James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse occupies a strange place in my heart. The first novel, Leviathan Wakes, I proclaim as brilliant without reservation, capturing a lot of what science fiction does best — plausible speculation and wonderment tempered by existential smallness — without veering too far in the direction of “hard” and becoming a boring high school chemistry lesson crammed with non-characters. On the other hand, main star Captain James Holden is the galaxy’s biggest dummy, pretty much just allying with whichever charismatic leader he’s most recently spoken with. Then again, space Mormons.
At any rate, my enthusiasm for the books — and to a lesser extent the TV show — was enough that the announcement of a board game adaptation aroused my interest. Even better when I learned it would be helmed by Geoff Engelstein, the mind who dreamed up Space Cadets, its hilarious Dice Duel sequel, and the ever-reliable The Dragon & Flagon.
I’m in love with a cube-pusher.
On paper, the pitch for Assault of the Giants sounds downright mighty. Set in fantastical Faerûn, recognizable to many as the principal setting of Dungeons & Dragons, everyone is cast as their own clan of giants, each with their own strengths and… well, “weaknesses” probably isn’t the right word when we’re talking about giants. We’ll call them “lesser strengths.”
Turns out that giants are organized into a continent-spanning caste system, ranging from the high-and-mighty storm giants at the top all the way down to the untouchable hill giants at the bottom. With the old hierarchy crumbling, it’s time for all six clans to come together to have a calm and reasoned discussion about parliamentary procedure and caste reform. That, or smash the pickle juice out of each other until somebody new stands atop the heap.
“Where have you been for the last couple weeks?” you’ve undoubtedly been asking. Wedding, wedding, new baby (not mine), work, school, wedding. That’s where.
Oh, and I’ve also had a few articles published over at Miniature Market’s Review Corner. First up, Michael Barnes and I debated the merits of Cuba Libre as an entry point into the excellent COIN Series, followed by a discussion about our reservations about Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar, and why despite those reservations it has become my favorite volume of the series. Meanwhile, I also reviewed Star Trek: Frontiers. Long story short, it’s Mage Knight in outer space with an extra dose of talking. “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra,” indeed.
Okay, so we’ve talked about how on the first day, the Mage Knights popped out of that portal of theirs and started putting on all sorts of magic shows, and on the second they figured out where the Red City was hiding, and began laying plans to take it by force. You know this story ends with the corrupt City falling, but I’ll reckon you couldn’t guess how. Even if you could, you couldn’t stop me from telling it.
Alright, now where were we? Ah, right, so last time Goldyx and Tovak, Mage Knights both, spent a day and a night conquering a path across the countryside, bringing down warbands of orcs and fortified strongholds with equal ease. I’ve told you that they’re the ones that brought our Red City’s corrupt penny-squeezers to heel, and in only three days too. Well, I reckon I’ll tell you about their second day. It’s the one that some folks like to jaw about when they say the Mage Knights aren’t so heroic as we’ve been told, but don’t let anyone hear you talk like that. And anyway, it’s true that they did some pillaging and burning, but there’s a reason for all that.
Ever heard of a Mage Knight? No? For shame. It was a pair of Mage Knights that fought against the dragons and orcs and corrupt burro-crats that were running this country into the mud. Only took them three days to do it, too.
Ah yes, looks like you’re remembering now. Only three days and three nights, and they went from Mage Knight rookies to veterans with the powers of the gods themselves—I’m talking about the power to melt walls sixty feet high, to bring an elder dragon crashing out of the sky without dripping a single bead of sweat, to command loyalty that kings could only fantasize about. Settle in and I’ll refresh that fogged-up memory of yours. It’s the least I can do—after all, that pair did me a good turn by bringing the Red City to its knees.