Barnes on Games: Magic: Arena of the Planeswalkers in Review, Forbidden Stars Head to Head with Charlie Theel, Yashima

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MB Updated September 24, 2016
Barnes on Games: Magic: Arena of the Planeswalkers in Review, Forbidden Stars Head to Head with Charlie Theel, Yashima

More, please.

While we are all waiting for Loopin' Chewie to make its official debut here on Loopin' Chewie Eve, here is a review of Magic: Arena of the Planeswalkers. After all of the hemming and hawing, all of the board game politics, all of the internet harrumphing...this is an awesome game and a tremendous example of what mainstream, accessible board games could be. I just want there to be more of it, and not just ret-conned Heroscape stuff.

The review is at Miniature Market this week. As is a special feature that Charlie and I did, a Head-to-Head review of Forbidden Stars. He likes it more than I do, so we had a little one-on-one discussion about it. Different format than usual. We've got some more of these in the works, I'll be doing 504 with Dan Thurot when it comes out.

Haven't been playing much this week...turned down two meet-ups to play Metal Gear Solid V. There's a bunch of stuff on the way including the Star Trek thing from Mayfair, Undercity and some other miscellaneous stuff that may or may not be good.

But I have gotten in a few plays of Yashima: Legend of the Kami Masters. The first couple of games I was thinking "uh oh..." because it was sort of getting stuck in a similar pattern- walk up to the other player, beat each other up until someone wins. With two, it's a one-on-one martial arts battle with a couple of small terrain tiles. On a turn, you choose either a move or an attack chit out of a pool that is partially fixed, part player elected. Each attack has a sort of template that shows which hexes it hits so the idea is that you move around to get into advantageous positions and then make your attack. There is also an interesting Karma mechanic, where you have these special abilities kept in a "tome" of cards that you have to flip through...only the abilities on the open pages can be used. But it was getting gummed up and felt really un-dynamic.

But after playing with four, I got it. It works WAY better with more players because those attacks hit ALL of the spaces shown on your attack card. If you're doing teams, this means watching out so that you don't hit your partner. If you're playing all against all, you want to move to maximize the damage.

It's a pretty neat game...in some ways it actually makes me think of WWE Superstar Showdown, but with more complexity and an obviously wider range of terrain. Looking forward to playing with three and four over the weekend, but I think the two player game isn't happening for me...unless you run two characters each or something.

There Will Be Games

Michael BarnesFollow Michael Barnes Follow Michael Barnes Message Michael Barnes

Editor-in-Chief

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film. 

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Hex Sinister's Avatar
Hex Sinister replied the topic: #210043 05 Sep 2015 14:45
I like the head-to-head format. Would like to see more, thanks.
bfkiller's Avatar
bfkiller replied the topic: #210044 05 Sep 2015 15:10
The head-to-head was great and unique when it comes to approaching board game reviews. I'm definitely looking forward to future installments. Great job, Michael and Charlie.
MacDirk Diggler's Avatar
MacDirk Diggler replied the topic: #210045 05 Sep 2015 15:41
I concur with the above sentiments that the head to head, point-counterpoint is missing in the board game review realm. it hardens back to classic Siskel and Ebert.... The kings of head to head critique. I liked that Barnes' went into the depth of his objections to the design. With his previous critiques of FS I got got stopped by the tag "workmanlike" and didn't hear enough follow up on that to which he specifically objected. Also, with Barnes kinda unrivalled ability to articulate strong opiniions it could prove difficult to find a match for him that would have the chops and gravitas to serve as a worthy foil. CharlesT certainly proved a worthy adversary. It will be interesting to see how well others can pull it off.

I look forward to more of these, especially where there Is unmanufactured disagreement. You will double the views and success of this format if you can mix in some below the belt ad hominem attacks on each other. People love to see a bloody fight. Reality TV has proven that is what drives ratings. It certainly was part of the appeal of Siskel v. Ebert
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #210082 06 Sep 2015 15:57
Dropped in to say the same as everyone else, really enjoy the head to head format.
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #210094 06 Sep 2015 21:11
I want to file a mild objection about using STARCRAFT as a foil for FORBIDDEN STARS. It's not like everyone can just hit the shelf or nearby friend for a STARCRAFT game--long out of print, never coming back. It's like movie reviewers dissing something in the theatre because it's not as good as the film they saw at Sundance two years ago that hasn't gotten a distributor yet. Yeah, I bet that other thing is great, but can your audience access it?
wadenels's Avatar
wadenels replied the topic: #210097 06 Sep 2015 23:25

jeb wrote: I want to file a mild objection about using STARCRAFT as a foil for FORBIDDEN STARS. It's not like everyone can just hit the shelf or nearby friend for a STARCRAFT game--long out of print, never coming back. It's like movie reviewers dissing something in the theatre because it's not as good as the film they saw at Sundance two years ago that hasn't gotten a distributor yet. Yeah, I bet that other thing is great, but can your audience access it?


StarCraft was widely distributed. It ain't Moongha Invaders or After Pablo.

If a publisher takes a major mechanic from a previously released game and uses that mechanic in the structure of a newly released game then those games are going to get compared.

Also, add me the list that digs the format. Really well executed too. The only thing that I'd add is more fisticuffs. Maybe I'm reading too much into it but it seemed to me that both authors were making such an effort to be respectful and civil that it came through a little bit in the writing.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #210145 08 Sep 2015 08:51
Thanks guys, I was very pleased with how the head to head turned out but we're definitely taking notes on how to make it even better.
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #210159 08 Sep 2015 10:03

wadenels wrote:

jeb wrote: I want to file a mild objection about using STARCRAFT as a foil for FORBIDDEN STARS. It's not like everyone can just hit the shelf or nearby friend for a STARCRAFT game--long out of print, never coming back. It's like movie reviewers dissing something in the theatre because it's not as good as the film they saw at Sundance two years ago that hasn't gotten a distributor yet. Yeah, I bet that other thing is great, but can your audience access it?


StarCraft was widely distributed. It ain't Moongha Invaders or After Pablo.

If a publisher takes a major mechanic from a previously released game and uses that mechanic in the structure of a newly released game then those games are going to get compared.

I don't object to the comparison--the comparison shows depth of knowledge. It's the dismissal of the available game for the unavailable one that I object to. You can compare this to STARCRAFT, and even say it doesn't quite measure up; but Barnes just flippantly tosses off that he perhaps should sell his FORBIDDEN STARS and buy STARCRAFT again. Maybe that just hit me the wrong way. I can go get this thing at Amazon, but I have missed out on my last three STARCRAFT sitings because of other $100+ buyers.