I finally review Tigris & Euphrates...and they misspell the Editor-in-Chief's.
Hot on the heels of our interview with Dr. Knizia, my review of FFG's new reprint of Tigris & Euphrates is up on the Review Corner. This is one of the best games ever designed and it is also one I've been playing for almost half my life - and have never lost interest in it. This is the very definition of a timeless classic and it's a great way for FFG to kick off their Eurogames Reclamation Project Euro Classics line. Fortunately, it is also one of the good FFG reprints- respectful, modern and with some new value-adding options. I hate that we're losing the great Doris Matthaus illustrations, but this is a damn fine looking edition of the game and I actually sold my ancient Hans im Gluck printing to make way for it. Seriously folks, it doesn't get any better than this.
It is also, I think, one of the key games that supports my argument that a game does not require pictures, text or nomenclature to be thematic. Because what most people see as theme is actually more appropriately termed setting. This is a richly narrative game with a very distinct perspective on how ancient civilizations rose, expanded, and dealt with conflict. The themes are tied to key concepts of civilization, territory, prosperity, religion and leadership. The theme is not "Mesopotamian empires". That's the setting. The story and its themes are depicted and illustrated by the actions the players take and how these interact with the mechanical structure, not by paragraphs of card text and tons of pictures. And as such, this game is far more "dripping with theme" than Arkham Horror or similar games ever were.
Another game that has recently been lauded as "dripping with theme" (gag) is Legendary Encounters. I got a hankering to try it based on one of my writer's reviews for it so I picked one up. Before I get into this, I want to state up front that I like it a lot, at least from two solo plays of the Alien scenario.
However, I don't think I've ever seen a license more poorly handled in ANY game. This includes dreck like that awful Batman game that Wizkids did a couple of years ago. And all you've got to do to see this is to look at the title. Legendary Encounters. WTF is this game about? Oh, there's a Marvel game called (for some reason) Legendary...does it have something to do with that? OH HANG ON, there's a subtitle- "an Alien Deckbuilding Game".
Seriously, why would you bother with getting a license- a very popular and woefully underused one in tabletop gaming- and then practically hide the fact that it's an Alien game? It makes no sense at all that this game isn't called effing ALIEN. Or "ALIEN SAGA" or something to that effect that tells the world up front what it is. I hate to break it to you, Upper Deck...but there are exponentially more people in the world that recognize the Alien brand than those that have any idea what Legendary is. Such a misstep. And then on the back of every card- no cool faux-Giger background, just that navy blue with the gold Legendary logo. That looks like 1995. What a pity those are all laid out on a really cool playmat. Guess I can sleeve them just to avoid being reminded that I could mix these cards up and have Daredevil battle Xenos for some idiotic reason.
But then it gets worse. I completely savaged Legendary for having such awful artwork, especially since it was a comics game and there was apparently zero effort to use any actual comics artwork. But this game actually looks WORSE than Legendary! Instead of going the CORRECT GF9 route and using stills from the film, they hired what appear to be the same artists that couldn't fucking draw to draw these cards. And since these cards mostly depict characters portrayed by real people, the results are STAGGERINGLY awful. The aliens, facehuggers and so forth look fine. But the people are so badly drawn that they are almost unrecognizable. There's one card in particular, Sister Ripley, that could not possibly have been drawn by someone who has ever seen Sigourney Weaver. The characters are almost laughably bad, which really spoils the atmosphere when you're playing a game that gets the themes and concepts right in a great setting, but blows it with crude comic art that wouldn't past muster in a D-list DC book.
But I really like it, so there's that too.
More Forbidden Stars, have played a few solo outings, a couple of two player games and a four player. It's really good, but I'm actually thinking about not reviewing it. I just don't really have anything interesting to say about it. It's really good *shrug*. It brings forward ideas from StarCraft *shrug*. It makes good use of the 40k setting and may be the best 40k board game aside from Space Hulk *shrug*. Maybe something significant will come out of all that that's worth writing about, I dunno. There are a few things I _love_ about it, especially how the objectives work. I also really like how streamlined it is for the type of game it is. I think I'd still likely choose Hyperborea, Kemet or Cylcades over it for more than three players. It's especially good with two, which those games aren't.