Blog Archives

Space-Cast! #4. Big Box Games

Wee Aquinas has met his true love.

John Clowdus is best known for his small designs. And, naturally, in today’s episode of the Space-Biff! Space-Cast!, he’s willing to talk to Dan Thurot about small games old and new, including which of his titles he prefers to Omen: A Reign of War. But now Clowdus is also a bona fide big-box game designer thanks to Mezo. Listen in as he spills the beans about the challenges and advantages of designing a game that can’t fit into your pocket.

Listen over here or download here. Timestamps can be found after the jump.

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Greece Fire: A Look at Omen

I feel like there's some sort of "evolution of man" comment to be made here, but it's eluding me at the moment.

If you’ve been following Space-Biff! for more than a Thermopylae minute, you’ll know that I’ve mentioned Omen: A Reign of War once or twice. This is one of those rare games that opens with a bang and just keeps going, producing more kicks per minute than a two-story dojo. Now its creator, John Clowdus, has signed with Kolossal to give his small-box classic a bigger-box treatment, including a third entry in the series that steps away from the warring demigods of Greece and toward the warring demigods of Persia. So, you know, it’s super original.

Anyway, what makes Omen such a great game? Let’s take a look.

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Tiny Aegean

This sort of box image sells Omen for what it is, a real delightful time where nobody will get angry. "We're going to have some good healthy fun," it says.

For a few years now, Omen: A Reign of War from Small Box Games has been one of my favorite card games. With all the subtlety of a Spartan dory to the gut, its primary strength rested in its outright meanness, allowing a skilled player to leverage his cards into terrifying combos that won battles and robbed an opponent of options.

Thus, the announcement of Omen: Edge of the Aegean, no mere expansion but a follow-up, a sort of parallel development of the Omen system, got me nearly as misty-eyed as Odysseus. And for anyone who doesn’t quite understand that reference, the hero of the Iliad and the Odyssey is a huge crybaby. Like, huge. The guy can’t stop himself. When he hears a bard sing a jingle about his tricksy victory over Troy, he weeps. When Calypso, hottest nymph in the isles, decides to invite him over for a feisty sex-party, it’s waterworks time.

I, on the other hand, was merely on the verge of weeping, for I am a manly man compared to whiny Odysseus.

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Omen: Small Box Gaming Perfected

Poor Greek dude got stabbed in the head. Twice!

I have a theory that there’s a difference between our Favorite Games and our favorite games, if that makes any sense. No? Alright, I’ll keep trying. If you were to ask me about my favorite games of all time, I’ve got a whiz-bang top ten list ready, full of all sorts of great stuff, from the innovative to the epic. If you were to ask me which games I play all the time, well, that’s a completely different list, populated with games that are also my favorites, though for completely different reasons. And within the top couple spots of that second list is Omen: A Reign of War from Small Box Games.

Now, I’ve written about Omen before. Twice, in fact — once to review the 2nd Edition, and another to preview the then-unreleased Olympus Edition. There isn’t much more for me to add to what I’ve written there, but since it’s a slow day I’m going to take a shot at explaining exactly why I keep returning to Omen week after week.

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Omen: The Value of Olympus

Omen: A Reign of War: Olympus Edition: ... oh, that's all the colons. It looked like it could have gone on forever.

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote a review about a nifty little title from Small Box Games called Omen: A Reign of War. I don’t recommend you read it, as it’s a relic from back when I believed good boardgame reviews were 85% rules regurgitation and 15% quality, but in my defense, I was young. At any rate, I gave Omen a glowing review. Unfortunately, it could be a huge pain to get a hold of thanks to John Clowdus’s small business model, which sounds like a great setup for an independent game designer, but meant SBG could only handle lighter print runs.

Flash forward to now. Small Box Games is taking preorders of the upcoming Omen: A Reign of War: Olympus Edition, a new printing run of the beloved but hard-to-acquire original — except that it isn’t quite exactly the same as the original. A few people have voiced some concerns about the changes that will be made for the Olympus Edition, and I’m here to talk about that.

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Omen: A Reign of War

"Whuh?—" the Soothsayer yelps. You'd think an oracle wouldn't be so surprised at the appearance of the Omen plaque.

Some of Omen’s lovely art.

Last week I reviewed Hemloch from Small Box Games, which defied my expectations by being a thematic and compact engine designed to churn out excruciating decisions that didn’t come paired with obvious solutions. This week, I’ve been playing Omen: A Reign of War, which tells the story of two of Zeus’ children slugging it out for control of the known world through Greek wrestling… or, better yet, by calling upon all sorts of heroic warriors, sexy oracles, and fearsome beasts to plunder great cities and accomplish godly feats.

So what did I think of Omen? I think it’s excellent! Review done. If for some reason you haven’t been convinced to order it straightaway, I guess I can talk more about it below.

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