Good News for Lonely Mages – Mage Knight: The Lost Legion Review

Mage Knight: The Lost Legion

Looks like we found that legion…

It says something about Mage Knight’s quality that even as my life has become less permitting of long dense games, I still find time to play Vlaada Chvatil’s classic several times a year. I enjoyed it when I first got it two years ago, but it has only improved since then. The more time I spend with it, the more I am convinced it is not only Chvatil’s best game, but perhaps one of the  best fantasy board games ever designed. But one thing I didn’t think the game needed was an expansion. It’s such a vast ocean of a game with so many ways to play, that I couldn’t think of anything that needed to be added. But now that I’ve played The Lost Legion a few times, I see how wrong I was. It’s a terrific expansion, enriching the original experience to such a point that to go back to not using it would  feel like a regression. Continue reading

Game Grinding – Tash-Kalar Review

tash-kalar cover

Hulk summon!

In The Magicians by Lev Grossman,  the main character is sent to a magical boarding school where he is given a certain textbook. This textbook is filled with complicated hand gestures that must be performed precisely to produce their intended effect. The protagonist is made to practice these gestures over and over again, until they become ingrained in his memory and he can produce them all in a moment’s notice. In the process this textbook becomes the bane of his education, a tormentor that reminds him of how far he has to go as a magician. That’s a pretty accurate description of the process of learning Tash-Kalar, the  new game from Vlaada Chvatil. The only difference is that the payoff is getting good at a board game, instead of, you know, actual magic. Continue reading

Training Wheels

I pledge allegiance to training wheels

Training wheels for America

Being the guy who reviews games means that I’m usually the guy teaching them. This was the case even before I started writing about games regularly, since I was one of the buyers among my friends. I would decide what I wanted to play, buy it if no one had it already, and then teach it to everyone else. Teaching is something that most gamers need to figure out, and I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at it. But lately I’ve grown weary of being the teacher. I’m not sure if it’s a function of too many games, or a growing sense that more and more games require “training wheels” to enjoy the experience. But either way I’m tired of learning and teaching games. I’d much rather play them. Continue reading

The Rumpus Room Top Twelve – 2013 Edition

This is the fourth year I’ve done a big countdown for my top twelve games, but I still feel like it’s a work in progress. My first installment back in 2010 seemed to assume that these were the twelve “best games EVAR,” like there was a standard that these games were held up to, and they were the ones found to be at the top of a linear list of every game I own. Now that I’m putting together this list for the fourth time, that’s obviously a load of crap. Not that I don’t consider these games among the best ever made, but the list this year is almost totally different from the first one that I published in 2010. I mean, I put Dominion on the first iteration of this list, and Puzzle Strike on the second one. Those might reflect the last time I wrote much positive about either one of those games. One list by itself doesn’t mean much anyway. I’m not the same gamer I was in 2010, and that’s fine. I keep doing these lists because they tell me a lot about where I am right now as a gamer. Consider this a portrait of what I want in a game in December of 2013. Continue reading

Ode to Punching

Duel of Ages cardboard

Yes, all of those cardboard sheets are for punching stuff out.

The board gaming hobby spends a lot of time wondering how we can draw new people into the hobby. There’s discussion about whether one should emphasize the social aspect, accessible game design, or even if this is a hobby where new people belong in the first place. Those are worth discussing, but it seems to me that we’ve overlooked the most obvious draw of the board game hobby: punching out the pieces. Continue reading

All By My Lonesome

Watch your step.

Boy, wish I’d brought a book or something…

Readers who have met me in real life know that I live for social interaction in games. It doesn’t even need to be an element of the mechanics, just present at the table in some form. If you’re the table that’s laughing and cutting up, that’s where I want to be. So I didn’t understand why so many gamers were so taken with playing games solo. On some level it defeats the entire purpose of playing games, which is to spend time with friends. Continue reading

Friday Fallout – August 17, 2012

deer

Maybe if timber-wolves started driving cars, they’d pay attention to them.

My assumed pace of writing two articles a week, not counting this little housekeeping number, has fallen by the wayside lately. Will I get back to it this week? Maybe! But then again, I’m not getting paid for this. What do I care? Continue reading