Author Archives: The Innocent

Fief: Chocolate and Raspberries Edition

Historically they would never put their flags atop spears like that, because it was a well-known fact that the spear would pierce the flesh but the cloth would staunch the bleeding. Once again, board games lose to history.

The vanilla edition of Fief: France 1429 already contained about 76 things to keep track of at once, so it’s only natural that it should already have five expansions to round that number out to an even hundred. All including the biggest of these expansions arrive in a small package, but even the smallest wants to add a whole mess of extra things to one of the busiest games I’ve played in recent memory.

Since adding the expansions presents almost as much difficulty as learning the base game itself, let’s talk about all five, what they do, and whether they exacerbate or alleviate Fief’s madness.

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Love and Hate in the 15th Century

Fief: a Jane Austen romance set in the wrong country and century, by the look of things.

I’m a historical kind of guy. I like my women in hennins, the sleeves of my cote-hardie decorated most ostentatiously, and my games to reflect the harsh realities presented by merely getting dressed on any given morning in the 15th century.

With that in mind, Fief: France 1429 ought to be the greatest game I’ve ever played. Instead, I’m prepared to make two completely true statements:

1) I absolutely hate Fief.

2) I absolutely love Fief.

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Being Pheidippides

It's a visual metaphor for Greek wrestling.

It’s possible that my fascination with ancient games traces to the fifth grade. We were required to do a project on Dynastic Egypt, and while the other students were thatching Nile boats or mummifying the family cat, I drew up a theoretical set of rules for Senet, a game dating to around 3100 BCE. The rest, as they say (literally in this case), is history.

Ah, to know the true rules to Senet! Or to the other Egyptian board game mystery, the serpentine Mehen! To play the Royal Game with the Kings of Ur, or wager blankets against Montezuma’s riches in Patolli! To march hoplites through the narrow canyons of the Peloponnese in Nika—

Right. That one’s possible.

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XCOM: Board Game Unknown

Note the sinister backlighting, the imposing stance of our fighters. Perhaps it's debating the divides of transhumanism, the win-at-all-costs-including-our-souls nature of this conflict? ... Naaaaah.

There’s a gentle irony to one of PC gaming’s most beloved turn-based games being turned into a real-time board game, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that XCOM: The Board Game doesn’t understand what gave XCOM its hallowed reputation. It’s almost a shame that the Best Real-Time Board Game Ever Award was granted in perpetuity back in 2008, because this right here represents something monumental in board game design.

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Print and Play (Oh My Darling)

I now imagine my life is narrated in this font.

Staying up to date with all of Todd Sanders’ projects is functionally impossible — for reference, he’s already finished four games in 2015 alone, and we’re only halfway through the year’s second month. But it’s been a long while since we examined anything by one of the most prolific creators of free print-and-play projects, which means it’s high time we dive back in. This time, the game in question is Do Not Forsake Me (Oh My Darling), one of the winners of the BoardGameGeek 18-Card Minigame Contest.

Yes, you read that right. 18 cards.

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Darkest After the Dawn

Seems to defeat the purpose of building a ring if you're just going to slap a city on the end. Is it generating its own gravity or what?

“It’s like Among the Stars, but in space,” is how one of my friends jokingly summed up New Dawn, Artipia Games’ follow-up to one of our favorite games of last year. Of course, what he meant is that apart from the gloss — the same color scheme, a few recurring faces, and a setting that could best be described as a pan-galaxy alliance of alien races getting all passive-aggressive about building the best space station — New Dawn has pretty much nothing in common with Among the Stars.

Unfortunately, that largely includes compelling gameplay.

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Space-Biff! Was Recently Devastated

The box art is so colorful, the Space-Biff! representative blends right in.

Back in the day, our game group used to hold these little house tournaments all the time. Mostly Summoner Wars, though we could be counted on to make a lively competition out of nearly anything, from Omen: A Reign of War to The Duke. If we could play more than one match at a time, sharing table space and laughing about each other’s flubs, we were set.

Then, for whatever reason, we stopped playing like that.

Over the next year we occasionally discussed giving it another shot. Especially if we could hold a tournament using BattleCON: Devastation of Indines, because a colorful fighting game full of thirty asymmetrical characters, dead simple rules, and outguess-your-opponent gameplay seemed like the perfect sort of thing for a winner-takes-all brawl. Even so, our plans never coalesced into an actual event.

Well. A few weeks back, entirely unexpectedly, we were treated to a perfect situation: exactly eight players, all of whom arrived exactly at 8, nobody who reported needing to get to bed early, and every single one of them ready and willing to play.

It was on.

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Roll Roll Roll Your Galaxy

The friendlier Borg.

Race for the Galaxy is a classic. Or so I hear. I only played it once, maybe six years ago, at my brother-in-law’s apartment. We ate popcorn. Both were enjoyable, and the game possessed a clever and clean design that felt a little bit less clean thanks to its wealth of hieroglyphics, leaving little for a newcomer to do other than etch a mental Rosetta Stone of hexagons, multicolored and soft-cornered rectangles, and eyeballs.

If nothing else, it’s a relief that Roll for the Galaxy, the dice game remix of Race’s original recipe, is kind enough to set plain old English script alongside the pictographs. I really do appreciate that.

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Feign Inferiority, Encourage Arrogance

"The supreme art of header design is to subdue the audience without effort." —Sun Tzu

He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.
Sun Tzu

If you are far from the enemy, make him believe you are near.
—Sun Tzu

When in doubt, attack Geoff.
—Sun Tzu

All excellent advice. Truly, Sun Tzu was wise in the art of war.

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In VGHS, It’s All About the Game

Law ready for this?

I’m entirely unashamed to confess being a fan of Rocket Jump’s comedy webseries Video Game High School, even if the final whispered words to escape namby-pamby Brian D’s charred lips ought to have been, “I fought The Law and The Law won.”

The board game adaptation, coming from the talented folks at Plaid Hat Games, is filled to the brim with references to the show. Good gameplay, on the other hand? Well…

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