Category Archives: Board Game
In last month’s installment of Alone Time, I mentioned that the Lord of the Rings Card Game from Fantasy Flight Games was very possibly the only solo game a fella would ever need. And perhaps you thought to yourself, “What if I don’t want to design decks and buy more quests? Also, I hate hobbits.” If that’s the case, today we’re going to talk about two different editions of another game from FFG. It’s Elder Sign, and it’s much more self-contained, has a lot more dice, and doesn’t have quite as high a barrier to entry. And anyway, what could be more anti-hobbit than H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos?
The original plan was to write a lengthy battle report showing off the capabilities of Queen Maldaria and Torgan, the second summoners for the Phoenix Elves and Tundra Orcs. You know, like we did last week for the new Guild Dwarves and Cave Goblins. Then the actual match didn’t go quite as me and Somerset hoped — as dynamic and interested as the battle had been, it didn’t feel like it would make for particularly good reading. Our rematch was similar, though inverted. That will make sense later.
Somerset then had two realizations: first, the crazy outcome of these two fights was actually a perfect example of what we both like most about Summoner Wars; and second, although I’d written about Summoner Wars over a dozen times, I’d never actually gotten around to writing a review. So that’s what this is: my unconventional review of why I love Summoner Wars, from the perspective of two matches that just didn’t want to be written as battle reports.
Looking at City of Iron for the first time is sort of like staring directly into a rainbow, which my father always said would burn my corneas. Or was that the sun? Either way, Ryan Laukat’s latest game appears all but incomprehensible at first glance, packed as it is with unique races, fantastic lands, and ample opportunities to corner the Bottled Demon market. It’s easily his most ambitious title yet. Is it also his best? Let’s take a look.
It’s always a relief to finish a series and compile an index (it’s a freebie article, so hey!), but I’ll confess I’m going to miss the anticipation of discovering what comes next in the Minigame Library from Level 99 Games. At least this collection has enjoyed enough success that we’ll be seeing another at some point, and Pixel Tactics will be getting a sequel sometime this summer! For your reading simplicity, I’ve compiled all my reviews below.
Back in the alt-text for the header image of my Blades of Legend review, I made some predictions about the remaining four games in the Minigame Library from Level 99 Games. I guessed (correctly) that Pixel Tactics and Noir would be good entries, underestimated Infinity Dungeon a bit, and supposed, based on the score over on BoardGameGeek, that Grimoire Shuffle would be “meh.” Reading the rulebook (which, let’s be fair, hasn’t been the Minigame Library’s strongest suit) didn’t do much to change that assumption.
So sitting down and actually playing Grimoire Shuffle was a pleasant surprise. Turns out, it’s a pretty slick team puzzle game. It isn’t on the same level as Pixel Tactics, but it definitely stands out as comparable to Master Plan in that it’s uncommonly smart for its size.
Heads up! If you’re one of those folks who starts breathing heavier at the thought of an eleven-hour gaming marathon, who enjoys a boardgaming routine filled with quiet contemplation and deep chuckles brought on by ironies and reversals of fortune that have brewed and percolated over the course of dozens of turns and actions, who enjoys the type of boardgamery in which you write secret notes and engage in subtle backstabbery fit for smokey drawing rooms filled with chestnut desks and mounted animal trophies, who can think of no better way to spend an evening than slipping into the gradual slumber brought on by only the most robust gaming experiences—
If you’re one of those folks, Escape: The Curse of the Temple is not the game for you.
In about a month the first four of the second summoners will be released, which means the second phase of the Summoner Wars is beginning! To celebrate, Somerset and I have set the new Guild Dwarf and Cave Goblin decks against each other. While archenemies Oldin and Sneeks are busy wearing down their forces in frontal assaults, both have thought up a secret flanking maneuver — completely oblivious to the crucial detail that these ill-fated plans traverse the exact same route. And so Frick’s army of war cripples, runts, and braindead goblins has come to crash against Bolvi’s fortified towers and those sworn to defend them to the death. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Also fun.
I keep reminding myself that each of the games in the Minigame Library from Level 99 Games were designed by the same dude, D. Brad Talton, Jr. It’s surprising because each of these games is a tight, self-contained experience, totally distinct from the others in the collection despite their shared designer and tiny size. Unfortunately, they also share the same downside: that they could have been even better if only they’d had more to them. In a way, the “mini” in “Minigame Library” is its biggest weakness. Master Plan would have been even more cerebral if only it contained a few more traps; Infinity Dungeon’s random wackiness stops being quite so random and wacky after you encounter all of its items, rooms, and characters after only a few plays; and Pixel Tactics demands “More!” so resoundingly that it’s getting exactly that later this summer.
Then along comes Noir, the glowing exception to this rule. Noir has exactly as many cards as it needs to be a great mystery game, and it’s easily the tightest out of a set of very tight games. “More?” you ask.
No. Noir isn’t interested in more.
If you’re a faithful reader of Space-Biff!, you’re likely well aware of my man-crush on Ryan Laukat. Not only did I enjoy his debut title Empires of the Void a little under a year ago, but I was also lucky enough to interview him at SaltCon back in February. You could say we have a history. You might also not say that, but all relationships are subjective.
Anyway, Mr. Laukat has now proven himself possibly the most efficient Kickstarter-er of all time, as he has just successfully shipped two projects, both two months ahead of their estimated release date. And while the universe didn’t implode at the news, it sure came close. We’ll be looking at City of Iron sometime in the near future, but for now let’s check out Eight-Minute Empire, Ryan’s filler-game take on the Civilization genre.
So far in our look at the Minigame Library from Level 99 Games, we’ve seen the “surprisingly cerebral” Master Plan, the interesting but ultimately failed experimental team game Blades of Legend, and the not-quite-a-game-but-it’s-good-so-who-cares Infinity Dungeon. Between the inclusion of the first and last of those, I already regard the price of admission into this Library as a pretty good deal.
Well, buckle up! Because today we’re looking at two-person dueling game Pixel Tactics, which placed alongside even the games I’ve liked from this set, is a (mini) giant among men.