Blog Archives

A Handful of Excellent Sandbox Games

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As I wrote last week, the “sandbox Euro” of Feudum is a handsome but troubled youngster. It’s got some great ideas, a slick sense of style, and knows it’s clever. But maybe that’s the problem. For everything it does right, it comes parcel with two exceptions, fussy rules, or instances where it stubbornly refuses to be streamlined.

Still, it’s hard to deny that this dizzying blend of movement puzzle, player-driven feudal holdings, and market manipulation taps into something desirable. The freedom of a sandbox game can be intoxicating, trusting players to pursue their goals with unusual latitude. Where most games offer an intensely curated experience, it’s a joy to be set loose within a set of systems and trusted to sink or swim, boom or bust.

So, as an alternative for those who might be thirsting after something a little more open-ended than usual, what follows are a bunch of my favorite sandbox-style games, ranked in order of their ascending complexity.

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Five Beginner’s Notes on Twilight Imperium

I will confess, it was the lion-face that turned me off the old 2nd edition.

When it comes to Twilight Imperium — which has now been around in one form or another for twenty years — I’m an absolute newcomer. Whether it was the game’s intimidating play length, my soft fingers’ inability to punch out the third edition’s bazillion plastic sprues, or my nagging ailurophobia setting my hair on end whenever I glance at the cover, it wasn’t until the last couple weeks that the brand new fourth edition caught my fancy.

But hoo boy, has it. Caught my fancy, I mean. And while I’m certainly not qualified to deliver a review on this sprawling monstrosity, what follows are a few of the things I’m delighted to have learned after only a short time in Twilight Imperium’s presence.

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