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  • Arcane Blaster Casters - Kickstarter Preview

    Creation is a powerful motivation for playing games: creation of story, of fun, of moments of drama, tension, victory and defeat. There is something primal in the creative act, it speaks to times spent away from the hubbub of the world, quietly making something merely because you want to, not because it has any intrinsic monetary value. I love games that allow me to create something, to have a story to emerge as I play and it is that creation that is at the heart of Arcane Blaster Casters, the debut game from Battle Boar Games.

  • Arcane Legions - Almost a Miniatures Game

    Arcane LegionsI've been writing hack game reviews at Drake's Flames for a couple years now, and last week The Fortress asked me if I would like to do a weekly spot here. Since I'm a total whore for attention, I graciously accepted. And since I'm an unoriginal bastard, for my first piece, I just reworked a game review I wrote a month ago. You can read the original here, if you have too much time on your hands:

    Arcane Legions Review at Drake's Flames

    So to stop pimping my own site and contribute to this one, here's a review of Arcane Legions. I'll spoil the ending for you - it's fun.


     As the title suggests, I like ARCTIC SCAVENGERS a lot.

  • Are you a Robot? Board Game Review

    Putting the microchip in micro games.

  • Argent: The Consortium (and expansion) in Review

    Be True to Your School.

  • Arkham Horror The Card Game: the greatest deck construction introduction of all time… if you can get there.

    Arkham Horror The Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games is the best deck construction/deck building game I have played; no small feat because I find most of the biggest card games in the genre to be completely impenetrable and intimidating. It is also probably the most difficult game to get into that I have, nevertheless, grown to like, presenting a wholly deceptive façade as a light “experience” adventure game when it is actually an exceptionally hardcore product. Arkham Horror CG a bit like a jewel locked behind multiple layers of elaborate security: security guards, electronic locks, heat sensors, the whole bit. If you can get through the tall walls standing in your way, it has an enormous amount to offer. But getting there is not easy and is, in practice, also staggeringly expensive.

  • Arkham Horror: Curse of the Dark Pharaoh - Board Game Expansion Review

    Game expansions are generally created for one of two reasons. First, they exist to extend the value of the original game and give players more enjoyment out of their initial game investment. Whether an expansion adds new stories, new mechanics, or new options, players can get more fun out of games that had grown stale and begun to be boring.

  • Arkham Horror: The Card Game Review

    You'd have thought there was only so much Lovecraft that gamers could stomach. Yet, year after, year release schedules continue to put a lie to that presumption. Arkham Horror: The Card Game, though, promises to be different. At night, in dreams, eldritch horrors whispered in my ear that it was new and exciting. At dawn, zombie-like, I staggered out under their baleful influence to secure and play a copy.


  • Ascension: Delirium

    If there’s one thing that never ceases to amaze me in Ascension, it’s the innovation that keeps emerging after 13 sets. The latest standalone expansion, Delirium, does what Ascension does best: reinvigorates some old mechanics while adding a few new trappings. I was trepidatious about these new features, especially after the previous release being rather lackluster, but it turns out that the Stoneblade team knows better than me.

  • Ascension: Deliverance Board Game Review

    Everyone loves trilogies. Lord of Rings. Star Wars. Fifty Shades of Grey. You know, the classics. Deliverance is the third in the Insight trilogy of Ascension games, giving you something new, something borrowed, and something Pasythea. How does Insight play out in this version? Let’s start with the latter.

  • At the Bottom of the Garden - Gnome Grown Review

    I recently conducted an interview with Ellie Dix and I wanted to dive into her designs wearing my critics hat (well swim hat I guess if we are going to continue the metaphor). As I mentioned in the interview, Ellie was kind enough to send me a Buzzlebox for review back in 2020, and with one thing and another I have only recently had the chance to properly give the games inside a good shake.

  • ATTACK! is back, not wack, give it a crack

  • Attack! Or Don't! Just quit yelling at me! - Attack! Review

    attackAs a writer (an amateur, of course, and a total hack, but still a writer), I have a pretty serious grammatical complaint. This may not bother a lot of people, but it bothers me, because it poses difficulties if I have any intent to adhere to the rules of the written language. The complaint I have is about punctuation. Specifically, my complaint is with games whose titles end in an exclamation mark.

  • Augustus Review

    augustus-smallYou might pick up a game clearly emblazoned with the legend "Rise of Augustus" expecting a wargame about the final wars of the Roman Republic. But you'll have been cruelly fooled: the game is actually just called Augustus and is a light family Eurogame that casts you as assistants to the first emperor, controlling provinces and senators through the distribution of resources. Quite how the "Rise of" got tacked on to the English edition is beyond me.

    You might also expect a game that comes in a box the size of the original Arkham Horror to be packed with a similar amount of heady cardboard goodness. And in a sense, there is, in the form of a truly colossal box insert to stop the few components rattling around. That's a little unfair since the game is hardly expensive, but it's annoying to have something taking up so much shelf space unnecessarily, just to store two sheets of tokens, a deck of cards, a few wooden meeples and a score pad. And it has to be said that the stylised art is wonderful.

    Put all these things together and you get a game based heavily on cheap-ass gambler's favourite bingo. Indeed if you read critical comment on the game elsewhere you'll see it attracts a surprising amount of venom for daring to be so mainstream. This is also unfair. Not only because the fact it's mainstream means the game is directly simple and accessible, but also because the designer has gone to considerable pains to spice up the old classic with a generous dash of modern gaming.

    For starters you're trying to match symbols drawn out of a bag rather than numbers. That might sound like a thin veneer of theme, and it is, but it also means the odds are weighted more in favour of some symbols than others. Instantly, there is light strategy: you get a choice of objectives in the form of senator and province cards, each with a different mix of symbols needed for completion, so players need to spread their bets according to the likelihood of the draw. But there's another catch. Rather than simply marking off every matched symbol as it comes up, you only get seven legion pieces for the job and so must focus on certain objectives over others in order to complete a card and free some legions.

    Further opportunities for strategy exist in scoring. Objectives are worth hugely variable amounts of points, with easier cards worth less meaning clever players can adapt their style to focus on quicker or slower objectives depending on who else is playing. But many don't have a fixed value but are instead calculated on other factors. How many of a certain symbol there are on the cards you've won, for instance, or the number of provinces of a certain colour that you complete. In addition there are some bonus tiles for the first player to reach certain goals, like collecting three Senator cards or the first to six overall.

    Okay, so it's hardly demanding. But that's part of the charm of the game. It's incredibly accessible, desperately easy to pick up and play being based on a culturally familiar game furnished with appealing art and a few extra rules and taking less than thirty minutes to complete. That makes it a superb family game. Everyone in mine liked it a great deal, even people normally resistant to games. In fact, playing Augustus made me realise that many of the other titles people had seemed to enjoy like Carcassonne and Kingdom Builder had largely been merely tolerated. My seven-year old daughter loved it so much that she asks for it constantly and is refusing to play anything else.

    In some respects, that's a surprise. There are elements to Augusts that don't fit well with the stereotypical family game. It can, for example, occasionally get quite nasty. Many of the objective cards, in addition to scoring points, also have a special power. Most of these are fairly innocent, such as giving a player some free legion placements, or an extra objective draw, but a few are directly interactive, forcing other players to remove legions or even completed objectives. Hardly a recipe for group harmony.

    In addition there are bonus tiles for the player with the most objectives that produce gold and wheat. I say "most" but in fact as soon as someone draws level on production count, they can take the tile away from the player who currently has it. It's an odd mechanic, this. Not only is it potentially upsetting for a young or casual player, but it can terribly imbalancing. There aren't many objectives with gold or wheat on them, so often the first player lucky enough to grab one gets the bonus points, and it can be decisive in determining a winner. And when the game is over, there's an annoying period of score toting rather than an immediate winner, which is rarely a crowd pleaser for non-gamers.

    And yet the evidence is clearly that Augustus works as family fare. Not only from my own household, but from the testaments of other players and the fact it got nominated for this year's Spiel des Jahres. So, given the huge appeal, why isn't it sat at the top of every gamer's family-friendly collection?

    The answer, sadly, is because it doesn't work all that well as a gamer's game. Essentially it's far too lightweight, but neither thematic nor exciting enough to compensate. And it has a number of features that can actually make it actively annoying if played with people inclined to take games too seriously. Players who want to win will do well to keep a close eye on what other people are collecting to try and deny them the opportunity to collect bonus cards. In reality that means frequent pauses while everyone looks over everyone else's objectives. And the really competitive will be motivated to do things like try and track everyone's scores as the game goes along, which slows it down to a snail's pace of excruciating tedium.

    But if you can keep things clipping along at a fair pace, though, it can be fun. And as a gamers, there's immense pleasure to be had from owning a title that can draw family members together so effectively and let you watch them enjoying themselves so thoroughly with your favourite hobby. But really, deep down, I think I'd rather they went back to Kingdom Builder and Carcassonne instead. 

  • Automobiles Racing Season Review

    The best expansions don't just improve or fix their base games, they let you see them in a new light. That's what I was hoping from the racing seasons in this Racing Season expansion for Automobiles. Its parent title has been my sleeper hit for the past two years. While other games have peaked and gone, Automobiles is still lapping round for regular plays. It might not need the fresh coat of an expansion, but some go-faster stripes would be nice.

  • Auztralia Board Game Review

    Cthulhu Down Under: Where Old Ones grow and men shudder.

  • Avast Ye Gamers - Merchants & Marauders Review

    The smell of the salt breeze. The creak of rigging in the air. You’re in sight of the port of Tobago, when you see a ship off in the distance, on an intercept course. Word from the crows-nest is that the ship has run up the fleur-de-lis. The French Navy! You order the crew to man their stations and load the cannons. As the larger ship draws closer, volleys of fire are exchanged, shattering masts and shredding sails. All at once, grappling hooks sail from the enemy ship. They’re trying to board! As the enemy pours onto your ship, your crew fights to the last man. Will you survive long enough to protect your precious gold and valuable cargo?

  • Azul Board Game in Review

    Azul is all about using beautiful Spanish tiles to create a wall design. That subject matter may not be the most evocative or exciting (unless you're abnormally enamored with décor), but it doesn't matter. The game is basically an abstract title with pretty pieces. But it does demonstrate how exceptional and fulfilling a game can be even without an interesting setting.

  • Azul Board Game Review

    Azul sits out on the shelf, because there are too many games and I can't find anywhere to put it away. Elder daughter arrives home and seizes on it with a level of enthusiasm only a pre-teen can muster. "OH my GOD that is the MOST GORGEOUS game I have EVER SEEN!". There is a pause. "What is it?"

    I explain it's a game about tiling walls. Her enthusiasm cools noticeably. But we play it anyway.

  • Back in Black: Inis-Seasons of Inis Board Game Expansion Review

    The Seasons of Inis expansion, as seems to be tradition with the Madagot Trilogy, is presented in modules, giving you the option of adding and removing portions of the expansion material as you see fit. Five total modules are included and I've broken them down by my order of preference: