Blog Archives

The Rival Punworks

Now do Rival Streaming Services!

Hello. How do you feel about puns? Your answer may well determine how you feel about The Rival Networks, Gil Hova’s latest game — and a minor Hova all around.

Read the rest of this entry

Classical Legends, Legendary Classics

My reaction every time I look at these covers: "Ah, yes, Romans, and look, Celts! That bug-headed dude might be Greek. Is that a Scythian? Mauryan Empire, represent! And... wait, A FISH PERSON!?"

A few years back, I took part in an impromptu discussion on how a civilization game might model the will of the people. The issue arose thanks to a question that’s always nagged at me: while civilization games usually cast the player as a near-absolute sovereign, what happens when their subjects diverge from the sovereign’s directives? It isn’t uncommon for soldiers to grow sick of war, farmers weary of farming, pioneers with the treaties that mark where they’re permitted to settle. Revolution and reform are as inherent to civilization as technology or warfare. So why is it that they’re so often rounded down to negative modifiers?

Imperium: Classics and Imperium: Legends, twin titles designed by Nigel Buckle and Dávid Turczi and published by Osprey Games, have an answer.

Read the rest of this entry

Hellenica Handbasket

Armor Guy: "Let's play Hellenica!" Volcano God: "Dooooon't."

Civilization games face a particular conundrum. It’s a small thing, even a niggle. I wouldn’t even describe it as solvable. It’s just there, always putting up a fight, demanding a reckoning from designers and forbearance from players. Hardly fair that it always pops to mind when I sit down to play one of these things.

That conundrum is movement. Literally, how your units move across the map. To use it as a metaphor to describe Scott DeMers’ Hellenica, imagine an ancient army departing their city-state, well-provisioned and suitably optimistic, supported by baggage trains and ships and combined arms and allies, only to falter exactly one step short of capturing the city of their oldest rival.

Read the rest of this entry

Two Minds About Warp’s Edge

Rejected article title: Edging the Warp.

They said it couldn’t be done. They never believed that Dan and Brock could reunite, after some 600 days, and write another Two Minds. But at long last, we’ve done it. This time, we’re discussing Warp’s Edge by designer Scott Almes and Renegade Games. It’s a tidy little box that will have you dog-fighting in zero gravity at practically the speed of light. But will the g-forces nauseate you?

Dan: Yes. I’m actually very susceptible to even slight changes in velocity. I’ve always struggled with carsickness. One time at Disneyland, I ate a turkey leg right before Space Mountain, and—

Brock: As much as I’ve missed our nausea chats (and I really, truly have), let’s try to keep things on track.

Read the rest of this entry

Red Diminishing


It’s the dystopian future and a group of attractive youngsters are the only ones who can stick it to the system. How very Young Adult! If you haven’t heard of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series, don’t worry, neither had I. Nor is any knowledge of the series necessary to play Jamey Stegmaier’s cardboard adaptation. Although that’s largely because this adaptation is more about professional networking than overthrowing the ruling class.

Read the rest of this entry


So far, the only identifiable characteristic of games by Leder is that they all have four-letter titles. Might I humbly recommend POOP for their next blockbuster?

Oath is Cole Wehrle’s most off-putting game yet. I mean that affectionately. I also don’t anticipate everybody will feel the same way. Riding high on the goodwill generated by Root and Pax Pamir — and dressed up in Kyle Ferrin’s affable illustrative style — this sure is a beaut for something Wehrle called a “hate letter” to the civilization genre. Would it be rude to accuse such an attractive package of false advertising? Because Oath is so determined to make its audience reconsider their assumptions that it sometimes feels like it’s asking too much.

Sometimes. The rest of the time, I’m glad it asks so much.

Read the rest of this entry

Evacuate, Wipe, Flush

I mean, you can see what seems to be a poop right there.

I’ve been holding this in for too long and now I need to let it out in a rush.

Read the rest of this entry

Wakey Wakey, Gods and Bakey

This is not how my handwriting looks.

Narrative board games — now there’s a phrase that’ll get me yammering. There’s no quicker way to make my eyelids droop than by forcing me to read a middling Young Adult novel in between rounds of combat. There are exceptions. Ryan Laukat’s Near and Far and Above and Below were both charming enough to stick around for a few plays, even if their marriage of choose-your-own-adventure snippets and Eurogame sensibilities wasn’t entirely harmonious. I enjoyed them in bursts before largely forgetting they existed.

But then there’s Laukat’s latest offering, Sleeping Gods. In sharp contrast with both of his earlier narrative games, this is a landmark title. Not only is this his strongest work by far, and not only is it an entirely smooth merger of narrative and cardboard, but it’s possibly the first time I’ve been persuaded that a narrative game can accomplish something remarkable.

Read the rest of this entry


The box image isn't available. Those silly geese.

It’s been a while since we took a look at Zain Memon’s Shasn, a political game with both comedic and nasty streaks. At the time I called it “one of the most unhinged, perceptive, outlandish, and timely games you might never play.” One crowdfunding campaign, some development, and two whole years later, Shasn is finally here. Let’s see how it holds up in 2021.

Read the rest of this entry

Umbra Via Ignitis

I really dig the semi-abstract nature of this whole thing. Honestly, this is one of those very rare instances where a wooden edition might entice me.

Connor Wake’s Umbra Via is a study in contradictions. It’s a game of steps, bids, tiebreakers, and infuriating balance. Whether that’s a good thing is also a contradiction.

Read the rest of this entry