There are some designers that seem to come out of nowhere and then dominate the scene, at least for a little while and Scott Almes is one such designer. If you would have asked me 2 years ago who he was, I wouldn’t have been able to name one of his games without looking at BGG. And now I own/am waiting for 4 of his games and he’s one of the designers that I tend to keep an eye on because of his skill in taking very simple mechanics and turning them into great games.
Tiny Epic Galaxies is his latest effort, one which will be on Kickstarter early in the new year (January 8th to be precise) and it is the third game in the Tiny Epic (Kingdoms and Defenders being the other two) series. Like other games in the series, this is an attempt at doing a bigger game in a short playing time using a few components. While a little too big/long to be considered a micro game, it can easily be taught and brought pretty much anywhere. The real question remains, how does it play? Let’s find out!
Space, the final frontier, or at least the latest frontier in micro-games. Not too many micro games do space well (there is Pocket Imperium that is quite neat however) and even less do hand/deck management. Granted, there aren’t many hand-management games out there in the first place, with it being similar to deck-building. In hand-management, you grow your hand of card and thus what you can do, but you never shuffle your cards.
Eminent Domain: Microcosm not only does space and hand-management, but does it in a micro-game kind of way. The latest in the Eminent Domain line (which right now only includes Eminent Domain and expansions, but will soon add Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers), it plays really well while maintaining the main flavor of Eminent Domain. Is it fun? Let’s check it out!
Either there’s been a lot of discussion about what is and what isn’t a micro or I hang out with people who are obsessed with board games. No matter, I find that quite a interesting discussion. Apart from those who deny that they exist at all (let’s call these people Jason), most of the definitions seem to give more of an insight into the person than the games themselves. There are those who claim that simplicity and game length defines a micro; others claim that footprint and components define a micro; other claim that they are nothing new really, that they have been around for a long time. There’s some interesting conversation to be had, that’s for sure but at the end of the day, micro or not, they are games and they live or die by whether they are interesting and can stay interesting.
AEG is one company that has been doing real well with this resurgence of the micro: first came Love Letter, then Agent Hunters, with Mai-Star and Cheaty Mages following closely. And then the moment I’d been waiting for some time, the release of Sail to India, a micro-sized game that contains a huge game. Is it a micro since there isn’t a lot of components and the footprint is fairly small? Maybe, but on the other hand, the game is meaty and the playtime is around 1 hour, even with experienced players. But more important, is it fun? Let’s find out! Continue reading
I have to confess that I have no great love for racing games in general. For me, those that don’t focus on the race per se are far more interesting and successful (like Royal Turf) than those which try to recreate something that is really all about reflex and endurance. For me, they all feel like an exercise in getting the right roll/card more than being able to recognize a key moment and take advantage of it. Well, that was true until now…
I’ve been talking a lot about Thunder Alley in the last few weeks and with good reasons. Not only is it relatively easy to explain, it also accommodates up to 7 players and keeps everyone on their toes. I never thought I’d say this about a racing game, but it’s quickly is making its way in my top 10 of the year, if not top 10 of the last ten years (I should do such a list at some point). Why is that? well, let me tell you all about the NASCAR game that wasn’t a NASCAR racing game…
To say that I love a good train game at this point would be kind of pointless. Between my dabbling with Ticket to Ride, my well-known love of 18XX and Age of Steam/Steam, my discovery of the great Paris Connection and countless other, I love a good train game. One thing I haven’t seen often is a good card-based train game (don’t get me started with a good dice-based train game). Sure Express was pretty good at the time and Yardmaster is an interesting meld of Uno and Ticket to Ride. Even 1830 Card Game is very good, even if the components are… rudimentary. But what do you do when you have 15 minutes to play a good train card game?
Well, this is the question Yardmaster Express attempts to answer. A short, drafting game that plays 2 to 5 players and that takes about 10 minutes to play. What’s more, it’s very easy to explain and simple to understand. What do you mean, no one had asked that question? Well, so what. I love a good train game. Does Yardmaster Express have what it takes to be one of the good ones? Let’s check it out.
In the late 1990s, when I started getting back into boardgames, the first few that I discovered were pretty much the standards of the time: Settlers of Catan, El Grande, with some Magic, Illuminati and the like thrown in. When the 2000s started, meatier, and yet still simple, games started to emerge, like Princes of Florence, Puerto Rico, Stephenson’s Rocket and Liberte by a certain Martin Wallace. This last title fascinated me simply because of the multiple path to not only victory, but also to ending the game. I remember many an evening playing this, walking the knife’s edge in trying to put myself in a position to win without pushing the game too far lest one of my opponents push it over the edge to score a win.
Naturally, when Wallace’s next title came out I was intrigued. I had hoped that it would be as unforgiving as his last title and as deep without being overly complex. Boy did he ever deliver! Age of Steam was everything I had hoped for and more. Not only was it cutthroat but it was also unforgiving, with one minor misstep causing you to go bankrupt and be out of the game. It also had something else that fascinated me: different maps. Simply using a different map and using maybe some rules modification, you got a whole new experience, forcing the players to change their strategy. I fell in love but with a harsh mistress. The game was perceived by many in my different gaming groups as too difficult and unforgiving. While I managed to play it, it still sat almost forgotten, that is until it came back as Steam, published this time by Mayfair Games. Was this a good thing? Well, let’s find out.
To boldly go where… no games has gone before? Nah, the 4X genre (eXpand, eXplore, eXploit and eXterminate) has a fairly long history in boardgames, going from the originator of the genre, Stellar Conquest and later to Twilight Imperium to more recent faves like Eclipse, Space Empire 4X and now Hegemonic (yes, I know I’m missing a bunch and yes, I also know that 4X games are not only space games, although to me it feels like they have to be).
What makes 4x games so fascinating? I really believe that they are, in many ways, the ultimate expression of a game, be they boardgames or video games (and there are some great 4X video games out there). After all, there aren’t many games that let you shape an entire civilization, from birth to, perhaps unfortunately, death. The main issue I have with them is that they all seem to follow a specific pattern, one that might have been forged by one of the best computer games, namely Master of Orion. Does Hegemonic fall in this trap? Let’s find out, shall we.
Oh, and before we start, this is a rather long review so if you’d rather just skip ahead to what I think of the game…
There was a short discussion the other day on Twitter about whether or not there were too many evolution-themed games out/coming out and this struck me as strange. As much as evolution is a cool theme, I can’t think of many games that do use it at their core. The only ones that come to mind are Evo, Dominant Species, Quirks and Primordial Soup (probably better known as Ursuppe) but a quick look at BGG shows me that I’m wrong, with 3 pages of games that fit that category.
There seems to be a lot of evolution-themed games, but most of them seem to be pretty obscure or don’t really take their theme to heart. Well, add another one to the list, namely the previously web-published Evolution, a game that focus on two aspects of evolution, namely survival of the fittest and quickly adapting to your current environment. In the fast-growing jungle of boardgames and cardgames, does it have a chance for survival and shine among the new releases or will it fade away quickly, a new species that didn’t have the right stuff to survive? Let’s find out, shall we? Continue reading
Space games, and more specifically 4X games (eXplore, eXploit, eXpand and eXterminate), are kind of the final frontier for me. They do contain most of the aspects I love in gaming, but most of them seem to be too long for the final payoff. They tend to follow the same pattern, with players building up their forces, turtling in the corners to go into a massive combat which, most of the time, is really unsatisfying. On the other hand, the parts that work are so thrilling: the building up of technology, the slow build up of your empire as you gain more resources and build an economic engine, the figuring out of different strategies and the alliances. So much fun.
There have been many attempts at the perfect 4X game, similar to the quest for the new Civilization game that doesn’t take 18 hours to play. Many have taken the brute approach (Twilight Imperium comes to mind) and some have tweaked the formula just a bit, attempting to make a playable 4x. And then comes Quantum, a game that prides itself on its modular approach and the speed at which it can be picked up and played. Does it succeed at what it sets out to do? Is it really a 4X game or just another game that uses part of the formula? Let check it out!
In board games, there are some themes you expect to see all the time, such as trading in medieval Europe or trains, and the same could be said for wargames, with games about World War 2, taking a lion’s share of all games out there. There are themes, however, that one is genuinely intrigued when they see them, such as chemistry (Compounded), bureaucracy (Ad Acta) or time travel (Legacy: Gears of Time).
There are also themes that become special because of the angle the game takes and Pay Dirt is one such game. Not only is it about gold digging in modern-day Alaska, but the game seems to take a different approach to it, namely that of reality shows such as Gold Rush. While theme in and of itself isn’t necessarily a selling point for me, it does help a game stand out, even more if it is well incorporated in the game. Does Pay Dirt strike it rich? Let’s find out.