Blog Archives

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Red Nile: Rise of the First Dynasty

The first non-red header of The Nile Ran Red. Feels like a betrayal.

Much like the ones placed on a pharaoh’s hidden tomb, there’s this thing called the “Small Box Games Curse.” Whenever a set of three Small Box games find their way into my possession, it’s inevitable that I’ll love one, like another, and hate the third (or at least I strongly dislike it — I’m no hater). It always shakes out that way. It’s uncanny. Don’t believe me? Well, this tale has rare proof. Of the first trio ordered from SBG, I loved Omen: A Reign of War (it’s even one of my favorite games of all time!), liked Hemloch, and hated Tooth & Nail: Factions. From the second set, I loved The Valkyrie Incident, liked Stone & Relic, and disliked Shadow of the Sun. There you have it! Incontrovertible proof!

So if the curse continues for the rest of The Nile Ran Red — and there’s no reason to think it won’t, since I enjoyed Lords of the Sand and wasn’t too fond of Crimson Sun — then Rise of the First Dynasty, the collection’s final game, is predestined to be the best!

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Red Nile: Crimson Sun

If I were smart, I'd figure out how to blend the grey into the red all the way across. Alas.

Once upon a time, there was a game from Small Box Games named Bhazum. People liked it, or at least they indicated as much by giving it overall positive ratings on BoardGameGeek. It was recently given new life as Crimson Sun, the second entry in Small Box Games’ Kickstarter tripartite, The Nile Ran Red.

All this impressive investigative journalism would be worth a poop in a sock if I’d ever played Bhazum, but I haven’t. Which means I have no idea whether it’s the same game as Bhazum, or updated, or downdated, or anything at all. Instead, all I can tell you are my impressions of the game on its own merits, so apologies to all those Bhazum fanatics that have been sending me hundreds of emails. You guys will just have to go pester somebody else now.

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Red Nile: Lords of the Sand

The header ran red

What’s the first thing that springs to mind when I say “The Nile Ran Red”?

If it’s the story of Moses, then you’re on the same tangent as all my friends. Upon hearing about Small Box Games’ most recent collection (which happens to be entitled “The Nile Ran Red,” in case you hadn’t pieced that together), every single one of them said, “So it’s a game about Moses?” Then they laughed at me, because despite my degrees in history and religious studies with an emphasis on Biblical texts, that thought never once occurred to me, and it really should have. One day, all that education will come in handy! But apparently not today.

Anyway, aside from being decidedly un-Biblical, The Nile Ran Red is actually three separate games, and we’re investigating them one at a time — starting with Lords of the Sand.

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Raiding the Vault of Darkness

grouchy

I wasn’t too thrilled about the announcement of Hemloch: Vault of Darkness from Small Box Games. Okay, that’s a lie: I was ecstatic for the thirty seconds before I read the description and realized it wouldn’t be a fine-tuned legacy edition of my beloved Hemloch in the vein of the fantastic new Olympus Edition of Omen: A Reign of War. Then I was sad and worried, because Shadow of the Sun, the other game set in the Hemloch universe, didn’t make much of an impression on me. And thus a damper was placed on my expectations.

To make matters worse… no, wait, come back — I promise this story has a happy ending.

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