Author Archives: Dan Thurot

Abstracts Get Political: Paco Šako

This is the sort of header I'd expect from a watchmaking company.

Here on Abstracts Get Political, our primary interest is abstract games that make an ideological point despite being, well, abstract games. But we’ve always (both times) looked at games about injury and strife. Suffragetto loosed jiu-jitsu-ing suffragettes upon the police, while Guerrilla Checkers was about — you guessed it — the horrors of modern asymmetrical warfare. Where are the games that give peace a chance?

Look no further than Paco Šako. Even its name carries a message of harmony. After all, it’s Esperanto for “peace chess.” You don’t get much more peaceable than that.

Or do you?

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I Am Totes a Crook

With the aid of a cracked mirror, Nixon examines the inherent contradictions of personhood.

A game about investigating the President of the United States for obstruction of justice? How far-fetched.

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Book-Space! #12: Master of Sorrows

A destiny unfulfilled. A cursed missing arm. A teenager filled with angst. You've never read epic fantasy like this before. Maybe.

In our first swing at a truly massive epic fantasy, Brock, Summer, and Dan discuss how to name your weapon, whether Brock would amplify ableism in order to solve racism and sexism, and why you shouldn’t go steady with someone who’s been radicalized by YouTube. In other words, it’s Master of Sorrows by Justin Call! Listen here or download here.

Next month, join us as we read The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal!

Disclaimer: All three of us know Justin Call personally. He gave us a copy of his book. Just so you know, even though this isn’t really a review.

Hapless Mortals

Yeah, okay. You have my attention.

When it comes to blurbs, Campy Creatures knows how to pitch. You’re a mad scientist, see? Hoping to do eeeevil experiments, right? So your plan is to kidnap as many mortals as possible, m’kay? Except there are other mad scientists also capturing mortals, and they also have a similar roster of campy creatures doing their bidding, so you need to make sure your campy creatures outperform their campy creatures, ya dig?

Sure thing, Campy Creatures. I dig.

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Forward to the Past

With deepest apologies to Derek Yu for my intro joke. Spelunky is my most-played game ever. Don't hate me.

There’s an old adage I just made up about how you shouldn’t play a favorite designer’s games in reverse, as the process will only result in disappointment. After being totally smitten by Jon Perry’s Air, Land, & Sea, I was immediately drawn to his previous game, Time Barons. Perry co-created this one with Derek Yu, whose name you might recognize from I’m O.K., in which you murder and urinate on video game designers in order to poke fun at anti-game crusader and huckster attorney Jack Thompson. If only Yu’s lesser-known Spelunky had been his defining work instead.

Anyway. I’m happy to announce that my old adage isn’t worth beans. Time Barons rules. With some considerable provisos.

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Let’s Solve a Mystery (Wizard)

Ah, the interrobang, my old friend.

Have you heard of GMT Games’ P500 Program? Imagine Kickstarter before Kickstarter was a twinkle in its grandpappy’s eye. Every so often GMT releases a list of games, all of which are up for preorder. If a game gets enough orders — I’ll give you one guess how many — it goes into production and eventually springs forth fully-baked, minus errata and countersheet errors.

“Wait, wait,” I hear you saying. “Doesn’t GMT Games pretty much just do wargamey stuff? That header doesn’t look wargamey. Not even a little bit.”

Very astute of you to notice! That’s because Mystery Wizard, by Aiden Giuffre, Jackson Warley, and Zachary Eberhart is indeed the most incongruous thing to ever appear on GMT’s P500 list. Unsurprisingly for a publisher focused on entirely different fare, it’s hovering at a mere 300 orders. I’m here to tell you why that number should jump forward.

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Flick That Fleet

I decided against my original title. For one thing, it sounded like I didn't like the game. For another, dropping the f-bomb in a game review strikes me as ungraceful.

Every so often a game fully realizes the dual promise and limitations of Kickstarter. Ambitious, but not overly so. Weird, in that there isn’t anything quite like it. Underbaked, in that it never really received much of a look from anyone outside of the project, at least nobody whose actual job is to advise why certain elements needed extra polish. Visionary, because the game’s creators might have ignored such advice had it been given in the first place.

Jackson Pope and Paul Willcox’s FlickFleet is that game. And I’m smitten.

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Park Yourself Down

Say it with me: d'awww

My favorite moment in Parks is when I decided to collect only the parks I’ve actually visited. Turns out, I’ve been to a lot of national parks. My family was like that: big SUV, too-small travel trailer, a desire to “rough it” without nailing down a single tent peg. So I quit picking the easiest of Parks’ parks and started grabbing only those I recognized from personal experience. My home state alone permitted a wide array — Arches, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion. Farther afield I grabbed Mesa Verde, Yellowstone, Badlands, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Haleakalā. Not enough that it was easy. Just enough to provide a challenge.

If it sounds like I’m damning Parks with faint praise, you’re darn tootin’.

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Shadows of Malic and Tannin

take that, shadow. i think.

Longtime followers of Space-Biff! will know that I have a thing for Jim Felli. His designs are weird, wild, and so unlike everything else that “unique” is an understatement. Shadows of Malice was Jim’s first design to see publication. Now it’s getting a second printing. And if I assigned scores, it would land squarely on either a nine or a five.

Let’s talk about that gap.

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Satyagraha: The Board Game

For some reason I really like the shade of tan they use on this box.

The ninth volume of the long-running COIN Series, Bruce Mansfield’s Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, steps into a setting that likely needs no introduction. What may need clarification is the ways in which it stands apart from the remainder of the series — and how it remains locked in orbit.

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