Welcome to 2023 and a look back at ’22

Time marches on my friends. Holy cow, it’s 2023. I am shocked at how quickly the years fly by since about 2008 or so… while I like to think this is due to having unprotected sex and the output of such things, it’s probably just about getting old and so little in each year MATTERS. In 1989, every week was some major life event it seemed like, but now, eh…

That said let’s look at 2022: the YEARS BEST SHIT.

Board Games

Lots of stuff came out that I have been waiting for, but the big one by Matt Ecklund didn’t get here in time for 2022. I haven’t gotten John Company 2, Bios Mesofauna to the table, so I can’t include them in a best of (yet).

The game of the year for me, despite the fact that the first version of it came out in 2019, is WARCRY. I’ve gotten 10+ games of this over the year and I will call it now as the greatest beer and pretzel miniatures game there is. Most games are 3-4 turns and take about 40 minutes from set up to tear down (or to the next game). I’ve now painted the majority of my terrain and I’m just about to start in on the next box set (Red Harvest) and paint some more Warbands. I’m going to do a big ass review of it and why would people play it vs the also excellent Frostgrave or Necromunda. Warcry has some constraints you have to learn to live with, but once you do, it is just superb and most of all, it makes me laugh when I get my ass kicked most of the time as it’s some crazy ass move or ridiculous roll.

About to make a massive dive.

Looking fine despite the unpainted terrain!

A mosh with NPC creatures and the Corvus Cabal.

The other game we played a lot of was Spartacus, which was originally released in 2012 (a great year for board games!) and has an updated, non-show-related version. I wish I had known this was THAT good back when it was sitting on shelves, we would have played the crap out of it by now. When you see that tons of people have built custom stadiums for the game, you can probably make some assumptions about the quality of the game.

BOOKS

I read a bunch but I can’t keep up with yearly releases of books, my favorites that I read this year (new, I read books I’ve read over again fairly often), all highly recommended are:

River of Earth – James Still. This is about a poor kid who follows his family around to different mining camps and towns. Doesn’t force the reader to dwell on what the character or author is thinking about situations, it just has the situations. It reminded me a lot of John Gardner’s Nickel Mountain, but not a slog which Nickel Mountain was, a pleasure to read.

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. Brilliant, short spy novel by Le Carre. He has an intro where he spells out that ALL of this is fiction and it’s just slightly influenced by his work in the secret service. People accused him of using real situations which he denies, saying his work as a spy was incredibly boring and stupid in contrast. I wanted to start on the George Smiley novels (Tinker Tailor, etc.) and this is the one to get that rolling.

The Passenger/Stella Maris. Feel like thinking about existence and getting sort of depressed but amazed at the same time? Read these. Ostensibly about some mysterious passenger missing on a plane that “crashed” into the ocean, it’s really about the conditions of existence that would allow that to happen or as McCarthy puts it in another novel: the joinery.

Movies

I didn’t see much in the theaters in 22. 2022 and this year is really just waiting for DUNE 2 since most of the time instead of going to a movie, I would just watch DUNE again The film of the year is the NORTHMAN, but we all knew that. Viking anti-hero revenge film? Oh yeah.

I liked the Terrifier 2, but it was too long and a couple parts took it too far to really love (which is why the fans love the movies, so I get it).

The Video Games

Elden Ring just blew everything out of the water this year, but there were some incredible games and a few disappointments.

What can I say about Elden Ring that hasn’t been said– it’s Dark Souls writ wide, with all the good and bad that comes with open world. I still haven’t finished the game, but I have played hundreds of hours, played dozens of them with friends and the PVP that comes with it. Overall I think the game is too long and probably should have ended at (spoiler) Margott v2. However, there are some fantastic bosses after that– and the Fire Giant is just incredible (and very hard). One of these weeks I’m going to put a fork in the game, but I just keep playing with my low level characters multiplayer and love it. There are so many builds, so many ridiculous weapons and spells, and with the multiplayer it’s a game we will be playing together for years. Is it as good as Dark Souls 1 or Bloodborne? No, but it doesn’t have to be in order to be an absolutely legendary game. Elden Ring has become the game that everything else will be defined against for a long time.

Vampire Survivors

I only have 12 hours or so into the game at this point, but for me it represents exactly what I love about indy video games– a very simple premise taken to the next level. Vampire Survivors is an anti-bullet hell game, in that you run around and shoot things that come at you (rather than dodging stuff that shoots at you). Running around with the whip on a grassy field at first is very boring, but just give it a chance and you will realize that it becomes like modern art at the end of a level with sprites filling the entire screen and you nailbiting that you’ll survive. This is a 2022 gem and everyone should play it. If you love this, check out RIFT WIZARD that came out in 2021– instant classic and takes the crown of SWORD OF FARGOAL for me.

Disappointment – Victoria 3

I was really looking forward to this game all year, especially after the horrible addiction that I had to Crusader Kings 3 and my love of Machiavelli the Prince, Port Royale and similar economic games. Victory 3 was just very strange to play and figure out, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or what effects my actions actually had. Maybe there’s just too much going on, but one thing I will tell you in the hours I played: I was bored. CK3 set a high bar for strategy games (as well as Stellaris). I will give this another go at some point, but there’s been the call to Crusader Kings 3 again that has made it impossible. Why mange budgets when you can get cheated on by your spouse with your own bastard son of her mother’s!

There’s some great games that I got to play over break, but that’s going to be a separate post.

Music

My record of the year is CYGNI 61 by RTR. I didn’t listen to much else that was new. A new LORN just dropped recently so that will be on the list for 2023.

Hottest chick on the planet (2022 edition)

Rebecca Bagnol

My favorite Cosmic Encounter Alien is back in action!

The SILENCER. With the Cosmic Odyssey big box expansion, they’ve brought back a classic.

These two images speak for themselves. This is not the best power, it’s not the strongest, it’s not going to win you games it’s specific functions is that it:

Here is the full rules. It’s not as harsh as the original one from the Mayfair version, but it’s excellent. Reminder that it’s EVERY destiny draw, not just as a main player. So aliens get ready to SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Root – New expansion has tons of toys

I just go a big old box of Root in the mail today with the Hireling boxes, the Landmark box and most importantly, the Marauder expansion that includes the Lord of the Hundreds (mice) and the Keepers in Iron (badgers). I gave it a read over the last couple hours and I’m impressed (again). This one I did not follow along with development compared to the Underworld where I print and played the early moles design quite a bit before it came out, so this is all new to me.


While the Underworld expansion was great, it just had what really amounted to a different takes on the base factions. Moles are an excellent area control faction with a strange point generation engine, but I haven’t seen much enthusiasm for the Corvids (yet), most people just pick the Alliance. The big deal out of the Underworld expansion was the co-release of the Partisan deck (which I have not had a chance to play with yet) that replaces the core suit card deck in the game. Otherwise, it wasn’t too crazy. Marauders expansion plus the addons gets crazy.

The the two new factions are really something. Both of them are “Reach” factions in that they take up space on the board with warriors in order to score (like Cats, Moles, Birds). I’m going to say more after I’ve played with or against them, but I will say the Lord of the Hundreds is a real fucker from reading the rules. People will absolutely love to hate this faction.

The big addition that changes the game quite a bit are the hirelings and the ‘Advanced Set up’ which really mix up the game. Advanced set up is probably derived from people trying to come up with a tournament ruleset on how to choose factions. This is better than what we came up with for the Gamehole Con Tournament. You basically set up a seating order, draw 5 cards from the deck, then one of the “Reach” factions is randomly selected and put on the table, then all the rest of the factions are mixed up and X are drawn and placed on the table (X = number of players). Then players in reverse seating order select a faction and set up via an advanced set up card. Lastly they discard 2 cards to the deck and keep 3 of their original 5. Can’t wait to try this out.

Hirelings are strange, but this is where the real variety in games will stem to make them all sorts of crazy. Players can control these like mercenaries when they get to certain victory point levels, but if the game goes on too long, they have to give control of them to another player, who then also may lose control of them. Most of the time they give a certain power, but in their stronger form, they add units to the map.

I didn’t read them all but my favorite is the Riverfolk pirate ship that can sail up the river or lake and raid. Great stuff. The main thing that’s odd is if a faction is in the game, the hirelings for that faction cannot be, so if you are playing a large player game, you will only get access to the neutral hirelings.

Landmarks are the last new thing and they remind me of Oath a bit. They add rules to certain clearings that can be used if you control that clearing. Cool stuff to add without having to build new maps to include it all.

Really looking forward to getting Root to the table. I’ve started a long post on ruminations after 50 face to face plays, but that may need to be delayed while I get 10 or so plays with all this new STUFF.

Massive Darkness – Chromatis, the sexist rainbow unicorn monster

I sat down with my son and his friends to get into the insanity that is Massive Darkness RNG. We decided on the Spider mission, the most difficult of the early missions in the game and one I had failed on a few times already. All of the guys had played the game and we were ready to super optimize to win, but then not only did the RNG hit with an Orc Agent (who summons mobs every turn– so nasty) being drawn the first turn onto the level 2 board (so we couldn’t immediately attack it) on turn 2 was a wandering monster! Wandering monsters are big deal most of the time but more difficult because in this mission you are on the clock chasing a giant spider Yet it shouldn’t have been absolutely unbeatable with a single draw of a card…

In the original kickstarter, they passed all their goals, and one of the Kickstarter exclusives was a rainbow unicorn named Chromatis. Lots of classic monsters were represented in the roster: Beholders, Chimeras, and the best Cockatrice miniature I’ve seen yet. All of them are pretty nasty, but nothing like Chromatis.

Chromatis’s power is anchored on what gender your characters are in the game and becomes more powerful the more of one gender there is. For each male character, it adds an auto attack, for each female, it adds a defense. So if you have a mixed gender group of characters, it’s not all that powerful. If you have all females (say if you end up with a bunch of girl or dirty old men players) you will find it incredibly difficult to score a single hit. If you have all male characters (say, if you have all 11-12 year old boys who would almost never pick a female character because they themselves aren’t girls), you will get the smack down with 7+ damage rolled each attack.

Since we drew this monster at level 1 and encountered it right when we went into the level 2 zone (before leveling up much or getting any level 2 weapons) it was an absolute slaughter, with at least one character dying each turn. We ran out of lightbringer resurrects instantly and the game was over.

While we were cleaning up, unprompted, my son said “that is a sexist monster” and I thought about that for awhile– while it seems like it’s not horrible design– why on earth would it matter to the people that made this game that would want to punish a group for having either all girls or all guys in their party? Why would anyone think that was a good idea when there are tons of choices to make a balanced party from either gender (which they did on purpose).

Chromatis is a stupid design and should just get tossed into the bottom of the box. If you are chasing down this as a kickstarter exclusive, don’t bother.

Cosmic Odyssey!!!

!!!!!!! (lots of exclamation points).

Fantasy Flight has done a wonderous job with Cosmic Encounter for the last decade+. The last expansion was superb and this one looks very interesting as it’s a CAMPAIGN version.

Interesting, are those moons? YES! is one made of cheese?

“This mode sees you and your fellow Cosmic Encounter-ers leading coalitions of aliens through a series of games across the cosmological “ages” while garnering prizes along the way. These prizes can be used in subsequent ages or saved for the final age. However, regardless of your win/loss record during the journey, every player that’s declared a winner in the Final Age Game is crowned a Campaign Winner.”

I’m super pumped. This is out in July so we don’t have too long to wait.

Here is the first article on the expansion.

Taking on the HEAVY Eklund

My tastes have changed in boardgames since I started playing Root and exploring it’s influences (Pax and COIN among others). The games of a certain cloud of designers that have, for me at least, put the last nail in the coffin for the tired, samey design by the numbers point salad games or games pretending to be one thing, but are actually another because of big Ameritrash pieces (i.e.:Scythe). When you head down the Root rabbit hole and try to piece that game together from it’s origins, there’s a list designers that are huge parts of the puzzle along with Cole Wherle: Volko Ruhnke, the Hollanspeil guys, and of course, Matt and Phil Ecklund (and their team).

On that line, I’ve been doing some board game trading and selling, trying to both ditch some of the dreck and pair down the PHYSICAL size of games I have. I picked up Bios Megafauna, Bios Origins, Bios Genesis, Greenland, High Frontier and Neanderthal recently, which all have a fairly high complexity level, but tiny little boxes. I can fit nearly ALL of those games in the same space as Rising Sun or any CMON game, let alone the giant coffin box of Starcraft or Twilight Imperium.

While I’ve bought into these games heavily, they are challenging to learn and as should be required of anything that isn’t just for show (and I definitely have games that are just for show), they need to hit the table.

The key to Matt and Phil Eklund’s success as designers is taking highly complex ideas and chaotic events and putting them into a extremely playable games for their subject matter where, (amazingly) all of these pieces and parts of mechanics interact with each other in crazy ways. Think Pax Porfiriana is just a tiny engine builder with a bunch of fuck you cards? Play it again and you notice that you are working to control 4 different factions that are struggling against each other during the game as an undercurrent to the conflict between the players. It’s a wow moment. It’s also a wow moment how EASY the game is to play once you know how. Pax Renaissance is a real beast to learn, but essentially the same thing: small box, HUGE game, easy to play once you know how (except for remembering how each of the wars/revolts work which is hard).

Let’s talk about these Pax badboys a bit. The core thing with a ‘hard to learn’ game is that you need to know before you go into it that you will like it and the effort will be worth it. Not only that, you have to expect that your friends will like it also, at least to give it a shot. People actually play Advanced Squad Leader a lot. It’s ridiculously complex, but there’s a reason for it’s continued existence in published form: it’s very good. When you are dealing with an Eklund game, especially a 2nd edition version, you can be sure it’s going to have extreme value as a game and that the complexity level and steep learning curves leads to rewards in play. If you can explain it well, your friends with a little patience will like these games. Here’s a run down of those that I’ve played, a few that I’ve learned and have yet to play and a couple that I haven’t cracked yet.

While these are all complex, there are some mechanic similarities that make it easier to learn the others when you’ve learned one. The most important is the way they handle card draws. It’s a bit between random draws (like a Tom Wham game) and totally non random (any euro) in that you can see cards coming down a conveyor before they fall off and out of the game, or in the case of events, take place. Almost all of these games have some sort of market, whether it’s for parts of a space ship, mutations or stone age tools.

Greenland

We’ve only played this 4-5 times now, and it took me quite awhile to learn in order to teach it in a reasonable amount of time; that is, to not annoy players with too much explanation before we started playing.

You play as one of the tribes in competition during the beginning of a big chill on Greenland that left only the invading Thule alive historically– the original Greenland natives (the Norse) fled or died out. You hunt for trophies, food, energy and have to manage your tribe elders that give you special powers. It all seems very complex at first, but once you get over the hump, like all the Eklund’s I’ve experienced, it’s surprisingly playable. Elder actions are the most complex part of the game, so if you are going to study the rulebook, that’s the section to get to. Players are only managing four resources (people, ivory, iron and energy) and you don’t build much of an engine, hence management of these is not complex. If you are going to teach the game, you can start with that as the base.

This game so obviously inspired Sons of Anarchy that SoA is almost a retheme, but unlike Sons of Anarchy, where the opportunities for crime and control increase as the game goes on as you draw tiles, Greenland can get colder and much more difficult to succeed in hunting, building things and surviving as you go, even though you may have tech-ed up a bit or sabine-raided (exogamy) to gain the cultural powers of another tribe.

This is one that I highly recommend pushing through and learning as your first Ecklund game. It is actually quite easy to play and obvious to players what you are trying to do and how to win. It is only a bit more complex than Sons of Anarchy. It is one of Ecklund’s games without a map, and I find those to be a bit better than those with a map to deal with so far. Like Porfiriana, the set up time is very quick and you can get right to the action. This is also a dice-chucker which I really love.

Bios Megafauna

Holy shit. This is an unbelievably ambitions game with a relatively tiny box for what’s in there. You play as a species that has just crawled out of the ocean onto land and start to mutate, speciate and populate (like it says on the box). What it doesn’t tell you is that this is also a planetary weather, tectonic and exogenesis simulator at the same time. I noticed this from the side of the box: “Fight the Medean entropy.” The game also includes an NPC ‘villain’ which represents single celled organisms that wish the earth to return to the paradise before multicellular life (which is one of the theories around the Permian-Triassic extinction event).

What does this all mean? Not only do you deal with your species vs others, but systems in the game change game state constantly as well, with continents smashing into each other, asteroids hitting, winds shifting and oceans filling with plankton– oh tasty plankton.

Compared to Greenland, this is a challenging game to learn. I think I understand most of it, but 1/3rd of the rulebook is explaining the crazy special events that happen and I don’t fully get the mutation and speciation rules, especially emotions (which I think are just Up the Creek / Chaos Marauder type card sets that link to each other).

I think with some work, even kids could play it as long as someone really knew the rules. Even if this comes out once a year only, it will be worth having (like Republic of Rome) and does not take up a lot of space.

As an aside, Megafauna has the ‘controversial’ essay on global warming from Ecklund. As someone who despises the overuse of plastics, that we still have gas-fueled cars and that we do not have a far more robust nuclear power program to solve ALL energy needs in the first world, I was wary at first, but the essay is thought provoking and not what you think it is. Since ‘settled science’ is not actually science, almost all of the heat this essay gets by keyboard warriors can be completely ignored, since most are of the propagandized ‘if you don’t agree fully that global warming is caused entirely by humans carbon emissions, there’s something wrong with you’ knuckle draggers. While Eklund takes some serious jabs at the media and government (anyone remember the War on Drugs? How about the War on Terror? War on Covid? Are there some similarities here? oh yes) on their stance on global warming, the core of the essay is his belief that it is not only carbon that causes global warming– there are other factors in play, such as sun spot activity, passing through various parts of the Milky way galaxy and the not-so-subtle fact that the planet had a jungle climate from pole to pole for millions of years at one point. Like any good teacher or essay, Eklund’s presentation prompts one to think and study on their own, especially if they disagree with it. What’s more, in Bios Megafauna, one of the end states of the game is greenhouse overrun, so Ecklund is not saying that it isn’t a danger! Anyway, ignore all the idiots that haven’t read the essay that criticize it in general to virtue signal or white knight on BGG, rather than attacking the details, they are drones or followers. You will read people attacking the details of the essay here and there, but they refrain from the ad hominem nonsense. Also of note is that these BGG minnows got Ecklund banned from the site.

Neanderthal

This game looks a lot like Greenland and shares some of it’s dice/hunting mechanics. Why have or play both? Neanderthal’s scale is likely the answer. In the game you play as one of three predatory ‘apes’ that have just acquired basic language. You have to grow the species until the have enough language skills to become a tribal culture. Each turn represents 40 generations of your species. Like Greenland, the focus is on hunting and acquiring ‘daughters’ that linguistically advance your species.

I haven’t gotten this one to the table, and frankly it will be a long time I think due to already getting players comfortable with Greenland. However, I think this one will be the game I bust out with my kids to help them understand the concepts around the origin of species. I love the fact that if you hunt a biome and there are predators adjacent they will move to that biome and fuck your hunters up!

Bios: Genesis

Bios Genesis is one I still have to learn and it’s been quite a challenge so far. I cannot imagine anyone taking on a topic like this, and frankly I have no idea how a game like this got made and that the designer was able to focus on just this topic enough to build all these engines that work together. The attention to detail and graphic design is impressive. Fundamentally you are a set of protein chains that are seeking out refugia (places that are amiable to the creation of life) and trying to survive and become multicellular, and then get BIG. This is complicated by other players, naturally, but mostly from an absolutely brutal event deck with heating and cooling, radiation surges, cancer, volcanic eruptions, on and on. If you can get through the rules, this is supposed to be a fantastic game.

Bios: Origins

This is Ecklund’s answer to the Civ game genre. The twist here is that you lead a species of predatory apes advancing through very early technology and migration as the species and not as some divine leader or autocrat. I’ve learned this one but haven’t played it yet. This seems like a beast but there are some recognizable parts from other games that are buoys in the storm, like an easily understood market, a set of slots for potential cities that doubles as a score track and of course, a crazy map where both the edges of the hexes and the insides of the hexes are important all at once. I need to get this to the table.

Pax Transhumanity

We have now played this enough for me to be able to write a review of it. This is a near-future business simulation game where you play as entrepreneurs and try to make the most out of rapidly advancing technology to solve core issues that humans in general deal with (like hunger, which if you are reading this, you probably have never experienced, but right now, many people are), and pollution.

This is challenging to learn and not something that will hit the table a ton, but it’s a solid game and very interesting to play once you get the hang of it.

High Frontier

This is the holy grail of Ecklund’s designs and what appears to be his most complicated game. You are a corporation trying to get into space and exploit resources in the solar system– and you do this by building your rockets in order to make the trips you want to make and carry the things you need to carry. Think Merchant of Venus but you have to get your ship outfitted first with technology your species doesn’t possess yet.

All bow to the map for this one:

If you are looking for help learning any of these games, look no further than this fine Wisconsin lad (here explaining Matt Ecklund’s Pax Transhumanity).

The Board Games of 2021

A LOT of games came out during 2021 despite supply chain issues, despite shipping issues and despite a lot of people working from home. It was a deluge…

Quantity does not equal quality though, and many of the games I saw or looked at were the same old tired worker placement point salad that everyone still seems to be pretending are fun to play after basically playing the same game with different art over and over again for the last five years. While not endless trash like Hollywood, and endless stream of the same thing.

That said, there were some interesting games that came out in 2021, likely many of which I didn’t get exposed to yet and will sometime in 2022 as the better games start to bubble up from the vast amount of chaff. Here’s what we got to play that was new this year.

Bloodborne: The Board Game

Well this was another giant CMON game I fell for and spent a lot of money on. With only 2 plays so far I’m not sure it was a good idea. This game is basically Hellboy with a strange card-driven combat that at first is totally counter-intuitive. While this might not see much play, the miniatures are incredible and I really just need to paint the guy with the Kirkhammer and I’m satisfied. I have a few friends that are really into Bloodborne so this may hit the table at some point. Otherwise it’s another Zombicide: Invader that just did not hold any interest even for my kids after a couple plays. CMON has some great games, but they rehash the heroquest/tons of miniatures thing over and over again, and again.

Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy

This is a shorter, 4 faction version of the original 1979 DUNE game from Avalon Hill by the original design team. Got in only one play and I think this is a winner if you want the feel of the original game but want to bust this out on a week night instead of a weekend. There are a couple modifications that shorten the game a lot (like no auction phase) which I like, but part of me wanted to get out the real game. I will try to get this to hit the table as much as possible this year.

Pax Viking

Ahhhh the Pax games… this was an odd one, even for Pax games as it’s much less like the original (Pax Porfiriana) and more like Merchants of Venus or Wasteland Express. I played this only one time with 6 players (mistake) and so I can’t really see where this one’s core draw is yet. Probably a sleeper hit that has just not gotten to the table again yet. The circle shaped cards are.. interesting…

Vampire: The Masquerade – Rivals Expandable Card Game

This I’ve only played once so far and am interested in playing more. It’s an LCG with many of the same rules from Jyhad/V:TES from back in the day, but shorter playtimes and some different win conditions. This being an LCG, it’s hard to judge after just one play and fumbling through the rules at that. One to watch. It has to compete with one of the best games ever: Shadowfist so let’s see what happens.

Spartacus: Game of Blood AND Treachery

This is a new reprint of an older game with new art and slightly adjusted gameplay. I LOVE this game and can’t wait to play it more. It’s very silly, the table talk and interaction is hilarious and the backstabbing feels wonderful to be on the receiving or giving side. Yes, it’s a classic and not really new for 2021, but this version hopefully will get an expansion or two to round out the game and add more players! I really like the card art compared to the photos from the show as well.

The Hunger

I’ve saved what I think is the best for last. The Hunger is a very new game by Richard Garfield, and after two plays, this is one the family can agree upon as good which was a Christmas Miracle! It combines a race game with market manipulation and deck building into an awesome blend of mechanics that go way beyond the sum of it’s parts. My only small complaint is that the board can be tough to read due to how glossy it is. This would be better matte for sure. The original name for this was Fat Dracula or Fat Vampire and that’s what we call it because your vampire gets fat and slow as the game progresses if you are not careful and can easily burn up to ash at dawn, giving it a wonderful Dungeon Quest feel. Like Dungeonquest, you don’t really effect the other players during the game except to bump them off spots on the map if you land on them. Most of the time the lack of interaction is a big deal breaker for me, but with these push-your-luck games it has proved to be acceptable. It’s the big non-interactive Euros that really put me to sleep.

There you have it, I have some work to do with playing games released in 2021 now that we are in 2022, namely ANHK and the new Cthulhu version of Battlestar Galactica: Unfathomable.

For 2022, I’m pumped for Stationfall and Bios Mesofauna the most, with the new version of Massive Darkness in third place.

Chooo CHOOO MFKRS!

Great minds think alike right? My brother and I both (separately) got one of Tom Russel’s choo choo games– Iberian and Irish Gauge respectively. We got to play one of them this weekend and it was GOOOD.

The design goal of these games was to boil down the essence of the huge 18XX genre into a playable, short game that is just a bit more complex that Ticket to Ride, but VASTLY more fun and engaging for the more serious gamer. These games have a synthesis of very basic mechanics that are greater than the sum of their parts strategically. The essence of 18XX is buying stock in train companies, influencing where they place their rails to deliver goods and bring you (the owner of stocks across multiple train companies) the most MONEY.

Irish (2014) and especially Iberian Gauge (2017) are so stripped down they reminded me of two of my favorite abstracts: Sid Sackson’s Acquire and Knizia’s Tigris and Euphrates– both NASTY games that both hide a crazy amount of chaos with their venires of abstraction.

In both games, you start by buying into companies and then proceed to lay track and attempt to connect up cities and towns. In Iberian, the connection is enough to pay out dividends, but in Irish, players have to deliver goods (abstractly) to various cities and towns in order to get a payout. The trick comes due to the fact that companies will be owned by multiple or even ALL the players in the game and it’s all about trying to out score your opponents by trashing some companies and pumping others.

If you are interested in the most recent ‘engines’ to these games, I would check out Iberian for a more streamlined experience, or Irish for a bit of a meatier run at it. Also definitely look at Hollandspiele’s Dual Gauge system— also by Tom Russel. They also publish a lot of other cool stuff.

New Dune that isn’t the shitty worker placement Dune

Design by the Cosmic Encounter / original Dune board game team the Olotka’s, Kitteredge, Eberle, Reda this looks to be a high speed version of the original Dune– and it’s coming FAST (September) so you can even pre-order it.

I’ve been impressed with Galeforce 9 games as they were just some dudes that made wargaming trays and measuring sticks awhile back. Spartacus is classic, Sons of Anarchy is a fantastic game and though I do not like the ART from the Dune reprint, there’s a lot of love there.

Let’s see how this one plays and I have yet another reason not to waste any gaming hours on the Euro-Dune.