Unknown is perhaps the most appropriately-titled board game of the past few years. Not only is it about uncovering the darkness of an underground bunker complex after a world-ending disaster, but it’s also relatively, well, unknown. And I aim to put an end to that. The last part, I mean.
Okay. Deep breath. Whew. Gotta shake out these trauma wiggles.
The thing about Russian Roulette is that the stakes are just too high. I mean, I won, and still I’ve been staying up nights just thinking about what could have happened. One in six doesn’t seem so bad at first. That’s only about a sixteen percent chance. But after you pull the trigger the first time, you just keep on pulling. That second pull, your odds are more like twenty percent. Then twenty-five. My buddy Chris, we’ve been friends since high school, and he… well, I won.
Russian Roulette, Final Score: ★☆☆☆☆☆
Remember Burgle Bros.? It was a rather nifty stealth-heist game hampered ever so slightly by a gamey event system. Still, it was slick. And now it’s got a sequel. Sort of.
The culprit in question is Fugitive, and it’s one of those very rare games that doesn’t sound like much at all — not with its fifteen-minute playtime, a single deck of fewer than fifty cards, and rules that take maybe two minutes to explain — but once laid out upon the table reveals itself to be nearly perfect.
I’ve got a hypothetikos situation for you. You’re a Greek god, okay? You live on Olympus, flatulate lightning and belch storm clouds, all that. But the residents of Greece just aren’t giving you any respect. They leave goat offal for votive offerings, dampen the back of your shrines whenever nature’s urge strikes them, and deploy your exalted name as a mere punchline. “Where do you keep all your Pegasuses?” they ask. “In Zeus!”
Deep breath. What do you do?
If your answer is to create a bunch of monsters and chuck them at the cities of Greece in what amounts to an Olympian temper tantrum, you’ll get along just fine with Monstrous.
Perhaps the most sobering tragedy of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 is that its most significant global impact was to cause a few Communist philosophers in France to reevaluate their stance on the benevolence of the Soviets. Without support from President Eisenhower, the revolution’s early success may have temporarily placed their occupiers on the back foot, but there was nothing they could do in the face of an all-out mechanized assault. Tens of thousands were killed, injured, executed, or deported. That year, Time magazine named “The Hungarian freedom fighter” their man of the year. Come 1957, it was Nikita Khrushchev.
Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 is all about capturing that first triumphal week of the revolution, when brave men and women rose up throughout Budapest to express their displeasure at the Secret Police, State Protection Authority, and other emblems of Soviet control that had taken hold of their country. It sounds like exactly the sort of game that ought to tickle my fancy. So why hasn’t it?
Dan is the only human being of his generation to never watch a single episode, read a single comic, or do a single anything else Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles related. Not even one thing. Let that sink in. Not one. Which is why we’ve brought in our resident TMNT expert — yes, we have one of those, our staff is huge — to go head to head with Dan. Give a warm welcome to Brock Poulsen as he debates the merits of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past.
If I were forced to list three things that I have a history of disliking about board games, I would arbitrarily choose the following: Firstly, “pure” deck-building games, because the era of the hybrid is upon us. Secondly, cooperative games. And thirdly, fixed market pools in deck-building games, as opposed to the “river”-style markets of games like Ascension. Give me some variety! Some uncertainty! Some drama!
Aeon’s End, designed by Kevin Riley and published by Action Phase and Indie Boards & Cards, is a cooperative deck-building game with a fixed market pool. If I were a keeping-track man, that would make three strikes, and if I understand baseball correctly that means it’s time to pick up another chili dog and head to the car before the second inning starts. Fortunately, I’ve never counted past two in my life, because Aeon’s End has quickly become my latest obsession.
Sometimes, usually while showering, I think about how the eusociality of the insect order Hymenoptera — ants, wasps, bees, and so forth — is very possibly the pinnacle of feminism.
But enough about that. Let’s talk about March of the Ants. Who doesn’t love ants?
For a few years now, Omen: A Reign of War from Small Box Games has been one of my favorite card games. With all the subtlety of a Spartan dory to the gut, its primary strength rested in its outright meanness, allowing a skilled player to leverage his cards into terrifying combos that won battles and robbed an opponent of options.
Thus, the announcement of Omen: Edge of the Aegean, no mere expansion but a follow-up, a sort of parallel development of the Omen system, got me nearly as misty-eyed as Odysseus. And for anyone who doesn’t quite understand that reference, the hero of the Iliad and the Odyssey is a huge crybaby. Like, huge. The guy can’t stop himself. When he hears a bard sing a jingle about his tricksy victory over Troy, he weeps. When Calypso, hottest nymph in the isles, decides to invite him over for a feisty sex-party, it’s waterworks time.
I, on the other hand, was merely on the verge of weeping, for I am a manly man compared to whiny Odysseus.
Whether it was the first-century legend of Si-Osire saving Egypt from an Ethiopian magician or Ajani Goldmane whomping on Jace Beleren (confession: I had to look up those last two names), wizards with twenty hit points have been throwing down since hit points were wearing cloth diapers. And so it shall be again and forever, all this has happened before and will happen again, the wheel has turned once more, et cetera.
In some ways, Codex is no different. Sure, victory means razing the enemy base rather than pummeling a wizard, but one only has to spend about five minutes in its presence before realizing that this is yet another take on those irascible Dueling Wizards. That’s five minutes if you’re a bit slow. Everyone else will note the similarities in under forty seconds.
And yet, Codex is one of the most wonderfully slick games I’ve played all year. Nothing about it is strictly new, but every last brass button has been polished to perfection. And in this case, it’s all about tempo. Tempo, tempo, tempo. Say it until it means nothing. Only then will it mean anything again. Tempo.