We’re living in an age of core sets, and core sets are brutally difficult to review. By necessity they are a stripped down form of the game that will look entirely different in a year. Game reviews are therefore forced to either judge a game entirely on potential, or on what does or doesn’t work at the ground floor. By any reasonable measure, I’ve played enough games of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game to produce a solid review. But at this point there is way more content for the game than I have explored, and a fair bit more than I have even had a chance to play. My feelings on the game itself are mostly solidified, but still it’s hard for me to regard it as much more than an incomplete.
When I started playing board games in 2007, it happened because a friend of mine introduced me to some games that weren’t Settlers of Catan, and told me about a local game store where I could explore the hobby a little more. That seems like a pretty normal way for people to get into boardgaming. Maybe a friend or family member invited them to play something, or they found a local group in which to get involved. After that everyone discovers the websites. Boardgamge Geek, Foretress: Ameritrash, /r/boardgames, whatever you pick. There are a lot of boardgame websites out there. Odds are one of them pointed you to this site the first time you visited. It’s not bad that they are out there. But I am sick to death of them.
I’ve been active in this hobby for about seven years, and most of my favorite games are associated strongly with a particular place or experience. Maybe it’s a particular session I had that forever changed my opinion of the game, which is what happened with Manila. It might be a game that I loved above all others for an extended period of time, like Battlestar Galactica. And some games, like The Settlers of Catan, have all of those things wrapped up into one. But Carcassonne is unique in the sense that it reminds me of a particular person: my wife.
Last August I made a trade for Conquest of Nerath, the D&D-themed conquest game from Wizards of the Coast. For months it sat on my game shelf, mostly serving as a toy for my three-year-old son. It was hard to deny its appeal in that regard, but it wasn’t until just this last week that I was able to scare up the four people that so many have recommended. True to my expectations, I had a great time. I have a history of not caring much for dudes-on-a-map games, mostly because I’m kind of an impatient gamer. Conquest of Nerath didn’t disappoint in that regard; we were attacking each other immediately, swapping territories until one team hit the victory point threshhold that ended the game. There wasn’t a single mechanic I hadn’t seen elsewhere. I have played lots of games where you roll dice to conquer territory, and I’ve seen plenty of conquest games where you get victory points for your trouble. It was one of those situations where it wasn’t so much what the game did, but how well it did it. It was like watching a brilliant pianist performing a song that someone else wrote. The fact that it’s not original doesn’t diminish the performance.
One of my natural talents is talking, so podcasting has always seemed like a natural extension of that under-celebrated gift. My problem is that another one of my natural talents is laziness, so my close friends are the only ones who really get to bask in my verbal diarrhea. I just don’t have the oomph to edit together different episodes, get them hosted, and try to actually come up with something to say.
In The Magicians by Lev Grossman, the main character is sent to a magical boarding school where he is given a certain textbook. This textbook is filled with complicated hand gestures that must be performed precisely to produce their intended effect. The protagonist is made to practice these gestures over and over again, until they become ingrained in his memory and he can produce them all in a moment’s notice. In the process this textbook becomes the bane of his education, a tormentor that reminds him of how far he has to go as a magician. That’s a pretty accurate description of the process of learning Tash-Kalar, the new game from Vlaada Chvatil. The only difference is that the payoff is getting good at a board game, instead of, you know, actual magic.
One the worst days, I feel like the chief purpose of the internet is to share opinions. Well, “share” might be too strong a word. More like “declare” them. We all have to guide our way through our Facebook feeds to keep our heckles from rising as we read the various opinions from our friends that angry up the blood. Blogging has a particular tendency toward this, because it allows for things to be a little more long-form and thought-out (ideally). In spite of the fact that The Rumpus Room started as a board game blog, in my quest for more content I’ve expanded to a wider range of topics, mostly revolving around 1) piddly crap that interests me and 2) my kids.