Blog Archives

Swallowing Hemloch

I would have been ever so slightly more excited by DARK POMADE.

Here we are at last, taking a look at the final installment of John Clowdus’s second-latest trilogy of Small Box Games games. This time it’s Hemloch: Dark Promenade, and it’s by far the most interesting of the three.

Read the rest of this entry

Daimyo Seii, Daimyo Do

Gold on black. Making things seem more epic than they really are since the dawn of time.

Another day, another Small Box Game by John Clowdus. This time it’s Seii Daimyo, where much like every other game about Feudal Japan, your goal is to unite the country’s warring clans under a single Shogun.

Fortunately, the execution is more interesting than the setup.

Read the rest of this entry

Not Sure What a Cartouche Has to Do With It

This wins the award for Most Nonsensical Title.

Another year, another trio of small box games from small box games king John Clowdus, proprietor of Small Box Games. Except this time I’m so far behind that he has some other games out, which pretty much makes me a filthy truant, and—

Deep breath. One thing at a time. First up, Cartouche Dynasties. This is a single-deck ditty about building a kingdom in Ancient Egypt. It has nothing to do with either cartouches or dynasties.

Now let’s uncover what else it’s been lying about.

Read the rest of this entry

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.

Read the rest of this entry

Wet Ocean, Dry Erase

I'm getting a total Rayman vibe from this for some reason.

What happens when Small Box Games ditches the small boxes entirely? Probably something like Akua, John Clowdus’s first foray into the silicone polymer-reeking world of dry erase games. It comes on only two sheets, one for the board and another to explain the game, and even trusts that you’ll have a few different colors of dry erase markers sitting in a drawer somewhere.

And yet, for all its sparsity of components, Akua is anything but straightforward.

Read the rest of this entry

Oldlithic

This guy's thumbs seem backwards to me.

Size matters. In board games too. The appeal of Small Box Games isn’t just that John Clowdus makes small things, it’s that he makes things you can carry around without much trouble, that can fit ten to a shelf where a single regular-sized game might sit, that provide some of the best ounce-for-ounce gameplay out there.

Take Neolithic, for example. Crammed into a box the size of a deck of playing cards, this is the sort of thing that would be easy to overlook on a game store shelf. But to discount it for its size would be doing it a disservice, because this is one of the cleverest little games I’ve played in a long while.

Read the rest of this entry

Keep Away

Alternate Title: "Keep It Up!" But that would presuppose that the game was good.

I’ve mentioned the Small Box Games Curse before: that for every three titles they release, there will be one I love, one I like, and one I hate. Well, with both Soulfall and Hordes of Grimoor having captured my fancy, there probably wasn’t ever much hope for Keep.

Read the rest of this entry

Hordes of Tiny-Omen

Trousers of Shishurna.

One of the things that always stands out about John Clowdus’s designs is just how much gameplay he packs into a tiny package. As it should be — after all, his guiding principle is written right into the name of his company, a manifesto laid bare for all to see. These may be Small Box Games, but that doesn’t mean they should be inconsequential.

And for the most part, Hordes of Grimoor makes good on that tradition.

Read the rest of this entry

Hold Your Breath and Count to Ten

More like whalefall, am I right?

What’s the difference between a Skyfall, a Spyfall, a Seafall, and a Soulfall?

No really, I’m asking. I don’t even get it. After about ten seconds, my brain morphs that sequence of words into mush. Then again, maybe it’s just me trying to parse how I feel about Soulfall.

Read the rest of this entry

The Index Ran Red

And not a spot of red on the whole thing. Typical.

Another week, another collection of three titles from Small Box Games, and once again the legendary Small Box Games Curse takes effect. Two winners, one stinker, and one very small box.

Below the jump, just click one of the images to be whisked suddenly and immediately to the corresponding article, by the amazing power of special magic that is distinctly not Ancient Egyptian.

Read the rest of this entry