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Teensy Towns

note: no mice included

I’m not sure there’s a title that makes my eyelids droop more than Tiny Towns. The back of the box only deepens my fatigue. Colorful cubes, check. Little woodcut buildings, cute. A blank 4×4 grid for each player, groan. Pastoral scenes of golden farms and thatched granaries and unkempt almshouses — credit where it’s due, there’s a cure for insomnia here.

But as Socrates said, “Don’t judge a scroll by the gross animal veins in its parchment.” So too it is with Tiny Towns. Although this isn’t the sort of game that gets my heart pounding, it’s no soporific.

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Round the Ragged Rondels

Buckle up for some [insert vague setting] action!

What’s a rondel? Good question, Geoff. A rondel is usually circular, but not always. It can also be ovaloid. Perhaps an ellipse, if you want to evoke a space theme. Certainly Scorpius Freighter wants to dazzle you with its space theme. You’re a smuggler, it shouts, so go smuggle! Avoid patrols! Buy upgrades! Make sales! Don’t pay attention to how badly we’re abusing these rondels!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Down below, I’ll explain what a rondel is and talk about Scorpius Freighter. Bonus!

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Chesty Puller

This is what I call my upper torso.

There aren’t many games that wouldn’t be improved by the presence of clickety-clackety, oh-so-tactile, heavy-as-depleted-uranium poker chips.

Then there are games that already have poker chips and pretty much feel like they’re bribing you into liking them more.

Try to guess which type of game War Chest is.

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As Alone as a Unicorn Horn

Score: 8/10. Title Score: 3/10.

In recent news, scientists have determined that the worst thing in the world of video games is the escort mission. You know what I’m talking about. For whatever reason, mission command has given you the task of guiding a brain-dead moron from one spot to another, without the necessary equipment or manpower, along a route known to be infested with enemies who have a fanatical hatred of the person or vehicle in your charge.

Unicornus Knights is a two-hour-long escort mission. With her kingdom recently annexed by the neighboring empire, Princess Cornelia has decided to inspire an uprising, march straight across the countryside, and win back her tenuous ancestral claim to other people’s labor. Unlike some of her lesser peers, she’s unperturbed by questions of practicality. How will she keep the troops fed? Trounce the petty tyrants standing between her and the capital? Marshal her troops in battle? It’s safe to say that she really has no idea. Birthright, maybe.

That’s where you come in. As one of the Princess’s trusty knights, it’s your job to — well, to do everything the Princess is too important to do. Like prevent her from suicide-marching straight into an unwinnable fight.

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Vale of Transparency

Why are druids such a popular board game topic? Druids are lame.

The land is rotten: the grass brown and brittle, the trees bare and splintered, the fields less fertile than ever before. Unseemly dog-swirls mar the once-spotless walking paths. As one of the druid clans of the Valley of Life, it is your duty to cleanse the land by—

—building decks and playing blackjack, mostly. Sort of. Mostly.

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Valley of Green Mystery Fury (2nd Ed.)

Lookin' slim, second editions.

As those who know me can attest, I abhor repeating myself. Which is why I can’t even begin to fathom doing individual reviews of all the new editions, deluxe boxes, and standalone expansions appearing on shelves this time of year. Thus, rather than subject myself (and you) to a plodding second refrain of things I’ve already covered in the past, what follows is a breakdown of six excellent new versions of older games. Take a look.

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A Fistful of Ghost Rock

I *just* realized she's using a shotgun. Huh. I kept thinking it was a .30-30 Winchester for some reason.

Today my Personal Journey for a tournament-style card game continues with Doomtown: Reloaded, which immediately delivers a swift kick to the head by being based on that most sunset-tinged of genres, the Western.

Ah, the Western.

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Come Sail Away (to India)

I like to read this in the imperative. Spices up my life.

You know what we take for granted? Nutmeg. We’re eating a bowl of spaghetti, it’s kind of bland, and we just shake a bunch of nutmeg over that sucker like it’s nothing.

To the Portuguese explorers of the 15th century, we eat like kings. Better than kings, because those kings could hardly get their royal mitts on any nutmeg at all. See, they were cut off from their lucrative nutmeg trade after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, and suddenly there’s no nutmeg for anyone.

Nutmeg. Nutmeg nutmeg. It’s a nonsense word.

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Valley of the Blings

It's apparently Egypt Week here at Space-Biff!

If I had to pick any two things that strike me as faintly outdated, it would be the funerary customs of Ancient Egypt and pure deck-building games. Probably the first more than the last.

Valley of the Kings from AEG is blend of both, casting you as a pharaoh employing the magical powers of deck-building to fill his final resting place to the brim with enough grave goods to ensure a resplendent jaunt through immortality. Which raises the question: is this commingling of the elderly a positive one, or entirely unholy?

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Let’s Smash “Smash Up” Up

This even manages to topple the previous winner of the Best Mash-Up Box Art Award: Small World.

If a box image could sell a game, Smash Up would break sales records.

Ever since prehistoric man daydreamed of riding mastodons to victory over the mighty brontosaurus, there’s been something wonderful and endearing about our crossover fantasies. Fast forward a billion years, and we’ve got Star Trek versus Star Wars, DC versus Marvel versus Capcom, Disney versus Final Fantasy. Children bicker endlessly in “Who would win between…” conversations. Fans gossip about cameos and write reams of bad fiction about romantic meetups between their favorite characters. Even my childhood playtime was dominated by the US Army and G.I. Joes defending the Alamo against the faceless hordes of the LEGO axis. It’s as natural as falling in love with television characters, really.

And that’s what the board game Smash Up is all about — merging two disparate factions into a bizarre alliance and pitting them in a race to overwhelm neutral bases before your opponents do. That means leading an army of leprechaun ninjas in their conquest of the isle of Tortuga, or getting back at the self-righteous dopes at the School of Wizardry with laser-saddled stegosauruses and shambling zombies. Like many crossovers, it’s a fun concept — but does it work? Find out after the jump.

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