As I wrote last week, the “sandbox Euro” of Feudum is a handsome but troubled youngster. It’s got some great ideas, a slick sense of style, and knows it’s clever. But maybe that’s the problem. For everything it does right, it comes parcel with two exceptions, fussy rules, or instances where it stubbornly refuses to be streamlined.
Still, it’s hard to deny that this dizzying blend of movement puzzle, player-driven feudal holdings, and market manipulation taps into something desirable. The freedom of a sandbox game can be intoxicating, trusting players to pursue their goals with unusual latitude. Where most games offer an intensely curated experience, it’s a joy to be set loose within a set of systems and trusted to sink or swim, boom or bust.
So, as an alternative for those who might be thirsting after something a little more open-ended than usual, what follows are a bunch of my favorite sandbox-style games, ranked in order of their ascending complexity.
Okay, so we’ve talked about how on the first day, the Mage Knights popped out of that portal of theirs and started putting on all sorts of magic shows, and on the second they figured out where the Red City was hiding, and began laying plans to take it by force. You know this story ends with the corrupt City falling, but I’ll reckon you couldn’t guess how. Even if you could, you couldn’t stop me from telling it.
Alright, now where were we? Ah, right, so last time Goldyx and Tovak, Mage Knights both, spent a day and a night conquering a path across the countryside, bringing down warbands of orcs and fortified strongholds with equal ease. I’ve told you that they’re the ones that brought our Red City’s corrupt penny-squeezers to heel, and in only three days too. Well, I reckon I’ll tell you about their second day. It’s the one that some folks like to jaw about when they say the Mage Knights aren’t so heroic as we’ve been told, but don’t let anyone hear you talk like that. And anyway, it’s true that they did some pillaging and burning, but there’s a reason for all that.
Ever heard of a Mage Knight? No? For shame. It was a pair of Mage Knights that fought against the dragons and orcs and corrupt burro-crats that were running this country into the mud. Only took them three days to do it, too.
Ah yes, looks like you’re remembering now. Only three days and three nights, and they went from Mage Knight rookies to veterans with the powers of the gods themselves—I’m talking about the power to melt walls sixty feet high, to bring an elder dragon crashing out of the sky without dripping a single bead of sweat, to command loyalty that kings could only fantasize about. Settle in and I’ll refresh that fogged-up memory of yours. It’s the least I can do—after all, that pair did me a good turn by bringing the Red City to its knees.
Okay, I’m taking Space-Biff! across the threshold into true nerd territory. This is nerdier than a sixteen-hour game of Runewars, a GLaDOS pumpkin, or dressing up as characters from RAGE… alright, less nerdy than that last one.
I’m writing this because if there’s one thing I can’t stand (and trust me, there’s at least one thing I can’t stand), it’s poorly-designed board game boxes. That’s right: When the box is too big, too small, won’t play Tetris with other games, or falls apart after a year, it really ticks me off something mighty. And I’m sure there’s at least one other person out there who feels the same way. Cue The Board Game Box Review.