There’s something about throwing a hefty mug, beverage still sloshing around inside it, at a friend’s head. If you haven’t managed to scratch that one off the old bucket list, I recommend getting to it sooner rather than later. Live a little.
In the meantime, The Dragon & Flagon is all about tender moments like these. A bunch of adventurers, rowdy and randy after their latest successful dungeon dive, and all as parched as that heap of desiccated bones they kept tripping over, have decided to trash the tavern they’re supping at. Who can blame them? They just saved the village. Maybe. After knocking a couple back, they can’t quite remember.
The entire span of human civilization is a lot to compress into three or four hours, let alone a trim 90 minutes. And yet that’s precisely what The Golden Ages aims to accomplish, cheerfully charting mankind’s ascent from mudbrick ziggurats to skyscrapers to star ladders. Better yet, in an age when a game’s briskness is often valued over its cleverness, all too often leaving the possibility of deep gameplay experiences stranded along the side of the road in its haste to arrive at its destination, The Golden Ages manages to be something even more valuable than fast: compelling.
Every so often I come across a game that fills me with more a feeling of respect than love, or even of enjoyment. It’s like that one time I met myself from the future, after I’d sacrificed countless human and alien lives to end the Hydrangine Wars — don’t worry about it, you’ll find out about those soon enough — and I found my usual narcissism replaced with something a touch more distant, more like the relationship I might have with a teacher. Okay, bad comparison, and perhaps too much information. The point is, now and then I’ll play a game that I don’t have much desire to play ever again, but I still can’t help but like it, in its own way.
Medina is possibly this year’s most glowing example of that conundrum.
In all honesty, I get bored reviewing expansions. As with the assembly of a cloak-seeking photon torpedo, it’s only fun once — which is why, across all of Star Trek’s many series and movies, they only did it the one time. The Federation could have obsoleted cloaking technology altogether, but one man had already boldly gone there before.
So today I’m going to rapidly launch a full three expansions reviews out my aft torpedo-tube, which is just one of the many phrases I use to refer to my bum. These are all expansions for games I enjoyed — Core Worlds, Space Cadets: Dice Duel, and Among the Stars — and as happy coincidence would have it, they’re all set in outer space. They’re also all published by Stronghold Games, but that’s not quite as interesting as the first coincidence.
Here we go:
Among the Stars seems to have been designed to push nearly every one of my nerd buttons. An alliance of aliens working together? Egalitarian Future Button! Assembling a unique space station? Deep Space Nine Button! Card drafting? Drafting Button! Designed by a dude whose name is so unpronounceable to my thick English tongue that it might as well belong to an alien? Alien Board Game Designers Button!
Just for the sake of being a grump, I’m not convinced “Rogue Agent” is a very good title for Rogue Agent. Maybe it’s because it conjures up images of the worst of the schlocky spy movies from my dad’s generation or because there aren’t any actual rogue agents in the game, just normal agents going about their normal day jobs, but hey — in either case, I think it’s fair to say my expectations were far removed from what Rogue Agent is actually trying to be.
And since this is the third game I’ve played from designer David Ausloos, the first two being Panic Station, which was so bad that I couldn’t bring myself to review it, and Dark Darker Darkest, which I thought was pretty good but sort of uneven, it’s also safe to say that my expectations were quite low. Bad schlocky spy movie low.
When Stronghold Games asked if I’d like to review Space Sheep!, I jumped at the opportunity. The cover sported a fun little riff on Star Wars, complete with an ass-covering “This Cover is a Parody!” disclaimer, and I was expecting a game about, well, space sheep. Who doesn’t like the idea of space sheep?
Instead, I got this. And I’m not sure what to make of it.
You know what we love here at Château de Thurot? The unadulterated thrill of real-time board games. You know what we didn’t love? Space Cadets. In fairness, we only played it once, and had a really grand time for the first hour or so. Then Real-Time Exhaustion Syndrome set in (it’s a real thing, I’ll wait right here while you look it up) and we spent the concluding two hours wondering where the fun and excitement had eloped to. That’s why everyone was suspicious when I plopped Space Cadets: Dice Duel down on the table. “Wasn’t suffering through this once enough?” someone muttered, to a tidal wave of grumbled assent.
But here’s the thing: forty minutes later, after insisting that Dice Duel was an entirely different game, blitzing haphazardly through the rules, and stumbling half-blind through our first game, there wasn’t a person at the table who wasn’t itching to give it another spin. When a game starts out a victim of prejudice and still wins over your heart, you know you’ve got a winner.
There’s a special place in my heart for deck-building games — it’s just that it’s a twisty, confusing place.
On the one hand, the basic concept behind deck-building is nothing less than an absolute stroke of genius. On the other, I’m one of those theme guys that can’t help but need a reason for all the sheep-shuffling, card-conscripting, and goblin-ganking that board games regularly task me with. And while it’s a hoot to listen to my Dominion-loving buddy Stephen try to explain away that game’s thematic failures by insisting on a historically plausible kingdom composed of two witches, three markets, and a half-dozen duchies, I remain unconvinced. Although there are exceptions (like Mage Knight, upon which you could read a three-part series and never guess is running on deck-built steam), this is a genre I admire more from a mechanical standpoint than because I’m actually smitten.
Until Core Worlds, that is. Because I’m in love with Core Worlds, and I don’t care who sees us making out in public.