This Month on the Review Corner: September 2016

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Besides my reviews on the Rumpus Room, I also write reviews for the Miniature Market Review Corner. Here are some highlights from the past month from that source. Go check them out!

My Reviews

  • Costa Rica – This is a nice little tile-laying and push-your-luck game. It gets the tile-laying part right, but the push-your-luck is a little thin for me.
  • Spells of Doom – Of all of the mage-dueling games out there, Spells of Doom is definitely one of them.
  • The Dragon & Flagon – Most gamers I know are lukewarm on programmed movement, but this new game by the Englestein clan made a believer out of me. Highly recommended.

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Zimby Mojo in Review

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There is an assumption that if a game is chaotic and wild, it is inherently dumb and silly. That’s not an unfair assumption, because it’s almost always the case. But there have been a few games that look in the face of chaos and force players to roll with it, to create contingencies and take risks that won’t necessarily pay off, but are still necessary. Strategy games almost always tempt players to find a sure thing, and when sure things don’t exist players inevitably will complain that the game is random, or unbalanced, or something like that. But a few games have soared precisely because they force players to surf the waves of chaos, rewarding the players who do so boldly and effectively. Cosmic Encounter does it, Dune does it, and Zimby Mojo does it. It’s a huge beast of a game, one with a bizarre premise and a ton of rules, but as I kept at it I found it more and more rewarding, both in the memorable sessions it produced and in the surprising nuance found in its strategy. Continue reading

Shadows of Malice: Seekers of a Hidden Light in Review

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Last summer I wrote a couple of times on the striking fantasy quest game Shadows of Malice. Its fresh approach to narrative and emphasis on player imagination created an experience unlike any I had played before. It eventually ended up on the obligatory year-end best-of list, and I am still impressed with its fresh take on an overdone genre. At the time I promised to review its expansion, Seekers of a Hidden Light at a later date. Of course it was recently brought to my attention that I made this promise over a year ago, so it’s probably time to get around to that. Continue reading

To The Ends Of The Earth – Commissioned in Review

Perfect for Holy WeekFor many people the words “Christian board game” will be enough to drive them off. Honestly I can’t say I blame them, given some of the questionable quality of Christian media that is out there. But here we have Commissioned, the first published game from Patrick and Kathering Lysaght, and there is much to recommend it. It handles its narrative earnestly, but with a smart sense of what will and won’t work in a board game design. And besides that it’s just a solid game experience. Continue reading

Darkness and Radiance – Shadows of Malice Review

One of the powers of games is their ability to generate narrative, and there are a lot of different ways to approach this. Some games are satisfied with simply creating a memorable mechanical moment. Some will actually tell the player what is happening through text. Others will work hard to shape the setting through illustration, flavor text, and mechanics. None of these are the wrong way, and I could give examples of each one done well. But I’ve never seen a game that tries to generate narrative and theme in quite the same way as Shadows of Malice, and I’ve seen few that have done it so effectively. Continue reading

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is Amazing

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I got a Nintendo Gamecube a couple of years into college, and one of the first games I bought was Super Smash Bros. Melee. I’m not generally a big fighting game guy, but I am a big Nintendo guy, and it ended up being an outstanding purchase. It singlehandedly justified the not-inconsiderable cost of buying a couple more controllers, because it was always easy to find a few more people who were ready to put down the books and spend an hour or two beat the tar out of each other in the form of beloved Nintendo characters.
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Your Head Asplode – The Battle At Kemble’s Cascade Review

I’m not a game designer, so I’m not really sure what it takes to create a successful board game adaptation of a video game. Do you just take the license and use it as a setting for a solid design? That’s what was done with Railroad Tycoon and Age of Empires III, both by Glenn Drover. Do you work to create a system that emulates the feel of a video game without recreating specific mechanisms? FFG’s Starcraft board game did this to great effect, creating a game that felt like Starcraft even while it never really replicated the mechanical nuances. Or you could do what The Battle At Kemble’s Cascade does, and work hard to recreate the mechanics of the video game in a cardboard form.  Continue reading