Ghosts of the Moop

man oh man i hope my blurry pics come across as spooky and not crummy please oh please

Ghosts of the Moor — or Moorgeister in the original German, which sounds like a bodily function run awry — is a dice game collaboratively designed by Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer. It isn’t an amazing dice game, nor is it a game I’d easily recommend.

That said, it is significantly better than I expected. As in, a whole lot. And there’s one key reasons why.

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An Unmitigated Disastle

The asteroid chunk has a volcano on it? Well, yes, you'll have some growing pains in your new home.

Some folks arrange castle chambers for fun, others arrange castle chambers because they’re about to be smashed to bits by random catastrophes. The people of Disastles — disaster castles, don’t you know — fall into the latter category.

What a peculiar game. Let’s talk about why.

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Barbarossa’s Last Swim

Ah yes, the medieval pastime of "balance your helmeted forehead atop your pommel." Games were different then.

I have a thing for controversial games. If board games can be art in addition to mere product — which is a point I would heatedly defend — then they can also say something about the world around us. National identity, history, aesthetics, social justice, cultural assumptions; it’s all up for grabs. A lot of the time a game will even tell us something without particularly meaning to. Sometimes that thing is even more telling than its actual message.

When I heard that Seth Jaffee’s Crusaders: They Will Be Done had sparked some minor controversy, with complaints ranging from the tone-deafness of its setting to racial insensitivity, I had to get a look. After all, my background is in religious history, up to and including the actual crusades. I’m practically obligated to have an opinion on such things. It’s as reflexive as noshing on potato chips if they happen to be sitting in front of me. Which is why, going in, my assumption was that I’d find the game’s mechanisms compelling but its history uninsightful.

Imagine my surprise when Crusaders tipped my assumption on its head.

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Joshua Buergel: On Storytelling in Games

Today we’re in for a special treat! Guest contributor Joshua Buergel, designer of The Fox in the Forest and Hocus, is here to talk about a difficult design topic — the limitations and possibilities of storytelling in board games. It’s something that’s been on my own mind for a while, so I’m eager to hear his take.

Joshua, you have the conn.

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Heroes of Land, Optimization & Chaos

siiiiiiiigh

My grandfather once told me that a good idea is about catching a spark, but good execution is about putting in the years. And while it’s possible this attitude is why ole granddad only accomplished two things in his entire life, I’m inclined to believe he was onto something. After all, there’s Heroes of Land, Air & Sea, which has a tremendous idea — a cardboard version of an old-school real-time strategy (RTS) game, complete with base-building, exploration, and heroes leading armies into battle! — it also so happens that it was executed… well, like this.

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Unda da Sea: A Look at Oceans

it me

To this day, Evolution — and in particular Evolution: Climate — remains one of those accessible games I’ll gladly recommend to nearly anybody. Family friendly, beautiful, fiercely competitive, and effortlessly illustrative of its namesake theory, it’s as easygoing or carnivorous as the people you’re playing with. Sometimes both at once.

But after three major iterations from North Star Games, the last thing I wanted was Evolution: Yet Again. Fortunately, their latest project, Oceans, understands its theme well enough to stay competitive. Which is why it transplants its predecessor’s core experiences — clever cardplay and an ever-shifting ecosystem — to not only beneath the waves, but also into an entirely new shape. And although this shift in DNA results in some castoffs along the way, this new form is fitter than ever.

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Book-Space! #9: A Darkling Sea

Wee Aquinas found this book chilly.

What’s the commonality between a frozen ice planet, a pastiche of the Prime Directive, and Brock forgetting to use the correct mic? The ninth episode of the Space-Biff! Book-Space!, of course! Join Brock, Summer, and Dan as we discuss A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias. Listen here or download here.

Next month, we’re talking about The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi.

In Defense of Monopoly

Look at that happy little shit. He's uplifting you, welcoming you into the moneyed class. And he has a cane and a hand of cards. And a top hat. The real protagonist of Mr. Robot.

Monopoly gets a bad rap. Recently, an amusing video by YouTube channel Actualol even featured a woman getting shot point-blank in the head for having the gall to recommend a pleasant evening of purchasing properties and driving someone bankrupt two hours before the actual conclusion of the game. A few short minutes at your friendly local game store will confirm the sentiment that Monopoly is this generation’s favorite target of oppression and bigotry.

But surely 275 million copies sold can’t be wrong. Fun fact: did you know Hasbro prints $30 billion in paper Monopoly money every year? That’s roughly what The Bezos earns every time you enable one-click purchases on Amazon, but less depressing. Which is why I’ve decided to stake my reputation on defending this wonderful game with seven reasons why it’s better than you remember.

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The Crisis Gets Lonely

Bet you couldn't tell I made this header on my own.

Given this hobby’s churn of new releases, it isn’t often that I get to stick with a single game long enough for an expansion to roll around. Wray Ferrell and Brad Johnson’s Time of Crisis is an exception, and has reappeared on my table regularly ever since its release nearly two years back.

Good thing I waited around, because The Age of Iron and Rust may be one of my favorite expansions, adding three modules that transform this into one of my absolute favorite deck-building hybrids — and a considerable solo offering to boot.

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Middara: Unintentional Apple

It's why "apple" is often associated with the devil's temptation of fruit from the Garden of Eden: malum, evil; malum, apple. It's a pun. Even way back then, they wouldn't shut up about puns. "Pardon the pun!" God said, slapping his knee at the Fall of Man.

At this point, there almost isn’t much to say about Middara that hasn’t been said about a hundred other games.

Four years since it funded on Kickstarter. Preposterous production values counterbalanced by preposterous quantities of miniatures and cards and words. Those words, bound up in a 480-page adventure book, weaving a tale that speaks much while saying little, despite being only the first act of something grander and longer-winded. A gorgeous aesthetic that will certainly leave some people questioning why this fantasy world’s women feel such a universal need to bare breasts and thighs, and others responding that bared manly muscles make all fair. A dice-heavy combat system that’s simultaneously expansive and that’s it?

It’s dungeon crawling as a microcosm. All the excesses and shortcomings and triumphs and stipulations of the genre, compressed — or, more accurately, expressed, expanded, blown outward — into the confines of a single box that could serve as the cartoon anvil in a real-life homicide. Even the title tells you something important. This isn’t Middara. This is Middara: Unintentional Malum: Act I.

Brace for impact.

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