equally bold and foolhardy. Bold, because he’s willing to toy with our preconceptions about tried-and-true game systems to an extreme that most designers would balk at. And foolhardy for, well, pretty much the same reason. Whether you’re drafting somebody else’s cards in Solstice/Imperius or fumbling with the blind wagers and multi-use cards of Five Ravens, you can wager green money that his games will see you doing something familiar in an entirely unfamiliar way.

Enter SPQF. It’s a history pun, standing for the Senatus Populusque Forest — while gleefully disregarding that a Latin forest doesn’t begin with “F.” And it’s a Disney’s Robin Hood’s take on deck- and civilization-building with a Rodiek twist: cute animals, familiar concepts, and one bear of a first play.

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Specter Oops They Did It Again

a.k.a. "People who looked like more fun until you actually met them at the office party."

Five minutes into Broken Covenant, Plaid Hat’s standalone follow-up to Specter Ops, and I was already in trouble. Let me tell you why.

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