Search Results for oath

Five Generations: A Look at Oath

Our people have always been here, according to some. But only some. Don't listen to the honey dripped in your ears. There's no shortage of folk who'll talk foolishness — that the six tribes were descended from sextuplets born of a river so high in the mountains it near meets the sky; that their children were fated together from the moment the cord was cut; that together, we, the children of their children's children, form a union inseparable. A Commonwealth. There's that word. Commonwealth. Its meaning is as old as stones. Older even than some of the legends. But legends are stories that grew too big for their skirts. I'm a history man. We speak only stories that are true. Even when we lie. Especially then.

History is a funny thing. Ask yourself, what era do you live in? The modern age? Postmodern? Information? The Holocene, more specifically the Meghalayan? Or will the historians of far-flung generations assign a designation that doesn’t capture any of the details you personally associate with this moment? Everything our culture has accomplished, compressed by distance and necessity, into the Aluminum Age. At long last, the dead of the Bronze Age will nod in satisfaction at our diminishment.

When I spoke to Cole Wehrle about Oath, he called it a “hate letter” to civilization games and legacy games. It’s easy to see why. Like digging the fragments of a lost civilization from the compacted mass of an ancient trash heap, there are fragments to be found, shards and sherds, enough to make out an unmistakable imprint or two. Oath is a civilization game, but not like any you’ve played before. And it’s also a legacy game, but even less familiar. This is what I think about it. This is also the story of my first six plays. I hope you’ll soon understand why they’re the same thing.

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Arcs Avec Arc

Dibs on hooded blue guy.

Where last week’s examination of Arcs, the upcoming title from Cole Wehrle and Leder Games, focused on Arcs as an experience meant to be completed within a single session, today we’re delving into the “arcs” of Arcs. That’s right: I’ve completed two full campaigns. That’s six plays, a few branching narratives, and two galaxies brought under the reign of a single power.

I have some thoughts.

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Arcs Sans Arc

Was I tempted to draw a thick black line through the ARCS to illustrate the point that ARCS now has no arcs? Yes. Yes, I was.

Whenever I mention Arcs, the upcoming four-letter title from Cole Wehrle and Leder Games, everybody wants to know about the campaign, the three-session “arc” that will chart the ascent of four players amid the decline of a stellar empire. It’s a fascinating premise, and not only because it formalizes the playful and open-ended concept of a non-legacy board game that rolls over from one session to the next that Wehrle introduced in Oath.

This preview is not about that. At some point in development, Arcs was split in two. To mitigate costs and the danger of tossing a gaming group out the airlock before they’ve had a chance to suit up, the campaign is now a day-one expansion. Arcs, the core game anyway, is now a single-session board game. Which up until very recently was just called “a board game.”

How is Arcs sans arc? Let’s take a look.

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The Synoptic Solution

A member of my group mentioned that this looked like a game of telephone. And, well, pretty much.

I’ve been pondering the idea of game design as devotion. In the centuries leading up to the Renaissance, so much European and Near Eastern art and entertainment was principally religious, drawing on shared stories, imagery, and even, one hopes, depth of feeling. Could the same be true of a board game? We have yet to realize the extent of what cardboard might express, although the medium seems better suited to models than emotions. There are, however, exceptions. Ben Madison’s awe at the sweep of Christian history in The Mission. Amabel Holland’s short-tempered but sanguine Nicaea.

And now, Jeff Warrender’s depiction of the composition of the gospels in The Acts of Evangelists. It would be a mistake to dismiss this one out of hand.

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Sailing the Seven Skies

If even one person whines about the card art on here, I am going to pretend to ban you. Because I don't actually know how to ban. Or have any inclination to learn how. But! You will out yourself as a poopy-pants whiner.

If there’s any one thing I’ve learned about pirates, it’s that they’re no good at getting along. Paolo Mori channeled that not-getting-alongness into Libertalia. To celebrate its decade anniversary, it’s now getting a spruced-up version from Stonemaier Games, complete with nicer tokens, new cards, and a move to the skies that’s riled up a few fans of the original.

But while the change in setting might be a lateral one, Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest is otherwise a perfect remake. The original game was worthy of appreciation; this one has the waxed timbers of a modern classic.

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Best Week 2021! Make Something!

I don’t mean to brag, but after nearly two years of a global pandemic, I’ve become something of a professional when it comes to keeping hold of my waning sanity. So what better categorization for the best board games of 2021 than the five pieces of advice that have kept me afloat?

Take today’s motif, for instance. Need to survive another lockdown? It’s easier if you make something with all that spare time. Model airplanes, a novel, stacks of newspapers bound in twine and arranged into a hoarder’s maze — it doesn’t matter what you make, just so long as you make it. Today is a celebration of the board games that let you do exactly that. These are the makers.

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Foucault in the Woodland, Part Two: All That Power

Foucault's theories about the power of the typically powerless are really about the stunning beauty of baldness.

Right when he thought he was out, Michel Foucault wandered straight back into the woodland. Silly Foucault. Something tells me it won’t be the last time.

Speaking of last times, in the first part of our series on the Foucauldian assumptions behind Cole Wehrle’s Root, we introduced the concept of biopower. The very short version is that the suits on the game’s cards and clearings might feel like mere components, but they really represent the majority population that’s the font of all power in the woodland. In order to win, every faction must use different methods to control and expend them.

But that’s going to have to wait. Today we’re talking about the big picture. What is the central conflict in Root, and what can we learn from it?

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Sheepy for GOTY

(help)

Come Halloween season, I’m always on the lookout for games of the scary variety. Something not only frightening, but filled with building tension and jump scares and moments that will have everyone gripping the edge of the table in apprehension. Something unexpected. Something that will stay with you.

This year, that game is absolutely Neil Kimball’s Sheepy Time.

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Musical Stakes

It was hard not to title this review "Take My Breath Away." Another candidate was "The Schleitheim Shuffle," but that seemed too niche.

I’ve been playing a game about Anabaptist martyrs getting burned at the stake. I’m resisting the urge to call John Ratigan’s Martyr: Bloody Theater 1528 “metal,” although it practically begs for the descriptor. The gilt artwork, paused somewhere between reverential and an iconoclast’s pasticcio. Its sole resource, your stolen final breaths. A transparent disc indicating the Holy Spirit, drifting among onlookers. Even the sweetish wood smoke smell of the Game Crafter’s laser cutter, like some theme park’s attempt at “four-dee” entertainment, slathered so thick with verisimilitude that it kicks down the sauna door on bad taste.

What is this thing? And why does it remind me, more than anything, of a prayer spoken in an unfamiliar tongue, clumsy and unaware and maybe even vaguely offensive, but so earnest that it demands a clemency of its own?

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Oaf

So far, the only identifiable characteristic of games by Leder is that they all have four-letter titles. Might I humbly recommend POOP for their next blockbuster?

Oath is Cole Wehrle’s most off-putting game yet. I mean that affectionately. I also don’t anticipate everybody will feel the same way. Riding high on the goodwill generated by Root and Pax Pamir — and dressed up in Kyle Ferrin’s affable illustrative style — this sure is a beaut for something Wehrle called a “hate letter” to the civilization genre. Would it be rude to accuse such an attractive package of false advertising? Because Oath is so determined to make its audience reconsider their assumptions that it sometimes feels like it’s asking too much.

Sometimes. The rest of the time, I’m glad it asks so much.

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