Author Archives: The Innocent
Once upon a time there was a game called Himalaya about yak traders plying their wares in the exotic mountains that separate the Indian Subcontinent and the Tibetan Plateau, and I absolutely did not play it. I’d never even heard of it.
Well now I’ve played it, or something very like it. Libellud, publisher of some of our favorite games like Dixit, Seasons, and Ladies & Gentlemen, recently rebranded Himalaya as a game about noble heroes who wander the countryside, recruiting soldiers and fighting monsters as they go — and let me tell you this new setting is a relief, because I’m buried up to my ears in games about yak trading.
Lagoon: Land of Druids would really like you to settle in and be a druid for the evening. Which is pretty cool, right? There aren’t many board games that cast you as a druid, or that are set in such a pleasantly drawn world full of peculiar floating edifices, tiny glimmerwisps playing ball with conifer cones, and day-glo mushrooms, shrines, and caves. Which is to say, Lagoon is a gorgeous game, painted with vibrant strokes, colors popping like a drive down the Las Vegas Strip at midnight.
But is it any good? Well… let’s talk.
Martin Wallace has already earned the distinction of being one of my favorite game designers this year thanks to his wonderful and anarchic A Study in Emerald, which casts its players as saboteurs, detectives, and political agitators fighting against (or secretly supporting) their alien overlords during the dawn of the 20th century. It’s basically the unholy spawn of H.P. Lovecraft and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and as far as genre mashups go, that’s the one that pushes all my buttons with squamous webbed toes. Which is why, upon hearing that Wallace was making another deck-building-on-a-map hybrid, I did a little happy-dance.
Sadly, Mythotopia is more of a spiritual successor to Wallace’s earlier title A Few Acres of Snow, a game I only played once and wasn’t particularly taken with — a relief, as it later turned out that a single strategy (ominously deemed the Halifax Hammer) was so potent that all other strategies soon crumbled before it.
The question, then, is whether Mythotopia transcends that earlier game’s shortcomings, or if there’s a Mythotopia Mallet waiting to fall.
One of my favorite books on the topic of the Vietnam War is Frances FitzGerald’s Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. In it, FitzGerald posits that the United States didn’t lose the war out of failed military achievement or lack of determination, but rather owing to the incompatibility of American and Vietnamese cultures and values. The Vietnamese had weathered a literal millennium as part of Imperial China before regaining their sovereignty — after that, how long could any power expect to remain in Vietnam?
The board game version of Fire in the Lake, the fourth entry in Volko Ruhnke’s lauded COIN Series, has its own answer: about three to five hours, give or take.
I don’t normally plug Kickstarter campaigns, but there’s one in particular I’ve already reviewed twice this year, and both times my assessment was pretty much glowing. It’s called Oddball Aeronauts, from Maverick Muse, and it’s rad. Basically, it’s a light game about a fight between airships in which you wager a number of cards on the outcome of each round of battle. There’s guesswork, bluffing, and special powers. Furry creatures too, if that’s your sort of thing. It’s also incredibly portable, playable even without the benefit of a table.
If you’re interested, check out their Kickstarter over here. If you still aren’t convinced, rather than review it for a third time, I’ve put together a little list of six absolutely real and genuine places that I’ve played Oddball Aeronauts.
I might be more partial to the University from The Name of the Wind than I am to Hogwarts, but I don’t think there’s a single human being among us who can say they haven’t dreamed of being accepted into a school of magic. Ah, what a life! The power, the prestige. The non-committal make-outs with gorgeous magically gifted people. The, uh, education, I guess.
Now there’s one more reason to head off to magic boarding school. It’s Argent: The Consortium, the newest title from Level 99 Games, set in the perplexing world of Indines where people spend roughly 92% of their time punching each other. Now they’re punching each other with intrigue. Also the not-so-occasional fireball.
Today my Personal Journey for a tournament-style card game continues with Doomtown: Reloaded, which immediately delivers a swift kick to the head by being based on that most sunset-tinged of genres, the Western.
Ah, the Western.
Over the past year or so, I’ve become slowly more interested in embarking on a Personal Journey to try my hand at a tournament-style card game. I was too late to be competitive in Netrunner, and Summoner Wars, although a game I’ve always enjoyed, doesn’t have a big enough tournament scene for my tastes. To that end, at GenCon 2014 I picked up three collectible-style card games: The Spoils, Doomtown: Reloaded, and Warhammer 40,000: Conquest, with the idea that I’d play the hell out of each of them and then pick the best one as my tourney game, and review all three in order from worst to best.
The Spoils is the first one I’m covering. If you’re a smart cookie, you can guess what that means.
Maybe because of the unspoken nerd prestige that accompanies 4X games (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate, for the uninitiated), or perhaps because the previous two titles from Gamelyn Games, Dungeon Heroes and Fantasy Frontier, both ranked alright-to-okay on Space-Biff!’s Universal Objective Scale of Personal Preference, Tiny Epic Kingdoms really wants you to think of it as a 4X game.
But that’s somewhat misleading, because Tiny Epic Kingdoms isn’t really a 4X game. It’s more of a 3X game, which is just a 4X game minus an X — in this case, exploration, because there is absolutely no exploration in TEK. Unless laying a map tile on the table at the start of the game counts as “exploration,” in which case nearly every game is about exploration.
Not that it matters one dang bit, because Tiny Epic Kingdoms is easily the best title we’ve seen so far from Gamelyn Games.