A specter is haunting card games — the specter of Magic: The Gathering. It’s an inescapable, all-consuming glutton, and it leaves hardly any room at your friendly local game shop, just a few leftover tables at the rear. But perhaps, just perhaps, Magic will one day be vanquished. Maybe somebody will come along and beat it at its own game, and we will cheer and celebrate and share candied yams and forever be as one, for all men are brothers. And then, years later, we will complain about how beloved this usurper is, and how universally available, and how it only leaves us the tables with the most pronounced corn dog stains, and we will look back on the days of Magic as those of a golden age.
Sadly, Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn is probably not the title that will unseat the king. Though that has nothing to do with how awesome it is.
What does the Nevermore card game have to do with Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem “The Raven”? Good question! The ever-present burden of memory? Nope. The terrible knowledge that we already know the answers to every single one of our most pressing questions, it’s just that we don’t like those answers? Not at all. The uncomprehending universe to which we pose our—
Okay, enough of that. The correct answer is “Ravens. Just ravens.”
Remember the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Indiana Jones is getting all shouty about the government’s “top men” not acknowledging the true power of the Ark of the Covenant? Well, you should have seen him when the U.S. announced they’d run out of money and were going to be auctioning it off. He just about nuked the fridge.
I don’t often read about politics, pretty much because they’re boring and deflating, but the other day I found myself totally spellbound by the President’s recent State of the Union. In it, he was talking about “levels of contribution,” the idea that we have different things to offer to our society, and using himself as an example. I won’t bore you with the details — I’m sure you can find it online with a quick search — but the basics came down to him arguing that his personal lowest level of contribution costs a red gem but provides three victory points. Not very much at all. At the next level he requires an additional yellow gem but gives four back, of any color, which is a two-for-one return on our investment. Then at each successive level he could contribute something more; for example, a boost to the nation’s scientific community, then an increase to our magical capacity. But he would also consume more gems. Because gems don’t come easily, this isn’t always an easy decision, but in the end a nation that most carefully invests its gems is the one that rises to the top.
Best State of the Union ever. Politics finally make sense.
For whatever reason, Starfighter is interested in telling you why there are space cruisers and space fighters shooting space lasers and space torpedoes and doing space maneuvers with space shields. I mean, it would very much like to somehow justify the chaos of space battle. Something about the Very Great Depression and a timeline spanning a hundred years.
This is Starfighter’s first misstep. All we need to know is that there are starfighters and that they’re determined to pulverize one another. Story over.
I’m no particular fan of any period of American history other than the Roaring Twenties, but even I know the broad strokes of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Ah, to venture into the great unknown-to-white-man! Ah, to journey alongside John Ordway and Patrick Gass! Ah, to name Old Faithful after the latter’s dependable flatulence!
Yes yes, I realize that the Lewis and Clark expedition skirted around Yellowstone by a hair. However! It was later “discovered” by John Colter, a member of the expedition who went on to become the first genuine mountain man. When he saw that there geyser, it reminded him of his old friend Patrick Gass, and thus a legend was born. And there’s no way to disprove that.
Let’s play a game of make-believe, eh?
Picture this: it’s 1920 in the United States, the Volstead Act has just been passed, and you’re about to make a whole lot of money.
I’ve long been of the opinion that the highest authorities in the land, the dudes who carry matching sets of nuclear launch keys with grave determination and a too-wide gait that hints at unbroken years of constipation, really ought to hire some regular guy off the street. Just to sit in on their super-secret meetings. To sip coffee in the corner and look bewildered while they talk about foreign policy. That way, when someone gets the bright idea to transfer control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal to a digital mind with genocidal tendencies, that guy can twiddle his thumbs for a bit before clearing his throat, leaning forward, and putting them straight.
“Hey, that idea? About the murder-bot and all our nukes? It’s, ah… I don’t know how to say this nicely, Mr. President, but it’s shit.”
And that’s how we’re going to prevent RESISTOR from happening.
Eighteen cards. Four tokens. One pad for keeping score. A single golf pencil.
That’s everything there is to Tides of Time, the first foray of Portal Games into the wild but diminutive world of microgames. It’s a surprisingly tiny effort from a company that isn’t exactly known for skimping on the cardboard. But does it skimp on the gameplay? That there’s the question.
A fairly long time ago, I spent a lot of time in the back of high school buses en route to various band competitions. This was before smartphones, and laptops were reserved for college students and first class passengers on airplanes, so we passed the time with Egyptian Ratscrew, a game about slapping cards as they were flipped over. I never understood the rules. For me, the only rule was to slap red-headed Hailey’s hand, because I was crushing like diamonds. Because diamonds are formed by intense pressure and infatuation, see.
And while I never ended up dating the object of my oddly manifested affections, I departed with some small fondness for slapping games. Which is why I’m going to tell you about Slap .45 even though it hardly warrants an introduction.