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  • Braving the Tomb of Annihilation

    A D&D adventure for people who like slogging through jungles and wearing mosquito repellent. It's better than it sounds.
  • Brick Fury - Unboxing "Heroclix - Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D."

    Welcome to the first episode of Brick Fury in which Joe, Brad and Ian spend some time taking a look at the new Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. series for Wizkids' highly successful Heroclix system.

    Will they get a Hulkbuster? Will Joe be able to explain exactly why he likes Union Jack? Will Ian recruit some monsters for the dominant force known only as Team Ravenloft? Let's find out!

    Check out and for more news on Heroclix and other gaming systems!

  • BSG Campaign Mode: Four Seasons of Cylons Afoot

    As requested in the "RIP BSG?" thread, here are our group's mini-campaign rules for BSG.

  • Burnout: Taken Down Edition

    I've been debating writing this for the past several weeks or so. First of all, why should you care? Secondly, is this what the blog is about?
  • Cards as Swiss-Army Knives

    Hey, let's talk a little bit about cards--specifically when they serve multiple-purposes in a game. 

    IT'S A TRAP!!

  • Cards they are a changin'

    Nerfs are imminent for Hearthstone.

  • Career Gamers

    careers-parkerWhen you love an artist, it’s a wonderful pleasure to slowly work your way through their catalogue,filtering it all through the twin lenses of your own passion and hindsight and charting in your head how they evolved over the course of their career. It’s as true of musicians and directors as it is of painters and sculptors. You’ll linger lovingly over your favourites of course, but the big picture and evolution are what’s really important.

    Only recently have we been able to do the same thing for video games, now that the design and programming titans of our youth are nearing retirement age. And it’s not quite the same: so inextricably linked is gaming with the march of technology that you can’t get quite the same pleasure from replaying a classic 8-bit game as you can from a of classical music. But videogame writers still hail their heroes and write fawning biographies.

    Board games don’t suffer from the technology trap. Hnefatafl remains engaging now, 1500 or so years after its invention. And analysis and opinion of them certainly has some qualities of art, even if only viewed from the perspective of their social impact or their components. And so when you think about it, it seems quite incredible that no-one bothers to chart the oeuvres of board game designers in the manner so celebrated of artists and designers.

    People have favourites, of course. And sometimes you’ll see articles of lists about their design career. But there’s never that all-important overarching sense of progress, change, evolution. Always games are considered for their individual qualities, never for their part in the bigger picture.

    In part that could be because there is often no bigger picture. It’s a striking thing about game design that some designers have an astonishingly narrow window on the world. Sometimes they spend their careers tinkering with a single, favoured mechanic, other times it’s a whole system or perhaps a particular theme. In some ways you might imagine a smaller focus might bring out the differences with greater clarity but it doesn’t seem to work that way. Rather there’s a sense of frustrated invention about things, repeatedly coming from different angles toward the same ends but never quite realising the goal.

    It’s also a function, I’m sure, of the fact that many game designers are part-time and so never develop the body of work necessary for wider judgement. But there are designers who escape all these charges, and end up with a catalogue that’s widely varied and yet offers a sense of individual style. Often they’re amongst the most famous designers: Friedemann Friese, Reiner Knizia, Vlaada Chvátil, Rob Daviau. Why is no-one writing biographies of their work?

    That has to be down to one of three things. The first two are related: a lack of vision or interest amongst board game writers or readers. The third is simply that there’s value in overviews of this kind when it comes to board game design.

    Let’s consider that for a moment. I’m firmly of the opinion that the recent history of modern game design can be seen as a series of incremental improvements as designers learn from previous mistakes and successes. The corollary of this - that on the whole games are better and more interesting than they were 40 years ago - seems self-evidently true. The whole period can be seen as a gradual evolution. In this context, the work of seminal designers like Sid Sackson, for example, should certainly be seen as being of pivotal importance. So I think we can reject the idea that there’s no value in retrospectives pretty much out of hand.

    So that brings us back to writers and their readers. When examining that sort of relationship I don’t feel you can really blame the readers. It’s not their job to come up with interesting new formats. A lot of them probably don’t really know what they want to see until they read it. No, the fault here is with the journalists themselves. With me.

    And that of course begs the question of why I’m writing a whole article about the lack of a format rather than just doing a career retrospective myself. The answer to which should also answer why it’s not something we see more often. Namely that it is extremely hard work.

    When you read an overview of the work of a painter or a musician, in most cases their work can be fitted fairly clearly into the whole overview of the art in question. The benefit of hindsight helps hugely. You don’t have to know much about music to realise, for instance, the pivotal role Led Zeppelin played in the development of heavy metal the first time your hear their songs.

    With existing art forms there’s also a big body of existing work that you can draw on to fill gaps in your knowledge. Other writers, fans, random lunatics have already contributed a mixture of dross and valuable insight to the cause. If you need inspiration, or just information, all you have to do is wade through the rubbish in search of the gems and you’ll get what you need.

    Neither of these luxuries is afforded to the board game writer. The sector is simply too small. You can’t always find useful work by forebears to draw on, and you can’t see the bridges between the work of different designers because the talent pool is too limited, and the mechanical options too restrictive. If you want to write a career retrospective, you’re the trailblazer, seeking out the connections from the ground up.

    Video gaming is a young hobby, and the pioneers who started talking about the way the work of designers fitted into the grand scheme of things had to work just as hard. But they’ve done their part now, and the format has reached the critical mass necessary for those sorts of things to become more and more common. Board gaming, we’re still waiting for the first steps on that frontier. Whether we’ll get them without a paid profession base to put the hours in remains to be seen.

  • Chaos in the Old World: The Lord of Decay (part III)

    The slow encroachment of disease can lead to victory.

  • Chaos in the Old World: The Prince of Pleasure (part V)

    The many paths of pain and pleasure.

  • Chaos in the Old World: The Vermin King (part VI)

    The rats in the walls are now covering the countryside...

  • Chess Blows


    First: I admit chess is a smart game. It is. There is no question that chess with its luckless gameplay, and pieces with variable types of movement has a way of revealing genius, or the lack thereof in its players. But so what?


  • Child's Play

    Like many gamers, I live in hopes that my two-year-old son will one day want to play games with me. A lot of gamer dads harbor this wish, because it means that we will have at least one other person to play games with us when we’re too busy being dads to actually get together with our friends. I like to think that he and I will one day create opposing armies in Summoner Wars, and run them against each other. I want to teach him Settlers of Catan, finally proving to his mom that it’s an awesome game. And if he becomes appreciative of history like me, I’d like to see how well he does at stuff like Twilight Struggle. This is such silly speculation when he’s only two, but a lot of other gamer dads would be lying if they said they didn’t think about these things.


  • Clash of the Titans: GW vs FFG

    versus.jpgLast column I had Mad Dog step up to the plate and complain that no-one ever posts about Ameritrash games here anymore, so I determined to do a mega-dose of trash for my next pieces. I wanted to stuff you all with trash until the taste of it is making you sick in the back of your throat, until it was oozing out of every single bodily orifice, until you were pleading for mercy under the sheer, suffocating weight of all that trashy goodness. But how to do it? Steve Weeks unwittingly provided me with the answer by asking my opinions on GW and FFG. That was it - the two magnificent, undisputed behemoths of the history and present of the Ameritrash scene put side by side, that was a recipie right there for all the trash you could stomach. But to tip it over the edge we'll not just put them side by side, we'll make this into a fight. A full on, fifteen round, no holds-barred bare-knucke boxing match of old against new to determine once and for all the king of trash.

  • Classic Blunders

    classics.jpgBeing fans of a lot of older games on this site, I see the term "classic" being bandied around a great deal. I've never been entirely comfortable with this because personally my understanding of the term is a pretty narrow definition that would include relatively few games: but that's just my opinion so I kept my mouth shut. However following Michael Barnes' review of Tales of the Arabian Nights and the discussion that followed I thought it might be interested to delve into the question of what makes a classic, and how we might decide what games should qualify.
  • Collectible Card Crack: How to Scratch that Itch Without Going Broke

    I have a nearly uncontrollable desire to play CCGs.  Since that first sense of wonder when learned Magic: the Gathering 15 years ago, I have always felt drawn to these games.  I certainly don't miss the financial and chronological investment playing CCGs competitively requires, but there are still a lot of gaming experiences CCGs provided that are tough to get out of board games or RPGs.  I played Magic, Rage, Spellfire, Dragon Dice and Battletech in high school, in college I moved on to L5R, Shadowfist, A Game of Thrones, and lots of Raw Deal CCG.  When college was over, I quit the gamer crack cold turkey and tried to move towards board games since they are cheaper and less time consuming, but I still find myself drawn to the deckbuilding and variety of CCGs
  • Collective Action

    I blame X-Wing for a lot of things. I blame it for making me read more than is decent about the expanding universe of Star Wars. I blame it for the gaping hole in my bank balance. Most of all, though, I blame it for turning me from a player into a collector.


  • Coming Up For Air

    I saw the signs for a while before I did anything about them. Playing games out of duty, not just to review them, just to keep up with a steady stream of releases. Releasing that I hadn’t played my favorite games for a couple of years. Trying to get up excitement for game night only to find that it was wearing thin. Looking through a list of releases and feeling only a gaping sense of exhaustion. I was beginning to run out of goodwill for one of my favorite things. I needed to come up for air.

  • Commitment Issues

    This last week I completed a local no-ship math trade. For you non-gamers out there, that means I essentially put some games I don’t play anymore into a lottery, and received different games in exchange. I was particularly excited to receive a copy of Blood Bowl 3rd Edition this time around. A friend was kind enough to walk me through a partial game, just to get a taste for how to play. I had a wonderful time watching my orc team fall down and pass poorly. It makes me excited to play again as soon as possible, which is more than a lot of other games can manage in such a short amount of time.

  • Communications Intercepted

    StrongholdLast week, I got to play Stronghold for the first time. I liked it, more than I thought I was going to, although I think there may be some question over its long-term replay value. It wouldn’t be fair to reflect further on the game after one play, but it is entirely fair to reflect on the board art. The Stronghold board is both striking to look at, and entirely functional in terms of allowing players to easily access and digest all the information they need to play. This is, sadly a relatively rare combination.