You Don’t Know Theme

Very often, the debate on what makes a good game boils down to two sides: theme vs. mechanisms. Is it more important that the sense of character and narrative be very strong? Or is it more important that a game make use of interesting rule interactions? Although the answer somehow falls in between, almost everyone I know would pick one over the other if they were forced. In fact, we often make these declarations even when someone isn’t forcing us. Obviously it’s a difficult choice, especially since most people don’t know what they mean by theme. Continue reading

Who You Gonna Call? – Arkham Horror Review

Box cover

Boy, those new neighbors are weirdos...

I have not been in this hobby for very long. I only discovered The Settlers of Catan seven years ago in college, and it was at least another three years before I started buying other “designer” games. So I’m hardly what could be called an old hand. But I feel like in that period of time, my tastes have evolved drastically. You see, what first attracted me to board gaming was the prospect of playing some fairly strategic games without having to sink an entire evening into one session. We’ve all been burnt by too many unfinished 5-hour Risk-a-thons, so it’s understandable that we might be skittish around games that require more than two hours to play. And like some others, I was a little afraid of complexity in my games. A game that is hard to learn was not a game for me. I’d go to the game store just to ogle the shelves, and I would look at the rows of games by GMT and Fantasy Flight and think “why would anybody waste a whole evening playing one super-heavy game?” Continue reading

We Have To Go Back! – Survive Review

Night of the Dolphins!

At some point, the idea of “designing” a game becomes impossibly pretentious. It’s a natural concept for gamers, but for everyone else, games aren’t designed. They just are. They exist in a space that must flow as naturally as possible. But gamers like to complicate everything, so we create games that are about little pieces of wood being turned other pieces of wood, which in turn are turned into victory points. And lest you think I’m picking only on the Eurogame set, Ameritrashers are just as guilty. I mean, how many phases does a turn need before we have too many? There’s nothing wrong with complex games, but we have a lot of them, and that complexity is almost entirely for its own sake. Continue reading

Real Quick

Hey, not a lot of time tonight, but here are some game highlights from recently:

– I got a copy of Marvel Heroes a few weeks ago. I haven’t yet gotten a chance to play it, but the rules seem very complex for what doesn’t seem like a particularly heavy game. Does that make sense? I am a little concerned it’ll have what I call “phase-itis.” This is when games have several phases to each turn, simply for the sake of adding more complexity. Having said all that, it looks really nice, and I definitely am looking forward to getting it to the table. Maybe this weekend… Continue reading

Back In Time – Innovation: Echoes of the Past Review

Echoes of the Past

Another exciting triumph in graphical design

For my money, no game released in 2010 was as excellent as Carl Chudyk’s Innovation. It took the fascinating tactical card play from classics like San Juan and paired it with the bracing chaos of a game like Cosmic Encounter. For me, that’s an intoxicating blend. For other people, it really isn’t. My first game of Innovation was so off the wall that two players quit in disgust before the end of the game. Their loss, I say. Innovation feels different every time, and those who stick it out will find a real treat. Continue reading