Blog Archives

Gussy Galore

I have been informed that gorillas are apes, not monkeys, despite being housed at my local zoo's monkey house. I will write a sternly worded letter as soon as I'm finished here.

Gussy Gorillas calls itself a negotiation game. That might be a function of marketing. Please note, that isn’t the same as calling it false advertising. True to its word, it features both trading and negotiating. Further, it’s double-billed with Zoo Vadis, the Reiner Knizia negotiation game we examined last week. They’ll appear together on Kickstarter later this month, less an Abbott and Costello pairing than, I dunno, Abbott and Franz Liszt.

Maybe you can see what I’m getting at. Side by side, there’s very little connective tissue between Zoo Vadis and Gussy Gorillas. Unlike its sister title, this is a negotiation game the way chimps with typewriters are Shakespeare. Not nearly as elegant or timeless, but much louder and messier, and, depending on the day (and the theater troupe), more interesting to watch. That’s because Gussy Gorillas isn’t really about negotiation. It belongs to that most cacophonic genre, the “hollering game.”

Read the rest of this entry

Quo Vadis, Zoo Vadis?

Let's see if I can write this thing without explaining any Latin, detailing any apocryphal early Christian texts, or bogging down in the remake's horrific realization that animals are far more sentient than our palates would prefer.

I’ve never played Quo Vadis?, Reiner Knizia’s long out-of-print cult title that, to my great surprise, is not actually about Jesus appearing to Peter on the Appian Way to egg him into martyrdom. Instead, it’s a catty perspective on the Roman cursus honorum. Way to commingle your Latin references, Doc.

Here’s the thing. I might have teased Quo Vadis? back in the ’90s. I might have even chuckled at the game’s new setting. But this remake is so pristinely crafted, so sharp in its social undertaking, that I really can’t do anything other than bask in its warmth. I love it when a good game gets a second chance. Even better when its second go-round is superior to the first. To commingle some references of my own: It is risen.

Read the rest of this entry

Happy Trails to You

That's a tree!

Ryan Courtney tends to design games that I want to like more than I actually do. Pipeline was good for a few sessions before it began to feel solved. Curious Cargo was curiously burdened by confounding scoring. In both cases, these were games about arranging curlicue routes from a pile of mismatched tiles, except the routes themselves played second fiddle to underwhelming bookends.

But then there’s Trailblazers, Courtney’s upcoming title that should hit Kickstarter next month. I have a bit of a thing for Trailblazers. Probably because the routes are finally front and center where they belong.

Read the rest of this entry

Criminal Capers: Hot Lead

This elephant's backstory includes turning the tide on a band of poachers, a watering hole filled with Jack Daniels, and a precinct captain who's had it UP TO HERE with Detective Tusk's hardboiled antics.

Another day, another entry in Reiner Knizia’s Criminal Capers trilogy. After enjoying Soda Smugglers and Pumafiosi — both with caveats — it’s time to ask the big questions about Hot Lead.

Question one: Why is this the best title in the whole trilogy?

Question two: Is it “hot lead” like bullets? Or “hot lead” like a tangent you pursue? Or both?

Read the rest of this entry

Criminal Capers: Pumafiosi

Awww. Look at that wrinkly little don.

Today, Criminal Capers takes on the mafia. The puma mafia. The pumafia.

Dr. Knizia, you’re a master game designer. Surely you know the value of expertise. So maybe leave the puns to the punfessionals?

Okay, okay. The bones of Pumafiosi are based on Knizia’s own Rooster Booster, which wasn’t exactly the best-received of the good doctor’s catalog. Good thing, then, that Pumafiosi is only partly a remake. This one has layers.

Read the rest of this entry

Criminal Capers: Soda Smugglers

I really dig Halkyon's style.

Sometimes, a little Reiner Knizia is exactly what we need. Emphasis on the “little.” That’s the goal of Criminal Capers, a trilogy of digestible titles designed by the good doctor, illustrated by Paul Halkyon, and published by Bitewing Games via Kickstarter sometime next month.

First up, Soda Smugglers.

Read the rest of this entry