Era: Medieval Age has staying power. Since reviewing it a year and a half ago, it’s been on constant rotation at our home. Now it’s received a major expansion and a few collector sets. Rather than write the same thing all over again, this seemed like an appropriate time to instead pen thirty-two mini-reviews of every building in the game.
Why? No idea. This just happened.
Imagine with me, if you will, a game about gnomes wrestling atop a redcap mushroom, in which the gnomes are discs that push each other across said mushroom. Like a dexterity game, but without any dexterity. Not flicking, just… lightly nudging. Not even shoving. Like the world’s lowest-contact contact sport.
That’s the pitch for Redcap Ruckus. Apparently somebody at WizKids heard it and exclaimed, “I dreamed of this exact moment! Sign this contract right now, before I think better of this decision.”
Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Cole and Drew Wehrle and Travis Hill for a (digital) play of the latest build of John Company’s second edition. I’m not prepared to discuss any details; the game isn’t finished, and anyway the version I played was a departure from the build Cole had shown before, even among playtesters. Drew and Travis were as unprepared as I was for what happened over the next two hours.
But with both John Company and An Infamous Traffic soon to receive new editions — and given Cole’s tendency to revisit the statements made by his work, as discussed in my examination of Pax Pamir’s two editions — this seems like a good time to sit down and crystallize a few thoughts about what his games argue and how they argue it.
John Clowdus is best known for his sharp two-player designs, including gems such as The North, Bronze Age, and the big one, Omen: A Reign of War. Instead of sticking to the script, his latest effort is a solitaire game that fits into your pocket. Even a small pocket will serve. How does it stack up? Let’s take a look.
My favorite moment of our most recent play of Sidereal Confluence arose from one of the game’s weaknesses. Namely, that TauCeti Deichmann’s game of haggling aliens operates best when played with the right sort of person. What sort is that? The sort who embraces asymmetry while still calling the resource cubes by their colors instead of using setting-appropriate titles like “culture” and “life support.” The sort who doesn’t mind parsing large quantities of information while on the clock. The sort who’s willing to negotiate.
Of those three, you’d think the last would present the lowest barrier. Doubly so when playing a negotiation game. That isn’t how it was shaking out. One of us wasn’t interested in trading away his yellows — pardon me, his energy cubes — no matter how favorable the bargain. We offered him everything. Colonies, stacks of cubes, even a rule-breaking couple of victory points, just to see if he would bite. Offer after offer was rejected.
At last, Geoff broke. With all the pent-up fury of a spurned capitalist, he roared through his mask, “Haven’t you read The Wealth of Nations?” By way of reply, our energy hoarder stared at him with glassy eyes. The realization came to everyone at the table in an instant. Not only had he not read Geoff’s Holy Bible, but he also had no idea what sort of game we were playing.
You’ve got to admire the confidence of anyone who slaps “episode one” on their box. That isn’t even the most confident thing about Serge Macasdar’s Seeders from Sereis: Episode I: Exodus. Set in a sci-fi universe that will apparently warrant a total of ten episodes, an impending disaster has forced your people to construct arks to escape to the stars. Each ark is represented by a tableau of cards. Not too unusual. How those cards are acquired, however, is more of a twist.
The Barbary War of 1801-1805 is one of those half-forgotten conflicts, immortalized in the opening line of the Marines’ Hymn — “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli” — but also overlooked in most American high school history courses, possibly due to being sandwiched between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Or maybe it’s because the war’s defining battle only involved eight marines, a tiny figure next to the hundreds of Greek and Arab mercenaries who assisted in the capture of Derne. Or because the particulars of Mediterranean politics aren’t featured on the AP United States History test. “Period 4,” the AP designation for the first half of the 19th century, focuses entirely on westward expansion.
More’s the pity. The Shores of Tripoli is the first release by Kevin Bertram and Fort Circle Games, and it presents the conflict with the Barbary States as an important turning point in American military history.
I’m picky when it comes to dueling games. To be clear, not every two-player game is what I’d call a “dueling game.” To qualify, it needs to be snappy, brutal, and not overly enamored with Magic: The Gathering. For years, my preferred favorite has been John Clowdus’s Omen: A Reign of War. Now a stranger has wandered into town: Daniel Piechnick’s Radlands. And while it’s far too early to call this particular duel for one side or the other — ask me again in a couple of years — for the time being, this relationship has reached the puppy love phase.
It’s a rare game that can make me laugh out loud. Alf Seegert’s The Road to Canterbury managed it no fewer than a half-dozen times. The setting shoulders plenty of that load. As medieval pardoners, it’s your task to earn some coin from pilgrims as they journey to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket — except you happen to be the most miserable brand of fraud alive. Everything about you is a fake. Your certificates of pardon, the “sins” you’ve convinced the pilgrims burden their immortal souls, and certainly the furball of Saint Felix you’re passing off as a holy relic. Appropriately, the only score that matters is how many shillings you’ve bilked.
When last we looked at Andrew Looney’s latest production of his pyramid system, the results were spotty. Of the four games included in the introductory Nomids set, only one put the system to good use. The rest relegated their pyramids to glorified counters. Better to heed the advice of Sir Benjamin Wyatt: “It’s all about the ‘mids.”
How does the second set fare? Fifty-fifty. But to put that in context, that’s double the score!