Blog Archives

Hollow Is Right

No idea why the actual box art hasn't been uploaded. Oh well!

As much as I appreciate asymmetry, not every game needs its sides to adhere to different rules. But as long as you’re going for it, there are worse pitches than Skulk Hollow. Basically, it’s man versus monster — except the men are foxes and the monsters are ten-story behemoths reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus, including the “clamber up their short hairs to stab them in the soft spots” part.

I’ll say this for Skulk Hollow: ambition isn’t its problem.

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More Vaster, Less Vastish

I love the warlock DESCENDING ON A CLOUD OF FARTS

What I most appreciated about Vast: The Crystal Caverns was its improbable intermarriage of two ideas. The first was its dungeon, generated in roguelike fashion from a generous stack of tiles, producing a sprawling cavern filled with perils and plunder. The other idea was deep, even idolatrous asymmetry. Far more than the possibility of the multiple heroes offered by so many other dungeon crawls. Rather, it was an all-inclusive medley of characters and play styles. The knight versus the dragon, but also the sneaky thief, a pack of suicidal goblins, and even the haunted cavern itself, all working at cross-purposes.

Just as Vast beget Root, Cole Wehrle’s more approachable take on rabid asymmetry, so too does Patrick Leder’s Vast: The Mysterious Manor emerge from a paradigm established by Root. Which is really just a fancy-pants way of saying that this is a kinder, friendlier Vast — when it comes to learning the rules, at least.

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The Enburgling: A Look at Burgle Bros 2

I want that shirt.

I enjoyed Burgle Bros despite some caveats, even though my fondness dimmed somewhat with time and repetition. Still, there weren’t many moments as memorable as when Brock brought back Burgle Bros after keeping hold of it for a few months. Say that five times fast: Brock brought back Burgle Bros.

Well, this time he won’t need to. Last week, I sat down with Tim Fowers for a look at his and Jeff Krause’s sequel, Burgle Bros 2: The Casino Capers, on Kickstarter now. And while anything and everything is subject to change — the perils of a preview, unfortunately — here are the three things that rekindled my affection for this heist simulator.

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Borantha

... is there really not a possessive apostrophe anywhere?

Remember Cthulhu Wars? Sure you do. There’s no forgetting that mountain of plastic, as eye-catching as it was bombastic. The horrors of H.P. Lovecraft molded in day-glo, waging war for command of Earth, regardless of whether that placed more emphasis on our little ball of dirt than cosmic horror really calls for.

Now Sandy Petersen is at it again, this time laboring upon another molded mountain. At the very least, Glorantha: The Gods War makes stronger internal sense, pitting rival pantheons against each other in a contest for total supremacy. But it holds so much in common with Cthulhu Wars, from the way factions develop over time to the outcomes of its battle dice, that it’s impossible not to compare the two.

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Hapless Mortals

Yeah, okay. You have my attention.

When it comes to blurbs, Campy Creatures knows how to pitch. You’re a mad scientist, see? Hoping to do eeeevil experiments, right? So your plan is to kidnap as many mortals as possible, m’kay? Except there are other mad scientists also capturing mortals, and they also have a similar roster of campy creatures doing their bidding, so you need to make sure your campy creatures outperform their campy creatures, ya dig?

Sure thing, Campy Creatures. I dig.

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Flick That Fleet

I decided against my original title. For one thing, it sounded like I didn't like the game. For another, dropping the f-bomb in a game review strikes me as ungraceful.

Every so often a game fully realizes the dual promise and limitations of Kickstarter. Ambitious, but not overly so. Weird, in that there isn’t anything quite like it. Underbaked, in that it never really received much of a look from anyone outside of the project, at least nobody whose actual job is to advise why certain elements needed extra polish. Visionary, because the game’s creators might have ignored such advice had it been given in the first place.

Jackson Pope and Paul Willcox’s FlickFleet is that game. And I’m smitten.

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Park Yourself Down

Say it with me: d'awww

My favorite moment in Parks is when I decided to collect only the parks I’ve actually visited. Turns out, I’ve been to a lot of national parks. My family was like that: big SUV, too-small travel trailer, a desire to “rough it” without nailing down a single tent peg. So I quit picking the easiest of Parks’ parks and started grabbing only those I recognized from personal experience. My home state alone permitted a wide array — Arches, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion. Farther afield I grabbed Mesa Verde, Yellowstone, Badlands, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Haleakalā. Not enough that it was easy. Just enough to provide a challenge.

If it sounds like I’m damning Parks with faint praise, you’re darn tootin’.

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Quod Erat Whatum?

I hate it when abbreviated Latin phrases are left uncompleted.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of the best auction games are about managing bid inflation. What’s bid inflation, you might ask? Good question. It’s how the value of a good increases over the course of the game. Think of a popular artist’s work in Modern Art. Early on, that artist was unknown and their paintings weren’t worth much. But as they become more and more popular, the value of their work skyrockets. By the last round, everybody is breaking the bank to nab a single painting.

Here’s the proviso: I didn’t say auction games were about bid inflation. I said they were about managing it. After all, if you’re spending all your money on the most popular artist, your profit margins are probably slim. Everybody has their eye on so-and-so’s latest painting. The cheques practically write themselves. It therefore behooves you to dole out your resources more cleverly. Sometimes it’s the bet on second place that both plays it safe and pays big.

Now imagine a game where your pool of money has no ceiling. You can bid anything. Five dollars, yes. Half a million pounds, why not. Sixty trillion yuan, now you’re talking. Welcome to Q.E.

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False Equivalence: A Look at Shasn

I don't even want to guess at this thing's pronunciation.

Let me ask you a serious question. Clear your head, take a deep breath, find your center. Should religious institutions be required to pay taxes? Woah there, cowboy. You have two choices. (A) No. Prayer is an intangible service. (B) Yes. Even God should tremble before the tax collector.

Oh, and just so you know, depending on how you answered, you just outed yourself as either an ultra-capitalist or a showman. And the capitalist answered A.

Welcome to Shasn, one of the most unhinged, perceptive, outlandish, and timely games you might never play.

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Laying Pipe

POLLUTE THAT LAKE BABY

I have a theory that the hallmark of a heavy economic game is the ability to take out a loan. Not just any loan, mind you. This isn’t some family loan, a hand-wavey Pay me back when you get the chance, son. No, this is the loan a banker makes when he’s got you over a barrel with one hand and is clutching your short hairs with the other. The sort of loan that makes you wonder why you decided to lay track instead of becoming a financier.

Pipeline lets you take out such loans. The first time will wring a gasp-worthy 33% interest out of you, and each additional loan compounds from there. By the fifth visit to Mr. Manager, Sir, you’ll be required to pay back 400% of what you borrowed. Not that you’ll need five loans. But the option is there, tantalizing like an apple in the Garden of Eden.

Does Pipeline live up to its allure? For a while, sure.

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