New Year, Old Year: 2019 Revisited
Day Three! The Raconteurs!
What I Got Right!
There’s some irony to the fact that Time of Crisis, in particular 2019’s last-ranked Age of Iron and Rust expansion, has held up so marvelously well compared to its peers. It’s impossible to discount the role of Tabletop Simulator in this. Where other games fell by the wayside during the early lockdowns for COVID-19, Time of Crisis entered regular rotation in our online game group for no other reason than because it was easy to play. Nothing is fiddly or requires special commands, and everybody in our group remembered how to play. Except for one person. But one player’s flailing can be enjoyable in its own sadistic way.
The others are what I would call “qualified” successes. Since the tiebreaker in any retrospective should tip toward negativity and despair, I figure it’s only fair to lump them together under the next section.
What I Got Wrong!
First, the unreserved flubs. Getaway Driver and Vindication aren’t bad. That’s about all I can say for them anymore. The second is better than the first, but they’re both too sprawly for their own good, with finicky rules and extra components that should have been cut altogether. Neither of them are “elegant,” to use a highfalutin’ word. This isn’t to say that a game needs to be elegant to be good. There are any number of very good games that also happen to be messy. These two, however, saw their mess edging out their more interesting factors. To some degree the same goes for Nemesis, although it’s tidier than the other two. All those rooms are what does it in. I can’t remember those darn things to save my life, and it’s often my life (or at least my in-game avatar’s life) that’s on the line. Curiously — or perhaps un-curiously — these were all Kickstarter successes, especially Vindication and Nemesis. Stretch goals and unlocks are the bane of concise play experiences.
That speaks to the tightness of Vast: The Mysterious Manor all the more. To be clear, I adore this game. I just haven’t been able to play it since writing my review. This raises a question, I think, about how a list like this — and how we in the hobby at large — evaluate success. Is it longevity that matters? Replayability, whatever that means? Or can a game be a crystallized thing that we’re glad to have played once or twice, even if it doesn’t warrant or even desire revisiting? The reason I ask is because Vast, and to a greater degree SpaceCorp, are both games that came to symbolize, well, vastness, in a year that was characterized by contraction and isolation. It wasn’t only their subject matter that felt big. Not only, even, their player counts. It was the sum of those things. It was the promise of being able to sit at a table and explore again. To reach beyond one’s sphere, whether a planet or a household.
In other words, these are both games I hope to revisit soon. And sometimes I’m unsure how “right” and “wrong” are measured when it comes to evaluations like these. It just seems important to continue, if only because sometimes a game speaks to more than its commercial success or how long it persists in the collective conscious.
Next up, my philosophical mood fails to abate.