Blog Archives

Bowie Back to Bowie

in which Dan Thurot learns how to use the lasso tool

My brain associates Dan Bullock with new-wave wargames like No Motherland Without, 1979: Revolution in Iran, and (hopefully published one day) Blood & Treasure. I’ve been consistently impressed with his ability to tackle tough topics, imbuing them with uncommon humanity while delivering a few well-deserved body blows to those who put politics and profit over personhood.

Or at least that was true until recently. From now on, I think I’ll forever associate Bullock with Bowie. Namely, the card game Bullock has designed about the life and existential crises of David Bowie in the 1970s. For reasons that will soon make themselves clear, Bowie is not an “official” title. Independent designer Dan Bullock has not somehow acquired the star’s life rights. Rather, it’s a print-and-play design, free to anybody with a printer and some scissors.

But here’s the thing: the unofficial nature of Bowie is precisely what makes it a treasure.

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Going to Bed Angry

Yes, this is the extent of my header skills tonight.

I occasionally think back on the mudslide of advice I received when Somerset and I got married. There was so much, and we were so inexperienced, that at the time it was impossible to sort into good or bad. Hindsight helps. Some of it has proved apt (“Keep making the choice to love each other”). Other tidbits were stale even at the time (“Always listen to your wife, but as the man of the house you’re the tiebreaker”). And then there were the lines that sounded good until we realized they were soul-crushing (“Never go to bed angry”).

Xoe Allred’s Persuasion is about a brand of holy matrimony not all that far off from the partnership Summer and I entered into — young, rapid, religious, and oh so very Victorian. But where other recent games about the courtship rituals of yestercentury have been drier than hardtack, Allred’s take is viciously seductive. Not because it’s particularly spicy. Oh no. Because it’s so toxic it could break a Geiger counter.

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All Is Bomb Is Bomb

header is bomb

Here’s a scenario for you. The Princess slumbers in her bed. Soon she will awake. What will she want for breakfast? Since she’s a bit of a, well, princess, she will neither wait to be served nor accept anything other than what her rumbly tummy desires most. You summon the breakfast prophets to foretell the proper meal. Except they’ve gone missing. A dozen other matters also consume your attention.

Also, everything is a bomb.

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Take that, gorgeous forum that we could have repurposed for our own pagan ways!

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.

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Life on the Green, Green Seas

The least-inspired artwork of the entire game.

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.

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Mr. Cabbagehead’s Pleasant Garden

I call this the "Mr. Cabbageheader."

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.

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The Dice Must Flow

It might not seem like there's all that much to this design, but I absolutely love how clean and evocative it is of the source material.

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.

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The Court of Xiang Todd

Need something to look Asian-y? Add a bonsai straightaway!

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.

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Print and Play (Oh My Darling)

I now imagine my life is narrated in this font.

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.

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The Táin Bó Cúailnge, A Reenactment

All Space-Biff! titles will now either (a) contain accents, or (b) be unpronounceable, or (c) both.

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.

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