Monday, July 30, 2012

Fantastic Game Review - Dungeon Command

The very first time I played HeroScape, I knew it was something special. It was a glorious combination of toys and excellent game design, with great plastic miniatures, modular terrain and simple rules that provided incredible depth in terms of strategy and tactics. I mention this because I just played Dungeon Command, and immediately thought of HeroScape - because once again, I've played something special. So for the rest of this review, I'll be making lots of references to HeroScape. There are a lot of comparisons to be made.

Dungeon Command is a tactical miniatures game played on a square grid using prepaints repurposed from the old D&D Minis game. Each pack comes with twelve miniatures, which is coincidentally exactly how many figures you need for one side. Right now, there are only two - Heart of Cormyr and Sting of Lolth. The first one is the heroic set, with rangers and rogues and archers and knights, and the second one is dark elves, even though it sounds like it should be the sting of creating a typo while laughing at something you read in a chat room. It's an unfortunate coincidence that when the creators of the drow elves were inventing their dark goddess, the internet had not yet come up with a three-letter abbreviation that would tell people how amused you were.

The reason Dungeon Command reminded me of HeroScape is because it's an incredibly similar game. Modular terrain in the form of interlocking cardboard tiles sets the stage for a battle between preprinted plastic miniatures. The rules are uncomplicated and easy to learn, and individual cards provide different abilities for the various monsters and warriors who will litter the battlefield with their bloody corpses.

However, Dungeon Command is actually smarter than HeroScape. Die-hard Scapers may want to take me to task for that one, but Dungeon Command is an absolutely brilliant tactical skirmish game. Complaints levied against it might seem to highlight potential problems, but having played five games of it in the last three days, I can tell you that they are not only a non-issue, they're not even complaints.

For instance, being on a square grid might seem to require more complicated rules, where you either have to allow diagonal movement (thus rendering specific terrain segments largely irrelevant) or come up with some half-move malarkey that makes you do math every time you move around an obstacle. Dungeon Command goes with the first method, which would seem to create a considerable problem, until you see how often large figures enter the game, and suddenly the maneuverable single-space minis who can skirt obstacles are granted a considerable advantage against the bulky monsters who could pound them into paste.

You might also hear complaints about people who miss their dice. Dungeon Command resolves all combat with cards, and not even blind card draws, but stuff you play right out of your hand. It might make it seem like they've made a dungeon brawl into a European game - but that would be incorrect. The cards still allow for a lot of luck, but it's more about whether your opponent is holding the card that will let him save that little halfling sneak than a measure of whether the dice like you that day.

In fact, the cards add a hell of a lot to this one. Where HeroScape makes you hit the same guy over and over to try to make the odds go your way, Dungeon Command makes you think. Should you lead with your weak attack, to try to draw out the dodge card before you hit with the major beatdown, or can you afford to combine the efforts of two different bruisers to go for the all-or-nothing instant kill? And from the other side, do you play your great save right now, and save that swordsmaster, or should you let him die so you can make sure your priestess lives long enough to start throwing giant spiders like a barfly playing darts? In HeroScape, the dice tell you when your warriors get hit; in Dungeon Command, that decision is up to you (and a little luck drawing the right cards doesn't hurt).

The cards make all the difference, in terms of game play. Play the right card at the right time, and you'll beat your opponent into the mud. Play it at the wrong time, and you not only waste it, but you leave yourself open to a brutal counterattack. Mistakes in Dungeon Command are punished harshly, because you can't count on the dice to save your bacon if you make a stupid move. Advance too far, and you let your opponent dictate the terms of the battle. Hang back, and you let him run all over the place, picking up the deceptively valuable treasure chests. Play to your strengths - if your commander lets your warriors haul ass all over the board, you can try the distance game, but if you just get a lot of order card flexibility, push your foe to weaken his hand.

There is an enormous amount of strategy in Dungeon Command, and an unending array of tactical decisions. Shifting just one space to the left could make all the difference between killing the umber hulk and getting flattened by the copper dragon. Determining the best way to prepare for an assault is crucial - make a plan and stick to it, but be prepared to respond to your enemy's maneuvers. This is actually deeper and more satisfying than HeroScape, and with only slightly more complexity. It is a masterpiece of tactical game design.

So should you sell all your HeroScape and buy Dungeon Command? Well, that answer is in two parts. First, I lost most of my Scape in my house fire, so if you're selling it real cheap, you can sell it to me. But more importantly, no, you should not sell HeroScape, because you're not going to get addicted to Dungeon Command, not like you did with HeroScape, where you would spend all day building maps and armies and not even playing the game, or where you would plan entire parties where twenty people all came to your house and nobody played anything but HeroScape. That won't happen with Dungeon Command. You might play it a dozen times before you get tired of it, and the problem is not that the game is weak, because it's not. It's fantastic. The problem is the stuff you use to play.

There are exactly two factions out right now, with plans for more to come out about every two months. So right now, you've got the Laugh Out Loud spider clan and the Heroes of Corny Dog, and you've got either the dungeon or the grassy battlefield. That's it. You can play this one as many times as you want, but it's always going to be the same people fighting on the same turf. There are rules for customizing your squad, but if you want to do that, you have to buy the same exact set you already own all over again. Then you get two drow priestesses, but you also have four house elves when you were probably going to cut them anyway. You'll have a huge pile of miniatures you don't need that you bought just so you could double up on the dwarf cleric. And even then, the only difference is that you have the same guys, but in different numbers.

And the terrain tiles might be modular, but there are only like six different ways you can put them together, so you've really only got two maps. There are no alternate scenarios, asymmetrical battles, or clever play modes. You won't string battles into campaigns. In other words, all the reasons you found to play HeroScape seventeen times in a weekend are gone, aside from the fact that Dungeon Command is actually a better game. And frankly, that sucks.

In a perfect world that I would make for myself, Wizards would release two boosters to go with each starter. These would have maybe four miniatures and a handful of order cards, and then you could actually play with completely different armies. You could surprise your enemies with dudes they never saw coming, you could combine different abilities in new and interesting ways, and come up with all new ways to pull your enemy's kidneys out through his forehead. Maybe they could come out with map boosters, too, with a bunch more tiles that would allow each player to select a bunch before the game starts.

There are so many possibilities for Dungeon Command that I am sad to see the physical format disappoint me. Customizing my battles should let me actually customize something, instead of just changing how often you see particular soldiers. Mixing up the map should be more than just putting a room off to the side instead of in front of you. The game is absolutely brilliant, but I'm still only going to play it a dozen times before I'm tired of it.

Of course, maybe that's OK with you. Lots and lots of people buy hundreds of games that they only play a couple times before they put them away, and if that's you, you are going to LOVE Dungeon Command. But if you're looking to fill the hole where HeroScape used to be, keep looking. Dungeon Command is a better game than HeroScape, but HeroScape is a better all-around experience, and Dungeon Command isn't going to replace it.


2 players (up to four if you buy four sets)

Very attractive graphics
Lots of prepainted miniatures
Game design that oozes genius
Satisfying and exciting and very, very fun

Limited customization options means limited replayability

You could pay 80 bucks for both sets, retail, but Noble Knight Games has them for just over 30 bucks each.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Board Game Review - Abaddon

Remember the early 90's? They were mostly kind of gross, with music predominately made by people who were about to kill themselves, but the games in the early 90's were actually pretty awesome. There was an incongruous mix of excellent plastic and oddly cheap cardboard, rules that were simple enough for a twelve-year-old to follow, and pictures of junior-high kids celebrating their Bat Mitvahs on the back of the box (they may have been celebrating something else, but I never saw an actual human being get that excited about a board game, so I don't think it was whatever they were playing). Also, I'm pretty sure they got the smallest kids they could find, because when I opened those boxes, the parts always looked smaller to me.

Richard Borg remembers the 90's, too, and all those games, probably because he made a bunch of them. And if his latest creation is any indication, he misses those crazy days as much as I do, because Abaddon could have been thrown into a time machine and brought here directly from 1994.

For starters, you've got giant robots. They're not called giant robots, they're called links, but they're not fooling anyone. When you have a walking machine with guns for arms, it's a giant robot. And when they fire missiles at other giant robots, you've got the start of a recipe for pure awesomeness. And when these giant robots are cool plastic sculpts (not cardboard, thank you very much Steve 'we got a million dollars to sell cardboard standups' Jackson), the recipe is getting better.

Abaddon also features components directly out of the 90's, like cheap cardboard and cheesy graphic design and blank dice where you have to put stickers all over them. My favorite ridiculously dorky game component is the victory point cup, with sounds like it should be pretty cool, but is in actuality a clear plastic cup that looks like it might once have been used for urine samples. Or, given the Chinese character stamped on the bottom, it may have held pudding that was only available overseas.

The rules are likewise yanked right out of the 90's. They're incredibly easy and straightforward, and go light on tactical brilliance in favor of buckets of luck. They're not complicated enough to provide for the kind of advanced maneuvering that would make Abaddon a serious game, but they still get you in the mood for firing long-range missiles at other stomping war machines. You totally get to blow stuff up.

A hallmark of 90's games was that a few bad dice rolls could completely ruin you, and Richard Borg has incorporated that brilliantly into Abaddon. When you shoot at an enemy mech, there is a very good chance that you could actually get shot yourself. More than once, as we were playing, attacking mechs would be destroyed on their own turn. But there's a little bonus worked in - if you roll exceptionally bad (as in, you get a 1), your opponent suffers a critical hit, and then you draw a card and see what happens. You could wind up with a weapon malfunction that won't let you attack, or you might burst into flames, or you could get (and this is a quote) super-duper charged and actually get better. It's a wild luck-fest, and it's hilarious.

One thing about lots of Richard Borg games that I've never completely embraced is the way you never know which of your soldiers will get to move on your turn. In the Command and Colors games, you use cards to determine who gets to move. In Abaddon, you have dice that you roll at the start of every turn, which means that sometimes you'll get to move everyone, and sometimes you get no turn at all. When your last scrappy mecha is holding a smart bomb to launch at an enemy, and you roll every kind of robot that is already dead, you'll wonder why you bother making any kind of plan at all.

But it's not as bad as it sounds. The odds of rolling absolutely nothing you can use are exceptionally low (though it could still happen), and you can still use an overall strategy, even if the dice won't cooperate. You might hold back to build your strength, throwing long-range attacks every now and then, or you might get ballsy and just rush in, guns blazing. The beginner scenarios don't have much in the way of tactical complication, but as you play through the different board set-ups provided in the rules, you'll see more and more ways to set up crossfires, flanking maneuvers, defensive formations and other stuff that will let you send giant pneumatic robots to their scrap heap in the sky.

Abaddon channels 1992 like it was brought here on the Tardis. It doesn't try to get all fancy with cutting-edge game mechanics, efficiency exercises or complicated initiative rules. It gives you cool plastic mechs and fistfuls of dice, then gets out of the way so you can blow each other to tiny mechanical bits. If you're looking for amazing production value, brilliant innovation or strategic depth, you're in the wrong decade. Abaddon is unpretentious, and reminds us why we like gaming in the first place - it's like playing with toys, only with rules.

Maybe that's why I miss the 90's. I like not having to pretend that playing with plastic robots makes me smarter than other people. That, or I miss having a full head of hair.


2-4 players

Excellent plastic mechs - and lots of 'em
It is very damned fun to blow things to hell with giant robots
Light, but still with a little room for strategy
Straightforward and easy to learn
Like playing with toys

Not as deep as some people might hope
Some really crappy components (not counting the awesome plastic robots)

Want to play games like it was 1999? Well then run over to Noble Knight and get you some!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Card Game Review - Cthulhu Fluxx

Looney Labs needs to have a contest to decide on a theme for their next Fluxx game. They pop out one of these broken record card games about every six months, and they've based them on everything from alien invasions to smoking reefer. What they really need to do, to mix it up and make it interesting, is come up with a version so fresh and original that people the world over stop and go, 'hey, that is fresh and original, and not all the same freaking thing we've seen a dozen times before.'

The latest entry in the not-so-fresh Fluxx line is another theme that has been used extensively and proven to be popular - Lovecraftian horror. It amuses me considerably that a source of horror as terrifying as evil sleeping deities who corrupt humanity and drive them completely insane has become a series of running jokes, to the point that the entire concept can be slapped onto a light card game that pays almost no attention to theme in the first place. And then we can play this game, and laugh about shapeless, tentacled beings that will completely destroy the entire world and swallow our souls like Jolly Ranchers.

If you're a fan of Fluxx, Cthulhu Fluxx is pretty cool. In addition to the normal stuff that we've seen a dozen times, now you've got an impending doom counter and ungoals that will make everyone lose. Several of the creeper cards have little doom-flavored hourglasses, and if there are enough of these on the table at the same time as the right combination of elder gods and an ungoal, the game ends with everyone flipping the table at the same time.

One variable that never seems to be consistent from one edition of Fluxx to the next is the art. The graphics in the original are culled from a crappy clip art collection, and the illustrations in Wizard of Oz Fluxx are just plain weak. But apparently Looney Labs got a good budget for Cthulhu Fluxx, because the art in this game is really good. If I was starting a comic book company, I would see if this cat would draw for me, because the art in this game beats Arkham Horror for being fun and imaginative.

If you don't like Fluxx, Cthulhu Fluxx isn't going to change your mind. It's still that same thing where a game could take an hour, or it could take five minutes. There's virtually no way to put together a winning strategy, and while it can be distracting entertainment, it's also about as deep as a Taylor Swift song (good thing that girl is cute). The doom thing and the ungoals might be new, but the overall experience of playing Fluxx will have you signing The Talking Heads and yelling, 'same as it ever was!'

What Looney Labs needs if they really want to kick some life into the Fluxx line is a theme that really grabs people. Cthulhu is interesting, but it still only lets the game add a couple rules that might not even come into play. If we want to see a Fluxx version with some backbone, we're going to have to help them out a little. So starting immediately, I am kicking off a Twitter campaign to come up with good Fluxx ideas. Give me your ideas with the hashtag #fluxxtheme, and maybe we can help Looney Labs invent the next great game.

I'll start with a couple here:

- French Brothel Fluxx
- Aging Rockstar With Kidney Stones Fluxx

That's a good start. Now, to the Tweet cave!


2+ players

Cool art
Cthulhu is fun
A couple new Fluxx concepts

Fluxx is starting to get very boring when not even dread Cthulhu can scare some life into it

You want to see something that will drive you insane? No, of course not. Who would willingly choose to go insane? Unless you could claim worker's comp or something. Hmm. That might merit some investigation. In the meantime, you can run over to Looney Labs and check out Cthulhu Fluxx, which is not coming out until GenCon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Board Game Review - Fury of Dracula

Dracula is pissed. I mean, he's royally tweaked off. You might go so far as to say he's furious.

And why is the master of darkness so cranky? Well, a few years back, somebody shoved a wood pole through his chest while he was sleeping. That's enough to ruin your day. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the old fart who was holding the spike was getting an assist from the chick Dracula was trying to bang. He had this dame all picked out, and then she helps some self-righteous, busybody asshole try to smoke his ass while he was just trying to catch some beauty rest.

Well, those prissy hero-types are in for a surprise - Dracula's back, and this time he's not going to start showing up at debutante balls and getting all moon-eyed for some teasy skirt. This time, he's going to build an army of walking dead, and when he gets done, Van Helsing and his little Scooby gang had better watch their backs.

That's basically the opener for Fury of Dracula. Dracula has a burr up his ass and intends to wreak a little unholy vengeance, and so he travels all over Europe, recruiting minions and making new vampires and causing all manner of mischief. The heroes who tracked him down the first time are hot on his trail, though, making Dracula seem less 'furious' and more 'askeered.' Dracula hops all over the place and the heroes close in on him, trying to corner him before he can get his vamp army up and running.

It's an interesting game with an interesting play dynamic (play dynamic is a phrase I just coined, because I recently had a very dull meeting where we discussed paradigms and synergies, and I was waiting to hear someone use the word 'dynamic' to describe something that is not the least bit dynamic so that I could know I had died and gone to a gray corporate Hell). One guy plays Dracula, usually the person who knows the rules the best. Everyone else plays individual heroes, and if they can catch Dracula and stop his reign of terror, this whole side of the board wins. It would seem that the odds are very much in favor of the do-gooders, since they outnumber Vlad Tepish four-to-one.

Fortunately, the game is actually quite balanced, and everybody needs to play well if they hope to win. Dracula can outwit his opponents and lay all manner of deadly traps, while the heroes can build arsenals of helpful weapons and make friends that will help them overcome the obstacles Dracula throws in their paths. A couple poor moves could put Count Chocula right in harm's way, while a few bad plays could send Van Helsing's super-crew to the hospital with injuries sustained in fang-related violence.

When the game starts, things might look pretty rosy for the Transylvanian bloodletter, but once the heroes catch his scent, he'll be running all over the place, shagging it as fast as he can to keep Van Helsing and his crew off his back long enough to eat a couple people like Five Hour Energy Drinks. It's a race against time, because if Dracula lasts long enough, he wins by default, and if he can manage to throw a beating on a hero or raise up a couple sexy Elvira vampire honeys, he'll speed up the clock. The heroes have to fight Dracula if they hope to win, but when they do finally corner him, they have to be careful, because he is one mean motor scooter, especially if you catch him at night.

A few things make Fury of Dracula work exceptionally well. For starters, Dracula doesn't actually move on the board. He knows where all his opponents are, all the time, but his movement is accomplished using a deck of location cards. The only way the hunters know when they've caught Dracula's trail is when they enter a city and the bad guy player says, 'Oops, hold on, you just got attacked by a pack of wolves, and they ate your arms off.' If the Big D goes to sea, he has to announce that he's on the water, but since the water areas are really big, that doesn't narrow it down much. Plus he has plenty of special abilities that he can use to screw with his opponents and throw them off the scent.

There's also a nice balancing aspect in the items and event cards. One thing the heroes really need to do is get armed with a full array of pistols, crucifixes and wooden stakes, in addition to finding helpful event cards that can turn Dracula's man-eating wolves into harmless puppies. But Dracula has a ton of ways to steal all those wonderful widgets and counter those handy events. In fact, when the heroes search for event cards, they draw from the bottom of the deck - because they might end up helping their immortal enemy instead of themselves.

The end of Fury of Dracula can be pretty tense, with Dracula rushing the clock and the heroes breathing down his neck, or it could be almost anticlimactic, with Dracula just going, 'hey, check it out, I made a vampire, I win.' But even if the end of the game isn't a nailbiter, most of the rest of the game is pretty exciting. You'll have plenty of opportunities to groan and curse, like when you set up some awesome trap for a badly wounded hunter and then watch it utterly fail, or when you finally corner the evil bastard and he turns into a wolf and runs farther than you can chase him. It's quite fun, moves fairly fast (unless someone at the table waits until his turn starts to even read his cards, and everyone else just sits there saying, 'you're just doing that now?'), and it sticks around long enough to be enjoyable. You won't finish in twenty minutes, and you won't want to. You'll be glad of the two hours it takes to play out, because like most of my favorite games, Fury of Dracula fits that old cliche about being a journey, not a destination.

The only real complaint I could seriously level against Fury of Dracula is that the name seems a bit deceptive. When I play a game with Fury in the title, I expect a little more egregious violence. I thought Dracula was going to come out like a Mexican wrestler on Cialis and industrial rock, all angry and violent and full of anger. Instead he just kind of runs like his ass was on fire and his balls were catching. I know that's how the game is supposed to work, but the name made me think I was going to get to be tearing around with a machete and a flamethrower. As long as you know going in that Dracula's fury is making him hide like a frightened hamster, you won't get your hopes up. Fury of Dracula is a very fun game, and I really liked the hide-and-go-screw-yourself mouse hunt. Even if Dracula seems more 'running scared' than 'furious anger,' it is a very clever game, and a great way to kill an afternoon.


2-5 players

Since all the heroes always get played, scales just fine for any size group
Fun cat-and-mouse sneaking game
Lots of twists and turns
Nice balance of luck and being smart

Does not feel very furious

Fury of Dracula is usually a 60 dollar game, but if you run over to Noble Knight, you can save ten bucks on it:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Party Game Review - The Big Bang Theory

Here are two things I do not like:

1. Apples to Apples. It's a dumb game.

2. The Big Bang Theory. I know lots of people are apey for this TV show, but I am not one of them.

Given that I do not like either of those things, it might seem pretty obvious that if you took Apples to Apples and replaced all the cards with stuff from The Big Bang Theory, I would not like that even more than I do not like either of those other two things on their own.

And honestly, you would still mostly be right, but I find that I like The Big Bang Theory party game more than I like either Apples to Apples or the TV show called The Big Bang Theory. Which is not saying much, and it's certainly not anything like a ringing endorsement, but I will say that while I would not much look forward to playing The Big Bang Theory party game again, I did actually have fun. And that is a lot more than I could say for Apples to Apples.

Ironically, the reason I had fun was because of the added license that I don't like in the first place. At first, I was afraid this was going to be a trivia game, which I would lose because I know virtually nothing about the show except a few names and that the blonde neighbor chick is far too cute to hook up with any of the goobers on that show (despite the fact that she does, in fact, hook up with at least one of the goobers on that show). Instead of lame trivia, and in place of the Apples to Apples cards that say stuff like 'penguin' and 'nuclear warhead' and 'this is a dumb game,' this silly party game uses ridiculous stuff that comes out of the show.

So here's how this actually works (and if you have played Apples to Apples, this will probably sound familiar). One guy takes a card and reads a word or phrase. Examples might be 'The Opposite of Sexy' or 'Fills Me With Joy' or 'What I Need.' Then the other players, who are holding a bunch of cards with other words or phrases on them, pick cards that they think will match whatever category the first guy said. The first guy chooses his favorite, and then someone else gets to be that first guy.

Now, in the case of Apples to Apples, the words or phrases on the cards are boring, lame and stupid. If you're holding a hand with 'unicorn,' 'peach fuzz' and 'lemon drops,' and the judge player announces that the category is 'evil,' you're either screwed, or you will win because the judge is apparently supposed to pick whichever matchup is the most thoroughly retarded. This makes Apples to Apples one of my least favorite games of all time, because the prize always seems to go to whoever had the most bizarrely incongruous match, and it's completely arbitrary.

On the other hand, the player cards in The Big Bang Theory game are all stupid, but on purpose. You might be holding 'Horny Engineer,' 'Monkey Assassin' and 'Hobo,' and then anything you choose is almost certain to be wacky and amusing. Apples to Apples looks like it should be serious, but instead it's stupid. The Big Bang Theory party game looks like it should be stupid, and it is, and it's funny. I laughed a bunch when I played it, because when the answer to 'Bad at Sports' comes back 'Man-Eating Walrus,' that's so stupid it's kind of awesome.

Even better, the game has this one kind of judge card that makes everybody pick two cards as their answer. The card might say, 'Made for Each Other' or 'Hilarious Battle,' and then the gloves come off and the stupid gets cranked up to eleven. Now you can match 'Princess Who Saves Monkeys' and 'Jewish Hobbits,' and it kind of doesn't matter what the original card was, because come on, that's funny.

I would not go so far as to say The Big Bang Theory makes a good party game. It most certainly does not make an original game, because the rules for this one are almost exactly the same as the rules for Apples to Apples. But I will say that if you're at a party with a half-dozen other people, and they all want to play something while they wait for the tequila buzz to wear off so they can drive home, you could do a lot worse.

For instance, you could play Apples to Apples while you watch The Big Bang Theory. That would be worse.


Players: It's a party game. It kind of requires a party.

Amusingly silly cards make this actually kind of fun
Will probably be even better for fans of the TV show

It's just a goofy version of Apples to Apples
Dumb (but this one, at least, is supposed to be)

Let's say you actually play party games. Let's further say that you kind of like the premise of Apples to Apples, but always wanted something that was funny on purpose. You're probably the target market for The Big Bang Theory party game, so you should go to Noble Knight Games and buy it:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Board Game Review - Gears of War

As many of my more devoted readers will know (thanks, both of you), I am a huge fan of dungeon crawl games. It's my favorite kind of game. The low-rent combination of a cheesy story and intense simulated bloodshed draws me like a mosquito to a bug-zapper. And this is why, when I read through the rules for Gears of War, I knew I was going to like it.

I was right, in case you were wondering. I did like it. I liked it a whole hell of a lot. But the most important thing about Gears of War is not that I liked it. The thing to remember is that it is a cooperative dungeon crawl game, because if you approach it thinking it's something else, you are probably not going to like it very much. Because it's not something else. It's a dungeon crawl with guns, and the guns have chainsaws on the end of them, and also there are monsters.

For those of you who played the original video game, the story for the board game lifts pretty much straight off the top of the console smash hit. Alien bodybuilders who take way too many performance-enhancing injections invade the planet, and it's up to human steroid junkies to shoot them and cut them in half with chainsaws mounted on the ends of their guns.

(In case you didn't play the video game, it is worth noting that every single character in the original was ripped like one of those ambiguously gay muscle-men who pose for the cover of Men's Fitness and look like they could lift the entire Russian hockey team over their heads, and tear phone books in half and then preach about how much they love Jesus. Even the aliens bulged with absurd muscles, as if Rob Leifeld drew them all. In their case, they were also kind of gross, but still very, very fit. But probably sterile from ingesting so many steroids. In fact, I would wager they initially attacked to find something to eat that was not a protein shake.)

Obviously, this is a game made for men who do not realize that they are no longer adolescent children. Which makes it absolutely perfect for me. You can even play it solo, but I would not do that if I were you. Because it's not much fun to play with yourself. Well, I mean, it can be, but not if you're playing Gears of War at the same time.

No, the real awesome of Gears of War reveals itself when you play with two or three other people. Those people will probably be male, since the game is basically channeling more testosterone than a breeding camp for angry race horses. If you can get someone to bring a six-pack of some tasty local microbrew, and someone else to show up with a bag full of tacos, and you can just relax and not care if you get hot sauce on the cards, Gears of War will make you glad to be a violent bastard.

I should note here that the theme is what gets you about Gears of War, not necessarily the rules. The rules are really just the platform by which the adventure arrives in your game room. They're quite straightforward, not particularly original, and still very effective at making you feel like a team of over-muscled killers mowing down enemy aliens like a fat guy with a bag of Cheetos. If you're looking for a particularly challenging tactical exercise, or you're hoping to prove your mental superiority through your mastery of cardboard squares, Gears of War will not deliver. You play this game for the story.

You also play this game to have fun with some fellow gore-happy jackasses, like me. It's not fun to play solo because to really enjoy it, you need to have those moments where you're forced to choose between shooting a couple aliens or helping your buddy get up off the floor. The fun in a cooperative game is cooperating, and this is especially true in Gears of War, where your action hero is going to spend almost as much time bleeding out on the floor as he is cutting monsters into chunky goo, and it's up to your fellow roidhedz to get you back on your feet.

Gears of War is a game that is all about the adventure that you will have blowing things all to hell. You'll throw grenades, fire monstrous shotguns, rattle off hundreds of rounds of ammo, and after all that, the odds are about even that you'll wind up with your entire crew dying of advanced lead poisoning. It's brutal, exciting, and if the cards and dice don't like you, really kind of hard. But you won't care if you won or lost, as long as you got to blow giant holes in a horde of invading monsters. It's got plenty of plastic, cool cardboard dungeons, lots of neat art, and more bloodshed than a Robert Rodriguez movie. If you like bonding with the guys, perpetrating massive violence, and laughing when you die, you really should try Gears of War.


1-4 players (but best with four)

Killer theme about killing
Bad-ass miniature hardbody brawlers
Really fun cooperative that makes you actually want to cooperate
So much violence!

Not exactly a thinking man's game
Solo play is thoroughly pointless
The hero minis are virtually indistinguishable from each other, so you'll spend the whole game squinting at them and going, 'is this me?'

Beat your chest and start your chainsaw, then run over to Noble Knight Games and grunt in a manly way as you buy a copy of Gears of War:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Expansion Review - Time to Fly

Generally speaking, a game expansion is supposed to make the original better. That is the goal, usually - add some play options, inject more depth, provide a little more replay value, or just let you play without your pants on (it should be noted that you don't usually need an expansion for that last one, but depending on the crowd, it might help).

Evolution, the game from Russian game company Right Games, has a recently released expansion called Time to Fly. It's pretty creative, really thinks outside the box, because instead of taking a good game and making it better, it takes a good game and makes it a lot worse.

A little background here, for those of you too lazy to go read my original review. In Evolution, you make animals, give them traits like Carnivore or Swimming or Fat Deposit or Detachable Penis, and see if you can keep them alive long enough to get you a bunch of points. A game this basic (and yet brain-taxing enough to be a lot of fun) seems like it could only benefit from adding more evolutionary mutations.

But instead of improving the original, the expansion just ruins it. Time to Fly adds several new traits, many of which are actually pretty cool, but it also adds several that you can add to a creature to make it completely incapable of being killed. Put the right combination on your critter, and instead of evolving an alligator or wildebeest, you'll turn him into a tubby Godzilla with a tapeworm. Everyone else will be trying to make their woodchuck survive to the end of the game, and one guy's monster beast will just pick them up and eat them to feed the mile-long intestinal parasite.

To make matters worse, now the game is twice as long. It's actually a really good idea to cull the deck down, because otherwise you'll wind up with a game that only one person at the table is enjoying, and everyone else is wishing to God it would end, and the game is taking twice as long as it should. There's a combination of cards that is statistically impossible to beat - and even if you do manage to pull out this miracle combo that can take down King Kong in a snail's shell, your animal is going to be so unbalanced that it can't get enough food, and it winds up killing the other beast and then starving to death on a beach somewhere off the Antarctic coastline.

The original Evolution is a fun game. It's a constant, dog-eat-everything-else competition to stay alive and eat your enemies like kielbasa. You have to plan and conserve your strength, play hard and smart, and keep your wits about you to survive.

Add in Time to Fly, however, and now you've got a situation where one player can build a hybrid of Incredible Hulk and a tyrannosaurus rex, and it's just not fun for anyone. Well, it's probably fun for the guy with the mutant world-eater, but everyone else will just be frustrated and bored.

I can still recommend Evolution. It's fun. But unless you're a rabid completist, avoid Time to Fly like it was Time to Make A Number Two. It takes a perfectly good game and makes it suck.


A few cool traits that make the game more interesting

A bunch of poorly tested traits that make the game actively horrid

That does it for the Russian games. Here's a link to their store, where you can order any of their games (just don't get Time to Fly):

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Card Game Review - Quintis Fontis

Quintis Fontis is not the name of the game I'm reviewing tonight. The actual, full name is 'The Enigma of Leonardo: Quintis Fontis,' which is far too long to type more than once. For the rest of this review, I will call it Queer Font, which is not the name either. That is actually a computer typeface that prefers the company of fonts of the same gender. So never mind, we'll stick with Quintis Fontis.

Quintis Fontis is kind of like an expansion, but more like a sequel. You don't need the original Enigma game to play, which is nice because the original blows sweaty goats. Quintis Fontis uses many of the same concepts as the original, and all the same art, but it's a better game in every possible way. That's not me saying the game was awesome; when your source material is a game that could really only appeal to mentally-challenged fifth-graders, just being playable is a monumental improvement.

Instead of each player having a little tic-tac-toe grid, now there's one common five-by-five grid. And instead of just replacing a card every turn, you can play new ones, if you can find room, or cover old ones without taking the one that was there. Plus there are some rules - you can't cover or replace a card unless you can match one of the two symbols on it, and that makes for a little more complication. You need three in a row to grab the matching scoring counter, and then the next guy needs four, and the player after that needs - wait for it, because I know this will be a surprise to everyone - ice cream. No, five.

OK, so that's the basic rules summary, so that you understand basically what kind of game you're playing here. It's like super tic-tac-toe, but way more frustrating. Since you can't play anything that matches what the last guy played, you might plan your turn for ten minutes, and then as soon as the guy who goes right before you plays, most of the cards in your hand are unplayable and now you have to come up with a completely different play. This creates a situation that most gamers know pretty well - Take Your Effing Turn Already-itis. You can't plan ahead, because the player before you can hose you without even trying, and then you have to take five minutes trying to figure out any place on the table where you've even got a legal move. Meanwhile, all the other players will be planning their turns, so that when it gets around to them, they can throw out whatever plan they had because now theirs won't work, either.

Happily, the game doesn't drag to a screeching slow until the end, so for most of the game, it's actually pretty cool. You'll set up three or four plays ahead of time, mixing up ways to grab a bunch of cards in a row. You might stock a few different places on the board, to prepare for a future turn when you swap out a card and surprise everyone by scoring twice in a row. There's actually some pretty engaging card play at the start, and it intensifies as you approach the finish line.

And then you actually get within shooting distance of the end of the game, and then nobody can find a play, and then you'll start wishing someone would win so that you could play something else. You will probably have a good time for most of the game, though, so I recommend cutting the number of cards you need to win. That way you blaze through all the fun parts of the game, and then stop right before it really starts to suck.

I was actually more pleased with Quintis Fontis than I thought I would be. Having played the original Enigma, I was expecting an experience roughly akin to watching curling on television with the commentators speaking in French - you know, boring. Instead it was more like watching a lightly entertaining sitcom with all the commercials shoved into the last five minutes. We all agreed that we did enjoy most of the game, and then we all agreed that we wanted it to end.

I have no idea what Quintis Fontis means, but if it means 'considerably more fun than the other game, but still kind of flawed,' I would say that the game was named correctly. Unfortunately, something tells me that my translation may be slightly off.


2-4 players

Better than the original (which isn't saying much)
Some neat planning and tricky plays
Like a game of Memory where you can see all the cards

Rules are confusing (because they were Russian before they were English)
Really drags at the end

I can't really recommend Quintis Fontis unless you're drawn by the novelty value. In case that's you, here's the link:

Monday, July 9, 2012

Board Game Review - Deadwood

I don't really believe in kharma, aside from that stupid 'my kharma ran over your dogma' bumper sticker, and then it's just because it's worth a giggle. But if I did believe in kharma, I would say that it was out to teach me a lesson.

My last review, where I discussed Rune Age, had me questioning whether Fantasy Flight was even trying to make good games. And then I go out Saturday and play Deadwood, a recent FFG production, and expected to be very disappointed. Instead, kharma (if I believed in it) came back and made me look stupid. Which wasn't necessary - I look stupid often enough that I rarely need help.

There were two reasons I was pretty sure Deadwood was going to leave me underwhelmed. First, it's a recent FFG game, and I've been kind of unimpressed by some of their recent efforts. But second, and this was the bigger problem, was the fact that the game is historically crap.

I'll explain.

In Deadwood, you're in the famous town in South Dakota. The train is coming through, and the player who has the most money when the train shows up is going to get even richer, so you all gather your cowboys at your ranches and get ready to fight it out while you build the town. If you know just a smattering of history regarding the actual town of Deadwood - as in, your entire exposure was the HBO show that featured lots of girl parts and profanity - your head may be about to explode.

Point one: Deadwood was deep in Indian territory. There were no trains. It was technically illegal to even be there. The railroad didn't come through until 1888, and by then the town had more than 5,000 people.

Point two: Deadwood was a mining town. All the land in the area belonged to the Lakota Sioux, and nobody had enough land to raise cattle. Besides that, it was in the Black Hills, which were aptly named for being something other than flat, and so were not conducive to raising livestock. So no cows, no ranches, no cowboys. Lots of brothels, though. Had they replaced the ranches with cathouses, it would have been a lot more historical (and how awesome would it have been if the cowboys had been replaced with soiled doves? Way more awesome, is how awesome).

So right off the bat, any actual history has gone directly out the window. They still put Wild Bill Hickock in the game, even though he had been dead for years when the train showed up, and so I was prepared for this to be another sloppy mess.

I was wrong. It's a smart, fast game that basically pulls inspiration from every Euro to ever bore a warmonger to tears. You'll send workers… uh, cowboys, out to the town to claim buildings, and sometimes, build more of the town. You can challenge your opponents for control of a location by getting in shootouts. There's a little bit of theme, but it does its best not to take itself seriously, and never gets in the way. Which is good, because it's so far off as to be offensive to any who actually knows the difference between a Winchester and a Henry.

Even though Deadwood is basically a bunch of other gaming ideas rearranged into something else, it's still a surprisingly fun game. There are plenty of different strategies you can take to win the game - you can be the confrontational gunfighter, and put your effort into eliminating the competition. You can try for the quick win and surprise come-from-behind. You can push for the full game, depriving your opponents of their bonus bucks. There are plenty of ways to play this one, and they're all fun.

The thing that really took me by surprise is that Deadwood is incredibly efficient, and wonderfully intense. It might seem like you're not doing anything, and then you look at the board and realize that you might have two turns left. It really took me by surprise, because I was expecting a couple hours wishing I could be pulling glass out of my feet. Instead we finished two games in under an hour, and had loads of fun both times.

Now, because this is essentially a European-style game, readers might be thinking it's a puzzle game, with minimal interaction and deep thinking. Happily, that's not the case. There's loads of luck, if you're the gunfighting type, and you can totally kill your enemies. You can boot people out of their nests to grab control. You can swindle and cheat and fight and kill and then go to church so that the law quits thinking you're bad people. It's actually fairly high-powered, and sweeps past so fast you'll want to play it again.

Deadwood is one of those games where the game play is on the cards, or in this case, the buildings, so just reading the rules isn't going to tell you how it plays. That's another reason I was surprised - many of the buildings can be game-changers, where you might be expecting them to be subtle or bland. Without seeing how the laundry and the churches can be combined to clear your name after you mercilessly slaughter your foes, or how quickly you can blow through the stack of wanted posters, or how rewarding it is to control the sheriff, there's no way to see how exciting the game can be. (To harp on a previous point, it would have been even better with hookers.)

I know fans of confrontational games are probably thinking how this doesn't sound like their cup of tea, and frankly, I can't blame them. Normally, I would recommend a game like this only to people who can really get behind games about farming or delivering tea. Deadwood is both completely derived from other games, and extremely European in flavor (going so far as to be designed by someone who thought the entire American West was an episode of Rawhide). And yet even with those two big strikes against it, I would happily play this one with any of my friends, with no reservations, because unlike most games with those two painful flaws, Deadwood is actually very exciting to play.

Honestly, I expect this to be a tough sell. I don't really think people are going to rush out in waves to buy a Euro-style game about the Old West that includes worker placement and money serving as victory points. And that's fine, but here's another incentive - since it's part of the Silver Line of FFG games, it's actually almost affordable, as opposed to those huge boxes full of plastic aliens and geomorphic tiles that will set you back more than your cell phone bill. It's casual and still tense, quick and still engaging, smart and still confrontational. I am rarely completely surprised by a game these days, and I am very happy to eat my words about Fantasy Flight being horribly lazy.

Well, they're not lazy about game design, anyway. But ten minutes of Wikipedia would have told them it should have been called Dodge City.


2-5 players

Interaction that seems almost out of place in what is basically a Euro
Neat art
Tension that will surprise you
Far more fun than I expected

Basically a Frankenstein monster made out of parts of a bunch of other games
Actual history is blatantly ignored

If you want to try Deadwood (and I recommend it, it's actually much better than it has any right to be), run over to Noble Knight Games and pick one up:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Crappy Game Review - Rune Age

An open letter to Fantasy Flight Games:

Are you even trying any more? Have you given up trying to make original games, and just devoted all your time to reprinting stuff that you already know will be popular? Are your game designers even showing up for work? Have you started handing out heroin at company picnics?

I ask because I recently played Rune Age, and it is a very sloppy piece of work. It is wonderfully illustrated, of course, but I'm pretty sure you just got the art from other games - which would not be hard, since this game is based in the same world as Runebound, Descent and Rune Wars. It even has a few neat ideas in it, but it looks like you gave the designer four days to whip up a deckbuilding game so that you could have one of your own, and then set him to work coming up with new ways to use non-standard dice before he ever got to actually play his creation.

I can appreciate that you gave us four different ways to play. In theory, it is pretty cool that I could use the same game to play a cooperative exercise, a bloodthirsty kill-fest, a Euro-style shopping spree and a competitive co-op. I like where your head is at, but without a whole lot more effort, a game this ambitious is going to fail. It will be just like the time you tried to date three women in one night without telling any of them about the others, and ended up wearing your tux jacket with no shirt and trying to explain to the drive-thru lady why you needed seventeen tacos with no shells.

I even like that there are different resources provided by different cards, so that I have to decide if I want something that can do some violence, or if I need to add some income to my deck. Should I attack my opponent's home, or try to steal one of his cities? It would seem like there are lots of options and things to do, but if you thought this, you would be largely disappointed.

I've played all the scenarios. Some I even played twice. And I can say that your bold approach shows courage, even if you failed to make any of the four scenarios fun to play. There are neat abilities on some of the cards, but the main theme of this deckbuilding game seems to be not being able to build a deck. Every time it starts to look like I might be able to have a discard pile for more than one turn, all my cards get destroyed and then I end up having to draw three times.

You've got some of it right. For instance, you shouldn't be able to buy the best things on your first turn. That works fine. You should have to buy cards that improve your chances of buying things, which Rune Age makes me do, so at least that is working. But once I do get that big hand of buying power, I need to have something to buy. When there are only a small handful of the coolest cards available, they tend to go pretty fast, and then I have to decide if I would like to cram my deck with a bunch of gold just so I have more than eight cards (because God knows I won't be buying anything but the starter cards that keep getting destroyed). It's just sad that more care was not taken. You could have kept the game interesting right up to the end, but instead you rushed the game out the door so you could cash in on the deckbuilding craze.

Speaking of deckbuilding, have you even played any of the other games out there? If you had, you probably would have noticed a common trend. Every other deckbuilding game I've played gives you enough cards in your starting deck that you don't see your first-round purchases until your third turn. But you've got eight-card decks and five-card hands, which means that after your first turn (and possibly sooner, thanks to some wildly irritating event cards), you'll be playing with the same cards twice. That is just sloppy. It's an obvious, easily-spotted error that you could have fixed with just a little more time and effort.

And while we're discussing not having enough cards, why do you keep making me throw away the ones I've already got? I don't have enough to start, and then every time I turn around, they're leaving my deck. This is very frustrating! When I finish the game with fewer cards than I had when I started, something is not working right. And that non-working something would be the part of the game where I build my deck. In a deckbuilding game. If this were a deckscrewing game, you would have got it just right. But it's not, and you didn't.

I wanted to love Rune Age. I like Runebound a lot, even if it does move slower than immigration reform, and I thought Rune Wars was a ton of fun. I can even sign off on the bland, generic fantasy setting, mostly because you've always got really good art and I'm a sucker for an elf chick in a thong. But I won't be playing Rune Age again, and it's kind of sad, because you had some great ideas working there, and you just screwed them up because you didn't take the time to finish the game.

I know the market demands that you publish more games to stay afloat. I get that, and I can't blame you for an aggressive publishing schedule. Hell, I'm looking forward to the Descent reboot, especially if I don't have to start flipping through the manual every time a new monster walks in the room. But I think it is somewhat telling that the Fantasy Flight games I have enjoyed recently were mostly reprints.

In fact, I'm starting to think that Fantasy Flight doesn't have any respect for the people who buy your games. This is such a lackluster effort that it seems like you just really don't care if you make good stuff, because you think we'll gobble it up like a six-year-old on a bag of ice cream dots at the zoo. This isn't just lazy. It's a cheap attempt to cash in on a trend. A company that really cared about providing quality games would have taken the time to make this one work, or they wouldn't make it at all.

Take your time. You have some very good designers. You could do a lot better than this. Rune Age was a throwaway effort, an attempt to compete with Nightfall and Dominion and Eminent Domain. The difference, you'll probably see, is that those games were designed by people who took the job seriously. Those games were tweaked and tested and played and scrapped and scrubbed and spindled and folded, until they are well-oiled machines of card-buying frenzy. Rune Age, by comparison, is the rusty clunker I bought for 500 bucks when I was in college. The one with the gas gauge that always read empty and the windows that only rolled down if I took off the door panel. The game might be a deckbuilding game, but it's a sloppy, unfinished mess.

I know you can do better than this. I've seen it. I've played dozens of your games that I really loved, but if you keep making copycat games that look like you slapped dog poop on a Xerox machine, that could change. You're the industry giant, but being big is no reason to get sloppy.

Unless you're Andre the Giant. He really couldn't talk any better than that.


2-4 players

Some interesting ideas, like an event deck that affects all the players, every round
Great art, which mostly came from other games

An obviously flawed attempt to ride the coattails of better games
Not much fun to play a deckbuilding game that keeps me from building a deck
Sloppy and unfinished
Design that says Fantasy Flight has no respect for its fans

If you want to buy a copy of Rune Age - well, don't. It sucks. I'm not giving you a link. I'm pissed that I played it, and I'm not telling you where to get your own.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Expansion Review - Quarmageddon

Have you been enjoying Quarriors half-a-week? I know I have! Mostly because I only had to write two reviews, and I got to play Quarriors a bunch of times. Pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.

To finish off Quarriors half-a-week (which, seriously, is just two reviews), I'm going to review Quarmageddon, because it's the only other expansion for Quarriors I haven't reviewed yet, and if I reviewed a different game, I would have chosen a really ridiculous name for my half-a-week celebration.

Quarriors is kind of a funny game. It's not like I fall asleep thinking about how much fun it is, or daydream at work about the next time I can play. It's got a few flaws that might have a Dominion fan turning up his nose, and the art is decent without being Asmodee good. And yet I play the damned thing more than nearly any other game I own. Actually, I can't think of one I play more. So strike that - I play Quarriors more than any other game I own.

The biggest thing that keeps me hauling Quarriors out to the game table is the replay factor (and the fact that my wife really likes it). Every time you play this game, you've got a different set of cards, which means a different set of strategies, which means you have to change your plan every time you set up a game. Of course, to keep that diversity flowing, you need to add new stuff to the game every now and then - which brings us to Quarmageddon.

Unlike Rise of the Demons, which brought out a brand new way to play, Quarmageddon doesn't try to fix what isn't broken (not that Rise of the Demons did, though the demon overlord did end up being handy when I needed a tire changed). The real purpose of Quarmageddon is to give you six new creatures and two new spells, so that your strategies can change a whole bunch more times. Add these new options to the already-existing elements that are in Quarriors so far, and you've got a whole hell of a lot more games before you start to see the same things pop up all the time. So at its most basic, Quarmageddon gives you exactly what you need out of an expansion - more reasons to play. That, and some place to dump a little of the extra money you have just sitting around your house like Scrooge McDuck.

If the new creatures and spells were the only additions you could find in Quarmageddon, that would be enough to justify buying it. But like that Sham-Wow guy getting bit on the tongue by a hooker, I want to tell you, 'OW! DAGGID! LEGGO!' And then, if I was that guy after he got his tongue back and made another innuendo-laced commercial for something you definitely do not need, I would say, 'But wait! There's more!' And then I would not hire hookers who wanted to French kiss.

See, Quarmageddon also includes something you didn't even know you were missing - a whole damned lot of space in the box. There's a magnificent plastic tray in the expanded box that will allow you to sort all the dice and hold them beautifully, and when you put everything away and flip the box over, everything will fly all over the kitchen and under the stove and you will be digging for it for hours. Then you will remember to put the lid on the box, you retard, because if you had, the dice would not have moved at all. The tray is even big enough to hold the next two or three expansions, which you can also lose under the stove if you're still too stupid to close the box before you start juggling it.

But wait! There's more!

Remember when I said the new expansion didn't try to reinvent the wheel (probably you don't remember that, because that's not what I said, I said it wasn't going to fix what wasn't broken)? Well, I wasn't being completely honest (or I would not have been, if that's what I actually said). The best thing in the whole box is something I'm about to give you for free - the optional rules. The first rule says you can buy two dice on your turn. The second rule says that you have to cull any creatures who score. These two rules together make Quarriors approximately 116 percent better. That's an estimate, of course. There is a 2.7 percent margin for error.

You don't have to play with those optional rules, but those two little optional rules make the game so much better that you would be stupid not to use them. Of course, you could have used them before, but now that they're in print, it's more like they're official. Now the game has far, far more depth. It takes longer than a cigarette break, and you have to be really careful about your purchases. No more just buying the most expensive thing because you probably won't be able to afford it later. Now there's a real incentive to buy the cheap guys, and more than ever before, the spell cards become a huge factor.

I liked Quarriors before Quarmageddon, which is good because I've played it a bunch. But now that I add in this big ol' expansion, this game is one of my favorites. You can win with wildly clever ideas and crazy risks. Luck is nowhere near as important as it was before - they key now is to make smart buys and difficult decisions. You now have more options than ever, and your decisions matter more than they did. Where the original is light and campy, now you've got yourself a smart game that I really enjoy playing, enough that it hits the table in my house about twice a week.

If you have to choose between Quarmageddon and Rise of the Demons, I have to wonder how wise it is to spend money on games at all, because you must be pretty broke. Rise of the Demons is cheaper than a medium pizza. But if you're dead-set on spending money you can't afford, Quarmageddon really is more fun. Honestly, if you like Quarriors, get 'em both. They'll give you more replay and make the game more fun. If you need more reasons than that, what the hell are you playing games for?


Still 2-4 players

Give you lots more reasons to play lots more times
Fantastic storage with room to grow
New optional rules add so much depth to the game, they should have been there from the beginning

Can't think of any

Quarmageddon is more expensive than Rise of the Demons, but not only is it worth it, I happen to know where you can save a bundle on it. Yeah, that's right, Noble Knight Games.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Get 'Em Here First - Drake's Flames Shirts!

I've been talking about doing this for a while now, and it's about time I actually followed through. Inspired by the big holiday celebrating our nation's independence, I grabbed some American tradition with both hands, and spent some time on the thing that made this country what it is today - capitalism.

In order to make a more perfectly horrible website even more offensive, I've created some shirts that will be certain to earn you some odd stares when you go to the mall. I've got two going right now, and I have a few more designs to add down the road, when I get around to it. The first design you can buy, so that you can show me how much you love me and also give me money and also show people that you have absolutely no fashion sense whatsoever, is the Drake's Flames white tee. This is the stunning design you will be able to wear if you purchase this lovely garment:

Pretty sharp, huh? If you're looking for clothing that says, 'Ladies, I am available, probably because of shirts like this one,' this should do the trick. That's right, this shirt should be better than body odor for keeping your commitment to the Promisekeepers and avoiding consensual pairings of any kind.

And if you want to step it up a notch and really repel people, you should see the other shirt I made. This one will not just keep the women away. This shirt will probably get you a free trip to the police station! But it looks totally bad-ass, so while you're in jail, you can get a prison tattoo and start dating needy women you meet online who don't have the sense to avoid getting mixed up with prison convicts.

The first shirt - the white one - is cheaper. That's because white shirts are cheaper than black shirts. Couldn't I have designed the second one to go on a white shirt? Sure, I suppose I could have done that. But everyone knows that guys in black t-shirts have marginally more sex than guys in white t-shirts. Plus if you're going to have a killer robot cowboy gambler orc on your shirt, it should be black. The shirt, I mean, not the robot. The robot can be any ethnicity, unless you're in the Klan, and then the robot has to be both white and protestant.

In case you're worried that I don't intend to finish Quarriors half-a-week, have no fear. I'll be back on the evening of the big fat Fourth of July, and since I don't have any plans to get drunk, I should have no problem delivering a review of Quarmageddon, thus finishing Quarriors half-a-week.

Anyway, here are some links.



Once these get uploaded and I get my store all cleaned up, I'll put up an ad, so all you consumers can throw money at me like I was a sweaty rock star. Or, more appropriately, a prostitute.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Expansion Review - Rise of the Demons

It's Quarriors week! Because I have Quarriors expansions to review. I already reviewed Quarriors, so that only leaves two expansions, which means that Quarriors week is only going to last until Wednesday, and then I'll have to write something else for Friday.

So it's Quarriors half-a-week!

The first feature of Quarriors half-a-week is Rise of the Demons, a rather small expansion for Quarriors that really only introduces three new things - a new spell, a new critter, and a new type of crappy die that you can give to your friends to make them angry with you. But it also has a bunch of cards that add to the ones in the big tin cube version of Quarriors (otherwise known as the base game) and make them all corrupty (corrupty, as it turns out, is not a real word).

You wouldn't expect that three little additions would make the game completely different, but they kind of do. Quarriors in its original form isn't all that involved, although it is a heck of a lot of fun. Just about anything you decide to add to your burgeoning dice pool (burgeoning, by the by, IS a real word) is good, and even if you don't build an efficient dice pool, you can still get some good rolls and make stuff work.

But with Rise of the Demons, you now have corruption dice, and they are pretty much completely bad. With very few notable exceptions, corruption dice will just make you sad. Not like actually sad, or anything, just sort of frustrated. And they're kind of fun, so you won't even be all that frustrated, just kind of irritated. But whatever unpleasant emotion corruption dice make you feel, the point is that having them is generally considered not good at all.

Unfortunately, if you're using the cards in Rise of the Demons, you'll have lots of chances to get those unpleasant corruption dice, and when you do, you will see a marked decrease in your spending power, your ability to summon minions, and your ability to have a bag full of dice that look like candy (because the corruption dice are gray and kind of ugly). They mostly take up space and don't give you anything, but sometimes they will let your opponent score points or make your guys easier to kill or otherwise make you go, 'dammit!' in a loud voice that will frighten the dog because he thinks you are yelling at him.

(For the record, it's a good idea to holler at your dog from time to time, because chances are, he's up to no good. Between getting on the furniture, chasing the cat or pooping in the living room, dogs are mischievous little boogers. There's almost no downside to keeping them on their toes.)

 The corruption dice in Rise of the Demons, along with the new corrupted creatures and the cool corruption spells, really do change the way you'll play the game. Depending on what's on the table, you might go for an aggressive strategy that deliberately loads up your opponent with corruption dice, or work to avoid getting any yourself, or even take an all-or-nothing approach that lends you a lot of power at the cost of sucking up a bunch of those nasty dice. The game can last a little longer, but every now and then you'll see a combination of stuff that lets you break out some serious beatdowns and score crazy points for sudden wins. The game still plays out in less than 45 minutes (and usually less than 20 minutes), and it's even more fun than before.

The thing that Rise of the Demons really adds to Quarriors is a bit more strategic depth. And while I still hold that the original is a blast (I've played at least twenty games now), if there's one thing it needed, it was more chances to do smart stuff. There were just too many times that the best choice was the most obvious. But toss in Rise of the Demons, and new strategies will abound. This is a fun, solid expansion to a fun, solid game, and if you're a fan of Quarriors, I can't imagine a reason not to pick this up.


Adds some strategy and more difficult decisions
Provides more options and gives you more reasons to play

Not a whole heck of a lot in the box

If you like Quarriors, you should run over to Noble Knight Games and pick up this kick-ass little supplement real cheap: