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  • Barnes on Games- Blood Rage Head to Head with Charlie Theel, Shadows over Normandie, Thames-Kosmos titles

Barnes on Games- Blood Rage Head to Head with Charlie Theel, Shadows over Normandie, Thames-Kosmos titles

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Barnes on Games- Blood Rage Head to Head with Charlie Theel, Shadows over Normandie, Thames-Kosmos titles
There Will Be Games

It's really more of a hugging match than a boxing match.

So Charlie and I went head to head on Blood Rage, and I was all ready to explain to him why his favorite game of 2015 was no good. But it turns out that the game is really freakin' good, and we both just loved it up for 1000 words or so.

The design work is brilliant- it's so disciplined and measured, definitely Eric Lang's best to date. There's a sense of refinement that makes me kind of feel like this is one of the best embodiments of the modern hybrid style. We are a long, long way from Age of Mythology at this stage. The game is also intensely direct, ruthlessly paced and full of neat little "a ha" bits like some great combos that may or may  not emerge in the draft. It's no wonder this was one of the games everyone was talking about toward the end of last year, because it is among the best of last year. I do still favor Cthulhu Wars over it because it's more obnoxious and old fashioned in a couple of ways, and I prefer the mythos monsters to Viking stuff. But both are what a DoaM game circa 2016 should look like.

I got in a few of games with a good friend of mine from NYC that stopped by over the holidays. Scarlett actually stayed up to play a few with us so we did Click Clack Lumberjack, Coconuts and some kid-friendly fare. We did Star Wars Risk, which is now my go-to "hey, let's play a game" title. Explains and sets up in five minutes, plays in 30. Everybody understands it. Even my four year old. She did all the dice rolling for me and cheered when we blew up TIE Fighters. I just about punched Kurt in the face after he successfully fired the Death Star four times in a row- including double sixes on the fourth shot. But the rebels carried the day and a B-Wing made the shot to end it.

Scarlett fell asleep watching Glitter Girls on Netflix so I showed him the Nate Hayden games and he about flipped out. He wanted to do Mushroom Eaters, but I steered him toward Psycho Raiders. It was an awesome game- he played the victims, and he actually won. He got lucky and Joey showed up on the first turn and he managed to get one of his people to the car. He almost got another into the Fixer-Upper that the Mechanic was in, but the Mechanic was sinister, and I had him grab the girl while the raider with the blowtorch roasted her. NASTY piece of narrative there...I actually did get the kill card on it, too.

Flick 'em Up was pretty great- we just did the beginning scenario and the gameplay was pretty standard flicking stuff, but the production is just brilliant. I love how the cowboys spin around and their hat flies off when you hit them.

A couple of rounds of Resistor were shaky but went well...but here's a tip- maybe don't play that one at 3am.

In other news...been playing Shadows Over Normandie. It is, in fact, Heroes of Normandie with Mythos-y stuff added to it. Which is interesting, because the game already played kind of like a cross between an adventure game and a wargame. So now, your officers and heroes might have spells, swords, tomes or other magic stuff going on...while they fight Deep Ones and have to make terror checks to see if they do things like try to kill themselves in the middle of battle. Four scenarios in and it's shaping up to be a cool campaign, better than the scenarios in the original game. The one I did yesterday played out pretty much like a dungeoncrawl...but with US Rangers. Review is heading to Miniature Market next week, I think.

I got a big box of games from Thames-Kosmos over the holidays so I've been going through those too. The reprint of Legends of Andor was in there, and I've done the first three "legends" in it. I had played this before when FFG had it and liked a lot of it, but let it go. Coming back to it, I kind of have the same opinion of it. There are some really great things going on in how it is presented and I love the simplicity of it, but it also doesn't completely engage me for some reason. The combat is terrible and the legends have a very puzzle-like sense about them. So I dunno, it's a 3-3 1/2 star game I think. I have the expansions but I haven't tried them yet. The Star Shield one looks good, it adds a bunch of stuff. But not to the old legends, it's all for the new ones.

I also have Tumult Royale, the new Klaus Teuber game. To say that they don't make 'em like this anymore is an understatement. I swear this game dropped out of Essen 1992, even though it has a Galaxy Trucker-inspired real-time piece grab thing. It's pretty fun, you have to grab resources to build monuments but not TOO much or the peasants get pissed off and have a titular tumult. AND IT HAS A SPINNER. Not a "rondel" or something like that. A bona fide SPINNER.

Steam Time, the new Rudiger Dorn game, is in there too but I haven't tried it yet. It looks kind of good despite the steampunky look. It's a time travel game. Rudiger Dorn can go either way with me, so I'm interested to see if this is another "traditional" German game. 

I've got the full new wave of Imperial Assault sitting here, haven't even opened the blisters yet. The campaign looks good, but it is longer than Twin Shadows- more like the one in the core game. Which irks me, because I liked the short one better. It's billed as "Return to Hoth", but it looks like we're also going back to Bespin too. Having Dengar in the game is pretty awesome, but what is even cooler is that one of the made-up characters is a Mon Calamari sniper.

And in the mail- A Study in Emerald (FINALLY) and that Glenn Drover Empires: Age of Discovery thing. More on those sometime in the future.

There Will Be Games
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

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 and 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.

Articles by Michael

Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

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johnnyspys's Avatar
johnnyspys replied the topic: #219411 08 Jan 2016 16:15
Steam Time is ok, I enjoyed it but I wouldn't call it ground breaking. Still, for a light game its pretty enjoyable.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #219418 08 Jan 2016 17:11
2nd edition Study?
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #219419 08 Jan 2016 17:18
Yeah, the new one. I haven't followed the response to it, but I'm sure it starts with "dumbed" and ends with "down". Which, like I always say, that phrase USUALLY means that someone has misunderstood how something was actually smarted up.

Johnny, I did play Steam Time last night. It's OK, just one of those forlorn games that doesn't have much of an audience anymore. It is very 2003, 2004. There are some cool mechanics, but it feels old fashioned in a not altogether positive way. It seems like an old design polished up for current release. It is a lot lighter than it seems like it would be from the outset.
bfkiller's Avatar
bfkiller replied the topic: #219420 08 Jan 2016 17:24
- I'm trying Blood Rage on Tuesday next week. I'm excited for it. I like straight-up conflict games in this vein.

- I haven't played my copy of Psycho Raiders yet, but the idea of the unlikely but always possible arrival of Joey in his Camaro makes me smile.

- I was extremely excited when I spotted A Study in Emerald on the local store shelf this week. I didn't know it was being released already. But it also made me wistful for the 1st edition, which I think would suit my tastes better. Still, I'm not going to pony up the cash that 1st edition sellers want for it, so 2nd edition it is.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #219422 08 Jan 2016 17:47
YES, that was some BS right there. Turn one, Joey. That had a couple of interesting effects. One, it gave Kurt a very reachable objective other than "run" right up front. Had Joey been sinister, then it would have been freakin' awesome. but it wasn't to be. It also created a situation where I had to slow him down- I could have just attacked him and the Camaro right out, but I decided to let it wait. I used the once-per-turn actions to road trap it and then I had the flamethrower guy pop up magically in front of it. But he didn't do enough damage to it. What was really key is that he managed to get the girl up to the church and then hide behind the Camaro even with raiders in pursuit, so she could slip into the building and out the back.

But like I told Kurt- it could have gone down 1000 other ways, all depending on what went on during the first act (fleeing from the raider van and seeing how far you can get in the truck) and the second act (engaging with the townsfolk and deciding to either search for items or keep running).

Great, great game. By far the best horror game ever made.
bfkiller's Avatar
bfkiller replied the topic: #219426 08 Jan 2016 18:01
I love how evocative the narrative becomes. And, even though I haven't played it yet (but have read the rules), I know that all that actually happens in the game... it's not some imaginary flavour that you're applying to a few abstract occurrences. I love that it's a simulation, first and foremost. Yet it's relatively light in terms of rules exceptions and whatnot. I thought the rules were pretty straightforward.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #219429 08 Jan 2016 18:13
Yeah, you know it's interesting because it doesn't really have anything that folks would consider "thematic" rules these days. It's very old fashioned. There isn't anything in it that you wouldn't find in an SPI game circa 1979 apart from the graphic violence. When I explained the basic mechanical rules, I kind of just said "OK, it's pretty free form so if you want to know if you can do something, ask". So he asked "can I scream to get Joey's attention?" Yep. I did explain the hiding since that's the most complicated part of it, but we sort of just worked through it, determining what happened. It's amazing how much very, very specific detail you get out of it...without all of the flavor text or FFG-style "theming".

I still haven't used the tear gas rules or some of the other variant things.

That bit in the car with the sinister mechanic and the raider with the, that kind of made us both wince. But it really captures the spirit of this game. She got in the car, thinking she had a way out and the dude just grabbed her. Then the raider came in with the torch and you could just FEEL it. TERRIBLE!
johnnyspys's Avatar
johnnyspys replied the topic: #220137 18 Jan 2016 14:18
Yeah steam time not only feels old it looks like a throw back game. I would play it again, but it isn't terrible, so I agree with you I was disappointed. However, for newer gamers in groups where people are hesitant to learn new epic games, this was an easy sell. Would rather play something heavy but this will do for new players who want something light.