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

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A Once and Future Rumble – Duel of Ages II Review

Duel of Ages

It’s an all-timer.

The first iteration of Duel of Ages came out ten years ago, but it’s follow-up feels like something much older. I don’t mean that in a dismissive way at all, but rather that the game eschews a lot of design trends and so-called advances from the last 15 years or so in favor of something elemental and pure. It’s a little like playing an old-school video game that bypasses all influences in the 3D age and instead steals from every game of the SNES era. I suppose Duel of Ages II will confound a lot of contemporary gamers, but it would be their loss. It’s one of the best games of the year, and it has the feel of something that will stay with me my whole life. Continue reading

The Electric Co. – Power Grid Retrospective

Power Grid cover

I wonder what this button does…

I don’t often talk about how much I like Power Grid. On F:AT, it’s usually regarded as one of “those” games, the kinds liked by boring accountant-types and fun-murderers. Besides being unfair both to Power Grid and to accountant types who aren’t so boring, it’s simply untrue. Indeed, another reason that I don’t usually let on much about my love of Power Grid is that EVERYONE I KNOW LOVES IT. I forget the last time I went to a large organized game night with at least one table of this Friedemann Friese favorite, no fooling. Perhaps in a feeble attempt to be cool (at a board game party, mind you), I downplay my affection for that big green box. Continue reading

Masters of War – Imperial Review

Imperial

The cover has a bad case of “Euro.”

We tend to become very good at classifying stuff. It’s the easiest way to filter out things we assume we won’t like. Gamers are no different from everyone else. We all have some kind of mechanic or theme that we normally remove from our field of vision. Maybe you had a bad experience with it at some point, or maybe you just have a fundamental problem with it. For me, I’m not really a fan of stock games. It’s not so much that I don’t like them. (I consider Acquire to be one of the best games ever designed.) No, my real problem with stock games is that I’m terrible at them. Something about learning to manipulate investment eludes me, which is an unfortunate handicap to have in life. Continue reading

Farm Living Is The Life For Me – Agricola Re-Review

Agricola

Do you feel the sheep staring into your soul?

Board gamers aren’t known for responding with half measures. When a game comes out that is kind of a big deal, mildly positive reviews are rare. The game cannot merely be good, it has to be a new benchmark for game design, a perfect 10. It shoots to the top 10 on BGG, and then comes the people who complain about how good the game is. It’s only after about a year or so that we step back and realize that while it may have been pretty good, that’s all it was. We are forced to admit that we were swept up in the frenzy of enthusiasm, and hindsight reveals little persistent flaws that have dampened our enjoyment.

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In Soviet Russia, etc. – Twilight Struggle Review

Twilight Struggle

Mr. Gorbachev, buy this game!

I’m a minor-league history buff. I love to research past events and learn the different viewpoints that  form the composite image of history. It’s not something I do with any seriousness, but I’m always tempted by those Ken Burns documentaries on Netflix. I’m not alone among gamers either. Quite separate from the world of Eurogames and Ameritrash is the world of wargames. Wargaming is the realm for people who value history above anything else in gaming. It can be a frightening world to the layman. Some heavy wargames clock in at a good 8 hours or longer, and they often have loads of rules to create historical detail. It’s overwhelming to anyone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. And because of that, I put off trying Twilight Struggle for a long time. Continue reading

This has all happened before… – Battlestar Galactica Review

box cover

So say we all.

The best games touch something inside of us. They aren’t just a series of clever mechanisms that make us stroke our patchy beards in appreciation. They strike a much deeper chord. They reach down inside of us and grab our attention in a way that is hard to explain. They aren’t just stimulation for us mentally. We form an emotional attachment with the game, like a favorite novel or movie. Battlestar Galactica did just that for me in the winter of 2009, just a few months after its initial release. I probably played the game close to 30 times in about 3 months. I could not escape it. Two years and two expansions later, I don’t play the game as much as I used to, but its excellence is branded on my head, and dare I say it, my heart. Continue reading