The Rumpus Room in 2011

Man, Christmas can really clog up the month of December. At least that was the case for me. After my last entry, the entire month kicked into high gear, and I barely had any time to play games at all, let alone review them. Like many gamers, I got a few choice items for Christmas, like these:

  • Thunderstone: Dragonspire – Thunderstone is a deck-builder that takes the time to be more of a full-length game than either Puzzle Strike or Dominion. The dungeon-y theme is not exactly original, but it’s well-integrated. The card artwork is also really good, full of dark fantasy and things like that. Overall, it’s a good game. Expect a review of this one once I get in another play or two.
  • Haggis – I reviewed Tichu a few months ago, and it’s definitely my favorite card game. The issue is, it’s strictly for four people. Oh, you can play three-handed, but it’s clearly a popsicle-stick-and-duct-tape solution. Enter Haggis, the recent climbing card game designed specifically for two or three players. Like Tichu, it’s cheap and deep. Unlike Tichu, it’s not quite as intuitive or natural. But that’s not a bad trade-off. It’s a challenging, rewarding game, and I’m glad to have it in my collection.
  • Telestrations – You may have played Telephone Pictionary, or the same game by it’s much more evocative name “Eat Poop You Cat.” Essentially, each player illustrates a different phrase, then the next person interprets that drawing without reading the original phrase. That interpretation is then drawn by the third person, and so on. I’m not normally a party game kinda guy, but this game is pretty hilarious. It also violates a cardinal rule of party games that I have, which is to never buy a game that you can reproduce at home with paper and a pen. But it doesn’t bother me much here, because the dry erase boards and markers in Telestrations are hilarious imprecise. It makes everything look like a cave drawing, and that only adds to the wild  progressions in the game.
  • The Ares Project – Essentially, this is a real-time strategy game in card-game form. You take control of one of four factions, and then build up troops to attack your opponent. I’m very excited about this game, because it is highly asymmetrical. And when I say “highly,” I mean it: aside from the basic rules, each faction actually has their own rule book as well. From reading the rules, this one looks very deep and very fun, but it’ll be a bear to learn and teach. However, every sign points to a game that will be worth the trouble. I love asymmetrical games, and this might be the new king. Only time shall tell.
  • Summoner Wars: Jungle Elves and Cloaks – I don’t know if I’ve discussed Summoner Wars much, but it’s a pretty terrific game. Each side sets up card on a grid, and each card represents a unit in a battle. It’s a lean/mean design, and the expansions for it have been universally excellent. The sixth and seventh factions released, the Cloaks and the Jungle Elves look ready to continue this tradition. I never play Summoner Wars as often as I’d like. In fact, I’ve come close to throwing it in the trade pile a couple of times. Then I play it and fall in love all over again. Because of my infrequency of play, I tend to buy expansions a good 8-12 months after they come out. I should really get the Master Set soon, though…

So there you have it: those are games that you can expect to read reviews on in the future. So what else can you expect from the Rumpus Room in 2012?

  • First of  all, I will return to my 1-2 updates per week. The holiday season wasn’t kind to either my gaming time, or writing inspiration. Usually the early part of the year allows for more free time, and hopefully a re-establishing of my writing schedule.
  • Soon (probably in the next couple of weeks) I’ll write a “best of 2011” article. This won’t be the  best new games, since I’m sure I’ve barely played enough to come up with many favorites. Rather, it’ll be the best of “new to me,” something other authors have done and that I really like.
  • I’d like to write more “commentary” articles, like the ones on game ratings and theme that I wrote earlier this year. These are normally very challenging for me to write. I feel like I’m getting a pretty good handle on a reviewing style, but I tend to think of the best commentary when working with other people in a dialogue. That was certainly the case with my “You Don’t Know Theme” article, which borrowed heavily (perhaps too much) from a thread on Fortress: Ameritrash. I’d like to hone the skills to write those kinds of articles on a regular basis, perhaps one a month. I don’t like setting rules on what I will and won’t write, but this is a personal goal I have.
  • As a behind the scenes item, I’d love to gain enough clout to be able to get some review copies. Let me be open: this is not to get free games. It’s more the only way that I can deliver current relevant reviews without breaking the bank. I buy new games very infrequently, and only after some thorough research. This is partially to keep my collection lean, but really more a product of very tight finances. I trade and buy used so that I can pinch every gaming penny. The problem is, I review  things I own, and that means I probably like them. I don’t mind writing positive reviews, but they don’t push me very much. Secondly, it’s hard to be timely in reviews when I buy after many people have already played and formed their own opinions. Heaven knows I don’t really have the time to game more than one night per week (maybe two), and we aren’t flush with space to keep games. And as every reviewer knows, you get way more crappy games than good ones. But I do feel that unless I come upon some enormous windfall of cash, this is probably the most likely direction the Rumpus Room will go, just so that the site can grow. For the time being, I’ll just keep plugging away on what’s already in front of me. I shouldn’t run out any time soon.

Thanks to those of you who have stuck with the Rumpus Room through my first year, including those first couple months before I really focused on board gaming. I feel like I’ve been able to put my passion for gaming into written form, which was my goal the whole time. I’m still learning, obviously. I could stand to change up my review style, and I still feel like I soften my statements a little too much. But game-reviewing is a field with lots of mindless chatter, and not much competent writing. I hope I’ve been able to add to the conversation. Here’s hoping that 2012 sees some great things for The Rumpus Room!

My Kingdom for a Better Game Title: Kingdom Builder Review

Kingdom Builder

Geez, just call it "Wooden Houses and Cardboard" and be done with it.

Hey, remember that game Dominion? Of course you do. Odds are, you’ve played it recently. It was a big enough hit to garner six (!) expansions. That’s the sort of hit that only comes along every 5-10 years. Despite what anyone says, Dominion has now crossed into that realm of hits, like Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne, that will get the average joe to brave the dankest game store for a copy. Sure it’s essentially a game about its mechanisms, and sure you need at least one expansion to give it legs. Even so, the game is insanely addictive and wonderfully straightforward. Donald X. Vaccarino is crying all the way to the bank (or wherever game designers store the stacks of money on which they sleep).  The fact that Dominion was Vaccarino’s first design made it all the more impressive. So the anticipation for his next design was sure to be through the roof. Continue reading