With Detective: City of Angels, Evan Derrick wants so badly to channel L.A. Confidential. Book or film, take your pick. The same goes for Chinatown and The Big Sleep. Anything noir, really. I’m not sure what else he could have done to say so. Stash a pack of unfiltered cigarettes beneath the box insert? Bribe your dame to go full femme fatale? Call the game master a Chisel? Oh wait, he did that one.
As with any setting as starkly drawn as the hardboiled genre, City of Angels runs the risk of slipping across the line from pastiche to parody. By now, the tropes have calcified into the bones of American fiction. So thorough is their digestion that certain notes are America. What does Derrick do with those bones?
He makes one heck of a detective game.
Comparisons can be a tough thing for a board game to weather. Is it fair to compare any particular game to another, especially since people might not have played whatever’s being used as the point of reference? Or would it be unfair to not draw comparisons, failing to trust your audience to understand what you’re talking about and letting them make up their own dang minds?
Take Salvation Road, for instance. It’s easy to compare it to Dead of Winter. They’re both games about scavenging in a post-apocalyptic landscape. They’re both about survival. They both feature a diverse and randomized cast of characters, some better suited to their task than others. Most importantly, despite a pretty lengthy list of differences, they both feel extremely similar.
For those of us who fit into the Venn diagram encompassing both those who love board games and those who love Deadwood, Saloon Tycoon seems like a no-brainer. Not only could we get up to our elbows in all the brutality, back-stabbing, and profiteering that goes with the territory, it would also go a long way towards legitimizing our extensive Al Swearengen vocabulary. Ya hoopleheads.
Unfortunately, while I wrote earlier this week about a Kickstarter title that could have used some more publisher oversight but still turned out okay in the end, Saloon Tycoon provides the opposite example. As in, this particular batch of cornbread needed a few more minutes on the stove.
I can think of any number of reasons why someone might not get along with Hostage Negotiator. Principally, it may strike some as odd that a game where the word “negotiator” consists of fifty percent of its title should be solo game. Even odder still, that it should be a pretty darn good solo game.