Author Archives: Dan Thurot

Best Week 2022! Mind’s Eye!

Gimmicks. Brinkmanship. Trauma. Tradency. Little by little, board games have been growing up, encompassing new ideas and new spheres of empathy and expression. This year, Best Week has been a celebration of that expansiveness. It’s a grand time to be pushing cardboard.

Sometimes, though, a game is about sussing out an opponent’s move before even they know what they’ll do. Playing 4D chess. Wheels within wheels within wheels. Today we turn our inner eye toward the exemplars that let you get into your loved ones’ heads.

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Best Week 2022! Corrective Tradency!

When it comes to the transmission of culture, board games are an uncommon medium. Partly literary, largely oral, and entirely ludic, we’ve yet to see many games leverage their particular strengths to communicate effectively. Every so often, though, one shows up: a game that uses its language of play to set the record straight.

Today is about the best titles of 2022 to act as tradents of culture and history, leaning on their unique advantages as playthings and tablebound artifacts to open a clearer window to the past.

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Best Week 2022! The Traumatics!

We are all broken. As board games grow more ambitious and tackle more mature topics, it’s inevitable that the traumas that are an inseparable part of life will receive treatments of their own. This is to be expected. Maybe it’s also to be expected that such games will be dour and full of halfheartedly ingurgitated meaning. What’s notable is when the games produced by this impulse are worthy of engagement. When they’re playable, interesting, thought-provoking, and yes, even my most despised curse word, when they’re “fun.”

Gah. I need to get that taste out of my mouth before it settles in for the night. So let’s talk about some board games. Today, we’re celebrating the best titles of 2022 about trauma, whether personal or systemic, hidden or overt. These are the traumatics.

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Best Week 2022! Seeking Thrills!

Press-your-luck. Brinkmanship. Good old-fashioned hassling. Whatever you call it, this past year featured a wealth of great games that were about seeing how far you could escalate a situation before it blew up in your face. Today, we’re celebrating our hobby’s thrill-seekers.

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Best Week 2022! Go Go Gimmick!

“Gimmick” doesn’t need to be a nasty word. When you get right down to it, a gimmick is something done to attract attention. Stretch that definition even the tiniest bit and you get nearly every board game ever made. Since that would result in far too long a list, today we’re examining the year’s games that used singular concepts to draw eyeballs — and won me over in the process.

Welcome, friends, to the first day of Best Week 2022.

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Lok Out!

Not included: worm things. Except as illustrations, that is.

A few months back, I found myself unexpectedly delighted by Blaž Gracar’s All Is Bomb, an 18-card microgame that felt ten times its size thanks to some serious puzzling and a bevy of expansions. Since then, I’ve been playing through one of Gracar’s puzzle books, the pocket-sized LOK.

And when I say “playing,” I mean “fumbling.” In a good way.

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In a Wooden Boat in the Shipping Lanes

BENJAMIN'S HEREEEEEE

Everybody’s racing to make the next half-hour CDG, both a testament to the staying power of Twilight Struggle and a play note that the thing had a tendency to drag on. The latest aspirant is Harold Buchanan’s Flashpoint: South China Sea. Buchanan, you might recall, is the designer Liberty or Death, the fifth volume in the lauded COIN Series, which for no specific reason remains the only volume I’ve never gotten around to writing about. South China Sea rather boldly, perhaps presumptuously, announces itself as volume one of the Flashpoint Series. It’s like the kids say: always be branding.

For what it’s worth, I do hope there’s a volume two. Although maybe not for the reasons one would expect.

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Gimmick’s Got Game

Dang, I love gray baddies. I could smite them all day.

I didn’t grow up playing many board games. In our household they fell into three camps. There were classic games like Risk and Monopoly, also known as “boring games.” There were the complicated multi-session games my friend Brent played, which required more investment than my periodic visits could provide. And there were demonic games, those that might rupture the fabric of reality like a turgorous pimple and allow the devil’s hordes to pour into our plane. These included ouija boards and face cards.

But then, in between episodes of Duck Tales, a commercial showed me something new. In vivid colors and a thespian’s voiceover, it boasted of something that was as much a mountain of plastic as it was a game. It was mechanized. It made sounds. Its turbulence was part of its gameplay. I had to have it.

That game was Forbidden Bridge. Its commercial was seared in my memory. That Christmas, it became my first encounter with gimmick-as-gameplay.

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Watching You Watching You Watching You

oh no it's a phobia I didn't know I had: clock face faces

When we talk about theme in games, we’re usually talking about the wallpaper. I’ve deadened plenty a pixel ranting on that point, which is perhaps why Daniel Newman’s Watch struck me with such force. Watch is a game about stealing office supplies. It’s almost irrelevant that these office supplies happen to be pocket watch parts and surplus WWII munitions. That it takes place on a literal clock face plunges it into the realm of fever dream. One doesn’t need to work in a Soviet factory to feel like a cog waiting to snap.

Now this is theme, adumbrated through a dozen minute details.

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Space-Cast! #24. Air, Land, & Snap

Wee Aquinas does not approve of AL&S's WW2 setting. His idea of warfare included more catapults.

Like everybody else, Jon Perry and Dan Thurot have been playing Marvel Snap. Unlike everybody else, Jon Perry has designed games such as Time Barons, Scape Goat, and — more relevantly — Air, Land, & Sea. Listen in as we discuss lane battlers, Marvel Snap, the perils of porting digital games to tabletop, and much more.

Listen over here or download here. Timestamps are after the jump.

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