The GenConmen, 2017: Secrets

Yeah, that's apparently my soulmate.

The third day of Gen Con was pretty much just full of secrets. I’d tell you about them, but, well, that sort of undermines the whole “secret” aspect. Further worsening matters, anything provided by publishers for review was probably something I didn’t actually play at the convention — that’s for later, you know — which makes this the least-worthwhile Gen Con report of all time.

So, hey, enjoy the few things I can write about!

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The GenConmen, 2017: Day Two

The people on the neighboring table seemed irritated when I kept hooting at Adam whenever it was his turn to hang a monkey.

Day Two is when the fatigue sets in. Rules become more drawn out, the show floor starts to resemble a hive in the midst of total collapse, and existence becomes more questionable than usual. For instance, if we’re merely complex chemical computers with simulated free will, why did our holographic universe determine that we would spend so much time ambling through this earthly temple to all things cardboard? I wish I had an answer.

Anyway, we learned lots of great games today!

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The GenConmen, 2017: Day One

Gen Con: not missing the forest for the trees.

Only the finest individuals who have excess time on their hands, a means of transportation, sufficient acquaintances to attend in tandem to drive down the price of the hotel, and a peculiar love of board games go to Gen Con.

This is their story.

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Faraway Convergence

alt title: Constellation Convergence

It’s happened.

I’m in love with a cube-pusher.

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An Offer You Can Refuse

The use of negative dark space conveys the loneliness inherent in the form of power that Don Corelone wields. I think. I slept through most of my fine arts class in college.

It’s unquestionably difficult to consider Eric Lang’s latest, The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire, without referring back to its source material. Nearly impossible, in fact. Here’s a game, lavishly produced, provided access to one of the most widely-discussed artifacts of culture, a film that boasts nearly one hundred percent cultural penetration. It’s a serviceable game, riffing on the worker placement and area control that have become standards of the hobby. Yet when it comes to its source material, it’s almost afraid to engage. It skirts the edges, providing Don Corleone and severed horse-head miniatures and naming rounds after the “acts” of The Godfather. Here’s Connie’s wedding. Now poor Sonny has been gunned down at that iconic tollbooth. Watch out, Michael is out for revenge. What do these have to do with the pawns placed across New York, the bad booze and dirty dollars exchanged to complete jobs, or the Altoids-tin suitcases of banked cash?

Not a thing.

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Together Is Better

If only there were a solo mode, this could have won Most Ironic of 2017.

Dutch knew it while deep in the jungles of Val Verde in Predator. Ellen Ripley knew it down on LV-426 in Aliens. And most importantly, Richard B. Riddick knew it in sci-fi classic Pitch Black, and also in Riddick, which had the same plot.

Being stranded in a remote location teeming with alien life blows.

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Alone Beneath the Sea

Fabulous beard? Yeah, I'd follow that guy against the colonial powers too.

It’s rare enough that a game gets a second chance, let alone when it’s a niche solo title. Based on Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Nemo’s War held a formidable reputation for its brutal difficulty, constant barrage of dice rolls, and tangible sense of setting. It’s Nemo and his Nautilus against an entire world of colonial powers. And, tipping my hand right now, its polished second edition is easily one of the slickest solo games ever crafted.

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The Anti-Catan

They're spirits, not gods, and boy will they smite you for getting it wrong.

At first blush, Spirit Island looks achingly familiar. A tropical island lush with multiple colorful regions, ranging across jungles and mountains and wetlands and deserts. Why, that’s nearly as many as in The Settlers of Catan! What’s more, here are some lily-white explorers, a few towns, even the occasional city. Every so often a crude grass hut interrupts the landscape. The only things missing are some roads and sheep cards. Throw in an economic engine and some bleating about chivalry and, baby, you’ve got a Euro going.

That’s where Spirit Island turns a hard left. Turns out you aren’t the settlers at all. Rather, you’re the indigenous spirits trying to shake off their white-man burden before you can say “smallpox.” Whether that means scaring them silly or burning all those cities to the ground, whatever gets the job done.

But that’s the window dressing. Spirit Island is more than some mildly socially-aware theming. It’s also el banana grande.

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Fully Epic, Too Tiny

It's not a rip-off when it's an homage. Or so I've been assured.

Wow. Can we just take a moment to marvel at the fact that Tiny Epic Quest is the fifth entry in this series of small-yet-usually-pretty-good games? From warring kingdoms to defending kingdoms, from outer space to the Wild West. All in a little more than three years. Scott Almes is nothing if not prolific.

Behold.

Anyway, this is probably the best the Tiny Epic series has ever been. Though that might be because it’s just so dang photogenic.

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Pretty Chancy

Fez?

Very few notions have done as much harm to our hobby as the chestnut that “Luck is Bad.” No, silly. Luck is good. Luck is great and generous. Also benevolent, if you accept it into your heart.

Sorry. I got carried away there.

But as I was saying, luck is awesome. It’s just also very hard to do right. Anybody can invent a luck-based dice game. How about this: first one to roll a 4 wins. There. That’s a dice game. An awful one, but a dice game with lots of luck nonetheless.

Unearth has attracted some (very) minor controversy. As far as I can tell, the problem is that it’s a dice game that happens to look good, thus stymieing those who like their games pretty but haven’t yet braced for the possibility of failing thanks to the clatter of the dice. So let’s talk about that.

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