Cardboard Children – Rab’s Top 50: Breakdown 3

By Robert Florence on May 20th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Hello youse.

Let’s break down last week’s Top 50 entries. Are you watching my video series? I hope so, for your sake. I’ll kill you is what I’m saying! I’ll actually cut you! I’m enjoying doing the videos. In fact – after the list is done, I might try to do a video every four weeks or so – maybe I’ll focus on one game and dig down into it. We’ll see. Anyway – THE BREAKDOWN!!

30-21 THE BREAKDOWN

30 – BREAK THE SAFE

It annoys me that a game as good as Break The Safe is out of print. It’s the perfect game for a mum and dad to play with their kids. Four players, every game 20-30 minutes maximum GUARANTEED. There’s an electronic “safe” that sits in the centre of the board, and the board is a big bank vault. The players need to search the facility for four keys. The keys will be hidden under plastic tiles – some of these will be blank. Some will SHOCK and STUN the player. All of them will be trapped in some way. Each player has cards that will disarm the traps, so there’s an element of sharing and teamwork to make sure you have the cards you need to grab the key. One tile will be protected by a big heavy weight, and two players need to lift it. So there’s always that co-op thing going on. Complicating matters are a security guard and a guard dog. These patrol the base, moving in a set pattern. If you get caught, you get jailed. And then another player has to reach the security room to free you. And all of this is against the clock. After a set time, the safe’s alarms will activate. Great, right? Try to grab this game wherever you can find it. It’s great for families, great for kids, and great for four drunk adults. Believe me, I know.

29 – SURVIVE! ESCAPE FROM ATLANTIS

The classic game of a sinking island and throwing your friends and loved ones into the throat of a shark. You can read my brilliant review of the game right here. I stand by every word of that review. This is one of those evergreen games. It never gets dull, because every time you sit down you have an opportunity to ignite old rivalries and take revenge on your enemies. You can play it to win, sure, but you can also play it like a madman. An island psycho, focused on sailing boats full of innocent people into the face of a sea monster. It’s a game that will teach your children how to deal with being betrayed, and how to get revenge on a low-down bastard. Essential essential essential.

28 – COMMANDS AND COLORS SYSTEM

Yeah, yeah, I know this entry on the list is kinda cheaty. But how do you separate these games, really? Commands & Colors, Memoir ’44, Battlelore, Battles of Westeros, Abaddon – all these games operate under a version of Richard Borg’s excellent light-wargame system. There’s a map laid with hexagons, a whole load of units, and a hand of cards. The cards allow you to order some of your units some of the time. One card might let you order all units on your left flank. Another card might allow you to order one unit on either flank. So there’s hand management, and then some simple dice-rolling resolution for attacks. Those are the basics. Beyond those basics you’ll find all the versatility that the system can provide. My personal favourite is probably Battles of Westeros – simply because it forces you to make good use of your commanders. It’s a far less forgiving game than the rest. I think Battlelore 2nd Edition might soon steal my heart, though. It’s like a big toy box – lots of units, lots of possible scenarios, lots of powers and skills. ALL of this stuff is worth checking out. I love it.

My Battlelore 2nd Edition review.

My Abaddon review.

Some stuff on Battles of Westeros.

27 – SUPER DUNGEON EXPLORE

Yeah. Look at that title for starters. What an excellent name for a game. Super. YES. Dungeon. YES. Explore. YES!

Loads of plastic miniatures in this one. And all of them are BEAUTIFUL. Gorgeous things. All in the video game style. Because that’s really what this game is. It’s an arcade dungeon-crawl video game on a table. One player is the bad guy, spawning lots of monsters from the spawn points. The other players are heroes, running through the dungeon, killing things, destroying spawn points and powering up. It’s a stripped down, muscular board game. Really solid rules, really solid theming, and it’s just a joy to roll dice and see hearts and potions popping everywhere. There’s an argument that the game isn’t as much fun if you’re not a video gamer and not getting that nice Gauntlet vibe from it. Maybe that’s true, I dunno. The nostalgia kick is definitely an element of the game’s appeal. But I think it stands up, regardless. THAT’S WHY I PUT IT ON MY LIST, DUMMY.

They even did a Kickstarter recently for a new addition to the game which – WAIT, THEY RAISED HOW MUCH???

26 – AGE OF EMPIRES III

This game, yo. I reviewed it, so go read.

An older game. There have been many games since. And yet Age of Empires III still hangs in, like a big beautiful monkey hanging from the most fun branch of the awesome tree. It’s a Eurogame, pure and simple, but it’s living proof that a Eurogame doesn’t need to be as dry as a fuckin’ bone. You can SLAUGHTER your opponents’ settlers, my goodness.

This should probably be higher on my list.

25 – BLOOD BOWL: TEAM MANAGER

Here’s my link to my review of this beauty – you’ll also find a review of Blood Bowl itself in there too. Which is my number 21. So…

Hey, this is a very original card game. Really hard to explain in video form. Hard to sum up in a couple of sentences. There’s something really clever about how the game works. Players playing out “highlights” from a match? That’s smart. Each little nugget of gameplay focusing on key “moments” from a season? Very clever. It sells the notion that you’re managing and developing a team, and yet keeps everything really tight and small and crunchy.

(Can’t use “crunchy” any more.)

This is one of the most “exciting” games on the list. The game holds onto a slight random factor throughout. That makes it feel like sport, right? Skill and luck, baby. Skill and luck.

24 – HEROSCAPE

Poor, lost Heroscape. The dream product. A big game-toy. A big build it yourself Lego-style game-toy action-figure game-thing. I’d love to see Heroscape make some kind of comeback. The only downside to this game is that it takes up a LOT of room. Big giant plastic tiles, lots of wee plastic men – if you have a big collection of this stuff, it’s going to take up a lot of space in your tiny little cupboard-sized flat in London. Luckily I live in Scotland, where it’s all still castles and forts, so I can fling Heroscape everywhere.

Look, there are better squad-based battle games than Heroscape. But none of them push the “I AM PLAYING WITH A TOY” buttons as much as Heroscape does. Just pure fun. Total fun.

I pray that you find it in a charity shop someday soon.

23 – CAVERNA

I recently reviewed Caverna. In fact, I recently gave it Game of the Year for 2013. A big Eurogame is my game of 2013? What witchery is this?

Here’s the deal – if you’re going to give me a Eurogame, do not give me that “point salad” shit. Don’t give me a box full of mechanics that I need to fiddle with to score some points. Give me a GAME to play. Give me something FUN to do. When I want to relax with a board game, I want to have fun enjoying some play time. I don’t want to do my fucking math homework.

Caverna gives me a game. It gives me a bunch of mechanics too, sure. And an opportunity to score points, sure. But it lets me build a farm. It lets me do some mining. It lets me make a little house inside a cave. It lets me build whatever rooms I want. It lets me breed animals. It lets me feel like I’m actually doing something other than scoring points. It lets me do a fun thing, and if I do that fun thing well I will be rewarded with some points. That’s how to do it.

Caverna is how to do it.

22 – X-WING MINIATURES GAME

Man, I love Star Wars. I could quote it all day long.

“Well shot, son! That was one in a billion!”

The X-Wing Minis game is the game I would dream about when I was ten years old. Little X-Wings and TIE Fighters, all under my control, all on my table, all operating as a game. And a game that is brilliant and fun. Not a game that’s just “good enough”. A game that is brilliant and fun.

“These are not the robots you’re searching for.”

Yes, I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and that’s part of the reason why this game works for me. But I think I’d love it regardless. It just works so well! Read my review, why don’t you.

“What is that curious smell you’ve encountered?”

The game continues to excite. Lots of new releases, lots of new ships, a giant REBEL TRANSPORT. My goodness. I guarantee you’ll have good times with this game, and even a Starter Set is enough to have fun with. Go. Try it.

“And may the force be in you.”

21 – BLOOD BOWL

If you measure a game on coolness alone, Blood Bowl is a 10. It’s two teams, on a pitch, with a brilliant set of rules for a game that resembles American Football. And then all the cool shit gets flung on top. Attacking each other, mauling each other, killing each other. Special abilities. Wizards casting fireballs from the bench. Crowd invasions.

It’s as if some people sat down and said “Let’s make the coolest fucking game ever.”

Do you want your own team? Sure. Get some miniatures, they’re yours. You want them to develop over time? There are rules for that. Do you want to play full seasons? There are rules for that. Do you want to make new signings? Rules for that. Do you want your players to age and die? Rules for that too.

And then, on the pitch, always a solid and fair game. Risk and reward. Do you risk that pass? Risk a turnover at this point in the game? Do you – YOU DID IT!!!

Jumping up at the table, screaming with joy.

Individual players become stars. You love them.

You name them.

They live.

They win.

They die.

They actually die.

BLOOD BOWL, KID.

NEXT WEEK

Top 20 time! The reveal of 20-11!

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21 Comments »

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  1. rocketman71 says:

    I’d exchange #22 for Wings of Glory / Wings of War. FFG stole their design shamelessly.

    • udat says:

      I think when you say “stole” you mean “licensed”.

      Edit: Yeah ignore me, I was thinking of Attack Wing, which is licensed from FFG.

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      Aerothorn says:

      Let’s jump 10 posts ahead in this debate and go straight to the source. See Christian Peterson’s post in this thread:

      http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/682755/demoed-today-at-gencon

      Also see “http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/8593/wreckage” which is a FFG game that predates Wings of War and includes most of X-wing’s mechanics (many of which are NOT included in Wings of War).

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      Aerothorn says:

      And, once we’ve read those, let’s agree that the rhetoric of “theft” is really silly when applied to game design, as if games weren’t iterative and there was any game under the sun that didn’t borrow mechanics from another. “Your game involves placing workers! You ripped off Caylus!”

  2. GamerDad says:

    I envy your ability to regularly assemble enough people to go through 50 separate board games in one lifetime. I need to befriend fellow nerds.

    • rexx.sabotage says:

      GamerDad of Landmarkian fame?

      I commiserate with your envy. I have never realized that there were board games other than the typical Monopoly fodder you find in anyone’s dusty closet. Rab has enraptured me with his passionate descriptions of mystifying experiences I never knew existed.

      I feel like I am missing something in my life now, something crunchy. It’s Caverna, for sure.

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      Martel says:

      Have you tried? I thought the same thing but because of Rab’s articles I started buying games anyway. I finally got the nerve to invite over some non-nerdy folk to play games. Guess what? They all love it, including my wife who really wanted nothing to do with it.

      Every group will differ, but I feel like an open invitation of food (and alcohol if that’s your/their thing) with no pressure and a game like Ticket to Ride has been very successful for me. Granted, free food and a table big enough to play on aren’t something that everybody has, but it only takes one good night to rope them all in.

      • Duke of Chutney says:

        i’d concur with this. You can get non-nerds to play boardgames as long as they are lighter to mid weight fair and not too nerdy theme’d. Survive, in Rabs list above, is a great game for this, and actually games like Caverna and Agricola aren’t too bad (with a small group, like 3 peoples). The main thing to remember with play games with people who don’t do this often is to pick games they can relate too, i.e. make sure the game has a board you move bits around on and isn’t too procedural or abstract.

  3. GameCat says:

    I think that number one will be Shadows in the Woods: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/08/19/cardboard-children-shadows-in-the-woods/

    • Kefren says:

      It’s nice, but when I played it people seemed to get soporific and want to go beddy-bye-byes. Probably good with kids at bedtime rather than adults on a Friday night then.

  4. The Random One says:

    A Prince song on the internet? What foul witchcraft is that

    • BooleanBob says:

      It’s only natural that Prince would gravitate to the largest depository of sexual content in the known universe.

      (I’m talking about the internet, not Rab Florence. I think.)

  5. orangetruck says:

    Rab, you little tease. Baiting the star wars fanboy response? Move along.

    Can’t argue with Bloodbowl though. It’s a fundamental game.

    • hipsu says:

      No kidding, those Star Wars quotes… *shrug* I was this close to start smashing my keyboard.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Steady, now, hipsu. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to misery. Misery leads to the Dark Lord.

  6. Kevashim says:

    Blood Bowl. What a game.

    A massively geeky highlight (of such a minor event) in my playing history is fielding my Flash villain inspired “Rogues Gallery” human team against an opponents (also human) “Justice League” team. 3 turns in and Eobard Thawne is blocked and injured by Barry Allen. *INJURY ROLL* Thawne’s neck is snapped…

    (Sorry if you don’t get the reference, I warned you it was geeky!)

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    Xantonze says:

    As always, thanks for the lovely videos!

    • belgand says:

      And thanks for the text instead of the videos. It took me one minute to read over this list rather than twenty spent watching a video.

  8. Scurra says:

    “Here’s the deal – if you’re going to give me a Eurogame, do not give me that “point salad” shit. Don’t give me a box full of mechanics that I need to fiddle with to score some points. Give me a GAME to play. Give me something FUN to do. When I want to relax with a board game, I want to have fun enjoying some play time. I don’t want to do my fucking math homework.”

    Do you really think that those of us who design those sort of games (and yes, I’m one) honestly sit down and think “hey, let’s suck all the fun out of playing games and instead make people spend their evenings calculating everything down to the last point”? Actually, based on some of your comments, I suspect you might… Yes, that’s a risk with heavy economic Eurogames – but you could level exactly the same argument against, e.g. X-Wing in which people can also suck all the fun out of the atmosphere by calculating things down to the millimetre.

    It’s about the people you play with, not the games.

    • Duke of Chutney says:

      Some games are more conducive to fun than others. Some games but people into their conceit more than others. A man has a right to an opinion.

  9. clg6000 says:

    #30…True fact: didja know that accomplished gangsta rapper, former pimp and crime procedural thespian Ice-T was recruited to promote Break The Safe by Hasbro? I wouldn’t be surprised if he was involved in the game design as well, given his resume.

    #28….BattleCry is crying. Kinda the blue and grey sheep of the family, I guess.

    and finally “…I might try to do a video every four weeks or so”.

    Zaa Ooo Zaa? Please please do. Those were like 11 of the best board game video reviews ever made. Couldn’t understand why you stopped…