Author Archives: The Innocent
Mercenaries are disunited, ambitious, undisciplined, and treacherous; they are powerful when among those who are not hostile, but weak and cowardly when confronted by determined enemies; they have no fear of God, and do not maintain commitments with men.
Know who wrote that? Niccolò freaking Machiavelli. Which is weird, because although I read The Prince in high school, I had no idea he played Sellswords from Level 99 Games. I guess that part went totally over my head.
I want you to imagine something with me. Close your eyes. Squeeze them tight. Tighter.
Now open them so you can continue reading the article.
A couple weeks back, I reviewed a family of games from Ignacy Trzewiczek by the name of 51st State, and mentioned that a new implementation of that system was forthcoming. Now it’s here, and a mere glimpse of the original trio’s artwork should provide sufficient indication that Imperial Settlers is going in an entirely different direction. For one thing, the sun shines in this universe. People smile. There’s not quite as much cannibalism.
Is that a good thing? Well, okay, for the inhabitants of Imperial Settlers, sure, of course it’s better. But how about for the rest of us?
Gale Force Nine has been batting a thousand lately, which yes is a sports reference I understand because I’ve always loved badminton, thanks very much. So far, they’ve managed to nail the feel of each and every series they’ve acquired the license for, from Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery, which captures all that show’s themes of corruption, backstabbery, and the reduction of people to playthings; to Firefly, which was about ramblin’ through space because Firefly the television show was about ramblin’ through space. Also smuggling cows.
Now Gale Force Nine has acquired the license to Sons of Anarchy, television’s preeminent motorcycle-gang-as-Hamlet program, and this time they’re proving that they understand the series even better than the series knows itself. For one thing, Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem never transplants its motorcycle gangs to Ireland in search of a kidnapped child, because the board game version has the sense to know that’s a stupid and boring thing to do. Instead, the board game knows how to have fun, every second, all the time — so let’s take a look at my top five fun moments.
I love post-apocalyptic stuff. Mostly because I’d be a pro at surviving the wasteland. Sure, sure, everybody says that. But I really would. Why? Because I’ve planned it all out, see. I’ve got my— well, more on that some other time. A man’s gotta have some mystery to him, you know?
For now, let’s talk about 51st State, a trio of games by one of my favorite designers, Ignacy Trzewiczek of Portal Games, set in the same blasted North American landscape as Neuroshima Hex and The Convoy (which was one of the best two-player games of 2013). This trilogy carries all the staples of the genre: scarce resources, harsh conditions, frumpy mutants… but even so, they manage to create their own vision of the world after the fall. Let’s take a look at all three!
The central conceit of Terra Mystica is that mystical creatures are reliant on geography, in the sense that witches hang out in forests, halflings love a well-fertilized plain for planting pipe-weed, nomads roam the desert, chaos magicians build their crazy towers in the wasteland (where else?), and dwarves mine the mountains. And because each race is only interested in their own geographical feature, they’re bent on terraforming the entire world until it’s just one unending forest or rolling plain or scorched desert.
Which sounds awful, now that I think about it. Not that it’s going to keep me from transforming as much of the world as possible into lakes so my mermaids can frolic until the end of time.
Back in December, I got my hands on a copy of the Designer’s Edition of Ogre. It weighed over twenty-five pounds, took hours to punch out and assemble all the hundreds of pieces, and took up more width on the couch than I do (Lies. I have a Dan the Hutt photo I’ll post here one day. —Somerset). Like pretty much everyone else who obtained a copy, I couldn’t help but post a bunch of very original pictures highlighting just how unimaginably bulky the thing was. You can find them here.
Well, since December, I’ve had a child. Taught her how to fly a kite. Nurtured her into adulthood. Got a pair of degrees from my friendly local university. Written about sixty articles. And still no word on whether or not I liked Ogre. It sat there for seven long months, taking up the entire laundry room, beckoning in the night like a green light flashing at the end of a pier.
Why didn’t I play it? It really comes down to intimidation, or maybe the fact that I can hardly lift the thing without pulling my back, groin, biceps, and hamstrings. All the hamstrings. But now, wonder of wonders, I’ve played it a few times, and I’m ready to tell you what I think.
It should already be apparent that I’m a huge fan of Volko Ruhnke’s COIN Series. It even led to the formation of my gaming group’s “COIN Collecting Club,” which is our way of code-talking that we’re going to play COIN games all Saturday afternoon. See, the real genius lies in the fact that certain people at our regular game night think it’s a club for the collecting of metal currency, when really we’re betraying each other and occasionally getting pissed about it.
To those certain people, who I’m aware read this site: I apologize. It couldn’t be helped. We just really didn’t want to play with you more than once a week.
Anyway, the COIN Series has already taken us on a tour of drug-war ’90s Colombia and Revolutionary Cuba, and today we’re talking about its headiest subject matter yet: the still-ongoing war in Afghanistan.
I’m always on the lookout for good light travel games, even though I don’t actually, ahem, travel all that often. Maybe I just like small things because they make me feel tall.
Either way, the recently-arrived Province, from Laboratory (no “games” after that; it’s just “Laboratory”), is among the tiniest. The question, then, is whether the gameplay is similarly tiny.
The Táin Bó Cúailnge is an epic story of early Irish literature about a battle between the Connacht Queen Medb, bent on stealing the bull Donn Cuailnge because she’s jealous of her husband Ailill’s bull Finnbhennach, and the hero Cuchulain, who’s the only dude in Ulster who isn’t sick with ces noínden, which should only last nine days but sticks around for months so Cuchulain’s antics can be even more amazing. Don’t ask me to pronounce the title or any of the characters’ names. And if you want to know more, I’m sure you can read Wikipedia articles every bit as well as I can.
The Táin is the latest game from prolific print-and-play designer Todd Sanders, whose work we’ve examined many times before. This time he’s tackling the card-driven wargame genre, so let’s see if the game is more comprehensible than either of those bulls’ titles.