Wheels Within Wheels

pic279251_md

Unlike a lot of other pillars of nerd culture, Frank Herbert’s classic novel Dune is still waiting for its perfect adaptation. The 1984 David Lynch film is slog with amazing art direction, and the Sci-Fi channel miniseries reduced the scope of the novel lower than it could really bear. But if we expand the search to include other media, Dune has received two of the most important games of the last forty years. Westwood Studios’ Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty essentially codified real-time strategy games in the video game world. But Dune’s greatest adaptation might just be Dune the board game, published by Avalon Hill in 1979. Continue reading

Even I Get Boarded Sometimes – Merchant of Venus Review

Merchant of Venus box cover

That robot was trapped the minute he showed casual interest int whatever that human is hawking.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the events of a year ago, when both Stronghold Games and Fantasy Flight announced a reprint of Richard Hamblen’s Merchant of Venus. Confused fans had every reason to be pessimistic. The ensuing silence only fed fears that the lawyers had been sent in to do battle. We may never know all of the details of how the whole thing happened or how it was resolved. But what I do know is that the resulting reprint of Merchant of Venus succeeds beyond anything my heart dared to hope for. Continue reading

Motherland! – Kremlin Review

kremlin

Game play you!

I’ve always had a somewhat romanticized view of the Soviet Union. It’s not that I particularly agree with communism or that I’ve ever spent time in the country. I think it’s more that it’s like the bizarro version of the United States. It’s fascinating to think that, for as afraid as the US was during the Cold War, that our “enemies” had their own fears and struggles about us. Because of that 40-year struggle, the Russian culture has always felt like the other side of the coin to me, a counterpart that we’ve never been able to figure out. Continue reading

Board Gaming’s Missing History

scroll

These are apparently the rules of Magic Realm.

When I was in college, I discovered Roger Ebert’s series about “The Great Movies.” For the past 10-15 years, Ebert has been steadily releasing essays on films that he considers to be particularly entertaining, moving, or otherwise significant. There are several hundred essays collected now, including such varying subjects as Lawrence of Arabia, Groundhog Day, and Goldfinger. Say what you will about Ebert as a critic, but his command of language is remarkable. His gifts are best used in this context, where he doesn’t need to say whether a movie is worth paying to see, but rather he can focus on the details of what brings greatness. He’s a good candidate to write such essays as well, simply because of how many films he has seen. Continue reading

To Arms, Comrades!

box cover

That designer? He also designed Tichu. Clearly an awesome Commie.

So there’s this game called Kremlin, okay? The object is to assign influence to different members of the Communist party in the USSR. Through bluffing, trickery, and good old-fashioned brute force, you will try to get your man in the position of party chair, and get him to wave at the yearly parade. It’s a fun game that’s made even better because of it’s thick theme and setting. Party members age and get sick, and if they’re really troublesome you can purge them and send them to Siberia. It’s pretty great how the game puts you in the proper mindset so effortlessly. Continue reading