• Hanabi may be a small game that hides inconspicuously on your shelf, but its shadow of popularity and awards dwarfs that of even the largest Fantasy Flight coffin box games of yore. This deck of 50 cards is the Spiel Des Jahres winner of 2013, a formidable award that has been given to titans such as Carcassonne and Dominion. Does this tiny combatant stand up to its accolades? 10 years from now will everyone and their mother still be holding firework cards up against their foreheads like a drunken Japanese version of Headbandz?

    There are two primary strong points in Antoine Bauza’s design, the first being it is a cooperative card game, and the second being the fact that your hand of cards is visible to everyone at the table but yourself. The former is a less an innovation and more a cool little twist as cooperative games built on such simplicity are difficult to find. The latter is why this game is being lauded and it absolutely is a stellar and game-changing mechanic that is difficult to fathom how it took until 2010 for someone to come up with. It is such a simple and elegant mechanism that just works, and works well.

    So you’re holding this hand of cards up so that everyone else at the table can see them so that you can give each other clues about both the number and color on the card. The point of the game is to blindly play cards from your backwards hand, although cards can only be played if they are a 1 or they are the next consecutive number for their given color (i.e. you can play a White 3 if the White 2 is the highest played White card on the table). You are also only able to play a 1 if the color has not yet been played on the table, this is important because there are duplicates of most cards.

    The deck itself functions as a timer for the game and it clocks in at roughly 15 minutes. The pacing is excellent and it does not feel too long or too short for the weight of the decisions involved. The difficulty of the game arises through the limited scope and quantity of clues the group may exchange. Small clock tokens form resource and represent clues you may give to other players. Clues consist of pointing at one or more cards in another player’s hand, and telling them that all of the cards are the same number (and what that number is) or the same color (and what that color is). You can regain clue tokens by discarding cards, in which case the card will never re-enter the game. The only other niggle is that you are allowed two incorrect card plays, the third meaning you all lose.

    Hanabi sounds interesting, it’s perfectly paced, and it allows you to get in a cooperative game as a filler; so what’s the problem? The problem is that no one is actually playing Hanabi. If I was unaware of the meaning behind this game’s name, I would likely come to the conclusion that Hanabi is an ancient Chinese word for dirty cheater. Nearly every group I have played this with gives out extra hints and clues beyond what the rules allow. You want the Drunken Japanese Headbandz Cheat Guide for Dummies?

    -Wince noticeably and sigh when a player slowly selects a card from their hand to play or discard (“Ugh, not that one!”)

    -Ask the player what he knows about his cards before giving a clue (“So you know those three cards you are holding cock-eyed are red, right?”)

    -Repeat clues already given to players if they look like they’ve forgotten them (“Hmm, Jeremy you do know those two cards at opposite sides of your hand are the same color don’t you? Ben told you five minutes ago, remember?”)

    Many people cheat accidentally as the game requires a great deal of discipline to keep a blank face. Worse yet, the game is less fun (although much more strategic) if you play strictly by the rules and only give clues as outlined. The rules do offer the option to be loose with clues in the variants section but it clearly breaks down the structure of the game and makes it more of an activity (oh no, the dreaded “A” word) rather than a game of sorts.

    I can ultimately live with the cheating. What is more aggravating is the fact that game does not stand up to repeated plays with the same group of people. You will start to give clues and place cards in ways that form a pattern of sorts, a shared understanding between team members. The game pushes you towards this learned behavior as the metagame and ability to score in high increments practically requires it. Because of this the game loses its charm after several plays with your group and that spark begins to fade a bit. The game still remains fun, but you find yourselves scoring higher and higher due to assumptions and shared understandings rather than actual meaningful clues. It feels like this is baked into the game on purpose and I find it grating as it mars the reputation of an otherwise clever and concise card game.

    Hanabi is absolutely worth playing a few times. The mechanics are borderline ingenious and the package is streamlined in a way that will make even Love Letter envious. I imagine we will be seeing an evolution of this mechanic from other designers in the future, improvements based on Bauza’s exceptional spark of creativity. I do however caution – don’t get too attached to this one as it will burn and then fizzle out almost instantaneously akin to its explosive brethren dotting the sky.

  • Hey there -

    I’m a mostly self-taught, DIY-type guy and I’ve worked in arts and media pretty much forever - doing all sorts of stuff from graphic and web design to record production and live DJ performance internationally. As a multi-media artist and a big nerd, games are BY FAR my favorite medium to work in because games fuse three things I love: creativity, technology, and collaboration with all types of fun, smart people. All the elements are there from writing and art to music and behavior – movies are great but a movie only has one possibly outcome. Games react and offer choices.

    About two years ago I quit my Audio Director job at Ubisoft (best job ever) because after almost a decade of making sounds and music for games, I wanted to break out into a new space. Plus, after working on Assassin’s Creed, Silent Hill, and Mortal Kombat I wanted to work on something less bloody. I was a part of the “core team” and a regular contributor to design choices and writing tasks at my last few jobs so it wasn’t that crazy of an idea (remains to be seen?) plus I had ideas for new types of games that could infuse knowledge in interesting ways.

    History Fighter Episodes

    So, I took my pathetic life savings and raised a bit more from close friends and family to start up a games company called Headrush Games. The company History Fighter is my first try at this concept. A game about super-powered historical figures, that offers both factual and fictitious aspects as part of its appeal. The idea came from a session of Magic: The Gathering at a neighbor’s house. I had played all sorts of games but this one got by me until that night and while learning how to play had this thought, “this game would be a lot more engaging to me if these characters were a bit more familiar, like say, historical figures…” – History Fighter was conceived in that precise moment. I knew what I wanted to make.

    The other prototypes that my team of merry, indie developers had going were put on the back-burner and History Fighter became the focus of our company. Deciding to make a card game really simplified things for us – after all, cards are generally static 2D objects that don’t move much so right there the scope of work to get to the finish line would be lighter. We could focus on game play without the worry of how to make it pretty in the long run. The first step and my first mandate, so to speak, was for the team to come up with a game that worked as a table-top game first.

    This was to be the acid-test for our concept’s fun-factor. If the game was fun played with index cards around my kitchen table, then we would proceed. This meant (1) coming up with enough interesting historical figures with the potential to be transformed into new heroes and villains with super powers that made sense for their historical personas and (2) coming up with original yet familiar mechanics to play the game. Both of these were so much fun to do we had a feeling we were on to something special, and it went fast. It just so happened that an old friend was available to throw down some concept art that we used to print and stick to a few of the index cards to make it more “real” feeling around the table. It totally set things off… and we all felt it.

    SO, now we had a fun game that worked as a table-top and it was time to choose the tech, ramp up the rest of the team, and GO FOR IT!! Our first digital version of History Fighter was made in Unity, but then we met the folks at Game Salad (in our back yard here in Austin) and they were so excited about our idea that we decided to work together. Game Salad was about to rework their tech in some very cool ways that made sense for us, and we were about to make a game that they could use to showcase the new features they had in cue – win, win. Sharing is fun, and again, they were local so the relationship meant we could get further faster by working together.

    It’s worked out great so far… History Fighter is now in a “between Alpha and Beta” stage with a working prototype that is fun to play, and a story mode that is being written with love and care to entertain with wit, humor, charm, and knowledge over old-fashioned violence. We are telling new stories with history’s most-celebrated people, and having a blast with it all!

    Which brings us to one of our last steps to finish strong this Fall - our Kickstarter campaign. We’ve decided the most fun we can have is to make our new fans a part of the action in design – so we’ve structured our Kickstarter to include tiers for those who want to put their hands on the clay and be part of making history with us!

    Tesla, Edgar Allen Poe, Blackbeard, Mozart

    We're a small portion of the way towards our goal, but we feel History Fighter's underlying message (that games have the potential to change the way people think while offering a learning value built into the fun) will encourage a lot more support. The focus is 100% on the fun, but chances are, you’ll learn something unexpected – we’re all about the unexpected, lesser-known history being highlighted.

    What a long, strange trip it’s been. Thanks for the open mind, your time and the chance to make history! I invite you all to be part of it.

    We'll see you on the other side,

    PSST - Back Us Now on Kickstarter!


  • Timothy Forbeck rubbed his eyes, leaned back in his chair, and tiredly stretched. For over two hours, he had poured over countless documents produced to him by counsel representing a major tobacco company. Which one? He couldn’t remember after the mind numbing trial that was document review.

    But, a quick cup of coffee and he would be ready for the good stuff, a memo file that he saw earlier that day in his office. A file that he could use, or twist the information, against opposing counsel. Forbeck smiled. In a court of law, he could make a fender bender look like a multi-fatality car wreck.

    And the jury would just eat it up.

    That act would score him the big bucks. However, he ultimately knew that that probably would not happen. Corporations, even as big as they were, were nothing more than giant cowards. Instead of using their money to utterly crush the little guy, they were more concerned about the cost of defense and profit ratios. They would rather settle quietly than get the screws put to them by uneducated, lazy sheep whose underlying motivation was to get the Hell out of the court. And that was what Forbeck was hoping for.

    Grinning to himself, he began shunting papers and other unruly piles of documents aside to look for the memo file. The grin quickly faded from his countenance when it appeared that it was nowhere to be found. His mind shuffled through its short term memory and gave him a photograph of his desk at the law firm where he worked, with the memo file bookmarked between his monitor and his phone.

    “Shit,” he said out loud, rubbing his eyes. “I thought I brought everything I needed home.”

    He thought about just giving up for the night and going to bed. But, he  remembered that his boss wanted an update on the results of the document review the following morning. Rather than have his ass chewed, he decided to leave the house, walk over to the firm and bring the file back. The walk would do him good, he was out of coffee, and the night air might clear away the cobwebs.

    Locking the door behind him, Forbeck nipped down his front steps and broke into a decent stride. He bought the house for a steal. Property values in the area were low for two reasons. One, the city didn’t have enough money to keep the roads up and that depressed real estate. Two, there was a crumbling, ancient cemetery about a block away from his home. Normally, walking past the cemetery didn’t bother him. But tonight, there was something about that old mausoleum, which looked like a tent spike keeping the cemetery in place, seemed to give him something to fear. He quickly picked up the pace and before long, the mausoleum was far behind him.

    Slowing down to take a bit of a breather, he stopped and looked to the sky. The firmament was filled with haunting stars, causing Forbeck to tarry at his spot for a while. Just as he was going to continue walking to his place of work, a clap of thunder and lightning completely startled him. Meanwhile, he noticed an ominous black cloud spread across the sky. Again,  something like that wouldn’t have bothered him normally.

    But it was the fact that the cloud not only started blotting out the stars in the sky, it also started blotting out the streetlights with its aphotic form. Before him, and slowly moving towards him, was a wall of pitch darkness. A chill ran up his spine and his primitive instincts told him to do a quite logical thing in the face of an unexplainable phenomenon.

    He turned and ran. Fear straddled his heart like a cruel jockey, flogging it to beat faster. He had little control on his direction, his feet just moved of their own accord. He didn’t stop running until he heard a mournful train whistle. While catching his breath, he began to try to get his bearings. Train whistle? There’s no tracks anywhere near my neighborhood, Forbeck thought to himself. Next, after fully taking in his surroundings, he knew why. He was in a neighborhood quite a clip away from his home, well known for being the bad part of town. Mysteriously, the area he was in was strangely silent. Then, he heard it.

     The unnerving, hidden scurrying. 

    His heart began to race once more, pounding in his chest, almost desperate to get out. His eyes scanned the landmarks, trying to give him answers as to best get away. After several moments, his instincts won and he simply turned to run back the way he came.

    He was only able to turn before he screamed.  There, standing before him mere inches away, was a frightful apparition. A being caked in dirt and accompanied by a bitter coldness that sank into Forbeck’s bones.   It moved slowly to him, as if drawn by his fright.  His mind imperiously commanded him to run, but his feet disobeyed. It raised grime encrusted, talon like fingers to touch him.

    That’s when self preservation finally won out. Dashing like an Olympic sprinter, the frightened lawyer ran, and ran, and ran. He stumbled and collapsed, Lord knew how far away from the phantom. Breathing hoarsely, he looked quickly around.

    The apparition was nowhere to be seen.

    Forbeck wiped sweat off his brow and felt his forehead by happenstance. A fever had sprouted up out of thin air. Chuckling weakly, he tried to reassure himself that the things he saw were nothing more than fever induced hallucinations. He walked home quietly, repeating that as a palliative mantra.

    Only his instincts weren’t buying it.

    End of Night 1. Night 2 to follow

  • My sorry excuse for a computer game collection …

    someone inside a digital word-cloudI noted the paucity of my digital gaming experience last September in my review of Death Ray Manta. Getting a bit more precise: as far as I can remember I’ve only ever owned 5 or 6 computer games, and only 5 which I can remember for sure:-


    • Quake 2: played a few times but abandoned in frustration when I couldn’t get past the first level (I ended up running around banging on the walls hoping to find the secrets I knew I hadn’t uncovered).
    • I would’ve followed this a long way if I’d had the mind to, but I just couldn’t get the knack.Abe’s Oddysee: this charmed me but otherwise ditto because I couldn’t solve the problems of the more difficult screens- running around in endless frustrated circles was no fun, however cute.
    • Close Combat III: The Russian Front: my most-played computer game and my favourite, naturally enough- abandoned after I'd played the scenarios when I couldn’t fathom the campaign game.
    • Panzer General 3D Assault: played once or twice- meh, I'd rather'd've had a rulebook, and probably a map, counters and a FtF opponent to boot.
    • Combat Mission: Shock Force: out of the shrink, but otherwise the CD-ROM hasn’t even been inserted into the computer.

    Of all of these I still own the wargames.

  • Analogue and digital: opposing skill sets?

    duelling godzillasFar from original, my closing remarks last time echo truisms familiar from many online discussions of, eg. how to get more younger people to play wargames (a common enough theme on the BGG Wargames subforum). Once this notion rears its head in any thread it won’t be long before someone observes that the ‘plug-and-play’ nature of computer games’ has ‘spoiled’ younger people when it comes to reading rules for a game, especially those more-or-less complex ones you’ll find in ‘heavy duty’ wargames. And these are games like, eg. the 32 pages of detailed case point of Unhappy king Charles or the similar 28 pages of Twilight Struggle — ie. average complexity medium-sized wargames with clear and concise rules — not ASL’s legendary monumental tome or some such monstrosity.

    The basic disconnect


    These displays of condescension leave me feeling a point is being missed, somewhere. I mean to say, as wargamers we seek relaxation in a hobby predicated upon higher-grade English comprehension overlaid with standard grade mental arithmetic. If you don’t enjoy exercising these skills then you’re hardly likely to enjoy games which put a high priority on them. This surely goes some way to explain why Eurogames are far more popular than wargames: their rules are simpler and they don’t emphasise the traditionally ‘studious’ skills to the same extent as wargames. Consequentially, Euros are social and cooperative in their conflict- eg. Settlers; if not indirect in their actual competition- eg. Alhambra. In this respect analogue wargames remain the niche of a niche dominated by educated aging geezers which Jim Dunnigan outlines in his Wargames Handbook.

    cover_OblivionIt’s not as if some computer games don’t have player manuals which put most wargames to shame; some can even take on ASL pound for pound, eg. Oblivion’s reputed 400-page tome. The key difference here I guess is that these manuals are typically about mastering the game instead of just starting it. The core skills set remains digital's proactive set, which remains the antithesis of analogue's abstract/passive set. I’m not here talking about the obvious hand-eye coordination: rather, skills like rapid assessment of highly dynamic situations; inventiveness and practical problem solving; even the simple exploratory mindset which is at odds with the hidebound mentality which wants everything explained in a rulebook (interestingly, some of this seems to me to echo what many Euros are about).

     ‘Hot’ digital and ‘cool’ analogue?

    Marshall McLuhanThe snobbery about plug and play is an echo of the old brain versus brawn prejudices, and the whole business reminds me of ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ media. Coined in the 1964 book Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan- best known for his slogan, “the medium is the message”, 'hot' and 'cool' are McLuhan’s key concepts in his analysis of how media are consumed and understood; ie. which senses or faculties they engage:

    “A movie is thus said by McLuhan to be "hot", intensifying one single sense "high definition", demanding a viewer's attention, and a comic book to be "cool" and "low definition", requiring much more conscious participation by the reader to extract value.”

     “Any hot medium allows of less participation than a cool one, as a lecture makes for less participation than a seminar, and a book for less than a dialogue."

    McLuhan_McLuhan’s ultimate ‘form-over-content’ pessimism doesn’t hide his real point of interest. He was writing about TV, radio and movies, the first wave of post-Gutenbergian media technology in its mass media immaturity, a period dominated by the same old producer/consumer relationship characterised above all by the passive audience. He still managed however to establish the key point that consuming different media will create and exercise different tastes and talents, which tastes and talents can only have become more multifarious with the advent of the digital revolution McLuhan lived barely to glimpse.

    etching of a medieval printing pressAll of which brings us back to where I came to grief in my own early computer gaming. I mean to say, I consider myself quite intelligent, yet, when I was confounded by Quake 2Abe’s Oddysee, or CCIII:TRF not once did I think of searching the internet for advice. Sure, I was an internet novice at the time, but I suggest that really does speak to the oft-mentioned generation gap: my age puts me just on the wrong side of that gap between those for whom ICT is second nature and those for whom it always remains a bit mysterious and daunting. Hardened old Gutenbergian that I am, I always want to flee to the frakking rules every time I don’t know how something works.


     Taking the pledge?

    abstract artMy point here then is that analogue games speak to me of a dual comfort zone formed by both the skills the games themselves exercise, coupled with the happy memories I have of more than 40 years’ boardgaming. Even when digital games speak to happy memories they are more fleeting; eg. like those from CCIII:TRF, where the initial fun was overlaid with frustration when I couldn’t figure out how to go to the next level in the game, a level which was the obvious place to go for a wargamer like me. I have decided to do something about this.

    cover_Close Combat III- the Russian FrontI must confess to having some qualms about deciding to invest some serious time in digital games. Why? First, because I’ve got along very well without them all these years thank you very much. Second, because one of my motives is to generate new content for RD/KA!. This might prove quixotic because one problem which arose from my futile career gamer dreams was the editorial direction they imposed on my bloggery, one result of which was self-generated pressure I could usually have done quite well without. Why then do I want to bother with this at all? I’ve already given one reason above. At least as important is the fact that my ignorance of digital gaming is truly woeful. I mean to say, some of the most important visual imagery and immersive gaming experiences of our times are those to be found in the digital realm. I’m a self-respecting gaming geek and I know nothing of them. Nothing. Now I know I once argued very passionately that taste is taste, but ignorance of the definitive gaming genre of our times? Truly woeful as I said.



    In light of all these caveats, I’ve decided to ‘Keep It Simple Stupid!’ If there’s one thing that’s just too galling to endure it’s being defeated by a computer game’s basic interface. So I’m going to master the first Operation on CCIII:TRF if it kills me. Oh, and I’ll filling idle moments too with a pleasant sufficency of Death Ray Manta, naturally enough. An OOP RTS WW2 tacsim and an indy retro shooter? Now that's cutting edge computer gaming! ;)


    'Death Ray Manta': indie, still psychedelic after all these years

    Analogue gamer finally grokks digital?

    #1. In which I neither got nor 'get' computer games

  • You can tell things have gone crazy busy for a while, since my posting here took a drop off the map.  Ditto on that other site and on my own blog.  Went into a bit more detail on the blog, about both my problems and just the slow down in external marketing.

    Admitedly, we've also had a very good run on the search engines which has put us on really nice keywords (e.g. board games Canada for Starlit ), which barring a major change in Google will give us a good inflow of customers.

    Still, I've lately been devoting more and more time to direct advertising on sites.  While advertising is more expensive than spending say an hour writing a blog post (like this one) or commenting on other sites, it's also less time extensive.  And with my time being crunched further and further, it's something I've had to look into to ensure we keep a good flow of customers in.

    As always, the good old marketing project equation holds true.

  • Ok, I know it's only March and I should wait until December to place my vote but it's not very often I get excited about a game to play with my kids.   I don't give a Trash Jr. Award out very often, probably only every 3 years.   The last award went to Cash n' Guns. Most years it is hard to find a really good kids game that I get excited about playing as some of my favorite Ameritrash games.   I haven't played The Adventurers and Defender of Realm isn't out yet but as of right now the lead candidate for the 2010 Trash Jr. Award is Summoners Wars.

    Summoners War would probably win hands down if it wasn't for the crappy board.   Actually, the board will win the award for the worst board of All Fricking time.

    Meanwhile, I'm hooked on this game like crack whore after her dealer gives her a taste.   I never got into Magic or any other CCGs but now I know how people blew major bucks on Magic cards.   I can see me now turning tricks for the next Summoners War expansion.  Damn you Steve "Hey you want to try this nice game it's only $16.99"  Damn you Barnes "You want enter the create a character contest?"

    Actually, I can't wait until the next box comes out.  Me and my daughter are working on our own expansion.   Evil of the Underworld vs. Half-Breeds of Woodlands.  Evil of the Underworld are all undead creatures.  Skeleton, Zombies, Ghouls, Wrights, Dracula is the Summoner.  The main thing they have in common is that they are slow.  Most of them will only move 1 per turn.  So they kind of suck in combat but when they are killed you roll a dice to determine there fate.  Some rolls they will be reborn in the Evil summoners hand other rolls they will turn into magic for the other player.  The Half-Breeds include centaurs, satyrs, hippogriffs, etc. the may feature will be speed.

    Hopefully, it will only be a few months before the Mercenary cards come out.

    Enjoy, KingPut





  •  No, I haven't been kidnapped by Haitian terrorists.   

     This is just one of those times of year that can make finding time--any time--rather difficult. 

     It doesn't help when, on Christmas night, you're in the office/playroom and see water marks by the closet door.  Oh, you know, the closet with the water heater in it.  No big deal, right?  Except for wet walls and carpet...ugh.

     I was very fortunate in that there were no major casualties except one--one of my giant CCG boxes got soaked through.  It was the bottom box and thus the least important, but it got it GOOD.  What does this mean?  I had to bid goodbye to the following CCGs:

     -Young Jedi
    -Jyhad (yes, all seven Jyhad decks were in this box)
    -Rage (my three power Rage decks?  Gone)
    -Star Wars TCG (This was actually doing me a favor...)

     And some other odds and ends.

     This kind of ties in with my philosophy on Christmas this year.  I just didn't want very much stuff at all this year.  I'm so buried in shit to do as it is, it felt wrong asking for more to pile on.  And these CCGs hadn't been played in YEARS.  Even Jyhad--one of my all time favorites--had been gathering dust for quite some time.  Honestly, none of my friends wanted to play Jyhad with me anymore because my decks were all "The Nasty."  They had even dared me to make a Toreador deck that worked and I cooked up a nearly unbeatable Masika/Talbot's Chainsaw deck that would get in combat with vampires and TOAST them completely in one round.

     But I digress.  Tossing soaked cards out sucks, but it really made little difference in the final analysis.  Thankfully the CCGs I still care about and have played within the past two years were OK--including Raw Deal, Star Wars CCG, and Lord of the Rings.


    All I got for Christmas--all that I asked for--was Guitar Hero World Tour, The Dark Knight DVD, and Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game.  My youngest brother also surprised me by giving me his copy of Guitar Hero III and wireless guitar for the Wii.  Okay, so that's where I have to confess that while that's all *I* got, our sons got a Wii from Santa.  Yes, I realize that this is somewhat like cheating.  They also got a mess load of games, including one that has barely left the Wii since we got it--Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

     They should just call it "Nintendo Fanservice: The Game."  You want to talk packing a game full, I don't think I've seen one this full of stuff to do in quite some time.  A story mode, event mode challenges, a billion ways to brawl, a stage editor to make your own level (to go with the 35+ levels already in the game) and all sorts of junk to collect...incredible.

     Guitar Hero: World Tour is also pretty frickin' incredible.  They've adopted a "gig" system sort of like Rock Bands where you can play through the game in a pseudo non-linear fashion.  What's great about the game is that even the songs I wasn't really looking forward to playing are actually fun to play.  I mean, I'd rather gouge my eyes out than entertain the prospect of a Blink-182 reunion tour, but their song is enjoyable to play.  Who knew? 

     My brother got Rock Band 2 for his 360 and it's also fun, so either way you go you're going to have fun.  And what I've found is that by playing the songs you actually get to know them better...hear little guitar and musical ticks you never's pretty cool, actually.


    Only squeezed in one game day this break, but it was a good one--two games of Battlestar Galactica with five.  I'll talk more about BSG in my "2008 in review" column that will go up in early January, but man I gotta say that BSG is one of the few games this year that did not disappoint me.  It's a game that has pretty much everything in gaming that I like--variable player powers, a hidden traitor mechanic, space combat, card play, backstabbing and paranoia, it's just a hodgepodge of everything that's good and (in)decent about gaming.  It's definitely on my shortlist of "game of the year" candidates in a year that was unfortunately filled with mostly disappointment after disappointment....but again, more on that in my year in review column that's yet to come.

     My brother and I also set up Hannibal: Rome versus Carthage after everyone had gone, and we played through a turn just to get a handle on the game.  We were sort of staggering through getting the hang of it but it's easy to see the game is likely going to be a GOOD one.  I got a unpunched copy of the AH version in trade this year and debated whether I should punch it or not...until the gamer in me pimp-slapped the collector side HARD and I dutifully sleeved and punched everything. 

     Speaking of gaming, my brother and I are a lock for Atlanta Gamefest on January 9th and 10th.  We might make it too late to attend on the 9th but we'll definitely be there all day of the 10th.  I think we've agreed to take Hannibal with us to play late Friday and wait until the next morning to go to Gamefest.  Either Hannibal or Twilight Struggle.  Everything I want to play these days seems to be card-driven, and that's okay with me.


     Anyway, we're looking at the direction of F:AT over the next year.  The first year was all about just getting the blog going, the second year was all about the website, and now we've got the website (with more bangs and whistles than I'd ever dreamed) and an established readership that we are always looking to grow.  In that regard, we'll probably be fishing for feedback soon about some ideas we have, and even allow you to give us a report card grade for the past year--what's worked for you, what you've enjoyed, what you'd like to see more of, what things you could do without.  I'd love nothing better for us to double our registered membership.  As we've grown and continue to get more of a "professional website" feel, we'll need you guys (and gals) more than ever to keep us straight and continue to improve the site.

     I think from a technical side we're pretty solid--user profiles, recommendation/ranking system, forums, member blogs, regular front page updates, a much-improved user submission system, and more.  It's now more about solidifying the direction of the site in terms of much boardgaming content, how much pop culture content, moving forward with cementing our regular features (news, photos, comics, reviews)...


    2008 was all about "How."  Hopefully, in 2009 we can focus more on "Why."



    Anyway...that's where I've been, what's going on with my world, and a peek at some stuff that's to come.  I hope everyone had a great holiday season and that everybody has a supremely awesome New Year.  Thanks for 2008, and I'll see you guys again in 2009.



  • Puzzles are solved. Mysteries are revealed.

    Even when you can't find the right answer [to solve a puzzle], you know it exists. Puzzles can be solved; they have answers.

    But a mystery offers no such comfort. It poses a question that has no definitive answer because the answer is contingent; it depends on a future interaction of many factors, known and unknown.

                                                                    - Gregory F. Treverton



  • Android, one of the last Fantasy Flight Games to come out on 2008 has generated a lot of conflicting opinions and discussion. In this review I want to analyze a few of the different aspects of the game, especially some that are usually misunderstood.

  • Hi! Welcome to the factory. Here’s your station--now get to work.

  • Come see what the factory's been cranking out lately.

  • Super Turbo Vacation Edition!

  • Howdy there, underlings! Go ahead and put down your tools, wipe the soot off your brow, and come hither. Your deep-pocketed, hard-fisted supervisor has some thoughts about board games, and guess what? You’re gonna listen to ‘em. You will, of course, need to make this time up later.
  • One of threads in Trash Talk asks the question of when is a good point to end a game.  I know I've touched on this before, especially in Puerto Rico but here are some other games that I think have annoying endings.

    1.  Talisman - This game has the opposite problem of Euros,   I think the ending in this game drags out too long.  It involves rolling a die.  You either defeat the crown of command or you take damage.  If you take enough damage, you have to start over again.  If someone steps in, they have to fight you and then can continue.  If one of you are defeated, you have to start over.  This can go on and on sometimes.

    2.  Supremacy - The ending condition when 12 nukes appear on the board.  Nuclear winter sets in and nobody wins.  I don't know how many games have ended this way.

    3.  Nuclear War - You get eliminated through propaganda.  No retaliatory strike.  No nothing.  Blah.

    4.  Rail Baron - The thing where if you are going back to your home city and someone can bump you.  If you don't declare with enough money, you can find yourself having to take a few more turns.

    5.  Any Crayon Rail Game - Just as things are going swimmingly for your rail network, someone has the requisite money to win.  Admittedly, if they didn't put a set money point the game could last forever.

    6.  Caylus - Just as you are about ready to build some of the cooler building, the jackass has reached the end.

    7.  Agricola - See #6.   Just as your farm is going swimmingly, the 15th turn arrives.

    8.  Mare Nostrum - This one isn't as bad because other folks are generally challenging it.  Someone will have enough stuff to build their 4 heroes or wonders.

  • I was watching the Hunt for the Red October the other night and was thinking about yet another game idea.  I'd almost want to do the thing like an old Navy game my uncles had.  It had like 4 or 5 levels.  Surface ships on the top, subs lurking underneath.  There were also little mine pieces.

    Anyways, one player is the Red October.  Another player is the Soviets.  And another is the Americans.  The object for the Red October is to get to the Americans before the Soviets find him.  The Americans are trying to find him before the Soviets.  And so on.  There may even be a track where the Soviets can try to convince the Americans sink Red October and the Red October player has to convince otherwise.

     Or the other possibility is to be set on the ship.  Make it like Battlestar Galatica.  You have one group of players trying to defect, another oblivious and just trying to run the ship and another trying to sabotage things.