“For once, you should fight a land war in Asia.”
That’s how I concluded my review of the first edition of Pax Pamir, Cole Wehrle’s razor-loaded take on imperialism and the Great Game. It promoted Phil Eklund’s Pax Porfiriana into the Pax Series, boggled a fair number of minds with its interlocking spheres of influence and enigmatic victory conditions, and — at the forefront of everybody’s minds, surely — was my top game of 2015.
Now Wehrle is crafting a second edition, one he hopes will be more accessible without becoming divisive the way, say, the second edition of A Study in Emerald was. Little hope of that, I’m afraid. This new edition is indeed more approachable, while recapturing much of the bite, intelligence, and adventure of the original. But fans of the first edition may not want to sell their copies just yet.
I’ve always liked dice games. Loved them, in fact. So why can’t I muster any enthusiasm for Ancient Artifacts?
Ralph Shelton’s Medieval, a reimplementation of Richard Berg’s Medieval, knows enough about Medieval life to understand that it was crummy, capricious, and lasted at least three centuries too long.
What neither Medieval understands is that none of these attributes are desirable in a game.
Root is mighty cool. I wrote as much last week. But that was before trying my hand at everything offered by its first expansion, Riverfolk. What follows are my thoughts on every last additional ingredient it tosses into Root’s already-potent stew of factions. Like so:
Card Holders: These are card holders. If you don’t know how you feel about card holders, then you don’t know anything at all.
Got it? Great. Let’s do this.
Villainous sports a killer hook. And that’s only half-intended as a pun. Yes, because Captain Hook is one of the game’s six villains. But also because each villain gets to do their own thing. Just because Maleficent wants to choke King Stefan’s fantasy kingdom with curses doesn’t diminish Hook’s vendetta against Peter Pan. Just because Ursula wants to crown herself queen of the sea doesn’t mean the Queen of Hearts wants to do anything but play croquet. There’s no universal metric of evil here.
Oh, except that only one villain can win. But that goes without saying.
In the second-ever episode of the Space-Biff! Book-Space!, Brock, Summer, and Dan read about physics conundrums, bad video games, and what happens when a convention of virtual reality nerds makes decisions for the rest of the world. That’s right, it’s The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015. You can listen to the discussion below or head over here for a download link.
Join us next month for a discussion of Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty. And shoot your thoughts over to email@example.com to hear them read aloud on an actual real-life podcast!
It isn’t often that the story behind a game is more interesting than the game itself. If you don’t believe me, try watching that documentary about Twilight Imperium.
Nyctophobia, though, is one of the few games that comes close. Created by Catherine Stippell as a way to include her blind uncle in the hobby — and possibly even grant him an advantage over those with functioning vision — Nyctophobia casts its players as teenagers fumbling through a darkened wood on a moonless night, navigating purely by touch as they scramble to rescue a friend who’s been bound as a vampire’s familiar.
As far as gimmicks go, donning blackout glasses is dang sexy. As a game? Well, let’s talk.
Every time an undergrad asks What if?, a history professor gets her tenure. Yet there’s an undeniable appeal to that question. What if Hitler had been shrewder about invading Russia? What if the United States had gone all-in on the Pacific rather than entering the European Theater? What if both Axis and Allied powers had teamed up to battle aliens? There’s no way to know, man.
Other than that last one, those are the questions at the heart of Cataclysm: A Second World War, Scott Muldoon and William Terdoslavich’s take on the devastating twentieth-century conflict. And they’re also the questions that arise approximately every two minutes while playing.
The cats are in charge. The noble birds are swooping from their roosts. A gathering of woodland smallfolk agitate in their holes and burrows, whispering, whispering. And a winsome raccoon packs his rucksack and sets out for adventure.
Adorable and ferocious in equal measure, Cole Wehrle’s Root is Redwall by way of A Distant Plain. And it’s both a total delight and the most accessible asymmetric experience Leder Games has produced thus far.
There’s something perfect about the eco-terrorist baddies of Mark Thomas and Pete Ruth’s SEAL Team Flix. Maybe it’s because they’re a throwback to Rainbow Six, a reminder of the tactical shooter’s spy thriller roots. Or maybe it’s because they’re threatening and preposterous in equal measure, a tightrope act between deadly serious and clowning silliness. Much like SEAL Team Flix itself, come to think of it.
Either way, ring the wedding bells and fetch the preacher, because I’m in love.