Let's make it official on Xia, shall we? Here's the review at No High Scores.
Like I say in the review, I don't have a fancy reason for liking this game so much. It's just fun to play. The components are fun, the mechanics are fun, the procedural narrative is fun. But what really gets me about is that the game looks and seems so complicated, but it's just not. It's simpler than Merchant of Venus and/or Firefly, really. It's clearly inspired by those games (and Merchants & Marauders) but it manages to do all of this stuff with some pretty slim rules, all things considered. I think there is something of an issue with repetition in the game, especially in longer sessions, and I kind of feel like it actually needs more content and not more of what is already there. It needs some diversity in the jobs, the exploration tokens and ship components in particular. Like, I think it would be cool to be able to things like mining tools that help fix your rolls if you go to mine or things that let you use certain resources to earn fame, money or whatever aside from just delivering it. But as it stands, I think this is an excellent low-complexity adventure pick-up-and-play. It is on the expensive side, but it is a very nice production. Those ships are so neat.
On the flip side, my review of Moongha Invaders is at the Review Corner. I wish that I had left this one in 2010 with good memories of a few good sessions. Playing it now, it comes across as a weirdly paced, poorly metered game that has sort of been outclassed by other games. It's definitely Martin Wallace in that it has a bunch of "almost good" stuff that doesn't feel fully developed. The game can be fun, and there are definitely moments but in 2015 I feel like a lot of the appeal of the game was because at the time it came out there wasn't anything quite like it. I absolutely hate the miniatures in this game too, probably more than I have ever hated miniatures in a game. They're ugly, cheap and smell like poison. And they also are WAY too big for the board, so when you are halfway through the game, there's sort of these aggregate piles of ugly, cheap, poison-smelling figures loosely arranged in and around the city boxes. The two player game is kind of dumb...definitely something to look at as a bonus rather than a selling point.
Level 99's Brad Talton sent some things over so I've been digging back into BattleCon...still a really, really good fighting game. I feel like I have TONS of it, something like 40 fighters. And they're all different. He also sent an advance test copy of Exceed, a new fighter they're doing that looks to be quite a bit simpler than BattleCon and more contained. But the best thing in the box is RESISTOR_. This game is awesome. It's a two player card game about Cold War supercomputers trying to hack each other. The twist is that the cards are printed on both sides and you can only see your side...and the back sides of your opponent's cards. So when they play a card, you know what is on the face down side and they don't. And flipping over cards is a key action, so there's a little memory element- appropriate to the theme! The goal is to complete a line from your mainframe to the other. Cool use of themes, awesome retro styling, completely original gameplay. And the packaging is really neat to boot.
I've warmed up to Secret of the Lost Tombs a bit, but man, it is a mess. I'll likely be reviewing it next week, but it's definitely a mixed notice. There are some things I adore about it, but it's such a sloppy and slapdash production that tries so hard to do it all that it misses what should be its focal points. In the scenario I ran last night, the explorers had to find and decode this cipher created by Benjamin Franklin to awaken this creature, the Wendego, that the Colonial army used against the British in the Revolutionary War. The British used this Kraken thing. So you decode this, and then you get to control the Wendego. And he battles the Kraken. Awesome stuff! Except that the game's content is all over the place and a given tomb has rooms from like four different cultures and time periods, and you might run into Dracula down there too. There's a big emphasis on exploration storytelling over monster-bashing, but the story is disjointed and without focus. And the characters...hoo boy...talk about unbalanced. There are a couple that are just WAY overpowered at the beginning versus others. It's definitely worth checking out, another quality I like about it is that you can tell the designer is really giving it his all...he just needs to get out from under the shadow of Arkham and Betrayal at the House on the Hill. And reign in the story.