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Cardboard Children: A Murder Of Crows

"all of you trying to spell out your MURDER"

In this world of pain and misery, we survive from day to day on the promise of better things. We look down the line, and pinpoint a moment that we can move towards in hope. For people like us, these moments are often the release dates of toys and games. There is a moment at the end of that line, and it is always in sight. It is death, and it is inevitable. We stack our toys and games in front of that moment and try to hide it from view. Today I help you hide it.


I want to tell you about how I cover board games.

Most games I cover I buy. Let's get that out of the way first. So when I recommend some 60 quid monster, I've usually paid that 60 quid just like you'll have to.

But I've also got a really good relationship with a guy called Ben Hogg at Esdevium Games. They're the big distributor of board games in this country. Ben's a good guy, and he sends me stuff every so often. We have an understanding. If the game is good, I tell you all about it. If the game is shite, I don't. Ben knows that he will sometimes send a game and it will simply never be mentioned again. It will vanish into the mists.

I've always said that this column is for recommendations, and not for slagging off the games I dislike. I think it keeps the column a nice, fun, positive thing. You're cool with that, right?

Well, here's the situation with Libertalia. Ben sent me it a couple of months ago. Our gang has played it to death. I love it. We all love it. Ben knows we all love it. But here's the thing – there's still no solid date for the UK release of the game. When I cover a game I prefer it to be available. It's better if it's on the shelves that week. Why? Because you will forget.

Seriously. You'll forget. There is so much stuff these days, so much cool stuff, and there's only so much space in your head. If you can't do that whole impulsive this sounds so amazing I am buying it right now thing, then there's a good chance it just gets shuffled aside for something else. And that is not fair. That's not fair to Libertalia.

So here's what I want you to do. I want you to START REMEMBERING ABOUT LIBERTALIA.

When it becomes widely available, I'll cover it in some depth. But for those of you who are in America, or anywhere where you might be able to pick up Libertalia, I want to give you an advance nod that this is POTENTIAL GAME OF THE YEAR MATERIAL so it's safe to buy it now.

For those of you who are in the UK – WAIT. It's coming soon, very soon, and I'll do a nice big write-up to let you build an idea of whether it's the kind of thing you think you'll like. I don't want to spoiler things, but if you like amazing games, you'll like this.

It's about pirates. There's a monkey in it. It's beautiful. Please start remembering it every day.


Fluxx is one of those games that every gamer has played, except me. With the new Lovecraft themed edition of the game I decided to give it a shot. I played it a few times on a camping trip, in a big teepee called a “Kata”.

First of all, let's state this fact – Fluxx is nonsense. The gimmick with Fluxx is that the game changes constantly. The rules change, the goals change, things switch from player to player... it's chaos. It's not cool chaos like in Cosmic Encounter, where you try to ride the chaos and make it work for you, it's just shitty chaotic chaos.

The basic rule is that you draw a card then play a card. Some cards are “Keepers” that can lead you towards fulfilling a goal, and some are “Creepers” that will usually block you from winning the game. Action cards allow you to fuck with other players' cards, and New Rule cards let you affect how the game plays. Goals and Ungoals are cards that change the winning conditions and introduce losing conditions.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth Goal card, for example, states that you will win the game if you have the Federal Agents Keeper card and the Innsmouth Keeper card on the table. The minute a new Goal is played, this winning condition is gone, and you are nowhere.

So everything constantly shifts, and you can go from being close to a win to being at the back of the pack in the playing of one card. There is no real strategy you can bring to the table. A game can end in two minutes, or can go on for too long.

Sounds terrible, right?

Well, it isn't. We happily played about four games in a row. It was late, and there was only two of us, and it was all a bit mindless and fluffy and silly and annoying and actually sort of fun. The Mythos illustrations on the cards are nice, and it's fun to see an Ungoal kick in, with the game ending on an appearance of Cthulhu and an overflow of doom points. It's ridiculously easy to play too. It's something that you can pull out and play with the merest glance at the rules. There barely ARE any rules, until some get played.

I don't event know why I enjoyed it. It's a game that tries to be nothing more than a little bit of filler, and it serves that role quite well. Although, you could be playing -


Here's another little card game I played recently. It's just as light as Fluxx, but it's a better game. It's also beautifully illustrated, and has a wonderful macabre theme.

Every player starts with five cards, and they all have a value of either One Crow, Two Crows, or Three Crows. They also all have a letter on them. Either M, U, R, D, E or R. There are Wild Crow cards too, that can be used in place of any of these letters.

The objective of the game is to play your cards out in front of you to spell MURDER. On your turn, you draw a card and play a card. Each letter you play also has a game effect. So, let's say you play a D card. That D means “Drain” and you must declare a letter. Every player loses that letter from their MURDER. M means “Misplace” and allows you to take a letter from another player's MURDER. Nice, right? You can stop these card effects from hurting you by playing a card from your hand with the same Crow value as the active card, so you can often avoid the worst stuff if you manage your hand well.

So you draw one, play one, all of you trying to spell out your MURDER. You steal from each other, drain each other's cards, and ride the chaos until you complete the word. And when you spell out MURDER, you read the story of the murder from the cards.

It plays quickly and makes sense, and the stories you create with the cards make a lovely end point for the game. It's even better when you've used a Wild Crow card in your murder and have to invent that part of the little story.

A charming, lovely, dark little game.


1. Cosmic Encounter
2. Descent: 2nd Edition

I propose that Descent 2nd Edition is our second entry into our list, dealing with the “dungeoncrawl adventure” area of things. Here's why I think it's a good pick.

It's available. That's the first thing. While I might prefer Warhammer Quest, it's no good if it's not available to buy. (Games Workshop really need to do the sensible thing and get a new edition on the shelves.) Descent 2nd Edition is available and well supported. A new expansion is announced already, and I imagine that they will be regular events.

It's a crowd-pleaser. I've spent some time with the game, and it really makes people happy. The negatives are few. While the recent D&D games (like Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon) are fine things, there are often voices of dissent. The mechanics feel a little bit gamey, some say. Others say they're a bit dull. Dungeonquest too, is a game that I love and probably prefer to Descent. But it's not for everyone. Christ, no. It's a horrible, nasty bastard of a game, heavy on luck, and some people detest it. Super Dungeon Explore is also a fantastic dungeoncrawl game, but it requires you to assemble and glue miniatures, and that moves it into the more “hardcore hobbyist” area of things. So, Descent 2nd Edition is the safe, fun, awesome bet.

If you disagree, please tell me why. This list can change. I'm delighted that we were all in agreement about Cosmic Encounter, and I'd like every entry to be as popular.

Until next time, stay fuckin' dicey! (Even with a swear-word in the mix, it's naff.)

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