There’s something to be said for brazenly occupying a niche nobody knew needed filling. For example, I was entirely unaware of my subliminal desire to outfit my own pirate ship with cartoon characters and kamikaze monkeys, agonize over lengths of rope and barrels of rum to afford the favor of the Pirate King back in port, and conduct naval warfare by chucking big handfuls of dice into a box — and then having their positions represent the chaos of battle.
I wasn’t aware I wanted this. Ignacy Trzewiczek was; and thus Rattle, Battle, Grab the Loot took its niche by storm.
Just last month, if you were to tell me that Vlaada Chvátil was making a party game, I’d laugh you out of the room. I mean, I’d finish choking on my chocolate milk first, but then I’d laugh you out of the room.
Why? Well, because party games are about simplicity. About getting everyone involved, even when they aren’t particularly into games. They’re about appealing to both your hardcore enthusiast brother-in-law and your grandma who hasn’t played a board game since the winter of ’47 when her little brother froze to death because he wouldn’t stop playing checkers under the porch.
Vlaada Chvátil, on the other hand — and this is what I would have told you a month ago — is about convoluted designs that glow with the uncanny brilliance of an insane person. People don’t play Space Alert, Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends, Mage Knight, or Galaxy Trucker because they’re simple. They play them because they’re bonkers.
But that was the me of a month ago. Today I have been humbled, because I can’t stop playing Vlaada Chvátil’s version of a party game.
There’s something jarring about Artifacts, Inc. And yes, I’m talking about how it feels downright peculiar to play a game about archaeology during the interwar period and not be pitted against the Nazi Paranormal Research Division in a hunt over land, air, and sea for the Spear of Destiny, where “Roll a d6 to keep your eyes pressed shut,” is the final challenge.
Instead, Artifacts, Inc. is an entirely pleasant game, one where rival antiquarians might occasionally become kind of snitty with each other, but otherwise behave and don’t go exploding or stealing each other’s stuff. Surprisingly, this works way better than it has any right to.
That first day of GenCon, all the early risers packed like upright sausages around the barred doors of the expo hall, it’s hard to fathom how it could get more crowded. Geoff even said that very thing about ten minutes before the doors opened for the first time. “I cannot fathom how this could get more crowded,” he said.
By Saturday, the fathoming gets real easy.
Another long toiling day of GenCon, from sunup to way past sundown, another seven games to jabber about. Let’s get right to it.
It’s that time of year again, the cusp of Augusthood, when summer keeps on being summer and gradually transitions into more summer. In faraway exotic Indianapolis, capital of the grand state of Iowa, a largely unknown gathering formerly known as the Generalissimo Convención (now commonly nativized to GenCon) has begun anew, a complex mating dance of exhibition halls, cardboard, and people dressed as their favorite fictional characters. It’s a fabulous but dangerous dance, and —
You know what? I’m done talking about the dance. Let me show you.
Today my Personal Journey for a tournament-style card game continues with Doomtown: Reloaded, which immediately delivers a swift kick to the head by being based on that most sunset-tinged of genres, the Western.
Ah, the Western.
Over the past year or so, I’ve become slowly more interested in embarking on a Personal Journey to try my hand at a tournament-style card game. I was too late to be competitive in Netrunner, and Summoner Wars, although a game I’ve always enjoyed, doesn’t have a big enough tournament scene for my tastes. To that end, at GenCon 2014 I picked up three collectible-style card games: The Spoils, Doomtown: Reloaded, and Warhammer 40,000: Conquest, with the idea that I’d play the hell out of each of them and then pick the best one as my tourney game, and review all three in order from worst to best.
The Spoils is the first one I’m covering. If you’re a smart cookie, you can guess what that means.
Real-time games hold a special place in my heart, mostly because many of my best gaming memories revolve around the absolutely bonkers Space Alert. My family played through the campaign mode from the expansion, and even bought my dad a captain’s shirt one Christmas. “Listen up,” he’d say at the beginning of each run. “Emilie, you’re taking care of energy? Son, you’re going right? Somerset, left? Who’s going to jiggle the computer mouse? Remember to say if you need cards.” Then we’d press play on the CD player and proceed to panic like a chicken with its head, legs, and wings chopped off and rearranged at random.
Suffice it to say, Zombie 15′, which pits a pack of fifteen-year-old kids against a zombie horde, with only fifteen minutes to escape each of its fifteen scenarios, sounded exactly like my sort of thing.