Author Archives: The Innocent

Stuck in An Infamous Traffic

I didn't even notice that the boat was the I until now, but now that I've seen it, it just looks silly to me.

Every time I’ve taught a group of friends how to play An Infamous Traffic, Cole Wehrle’s sophomore design and a sort of thematic follow-up to his astounding Pax Pamir, we reach a point where someone lets a nervous chuckle slip out. After explaining our role as British opium sellers, forcing our product on a nation whose authorities would very much rather we leave them alone, I begin describing the game’s take on supply and demand. We’re the supply, crates of dried poppy latex from India bumping around the holds of our ships. And the demand? Well, we’re that too. By inserting smugglers and missionaries into the workings of the Qing Dynasty, we spread the word and create an enthusiastic population of buyers.

It’s the missionaries that do it. Where I live in the heart of Zion — Mormon country to outsiders — a large quantity of young men and women serve eighteen-month to two-year church missions. For the most part, these are well-meaning acts of service and devotion. Those obnoxious pairs who knock on your door and smile a little too wide? That’s them. They’re also the ones mending fences, working in care centers, and going caroling in August. To that service-oriented mindset, the idea of peddling an addictive substance — other than the opiate of the masses, depending on your perspective on the matter — is nothing short of appalling.

An Infamous Traffic is a game with a lot on its mind. And one of those things is that certain trades pollute everything they touch, no matter how well-intentioned the people engaged in it.

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Scrolls Have Never Looked More Obsolete

Oooh, a game about a codex! A portion of my education revolves around the way the history of writing traces from scrolls to wax tablets to codices, and how it might have been Julius Caesar himself who first bound papyrus into a notebook-style codex, or how— ... oh, it's a game about dueling wizards.

Whether it was the first-century legend of Si-Osire saving Egypt from an Ethiopian magician or Ajani Goldmane whomping on Jace Beleren (confession: I had to look up those last two names), wizards with twenty hit points have been throwing down since hit points were wearing cloth diapers. And so it shall be again and forever, all this has happened before and will happen again, the wheel has turned once more, et cetera.

In some ways, Codex is no different. Sure, victory means razing the enemy base rather than pummeling a wizard, but one only has to spend about five minutes in its presence before realizing that this is yet another take on those irascible Dueling Wizards. That’s five minutes if you’re a bit slow. Everyone else will note the similarities in under forty seconds.

And yet, Codex is one of the most wonderfully slick games I’ve played all year. Nothing about it is strictly new, but every last brass button has been polished to perfection. And in this case, it’s all about tempo. Tempo, tempo, tempo. Say it until it means nothing. Only then will it mean anything again. Tempo.

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The Space-Biff! Space-Cast! Episode #6: Vast Asymmetries

Warning: Patrick says the shit word at one point, but is otherwise the very model of a modern major general.

In the November 2016 episode of the Space-Biff! Space-Cast!, join Dan Thurot and Brock Poulsen in a discussion about asymmetry in games, fluctuating mic levels, and Vast: The Crystal Caverns with the game’s developer and producer, Patrick Leder!

As a sidenote, Vast: The Crystal Caverns is currently on Kickstarter for its second printing, and will fund until December 18th. You can find all the details over here.

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The Great Game Plus

Sigh, yes, the only way I could get this to look remotely okay was by taking out the texture on the left. I am the worst.

In more ways than one, Pax Pamir is essentially my Platonic Ideal of a board game. It was even my favorite game of 2015. It’s deep and multifaceted, yet lean. Political, but careful to prevent alliances from lasting more than a few moments. Mean, but… well, it’s mean. That’s a good thing. Victory in Pax Pamir nearly always meant you had stripped everyone else’s aspirations of ruling Afghanistan to the bone, one assassination and taxation and military campaign at a time. Ruthless.

And from now on, I’ll never again play Pax Pamir without its expansion, Khyber Knives. Let me tell you why.

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Bloodborne: The Low-Tech Port

Hemorrhagic Fever: The Card Game

I’ve never played Bloodborne, at least not the original PlayStation 4 version. So whether the card game by Eric Lang is a faithful port, I can’t say. Is the original a press-your-luck affair where you kill monsters for their body parts and get to be a dick to your friends, though never worse than, say, a medium dick? Then sure, maybe.

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Sini in Reverse

Since the side just says INIS, it really does look like SINI a lot of the time. And then I get excited, because I have a new game called SINI that I haven't even looked at yet.

The best things about Inis have almost nothing to do with its Celtic-Irish mythology. Almost. Much like how the best things about Cyclades and Kemet — both of which are also dudes-on-a-map games from Matagot — have almost nothing to do with their Greek or Egyptian mythologies.

In fact, at first glance Inis doesn’t seem like your usual dudes-on-a-map affair at all. It’s got dudes, sure. And a map. And the dudes are on the map. But when it comes right down to it, this is a game about king-making that features a whole lot of actual king-making. And in this rare case, that’s a great thing.

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Wet Ocean, Dry Erase

I'm getting a total Rayman vibe from this for some reason.

What happens when Small Box Games ditches the small boxes entirely? Probably something like Akua, John Clowdus’s first foray into the silicone polymer-reeking world of dry erase games. It comes on only two sheets, one for the board and another to explain the game, and even trusts that you’ll have a few different colors of dry erase markers sitting in a drawer somewhere.

And yet, for all its sparsity of components, Akua is anything but straightforward.

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Neither Merchants Nor Marauders

I'm never going to trust any box that includes the word

Merchants & Marauders was a great big sandbox of fun. It fully embraced the go-anywhere, do-anything joy of life as a sea captain. Did you want to quietly sail between ports, getting rich on clever trades? Fine, fine. Or did you want to make enemies of the Spanish, tackle a treasure galleon, and raid everyone down to their piratical pantaloons? Even better.

Merchants & Marauders: Broadsides is not that.

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Two Minds about Warfighter

Don't smile. Don't show your eyes. Nothing to betray that this is anything less than serious WAR.

Every so often — very rarely — Dan is wrong about a game. I know, it came as a surprise to him too. Which is why today we’re featuring a conversation between Dan and guest contributor Brock Poulsen. The topic: Warfighter by Dan Verssen Games. One for, one against. There can only be one with the correct opinion. Two men enter, one man is wrong.

You get the idea.

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Exceedingly Excellent

At least they're having fun with it.

BattleCON is one of my favorite game systems. Ever. If I were to compile a Top Ten list — which I haven’t and probably won’t, so don’t ask — then Devastation of Indines would almost undoubtedly be right near the top. It’s incredible.

Perhaps for that reason, Exceed almost goes out of its way to look like a pretender to the throne. Or is that an usurper of the throne? Either way, D. Brad Talton Jr.’s other fighting-game simulator seems intended to sit quietly alongside its predecessor despite looking so similar that the cards might have been swapped at birth. Exceed bills itself as a lighter alternative to the cerebral brain-crunching and jaw-busting fun of BattleCON, right down to the fact that it ships in smaller, more affordable boxes. Whether it’s better, on the other hand, is the tougher call. So tough that I’ve had my hands on a review copy for about nine months and haven’t yet come out and said it.

Well, I’m saying it now: Exceed is better than BattleCON. And yet it isn’t something I feel I can wholeheartedly recommend. How’s that for a quandary?

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