An Offer You Can Refuse
It’s unquestionably difficult to consider Eric Lang’s latest, The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire, without referring back to its source material. Nearly impossible, in fact. Here’s a game, lavishly produced, provided access to one of the most widely-discussed artifacts of culture, a film that boasts nearly one hundred percent cultural penetration. It’s a serviceable game, riffing on the worker placement and area control that have become standards of the hobby. Yet when it comes to its source material, it’s almost afraid to engage. It skirts the edges, providing Don Corleone and severed horse-head miniatures and naming rounds after the “acts” of The Godfather. Here’s Connie’s wedding. Now poor Sonny has been gunned down at that iconic tollbooth. Watch out, Michael is out for revenge. What do these have to do with the pawns placed across New York, the bad booze and dirty dollars exchanged to complete jobs, or the Altoids-tin suitcases of banked cash?
Not a thing.
Making a Monstrous Mess
I’ve got a hypothetikos situation for you. You’re a Greek god, okay? You live on Olympus, flatulate lightning and belch storm clouds, all that. But the residents of Greece just aren’t giving you any respect. They leave goat offal for votive offerings, dampen the back of your shrines whenever nature’s urge strikes them, and deploy your exalted name as a mere punchline. “Where do you keep all your Pegasuses?” they ask. “In Zeus!”
Deep breath. What do you do?
If your answer is to create a bunch of monsters and chuck them at the cities of Greece in what amounts to an Olympian temper tantrum, you’ll get along just fine with Monstrous.
Bloodborne: The Low-Tech Port
I’ve never played Bloodborne, at least not the original PlayStation 4 version. So whether the card game by Eric Lang is a faithful port, I can’t say. Is the original a press-your-luck affair where you kill monsters for their body parts and get to be a dick to your friends, though never worse than, say, a medium dick? Then sure, maybe.
Mud, Smoke, and Friendship
They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.
In general, I’ve heard two broad complaints about The Grizzled — which, as I wrote last year, I consider an important title. This is probably overselling the matter; after all, it has been accepted rather warmly considering it’s a crab-apple of a game, tough and sour all the way to the core, with only the tiniest seeds of hope at the center. Still, there’s a new expansion available, called At Your Orders!, and it seeks to ameliorate some of the complaints with the base game. So let’s talk.
Wreathes and Tombs and Hearses
Dark clouds are smouldering into red
__While down the craters morning burns.
The dying soldier shifts his head
__To watch the glory that returns;
He lifts his fingers toward the skies
__Where holy brightness breaks in flame;
Radiance reflected in his eyes,
__And on his lips a whispered name.
You’d think, to hear some people talk,
__That lads go west with sobs and curses,
And sullen faces white as chalk,
__Hankering for wreaths and tombs and hearses.
But they’ve been taught the way to do it
__Like Christian soldiers; not with haste
And shuddering groans; but passing through it
__With due regard for decent taste.
________— “How to Die,” Siegfried Sassoon, 1917
Brine & Dice
I’ve heard tell that pirate games are the new zombie games, but I don’t think that’s anything to be worried about. For one thing, zombie games aren’t going anywhere, sadly. They’re as unkillable as their subject matter. Secondly, the latest pirate game is called Rum & Bones, and it’s about immortal (and sometimes skeletal) pirates brawling over cursed doubloons, flamboyant captains firing off flintlock pistols and getting into duels, and maybe a kraken rising from the depths to munch on both sides.
Isn’t it odd how the exact same plot can sound moronic in a movie but so utterly wonderful as a board game? Fret not, Rum & Bones is about five times more comprehensible than the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels.
You’ve Got Red On You
If there were any one thing I would not have guessed about Viking warriors succumbing to battle-fury as Ragnarök tears the world apart beneath their very feet, it would be the sheer quantity of planning that goes into every wild chop of the axe, every swing of the hammer, and every jab of the spear. Which is to say, Blood Rage isn’t about your usual Vikings, all snarl-toothed and animal-eyed. By Odin, if they’ve got a shot at reaching Valhalla, they’re going to plan it out. To the last detail, if need be.
Over-Groomed But No Less Vicious
Dogs of War is a weird looking game, and not only because there isn’t a single dog in it. It comes with a nice enough board, your usual dinky cardboard tokens, and some of the most fabulous, over-produced miniatures you’ve ever seen, complete with detailed feathers sprouting from their floppy hats. They’re colorful, shiny, and utterly lovely to look at — and seem particularly incongruous when you realize they’re pretty much worker placement tokens.