Blog Archives

The Glorious Blandness of Runebound


Much as I love Fantasy Flight’s line of rune games, the Rune Ages and Runewars and Descents of the world, there’s something faintly desperate about the Terrinoth setting itself, as though it’s terrified of standing out from the crowd. “You want undead? Sure, we got undead. Demons? Yeah, there are demons everywhere. Mechanical men? Of course, we’ve got mechanical men coming out our ears. Pixies? Um, absolutely, we can cram some pixies in there.” In envisioning a world where any manner of creature might appear, there’s hardly any reason to be surprised when it does.

And yet, Runebound, which is on its third edition, is one of the better adventure games out there. The very fact that it’s survived to see three editions is already proof of that.

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The Space-Biff! Space-Cast! Episode #1: Paranoid Cuneiform

Ahem. Leaders cannot be placed on river spaces. Podcast failed.

In the inaugural episode of the Space-Biff! Space-Cast!, what do Homeland: The Game and Reiner Knizia’s classic Tigris & Euphrates have in common? Listen as Dan Thurot, Rob Cramer, and special guest Mark Henderson attempt to stretch these games like taffy in order to find out. Special thanks to Michael Barnes for changing the conversation about theme and setting.

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Dots & Boxes: The Next Generation

I'm losing by winning at this game!

Dots & Boxes is one of those games that doesn’t seem like it bears any improvement. Largely because it’s hardly a game. It’s a time-waster. It’s a way to pass the seconds when you’re in a long church meeting, or sitting through someone else’s graduation ceremony, or… well, those are my examples. No matter where it appears, Dots & Boxes was always more of a testament to that place’s boringness level than a pinnacle of design.

Sounds like it’s time for an update? Somebody thought so.

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When the Rebellion Isn’t Scum

Luke always looks like he has a bad comb-over to me.

Look, you’ve probably heard plenty about Star Wars: Rebellion, so I’m not going to do my usual thing here. For some people, the fact that it’s a high-production Star Wars game will be enough to rave about it, regardless of whether or not it’s particularly good. Which is why I’m here to tell you, as a Star Wars skeptic, that this is an incredible, fantastic, tense, wonderful game. Sure, it’s only for two players (or two teams) and it runs anywhere from two to four hours, but it absolutely captures the adventure, desperation, and drama of Star Wars. Better yet, it’s adventurous, desperate, and dramatic no matter the setting. Seriously, this is a very good game.

So come along and let me tell you about two very different plays, and why this just might be one of the best games I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

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Valley of Green Mystery Fury (2nd Ed.)

Lookin' slim, second editions.

As those who know me can attest, I abhor repeating myself. Which is why I can’t even begin to fathom doing individual reviews of all the new editions, deluxe boxes, and standalone expansions appearing on shelves this time of year. Thus, rather than subject myself (and you) to a plodding second refrain of things I’ve already covered in the past, what follows is a breakdown of six excellent new versions of older games. Take a look.

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Seeing Red

I don't think Bowie's "Life on Mars" has anything to do with Mars, but I bet every astronaut who goes there will drunkenly sing the hell out of it.

Mission: Red Planet feels like the sort of game that would have been an absolute classic ten years ago — which is fitting, considering it first released in 2005 and only recently got a fresh splash of red paint from Fantasy Flight Games. The question, then, is how well does it hold up today?

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Samurai You Win, Samurai You Lose

This summer, the Japanese preoccupation with giant monsters continues with the dreaded katanakaiju.

I’d open with a historical anecdote, but unfortunately my knowledge of pre-20th century Japan basically boils down to the Total War series and that one time I read the first quarter of James Clavell’s Shōgun. Instead, I’ll point out that Samurai is another classic title from Reiner Knizia, along with Blue Moon Legends and Tigris & Euphrates, that has been given new life by Fantasy Flight Games. And much like those others, Samurai is so much more than it first appears.

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The Final Forbidden Frontier

There are no jokes. Only war.

I’ve seen a lot of people yammering on about the pedigree behind Forbidden Stars. Personally, I think that’s boring, so I’ve put together an easy-to-follow explanation of what’s going on with Fantasy Flight’s newest release. Here goes:

The third in an increasingly inaccurately described series of cooperative games, Forbidden Stars focuses on the same plucky adventurers who first survived the collapse of Forbidden Island and then reassembled their fantasy airship doohickey to escape the Forbidden Desert. Now, rather than working together to escape rising waters or rising sands, they’ve taken to the final frontier, where they must brave warp storms and endless war, fighting to be the sole survivor of rising hate and blood.

Or maybe Forbidden Stars is largely based on the out-of-print StarCraft: The Board Game. I can’t remember. Because I’ve been playing too much Forbidden Stars to care.

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Rock the Cradle of Civilization

Includes a real-life genuine picture of Reiner Knizia himself, plus beard, hat, earrings, and mild alterations to brow, nose, lips, and cheekbone structures!

Sometime in the 23rd or 24th century BCE, things weren’t looking great for the Sumerians. Over hundreds of years they’d built multiple city-states along the alluvial plains of the violently unpredictable Tigris and Euphrates rivers, formed a powerful religion with priest-kings and mudbrick temples as their bases of authority, and even had time left over to develop writing somewhere along the way. Then an usurper came along, conquered most of the city-states, took a name that literally translates as, “No guys, really, I’m a totally legitimate king, I promise,” and set up the Akkad Dynasty. It would last for about a century and a half before more usurpers, more invaders, more uprisings continued to transform the face of Mesopotamia.

It makes for gripping history, and it’s exactly what you’ll be doing in Reiner Knizia’s Tigris & Euphrates.

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XCOM: Board Game Unknown

Note the sinister backlighting, the imposing stance of our fighters. Perhaps it's debating the divides of transhumanism, the win-at-all-costs-including-our-souls nature of this conflict? ... Naaaaah.

There’s a gentle irony to one of PC gaming’s most beloved turn-based games being turned into a real-time board game, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that XCOM: The Board Game doesn’t understand what gave XCOM its hallowed reputation. It’s almost a shame that the Best Real-Time Board Game Ever Award was granted in perpetuity back in 2008, because this right here represents something monumental in board game design.

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