There’s a special place in my heart for deck-building games — it’s just that it’s a twisty, confusing place.
On the one hand, the basic concept behind deck-building is nothing less than an absolute stroke of genius. On the other, I’m one of those theme guys that can’t help but need a reason for all the sheep-shuffling, card-conscripting, and goblin-ganking that board games regularly task me with. And while it’s a hoot to listen to my Dominion-loving buddy Stephen try to explain away that game’s thematic failures by insisting on a historically plausible kingdom composed of two witches, three markets, and a half-dozen duchies, I remain unconvinced. Although there are exceptions (like Mage Knight, upon which you could read a three-part series and never guess is running on deck-built steam), this is a genre I admire more from a mechanical standpoint than because I’m actually smitten.
Until Core Worlds, that is. Because I’m in love with Core Worlds, and I don’t care who sees us making out in public.
It’s easy to read about the ladies and gentlemen of previous times — say, the Regency or Victorian eras — and cluck at just how silly and simple those people were, to care only as far into the future as next Friday’s ball or Jane Warmporridge’s upcoming wedding. To fret so intently over appearances and the ministrations of their servants. To live with such a vast gulf between husbands and wives. It’s so easy to read about those people in those different times and let out a sort of superior chuckle. The easiest thing in the world, really.
So although a few folks have voiced concerns that Ladies & Gentlemen sounds a bit, ahem, sexist, in reality it’s a marvelous tool. For, you see, by the end of the game you’ll understand precisely how much a well-matched dress and hat can matter. Most importantly, this is one of the first board games that has stood out to me as having actually taught me something. And I’m not talking about trivia, because I’ll be damned if I’m going to say Trivial Pursuit is an important game.
Once upon a time there was a cowboy by the name of Mark Klassen, though everybody called him Dr. Handsome. Nobody is sure what Mark did for a living — whether he erected hospitals with his bare hands, or just watched way too much Grey’s Anatomy and ER in between modeling gigs. Really, it’s a hell of a mystery. Whatever the case, Mark decided to design the board game equivalent of those fine television programs, though minus all the chiseled doctors and ravishing nurses hooking up. The result is Quarantine from Mercury Games, and it’s unlike anything you’ve played before.
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.