M-O-O-N, That Spells Game – Moonbase Alpha Review

moonbase alpha cover

We like the moon!

People love strategy and decisions, but they present a real danger of making a game more trouble than it’s worth. I’ve been generally positive on Victory Point Games, whose small-box games have covered an enormous breadth of topics and mechanics. Moonbase Alpha had all the earmarks of something I would like, from a cool 1970s sci-fi theme to dice-based combat. And yet in practice it was irritating and overwrought. It  complicates things it doesn’t need to and presents strategic opportunities I didn’t really need. 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

No Mere Brush War – The Last King of Scotland Review

Last King of Scotland cover

Fun fact: the flags are reversed on the countries…

I’m not a timid gamer. I don’t shy away from complexity, and I don’t mind long sessions. But something has always scared me a little bit about wargames. There are a lot of reasons for this. Fair or not, wargames equal complexity in my mind. Historicity is always a key consideration in the genre, and that means that little exceptions will exist to make the game a little more accurate. Such detail also means that the game will might run for a while, possibly hours. But as I’ve said, complexity and length is something I can negotiate with. The real reason that wargames are intimidating is because of the subculture that comes with them. It’s a world that exists outside of Renaissance princes and Orcish invaders, one of military tactics and an insane knowledge of historical minutia. I like history, but it’s hard to see a paper map with stacks of chits and not feel just a little inadequate. Continue reading

My Fellow Americans – Swing States 2012 Review

box cover

This…is GNN.

I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was going to review Swing States 2012, the new solo election game from Victory Point Games, and he remarked that if we weren’t already eye-deep in election season, he might be interested in playing it. But the thought of digging into anything to do with the current US Presidential election made him feel a little queasy. I can’t say I blame him, but when you strip away the endless attack adds, distorted facts, and general cynicism, it’s plain that elections are perfect fodder for games. Swing States 2012 is the first to my knowledge, however, that makes it a purely solitaire experience. Continue reading