Tales of Wonder – Tales of the Arabian Nights Review

Arabian Nights

Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place…

I still can’t believe that Z-Man’s reprint of Tales of the Arabian Nights had any impact at all. There’s a market for even the dodgiest games, but this one runs counter to just about every trend I had seen in gaming. It’s far too random to approach anything like strategy, and it makes a mockery of player choice. It’s key mechanic involves passing a huge book around the table while you look up numbers on charts to see what paragraph you have to read. It resembles nothing so much as the world’s most expensive Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. How could such a game become anything besides an admirable failure? Continue reading

This Land is Your Land – Terra Mystica Review

Terra Mystica cover

There’s victory points in them thar hills!

More than any game I’ve written about recently, Terra Mystica is hard to review. I find myself torn between actual enjoyment and the reviewer’s tendency to point out little things that are not to my taste. I don’t really like games like this as a rule. There’s only so much brain-burning for its own sake that I can handle before the game isn’t worth the effort anymore. But in a small way Terra Mystica has taken up residence in my head. After each session, we’ve had a fascinating conversation on strategy and what could be done differently, how the winner won and how the loser got buried. The design and strategy is compelling enough to overcome my own biases and leave me with an overall positive impression, though perhaps one of admiration rather than true enjoyment. Continue reading

Cover Your Mouth – Pandemic Retrospective

Eh, could be worse

New overdone artwork shown

This weekend, I watched Steven Soderbergh’s thriller from 2011, Contagion. I’m not entirely sure what I was suspecting, but I liked what I saw. I found it to be a clear-eyed portrayal of what a true global pandemic would look like, without apocolyptic overtones and overwrought doomsaying. It was simply about a very serious global scare and the aftermath, and that straightforward quality suited the subject matter well. In some ways, it felt more realistic and therefore more frightening. But the whole time, I was remembering back to the movie’s release, when my wife pestered me to go and see “that Pandemic movie.” Continue reading

In Ages Past – Clash of Cultures Review

Clash of Cultures

Best cover image of 2012? MAYBE.

Does the world really need another Civ game? If you had asked me a year ago, I probably would have said no. Not only is it a crowded genre, it’s crowded with classics. There’s the old Francis Tresham game from Avalon Hill, still played by people with more time than I have. Vlaada Chvatil’s Through The Ages is one of the highest-rated games on Boardgame Geek. Kevin Wilson and Fantasy Flight cashed in on the popular computer game license a couple years ago with their own civ game. And I’ve personally always had enormous respect for Serge Laget’s Mare Nostrum. That doesn’t begin to touch on less epic games that incorporate aspects of civ games (like Settlers of Catan and Innovation) or that transport the genre to a more speculative setting (like Eclipse or Runewars). It is into this cramped space that Christian Marcussen felt compelled to launch his sophomore effort, Clash of Cultures.  Continue reading

It’s Barbaric, But Hey, It’s Home – Tales of the Arabian Nights Review

Good afternoon to you all. I’m a little behind this week, so here’s an older review that was published to Boardgame Geek, but not to my blog. It was originally written in December 2009.

TotAN

More often then not are hotter than hot.

These are golden days for the old guard. Numerous older games with a high pedigree are getting reprinted in special expensive uber-editions, complete with new art, cleaned-up rules, and fancy components. Space Hulk, Cosmic Encounter, Talisman, and Titan have all been given the re-release treatment, and all have been very well-received both by new gamers and by the already-on-board fans of the games. Continue reading

Avast Ye Gamers – Merchants & Marauders Review

Box cover

Yaar, I'm...not attractive.

The smell of the salt breeze. The creak of rigging in the air. You’re in sight of the port of Tobago, when you see a ship off in the distance, on an intercept course. Word from the crows-nest is that the ship has run up the fleur-de-lis. The French Navy! You order the crew to man their stations and load the cannons. As the larger ship draws closer, volleys of fire are exchanged, shattering masts and shredding sails. All at once, grappling hooks sail from the enemy ship. They’re trying to board! As the enemy pours onto your ship, your crew fights to the last man. Will you survive long enough to protect your precious gold and valuable cargo? Continue reading