An Old Game About the New Thing

This image makes me hungry.

Modern Art is about so much more than just modern art. Oh, it’s about that too, and CMON’s latest edition of Reiner Knizia’s 1992 classic is lavishly produced with work by genuine artists, each with their own distinctive style that makes the identifying colors on each piece’s header almost unnecessary. Does it matter that Rafael Silveira is the orange artist when his portraiture is so unsettling? Or that Ramon Martins is designated by green when he has such a slick take on Asian traditionalism?

Maybe. Especially when Martins defies his oeuvre with something from left field. That’s the thing about Modern Art. It’s a game about maybes and could-have-beens and taste-making and guessing the value of a thing before it’s a Thing.

It also happens to be a sublime merger of play and theme.

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Playing Forever with Charterstone

See that ominous cloud? That's the realization that your six sessions mean you're only HALF DONE with a legacy game. A *short* legacy game.

Even though it remains a fledgling subgenre, I think I can safely anoint myself a legacy game veteran. I’ve played ’em all. Like, all of them. Basically, I’m sick of legacy mechanisms at this point. The sole upside is that my time in the trenches has endowed me with Opinions.

The first commandment of legacy games is simple. No, I mean that literally: the first commandment is simple. Be thou simple. If possible, build on something that was already there. Which is why Risk Legacy and Pandemic Legacy were so breezy to learn, while SeaFall was one learning game after another until you gave up and played its hidden game, which was opening all the boxes early and laughing with wild abandon while you sorted the pieces into recyclables and garbage.

Charterstone is the simplest of them all. And when you get right down to it, it’s the legacy game that I’ve enjoyed the most.

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A Study in Squamous: A Look at AuZtralia


AuZtralia is not a zombie game, despite that big blocky Z in the middle of its title. Rather, it’s something far better: a sequel to Martin Wallace’s near-perfect A Study in Emerald. Or, fine, perhaps a sequel to that game’s inferior second edition.

Do your utmost to keep pace: After the extraterrestrial Great Old Ones conquered the world back in the 12th century, the restorationists — the plucky rebels under the leadership of Sherlock Holmes and Emma “Grumpface” Goldman — eventually tossed bundles of dynamite into all the right carriages, leading to regime turnover in 1888. Now humanity is venturing out into the portions of the world that were hitherto off-limits, and have discovered a fresh continent ripe for colonization. Except, uh oh, it turns out the Old Ones never fled Earth, instead taking refuge in the Outback of Australia. Now the allied nations of humanity must expand across the continent, employing modern armies to blast Old Ones and their thralls, including, yes, the occasional zombie horde.

And how will they go about this expansion? By rail, of course.

No. Oh no. Trains. My most ancient nemesis. Dammit.

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Dinosaur Island, Uh, Finds a Way

Jur-acid Park

There’s an undeniable allure to the prospect of running your own dinosaur park, sure. Electrified paddocks packed with jumping velociraptors, automated cars humming past jungle exhibits, the occasional goat bleating its location to a beverage-rippling T-rex.

But right away, Dinosaur Island makes one crucial misstep that sends it hurtling into a ravine filled with hungry compsognathus. Because you see, it’s not merely that we want to operate a dinosaur park. It’s that we want to operate a dinosaur park while it’s teetering on the edge of full-blown chaos theory meltdown.

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One Raven Two Raven Three Raven Four

"Roses are for wimps," the skull clattered.

While Grant Rodiek is possibly best known for Cry Havoc, it’s his smaller games that stand out as the purest expression of his design ethos. With offerings like Hocus and Solstice — the latter of which was one of the most devious games of last year — Rodiek seems determined to present slick, carefully tested, and, perhaps most importantly, interesting games, often with a footprint smaller than an actual footprint.

Enter Five Ravens. This is Rodiek’s newest game, and it’s easily one of his best yet.

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Best Week 2017: The Index!

There are no least-favorite things about this!

It’s with a note of sadness that Space-Biff! Best Week! comes to another close. For all its turbulence, 2017 was a grand year when it came to cardboard, and after the jump you’ll find every day of bests, compiled into one location for easy access. Just click a pic and internet magic will whirl you away to the corresponding list.

See you in 2018.

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Best Week 2017: The Devious!

Least-Favorite Thing: Having to do this least-favorite thing every day of Best Week 2017.

Not every game is as it first appears. Today is about them. These are the pleasant surprises, the ear-worms, and the ones that smile right before slugging you in the nose.

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Best Week 2017: The Erudite!

Next year I'll find a new shtick. For now, though, every alt-text will feature my LEAST-FAVORITE THING about that game.

Everybody loves smart people. Especially smart people. Perhaps only smart people.

Today we’re looking hard at the best games of 2017 that have something to say, are too smart for their own good, or would like to see you walk away from a gaming session feeling a little bit more enlightened than you were going in.

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Best Week 2017: The Humorous!

Least-Favorite Things, I got 'em.

Everyone wants to laugh. Everyone. Even ancient cat ladies. Even the guy bagging your groceries. Even you, when you’re bagging groceries while contemplating adding another cat to your menagerie.

Which is why today we’re celebrating the year’s funniest, silliest, most whimsical, and most delightful games.

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Best Week 2017: The Elegant!

As before, each pic will feature my Least Favorite Thing about that game. It's an easy way to do alt-texts, basically.

Fun fact: Nine out of ten oceangoing pirates read Space-Biff! Best Week! It’s true.

Perhaps it’s because pirates appreciate simple games that yield hidden depth. If so, today is the day for them, because we’re looking at the eight best elegant games of the year. These are the ones that are simple to learn yet hard to master, or simply ingenious, or just downright simple.

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