Saturday, October 30, 2010

Card Game Review - Heroes of Graxia

Petroglyph Games is definitely making a name for themselves in board and card games. I think it's time for them to come up with a good slogan. Believe it or not, I have one they can use:

"Games for your head."

And when I say, 'games for your head,' what that means is, 'games that make you do more math than a certified public accountant.' The ol' cerebral adding machine is going to get one hell of a workout on any Petroglyph game I've seen so far. Even when they make a deck building game, it's got a buttload of math.

But lots of math isn't always bad. Take Heroes of Graxia - this game has a whole heck of a lot of adding and subtracting, but it's still an incredibly fun game. It seems that if a game provides enough awesome stuff, it can offset a painfully enormous pile of math.

One of the great elements that Heroes of Graxia provides is bloodshed. As all real men are aware, games are better if there's violence, and Heroes has violence enough for everyone. In fact, the whole point of building your deck is to be able to commit more aggressive bodily harm. You win the game by having the most prestige points, and you get prestige points by killing things. Whether those things are the legions of the other players, or just random marauding monsters, the way to win is to do lots and lots of violence.

And then you need to tell me a story. A good theme goes a long way toward making any game more interesting, and Heroes of Graxia has a wonderful theme. Cool fantasy bad-asses fight all over the place, winning magical weapons and powerful auras against giants and dwarves and undead and all kinds of stuff. You'll build your army while your enemies build theirs, trying to amass a force powerful enough to stomp all over everyone else and slam their fingers in car doors. Then you'll wage war against everyone, and charge into battle against heinous monsters. The story expands as you play. It's a story about getting into fights and then killing things, but those are some of my favorite stories.

It helps a story along if you have really pretty pictures, and Heroes of Graxia has the kind of art that will turn heads. Every card is beautifully illustrated, with art so good it makes you want to play just because it's so damned pretty. The images are better than you'll see from nearly any other publisher with only four games in their catalog, I'll tell you that.

But story and violence and sexy art aren't enough to make a game awesome. It has to make you work, plan your strategy, and push yourself to get just a little farther ahead. Once again, Heroes of Graxia delivers. Because there are victory points on some of the cards you can buy, a deck that emphasizes buying power might be just as viable as one hell-bent on crushing skulls. A balanced deck is important, too - lots of attack power isn't going to last if you have a feeble defense. Those monsters fight back, and your opponents aren't going to just sit there while you build a peaceful hippie commune and grow hemp.

But let's say you don't really feel like picking fights with your friends. You can still build a powerful deck that never has to go into battle against the other players. Just lean heavy on defense, and buy spells and armor that are more potent against monsters or when you're defending. An army bristling with power is going to intimidate players looking for an easy fight, and like the saying goes, you don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun the slowest guy. As long as someone at the table is the weakest link, you should be able to concentrate on bringing down the mightiest monsters, and let the other guys duke it out. It's the tortoise-and-the-hare strategy - just keep moving ahead, keeping your head down, and let the hot-heads run the table while you quietly pick up all the cards that make you the winner.

While there is a fantastic amount of strategy and planning and cool moves, none of it happens in a hurry. In fact, if two other players at the table are constantly battling each other, you'll spend a lot of time watching. It can get seriously tedious, especially because battles are a flurry of card play followed by ten minutes of third-grade math class. While the other guys are double-checking their addition to make sure they didn't forget the bonus they get because the knights are defensive and the orcs are pulling power from auras, you will have time to make a sandwich and check your Facebook. (By the way, real men do not check their Facebook while they are killing other people. It's rude.)

If you're looking for a quick game with easy rules, just keep walking. Heroes of Graxia is not designed for pussies. You'll need some stamina to finish a game, but after you do, you'll be talking about all the stuff that happened for the next hour, and figuring out when you can get everyone together to play again. It probably won't be that day, though - your wife is going to be wondering when you're coming home, and you're probably low on beer by now, anyway.

So sure, there's a lot of math. But if Heroes of Graxia took all the math out of the game, it wouldn't be anywhere near as fun. The math gets huge when armies get enormous, and then the mayhem goes from exciting to epic, with rivers of blood flowing right through the middle of the table and past that sandwich you made while you were waiting for it to be your turn again. It's brutal and thrilling and brilliant, and if you have to do some addition to get all that, well, that's a small price to pay.


Killer strategies and clever plays
Many different paths to victory
Great battles with fabulous body counts
Fantastic art

Moves pretty darn slow sometimes
Imperial buttloads of math

If you've got the staying power to play this game, I can't possibly recommend Heroes of Graxia enough. It's hardcore and brutal and fun as hell. And it's available at my new sponsor, Noble Knight Games. Run over there and show them some love:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Card Game Review - Cartouche

One thing I've noticed a lot of big-shot reviewers doing is deliberately inserting stuff into their articles that can be easily quoted. Stuff like, 'fantastic four-player fun' and 'great family entertainment' are easy to stick into a banner ad or something, and then not only do you help sell the game, but your name should be right under the quote. I figured I might try it, if only to try to get a little free press.

So the game I've chosen to try out my new reviewing methodology is called Cartouche. It's from one of my favorite small-press publishers, Small Box Games. In Cartouche, everyone plays Egyptian rulers trying to build dynasties. You do that by doing something you just don't see in games these days - deck building.

OK, so maybe you do see the odd deck builder come out now and then. The entire hobby gaming industry is rife with deck building. After Dominion winds up making tons of money, deck building is so hot, it's burning. It's catching on, in a big way. You might say it burns, and it's extremely contagious.

Cartouche is pretty typical for a Small Box game. Even for a mechanic as basic as deck building, it has some confusing rules that don't make a whole bunch of sense until you play a little, and even after you explain them it will still be hard to play for a while, though the game itself can be finished inside half an hour. It's not very long, but if it's your first time, you'll feel it.

Once you understand the rules, Cartouche is pretty cool. I didn't think so the first time I played, but after I tried it again, I saw how you could really put together a winning deck here. Spotting the strategies is tough at first, but if you really put some effort into it, Cartouche has some legs. After a few turns, you shouldn't have any trouble figuring out how the game works, and then you'll see how many ways there are to play this game. It does a lot, for not being hard.

The basic mechanics of Cartouche are a little tricky at first. You've got six deity decks, each with a bunch of cards that have symbols in the middle and little pictures of deities at the bottom. The picture in the middle tells you what power that card has, and the pictures at the bottom tell you what cards you could buy with them. That's really the crux of the game, using what you have to get the cards you need to win and trimming your deck to keep it efficient. The size of your deck isn't important, it's all in how you use it.

For instance, if you have a soldier and an armory, you can steal cards from another player, but a builder with no pyramid is dead weight. If you have the flood, you can wipe out another guy's draw pile, unless he has a boat. There are scarabs and pyramids and ankhs and stuff, and they all do something. You'll need to pay attention to the cards you're getting, because scoring is all based on combinations of cards. Scarabs cancel plagues. Scepters only score if you have the most of them. Priestesses only score with ankhs. Figure out how to score, and you'll have a great time.

It's not all wine and roses, though. For one thing, the appeal of Cartouche is hard to spot if you're not looking for it, and it's pretty dry, thematically. It lacks the tension and depth of Dominion (you had to know that comparison was coming), and it's subtle enough that it can look boring as hell on the surface. It's really plain-looking, but it's got personality.

And then there's the worst part - the cards blow. Not the stuff on the cards, like art and what-not, but the cards themselves really suck. I don't know if this happened to everyone, but in my game, the cards aren't all the same size. It makes it really hard to shuffle a deck of cards when they're all different widths. My wife honestly mistook it for a homemade game, especially because all the cards are half the size of normal cards, but they come in a box that would totally have held them if they had been normal size. I don't know what possessed Small Box Games to sell us a miniature game, but it was a bad call. Let's face it, size matters.

Cartouche is a fun game. I wouldn't say it's the best Small Box has made, but it's certainly enjoyable, with a surprising amount of depth and versatility. The teeny tiny cards were a horrible decision that makes it harder to play than it should be, but even still, my wife and daughter both said they would like to play it again. That's a good omen. Plus it's got huge boobs.

(That last sentence didn't mean anything. It's just there to be quoted.)

[DAY LATE EDIT: John Clowdus, the mastermind behind Small Box Games, informed me today that not all the decks were screwed up by the printer. Also, if your cards are messed up, contact John to get replacements.]


2-4 players

Fast and deep
It might not look like much, but it'll get the job done

Short on tension
Pretty bland at first glance
Half-pint cards were a very, very bad idea

You're in luck. Usually Small Box Games has sold out of their games by the time I review them, but right now, you can preorder a copy and get it in a month or so. Here you go:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Event Review - Cowboy Action Shooting

Cowboy Action Shooting has to be one of the most bizarre events I've attended so far. It's entirely possible that it was more surreal than when we used to go watch the Society for Creative Anachronism people at the park, when they would get dressed up in historically inaccurate armor, swing foam swords, and address each other by fake names such as Lionheart Vineripen and Gronad Bronzeweiner. The difference, when it comes down to brass tacks, is the dedication. Sure, the SCA people spent a ridiculous amount of their time coming up with their alternate personas, but the Cowboy Action Shooting people bring actual firearms. They also have costumes, and like the medieval reenactors, create fake names for themselves.

If I was going to join the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS, for short), I would need a fake cowboy name. I'm having trouble thinking of one. My first instinct was Dingus McDingus, but I'm not Scottish.

The SASS members have some singularly silly names. The first guy we met goes by the name Bang Gunsleigh. I did not make that up. We also met Aloe Vera (this was a man, incidentally) and Grumpy Grandpa. Then we flipped through their newsletter (it's huge!) and found a man who calls himself Bad Penny (when did Penny stop being a girl's name?) and Double Barrel Betty, whose 'gun rack' did not live up to her title.

(Big Bill Hootenanny? Probably taken.)

The costumes ranged from shockingly accurate to barely adequate. Everyone had cowboy hats and boots, and two-gun holsters, but a lot of the guys were just wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt and calling it finished. Some went whole hog, though, with coats that looked like they came off a dime store mannequin and checkered vests with pocket watches. One guy had those old-school pants that had to be held up with suspenders. You could almost assume he was wearing long underwear. It might have been red.

(Poopsy Turdshooter? Too crass?)

The group I was visiting with my son specialized in live ammo at steel targets on a gun range. There are other variants, like mounted shooting, which uses blanks and balloons, and quick-draw competitions, where they shoot at each other with wax bullets. But this group uses real bullets, often loaded using black powder, which makes an enormously awesome cloud of smoke and spits fire out the barrel. They're timed, with penalties for missing targets, and they use scenarios plucked straight out of black-and-white John Wayne movies. The targets represent the various bad guys who need a good case of lead poisoning, and before you can shoot, you have to use a gunfighter line. Ours was, 'Walk away or draw.' I wanted to add, 'ya yellow varmint,' but that would have cost me time.

(Smokey Splodeypants? That has some promise.)

For all the silliness wrapped around the falsely historical cosplay, I have to admit that it was a hoot shooting the guns. For a pretty low fee, we got to show up and shoot other peoples' guns with other peoples' bullets. We got to shoot twice, both times firing a pair of six-shooters, a lever-action rifle, and a side-by-side double-barrel shotgun. All the weapons were serious - you could definitely kill people with any of these firearms. These aren't show guns, and they have all the kick and clouds of smoke you would expect if you ever saw a Clint Eastwood movie.

(Big Chief Fartswhenheruns? My great-great-grandma was Blackfoot Indian.)

Cowboy Action Shooting is really fun. Sure, you have to adopt a silly name, but the costume part is cool. And the guns – man, I don’t shoot very often, but it’s a hell of a good time every time I do it. The whole affair is surreal, but you can tell these people are having fun. It’s like LARPing for Republican gun nuts.

(What about food? I could be The Denver Omelette, or Juevos Rancheros.)

For all the fun I had, though, I doubt I’ll be doing it again. For one thing, if I want to go back, I have to sign up. There’s a steep yearly membership fee, and then there’s the costume. Just the boots and hat could cost a couple hundred, and all of that is before you even buy a couple thousand dollars worth of replica Old West firepower. And even if I could afford all that, there’s still the silly name.

The last part, at least, I can figure out. I’ll be Rusty Wild Rex Autry Wayne Trigger Rogers. I’ll bet that’s available.


You get to shoot some awesome guns
Semi-historical silliness, which is great if that’s your bag

Ridiculous names
Seriously expensive

You can find out more about the Single Action Shooting Society here:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Card Game Review - Gosu

The craziest thing happened the other day. I played a card game and - this may be hard to believe - it was not a deck building game. Weird, right? It seems you can't swing a dead cat any more without hitting a deck building game. I'm still a little amazed myself.

The game is called Gosu. That seems like an odd name, but it's a severely shortened version of 'Goblin Supremacy', which, now that I write it, is still a pretty odd name. You take turns playing goblin cards into your armies to try and win the great battles. It's not a particularly difficult game to learn, but there sure are a lot of nuances for a game where everyone doesn't have their own deck of cards.

There's just one deck in Gosu, and every card in the deck is a goblin. There are three levels of goblins, and five different kinds of goblins, and each goblin does something different. Some do stuff right when they come in, and some have abilities that you can exploit later. There are goblins that kill other goblins, which is handy, and goblins that trap other goblins, which is sometimes even handier. Lots of the goblins let you draw more cards, and that's particularly important because otherwise it can be damned tricky to have enough cards to do something.

In fact, a large part of the game is balancing your need to whoop ass with your need to have cards to play. Focus too heavily on playing cards and killing the other guys, and the next thing you know, your hand is empty and you have to sit there while the guys you have been stomping take turn after turn, gleefully stabbing your goblins in their soft parts and building enormous juggernaut armies that you couldn't hope to defeat. But spend all your time drawing cards, and you could wind up with a squadron full of goblins who sit around with their collective thumbs up their collective asses, and once your huge army of losers wins one fight, you're hopelessly incapacitated and all the long-term planners will pick apart your army like a demented kindergartner pulling the wings off flies.

Technically, you win this game by getting three victory points, and you get victory points by winning the battles that happen after everyone runs out of stuff to play. The battles are a little anti-climactic - you just see who has the biggest army, and that guy wins. But so much is riding on the battles that the game is all about the cards you play getting up to that point. You have to plan ahead if you're going to put together the right combination play. The voices in your head will sound something like this:

'I need to kill that general. If I play this shadow, I can kill that general. Except that in order to play that shadow, I need to discard two cards, but I don't have those cards, so I need to get more cards first. If I play the ancient, I can draw two cards, but it will fill up the row, and then there's no room for the shadow. But I could mutate this alpha into the shadow after I get the cards off the ancient, but if I do, I won't be able to play this bigger alpha, which I need to win the battle. But if I play the bigger alpha, I can't use his ability yet, which means he's a waste, so I want to wait to play him until after the battle. So I'll play the ancient to get the cards, and instead of the shadow, I'll mutate this fire into a meka, which will let me...'

And then you'll realize that you have completely forgotten what you were trying to do in the first place, and you'll discard the shadow you needed, mutate the alpha, and end up discarding the rest of your cards to pay for cards you shouldn't be playing anyway. So, see, you have to think.

There's a great balancing element in Gosu. Many cards have bonuses on them, but you can't use the bonus unless someone at the table has more points than you. So it's a completely viable strategy to let one player win the first battle, and then use the bonuses with the cards you decided not to play in order to totally blow the doors off everyone else. That player who thought he was winning will get to feel stupid, and if that isn't why you play games, then you're not having as much fun as you could.

Gosu has nearly everything I like in a game. There's absolutely fantastic art, a fun theme, and considerable violence with a healthy body count. There's planning and strategizing and quick tactical plays. It's got enough friend-stabbing that you can make young children cry, and you'll have to make really tough decisions, often without having enough time to think about them. It's fun and good-looking and comes in the coolest box ever (though I fail to understand why the box is as huge as it is).

If you like games where you have to think a whole lot while committing aggravated assault on ugly humanoids, Gosu is a blast. It's oddly refreshing to play a card game that does not make you build your deck on the fly, because it's starting to seem like that's the only kind of card game being made any more. With stunning art and tons of depth, Gosu is likely to see a lot more table time at my house. Only I'll have to play it with my friends, because my kids get upset when I kill their goblins. When I'm playing with family, I'll probably have to stick to deck building.


Players: 2-4

Surprising depth
Lots of options
You'll have to balance a lot of factors to keep yourself in the game
The art is totally wicked
Lovable body count
No deck building

Nothing comes to mind. This game is really fun.

Surprise! You're never going to believe this, but Dogstar Games is not carrying Gosu. I know, that's almost as hard to believe as a card game that isn't about deck building. Noble Knight has it, but it's out of stock. Here's the link, in case they get more:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Board Game Review - Baltimore & Ohio

There are several things about a board game that tend to earn bad reviews from me. Design an ugly game, and I’m going to tell people. Make me do a bunch of math, and you’re likely to piss me off. Give me a dull-ass theme with arbitrary historical accuracy and no body count, and I might just end up putting your game through a wood chipper just to keep it out of the hands of children who might play it and not realize how important violence is to board gaming.

It’s important for this review to know that I hate all those things about board games, and every one of those flaws can be found in Baltimore & Ohio. And the reason it’s important to know how much I despise ugly games with lots of math and boring themes is because when I tell you that I have enjoyed Baltimore & Ohio, you need to understand how enjoyable this game had to be to overcome an incredible number of hurdles.
For starters, Baltimore & Ohio isn’t just unattractive. It’s facial-scarring-as-a-baby, wearing-a-mask-to-look-in-the-mirror, hairless-mole-rat ugly. If my fourteen-year-old daughter made a game using OpenOffice and a box of Crayolas, it would have been more attractive. The graphic designer for this game should seriously consider a career change, maybe as a thumb-breaker for the mob. If he can do this with a game, just imagine what he could do with a bucket full of battery acid.

If it wasn’t enough to make an ugly game, they also had to dump buckets of math into it. And this isn’t just a bunch of adding. When we played, everyone at the table had to have a calculator. Not just one calculator for the table, either – we each had to break out our cell phones so we could handle the algebraic equations that the game produced.

And the story is soooo boring. It’s the thrilling tale (yes, that’s sarcastic) of how some people bought stock in train companies. All the railroads are based on actual train lines from actual history, which means that some railroads have to hit particular cities before they can expand, and others can’t even be purchased until the game has been going a while. Why? Because that’s how history did it, so by God, that’s how we’ll do it.

[Quick aside – why are all train games about the same period of history? Why doesn’t anyone ever do a game where you build Japanese bullet trains or New York subway trains? What is so fantastically exciting about making game after game that reenacts the exact same part of American history? And what’s so damned exciting about trains in the first place?]

So, after all that complaining, here’s the ‘however.’ You know, the line that pretty much negates everything that came before it. The game is ugly, the math is atrocious, and the theme bores my face off. However, it’s so much fun that after I played with my regular group, I took it home and played with my family, and had fun again.

See, it’s not your standard Martin Wallace rail-building extravaganza. You don’t have a color, you just have money. You buy stock in railroads, and then build them up – but don’t suck, because if you do, you could actually lose your railroad. You could theoretically run your railroad into the ground, lose all your stock, and have some other guy swoop in and steal the last way you had to make any money. You wouldn’t technically be eliminated. You would just have to sit there and be pissed at yourself for making so many idiotic mistakes.

You can build track, too, but the tracks are just wooden cubes that say, ‘yep, this train goes there,’ and it doesn’t really matter if it’s a crossover or a turn or a split. As the president of a railroad, you don’t care how the lowly manual laborers get the train to Buffalo. You just want to cash in on having a line that goes that far.

The stock thing kind of threw me at first, because you don’t actually pick a color. It’s different from most games, but in a good way (and several bad ways). You can buy stock in your opponents’ railroads (and probably will, if you’re winning), and you can start up completely new companies halfway through the game. At first you’ll be broke, barely scratching out enough income to build just one more piece of track, but then later you’ll have money flying all over the place, until you have to build a huge swimming vault like Scrooge McDuck and dive into it.

Calculating and planning and scheming is fun, and Baltimore & Ohio has tons. You’ll plan exactly how far you can stretch in one turn, pushing your money as far as you can, and have to decide the perfect moment to declare a dividend and put money in your pocket instead of into your train. Because, see, when the game ends, having the best railroad means absolutely nothing. You can own half the stock in the most profitable company on the board, but if that company has all the money and you don’t, all you’ll get is what you can score when you sell your stock.

This is an incredibly deep game, and if it were any heavier you could use it as a boat anchor. It will hurt your head trying to come up with good strategies, but interestingly enough, you won’t have to work that hard to understand the rules. In fact, if you pay attention, you should understand how to play by the end of the first turn. Of course, you’re still going to screw up the first time. And probably the second. Possibly the third.

As I was playing Baltimore & Ohio, I looked at my friends and complained about how I was going to be so embarrassed. I have to give a good review to one of the ugliest games I’ve ever seen, with no bloodshed anywhere, and enough math that we all had to use calculators. Hell, I have a reputation! Ugly games with too much math aren’t supposed to be fun! They’re supposed to suck! It’s like the fabric of the universe is unraveling around me!

I hear that Baltimore & Ohio is a lot like the 18XX games. I’ve never actually played any of those, because they all look as boring as this one did, but if they’re as much fun as Baltimore & Ohio, I may need to check them out. I know virtually nothing about any of them, and can’t really be bothered to look up any information, but if I get a wild hair up my ass, I may check them out.

For now, you can run over to the Eagle Games site and procure your own copy of Baltimore & Ohio, so that you, too, can have fun playing a game as hideous and overflowing with math as this one.


2-6 players

Brilliantly deep strategy

Super duper ugly
So much math, you'll need a calculator (really - that's not sarcastic)
Boring retread of a theme

Dogstar Games does not carry Baltimore & Ohio, which does not surprise me even a little. They tend to carry games that are much prettier than this one. But Eagle Games can hook you up:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Announcement - Noble Knight Games

If you've been reading Drake's Flames for a while, you probably know that Dogstar Games keeps this site stocked up with good stuff. If it weren't for them, we would have run out of games five or six times, just this year. Thanks to Dogstar Games, I've been able to respond to several requests that otherwise would have just gone unanswered because lots of publishers would rather send me a bag of flaming dog crap than a review copy. Many of you have been awesome enough to buy games from them, which has really kept them sending me games, and I totally appreciate it.

That's not changing. If I have my way, Dogstar Games will be sponsoring Drake's Flames until I'm writing from the nursing home (hopefully, that will be a very long time in the future). In fact, I recently found out that they do a ton of business in Magic: The Gathering, so if you're thinking of buying some cards, I would consider it a serious favor if you bought your Magic cards from Dogstar Games.

However, my recent decision to start reviewing roleplaying games has left me a little high and dry. It seems that RPGs are, as an industry, even more dysfunctional than board games (and let me tell you, that's saying something). Out of all the companies I've recently contacted for review copies, only one responded, and they didn't even have any stock they could send. My initial foray into reviewing roleplaying games seemed destined to fail - until we were saved by a white knight.

Technically, our white knight is a Noble Knight, as in Noble Knight Games. One the largest internet retailers of roleplaying games and CCGs, Noble Knight Games has also been the biggest retail customer of VixenTor Games since we started. So I'm on a first-name basis with the owner over there, and when I explained my predicament, he came to the rescue.

Noble Knight Games sells a ton of stuff, including vast amounts of products that would otherwise be out of print. They have old collectible card games, new miniatures games, and a warehouse chock full of RPG books. In fact, from now on, any time I review a CCG or RPG that they carry, I'll be linking you to their site to get a copy (unless, you know, it totally sucks, in which case I'll be linking you to a photograph of a smelly bum sleeping in a dumpster). The only exception is Magic: The Gathering, which Dogstar sells like crazy.

So give a hearty hello to our new knight in shining nobleness, and go buy something, already. They've got so much cool stuff, you won't know where to start. As always, if you're looking for deals on board games, you can get them at Dogstar Games, but for just about any other kind of game, take a gander at Noble Knight Games.

There's an ad over to the left there - you know, right under the one for Dogstar Games - so you can find it real easy. And in case you hate clicking a freaking big square box, here's a text link:

Set your bookmarks.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Card Game Review - Fzzzt!

I once complained at some length about the exclamation point in the game Attack! Since then, I have noticed this increasing trend of putting inappropriate punctuation into game titles. It's not quite epidemic level just yet, but it is getting pretty out of hand. It's bad enough that publishers are not only comfortable using improperly placed punctuation, now they're preceding those errant marks with words that are not actually words.

I'm referring, of course, to Fzzzt! You probably knew that, though. Not only are you educated enough to be able to guess which game I meant without any assistance, but I also actually said the name of the game in the title of this review. That tends to narrow it down.

I could rail on at length about how absurd it is for actual grown men to invent a game that doesn't have a single vowel, but instead, let me tell you why I don't care. The reason is simple enough - it's fun. Fzzzt! has players bidding for robots as they become available, then using those robots to build widgets. The robots you win go to your discard pile, and then they help you win more auctions that will also help you build more widgets. So what we're looking at here is an auction-based deckbuilding game, which is a sort of snooty nerd way to say it's a card game where you get more cards as you play.

It's kind of ironic that I'm able to have a good time playing a game when inviting players to join me involves making a sound a little like an epileptic llama, and if I want to say it correctly, I have to make that sound really loud. But it's so easy to learn how to play that you won't have to make that sound for long before someone will come over and ask you to stop spitting so enthusiastically. Then they'll join you, because the rules are simple and the game is a hoot.

You start off with four cards of varying power and go through eight rounds of bidding on cards that you can use to win the game. There are the robots, of course, and these go into your discard pile, which you'll shuffle and replay several times as the game progresses. Then there are production units that you can finish by plugging robots into them at the end of the game, assuming you scored enough robots to finish them, and you better hope you can so that they don't cost you points at the end of the game.

But of course, the irritation with the ridiculous title can't end just because you've started playing. One of the cards is actually called Fzzzt!, which means you have yet another opportunity to hiss like an ice cube on a hot skillet. This card is kind of cool, because it has decent bidding power, but it's also a penalty point at the end. It's kind of worth it, though, because you could score like 80 points anyway, and that one point isn't going to be the deal breaker, unless you have a bunch of them, and then you're dumb and shouldn't have done that.

Fzzzt! plays out pretty fast, like half an hour or so, during which you'll probably only have to actually say Fzzzt five or six times. You don't have to yell it, of course. That's optional. But what's not optional, if you want to win, is a good mix of planning ahead and raw luck. You'll have to make some smart calls on the spur of the moment - if the guy before you bids three cards, and you really want that robot, you'll have to pick some good stuff to fight him, or decide if it's worth running him out of cards so you can get an easy shot at the next one. There's a nice mix of 'he who hesitates is lost' and 'strike while the iron is hot.' Maybe it's 'he who hesitates is hot.' But that doesn't make any sense. So never mind.

So here's the deal, publishers - enough with the silly names. But if you are going to make silly games that sound like dog farts, use Fzzzt! as a template - make them fun. And make them like the Gryphon Games reprint, and put them in one of those cool tins, and have an expansion with a bunch more cards so you can play it with six people. Then I'll forgive your ridiculous naming conventions.


2-4 players (5-6 with the expansion). Spitting optional.

Easy to learn
Deceptively clever
Neat auction game meets easy deck building
Plays fast, so you can play it a few times in a row
Good balance of planning and quick thinking

Not a lot of long-term strategy
No vowels
Errant punctuation

As far as I can tell, the Gryphon Games reprint of this game is not out yet. It should be, sooner or later. Hopefully sooner. It's fun.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Board Game Review - Panzer General: Russian Assault

About six months ago, I reviewed a game called Panzer General: Allied Assault. I have to spell out the whole name, because even though it's a really long name and anyone referring to the game who isn't selling it in a magazine is going to call it Panzer General or Allied Assault or something, there's a sequel out now called Panzer General: Russian Assault. Yes, that was a really long run-on sentence. And yes, I did that on purpose. My twelfth-grade English teacher, Mister Smollen, would be very disappointed.

It's not entirely accurate to call Russian Assault a sequel to Allied Assault. It's more like it's the same exact game, but with different stuff on the cards. Instead of American tanks, there are Russian tanks. Instead of American infantry, there's Russian infantry. Instead of American artillery - well, you probably figured this out by now.

The tiles have different stuff, too. Instead of woods that stop tanks, now there are snowy woods that stop tanks. That's completely different. Because of the snow. Yes, that was a sentence fragment. And yes, I did it on purpose. Again. Bite me, Smollen.

In fact, there are very few things in Russian Assault that you won't find in Allied Assault, except for a few important things. Whether these things are important to you should help you determine if you want to buy Russian Assault. These things are overrun rules and plastic tanks.

The overrun rules (and the associated rules for if you're stupid enough to shoot at someone when you don't stand a snowball's chance in Hell of hitting them) are designed to avoid having to go through all 37 steps of combat when a healthy battalion of tanks rolls up on one guy taking a dumper behind a trash can in the park. That guys should just die, but instead you have to check a whole bunch of stuff and play cards and other annoying minutiae that really isn't necessary and certainly should have been simplified out of the game completely. But if you're outnumbered badly enough, you just die. Or if you can't do any damage, you don't shoot. That way the turns ends faster.

Except it doesn't end faster, it actually takes more time, because you get one chance to even up the odds, which means you have to wait while your opponent checks through his entire hand of cards to see if he can add three points to his defense and thereby make you have to follow all the steps before you blow his face off. And then he probably does, so then you still have to follow all the steps until you finally figure out that the one guy hunkered down next to the port-a-potty is thoroughly, irrevocably doomed.

So those rules don't do much for me, and I don't see that they were needed. But one thing that is nice, and does really help a lot, is a bag full of toy soldiers. These tiny tanks, soldiers and howitzers go on the various cards on the board, so that you can see at a glance if you're firing at a hard target, if you get a defense bonus for terrain, and if you have any ranged support close enough to blast additional holes in your victims.

There are a few more tweaks and stuff, plus a whole lot more scenarios. If you've played Allied Assault until you ran out of scenarios, you may want to get Russian Assault just to try something new. If you've played Allied Assault two or three times, still haven't managed to find time for a solo game, and don't really want to read all the rules again, don't get Russian Assault. It's just going to collect dust.

But let's say you don't own either one of these games. Let's say you're looking for a game that acts like a video game trying to be a board game, and you want it to be all about World War II. Well, you're in luck. This game has your name on it. If you're trying to decide between Allied Assault and Russian Assault, get Russian Assault first. It's got more stuff in the box.

I'll say the same thing about Russian Assault that I said about Allied Assault - I really like this game. The variety of units and layouts, the customizable maps, even the overly complicated combat all add up to a good time. There's tons of careful planning and risky gambits, tactical brilliance and dumbass mistakes. It's way too complicated for being this simple, but I liked it even though it moves at a pace close to the average land-speed of a tectonic plate.

So, pick your scenario to help you decide if you should buy Russian Assault.

1. You own Allied Assault and never play it: Do not buy Russian Assault.
2. You own Allied Assault and have played every scenario, and still want more: Buy Russian Assault.
3. You want to buy either Allied Assault or Russian Assault and can't decide which to get: Buy Russian Assault
4. You only like games where wooden blocks help you gather wheat grass and build temples: Do not buy Russian Assault.
5. You own hand grenades and rifles that you stockpile in your basement to be prepared for Armageddon: Move to the middle of the Mojave Desert and start a commune.

So, to sum up, we've described the slight differences between Russian Assault and Allied Assault, we've figured out whether you want to buy Russian Assault or not (well, I have), and we've committed various gross acts of disrespect against the English language, and tangentially, my senior-year English teacher. I hope Mister Smollen can forgive me - he was the best English teacher I ever had.


Same cool game as Allied Assault
A few new rules add some variety
The plastic minis are an excellent addition
Still tactically brilliant

Still slower than Christmas
Not enough new to justify a whole new game unless you've played the hell out of the old one

Dogstar Games is carrying Allied Assault. Hopefully, they'll soon also carried Russian Assault. In the meantime, here's the link to the first one, at a healthy discount:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Event Review - Disc Golf

My kids are teenagers. For those of you not familiar with this malady, one of the main side effects of being a teenager is a secure knowledge that your parents are idiots. So are most adults, with the exception of A) extremely popular musicians, B) any extraordinarily attractive member of the opposite sex (as long as they don't know your parents), and C) the homeless guy who tells stories about Vietnam and carries a knife he made out of a discarded hubcap. This condition leads to a series of unpleasant symptoms, including unpleasant sneers, casual disrespect, and treating your parents and any other authority figures with the contempt other people reserve for microbial fungus.

So when I try to think of things to do with my kids, it's a challenge. This weekend, I tried to think of something we could do outside, something active that might tire them out so that they would fall asleep early and not bother me while I watched late-night TV. It was a beautiful weekend, and I wanted to go to the park, but my kids don't want to go to the park unless either Justin Bieber or Megan Fox is there (and that's specific, depending on the kid - my son would like to drop-kick Justin Bieber, and my daughter thinks Megan Fox is slutty and does not understand that this is precisely why my son and I like Megan Fox). Thinking about the park reminded me of my halcyon college days, when we would play Frisbee golf, and then I thought that it would be awesome to share this experience with my kids.

Of course, I would have to edit it from how we did it in college. See, we just picked up a case of beer and a couple Frisbees and went down to the park. We did our level best to hide our consumption of alcohol, so we were never asked to leave, but we also didn't have a ton of manual dexterity. Plus our Frisbees were cheap, lopsided pieces of crap, so between the piss-poor tools and the fact that we were piss drunk, we kind of sucked at it. But it was a fun way to blow a day.

For my Frisbee golf experience, I just went to Target and bought a bunch of Frisbees. They were three bucks each, so we could afford to knock them around a little, and just to recreate the fun times from my youth, I also managed to buy lopsided, crappy Frisbees. Then I took my kids out to the local park, and we threw our Frisbees at trees in a sort of course we made up as we went along.

This was fun, but unfortunately, I was playing with teenagers. They quickly grew bored, which lead in short order to grumbled complaints and generally sullen dispositions. It didn't help that our Frisbees would not fly further than twenty feet before crashing to the ground, or that my daughter could not get her Frisbee to fly at all, mostly because her interpretation of a Frisbee toss looks more like a blind man chucking a shot put at the Special Olympics. We played three matches, and then decided to head back home. Gorgeous day or not, we were just not feeling it.

But I am one persistent bastard, able to work past moody teens and shoddy construction alike. I went online and found that my city has a very large disc golf course. I determined that we would take our three-dollar Frisbees to the park, and I would show my kids how much fun could be had when we played on an actual course.

I distinctly remember my Frisbee golf outings being very casual affairs. We laughed, we threw Frisbees, we became inebriated, and we never kept score. If we had crappy Frisbees, then so be it, because the point of the outing was to enjoy a nice day with some friends. My memory did me a massive disservice.

It turns out that disc golf (it's called that now, because nobody uses Frisbees any more) is quite a bit more serious than I remember. Now people have gym bags full of discs in different sizes and weights. You may have to throw your disc (not a Frisbee) hundreds of yards to get from the start to the finish. But the most shocking thing of all - now this game has rules.

Of course, this is all information we found out after I started playing Frisbee golf in public with my teenage kids. We walked right through the middle of the range, unaware that people were waiting to throw their flying guillotines right where we were strolling. We carried our crappy Frisbees and wandered around, looking casually around for a nice spot to start throwing. To draw an analogy, this was like wandering onto a professional golf course with a Wiffle ball and a tire iron, standing in the middle of the putting green and teeing off backwards at the ninth hole.

It did not take us long to figure out how horribly wrong we had gone. A group of guys asked us very politely to get out of the way as we tromped up the hill toward the launching point. They didn't have to be polite. I doubt I would have been. We watched them throw their cybernetically enhanced discs the length of two football fields. They took running starts and everything, then picked up their bags full of disc golf materials and walked off.

I told my kids that by God, we had come this far, we were playing at least one hole. So we bravely chucked our wobbly plastic pool toys down the hill, and as we did, another group of disc golfers came up behind us. My daughter was nearing a complete nervous breakdown at the sheer embarrassment of being wrong in public (this is a leading cause of early mental illness in teenagers, second only to the horrifying embarrassment of showing up at school in a blouse that doesn't match your shoes). But we bravely soldiered on, and happily, the group waiting behind us was just as cool as the first guys about letting us finish (though I am fairly certain they were laughing at us).

We finally managed to throw our discs into the basket that indicated we had finished the first hole. I then immediately gave in to the increasingly loud protestations coming from my progeny, and we headed home. But on the way out, some incredibly friendly disc golfers handed us some well-used discs and told us where we could go to buy some more. We chatted for a few minutes, and I learned a lot more about the game from them.

First, it seems there is a whole organization devoted to the sport of disc golf. It's not just drunk co-eds with Frisbees any more. The Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) is kind of a big deal, even if I have an incredibly difficult time taking it the least bit seriously. I mean, this was a game that we played drunk, for crying out loud. And now there are people who do it for a living!

Second, there are rules. Lots of them. There are rules about marking your discs, about playing with cracked discs, and about using mini markers (I still don't get that one). The official rules include stuff about 'marking the lie' or 'provisional throws' or 'tee pads'. That last one makes me giggle a little. Tee pads. Heh.

And the thing that really amazed me was the sheer quantity of stuff these guys were carrying. I thought we were weighed down because we had a water bottle. These cats have bags full of discs, in different colors and weights. There are drivers and putters and mid-range discs. Not one of these discs resembled our crappy plastic beach toys, either.

My experiment in disc golf has made me want to play a lot more. It's free, it's good exercise, and it's actually really cool to see how far you can throw one of these things. No matter the weather, you can go out and have a good time. It's obviously a different game if you're playing in the rain, but I think it would be a hoot anyway. In fact, I'm planning on heading out and buying some discs.

Assuming, of course, I can get either of my kids back to the park. I'm pretty sure my daughter would stab me in my sleep to get out of having to do that again. But she got to spend some time with ol' Dad, and even if she does hate me just a little bit more than she did before, at least she got some exercise. And my son won't wear shorts to save his life (they wouldn't look cool enough), so I may have to wait until we have snow on the ground.


Great exercise
Fun and casual sport
People tend to be far friendlier than I would expect
Actual golf discs are wicked cool, and fly a really long ways

Not hard to feel stupid if you just go out and start playing
A lot more serious than I remember
Those discs can take out an eye

If you want to get more official info on disc golf, check out the PDGA site. Keep in mind, however, that your local park probably looks like mine, meaning it's covered with weeds, dry grass and discarded condoms.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Card Game Review - Yin Yang

There's a great joy in being a game reviewer. It's found at the point that I walk in the door from work and discover a package sitting on the counter, one that my kids brought in when they got home from school, one that contains games I probably never even knew existed. Opening the box is like a mystery present from a distant relative on Christmas morning. Sometimes that relative is my rich uncle who always picks the perfect gift, and I break open a box full of Dominion expansions and the hot new dungeon crawls. And sometimes, that relative is my cheapskate brother. On those days, I get crappy Reiner games.

Point in case: The last package I got contained three games, one of which was called Yin Yang, and it was apparently packaged up by the broke-ass brother, because it was instantly identifiable as a crappy Reiner game.

I will say that I really like the direction Gryphon Games is taking with their card games. Packaging them in metal tins is really cool. The box looks like it would have fun inside, except for the one dead giveaway at the top. The clue that the box has less in common with fun than a colonoscopy? 'Reiner Knizia.'

The game itself is everything you would expect from a themeless Reiner game. You've got fifty cards numbered from 1 to (wait for it) 50. Then you've got ten cards with scoring combos. These scoring cards each have a number in a black symbol and one in a white symbol (I'm afraid I don't know which one is the yin, and which is the yang. I'm sure someone reading this does know. Before you tell me the answer, you should know that I don't care).

So each player gets a hand of nine cards, and then the top scoring card is revealed. The person who plays the highest card gets the number of tokens in the black symbol. The lowest card earns the number of tokens listed in the white symbol. Everybody else gets nothing.

Here's the thing, though - you don't want to have any of these things at all. If you get a white one when you're holding a black, you just dump the black, and the other way around if you're holding white and win black. Best case scenario, you're empty-handed and everyone else has a bunch of one color or the other. You play nine rounds of this, then tally scores. Then do it again, and again, until everyone has the chance to deal once.

You might be reading this quick description and thinking, 'why doesn't that sound like fun at all?' And the answer would be pretty obvious - it's not fun. In fact, it's boring for a Reiner game, and that's really saying something. It's not as ridiculously horrible as Atlanteon, but I'm completely stymied as to why you would play Yin Yang over, say, tic-tac-toe. If you could turn Yin Yang into a drinking game, it would be great (and honestly, there's no game you can't turn into a drinking game - ask any frat boy), but it doesn't come with those rules. It only comes with the boring rules.

It's nearly impossible for me to see how a person would go about implementing a strategy in this game. We tried it several times looking for some intelligent approach, but nothing worked. We just could not find a way to make Yin Yang something that wasn't boring and/or lame. The game is unengaging, dull and trite. Why anyone would publish it is beyond me.

It might seem like I've written an overly short review. While I admit that this is a shorter review, I would also point out that there's almost nothing to the game. In fact, the back side of the double-sided rules sheet is in Chinese, because they had to fill up the little scrap of paper, and there sure weren't enough rules to cover all the space.

One quick note. If you've ever played Relationship Tightrope, then you've played this game. Like many old Reiner games, Yin Yang is a re-theme of an old game, though in this case, the re-theme is more like a complete stripping of theme. That's honestly an improvement. Reiner abstracts could largely benefit by having the themes surgically removed. Yin Yang is better than a game about dating. That doesn't mean it's a good game, just that it's better than one about two people fighting over which set of parents to visit at Thanksgiving.

So anyway, don't get Yin Yang unless you like crappy Reiner games. I know some people do, so knock yourself out. Oh, and if you see my little brother, kick him in the shin for me.


Metal box is really cool
Art on the backs of the cards is also cool
Theme is way better than it was

Aimless game with crappy strategy
Boring and pointless

If you really love crappy Reiner games, you might want to pick up Yin Yang. You'll have to wait until Gryphon Games actually has it for sale, though.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Event Review - Another Train Ride

A year ago, I decided to mix things up here and include event reviews in my rotation. It was an attempt on my part to get away from the three-a-week grind of trying to play a near inhuman number of games, and an experiment to see if I could actually go and do something different every week. It worked great for a while - I reviewed whiskey tastings, fashion shows in the mall, geocaching and model train shows. I was out doing all kinds of things.

A lot can change in a year.

My wife has been getting progressively more ill. Doctors can't tell if she has fibromyalgia or lupus, and her first doctor put her on a dose of steroids so high her hair started falling out. When the new doctor took her off those steroids, she was able to enjoy three new wonderful sensations - she was still suffering from the effects of the drug overdose, but she was able to add to that the wonders of withdrawal symptoms, all while experiencing all the lovely symptoms that the steroids were masking in the first place. She's been so ill for so long that I have almost forgotten what it was like when she was healthy. I don't get out much any more. I play with my game group on Saturdays, and other than that, I'm either at work or at home. Some days, she's well enough to cook dinner. Most days, I either go get dinner from some local fine dining establishment such as Jack in the Box or Taco Bell, or I cook, in which case we have grilled cheese sandwiches.

This grinding battle with chronic illness is starting to show. Obviously, it's showing on my wife, who is a total trooper about it, even while she's too tired and sore to move, but it's starting to show up in my life, too. I've been getting really slack about posting three times a week, and several times my 'updated three times a week' tagline has been a bit of an exaggeration. It's tough to get away and spend an hour or so writing an article when the dishes are piling up, the dogs are hungry, and I need to be handy to make a run to the drugstore, and even if I have the time, there are too many times when I'm just not feeling it.

But today was State Fair day at work, and I actually went somewhere and did something. As I did a year ago, I gathered some co-workers and took the train from the office to the fair. It was a different experience, but it was still a blast.

One of the things that mixed it up for us this year was that we had a different group. Last year, three of us decided to take the train. This year, word of our success got around (possibly because I spent a couple weeks walking around to people and saying, 'hey, take the train with us'), and so this year, we had a group nearly a dozen strong. Last year we met the crazies. This year, we brought our own.

It's amazing how completely incapable grown people can be. I budgeted the time, printed the train schedule, and calculated our departure from the office to allow us plenty of time to get to the station. Unfortunately, I failed to make allowances for the fact that we had women with us. Between bathroom breaks, conversations in the hallway, and having to run back to their desks because they forgot something (I contend they may have left their brains in their chairs after they finished sitting on them), we managed to miss the train.

Happily, DART light rail runs every twenty minutes, and they had special event trains, so while we were not as early as I had planned, we still made it to the fair in time for the group picture that proved to all of our supervisors that we had not simply left the office and driven directly home. Then we had time for corn dogs and the car show.

I don't intend to discuss the Texas State Fair, because it is still one of the least enjoyable things I can imagine attending. Maybe executions would be less entertaining, but at least we could sit down. Walking for what adds up to miles to sample various fried dishes that counteract every exercise I've done for the last two weeks is not a good time (unless you are a particular connoisseur of edibles prepared in vats of boiling grease).

Instead of the fair, I'm going to talk again about the train. Like I said, this time we brought our own wackadoos, including one woman who insisted that she should be able to go up to the cockpit and talk to the pilot. I attempted to point out that we were on a train, not an airplane, and that she could not have plastic wings to pin to her lapel, but she still waved down the driver as he attempted to board the train so that she could ask him if he had been drinking.

Of course, just because we had lunacy present in our own group does not mean we couldn't find interesting people along the way. After a brief transfer in downtown Dallas, we were joined by a group of slow people. Not slow like broken-legs slow, I mean slow like a little bit dull. They were exceptionally friendly, except the ones who were scared of people. They didn't have a handler or anything, so I assume they managed to get by on their own, but there's no way this group was ever going to win a Pulitzer. I didn't mind, though - we had a great talk, and laughed all the way to the fair. Well, most of us laughed. The guy who looked like Peter Boyle just twitched and scratched the back of his head.

There were, unfortunately, no clearly insane people, no art students making kiddie books that read like acid trips or drunk men who couldn't remember their own children. The lovably dopey group was the closest we got to an interesting encounter, not counting the fourteen times the loopy dame from the office asked what exit was ours (never mind that the station was actually called the Fair Park station, and was announced as the final destination every two minutes). It was a remarkably sedate ride, for being public transportation.

The ride back was even quieter, because somehow, the group that included that crazy lady got lost as soon as we took the picture, and so only two of us made the return trip. But it got me to thinking on the way back, and enjoying a little introspection. Train rides are good for that, I guess.

Before you start groaning on the inside, no, I am not going to spout off some 'life is too short' bull crap. Life is too long. Life is a freaking whip, and you have to grab it by the ballsack and squeeze until it spits out a little bit of happiness, and in the meantime, you get behind on the mortgage and have to bail your kids out of jail. So long story short, my deep thoughts did not include any perspective on seizing the day or enjoying the little things.

Instead, I thought about how I haven't done things I meant to do this year. Sure, I might have reasons, but as a high school teacher once told me, there may be plenty of reasons, but there are no excuses. He was talking about why we might miss a big assignment, and besides, he was a dick who otherwise made my senior year of high school far more painful than it had to be, but he was right about that one thing. I may have reasons that I haven't done what I said I would do, but I don't have any excuses.

Today's train ride reminded me of all the stuff I was going to try this year. I still haven't been to a karaoke bar. I haven't explored any derelict buildings, or shot authentic six-shooters, or even just gone down to the park and played Frisbee golf. I've allowed my reasons to become excuses, and I'm not even trying any more. And the more I avoid doing interesting things, the longer life gets.

That's the funny thing about life - it's only too short if you make it that way. If you're actually enjoying it, that's when it's short. Life is long and ugly when you let it drag you down and beat you like an unwanted stepchild. If life is too short, you're doing it right.

So I'm going to go back and make life short again. I can't promise that I'll be able to find something every weekend, but by God, I mean to try.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Opening the Floodgates

When I was growing up, I played a hell of a lot of role playing games. I started on D&D, but also played a ludicrous amount of Star Frontiers and Traveller. As I got older, I played lots of Shadowrun and Vampire. Even after I got married, I played Deadlands and Talislanta and a whole heck of a lot of other games.

But in the last ten years or so, I've kind of given that up. For one thing, I changed. I think RPGs appeal to people who wish they could be someone else. It's natural for a kid to want to be more powerful, but I think after a point, adults realize that they're more satisfied with their real lives, and lose patience with games that require them to pretend to be someone else. I'm pretty happy with who I am now (though I wouldn't mind losing a few pounds, and it wouldn't bother me if my hairline quit receding). So RPGs just don't grab me the way they did when I was so dissatisfied with my life.

Time was a big factor, too. Think of some seriously long board games, like Samurai Swords or Through the Ages, and you can still start and finish them before you could normally finish rolling up characters for a whole group. Even complicated rules will be like 40 pages, where your average RPG sourcebook these days is like 300 pages, and that's before you even start considering support material like sourcebooks and modules. The time you need to play an RPG can be overwhelming, especially if you have a lot happening on the side.

However, role playing games still have a lot going for them. You can exercise your imagination, and sometimes just reading through a rulebook can amaze you with the possibilities that other people have created. The process of group-based storytelling is downright compelling, even if you're well past being impressed by the ability to speak with a fake English accent. And these days, some of the most amazing artists in the world are being employed to create the illustrations and designs that grace nearly every RPG on the market.

Not only that, but my kids have been pestering me to play some RPGs with them. They know I'm good at it, having spent decades honing my gamemastering voodoo, and they want to try being someone else for a while. Like I said, this is a pretty natural tendency in kids. And honestly, any time my teenagers are actually asking me to spend time with them, I'm loathe to pass up the chance.

So I've decided to expand my horizons a little. I've reviewed roleplaying games once or twice at Drake's Flames, and I used to do it pretty regularly for So I think it might be fun to take a look at what people are making now. It's been so long that I don't even know what's out there, but it could be fun rediscovering something that was such a part of my life for so long.

I'm not going to replace the board game reviews - I love those - but I might sub in an RPG review every other week or so. They still take a stupid long time to read and play, so it's not like I could crunch through three a week, but every now and then, I can get my kids to sit around a table and pretend to be robots, or high elves, or barbarian bloodletters.

Here's where I could use some help, though. Since I don't have the foggiest idea what games are out there, I wouldn't mind some suggestions. And if you know someone who would like to get their RPG reviewed, have them drop me a line, and I'll see what I can do.

RPG fans, here's your chance to see your favorite games get a little recognition. It's also a chance to see the dorkiest games ever made get ridiculed mercilessly. You don't want to miss that, do you?