Author Archives: The Innocent

Cigars, Diamonds, or Bullets

Game idea: play as a member of the Mafia during the 1946 Havana Conference, and try to get the best deal for your family. Maybe get murdered, maybe ally with Lucky Luciano. Make it so. Please.

We number one shy of a dozen, dressed to the nines and seated around the heavily-grained table of Hotel Nacional’s grand ballroom. Through the high windows, propped open to let in the cool salt air, I can see Havana Harbor, smell it, taste it. Smoke curls over the dance floor, points of light glowing as made men chew the ends of their cigars. Motionless along the back of the room, hands clasped and suits crumpled from previous victims putting up a fight, the godfather’s men stand, faces unreadable.

“Don Daniel,” the godfather says, rolling his pig’s eyes in my direction. His mouth is turned down in a frown so deep it’s almost comical. Would be comical if it didn’t mean he might be about to order those crumpled men to drag me down to the harbor, wingtips kicking gravel and fists punching the salt air. Just like he had done with Don Alberto minutes before. The diamonds from the godfather’s enameled cigar case tickle at my breast, itching to be let out. “Don Daniel,” the godfather repeats. “Empty your pockets.”

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Approximately 3,720 to 1

Darth Mumbleopolis is only there for marketing reasons. Pay no attention to these droids behind the curtain.

Confession time: I don’t much care about Star Wars. It isn’t that I have any animosity towards the series, it’s just that lightsaber duels and brown hoodie-robes weren’t a particularly big part of my childhood, so I paid about as much attention to all this talk of the Force as I did to anything else where words like “Naboo” were thrown around.

Some might argue that my apathy towards all things Star Wars undermines my ability to review Star Wars Risk. My response is that I’m probably the one person capable of explaining the game to those who don’t know what Star Wars is all about. So let’s get started!

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Samurai You Win, Samurai You Lose

This summer, the Japanese preoccupation with giant monsters continues with the dreaded katanakaiju.

I’d open with a historical anecdote, but unfortunately my knowledge of pre-20th century Japan basically boils down to the Total War series and that one time I read the first quarter of James Clavell’s Shōgun. Instead, I’ll point out that Samurai is another classic title from Reiner Knizia, along with Blue Moon Legends and Tigris & Euphrates, that has been given new life by Fantasy Flight Games. And much like those others, Samurai is so much more than it first appears.

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No Place Like Catacombs

It looks so *pleasant* up there. Why would anyone ever go downstairs?

At long last, the great gates that have obstructed your passage to Khrlot shudder open, axe-bitten oaken doors shrieking on their hinges. So stale is the air that the moisture of your mouth and nostrils is sucked dry in an instant. Beside you, Elani sighs noisily, flicking a glinting coin into the air and nabbing it just as quickly. Xoric runs his finger along the blade of his axe, testing its bite, and Varesh rummages through his spellbook, frowning deeply. Before you is the darkness of the final tomb obstructing your passage to Vasesak, the foul sorcerer of the catacombs beneath Stormtryne.

He will know your fury. You have vowed it.

One by one the braziers gutter to life. You are not alone down here — not that you expected to be. Long before you can make out their shifting outlines, you’re bombarded by a ghoulish cacophony, clacking pincers and the chattering jaws of Vasesak’s reanimated servants. To your side, Xoric tests his axe’s weight, giving it an exploratory swing through the air. Elani pockets her gold and licks her lips. Varesh begins muttering an incantation, flames licking at his fingertips.

And then you ram into the nearest skeleton with your forehead, bashing him to pieces, before rebounding off a pillar and smacking a troll onto his arse. “Good shot!” shouts Elani, following up your assault by smacking into the troll with her shoulder. You grumble a bit. After all, she just stole your kill.

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Tiny Epic Review

Meet my tiny epic header, tinier and epic-er than the actual box art.

The audacity of the Tiny Epic series has never been more pronounced. First they were proclaiming a kingdom both tiny and epic, then a battle. Now it’s the whole damn galaxy. Plural galaxies, even.

Then again, the upside is that Tiny Epic Galaxies is the best thing we’ve seen yet from Gamelyn Games, so maybe we’ll give those oxymorons a pass this once. This once.

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Thane You, Jarl Welcome

Ragnar Lothbrok, you're so dreamy.

Even after a sustained two-year barrage of contenders, I still consider The Duke one of the best head-to-head games of all time. I called it “chess checkmated” in my review, mostly because I knew it would prove controversial at the local chess club meetup over at the senior center. Those guys still flash their octogenarian crusties at me whenever I stop in for a cheap lunch.

Another thing I enjoy is the History Channel’s TV series Vikings. I’m not going to use a word like “love,” but yeah, I like it alright. Sometimes they fight each other, other times they scheme. Usually somebody gets naked in a PG-13 sort of way. Y’know, Viking stuff.

At any rate, The Duke and Vikings have apparently also gotten naked in a PG-13 sort of way, because Jarl has recently been delivered kicking and screaming into the world. Let’s pay our respects.

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Nevermore Evermore

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven, / Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore— / Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!” / Quoth the raven, "PINKEYE!"

What does the Nevermore card game have to do with Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem “The Raven”? Good question! The ever-present burden of memory? Nope. The terrible knowledge that we already know the answers to every single one of our most pressing questions, it’s just that we don’t like those answers? Not at all. The uncomprehending universe to which we pose our—

Okay, enough of that. The correct answer is “Ravens. Just ravens.”

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Elsewhere for 10 Minutes: Space Alert

I'm the dude casually playing minesweeper while the ship goes to hell.

Space Alert is one of my favorite games ever designed, a hilarious seizure-inducing experience that I’ve never quite been able to write about. Probably because just thinking about it makes me twitchy. In the restless nights that follow those abortive attempts at discussing the past trauma that is a ten-minute round of Space Alert, I dream of stealth fighters uncloaking off the port bow, alien amoebas squirming beneath my eyelids, a giant nebula-lobster shredding the ship’s armor with snapping pincers. Down the corridor someone begins to scream, cut short by explosive decompression.


I don’t know if this will help me finally come to terms with my unseen injuries, but at long last I’ve begun the first tentative steps at working through the pain. My tool of choice is a five-star rating of Space Alert over at the Review Corner. Give it a read.

Pier 51 Imports

I'm bracing for a game about time travel in which I go back in time to change this game's box art to not reflect time travel, thereby erasing the need for time travel in the first place. Paradox?

Remember the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Indiana Jones is getting all shouty about the government’s “top men” not acknowledging the true power of the Ark of the Covenant? Well, you should have seen him when the U.S. announced they’d run out of money and were going to be auctioning it off. He just about nuked the fridge.

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Pyramids of Powah

Two viceroys enter. Then they talk about a lot of boring stuff and leave through separate doors.

I don’t often read about politics, pretty much because they’re boring and deflating, but the other day I found myself totally spellbound by the President’s recent State of the Union. In it, he was talking about “levels of contribution,” the idea that we have different things to offer to our society, and using himself as an example. I won’t bore you with the details — I’m sure you can find it online with a quick search — but the basics came down to him arguing that his personal lowest level of contribution costs a red gem but provides three victory points. Not very much at all. At the next level he requires an additional yellow gem but gives four back, of any color, which is a two-for-one return on our investment. Then at each successive level he could contribute something more; for example, a boost to the nation’s scientific community, then an increase to our magical capacity. But he would also consume more gems. Because gems don’t come easily, this isn’t always an easy decision, but in the end a nation that most carefully invests its gems is the one that rises to the top.

Best State of the Union ever. Politics finally make sense.

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