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Over and Under

I hope you appreciate how I framed the bookends, because at first LIKE A MORON I had the above and below scenes swapped.

If there’s any one thing that sets the designs of Ryan Laukat apart, it’s the fact that nothing ever really “goes to hell.” Even when you’re fighting world-crushing titans in The Ancient World, they never quite get around to crushing the world. There are no Nazis to pilfer your 1930s loot or kidnap your significant other in Artifacts, Inc. Even warfare in Eight-Minute Empire represents minor setbacks rather than crushing routs. By and large, Laukat’s games are set in a bizzaro universe where optimism and progress rule the day.

Now, that might sound dull. I couldn’t blame you if it did. Because, sure, it’s conflict that drives our games, and a game without conflict hardly feels like a game at all. Which is why it’s such a relief that Laukat’s designs are brimming with conflict — it’s just that it’s the sort where nobody ever gets seriously hurt, where you’re racing to be the most optimistic and most industrious, where the goal is to have the most good things happen to you rather than avoiding the bad. It’s childlike, almost, if that didn’t feel like an underhanded insult. Innocent. Pure.

Above and Below might be the greatest exemplar of Laukat’s spirit of optimism thus far.

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Real Archaeology, Inc.

That thing looks like a bear to carve. Especially for whoever had to chisel the chin.

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.

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Eighty-Minute Empire

Now with 100% more mammoth-boar mounts.

When I asked Ryan Laukat at SaltCon why his latest expansion wasn’t entitled Eight-Minute Empire: Legends: Lost Lands — a fair question in my estimation, seeing as how it’s only compatible with Legends and not the original Eight-Minute Empire — he responded that when he considered it, his wife shot it down as too long. Too wordy.

Fair enough. You don’t want people taking longer to say the title than it takes to play the game, after all.

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The Ancients Had No Turnips

Fear the deadly Mist Ninja.

“It looks like City of Iron,” one of my friends said upon first judging The Ancient World by its cover.

Not that there would be anything wrong with that, but The Ancient World, the latest Kickstarter success from Ryan Laukat, has very little in common with his previous game City of Iron. Let me persuade you.

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City of Turnips & Engines


Today, you are privileged — privileged — to receive a guest review from Somerset, who is possibly Space-Biff!’s most dedicated reader. Today, she’s going to tell us about an expansion to one of her favorite board games, City of Iron, which we reviewed over a whole dang year ago, which makes this sort of a special event.

Always been convinced that srikas are the sure way to victory, but never quite been able to prove it in gameplay? Well, here’s your chance to show everyone your srika strategy is now totally viable. Experts and Engines, an expansion for Ryan Laukat’s City of Iron, spices up the game with four new elements. Each nation becomes more diverse, steambots arrive on the scene, Kraxian Pirates make their debut, and new buildings and towns are up for grabs. Take a look after the jump.

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The SaltCon Diaries, 2014 Edition


Dragon’s Tiles! Dice Towers! Mayhem RPG! A ton of publishers, like Crash Games, Red Raven Games, and Gamelyn Games! War Command Haven! Ryan Laukat, Michael Coe, and other designers whose names we can’t remember! That’s how many there are!

All this and more, at SaltCon 2014! So come along, as Space-Biff! investigates exactly what it is that makes this board game convention the third-best in the Mountain West.

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Eight-to-Twenty-Minute Legend

Look out, it's a dragon! Of LEGENDS!

When people say they’re sick of Kickstarter, you know who they aren’t talking about? Ryan Laukat. In addition to successfully funding multiple titles through Kickstarter, this time he’s shipped his latest game, Eight-Minute Empire: Legends, sequel to plain old Eight-Minute Empire from earlier this year, and done so two months ahead of schedule. A whole mess of delayed projects are suddenly seeming that much more tardy.

Exciting as that is, the question I keep hearing everyone ask is whether Legends is really necessary, riding as it is on the heels of the previous game. Is it worth picking up Legends if you already have the original? The short answer is yes, but I suspect you’ll want the long answer. You can find it below.

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City of Turnips

This is a boxier header image than I like to use, but it's hard not to show off Laukat's unique artistic flair.

Looking at City of Iron for the first time is sort of like staring directly into a rainbow, which my father always said would burn my corneas. Or was that the sun? Either way, Ryan Laukat’s latest game appears all but incomprehensible at first glance, packed as it is with unique races, fantastic lands, and ample opportunities to corner the Bottled Demon market. It’s easily his most ambitious title yet. Is it also his best? Let’s take a look.

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Eight-to-Twenty-Minute Empire

It's impossible to mistake Ryan's distinctive visual style.

If you’re a faithful reader of Space-Biff!, you’re likely well aware of my man-crush on Ryan Laukat. Not only did I enjoy his debut title Empires of the Void a little under a year ago, but I was also lucky enough to interview him at SaltCon back in February. You could say we have a history. You might also not say that, but all relationships are subjective.

Anyway, Mr. Laukat has now proven himself possibly the most efficient Kickstarter-er of all time, as he has just successfully shipped two projects, both two months ahead of their estimated release date. And while the universe didn’t implode at the news, it sure came close. We’ll be looking at City of Iron sometime in the near future, but for now let’s check out Eight-Minute Empire, Ryan’s filler-game take on the Civilization genre.

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Empires of the Void: 3X Goodness

Little do they know, giant space monsters cheat. He'll be getting a free move action next turn!

Yellow squadron uses a giant die as a distraction for their invasion of Tan Fu.

Very few things miff the staff here at Space-Biff! more than when folks treat genre labels as interchangeable—it leads to the same sort of discombobulation as staring at a Che Guevara sticker while seated in an Olive Garden restroom. Worse, it transforms the angelic stillness of the SB! living room office into a cacophony of complaining voices. “Spec Ops is not an RPG!” Dan was shouting the other day. “Small World is not Ameritrash!” Thurot blurted a few weeks ago. Even Lee can’t stop talking about how The Walking Dead is an entirely new (and “the boldest”) genre. And over the last couple days, Wee Aquinas won’t shut up about how “Empires of the Void isn’t a 4X game!”

This is fine, because Wee Aquinas usually comes out on the wrong side of genre arguments and this has been a big get for him. Also, because Red Raven Games never claimed Empires of the Void as a 4X game—just that it’s a good one. And on that count, they’re absolutely right.

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