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.
Someone in my family had a matryoshka doll. Or, well, a whole bunch of them, nested together until you set them free with that memorable little pop. Maybe it was my grandmother on my mom’s side. Or was it just my mom? I don’t know. Somebody. It was red.
And that’s the extent of my personal connection to Matryoshka. Thank goodness it’s such a good game or I would have lost interest almost immediately.
Remember Burgle Bros.? It was a rather nifty stealth-heist game hampered ever so slightly by a gamey event system. Still, it was slick. And now it’s got a sequel. Sort of.
The culprit in question is Fugitive, and it’s one of those very rare games that doesn’t sound like much at all — not with its fifteen-minute playtime, a single deck of fewer than fifty cards, and rules that take maybe two minutes to explain — but once laid out upon the table reveals itself to be nearly perfect.
I’ve got a hypothetikos situation for you. You’re a Greek god, okay? You live on Olympus, flatulate lightning and belch storm clouds, all that. But the residents of Greece just aren’t giving you any respect. They leave goat offal for votive offerings, dampen the back of your shrines whenever nature’s urge strikes them, and deploy your exalted name as a mere punchline. “Where do you keep all your Pegasuses?” they ask. “In Zeus!”
Deep breath. What do you do?
If your answer is to create a bunch of monsters and chuck them at the cities of Greece in what amounts to an Olympian temper tantrum, you’ll get along just fine with Monstrous.
Perhaps the most sobering tragedy of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 is that its most significant global impact was to cause a few Communist philosophers in France to reevaluate their stance on the benevolence of the Soviets. Without support from President Eisenhower, the revolution’s early success may have temporarily placed their occupiers on the back foot, but there was nothing they could do in the face of an all-out mechanized assault. Tens of thousands were killed, injured, executed, or deported. That year, Time magazine named “The Hungarian freedom fighter” their man of the year. Come 1957, it was Nikita Khrushchev.
Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 is all about capturing that first triumphal week of the revolution, when brave men and women rose up throughout Budapest to express their displeasure at the Secret Police, State Protection Authority, and other emblems of Soviet control that had taken hold of their country. It sounds like exactly the sort of game that ought to tickle my fancy. So why hasn’t it?
The best thing about Clank! is that it’s a deck-building game, which is one of those phrases I didn’t see myself using, right alongside “I wish I could take the bus more often” and “Cabbage tastes better when burnt.” And yet it’s the gospel truth. Clank! is a good game, maybe even a great game, and largely because it’s a deck-builder.
Then again, the worst thing about Clank! is also that it’s a deck-building game, so there’s that.
The joy of playing independent games is that you never know what you’ll find. Maybe it will be a stinker, as was Charles Ward’s last effort, Blood & Fortune. Then again, maybe it will be his current experiment, Haze Islands. Hopefully the latter, because Haze Islands is rad.