Blog Archives

Passenger 56

Remember when airplanes were cool and new and exciting rather than paranoid security grope-fests? Yeah, me neither.

Ever wanted to run your own airline? An airline in a universe where scheduling computers and aviation engineers don’t exist, so you’re in charge of designing planes and booking flights mid-route? On a fifteen-second timer?

Yeah, me neither. But at least Now Boarding makes it better than it sounds.

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Vaster, More Mysterious, More Manor

I haven't yet played as the Enchanter — he wasn't included in the preview build — but according to this his power is farts.

Vast: The Crystal Caverns always possessed one glaring fault, which was only compounded by its expansion, The Fearsome Foes. What to do when you want to play this beautiful sprawling asymmetrical thing, but don’t want to teach four, five, six, seven separate roles? Much of the time, the simplest answer was also the easiest: don’t. It was the sort of game that quickly established itself as the bane of groups with rotating players, especially since it only truly came to life once the roles were learnt and the interactions between its characters and haunts became second nature.

Vast: The Mysterious Manor doesn’t solve that problem, not fully. Any game with multiple roles is going to require its players to learn those roles, and the Vast series — I think we can safely call it that now — has always thrived on the broad differences between its sides. But The Mysterious Manor is at least going to make the task of teaching its rules faster, easier, and more rewarding than before. And the result just might strike the balance between the sweet, sweet asymmetry that gave Vast its appeal in the first place and the approachability to make sure its players stick around long enough to learn its rhythms.

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Solar Flair

Man, I love this cover art. I can basically hear the crackle of half-understood radio messages in the distance.

A dying star. A utopian civilization becoming less utopian as it grows more desperate. A cohesive union splintering into factions. A bitter race to escape the coming supernova. The lingering suspicion that all of this was your fault.

It’s rare that I’ll read the fluff for a board game — if there’s one thing designing a board game doesn’t qualify you for, it’s writing compelling fiction — but Sol: Last Days of a Star almost convinced me to go all the way. Almost. The included mythos book, with its short stories about characters the game never reveals and motivations that are distant from what you’ll actually be doing, was a step too far. All it earned was a quick skim. What does Sol think it is? The Canterbury Tales?

Not quite, but it is something rare: an actual honest-to-goodness science fiction game. With something to say. And systems that actually support its message.

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Honest Abe: A Look at Lincoln

This Header: Slender like Abe.

Martin Wallace has never been afraid to tinker with the way we do things. Consider, for instance, the impact of A Few Acres of Snow. By marrying deck-building to a map, Wallace redefined an entire genre. Its legacy includes some of his own games (Mythotopia, A Handful of Stars, A Study in Emerald) and those designed by others (Cry Havoc, Hands in the Sea, even Clank!).

Now Wallace’s tinkering has led him to attempt the opposite of deck-building, focusing instead on something he’s calling “deck destruction.” The game in question is Lincoln, on Kickstarter for the next few days. And in an echo of the “Halifax hammer” that ruined A Few Acres of Snow for some, it’s already being accused of game-breaking imbalance.

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Taking Exception with Feudum

Now THIS is how you honeytrap me.

In a lot of ways, the list of features for Mark Swanson’s Feudum reads like a parody of an over-enthusiastic, under-developed Kickstarter product. What if I told you there was a sandbox game — not just any sandbox game, but a Euro sandbox game — that features area control, action card selection, multiple avenues of improving your holdings, various forms of feudal warfare, roving monsters, a guild system to manipulate and constantly update, a complex market to bully, movement puzzles, peasant uprisings, noble pilgrimages, and persnickety rules exceptions to all of the above?

If you had even a single ounce of sense in your head, hopefully you’d save yourself eighty dollars by running the other direction.

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Two Minds about Darkest Night

The most divisive Two Minds About... ever?

Today on Two Minds About…, Dan Thurot and Brock Poulsen are absolutely going to disagree about the sublime cooperative and solo game Darkest Night. Total disagreement. Friendship-shaking disagreement.

Dan: Wow, that sounds rough. Been good knowing you, Brock.

Brock: Our friendship had a good run, but this is the one! This game will sunder our fraternal bond forever.

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Greece Fire: A Look at Omen

I feel like there's some sort of "evolution of man" comment to be made here, but it's eluding me at the moment.

If you’ve been following Space-Biff! for more than a Thermopylae minute, you’ll know that I’ve mentioned Omen: A Reign of War once or twice. This is one of those rare games that opens with a bang and just keeps going, producing more kicks per minute than a two-story dojo. Now its creator, John Clowdus, has signed with Kolossal to give his small-box classic a bigger-box treatment, including a third entry in the series that steps away from the warring demigods of Greece and toward the warring demigods of Persia. So, you know, it’s super original.

Anyway, what makes Omen such a great game? Let’s take a look.

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Fantastiqa: Pocket Dimension

Ah yes, the much-used Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer by Caspar David Friedrich. In most places he feels trite. Here, he fits.

There’s a certain enchanting quality to Alf Seegert’s latest, Rival Realms. Set in a sort of pocket dimension of Seegert’s wonder-realm of Fantastiqa — and literally sliding into a large pocket, how’s that for appropriate? — and expounding upon the card-laying system he first crafted in Musée, it’s an otherworldly experience, as though its players have left their concerns hanging in the wardrobe and stepped straight into Narnia.

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The Lonely Degenerate

These eyes weren't doing me any good anyway.

There’s a certain comforting blandness to the usual adventure game setting. Armored heroes. Lithe elves. Hardy barbarians. Green-skinned orcs and soaring dragons and icky spiders. A land of plenty thrown into peril. You know the drill. It’s certainly been the drill long enough.

Dungeon Degenerates isn’t satisfied merely breaking away from this formula. It also needs to smash it with a sledgehammer. After all, as spoken by another notable iconoclast, “When you come at the king, you best not miss.”

I’m going to spill the conclusion of this review right now: Dungeon Degenerates does many things, but miss is not among them.

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Make a Million for You Overnight

I love the texture of old hardbacks. They should make shirts out of that texture.

Despite its staid outward appearance, Hardback is the byproduct of word game inbreeding. Its daddy is Tim Fowers, the same fella who brought us Paperback a couple years back, while its father is Jeff Beck, creator of last year’s Word Domination. Even a description of its particular playstyle feels like dendrochronology performed on a family tree: what Paperback was to Dominion, Hardback is to Star Realms.

Fortunately, that word-jumble statement is actually pretty easy to explain.

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