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I know an uncanny amount about divination. Not because I believe in the stuff, mind you. It comes up a lot in my work, both as a practice in ancient religion and as a prominent branch in the history of board games.
So when Chris Chan’s Portents first hit my table, I was fascinated to learn which type of cleromancy it would use. Drawing Roman sortes? The knucklebones and dice oracles of astragalomancy? The fateful archery competitions of belomancy? We haven’t even touched upon the really cool ones. Maybe Portents would let us manipulate shards of coconut, or pour molten metal into water and examine the resultant shape’s shadow, or undertake bean magic. Yes, bean magic. Favomancy. It’s shocking how many forms of geomancy used beans. The possibilities for gamification are endless.
Turns out, Portents is about haruspicy via bird parts. And while any self-respecting haruspex would immediately note that it uses the wrong organs, never fear: this one is about fraudsters trying to out-divine one another.
I suffer from panic attacks and poor health.
How’s that for an opener? I’m normally reserved about sharing personal details like that. But there it is: I’ve suffered from health complications my entire life, a handful of which have necessitated serious corrective surgeries and lengthy periods of recovery. Heading Forward, the solitaire game designed by John du Bois, makes sharing those details easier, or at least less frightening. Maybe those are the same thing. Empathy isn’t the first emotion I would expect to feel when playing a board game, but this demonstrates exactly how to express something deeply personal via a handful of cards and some punchboard spoons.
Best Week 2021! The Index!
We made it! Another year, another buncha board games, another Best Week. Below the jump, you’ll find images linking to every day of this hallowed event. May it keep you occupied while I take a week off. And while our parting is sweet sorrow, rest assured—
Space-Biff! will return.
Absentee Civilizations of the Inner Sea
Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea reads like a list of things that should appeal to me. Civilizations, check. Ancient civilizations, even bigger check. But abstract! Checkity-checkmate. Interactive, chaotic, punitive, not obsessed with technology as the sole motivator of human progress. That isn’t the distant rattle of a machine gun you hear. That’s me saying “check” so fast my jaw aches.
So why is this one of my least-favorite civilization games? I’ve narrowed it down to three reasons.
That Game Came From the Moon
I picked up Moon Base on the aesthetic alone. It was the rings that persuaded me. Three colors and two sizes, countless at a glance. Were they metal? Plastic? No, wood, with that smokey scent once reserved for laser-cut games in cheap pizza boxes. An odor that will likely never grace the moon, and already it’s what I associate with lunar colonization.
But here’s the big surprise: Moon Base is far more than a pretty face.
Not a Single Hermit in Sight
The first thing you notice about Hermetica is its crisp, unadorned aesthetic. Okay, that’s the second thing. The real first thing is its rectangular box, unlikely to fit neatly on even an obsessive organizer’s shelf. Then you peek inside. The springy mat, the suitably blank hexagonal pillars, the bright penny gem pieces glinting sharply against the grayscale landscape — evocative of a field of ash, perhaps, or the formless realm of thought, awaiting a kindling spark. For an abstract game, Hermetica sure knows how to pick a suit.
Then you notice something else. But that’s going to require more of an explanation.
The GenConmen, 2017: Secrets
The third day of Gen Con was pretty much just full of secrets. I’d tell you about them, but, well, that sort of undermines the whole “secret” aspect. Further worsening matters, anything provided by publishers for review was probably something I didn’t actually play at the convention — that’s for later, you know — which makes this the least-worthwhile Gen Con report of all time.
So, hey, enjoy the few things I can write about!
Magnates, How Do They Work?
There’s nothing quite so good that’s quite as bad for you as fast food. Food Chain Magnate gets this. Want to sell crummy burgers at $9 a pop, plus some watery lemonade for $15 a glass? Just call them deluxe and you’re set. Slap up a billboard, talk about how cheesy your pizza is on the radio, and they will come. Heaven help them, they will come. Tomorrow, they’ll be slobbering for more.
I reviewed the underrated Infiltration here on Space-Biff! a while back, celebrating the game’s neon-washed setting, tense press-your-luck gameplay, and low barrier of entry. Then I apparently forgot all about it, because I reviewed it again this week over at the Review Corner.
It doesn’t matter which of those links you clink, just so long as you click one of them, because Infiltration is the second-best game set in the Android universe. Such a pity nobody ever remembers it exists.
Space-Biff! vs. Three Years
If what I’m reading in these childhood development manuals holds true, then this is the year that Space-Biff! becomes truly annoying. Mostly by throwing tantrums in public and insisting it can put on its own pajamas, it can it can it can! *stomp stomp stomp* … (fails miserably at putting on its own pajamas).
Anyway, it’s fun looking back. But even more fun looking forwards! Thanks everyone who actually reads this nonsense, and here’s to three years!