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  • Barnes on Games- Talon Head to Head with Kyle Mann, Mexica in Review, Shadowrun: Crossfire

Barnes on Games- Talon Head to Head with Kyle Mann, Mexica in Review, Shadowrun: Crossfire

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Barnes on Games- Talon Head to Head with Kyle Mann, Mexica in Review, Shadowrun: Crossfire
There Will Be Games

Writing on game components is BARBARISM. At least it used to be.

I've got two for you this week- one that about five of you will care about, one that maybe one of you will care about. First up is my Head to Head with Kyle Mann over GMT's Talon. I waffled on it a bit, wavering between three and four stars on it but I realized that what it does- making a SFB/FedCom style game highly playable and fun is definitely worth the higher mark, although I think something is lost in the streamlining and the game's fiction is…better left undiscussed. Kyle gave it five stars, which I think is over the mark, but that's how he saw it. Here's the link for that one.

The other item is the new Iello reprint of Wolfgang Kramer/Michael Kiesling classic, Mexica. This was the third of the Ravensburger/Rio Grande "Mask" trilogy and it seemed to never quite get the attention that Tikal and Java did. Which is a shame, because this one is really just as good.  It's a good game with lots of aggressive blocking, some area control, some building and of course action point budgeting. The new edition has cool resin buildings and a warpity-warp board. Here's that link.

Aside from that, I haven't played a whole lot this week after having a minor surgery (guts were poking out of my body) so I've not been out nor have I had folks over. I did do a little solo messin' around with Shadowrun: Crossfire, which I got in a "why the hell not" trade. It's super dorky, it really puts me back into the late 80s and early 90s. It comes with a full background book that reads like an RPG setting guide. Other than reminding me of the feckless days of youth, I dunno, it's pretty unremarkable. Either that, or I think I might actually hate the game. There's virtually nothing in the game that I find compelling, interesting or even average. It all just feels very low-end, like the kind of game you buy when you just start getting into games and you think it's awesome... but you really haven't played much else so you don't know any better. It feels kind of like a mish-mash of ideas better served elsewhere The sticker thing on the cards is kind of dumb, but whatever. It's on trend. I love how the game goes to great lengths to make it seem like an RPG (You pick a race! You pick a class! You spend money and can level up!) but at the end of the day it is about playing the right color cards to move a marker. And it's co-op, so you can play those color cards on OTHER player's cards, whoo ha. I've got the expansion and the character pack mixed in, I really have no idea what is what at this point or if anything makes it materially better. Pretty sure this one is on the outbound.

I'm awaiting the arrival of Titus Tentacle today from HABA. I've loved every HABA game I've played lately, so maybe they'll score another hit with me.

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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Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #223335 25 Feb 2016 22:46
I kinda think I should get a copy of the old Mexica, because I have an old copy of Tikal and Java so it would make a set. Maybe this new printing will shake loose one of the old ones. They're few and far between.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #223337 25 Feb 2016 23:04
Solid reviews the last month or so, Barnes.
Frohike's Avatar
Frohike replied the topic: #223338 25 Feb 2016 23:12
"So the aggressive part of the game doesn’t result in material loss, it results in incurring additional costs that over the course of the game can put you at a severe points deficit."

How is this different from the typical "death by a thousand passive aggressive cuts" of most contemporary euros? That form of "aggression" doesn't appeal to me all that much.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #223341 25 Feb 2016 23:55
Wel, it's a 45 minute placement and scoring game so there's not time for 1000 cuts...

It isn't like that. You can directly block someone in with buildings or canals or deny access to an area. It's not Kemet or Blood Rage where it's in your face aggressive, no, but you can seriously impact another player's next turn.

I kind of wish I had the original Mexica myself (and Java for that matter) to have the matching set...but the new edition looks really great and the resin buildings are much cooler than the lightweight plastic in the original edition.

Gosh, I want Java really bad now.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #223351 26 Feb 2016 08:29
You know it's funny, one of the things Kyle said in the Talon review is "the darn thing is going to get played" and that's proven itself out over the last couple of weeks for me.

This is a very soloable title, and I've gotten three sessions in solo with just an hour or two to spare in the schedule. This past Wednesday night I was up at the big gaming group session north of Baltimore and pulled it out at 10:15, in spite of being more than an hour from home on a very rainy night. Out came Talon, and we had one ship hollowed out before I had to leave at 11:15. And that included teaching the game to guys that had been sipping on scotch whiskey for the two hours beforehand.

C&C can't do that as much because of the setup involved. Hold the Line is in the neighborhood, but honestly, with Talon you open the board on the table, lay down a couple of chits and go. The rules are very accessible even for new players.

It's not that the game is easy, it's that it's playable. There is some serious tactical action available that's about four minutes away from your first move.

I'm really liking the head-to-head format for those reviews by the way. I betcha they get more interesting as you find your groove and get a little more comfortable with putting digs in on each other. That's good reading especially when people disagree on the game. Granted it's for a commercial web site, but that doesn't mean you can't get a little grittier on your delivery.
MacDirk Diggler's Avatar
MacDirk Diggler replied the topic: #223357 26 Feb 2016 10:04
was double post
MacDirk Diggler's Avatar
MacDirk Diggler replied the topic: #223358 26 Feb 2016 10:07
Ah, head to head is the BEST!

I am curious how they get made. Do you agree to an outline beforehand? What pre discussion is necessary to ensure there is room to differ? Are they written a paragraph at a time and emailed back and forth? Or is it a phone conversation that gets transcribed?

Regarding the getting "grittier".... How awesome would it be, if, after Barnes makes a particularly well reasoned and articulate point, the other reviewer went all Chevy Chase circa 1979 on his ass.... "Barnes, you ignorant slut...."
SuperflyPete's Avatar
SuperflyPete replied the topic: #223363 26 Feb 2016 11:21
Crossfire is really bad. It's not badly designed, per se, it's simply too hard. Like, "brutally punative" hard.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #223365 26 Feb 2016 12:23
The head to heads are our most popular articles. I wanted to come up with a fresh format and the idea was to get folks that wildly disagree on games to have a dialogue about them. But it seems like what we usually wind up with are "hug to hug" articles. I'm trying to encourage them to be more aggressive with them. Kyle did one with Teri Litorco on Machi Koro that was much more divergent last week, but they didn't get like violent with each other or anything like that.

Making one of these is a matter of me OKing the assignment- usually two folks come forward and say they want to, or it may be a situation where we have two people that want to cover a game (as is the case with Talon). It's basically just batting a Word doc back and forth without a setup, usually one person kicks it off and then we let them go until there's not much left to say. I like them because it gets people away from the intro-rules/process-opinion-qualifiers-conclusion structure and more into detail.

I don't know that Shadowrun is badly designed so much as that it's just so...meh. It is so by-the-numbers routine that it's almost painful. The two games I played were too difficult, I thought, but it seemed like it was that kind of "oops, drew the wrong card!" difficulty that usually signals a lazy or uninspired co-op design. I didn't really see the point in having the classes and so forth when you can buy any card and there's not really much value in specializing unless there's a card effect that impacts playing all one color or multiple colors. Already trying to work up a trade for it.
JEM's Avatar
JEM replied the topic: #223367 26 Feb 2016 13:52
Shadowrun Crossfire is an excellent game. In no way "too hard" it just has a meta that takes some* getting used to. Every game we play is a tense battle for survival. If they ever want to make a game of the movie, "The Warriors," a re-skin of this would be perfect.

*a lot.
rocketkiwi's Avatar
rocketkiwi replied the topic: #223368 26 Feb 2016 13:54
I have the old edition of Mexica, and I'd rather have a new one just because of the box size. I hate the longboxes that Tikal, Java, Torres, etc are in. They are a pain in the ass to store.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #223388 26 Feb 2016 18:23
See, I _love_ the old, flat boxes. I greatly prefer them to the squares. I get excited when a game comes in a flat box. I think it's one of the reasons I like Xia so much. Dumb, but it is what it is.

It's the Goldseiber size boxes that bug me, the "giant bookcase" size things that are as fat as a square box but only 3/4 as long as a long box. MAKE UP YOUR MIND, AFRICA!
p4warrior's Avatar
p4warrior replied the topic: #223433 27 Feb 2016 10:27
Kyle from the Talon article here. I've tried to sign up on this site a bunch but always got an error and couldn't figure it out. I'm an old man now apparently.

Michael's crazy; Talon's easily a 5-star game. It's definitive for the genre. I really think GMT's gonna have a massive hit on their hands here. Space combat without all the bunk.

Hope you recover quickly Michael. Not least because you sign my paychecks.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #223452 27 Feb 2016 16:43
CoolStuffInc has started advertising it through Google AdSense. It's popped up on a couple of screens for me. The fact that they've putting an ad for it into the auctions is a sign that they think they have a good seller.

It has a very low entry barrier, and you kill things pretty doggone quickly. I think it will do very well with the current short-attention-span gaming environment.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #224012 08 Mar 2016 15:12
For those of you who are impatient, copies of Talon are starting to become hard to find. They are still on GMT's site full retail, but the game has gotten some pretty glowing video reviews and the online retailers are showing them as sold out.

No doubt GMT will reprint, but if you have a birthday coming up in April or May you might want to secure your surprise gift now.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #224013 08 Mar 2016 15:32
Yeah, they have a lot of things to reprint so I would get it now if you want it...
Chapel's Avatar
Chapel replied the topic: #224014 08 Mar 2016 16:14

Michael Barnes wrote:
Gosh, I want Java really bad now.

Love Java. One of the best 2player games as well.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #224045 09 Mar 2016 10:16
As best I can tell, I've given Talon its weakest endorsement so far. A really glowing video review came out two days ago and this morning's written review at BGG leads with the word "masterpiece". I have it in the "really like" category, giving it an 8 or maybe an 8.5. It's a solid Minnie Driver, but not a Michele Pfeiffer by my estimate.

I'm just never in on a game that's selling out at stores or at the top of the Hotness. I'm out of my element here. I need to go back to a nice, tepid game of Field Commander Alexander to settle myself down a bit.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #224199 11 Mar 2016 16:21

As an addendum to my note, Tony just emailed me and told me he's getting cascading distributor re-orders already, so my guess is the existing stock will be gone very soon - probably a week or less.


Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #224204 11 Mar 2016 17:54
20+ copies at MM today.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #224216 11 Mar 2016 22:26

And there it goes. A flurry of distributor orders today, and we are now sold out.

I'll work on getting a Talon P500 Reprint option up for by the time the customer update goes out next week.


GMT moved 500 copies to distributors in 5 hours today.
Frohike's Avatar
Frohike replied the topic: #224217 11 Mar 2016 22:49

Michael Barnes wrote: 20+ copies at MM today.

Something's up with the site or the listing. Adding it to cart does nothing at the moment.

Edit: OIC. Out of stock, actually. That was quick.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #224222 12 Mar 2016 10:58
It's always bittersweet when GMT sells out of something, especially quickly. I love it when GMT does well, but it takes a really long time to reprint stuff! I still sort of regret not getting Navajo Wars. Who knows when that one will be reprinted but I guess I'll wait so they can solve any errata.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #224230 12 Mar 2016 12:59
Yeah, a "P500 option" isn't very comforting, especially since current owners are asking for two more races.

Odd game to have catch fire. Some should become available again since the last 500 boxes were distributor purchases.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #308329 19 Mar 2020 16:58
Looking at this article from back in the good old days it occurs to me that Talon hasn't gotten the respect it deserves. It's rule complexity is on the line of Manouevre or Hold The Line, and it really brings a unique mechanical structure to the play with its Impulse system, which dates back to Star Fleet Battles and BattleTech. I don't know how may other games have used it since the 80s.

If anyone is interested in taking a shot at this on Vassal in a Play-by-Email game give me a ring. It plays any number of players so I should be able to accommodate anyone that wants to give it a go.

I went to put a rating on this and . . . it's not in the TWBG database! Tyranny!