I don’t make suboptimal moves on purpose. Okay, that’s a lie. If I’m teaching a game, or a friend seems like they need a win, or the current best move will just piss off everyone at the table, then sure, I’ll intentionally make a less-than-ideal move now and then. Just to keep things breezy. But not when I’m playing solo games, because nobody will get angry because I’m winning or store a grudge for next game or flip my handcrafted game table. When I’m playing alone, there’s simply no reason to take any move other than the best one I can see at any given moment.
That is, until I played Freedom: The Underground Railroad. Let me explain.
I recently finished a four-session play of the fantastic story-telling and map-drawing game The Quiet Year from Buried Without Ceremony, easily one of the indie-est board/card game designers I’ve had the pleasure of hearing about these last few years. The Quiet Year also happens to be one of the few boardgames I’ll gladly file under my “Why Games Matter” tag — it’s nothing short of compelling the way it assembles totally unique stories by a process of creative collision. It isn’t always an easy game to play, but it’s definitely a worthwhile one, if only because it will give you a window into your friends’ weird imaginations. I guarantee you’ll be surprised by what they come up with.
“But what is The Quiet Year, really?” you ask. Sorry, but one cannot be told what The Quiet Year is. I mean, you totally can be told what it is, but not here in the introduction. That’s an unreasonable expectation. The only solution is to read on.
Spring. Summer. Twenty-four weeks have passed in our telling of The Quiet Year, a story-weaving and map-drawing game from Buried Without Ceremony, and our year has been anything but quiet. Our community has shattered into far-flung splinters, tiny communities that were once part of a greater family, all of them grieving past losses, all of them seeking redress — well, except for the goatherds. They just watch their goats get it on all day. But everyone other than them is having a pretty rough time.
And this season looks like it might prove to be the roughest time of all. There’s a reason the folks of the Former World used to call it “The Fall,” after all.
Welcome to part two of our series about The Quiet Year, a storytelling and map-drawing game from one-man outfit Buried Without Ceremony! After the upheaval and social tensions that marked the end of spring and caused our community to worry that perhaps our new home wasn’t quite the fresh start we were hoping for, the summer season has fallen across the landscape like a warm blanket, and our small family of nomads is looking forward to mending divisions, securing borders, and working towards a brighter future — or a quiet year, if you prefer.
If you haven’t already, it would be a good idea to read about what happened to our family back in spring before continuing on with this season, because there’s far too much to relate to spend time catching up.
Today marks the beginning of a short series about storytelling card game The Quiet Year from Joe Mcdaldno’s Buried Without Ceremony. This designer is so indie, you can pay for his games by doing good deeds. Awesome.
This is going to be a little different than most of the stuff I write here at Space-Biff! As The Quiet Year is a storytelling game, I’m only going to talk about the rules a little each week. The rest is about the story four people crafted about our community; its hopes, fears, and struggles; and, eventually, its end.
I could write a review of Android: Netrunner, but there would be little point. Its quality is well-documented, and its more enthusiastic advocates speak of it with language that could fool the pope into believing it the second coming. Perhaps that isn’t too far off, crucified as it was by the all-consuming popularity of Magic: The Gathering and resurrected by Fantasy Flight Games for a new era. It is risen, etc.
What I’m saying is that this isn’t a review. It’s also not quite like anything I’ve done here on Space-Biff! before. Instead, this is merely a description of one of the purest, most memorable experiences of my board- and card-gaming career.
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.
Meet Anna. She’s the first female character in the Metro series to have a name — other than Nikki the prostitute from the first game. Which means, if you couldn’t guess, today I’m writing about the sexist undertones in Metro: Last Light.
If you thought you’d never see the word “sexist” here on Space-Biff!, you’re not the only one. Since this is a site about the things I like, I don’t often talk much about the things I don’t like. Even my few negative reviews only exist because I really enjoy panning bad games. The thing is though, I really like both games in the Metro series. For the most part, they encourage thoughtful, even considerate, behavior. That’s a rarity in any genre of videogame, let alone in the first-person shooter genre, which one could argue makes its bucks by being the exact opposite of “thoughtful.” In fact, I’d go so far as to label Metro 2033 as one of the most moral games I’ve ever played — which is precisely why the sexism in Last Light bothers me so deeply.
It’s more than a little flattering that my most-received request for Space-Biff! is for my thoughts on Metro: Last Light from 4A Games and Deep Silver (and formerly THQ, rest in peace). This is probably owing to the synopsis I wrote last year, which you should totally read, if only because it makes me feel beautiful on the inside.
My one hangup in delivering an actual review is that, while I’d love to fall back on a tried-and-true critique like “it’s two steps forward and one step back,” the reality is more that Metro: Last Light is dancing the Charleston, with so many steps, leaps, and bounds in every direction, that in the end I can’t be sure which direction it’s moved at all. Which isn’t to say I don’t have thoughts on the proceedings — I’ve got plenty. And you can read them below, in a format that includes only a few minor spoilers.
I don’t know if there’s a name for that type of question that members of the same generation ask each other — things like “Where were you when JFK was shot?” or “when Sputnik went up?” or “when the Wall came down?” — ones that give folks a feel for each other, that establish they’ve lived through the same tragedies and triumphs, like a person’s rough backstory is encapsulated in the answers. I like those questions. Sometimes it’s good to know we come from the same place.
I came along too early for my question to be about 9/11 and too late for anything with Cold War flavoring. “Where were you when Clinton was re-elected?” doesn’t have much ring to it, though I can answer it (kitchen). I’m having a hard time thinking of anything else I could use. Oh, maybe Clinton’s impeachment. I was in the kitchen for that too.
Anyway. Here’s my question, and you’re going to think it’s a joke but it’s not. I’m completely serious, because for me this moment was like a warehouse light getting switched on, revealing aisle after aisle of potential, and I realized: “Computers. We are going to do stuff with these.”