Unknown is perhaps the most appropriately-titled board game of the past few years. Not only is it about uncovering the darkness of an underground bunker complex after a world-ending disaster, but it’s also relatively, well, unknown. And I aim to put an end to that. The last part, I mean.
Every so often — very rarely — Dan is wrong about a game. I know, it came as a surprise to him too. Which is why today we’re featuring a conversation between Dan and guest contributor Brock Poulsen. The topic: Warfighter by Dan Verssen Games. One for, one against. There can only be one with the correct opinion. Two men enter, one man is wrong.
You get the idea.
In Deep Space D-6, a solo dice game that wears its influences on its sleeve, my first victory came while helming the Halcyon. Time warps, space pirates, even the lure of cosmic existentialism and the dreaded Ouroboros station couldn’t stop me. Everything space had to throw at me, and I chewed it up and spat it right back in space’s pimply face. And it was only my first try.
I was dumbfounded. Was this it? Had I reached the edge of space so easily? Had I made some mistake? Was I even now trapped within the swaddled interior of cosmic existentialism itself, unwilling to see the boundaries of the dream?
The answer to all of these questions was no. I’d played correctly. I’d defeated space. But that was only aboard the Halcyon, the galactic equivalent of a bike with eight sets of training wheels trailing off its sides. The Athena Mk. II would not prove such a tender lover.
A couple hundred years before it would fall for good, the Roman Empire faced a half-century of panic and defeat. Internal competition had split the once-great state into three conflicting portions, barbarian invaders ransacked the countryside, and a series of plagues depopulated much of the continent. Even the emperors weren’t safe, as one after another they succumbed to assassination, disease, and battle, the average span of rule during this period amounting to a mere two years. Even their nickname, the “barracks emperors,” betrays the speed with which they were hauled out, crowned, and used up.
Saving the empire came down to four men. Diocletian, when he realized that the task of administrating the empire was too much for one person to handle, split his authority first with co-emperor Maximian, then Constantius and Galerius as junior emperors. Of course they ended up feuding later on — they were still Roman statesmen, after all — but for the time being, Diocletian’s tetrarchy was enough to save the empire from total collapse.
One of my favorite ways to spend a quiet hour is to look at old maps. The way ancient peoples framed their world is fascinating, familiar landmarks and settlements emphasized, the in-between and unknown stripped out, the important stuff always at the axis. One of my favorite examples is the Tabula Peutingeriana. The entire Roman Empire is represented, from the Atlantic Ocean to India, thousands of miles of highways presented in meticulous detail, her greatest cities — Rome, Constantinople, Antioch — dominating the landscape with titanic presence. This is a functional rather than a mythical map, as was more common in the medieval period. And yet there are gaps. Entire ranges of mountains appear as little more than hedgerows, distant China is listed simply as “Sera Major,” and the ends of the earth are listed as Hic Alexander responsum accepit usqi quo Alexander — the farthest point in Alexander the Great’s travels.
Odin Quest, one of the latest print-and-play solo titles from the ever-prolific Todd Sanders, evokes this sense of the unknown lurking just beyond the gaze of the civilized world. Here, the wild is ever nipping at the heels of all that has been tamed, and every truth bears the caught breath of an untold secret.
I can think of any number of reasons why someone might not get along with Hostage Negotiator. Principally, it may strike some as odd that a game where the word “negotiator” consists of fifty percent of its title should be solo game. Even odder still, that it should be a pretty darn good solo game.
I know a thing or two about pesky neighbors. So when Mr. Cabbagehead goes on holiday and Horace Savoy-Brassica from down the lane swipes an armful of prize-winning radishes right out of his garden, I can empathize. In fact, I empathize so fully that I may have even uttered some of the same phrases that saw use in my house when my neighbor petitioned to have speed bumps installed on our street. Phrases that include such words as “tarnation” and “sasquatch.” Apologies for the foul language.
It’s been far too long since I’ve highlighted anything from my favorite print-and-play designer, Todd Sanders, whose games are consistently interesting, easy on the eyes, and completely free, provided your local library doesn’t charge for printing. The trick is to bring your own card stock and perform the ol’ Thurot eyebrows dance. I’ve yet to meet an octogenarian whose heart won’t go sticky as molasses once my eyebrows have had their way. Mmhm.
Back on topic! Todd’s latest solo game is a ditty called The Court of Xiang Chi, about managing three different clans, navigating the intrigue of the court, and scoring as many points as possible. Oh, and also living in constant fear that those damnable Daemon Princes will show up and whisk away your ministers to serve the Daemon Court. Exactly like it happened in Real History.
Staying up to date with all of Todd Sanders’ projects is functionally impossible — for reference, he’s already finished four games in 2015 alone, and we’re only halfway through the year’s second month. But it’s been a long while since we examined anything by one of the most prolific creators of free print-and-play projects, which means it’s high time we dive back in. This time, the game in question is Do Not Forsake Me (Oh My Darling), one of the winners of the BoardGameGeek 18-Card Minigame Contest.
Yes, you read that right. 18 cards.
When you’re a force for righteousness like myself, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as driving a holy relic through the eye socket of a foul necromancer. Ah! The splash of his brain-ichor, cold and rancid, soaking the cuff of my tunic!
There are very few games that provide necromancer-slaying goodness quite so well as Darkest Night, one of my favorite solo and co-op games from last year. Its first expansion, With an Inner Light, which added the incentive of quests to get you roaming the map more and just hanging out in the mountains and forest less, was too.
So the question: are the two newest expansions for Darkest Night, On Shifting Winds and From the Abyss, as good as we’ve come to expect from Victory Point Games?