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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Before we start chatting about The Valkyrie Incident, let’s set the stage with some backstory! Shortly after I finished my reviews of Shadow of the Sun and Stone & Relic, John Clowdus, the owner of Small Box Games, proved himself a fine individual by shooting me a quick email. He thanked me for my previous reviews (of course, because he’s a gentleman) (also, you can find all of my previous SBG reviews here) (I don’t expect you to thank me too, but feel free if you’re so inclined), and mentioned that The Valkyrie Incident was another entry in his series of 2-player area control games. That got me all kinds of hot and bothered, seeing as how Hemloch and Omen: A Reign of War are my favorites of his designs.
And now here we are, at the precipice of finding out whether I liked it. Did it measure up to my two favorite Small Box entries? Was it every bit as gripping? Was the box appropriately small? There’s no alternative but to find out below.
My admiration for Small Box Games is no secret, from John and Britt Clowdus’s bold cottage industry business model to their consistently high-quality components and portable boxes (which I haven’t managed to drag along on a vacation yet but absolutely will at some point). My only hangup in this love affair is that I haven’t fallen quite so totally for half of their games — as much as I adored Hemloch and Omen: A Reign of War, I found Tooth & Nail: Factions and Shadow of the Sun a bit wanting. Which is why I’m tickled pink about Stone & Relic, which is every bit as good as my two favorite SBG offerings. Maybe even a bit better.