Cardboard Children - April Board Game News
I've been trying to hit you with a board game news column every month, but I keep forgetting. What a terrible news guy! I just can't catch a break, because games keep coming out. I mean – they keep coming out, all the time. They never stop coming out. Every single week, new games come out. I was supposed to do a second part of that X-COM review, remember that? Still haven't got round to it. Why? Because games just keep coming out. Help me.
BOARD GAME NEWS
Here is the news. A few wee bits of news.
It's hard to do the news without talking constantly about Kickstarter. There are a LOT of board games coming through Kickstarter these days, with varying results. I recently backed the Conan game, because – well, come on, CONAN – but I'm always very suspicious of Kickstarter stuff. Weirdly, though, quite a few of the most recent things I've played have come through the KS channels and have been quite impressive. It helps that great designers like Eric Lang and Paolo Mori are involved in some of these Kickstarter things.
Will I tell you one of the KS things that has caught my eye?
THE TITAN SERIES
This is a strange one. Three games a year, for three years, from some great designers. All of the games are pitched at “gateway” level, which means they'll be simple family-friendly things. And do we know what the games are? Not really. Here's the link.
I like this one because it's a real punt. A gamble. Just like any Kickstarter is. But this one is really honest about that. I also like the fact that the game designers are front and centre on this one. It's not about a nostalgia kick (Ghostbusters) or internet popularity (Exploding Kittens). It's all about your faith in these great designers, and your willingness to support their work. I like that. It reminds me of how Electronic Arts started out, with everyone knowing that, hey, Dani Bunten made M.U.L.E.
I dunno. What do you think? Would you lay down all that money for a pre-order of some mystery games that will arrive over a three year period? Are you up for that gamble? Are Richard Garfield, Eric Lang and Rob Daviau even a gamble? These guys are THE REAL DEAL.
STAR WARS: ARMADA
Star Wars: Armada is now out, and I have it in my possession. I haven't had enough time with it yet, but I can tell you that the miniatures are as impressive as you'd expect from Fantasy Flight Games. There's a Star Destroyer in it, and it's sweet as a nut. There are two big Rebel ships too, much smaller than the Star Destroyer. And then there are these wee teeny-tiny squadrons of X-Wings and TIEs, and you can assemble them in different formations and they look cute as a button. A button of HOT LASER DEATH.
The game is about space warfare on the capital ship level. You're steering these big boats about, using this nifty little navigation tool that can be manipulated with little clicks. It's very satisfying. CLICK. CLICK. CLICK-CLICK. And it means that these massive ships turn REALLY slowly. All while the little squadrons are zipping around in every direction, quick as a whip. A whip of HOT LASER DEATH.
I'm a big fan of Fantasy Flight's X-Wing Game (reviewed here) so I'm looking forward to spending some time with this one.
First impressions, you say? Okay – it looks more complicated than X-Wing. It has a really interesting “plan in advance” feel that makes it very different from the dogfight feel of X-Wing. Um... what else? Oh yeah. It looks AMAZING on the table.
It's expensive, though. And it has a lot of expansions announced already. With a game like this, you have to consider whether or not you're going to buy into the whole experience – if you do, it's going to set you back a pretty penny. What I'm trying to work out is whether there is enough gameplay in the initial box to allow you to stop right there and be satisfied.
I'll get back to you on that.
FRIEDEMANN FRIESE'S 504
Okay, I just lifted this description straight from the game's entry on boardgamegeek.
“504 is a game that creates 504 different games out of one box. The game consists of nine modules: Wargame, Pick-up & Deliver, Production, Streets, Exploration, Racing, Majority, Add-Ons, and Stocks.
In each single game, you take three different modules from the nine available and assemble them in any order you like to create a new game.
- This can be a Wargame with an economy based on Pick-up & Deliver with bonus scoring from Majorities.
- This can be a Racing game on a board that starts small and grows through Exploration together with some tech-cards to be acquired as Add-Ons for better racing or exploration.
- This can be an 18XX-style stock game — the player colors are companies with stocks — with network building (Streets) for the income and building Production sites to produce the workers for the street building.
Each single game takes from 30 to 120 minutes to play”
What? No, seriously. What?
Friese is a fine game designer. He did Power Grid, which looks boring as all hell but is actually very very good. He did Fearsome Floors, which is a game about running away from a monster, and a personal favourite. He did Fast Flowing Forest Fellers, a really strong, fun racing game about lumberjacks log-rolling their way down a river. He's a bit of a maverick. He's all over the place, making all sorts of games, for all sorts of people. He's a guy who has fun with the mechanics of games.
But this 504? How does this even work? Here's what I'm going to do – I'm going to contact the guy and try to get an interview or something. Because when I see something that just can't work, I get all excited. Because sometimes things that just can't work do work. And I have a feeling that Friese is the kind of guy who might just make something like 504 a successful experiment.
How do you feel about me doing the odd interview for this column? You into that? Tell me. [I'm into it. -Ed]
SHERLOCK HOLMES IS BACK
Man, not long after I reviewed Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective way back in 2013 it was sold out and everyone was moaning at me about it. HEY, I DON'T MAKE THE GAMES.
But the good news is that it's been reprinted, and I don't want any of you to miss out this time. Get those pre-orders in from your regular places. Talk to the staff at your local game shop. Secure this printing of the game, because it is an incredible thing. Even if you think you'll never play it, buy it anyway. It's a beautiful thing.
Okay – hopefully in the next few weeks I can do my little revisit of X-COM. And I want to do a big round-up of different expansions. And I want to talk about Talisman again, now that the whole WORLD of Talisman has been completed and can be laid out on a table like a giant landmass of death and glory. And I have a pile of about six new games I need to play and review. And it just doesn't stop. It never stops.
Great, isn't it?