By now, it should be no secret that I’m a big fan of trains as a theme for a game. I just find that, as a theme, there is so much to explore there, be it from the track laying point of view, the engine and economic engine point of view, the moving of goods point of view or from the corporation and those who run them point of view. I’ve yet to see a game that combines all of these points of view (the 18XX family comes close, but doesn’t cover the actual transport of goods), but one can dream. It is such a strong, rich theme that a lot can be done with it.
It is not often however that a game takes the trains theme and doesn’t include building tracks on a map. That is exactly the angle that Russian Railroads takes, casting the players in the roles of rail barons who try to build railroads out of Moscow towards other Russian cities, but without having a map of Russia involved, and opting for worker placement as its central mechanic. How is it? Great (it is, after all, on my 10X10in2014 challenge list)! Why? let’s find out, shall we?
Ah, small, micro games how you got my heart and what looks like the heart of half of the boardgame designers community. Not a week goes by without a new micro game being announced or showing up on Kickstarter, with Tiny Epic Kingdom, Burgoo, Where are Thou, Romeo? and Coin Age (just to name a few) leading the way. And you know what? I’ll always at least check it out. Why not? For under $10 (yeah, shipping is always expensive to Canada), you can hopefully get something that’s at least fun for an hour or two.
It is now Laboratory‘s turn to joins the fray (actually, it’s their second time as their first was a 1-card “CCG” called Shift, which I am unfamiliar with) with a micro resource management/rondel game, Province. How good can it be, with its small board, handful of tokens and very short playing time? Sure, the artwork is reminiscent of the more popular resource management games out there, but it looks so… simple. Simple? Yeah, it is. Easy to learn? Yeah, you can say that. Easy to win? Sure, I’ll show you how easy it is to… lose. Let’s check it out.
It’s sometimes hard to say why you decide to back a game on Kickstarter. Sometimes, it’s just the attitude of the designer/publisher and some of the buzz on Twitter or around the game that puts the bug in your ear. Sometimes, it’s the mechanics that look interesting at first blush, or the subject. Sometimes, and for me this is not as common, it’s the art or the minis.
In the case of Lagoon: Land of the Druids, the art attracted my eyes a little bit. It was nice and kind of stood away from the typical fantasy art. And then I started to see some buzz coming from Unpub 4. So when it came to Kickstarter, I took a look. Didn’t check the video (I find these less and less interesting since they tend to have little to do with the actual game/mechanics and more to do with “carnival barker” type thing) but what really caught my eyes was the fact that the designer/publisher had put up the entire game as a print-and-play, which I proceeded to download. The game looked interesting and what’s more, it was a simple matter to print it and try it out. What did I think? Let’s check it out.
Ah, train games. Seems that every other post I am talking about one of the greatest theme for board games, trains, and everything they seem to encompass. Be they simple games like Ticket to Ride or Union Pacific, slightly more complex games like Russian Railroads or Locomotive Werks or the big guns like Age of Steam, 1880, 1817 and all other 18XX. All these games have the same core, the iron horse, but all feel quite different in the way they represent their subject. They all have a different focus and level of complexity, and in the end, they are all lovely games for different reasons.
There has been many attempts at bringing dice to train games. Some have been successful or at least interesting (Railroad Dice) and other seem to have missed the mark (Railways Express). After Quarriors, which innovated with a dice building game, Wizkids stepped up to the plate once more and delivered a train-themed dice game, Trains & Stations. Any good? Let’s find out, shall we? Continue reading
Theme is a funny beast in boardgames, as it does add greatly to a game but sometimes can feel very generic. Many a comment and a joke has been made about the stern gentlemen on the cover of many a euro game, trying to look very much the part of a merchant or a trader. To stand out, you need to have a truly unique theme, but even better, have a theme that is somewhat supported by the gameplay of the game. It helps both in the immersion and if done correctly, in the understanding/retention of the rules.
I love Worker Placement games (or is that Action Selection games? Perhaps that’s an entirely different topic…) but for a lot of them, the theme is not only pasted on (Lords of Waterdeep, anyone?) but also quite generic (too many medieval games about traders to list). Sometimes, out of nowhere comes a truly thematic, truly wonderfully game and this is what Euphoria: Building a Better Dystopia is to me.
There is something about small games. Not those where the size of the game is an excuse for simply having no real decisions to take, but those which cram so much into a tiny box that the mind marvels at the thought process that came up with the idea. As I’ve stated before, one of the hottest trend right now is the micro game explosion. There’s a bunch of very cool games out already (Love Letter, Council of Verona, etc), coming out soon (Sail to India, Cheaty Mages, Coin Age) or on Kickstarter looking for funding (Burgoo, Tiny Epic Kingdom, and yes, I’ve backed both) and I’m quite sure that there are many more to come. All they have in common is a very small component list and some big ideas.
However, being part of a trend doesn’t guarantee quality. Does Coup live up to the merits of the trend or does it fall short?
Solo games are a weird breed: they tend to either be too simple and luck-based, or if they are complex (I’m looking at you, Steel Wolves), they might as well be computer games. Thing is, I like solo games. I like pushing some cardboard bits around a board by myself, taking decisions and seeing where it goes. On the other hand, like a regular game, I like it when my decisions are meaningful and not based purely on luck but unlike regular games, if it’s too complex, there’s no one else there to tell me we got a rule wrong.
I’ve had a on-again, off-again love affair with the solo games from Victory Point Games. Their State of Siege series has both some very good games (We Must Tell the Emperor) and some not so good games (Levee en Masse) and as such is very hit or miss for me. The other solo games they’ve put out so far are excellent and it was with trepidation that I got Infection: Humanity’s Last Gasp. Here’s a subject that’s interesting, and even though it had been done before by Pandemic, the angle was different. Is it any good though? Well, let’s check it out.
There’s something to be said about this new wave of micro-games that’s been coming out of Japan, and everywhere else, lately. Short play time, simple rules, small footprint/amount of material and some deeper gameplay that could be expected, now that’s what I’m talking about. All very good stuff.
AEG is mostly responsible for bring them to our shores, having re-published Love Letter and started a line of Pocket Games as a result. They’re not the only one in this party however, with Crash Games bringing us this tale of two star crossed lovers and the people who surround them, in Council of Verona. Not many games are based on the works of the Great Bard, William Shakespeare. Do they succeed on both count, bringing us a cool, fast little game that honors the play on which it is based?
Every once in a while a games comes out that causes waves in the hobby. Most of the time, it’s because it brings a new mechanic or a new way to do things, such as when Settlers of Catan, Puerto Rico, Dominion or Twilight Struggle came out. Each of these games revolutionized the hobby in some way, mostly because they brought new rules, new structure or a new way of looking at things to the hobby. Unlike video games, not many board games come out with controversial subject, such that some people might not even want to play before judging the game. Honestly, I can’t even think of another one, except for one wargame which wanted to recreate the Warsaw uprising. The controversy was warranted here, with a subject matter that is best left alone.
Along comes Tomorrow, a game that sent a shock wave of disgust through the game community when it was announced. Why? Because in the game, you play a super power who, along with the other super power, decides that unless something was done about the overpopulation of the planet, we are all doomed. And thus an alliance of sort is made: together, the super power must reduce the Earth’s population by about half in 9 “years” or everyone is doomed. But, and there’s always a but, the one who does the best job will emerge as the new super power (ie, will win). Is it really in bad taste to make a game about the need for global depopulation? I guess it depends on where you stand on the questions of the Earth’s future and whether you believe that we are agents of our own future. How does it fare as a game or game subject? Let’s check it out.
While all my friends were discovering Star Wars and Star Trek when I was a kid, I was busy discovering horror and more specifically cosmic horror in the form of the writings of Howard Philip Lovecraft, or HP to his dear friends. The combination of old time sensibilities and the futility of life in the light of cosmic horror that are so old struck a chord with me which still resonates to this day. It affected deeply the way I look at horror and, for a long time, almost made sure I followed mostly British horror rather than its American cousin, even though Lovecraft was American.
It’s no real surprise that when I started roleplaying when I got to college I was attracted to Call of Cthulhu over D&D, even if I had a hard time finding people to play. Over time I discovered the original Arkham Horror and had some fun with that, but while the new edition was sure pretty and had lots of stuff in it, it felt somewhat forced, especially with its long playing time and overly complex rulebook. I was quite curious when I first heard of Elder Sign and could not wait to try it out. I was really happy when it came out on iOS, since it meant I could try it and see just how good it was. The verdict? Well, let’s first look at the game.