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  • WoALate last year when the release of a new board game in the Dungeon & Dragons franchise was announced I was really excited. It was really good to see a company with the muscle and experience of Wizards of the Coast re-entering the board game market, and I was hoping they’d bring something new to the dungeoncrawl genre, a group of games in which I love the concept but have too often been disappointed by the execution. That game was Castle Ravenloft and this time I certainly was not disappointed. Ever since I’ve been eagerly looking forward to the followup Wrath of Ashardalon and thanks to Wizards of the Coast supplying me with a review copy, I now get a second chance to evangelize about their “adventure system”.

    This game works on the same basic rules system as its predecessor Castle Ravenloft. Indeed the basic premise of the two games is so similar that I’m going to do something a little different in this review and give a detailed rundown on what’s changed, rather than focus on the considerable merits of the system that underpins both titles. If you want the lowdown on Castle Ravenloft then basically it’s a stripped down, simple, quick-playing co-operative dungeon crawl packed with variety, narrative and excitement and just enough strategy to keep the brain engaged and it’s absolutely brilliant. If you want more then read my original Castle Ravenloft review. Wrath of Ashardalon has the same underlying mechanics but it ditches the gothic horror veneer of Ravenloft and goes instead for old-school Dungeons & Dragons. It’s packed with Orcs, Kobolds, Devils, a Beholder (a “Gauth” really but that’s splitting hairs) and of course the titular Red Dragon, Ashardalon himself.

    There are two major innovations in this newer game. The first - and least expected - is the addition of “chambers” to the dungeon stack. Chambers are basically just large rooms: if you draw the entrance tile you have to then draw between 4-6 extra tiles from a specific chamber stack which form the rough shape of a room. You then populate this using a card from a new deck of Chamber cards, either a specific one stated by the scenario or a random one that you draw from the deck. In most cases you’ll be adding a nasty boss monster plus zero or one extra in-theme monster per player. For example if you draw the orc chamber you’ll get the orc shaman boss, plus some ordinary common-or-garden orc monsters - archers and bashers - from the monster deck. The card also has a win condition that you must overcome in order to “pass” the chamber - usually just kill all the monsters - which often equates to the win condition for the adventure. These new rooms are a fantastic addition: they offer a real challenge to overcome, new tactical opportunities to explore and lend a better sense of overall thematic cohesion to the adventure. If that were not enough, just as in Castle Ravenloft the designers have really pushed the boat out when it comes to making as much variety as possible from the incredibly simple rules of the game. The chamber deck isn’t just about boss monsters: mixed in with these boilerplate encounters are some real gems such as a treasure chamber from which the heroes can desperately try and loot as much stuff as possible before the random turn when the dragon appears, and a prison cell full of stupid villagers, each with their own individual AI routine that the adventurers must try and rescue before the monstrous guards slaughter them all. These are a brilliant step up from the explore-encounter-destroy template that was the basis of nearly all the Castle Ravenloft adventures and even that basic mechanic managed to be highly entertaining. A minor niggle is that - again, just like Castle Ravenloft - the level of challenge is highly variable. Not only are some chambers much more lethal than others but the random-draw population mechanic can leave some chambers packed with horrors and others virtually bare. Also, most of the offered scenarios depend heavily on the chamber mechanic and so are perhaps a little less creative than those in Castle Ravenloft: but the chamber cards are good enough and varied enough to easily compensate for that.

    The other major addition is the long awaited campaign system that allows you to string together several adventures into a linked whole. When I first read the rules for this I was a little disappointed: rather than being a set of rules, the two campaigns in the game are actually in the scenario booklet and consist of a number of entirely random adventures with a randomly determined chamber card as the goal. However when I came to understand just how much narrative and variety the new Chamber mechanic entailed I was reassured that these were not just afterthoughts to the main game. To add to the feel of an over-arching campaign the game also offers “boons” which are one-shot improvements you gain after completing a particular adventure in the campaign, often linked to the nature of the challenge you’ve just overcome. For example, if you manage to overcome the kobold lair chamber then you earn a boon that allows you to ignore one kobold encounter in each remaining adventure in the campaign. This adds yet another thematic hook into a game already loaded with drama and narrative and ensures that the campaigns have an overarching flavour that ties all the adventures together. The sense of progression is aided not, as many had hoped, by an extension of the hero levels beyond 2nd (although heroes who’ve levelled up get to keep their extra level of course), but by changes to the treasure system. Instead of drawing treasure cards for defeating monsters, as you do in regular adventures, you draw treasure counters instead. These have a value in gold pieces and there are a few item counters mixed in for variety. At the end of the adventure you total the gold and get to go shopping: all the treasure cards have a value on them and you can spend your hard-earned gold kitting out the heroes in cool items which can then be carried between adventures. It’s a good system on the whole, with an adventure usually generating enough gold to buy one good item which adds more tactical choice to the game in terms of what to buy and who to give it to. But it also has a down side in that the treasure deck, unlike that in Castle Ravenloft, is 100% item-based and that can become very overpowered if you’re just playing regular adventures instead of a campaign. There’s a new rule about only using one defensive and one offensive item at once, but the end of one regular game can still end up looking like the aftermath of the worst Monty Haul excess you’ve ever seen. I’m a little disappointed not to see more levels available for the heroes but the treasure system does its job of adding a sense of progression and some extra tactics to the game well enough that I don’t feel it’s a major omission, and it’d be quite easy to house rule if you really wanted to.

    In addition to these two big additions there are a whole slew of minor improvements. The dungeon now contains doors, which are occasionally interesting but which are usually easily bypassed and sometimes end up opening onto walls, thanks to the random dungeon generation system. The dungeon also now boasts hallways that can lead to two tiles (and monsters) being placed at once. The powers for the five new adventurers add some more tactics to the game as they tend to be more tied up with the positioning of monsters and heroes: some require heroes to be on the same tile, others require adjacency of monsters/heroes for best effect, a couple allow you to move an adventurer or monster as part of the attack and so on and so forth. Monster behaviour is a bit more interesting with some monsters wandering off and turning over new tiles (with more monsters) for you and a boss with a highly entertaining randomly determined attack mode. The encounter deck has some new stuff, nasty curses and some really horrible and quite imaginatively varied traps. There’s a FAQ to smooth over some of the rules ambiguities and the game seems slightly more difficult to beat, no bad thing in a co-op game, and nearer the 25-33% win rate that I reckon is optimal for a good co-op. Overall there’s lots of fun new stuff but the games in the series are so closely related that I don’t think that anyone who didn’t care for Castle Ravenloft will find anything here to transform their view of the series, and it’s your loss for missing out on a fantastic game. However if you were sitting on the fence then the changes are probably - certainly should be - enough to push you off it and into your favourite game store to get a copy.

    The only serious disappointment I have with Wrath of Ashardalon is simply that the designers don’t really seem to have used much of the feedback from the previous game to improve on the basics of their design. There’s still no art on most of the cards. There are still some minor rules ambiguities (easily overcome in a co-op game). There’s still a problem with very variable difficulty depending on scenario, the adventurers chosen, and the whims of the chamber deck. To me these are all very small niggles but they seem to bother some gamers more than others. One common criticism of the original was that the base monster AI routines were not variable enough. I don’t really buy this: in both games the boss monster routines are much more complex and interesting while the base monsters behave in a more scripted manner and that’s just as it should be in my opinion. But if that bothered you about the previous game, it’s still an issue here.

    However I will confess that I was surprised to discover that there are no rules at all to help owners of both games in the series so far to link them up and make use of the two sets together. Indeed there are a number of aspects of these two otherwise tightly integrated sets of mechanics that make it a harder task than, really, it ought to be. The encounter decks from the two don’t mesh thematically as the Castle Ravenloft encounters were largely responsible for giving that game its gothic horror feel. The treasures in Castle Ravenloft don’t have a cost on them and in any case the need for Chamber cards to run a successful campaign means that the campaign rules won’t work well with Castle Ravenloft without some serious tweaking. Swapping heroes and monsters around between the two can seriously mess up the already variable balance of the game. I have no doubt that the huge fan community for these games are going to come up with a whole bunch of really exciting ways to integrate the two in the near future: I’ve already seen two very creative adventures that use both as well as a frequent suggestion to solve the overpowered treasures problem in regular Wrath of Ashardalon adventures by using the Castle Ravenloft treasure deck in non-campaign games. And after all the potential for creativity that’s inherent in the system is a huge part of its appeal and having the two games together offers players a real genuine toolbox that excites the imagination with the huge possibilities that it creates. Personally I’d love someone to come up with a competitive Descent-style variant that can use both monster decks and sets of tiles together in pre-set adventures and the fact it now looks possible is testament to just how much could potentially be done with these games. But although Wizards of the Coast have promised some combined adventures in the near future, it’s a bit of a shame that they haven’t provided some official guidelines to mesh the games in this line together out of the box and have just left it up to the players instead. Not least because it’s a lost marketing opportunity for them: as it stands however excellent the two games are I can’t see a compelling reason to own both. Hopefully it’s just a matter of time before this is remedied.

    I don’t give out top marks to a game lightly: only four games so far have earned that accolade from me, and the last one was two years ago but this game absolutely deserves to join that exclusive club. It’s simple, fast, challenging, exciting, packed from end to end with drama and narrative, totally nails that old-fashioned feeling of starting an RPG session with a fresh party and venturing into the unknown and is easily the best dungeon crawl I’ve ever played. The only bad thing I can find to say about it is that there are still some obvious areas to explore and expand where it could be even better than it already is. I was amazed to discover recently that Wizards have announced a third game in the series, Legends of Drizzit. I seriously hope it takes the opportunity to fill in those gray areas and turn this system into the totally definitive dungeon experience that it ought to be. But given that I’ve already been astonished by the creativity that the designers of Wrath of Ashardalon have employed to squeeze all that extra entertainment value out of its bare-bones rules framework, who knows what surprises the future may bring?
  • Calm down Bo and Luke, It's pronounced “Wu Way” not “Whooo Whee!”

  • "Welcome to whose conspiracy is it, anyway? Where everything is made up and the points don't matter"

  • x-wing-huge-00We’re used to seeing massively overblown adjectives in game marketing, so much that we probably tune them out automatically. But when Fantasy Flight decided to describe the new big ships for X-Wing as “Huge Ships”, and the play formats that include them “Epic” and “Cinematic”, they weren’t kidding. These things are colossal.

    Indeed the Tantive is so enormous that I actually felt embarassed getting it out and putting it on the table, as though I were some rich kid with a box of ridiculously overpriced toys flaunting it in front of his friends.

    Which I was, of course, but that just made it worse.

    It didn’t help that the Tantive is the uglier of the two models. That’s not FFG’s fault, of course, it’s down to the people who designed the ships for the film. The Rebel Transport is sleek and compact in comparison, and has a lovely assortment of multicoloured containers on its underside. Both, in common with their more modestly scaled companions, are wonderfully sculpted and painted.

    For all its clumsy looks, the Tantive is, however, arguably the more interesting ship. But before we look at that, we ought to briefly examine how these things play.

    Big ships mean big changes. These beauties have their own special movement templates, range rulers, upgrade decks and all that jazz. From a mechanical point of view there are two stand out changes. The first is that they’re treated a bit like two inter-connecting ships, with the two bases supporting each model translating to a “fore” and “aft” section, each with its own damage deck. In the case of the Tantive this is taken to the extreme of having two ship cards, each with its own upgrades.

    The other significant difference is the use of energy tokens in place of weapons. These are an extra resource, accumulated each turn depending on maneuver selection. They can be spent on various interesting things like replacing shields, automatic evade results and perhaps most interestingly granting a free action to nearby friendly ships. The choice of what to spend these on – or, indeed whether to hoard them – is always deliciously difficult.

    Yet however much they bring to the game, it needs to be set against the additional burden of rules and token-fiddling required to implement them. The simplicity of X-Wing was one of its joys, and it already required quite a lot of cardboard juggling, so these aren’t welcome changes. I won’t be using these ships every game.

    Doubly so because the rules make it very clear that they’re not for every-game use. You’re supposed to either stick with the included scenarios that come with the ships, or use them in “epic play” format. Both require larger than the normal three-foot square play area, needing either four by three or six by three depending on the scenario.

    The scenarios in each box can be played individually, or linked together to make a campaign. While some of the scenarios felt a bit long, mostly these are fun, well designed and don’t suffer too much from the rich-get-richer problem that plagues a lot of campaign rules tacked on to what were originally stand-alone games. Both are very good, but I thought the Tantive campaign was the better of the two simply because the rules are less convulted. Also, as I said before, the Tantive is just a more entertaining ship to run.

    The reason is very simple: the Tantive is a proper combat ship, while the Rebel Transport is purely a support vessel. It has limited offensive capapbilities from one upgrade, the Slicer Tool, which allows it to do 1 damage to nearby ships with stress tokens, and the transport can burn energy to inflict stress on enemy vessels. It can also wipe out small ships simply by crashing into them, a surprisingly common occurance on a tight board with players used to the forgiving nature of the standard overlap rules.

    The Tantive can do that too, however. And it can also field guns. Lots of guns. Lots of big, heavy guns.

    Part of me would love to pretend that the fascinating tactical opportunities offered by the Rebel Transport were the best thing about the huge ships. And they are pretty neat: with the right upgrades you can use the Transport as a fire sponge, repair damage, even remove stress and target lock tokens from friendly ships. But I’m too shallow for that. overwhelming firepower was what I always felt was missing from the X-Wing game, and overwhelming firepower is what the Tantive gives you.

    There’s no better showcase for this than the first scenario in the Tantive line-up which pits the single behemoth against a swarm of six TIE fighters. I didn’t have six TIE fighters and subbed other TIE models instead, and it was still amazing. This is what X-Wing was made for, nimble fighters zipping back and forth across a sluggish colossus as it tries to smash them with turret-mounted turbolasers and quad cannons and all the other cool stuff that comes in the box.

    I don’t dount that FFG know this perfectly well, and put a premium price tag on the Tantive as a result. But both ships are fantastic additions to the X-Wing lineup, even only to see them drifting serenely across the starry void amongst your tiny fighters. If you’re a regular X-Wing player, you need one of these, and if the Transport makes more monetary sense, you can be sure of being very happy with your purchase.

  • Recently, I started playing X-Wing against someone who really knew their Star Wars. They knew that Howlrunner was a female pilot, and where the YT-2400 freighter originated from in the expanded universe. They also told me something interesting: that the Hutts and their criminal networks were a faction equal in power to the Rebels of the Empire. What looked like a footnote in the films was actually a major player in the galaxy.

  • Ever since I first saw the astonishing detail of an X-Wing model, all I've wanted from the game was cool ships copied from cool films. That well ran dry within three waves of expansions. So, as the game as continued to sell, the publisher has mined Star Wars trivia for new ships to flog. A lot of them were fun to run but they didn't scratch that core itch. They just weren't quite Star Wars.

  • mil-falcon.jpgIf an evil genius were to invent a machine to suck money directly from the bank accounts of gamers, it’d look a lot like the X-Wing miniatures game. If he were to go back and tinker with it, seeking to make to terrifyingly irresistible, and add the power to suck in non-gaming Star Wars fans too, it’d look a lot like the wave 2 miniature releases.

    There are four new ships to add to your collections. The Empire gets Boba Fett’s Slave-1 and the four-cannon TIE interceptor while the Rebels resist them with the A-Wing fighter and, of course, the one we’ve all been waiting for: the Millenium Falcon.

    I must admit I passed on Slave-1. Ever since I was a small boy, watching Empire Strikes Back on the cinema screen in slack-jawed amazement, I always thought it looked ugly and ungainly. And as a big ship, it’s pretty pricey. I’ll probably pick it up at some point for all the usual, tedious, nerdy reasons: completeness and a cool-sounding scenario. But for now you get reviews of the other three.

    We’ll start with the lone Imperial ship that remains: the TIE interceptor. It only featured briefly in the original trilogy films so, unsurprisingly, you don’t get any big-name pilots or upgrades. What you do get is an astonishingly flexible ship. It’s a TIE fighter with an extra attack dice, and a new “boost” feature which allows you to make a 1-length straight or banking move after it’s normal move.

    Think about that a moment. It’s still got the TIE barrel roll ability, alongside its speed and agility rating. It might be fragile without shields, but It’s a hard ship to pin down into a firing arc, never mind actually hit. And as long as it survives that extra firing dice ensures it can dish it right back to its tormentors. The mere existence of this ship should be warning to Rebel commanders to pack more missiles.

    Not being a huge Star Wars nerd, I’m confused as to why the wave 1 TIE ships were pale gray, but the interceptor is dark blue. Otherwise you’ll know what to expect from another figure using the basic TIE chassis.

    Oddly, while the Imperial side gets a fighter that’s approaching the terms of an X-Wing in terms of firepower and utility, the Rebels get the equivalent of a TIE fighter in the A-Wing. To my astonishment it’s actually slightly more maneuverable than the Imperial mainstays, having the same dial but with one extra green action. It has shields, but only two, and a paltry hull at the same value.

    Continuing with the similarities, it can’t barrel roll but it has the same boost ability as the Interceptor, which is almost as useful, and it has the same agility value. But unlike most imperial ships the A-Wing can carry missiles. Given it’s relatively cheap point cost, loading these things up with warheads and unleashing first-attack hell looks like a viable strategy.

    The model for this is so tiny that I actually felt slightly cheated by the price when I first saw it. But of course a few gram of plastic isn’t going to make any meaningful different. And it’s actually a really lovely little thing with an amazingly detailed paint job for a pre-painted figure.

    Anyway, these are both valuable additions to the game. At first I was worried that there might be a problem with power creep here: the TIE interceptor is superior to the basic TIE for not a lot more, and the A-Wing isn’t hugely underpowered compared to other Rebel ships for a quite a lot less.

    But the costs do seem to work out when they’re actually on the table. What’s rather more dispiriting is that both these ships seemed tailor-made to be used en masse. Interceptors, fragile but packing a powerful punch, are going to draw massive fire if used in ones or twos. A-Wings on the other hand look be used like a skirmish screen or as a swarm, both requiring multiple models. Could get expensive.

    Speaking of which we have yet, of course, to talk about the big ship. The Millennium Falcon. And it is big. Palm-sized. And hugely detailed to match. It’s a feast for the eyes. And since it packs pretty much every remaining famous name in the genre amongst its pilots: Han, Chewbacca, Lando - Luke Skywalker is even in there as a crew upgrade - it feels utterly essential if you’ve bought into the base game.

    There’s a fair amount of brand new stuff to look at in the box for this as well. In addition to the expected slew of upgrades the Falcon brings with it some new concepts. It has crew upgrades, so you can have Han in the cockpit, Luke on the guns and Chewie repairing the engines all at the same time. There are also new title cards which you can apply to specific ships to mimic something from the film: in this case a “Millenium Falcon” title to apply to basic freighter which helps make it more like the fastest hunk of... oh, you know.

    So you know you’re going to end up getting one anyway. But what’s a bit unfortunate about the Falcon, and indeed all three of the ships I looked at in this new wave expansion, is that they’re just not that different from what’s already there. I’ve already made an explicit comparison between TIE fighters and the A-Wing. The TIE Interceptor is the Imperial equivalent of an X-Wing. And the Falcon is probably the worst offender of all being very much like a souped-up Y-Wing, even down to the circular firing arc.

    It’s sad, but pretty much inevitable given the simple rules framework of the base game which is an essential part of its accessibility and appeal. Instead it feels to me like the real strength in these new Wave 2 additions is actually the cards. The upgrades, missiles, modifications and of course the unique pilot skills on offer. The amount of choice in the system to build you 100 point squad has now reached hugely impressive levels, with enormous amounts of variety you can recombine together to try and get a new tactical edge.

    It’s a phenomenon, X-Wing. A buildable miniatures game that’s just sucked in people across the geek spectrum for all sorts of different reasons. And so far there seems little reason to imagine that it’s going to let them go anytime soon.

  • Seven waves on from the original phenomenon that is x-wing, it's getting harder and harder to differentiate the releases. The ships from the films are all long on the table. Every faction has a ship in every role, from waspish light fighters to heavy bombers. What is there here to make wave 7 unique and exciting?


     

    Size, that's what. 

    All these ships seem huge. The Hound's Tooth is an enormous, elongated, clumsy thing. Oddly endearing in its distinct colours and tooth decals, like a bumbling Rottweiler puppy. The TIE Punshier looks like someone stacked two TIE bombers on top of each other. The K-Wing suggests someone squeezed a Large ship into a standard size blister, just for a joke.

    The other unifying factor is that two ships are for the new Scum & Villainy faction. Not surprising seeing as they have some catching up to do in terms of force selection. 

    One is the only ship we haven't mentioned so far, the Kihraxz Fighter, belongs to this faction. Aside from having a name that sounds like a sneeze, there's little of  especial interest here. It looks, sounds and plays a lot like an X-Wing, only for the Scum faction. If Scum players want a medium fighter, now they have one.

    It does have some nice upgrades, though. Glitterstim is particularly sweet, a one-shot card that allows you to change all your focus tokens to hits or evades, as you prefer. The Scum already have lots of fun, flavourful and flexible upgrades. Here's another: you can just imagine scum pilots slamming down illegal narcotics as they fly.

    The other Scum ship is the Hound's Tooth, an extra-big big ship to give you an option besides the IG-88. The stats and dial are nothing to write home about, although having three crew slots allows for some fun combinations. The draw here is all about pilots and titles.

    Bossk, the owner of the canonical Hound's Tooth, can swap critical hits for two normal hits. Not only is this super useful but it dovetails with several other upgrades. The Mangler Cannon, for instance, allows you to turn one of them straight back into a crit.

    He goes alongside the Hound's Tooth title card. This lets you deploy a Z-95 in place of the freighter if the big ship gets destroyed. One Headhunter isn't the most useful ship but the upgrade only costs six points and is funny as hell. And there's the issue: Bossk, a cannon and that title will be the default payload every time this hits the table. Still, it's tremendously entertaining in spite of being predictable.

    The Imperial TIE Punisher is not particularly interesting in itself. It's a slightly better version of the TIE Bomber. The real draw here is in the upgrade card Extra Munitions. For the 2 point cost of this one upgrade, a ship get to use its entire payload of bombs, missiles and torpedoes twice.

    This is a very obvious sticking plaster for the limited value of these weapons. Clunky it may be, but it's also very effective. In addition it should encourage the use of specialist weapon-carrying ships - like the TIE Punisher for instance - over fighters armed with a single missile. That seems thematically appropriate.

    You can get another copy of that card from the K-Wing expansion. Which is appropriate because the K-Wing is supposed to fill the same sort of a role as a heavy bomber. At first glance it looks a lot like a Y-Wing with some extra munition pod slots. And we all know how popular the sluggish, clumsy Y-Wing is in Rebel fleets.

    However, the K-Wing has a brand new upgrade, called SLAM. SLAM changes everything. 

    It allows the pilot to perform a second maneuver from the dial at the same speed as the one selected, right afterwards. The catch is that you can't attack that turn, but that feels like a minor detail. With SLAM you can move a heavy figher up to six distance in one round. Or four distance with two hard turns. The maneuver range is insane. It's just a shame that there's no equivalent of the K-turn on the dial. Not least because of the lost opportunities for alliteration.

    I have mixed feelings about this. Mostly, it's great. It makes the ship highly unpredictable and encourages imaginative maneuver on the table. Anything that gets the "game" in X-Wing out of list planning and in to actual play has to be a good thing.

    On the other hand, it can lead to torturous endgames with slower ships pointlessly pursuing a K-Wing round the table. This isn't good for the Rebels, since the limited maneuver dial of the K-Wing makes it hard not to fly off the table eventually. But it is a massive anti-climax.

    This wave, on the whole, is not an anti-climax. Having strayed a long way from original trilogy ships, FFG deserve some credit for keeping these new designs fresh and fun. The K-Wing and Hound's Tooth feel pretty essential: the TIE Punisher and Kihraxz less so. The question is, if we're at a fifty-fifty success rate for releases with three new movies with new ships coming up, how long can they keep it up?

  • When I first started playing X-Wing, I made a vow. That vow was to never own or run a ship that wasn't featured in the original trilogy. Vows are made to be broken, of course, and tempted by interesting builds and special offers, I broke this one a long time ago. What's perhaps more interesting is how much Wave 8 made me enjoy breaking it.

  • The first time I took delivery of X-Wing ships, their quality just blew me away. Over nine full waves and the odd side release, we've become bored by perfection. Cracking open the clamshell on this batch, assembling dials and storing away the models felt almost mechanical. Then I sat down to makes some lists to test them out. It took two hours to make one competitive fleet for each of the three factions. Two hours I could have spent playing instead.

  • Everyone knew X-Wing was going to see some new expansions to TIE in (gettit?) with The Force Awakens. But I, for one, wasn't expecting to see it quite so soon, nor in the form of a new starter set. Releasing a new base box for all the new fans makes sense. The speed of the release less so.

  • X-X-X-Xia.

  • In which Yie Ar Kung Fu is referenced.

  • I'm not sure you can review Yellow & Yangtze without at least mentioning Tigris & Euphrates, so I'm not even going to attempt it. Both are designed by Reiner Knizia , both center around twin rivers and they share a majority of concepts and mechanisms. I am by no means aTigris & Euphrates aficionado: I'm more of a peripheral player. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my plays, I adored the strategy but I had to be honest with myself, it was always going to be a game that I played another person's copy of. I was simply never going to get it to the table with my core group on a consistent basis.

  • YomiNo need to ramble on about it, everything I want to say is in the review here at Gameshark.com.

  • I knew of David Sirlin from his presence in the Street Fighter scene long before he started making board games.  He used to post on alt.games.sf2, where I lurked back in the day and occasionally cracked wise.  He was mildly famous for winning a few good-sized tournaments back in the 90s, and he's still pretty good, although not a top contender.  My involvement in the scene was never that active, but I usually keep an eye on it for nostalgia's sake.  When I heard he was moving into the analog design space I was quite intrigued -- and now, after a couple of warm-ups, he's finally released his main design, Yomi.  Yomi is a fixed-deck, non-customizable card game that is designed to replicate the mental side of video fighting games like Street Fighter, Virtua Fighter, and so on.  But how can a card game replicate this?  Well....

  • Today's review is more of a precautionary tale, a sort of How Not To Kickstarter. Unfortunately, given the number of people who are willing to throw money at anything that passes by like a rich kid in a titty bar, this precautionary tale is likely to send the wrong message, because this one is probably going to reach its goal and thereby bring into existence yet another crappy game.


  • If we were to classify games like boxers, based on weight, I think that Intrigue might win the award for the most conniving game in its class. It forces the player to make endless promises to get ahead, and then it makes you break at least some of those promises, trampling on the needs and desires of your fellow players. My friends and I have joked that you lose a little bit of your soul every time you play, and there are moments when I’ve felt genuinely guilty for what the game is requiring of me. I would only ever play it with people who were willing to leave all grudges at the game table, and even then I might be more selective than usual.

  • The tagline from Alien told us that in space no one can hear you scream.  Ascending Empires tells us that screaming isn't the only thing that no one will hear:  In space no one will hear you when you try to explain that the spaceship you just flicked into their orbit got there purely by accident.  You had no intention on going anywhere near them, and that you didn't mean to hit that planet that ricocheted your ship right into the heart of their sector of space.  Yes, Ascending Empires has reminded me of this cruel fact over and over again, and that any such "accident" will be treated as nothing short of an act of all-out war.

  • RPGs are great fun. I honestly think that some of the funniest nights of my life have been with my friends, playing an RPG. They don’t deserve the label they have as a dorky past-time, consisting of various Asperger’s sufferers hiding in Mum’s basement pushing a lead dragon around. As I’ve said many times, I don’t understand how an activity that requires social interaction can be called sad, when sitting at home playing on your X-Box isn’t.