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 Marvel RPG in the Works

This is a bit OFN, but the original teaser was so sparse I was waiting for more information before posting anything, but it looks like it’s all still under the covers except for the press release. First off, this looks like it will be heavily influenced by FASERIP, using it’s own acronym for stats (M.A.R.V.E.L. – Might, Agility, Resilience, Vigilance, Ego, and Logic) which is good because FASERIP has influenced nearly all Supers RPG’s since it’s release. The system it’s using is new, called D616?

When we pulled the first Marvel RPG out of the shrinkwrap and realized you couldn’t create characters, it was a bummer, especially after having played Champions for quite some time where frankly creating characters is the best part of the game. They ain’t messing around with this new one, you will be able to create characters right away, they’ve made that abundantly clear (see the image below). After reading Invincible, there’s no reason NOT to start from scratch completely rather than be bound tight in the hidebound MCU.

Lastly, you can buy the “Playtest Packet” for 10$ off Amazon here (not out until March 2022 though).

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.

Big (and rather sudden) Virtua Fighter News

Release trailer for a GRAPHICALLY updated Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown for the PS4 coming— in less than a week.

I didn’t see Vanessa (my main) but everyone looks pretty good. Akira’s face is a bit off to me, but really this is all about the gameplay gameplay gameplay. This is the best fighting game there is– one that I still play more than any other fighter. The game combines the ability for new players to pick up and play easily (only 3 buttons!) and yet at the same time is the deepest fighting game there is. I’m pretty pumped.

Virtua Fighter Rumors…

My son was talking shit this weekend about my Vanessa so we busted out VF5 Final Showdown on the Xbox360 and I stuffed that in his craw (granted he is getting good with Kage). We hadn’t played in almost a year, so he was quite embarrassed by the customized outfits he had made, one being a Santa Clause, “when he was a little kid.”

Rumor has it that there is either an E-sports focused port of VF5 Final Showdown or a VF Ultimate: i.e.: a reskin of the characters and graphics with no (or small) change to the gameplay to update it to modern consoles. While not Virtua Fighter 6, this would be GREAT news either way as the game still looks amazing and needless to say, still blows away everything out since.

Pax Viking – thoughts after first play

Ahhhhhhh the Pax series of games: complex, interactive, with inscrutable victory conditions and a cliff of a learning curve all inside tiny boxes with minimal components. With Pax Viking, now we have one that is not complex, and has (fairly) understandable victory conditions in a huge box! The question is: is this good? I think it is, as long as you set aside all thoughts of it being a Pax game or a Viking game.

I did not take any shots of the game so this one will have to do for now.

Our first go was with a whopping 5 players, and I think this is a bit too many for a first time out, not due to complexity, but due to the fact that no one knows what they are supposed to be doing and there’s quite a bit to unpack with the interactions.

You play as a Jarl who has a fleet of trading ships which are used to collect followers and open up areas on the map to trade with. This is not a viking/pillaging game regardless of what it says on the box: it’s a trading game.

Scoring (not necessarily the win conditions) is done via four tracks which indicate your Jarl’s influence over each of the four factions in the game: The Rus, the Swedes, the Jarls (warriors) and Religion. When you have majority control of one of these factions, you get a special action you can take that the other players can’t use.

Like all Pax games, Pax Viking has a market with 4 different types of cards: Gods (a type of follower), Patron (followers), Events (fuck you cards) and “Posts” which are places on the map that you can go and exploit/trade. As far as I can tell, posts represent opportunities on the map that only turn into actionable areas after you go there with your ships and open the opportunity up.

Turns consist of buying from the market, playing events, and moving your ships around the map or sitting them on a post to take the actions available there. The game reminded me a little bit of a rondel game (Great Western Trail) where you take actions at various spaces to build up resources for some other thing you are trying to do later. Unlike those games, you can move your ships around anywhere you want on the map. This makes planning a bit more difficult because there is no ‘on rails’ rondel you are following to force your choices.

Battles are super simple with no dice. If you have more ships, you remove one of the enemy ships and then push the rest out. No battle takes place with an even number of ships on both sides and you can never suffer losses as an attacker. It made me laugh as the act of killing is called “Parlay” in the game. ha!

Winning consists of fulfilling certain conditions before other players. There are 4 win conditions and these do not change–they stay static for the entire game an all four of them are open to be fulfilled from the outset. In contrast to the other Pax games, you do not beat the other players in some sort of contest after a comet/topple nor do you trigger the availability of a win condition that is now open to all players via an event. Instead, you race them to complete one of the conditions to win.

In thinking about this game and what it is mostly like– I would say certainly this is not like the other Pax games. The closest cousin to Pax Viking in my humble opinion is Merchant of Venus and Wasteland Express. If you like those two, you should definitely check out Pax Viking. It’s really not a traditional Viking game, it’s an ‘open up markets and trading game’ at it’s core. I’m interested to play this again with that in mind. When I squint my eyes a bit at this design I see a deep space trading game where you have two empires, a religion and some other faction that you are trying to succeed as a space trader in context of. That theme seems to fit this system a lot more than Vikings.

Rulebook is good. Graphic design is fair, components are good, Map looks good, though it’s tough to see all the rivers/access points sometimes. Character artwork is really boring and mundane, from the cover of the box to the pictures of the gods and the Jarl’s themselves. When you own TWO Viking games with art from the LEGENDARY Adrian Smith, it’s tough to stand against that favorably. When you are doing art representing a Norse god, it should not look just like any of the other normal characters in your game.

Next up for me from Ion Games is Bios Mesofauna– probably game of the year unless something comes out of the blue.

Gamehole Con is on!

The email just came out– Gamehole Con is on for Oct 21-24th! That means the Root Tournament is going to happen in 2021. Because it’s Madison and not a normal area of the state, we will probably have to sit around in masks, but just like not having the insane school closings that neighboring counties had as long as kids “wore” masks, I’ll take it.


  • Housing Portal Opens – April 1st at noon CDT
  • Event Submissions Open – May 1st noon CDT
  • VIG Renewals Open – June 15th noon CDT
  • Main Registration Opens – July 1st noon CDT
  • VIG Event Registration Opens – August 15th noon CDT
  • General Event Registration Opens – September 1st noon CDT
  • Pre-registration and Event Submission Closes – October 1st
  • Gamehole Con! – Oct. 21st – Oct. 24th

Red Sonja #7

With the passing away of Frank Thorne, I pulled out Red Sonja #7 which I think is the only Red Sonja I own. I would have been to young to see this on the comic rack, so I must have picked it up in either a box grab situation (where older kids would let you grab a handful of comics from their box for 5$) or some other random set. I gave it a good read.

It was fantastic. It has Conan and Belit, as well as Red Sonja, of course, and they are after some sheet of paper that various sorcerers want for their own nefarious purposes. Sonja tricks Belit, Conan tricks Belit, Sonja tricks Conan–and they all get tricked by some priest. The art (Frank Thorne) is fantastic and the interstitial prose and dialog is just crazy good for a comic book of this era. Frank Thorne was an artist that we all noticed as kids, but of course never knew the name of. RIP.

I’m going to track down either a trade or more of the original Red Sonja comics– I gotta find out what happens!