Blog Archives

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


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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Omen: Small Box Gaming Perfected

Poor Greek dude got stabbed in the head. Twice!

I have a theory that there’s a difference between our Favorite Games and our favorite games, if that makes any sense. No? Alright, I’ll keep trying. If you were to ask me about my favorite games of all time, I’ve got a whiz-bang top ten list ready, full of all sorts of great stuff, from the innovative to the epic. If you were to ask me which games I play all the time, well, that’s a completely different list, populated with games that are also my favorites, though for completely different reasons. And within the top couple spots of that second list is Omen: A Reign of War from Small Box Games.

Now, I’ve written about Omen before. Twice, in fact — once to review the 2nd Edition, and another to preview the then-unreleased Olympus Edition. There isn’t much more for me to add to what I’ve written there, but since it’s a slow day I’m going to take a shot at explaining exactly why I keep returning to Omen week after week.

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Omen: The Value of Olympus

Omen: A Reign of War: Olympus Edition: ... oh, that's all the colons. It looked like it could have gone on forever.

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote a review about a nifty little title from Small Box Games called Omen: A Reign of War. I don’t recommend you read it, as it’s a relic from back when I believed good boardgame reviews were 85% rules regurgitation and 15% quality, but in my defense, I was young. At any rate, I gave Omen a glowing review. Unfortunately, it could be a huge pain to get a hold of thanks to John Clowdus’s small business model, which sounds like a great setup for an independent game designer, but meant SBG could only handle lighter print runs.

Flash forward to now. Small Box Games is taking preorders of the upcoming Omen: A Reign of War: Olympus Edition, a new printing run of the beloved but hard-to-acquire original — except that it isn’t quite exactly the same as the original. A few people have voiced some concerns about the changes that will be made for the Olympus Edition, and I’m here to talk about that.

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