Sing, O Muse – Bemused in Review

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The games of Jim Felli present a particular challenge to the game reviewer. We see a lot of different games cover the same basic ideas ad infinitum, so when a designer like Felli comes along, whose three designs have all been strange beasts, it’s easy to latch onto their uniqueness while ignoring some of their shaggier elements. Both of Felli’s previous games, Shadows of Malice and Zimby Mojo, were striking experiences, and I stand by my rapturous reviews of both. But I also admit that they won’t work for everyone. They were long games with lots of little rules that were easy to forget. More than that, they really require the player to meet the game where it already is. If you can’t deal with dicey abstract storytelling of Shadows of Malice, or the chaotic strategy of Zimby Mojo, both games offer very little for you.  Continue reading

Argent: The Consortium in Review

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It is always surprising to find a game that redefines a genre. Until a year or so ago I had assumed that worker placement, as a mechanic, was about as played out as it could be. It’s a genre I happen to enjoy, but it was the sort of thing where you could find your favorite and stick with it, knowing that new games probably won’t change your opinion that much. But it was about a year ago that I played Argent: The Consortium for the first time, and it has forced me to rethink everything I thought I knew about worker placement. It represents the biggest leap forward in that genre since Agricola, as well as a new high watermark in Euro-style game design. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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