Some experiences are hard to imagine as microgames. The COIN Series, for instance. The most recent volume, Pendragon, can run for up to five hours, and that’s provided everybody understands the rules. Distilling the essence of something so dense into nine cards and a few dice has all the madness of compressing an entire brewery into a single squirt of breath spray.
Yet that’s precisely what Laurie Phillips did for his entry into the 2018 9-Card Nanogame Print and Play Design Contest. And all because of a killer history pun.
The joy of playing independent games is that you never know what you’ll find. Maybe it will be a stinker, as was Charles Ward’s last effort, Blood & Fortune. Then again, maybe it will be his current experiment, Haze Islands. Hopefully the latter, because Haze Islands is rad.
I know a thing or two about pesky neighbors. So when Mr. Cabbagehead goes on holiday and Horace Savoy-Brassica from down the lane swipes an armful of prize-winning radishes right out of his garden, I can empathize. In fact, I empathize so fully that I may have even uttered some of the same phrases that saw use in my house when my neighbor petitioned to have speed bumps installed on our street. Phrases that include such words as “tarnation” and “sasquatch.” Apologies for the foul language.
While other pubescent boys were discovering their interest in girls, my heart was occupied by Dune. Without reservation, it was my favorite book between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. Too bad about most of the sequels, not to mention every attempt to translate onto the big screen.
A couple months ago, the first time Dune: The Dice Game (also known by its much cooler nickname The Dice Must Flow) hit my table, a newcomer to our group announced that he’d never read Frank Herbert’s 1965 masterpiece. Somewhat interrupting my explanation of the rules, he asked, “So what’s it about?”
There’s a chance I was a bit curt in my response. I think I mumbled something about Lawrence of Arabia and went back to explaining how to play. Because anyway, what is Dune about? There are any number of things I could have said. It’s about the allure and danger of messiahs and heroes. About addiction to a dwindling resource. About the decline of the status quo, about revolution, about religion’s role in both. The transformative nature of knowledge, violence, sex. It’s about finding yourself and realizing you’ve lost yourself in the process.
Or maybe those are just the memory of my teenage hormones talking. Lots of things seem double-plus profound when your pituitary gland has declared war on the rest of your body.
It’s been far too long since I’ve highlighted anything from my favorite print-and-play designer, Todd Sanders, whose games are consistently interesting, easy on the eyes, and completely free, provided your local library doesn’t charge for printing. The trick is to bring your own card stock and perform the ol’ Thurot eyebrows dance. I’ve yet to meet an octogenarian whose heart won’t go sticky as molasses once my eyebrows have had their way. Mmhm.
Back on topic! Todd’s latest solo game is a ditty called The Court of Xiang Chi, about managing three different clans, navigating the intrigue of the court, and scoring as many points as possible. Oh, and also living in constant fear that those damnable Daemon Princes will show up and whisk away your ministers to serve the Daemon Court. Exactly like it happened in Real History.
Staying up to date with all of Todd Sanders’ projects is functionally impossible — for reference, he’s already finished four games in 2015 alone, and we’re only halfway through the year’s second month. But it’s been a long while since we examined anything by one of the most prolific creators of free print-and-play projects, which means it’s high time we dive back in. This time, the game in question is Do Not Forsake Me (Oh My Darling), one of the winners of the BoardGameGeek 18-Card Minigame Contest.
Yes, you read that right. 18 cards.
The Táin Bó Cúailnge is an epic story of early Irish literature about a battle between the Connacht Queen Medb, bent on stealing the bull Donn Cuailnge because she’s jealous of her husband Ailill’s bull Finnbhennach, and the hero Cuchulain, who’s the only dude in Ulster who isn’t sick with ces noínden, which should only last nine days but sticks around for months so Cuchulain’s antics can be even more amazing. Don’t ask me to pronounce the title or any of the characters’ names. And if you want to know more, I’m sure you can read Wikipedia articles every bit as well as I can.
The Táin is the latest game from prolific print-and-play designer Todd Sanders, whose work we’ve examined many times before. This time he’s tackling the card-driven wargame genre, so let’s see if the game is more comprehensible than either of those bulls’ titles.
Say one thing about Todd Sanders, say he’s prolific. Not only have we seen him tackle airship combat, fantasy sieges, space exploration, warring mages, the Silk Road, and more, now he’s gone and made a game about… um… letters and puns and… bees and… stuff.
Well. I don’t know exactly how to classify LMNOP. Let’s find out together.
Just for tonight, Space-Biff! is going to act as my personal tell-all gossip rag. Gather round, because I’m going to spill a whole mess of secrets about my celebrity marriage.
Want to hear a secret I haven’t told anyone else ever? I think 4X games kind of drag. I mean, you’ve got to explore, expand, and exploit, and by the time we finally reach that point, I’m all, enough already, but then you’ve gotta go exterminate everyone too. I mean, sheesh!
Alright, alright, put down those torches, you’ll make black spots on the ceiling. And anyway, I’m just being controversial to bait extra clicks. The real problem is that while I love 4X games, I rarely have enough time to get through the exploit part, let alone the meatier extermination bits.
Once again, Todd Sanders leaps to the rescue, this time with Parsex — pardon me, Parsec X, which for the life of me I cannot pronounce or spell properly. Here’s a game that’s 4X, compact, free (to print yourself, anyway), and takes about 30 minutes to play. Oh, and even though you wouldn’t expect a 30-minute 4X game to be any good, this one is actually pretty respectable.