Friday, October 31, 2008

Card Game Review - Corunea

I take reviewing games pretty seriously. I know I make a lot of jokes, and say a lot of really retarded crap about games, and generally look like a buffoon who happens to like games, but I also know that I have readers (and I send a big 'hello' to both of you), and that my reviews might cause a sale every now and then, or stop one from happening. So I don't review games if I don't play them first. And I don't think game companies should send me stuff for free, so if I take a game, I write a review.

Only here's the thing, right? Some games are so badly written and confusing that I can't find an opponent. It can be hard to find an opponent when you have to tell them, 'I read this rulebook four times, and I can't figure out how to play.' Even a big-time gaming hot-shot like me has trouble running down players when I can't even figure out how to start.

The folks who make Corunea complicated this for me even more. The starter deck comes with base cards for two characters, for a total of 71 cards. Only you need 50 cards to build a deck, and they only sent me one starter. And even though I got a few boosters, too, I still don't have 100 cards I can use in a deck. So I've had this game since before Easter, and I haven't played it. And I don't want to write a review of a game I haven't played, which puts me in an uncomfortable position vis-a-vis the nice people who sent me free stuff to play with.

But I figured out a workaround, because I really need to write this review. I combined the decks, wound up with about 30 cards for each deck I could actually use, threw in a bunch more that are completely useless, and then had two decks of about 45 cards each. Then I played myself. And in case you're wondering, yes, it is a little confusing to play a collectible card game by yourself. The upside, though, is that I won.

Corunea bills itself as a 'role card game'. I thought this meant it would be like an RPG that you played out with cards. It's not. It's still a regular ol' fighting game, but with the kind of detail you would find in a roleplaying game. There are adventures, but these are just specific locations with specific rules for beating the snot out of someone. Some of these adventures can be played by more than two people, so you could put together teams, but it's still not a roleplaying game. I guess I was a little confused - but that's understandable, because both the game and the marketing material is poorly translated from French.

So the game actually works pretty well, if you can figure out what you're doing. Sadly, the odds of figuring out what you're doing are not particularly good. It's kind of like saying you would be good at cribbage, if you could only figure out what that drunk Limey was thinking when he made the most convoluted and arbitrary set of rules ever used in a card game. The French people who made Corunea realize that the game is tricky, though, so there are Flash tutorials on their website (allow me to point out that if your game is so tricky that you have to hold online classes, you might have trouble finding regular fans).

The very basic parts of Corunea aren't that tough, really. You have a character card with your stats, and a position card (like a miniature) that you place around the location card to determine where you are in relation to the other guy trying to scoop out your brains with a melon-baller. Your character card has percentile stats for attack, defense, dodge, and lots of other stuff, and just about any action requires you to roll under the stat number on the card. Actually, that is an awful lot like an RPG, at least as far as combat.

It's when you get past the basic stuff that the game becomes really confusing. You have sanctuary cards where you can rest and recover, only I don't know when you use those because the online tutorial doesn't go that far, and the rulebook appears to have been written by a French PhD candidate who was loopy on absinthe and filterless cigarettes. You can use effects and states and substances and other stuff, but even with the tutorial, I'm not sure when those are supposed to happen. There's some kind of holding bin on your guy, but I'm not sure when those cards are supposed to come in or go out, and there are like twenty different icons describing damage and actions and bowing and bonuses and whatnot and I gotta tell, I got a little lost.

Now, it's not entirely fair of me to beat the crap out of this game when I admittedly have never played it against another person. It might just be that this is an amazing game with astounding potential, but it seems to me that you need to know one of these French people who made it, and have them teach it to you, if you want to play it right. Since I don't know any French people at all, much less French gamers, much less French game designers, I kind of got the short end of that stick.

I will say this, though - Corunea is absolutely gorgeous. The rules might be a plane crash into shark-infested waters in a nuclear bomb testing zone, but the art is brilliant. Each card features some amazing painted art. It's almost worth picking up a couple boosters just for the pretty pictures. And honestly, I think that if I could figure out the game, I would probably enjoy it - but I need help. I'm really not very smart, and these rules make my head hurt.

So there you go. I've discharged this particular obligation and reviewed this game. To sum up, I think this would probably be really cool, if I could just hire Navajo code talkers to decode the rules. I just don't have the dedication and time to commit to learning a game this difficult, even if I think it's really, really pretty.


Brilliant, breathtaking art
A combat system that appears to work very well
Some of the best art I've ever seen in a card game

Horribly confusing, poorly translated rules

Corunea is not for stupid people, but if you have the mental stamina to learn it, it's probably pretty fun. If you want to try it out, you can get some cards here:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Board Game Review - Dwarven Dig!

With all the talk these days about global warming and concerns about the environment, it’s great to know one game company cares. Kenzer & Company might charge a lot for Dwarven Dig!, but at least when you get it, you’ll know you’re contributing to the renewal of our planetary resources.

For instance, look at the hex tiles that make up the board. The art on the front is great, and depicts various subterranean chambers, many of which are fraught with danger like lava and rushing water and gigantic burrowing cockroaches. But before you start thinking whole forests were leveled to make these tiles, just flip one over, and you’ll see that Kenzer & Co obviously recycles. The cardboard on these is cheaper than the backing on one of those legal pads you’re always stealing from the office. It’s rough and brown and warps if you look at it sideways. It’s so refreshing to see a game manufacturer who is more concerned with saving the rainforest than catering to a bunch of whiny game nerds who want their game components to actually work.

Dwarven Dig! (the game has an exclamation mark because even punctuation is recycled) will send your team of four dwarves – a miner, an engineer, a warrior and an elder – tunneling through the mountain to retrieve treasure. Along the way, you’ll dodge cave-ins, battle hermits, jump rivers of lava and most of all, fight with the other teams of dwarves. The whole thing is basically a copy of every go-on-adventures-and-screw-your-foes game ever made, so even the concept is recycled! Thanks for saving the planet, Kenzer & Company.

Since you’ll be rolling lots of dice as you explore the mountain, Dwarven Dig! uses grit to pay for everything from better die rolls to extra movement. And because Kenzer & Company is concerned about the planet, they saved an entire old growth jungle by going to Reaper and picking up buckets full of extra flash cut off actual miniatures. Instead of having to use counters or something that might require printing or ink, you’ve got a small pile of little metal rocks smaller than the stone in your girlfriend’s class ring. Only all of it is unpainted metal, because using paint or stain would only pollute the water table. Just don’t drop one on the floor, because they’re so small you won’t find them in the carpet until they’re rattling around in your vacuum cleaner.

The environmentally conscious will be delighted with the confusing and overly complex rules for Dwarven Dig! These rules should deter most corporate raiders from even attempting to pillage the mineral resources of this beautiful mountain. There are only four phases in a turn, but each phase is broken into lots of little pieces, and you’ll have to check the reference card every turn to make sure you’re not forgetting something. And the Green Party can continue to celebrate Dwarven Dig!, because the game saves paper by only including one reference card, and telling you to just pass it around the table. You greedy despoilers who want to complain just because you never know what’s supposed to be happening need to quit thinking of yourselves, and start thinking of Mother Earth.

Now, you can go out and read about the fine metal dwarf figures in Dwarven Dig!, but you should know that Kenzer & Company encourages all of us to do our part, too. So about a month ago, they were offering Dwarven Dig! without the miniatures, and you can simply recycle some of your own dwarf miniatures. I’m worried about our planet, too, so that’s the version of the game I picked up, and so I can’t tell you about the miniatures, because I’ve never seen any.

As with every worthwhile environmental effort, there are costs. The cost, in this case, is paltry – the game is not much fun. That’s a small concern when you think about the kind of planet you’re leaving for your kids. If you really feel a need to enjoy yourself while you’re playing this game, just ignore the rules and play it wrong. We thought the game was complicated and boring, but all we needed to do was ignore the rules, blow off the complicated stuff we didn’t like, and play completely out of sequence, and then we had a grand old time.

So do your part for your planet, and pick up Dwarven Dig! You’ll be able to play a game and save the Earth. Who cares if you’re not having fun?


Neat art
Cool theme
There's a decent game buried under all those rules

Complicated rules
Really poor components
Not much fun as written

If you're as worried about the environment as I am, you shouldn't be playing games, anyway. You should join these guys:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Board Game Review - Cambria

I've got a soft spot for small-press publishers. I think I've established that. A small publisher who breaks off a great game impresses the heck out of me, and a small press guy who can make anything (even if it sucks) is still pretty awesome. So when Vainglorious Games asked me to review Cambria, their only game, I was in. Small publishers are like those little thrift stores you find in small towns - they might have a store full of suck, but then you might find a hidden treasure behind the ceramic dolls and broken chainsaws.

Cambria's theme is the conquest of the little nation of Cambria (thus the name), which is located in current-day Wales. The Romans are trying to hold onto it, while the Hibernians (the players) are actively trying to break down the Romans and take over the whole area. Sadly, like so many Euro-style games, the theme is largely interchangeable. It could be a game about space lords and trading routes, or even just a themeless abstract game. That's unfortunate, in my opinion, because one of my biggest beefs with lots of Euro games is a crappy theme. The theme idea is cool enough, but the game doesn't really carry it out, which means you could replace the forts with drunk college chicks, the armies with horny frat boys holding camcorders, and the Legion with a fun-stomping copper. And then you could totally make a Girls Gone Wild board game, and then you've got yourself a theme! In fact, that's so awesome, I'm ignoring the theme of the game and remaking it Loose Girls on Film.

The game has you trying to score with the drunk co-eds on the map. Girls are valued according to the number of chairs at their tables, from two to six, and when all the chairs have frat boys in them, the girl goes back to whichever fraternity buys the most drinks. To figure out where to place your horny frat boys (represented here by small plastic cubes), you roll two dice. You might get to move the cop, displacing an opponent's guys and protecting a girl's honor (and thus making sure nobody gets the big points if you can't have them). You might get to put guys at the bar, which will let them deploy more strategically later. Or you might just put a cube on the board and compete for a girl.

The game ends when only six girls are left on the board. Then you count up which frat has scored with the hottest girls, and the winner gets to make a great video that is totally unsuitable for anyone under 18. Then the fathers find out and go find the fraternities and burn them to the ground, and then you can make horror movies about loser college guys getting murdered in awesome and gory ways, like with flying lawnmowers and paper shredders and pools full of man-eating piranha. Oh, in case it wasn't clear, I totally made up that part about the angry fathers. But that would still be awesome.

The actual strategic gameplay of Cambria is pretty tight. The game plays really fast, and every turn provides some way to improve your position. Strategy and planning are critical, as is an ability to anticipate your opponents' moves. Although a lot relies on a die roll, you've pretty much always got enough options available to make a strategically positive maneuver. So even if the theme doesn't work out great, the actual game shows a ton of potential, and I would like to play it again.

Sadly, Vainglorious Games seems to be a little short on experience in the area of board games. The list of stuff they did wrong is a little depressing for its considerable length. For starters, the components are so cheap, they look like a prototype. The box is cheap - I've bought shirts that came in nicer boxes. The board is a printout glued to a sheet of matte board. The art is adequate to play the game, but it's not pretty. And even if the components were decent (which they are not), the game isn't available on the Vainglorious Games site. You can only buy it at the retailers listed on their site... and there are only four, and three of them don't have a listing for it. The fourth is a brick-and-mortar with no online store. So you can't buy it, and I can't even tell you how much it costs. I can't figure out how you can get a copy, and unless you can see past incredibly poor presentation, you probably wouldn't want a copy, anyway. No advertising I've seen, no marketing I'm aware of, and even if you did stumble across the game and want it despite it being horrifyingly rough, you can't get it.

I honestly hope that Vainglorious Games can pull their collective heads out and get this right (though collective heads is probably redundant - this looks a lot like a one-man show). The game could be really good - Reiner Knizia's games often show less imagination in mechanics, and seldom lend themselves so well to good play. Cambria has the potential to be a big seller, but not the way it is now (especially because you can't buy it). If the guy who made this game can get his ducks in a row, this company has massive potential to churn out some of the best games you'll play. But if they keep going the way they are, they're in deep hoodoo, and maybe filming videos about slutty college chicks would be a better career decision.


Fun game
Easy to learn
Really clever mechanics that make every turn important

Absolutely horrible production values
Weak theme
You couldn't buy it, even if you wanted to

I can't tell you where to find this game, but I can send you to their site so you can ask for a copy yourself:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kind of a Dungeon Game Review - Hero Immortal King

Dungeon games are just about my favorite kind of games - Descent, HeroQuest, the incredibly poorly-named Dungeons & Dragons: The Fantasy Adventure Board Game, even sci-fi dungeon-type games like Siege of the Citadel. So when Asmodee US (just about my favorite game company) announced that they were doing a dungeon game, well, I had to have it.

The game is called Hero Immortal King. That's a funny name for a game, which works out pretty well, because Hero Immortal King is like the mentally-challenged love child of a weird three-way between Descent, Magic the Gathering, and Fist of the North Star. So a funny name sort of fits.

The 'dungeon' in Hero Immortal King (henceforward shortened to Hero IK, because I'm lazy) is built from a deck of threat cards, with a big mean bad guy at the back. The dungeon master (a title begging for a Wizards cease & desist letter) puts the cards into three piles, and the adventurer player tries to plow through them. Every turn, the adventurer will be faced with three opponents, and will have to choose which one to fight.

Combat is pretty simple. Every monster has a single-digit number for strength, and the adventurer rolls a die, and if the result is higher than the strength, the monster is dead and the adventurer gets the card (more on this later). If the result is lower, the adventurer player loses a courage token and the dungeon master gets a fear token. The dungeon master can use the fear tokens to make things harder for the adventurer, and if the adventurer loses all his courage tokens, he starts crying and runs back to his mommy for some warm milk and a fresh diaper.

At first, this would look almost impossible for the adventurer, because lots of monsters have strength scores you can't roll on a normal die. But the adventurers have ways to improve their rolls, or roll different dice, or otherwise get the results they need to pull off the win. Plus the adventurer can turn in the monster cards he's collected for special abilities or magic weapons, so he can get tougher, which he'll need to be when the gets to the end of the pile of cards and has to fight the boss monster. Play the right card combo, and the heroes might wade through a pile of zombie guards like wet toilet paper. Select the wrong cards at the beginning of the game, and you might find yourself facing a gargantuan dragon virtually guaranteed to be picking his teeth with your femur after he finishes cracking you out of your armor like an Alaska king crab.

The mechanics of Hero IK are smooth, and it plays really fast. You can blow through a whole game in 15-20 minutes, and then bust out another deck and play again. There are three different boxes of Hero IK, each with four different adventurers, different magic weapons and widely varied enemies. You can even mix-and-match the cards to make custom dungeons, and if you decide to go back, all the cards are conveniently numbered so you can separate them out again.

So I've described where Descent and Magic come in, but you might be wondering where the hell I came up with Fist of the North Star. Mostly, it's the art. It looks very much like a bizarre Japanese cartoon. The little girl hero who turns into a werewolf has huge eyes and a small mouth. The orks look like that goofy green bad guy from Dragonball Z. The art is really great, and damned fun to look at, but the illustrator for this game obviously spent a lot of time with his collection of trippy anime videos. Princess Mononoke's got nothing on the weird factor on a few of these cards. I kept looking for the one girl who could break into tears, then transform into a superheroine, then be rescued by her masked boyfriend whose name she didn't know.

Weird or not, Hero IK is a lot of fun in short, bite-sized doses. It's not too deep, and the dungeon master's role is so limited that you can play the game solo, but there's still considerable strategy in picking the right adventurers, then picking the right equipment, then picking the right foes, and then picking the right strategy to beat them. I won't lie and say it's as awesome as Descent, but then, I didn't find myself spending 20 minutes trying to decide how to arrange my adventurers to make sure I had line of sight to every corner of the room, just to discover I forgot about a space behind a rock column that was somehow hiding a wolf the size of a Cadillac.


Quick to learn
Easy to play
Plays fast
Can be played 2-player or solo
Fantastic art

Not much depth
Dungeon master doesn't always have a lot to do

Hero Immortal King is affordable, fast and fun. If you go here, you can collect them all, and you won't even need to send in cereal box tops that you cut off before the box was empty so that the Lucky Charms spill out all over the table when your little brother goes to pour a bowl:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Game Expansion Review - ...And His Little Dog, Too

You're not a very nice person. Not only do you have a mad-on to kill a goofy old doctor who never did anything to you (and while you are creative, some of your methods are exceptionally rude), now you want to kill his dog. You're just plain rotten. The only way you could be any worse is if you plan to kill the dog with something really cruel, like a tight hat. Oh, wait, you do. You bastard.

A couple weeks ago, I reviewed the rather zany game Kill Doctor Lucky. About that time, I also got my mitts on Lucky's mutt, otherwise known as the expansion '...And His Little Dog, Too.' This isn't a whole lot of expansion - it's a wooden dog pawn and just enough extra rules to fill a 3X5 card. And honestly, it doesn't completely reinvent the game, either, or make it a whole new game, or otherwise alter the game in any seriously significant manner. However, it does help with the biggest problem I had with Kill Doctor Lucky - it helps the smart player win faster. Which means now it will take less time to be the biggest asshole in the room.

The game still plays the same way, but now there are three sets of alternate rules you can use to change how things work. One variant, called Old Dog, has Shamrock (Lucky's pup), following the old coot around, and if Shamrock can see the hapless soon-to-be victim, he barks and you can't try to kill him. So before you can kill Doctor Lucky, you pretty much have to kill his annoying dog. Only the dog is just as hard to kill as his owner, so the end result is that the game goes longer. But on the other hand, you can make more murder attempts, so the failure cards go faster and you get spite faster, so while the first part of the game (trying to kill the dog) goes for a while, the second part of the game (killing the lucky doctor) can go pretty quick. I hope you're proud of yourself, you scum-eating weasel. You would kill a dog just because he barks? You conscienceless animal.

The second variant, on the other hand, can really help a clever player. In this set of add-on rules (called New Tricks), Shamrock is just a really pissy little mutt. Every time someone tries to kill his master, Shamrock gets his back up - and earns a spite token. Only Shamrock is just a dumb dog, so he can't use his spite tokens. But if you can get in the room with him, you can give him a little scratch behind the ears, which calms him down and lets you steal his spite tokens, which you can then use to kill Doctor Lucky. So while you may think this makes you a better person because you're not trying to kill the dog, it might be even worse, because now you'll kill the master in front of the dog, and even make the dog help. You're worse than a lawyer who advertises on television.

The end result here is that a smart player will position himself to make buddies with the puppy, and accumulate a great big store of extra spite. It's not easy to make sure you get next to the dog, because you have to predict Lucky's movement before you can predict the dog, and since Doctor Lucky can calm Shamrock if they end up in the same room, Shamrock isn't always carrying a lot of repressed rage for you to steal. Take that, you heartless scum.

There is a third variant that comes with Shamrock, predictably titled Old Dog, New Tricks. It combines both other variants, but since I didn't really like the Old Dog variant, we just stick with the New Tricks variant. We may be evil, but we're not as evil as you are. We don't want to kill the lovable pup. You, on the other hand, intend to do in the dog with a shoehorn, but not until you've used him up. What kind of monster are you, anyway?

So basically, Doctor Lucky's little dog isn't a great big change to the game, but it does fix some problems if you use it right. Plus it's only eight bucks, so if you enjoy Kill Doctor Lucky, the dog is a good idea - for you, because you're a rotten crook who probably rips tags off mattresses.


Three different ways to add to Kill Doctor Lucky (including a really cute wooden dog pawn)
Can make the game go faster, and better reward clever play

Can also make the game last longer, because it gets harder to kill Doctor Lucky
You suck

You heartless bastard. You might as well go here and get the dog, so you can kill him, too:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Board Game Review - Trivial Pursuit: Digital Choice

I think my favorite thing about writing Drake's Flames is when I get care packages from Hasbro. There's nothing like opening the front door and finding a box of games I didn't know were coming. Some of them are really awesome (I love the new Stratego), and some are not really my bag (Operation may be funny, and my kids love it, only it's not exactly HeroScape), but it's still like Christmas, because I never have any idea what's going to be in the box, and I'm almost guaranteed to like it.

The most recent package, however, must have been meant for my wife. It had two new versions of Trivial Pursuit, and my wife would generally rather play Trivial Pursuit than just about anything else. I suck at Trivial Pursuit, mostly because I can never remember who holds the Olympic record for underwater skeet shooting. My wife can pull baseball stats and geographical oddities out of her brain with equal ease, while I have to just sit there and wonder where in Hell I would find the Maldives.

But then again, Digital Choice might be made just for me. It comes with the standard game board and colored pie slices, but instead of a box full of cards, there's a handheld device and a USB cord. The device comes preloaded with a bunch of questions, but the real beauty here is that you can use the cord to download questions from the Trivial Pursuit website. I love technology!

The questions you can find online are all over the map. Some are incredibly esoteric. I can find a category on mythological creatures (for my bookworm daughter), a bunch of questions about cryptozoology (my son's favorite new bizarre hobby), a batch of questions about famous chefs (for my wife who loves cooking shows), and a section on sci-fi and fantasy movies (that one's for me, because I am a total nerd, and yes, I do remember who had the starring role in the surprisingly entertaining direct-to-video Wing Commander movie). Finally I can pick at least one category where I won't have to sit there like a drooling potato-head raised by a family of squirrels in the wild mountains of West Virginia.

However, if they had really been making the game for my family, they would have also made the following selections available:

Puppies, ponies and pouting (for my primadonna daughter)
Farts, burps, snot and poop (for my woefully immature thirteen-year-old boy)
Being awesome (for my wife, who sometimes reads my reviews)
Fried food and beer (I love fried food and beer!)

The questions seem a lot easier when they're in categories I know, but you still have the occasional bizarre question about children's books. I mean, I know who Roald Dahl is, but how the hell do I know where he was born? That frustrates my kids something fierce, like when my son gets a question about gods and goddesses and has to answer something about Hindu deities, instead of the Norse gods he spends all his time researching (you know, when he's not looking for bigfoot sitings online).

All things considered, this is still Trivia Pursuit, but personalized for you. You can let the adults each pick one category, and the kids each get two, and then you can be on even footing. For once, my daughter has a chance at the big prize. She's not going to be able to tell you who was the president when they built the Suez Canal, but she sure does know her flying animals. The game isn't necessarily easier - I got stumped plenty of times - but it's a lot more even when you can pick your areas of expertise.

Of course, you can still do that age-old tradition with Trivial Pursuit questions, where you just ask each other questions until someone says, 'hey, cut it out or we won't have any questions left for the game!' and then everyone else tells that jackass to shut up.


Good variety of questions means that anybody who isn't completely ignorant can find some questions they can answer
Lots of really fun questions
When you finish one category, you can go download more

Only 50 questions per category means you'll run out sooner than normal

Trivial Pursuit: Digital Choice gives you the opportunity to decide what kind of questions you like best. If that sounds like your kind of Trivial Pursuit. go here and get a copy:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Board Game Review - Key Largo

For a short time, Titanic Adventure Vacations is offering a fun-filled and exciting tour of scenic Key Largo. The Caribbean storm season approaches, so we are pleased to provide a whirlwind two-week exploration of sunken pirate ships and the lovely island around which dozens of wrecked pirate ships await the intrepid adventurer! (please note that Titanic Adventure Vacations has no reasonable explanation for why so many completely unplundered ships would be just sitting around untouched at the same time)

Our tour only lasts for ten days before the weather around Key Largo tends to get a little rough (Titanic Adventure Vacations adopts no liability for damage to property or person if you don't get off the island before hurricanes turn the entire island into an uninhabitable wasteland). With such a short amount of time, you'll want to make the most of your time, and we provide several different ways that you can spend your day.

Our rustic tavern is a popular stomping ground for some of the best divers money can buy - and we'll even pay for your first diver! The patrons of this fascinating locale can often by counted on for tales of buried treasure, and all it will cost you to hear their stories is a few rounds of drinks. (Titanic Adventure Vacations denies claims that thieves are also for hire, though we do recommend that all adventurers secure theft insurance. Sadly, no theft insurance is available through Titanic Adventure Vacations, so you'll most likely just lose treasure and have no recourse at all)

After a visit to the tavern to hire a diver, you may want to visit our affordable equipment shop to buy the hoses, tridents and weights that your divers may need. Our prices are quite reasonable, and the gear is kept in top condition (please note that Titanic Adventure Vacations does not actually own the store, and the presence of multiple adventurers in the store at the same time has been known to drive up prices, so we recommend that you attempt to visit the store while nobody else is there).

Once your divers are equipped, you're ready to explore the various wrecks around this beautiful vacation spot. These derelict ships can be found at many different depths, and can easily be explored by nearly any diver, provided he has adequate equipment. The shallow wrecks are some of our most accessible treasure troves, though they tend to be a bit picked-over. The medium and deep wrecks are far more prosperous, but recommended only for divers with adequate gear. (Titanic Adventure Vacations is not aware of the presence of monstrous kraken, but just in case, we are not able to reimburse adventurers if their divers are eaten by monsters of the deep. We highly recommend you equip your divers with tridents to fend off these beasts, which for some reason seem to be easily defeated by even the most inept of divers, provided they are carrying their underwater pitchforks)

After a hard morning searching for sunken treasure, you'll want to return to our convenient and completely fair buyer's market, where you can exchange the gold, goods and artifacts you've discovered for what we assure you are fair market prices (prices tend to fluctuate depending on the number of sellers. This is what is called a free market economy. Complaints can be lodged with Titanic Adventure Vacation's customer service hotline, where they will be promptly ignored and you will be openly mocked by our less-than-friendly operators).

If you get tired of hunting for treasure, you're more than welcome to take advantage of our lovely Dolphin Bay, where gawking tourists are delighted to pay you to take them dolphin-watching. You'll earn money just for sailing around the bay, and while you may not earn as much as if you sell treasure, you might also meet interesting and delightful people who can help you in your hunt for sunken gold! (Titanic Adventure Vacations does not suggest that you take advantage of your customers, even if they do offer to sabotage your fellow adventurers or deliberately drive up prices. All relationships between adventurers and their contacts are outside the business consideration of Titanic Adventure Vacations)

As the gentle autumn storms roll in at the end of our ten-day tour, you will have discovered untold treasure, and possibly recovered enough to pay for your trip! Feel free to compare your findings with those of your fellow adventurers - after all, there's nothing wrong with a little good-hearted competition (Titanic Adventure Vacations recommends hopping around your beaten opponents like an ill-behaved wide receiver doing a ridiculous endzone dance).

So schedule your vacation now - space is limited, and time is critical! Come out once, and you may find yourself making our sunken treasure expeditions a regular occurence. You'll have so much fun, you'll want to come back again and again.

(The following text is provided by the Key Largo Committee for Fair Play, and does not imply endorsement by Titanic Adventure Vacations:

Key Largo is fun and easy to explore. It requires some tricky planning to make sure you don't try to hire a diver or buy equipment when every other diver is also doing the same thing. You will need to plan your dives to beat the other adventurers to the best treasure without acting rashly and losing perfectly good divers to tentacled monsters, and you will need to time your sales so that you get the best prices for the treasure you haul up from the deep. While meeting contacts and hiring thieves are optional activities, Key Largo is much more interesting when your tour includes them. You may find that two or three visits to Key Largo will be plenty, and you may not find good reasons to revisit regularly, but Key Largo is still clever, challenging and fun enough to occupy a family of adventurers for the occasional game night... er, adventure vacation.)


Rules work great - you can't do the same thing twice in one day, and timing is everything
Graphics are brilliant and funny
Components are top-notch
Easy to learn
Very clever
Thoroughly polished - everything works like clockwork

A little low on replay value

Key Largo is a fun family game from Titanic Games. You can get your copy here:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Five Yards for Delay of Game Review

I just started a new job on Tuesday, and my dad dropped in the same day to stay all week. I have a game I want to write about, but I'm a little short on time, so I'll have to beg off until tomorrow night. By Saturday, you'll have an opportunity to read about Key Largo, a fun and slightly silly game from Paizo.

And just so I'm not completely wasting a post, here are a few games I'll be writing about in the coming weeks:

Dwarven Dig!
Hero Immortal King
Great Space Race
Duel in the Dark
Kill Doctor Lucky... and His Little Dog, Too
Mutants and Deathray Guns
New World Disorder
Starship Troopers Miniatures
Trivial Pursuit: Digital Choice
Quest for the Dragon Lords

And while I'm filling space, allow me to offer a huge thanks to all my readers. You guys make this worth doing (that, and the fact that I didn't have to pay for most of the games I just listed).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Card Game Review - Red Dragon Inn 2

You know what's fun? Beating people. And also drinking. And also beating people so that their tolerance is lower, and a couple shots of scotch put them under the table. And also stealing their money when they're passed out. That's fun, and anyone who doesn't think so is probably a homely woman who thinks the height of entertainment is darning socks and flipping through the Lillian Vernon catalog to find cute costumes for her cats, and those poor cats probably scratch the hell out of that lady's tie-dyed kimonos and piss in the refrigerator, but that boring lady probably still keeps those cats around if they'll wear a shirt that says, 'I Heart Catnip' with a little bunny-eared tiara.

So since we all know that punching people, stealing money and drinking to excess is a ton of fun, the guys at Slugfest Games knew we wanted more of it. Red Dragon Inn (I reviewed it right here) is all about beating the piss out of your friends while trying to steal their gold and get them drunk. It's an absolutely hilarious way to enjoy an evening in a bar with three of your closest friends. Since the action takes place in a bar, if you play in a bar, it's even better - then you're playing a game about drinking in a bar while you're drinking in a bar. If you punch each other, that would be perfection.

The only problem with the first Red Dragon Inn is that you can only play four different adventurers. After a few plays, you'll want to see something besides dumb Zot jokes (which are actually really funny, unless they're hurting you) and Gherki cheating at cards. Sure, Dierdre the priestess is hot, but you can only take her sanctimonious teetotaling for so long.

So you need more characters. You need Gog the half-ogre. You need Dimli the dwarf. You need Fleck the bard. But most of all you need Eve the illusionist, because while she can make you see whatever she wants you to see, she wants you to see a smokin' dame in a little bikini. Impractical for adventuring, sure, but hot. Really hot.

The new cards don't just present different pictures with the same actions. New stuff is added to the game. For instance, Eve's disguises aren't just for damage or dodging drinks - now she can pretend to be the wench and swipe money because you think you're tipping the barmaid. Dimli can pull out his money belt and find reservoirs of money he didn't have when the game started. Fleck can woo the audience and get out of paying his bill. And Gog - oh, Gog is awesome. Gog just smacks things.

New drinks are introduced, too. Now there are drinks that will make most anyone sick - but half-ogres just think they're yummy. Plus there's ambrosia, which will cost you a lot of money, but will heal you and help you sober up. And Red Dragon Inn 2 introduces drinking contests, where everyone has to draw a drink card, and the stiffest beverage wins money from the pansies at the table who can't hold their liquor.

Possibly the best thing about Red Dragon Inn 2 is if you own both this one and the original, because now you can set eight people around a table and punch, stab, burn, cheat, steal, sneak and weasel out of drinking - but with twice as many people as before. The game takes on a whole new attitude when you've got a half dozen survivors, all either half-drunk or nearly broke. The expansion is 100% compatible with the original, so it's not like you'll have to explain new rules to your old crowd. Plus now there are so many fun ways to mangle people!

If you liked the original Red Dragon Inn, you should waste absolutely no time in picking up Red Dragon Inn 2. It's the same brilliant hilarity that you loved in the first one, but now with more face-punching. Add in drinking games and Gog's hilarious grunting English, and you've got hell of a fun game.


Same great game
New hilarious characters
New drinking cards that mix things up
Now you can play with twice as many people

Still a fair amount of luck
Still fairly mean-spirited (though that's a lot of fun)

If you liked the first one, you should get the second right here:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Board Game Review: Starcraft, The Board Game

One of my favorite guys to game with is a dude I've mentioned before, when I reviewed Shogun. I call him Rockford, because he reminds me of an aging-but-clever TV detective. He's a great sport, and it's impossible to get him riled up. You can call him old, question his game decisions, mock his clothing and tease him about the silly ringtone on his phone, and he always just grins and acts like it's all part of his plan. Maybe he's crying on the inside, but since he's way bigger than me and strong as an ox, I'm pretty sure he just doesn't care, and knows I'm just teasing because I'm a kind of a dick.

But I gotta tell you, there are some games that don't suit Rockford at all, and the Starcraft board game is one of them. Rockford can keep about eight rules in his head, and the rest fall out like a game of 52 Pickup. Starcraft has more than 40 pages of rules - and these are dense pages of rules, so if there were more pictures, they would be a novella. You know when preachers tell you to be careful when you pray for patience, because God will give you an opportunity to learn it? What they mean is, God will let you play Starcraft with Rockford.

The Starcraft board game is a lot like the Starcraft video game, except that you don't have to micro-manage a team of workers who, left to their own devices, sit around getting their faces shot off with both thumbs up their asses. There are Zerg, and Protoss, and Terrans, and they fight for conquest in the galaxy. You can train a ghost to nuke some enemies. You can grow a swarm of Zerglings and take over planets. You can mine minerals, collect vespene gas, and research new technologies.

But there are some pretty big differences. For one thing, you don't need an internet connection to play with friends. You play the board game because you've got a bunch of friends with you; you play the video game because you don't have any friends around at all. One has you surrounded by people you probably like, desperately trying to steal their resources and out-maneuver them. The other has you sitting in a dark room all by yourself. You may or may not be wearing pants. You may or may not smell like Cheeto dust and navel lint.

Another key difference (and maybe slightly less obvious) is that the board game covers the conquest of the whole galaxy, so it's kind of like every turn is one of those drawn-out battles in the video game, where you build a bunch of crap and then send soldiers off to get slaughtered by the boatload while your retarded workers stand around picking their feet. Only you get to skip the unmotivated workers and the part where you act like a construction contractor, and just launch ships to alien planets to try to steal them from your friends.

The board in Starcraft changes every game, because it's made up of a bunch of planets that the players place and connect before you start playing. It makes every game different, but like so many games of this nature, it's possible to get a pretty impressive edge just by getting yourself isolated early on. This is one of my biggest problems with the game - a bit of lucky positioning before the game starts, and you've got a massive advantage right out of the gates. While everyone else shoots at each other and blows all their little plastic soldiers into little plastic pieces, you can just sit there and build, until you're ready to unleash your minions on an unsuspecting galaxy.

The Starcraft board game is, as I mentioned above, very complicated. Before you do anything on any given turn, you assign your orders face-down to the planets where you want to act. Only there are restrictions - you have to have dudes at one planet to put orders at the next one, and certain orders only have an effect if you have a base at the planet, or if you have a transport, and even if you can use an order, there are rather complicated rules surrounding every one of them. Add in the special, improved orders, and you've got a recipe for confusion.

Take, for instance, Rockford. No less than six times during the game, Rockford put a mobilize order on the planet he wanted to use as a launching point, when we repeatedly told him that the mobilize order is placed at the destination planet. At least three times, he placed research orders on planets he didn't control. He built buildings he couldn't afford, he trained units he couldn't command, and he spent workers he didn't have. Basically, he was a trainwreck, because Rockford is a great gamer, and he's smart enough to win a lot, but he gets overwhelmed by too many rules.

And Starcraft might have too many rules. Hell, I made plenty of mistakes the first couple games (it's just a lot more entertaining to make fun of Rockford), just because I either forgot a rule or misunderstood the ones I remembered. It might take three or four games to internalize the game to the point that you can plan more than one turn ahead. And since it will take you like three hours to play, there's one hell of a learning curve.

So if you've only read up to this point, and watched me tease Rockford as revenge for having to watch him take twenty minutes to buy two workers and a space marine, you might think I didn't like Starcraft. But that's really not true. In fact, the game is awesome. It's an incredible amount of fun, and it has almost no luck to it, and it's exciting and fast-paced and brutal. And on top of being really fun to play, it's also one of those Fantasy Flight super-games, so there are hundreds of really kick-ass plastic miniatures in the box. There are so many cardboard counters that it took me more than an hour to punch the whole thing. This is a shining example of FFG making sure you get as much game as you pay for.

But like I keep saying, it's tough to completely understand the first time through. In fact, we didn't finish our first game, so we met later to try it again, and for the second game... Rockford won. And when he did, he was as surprised as the rest of us. It turns out that his victory condition was to take two whole planets by phase III. He didn't know that was his victory condition, and the only reason he didn't spread himself too thin is because he kept having to throw away his mobilize orders, and the reason none of us knew he was about to win is because Starcraft is one hell of a big game, and we just weren't really keeping track. So after playing Starcraft with Rockford twice, and having to watch every turn to try to get him to play correctly, the daffy old bastard wins on accident.

I am a little sad as I write this review. The thing is, while Starcraft is a total blast, I don't know if I'll ever get to play it again. It's a huge game, and it's very complicated, and it's quite intimidating. I'm not sure when I'll be able to rally a group for another shot, especially when I have a stack of other games that I need to play so I can tell you all about them. But there is one thing I know that makes me a little happier - I know that, under no circumstance I can imagine, would I ever play Starcraft with Rockford. Never again.


Gigantic game
Tons of planning and maneuvering and thinking
Virtually no luck
Amazing components, including gorgeous miniatures

Very complicated
Steep learning curve
Don't play with Rockford if you value your sanity

Starcraft - The Board Game isn't just a fun game. It's an expensive fun game. You can buy it here, if you have a bunch of money:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Board Game Review - Okko

I think there must be a repository somewhere of silly names for board games. You've got Yspahan, which doesn't have enough vowels. Then there's Agricola, which makes me want to yodel and ask for a throat lozenge. And now we've got Okko, a game based on a comic book of the same name, but that same name sounds like a fat guy choking on a frog.

Silly name or not, however, the theme is ten tons of kick-ass in a five pound bag. One side plays Japanese samurai demon hunters, and the other side is evil monsters. Sword fights in Japanese courtyards between demons, ninjas and samurai warriors make for one of the bitchenest themes ever (and no, I do not think bitchenest is actually a word, but you know what I mean, so shut up already). The comic book is a dramatic and rather dark story of Okko (the lead character, a skinny samurai and not a fat guy with a toad in his windpipe). Okko is joined by a reformed demon wearing a mask that lets him fight for the good guys, a priest who likes to drink a lot and then take off his pants, and a few other people who are just as interesting (though maybe not as funny as the drunk buddhist in a loincloth).

The game is a tactical recreation of the kinds of interesting throwdowns that can occur when you have evil critters in scary masks and pointy sticks fighting brave warriors with shiny swords and magic headgear. The action takes place on a square grid, which many gamers aren't going to love, but it works better than a hex would have, and so I tend to cut it some slack. The miniatures are actually cardboard cutouts on plastic stands, and the boards are illustrated diagrams of paper-walled temples and shrubby gardens. The six double-sided boards can be combined to make a dive bar at a wharf, a tranquil rock garden, a claustrophobic brothel or a corrupted temple.

For those of you who play tactical games, you might think you're looking at a new theme with essentially the same old rules. You'll be expecting wounds, activations, and maybe morale rules. But Okko doesn't dig the same old rules. Okko says you can stick those old rules where they won't get sunburned. Okko takes the traditional man-to-monster tactical recreation and makes all new wacky rules, just so you won't get bored.

For one thing, there are no wounds. When you're wounded, you turn over your card. If you have to turn over your card again, you're dead. These rules apply to everyone from the rat-faced dude who looks like a very ugly crossdresser to the mighty towering sumo demon. You have three states - ready to rock, beat down and flatlined. But the beauty is that you can take a turn out, try to roll lucky, and turn your beat down monkey demon back to full combat ready. Stats are different on the back of the card, to reflect you taking a beating.

Another difference is that you don't have to actually get hit to get your card flipped. There are ways to maneuver and trap an opponent so he is weakened just by having to move through your gathered forces. If a fighter has to retreat, and can't fall back without running into another enemy, he's going to get his card flipped. If you start your turn in contact with another enemy (not easy to accomplish, but awesome when it works out), you're going to get your card flipped. If that's not some wacky mechanics, I don't know what might be.

Of course, this game is made by French people, and we all know how those foreigners like to make wacky rules. So instead of giving you abilities that you can just use, or that require you to spend points, you roll a handful of odd dice. These dice show symbols representing fire, earth, air, water and something called a toril (but they kind of look like a chicken, a freeway overpass and a taco stand, so you can call them whatever you want). You assign one of these dice to use a special power, and if you don't have the die you need, you can't use that ability. But you can save dice from turn to turn, so if you get the roll you know you'll need next turn, you can set it aside and store it for later, like a six-year-old sticking gum on the bedpost. With the dice, though, you don't wake up with gum in your hair.

The most interesting part of Okko is the control zone. A character can influence only three squares, but by careful placement, you can control a huge area and build a virtual spiderweb through which no opponent is going to penetrate unscathed (unless the opponent is the great big demon guy, because DAMN is he tough). You can set up defensive positions, offensive rushes, traps and more. The control zone thing is one of the more brilliant aspects of Okko, and one of the things that makes it as fun as it is.

The rules for Okko are simple enough, once you understand them, and they're a bunch of fun. The game plays really fast, and while there is sometimes far too much luck, careful tactics and sound strategy will help if your dice are running a little cold.

I do have a few complaints. For one thing, the art on the boards and figures is too dark. I know it's a dramatically tense game, but I like to be able to see everything. I like bright colors. Sue me. And another thing - if this was an FFG game, it would come with little plastic dudes. I totally wish I had little plastic dudes, because while they do make figures you can buy separately (and you can even get them prepainted), you may have to sell plasma to afford them. I know Asmodee can't swing the kinds of economies of scale they get at Wizards, but I would have gladly taken crude plastic figures with crappy paint jobs.

Happily, it's not hard to look past my relatively minor complaints. Okko plays really fast, with tactical brilliance and enough luck to keep you guessing. Plus the theme is di-no-mite, as my good friend Jimmy Walker used to say, and while the components may not be prepainted plastic, they are really pretty, and the quality is obvious.

Now if we could just convince the French to quit naming their comic books and board games to sound like a fat lady getting punched in the throat.


Control zone rules add a whole new level of tactical maneuvering
Great dice mechanic for special abilities that makes them more special
Flipping the card as a wound mechanic might not be completely original, but it sure is cool

There is a LOT of luck
The art looks cool, but it's too dark
Cardboard standups are so 1986

Okko is a whole bunch of fun, and the theme is one of the best ever. Go here and get one:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Board Game Review - Kill Doctor Lucky

If you're an older reader, you may remember the wild antics of Mister Magoo, a crazy old coot who was a really decent soul, but was almost completely blind. He would befriend skunks and porcupines, accidentally capture jewel thieves, and somehow evade harm at every turn. His blind ass would stroll out into traffic and then miraculously time it so that every cement truck on the road whizzed right past, and whichever bad guy was chasing him wound up embedded in the grill of a passing ambulance. It was awesome, but I always wondered if he was faking. Nobody is THAT lucky.

When I play Kill Doctor Lucky, I'm reminded of Mister Magoo. Everyone in this game is competing to be the instrument of Doctor Lucky's demise, but the oblivious son of a bitch manages to go the whole game without being stabbed, hanged, burned, poisoned, bludgeoned or shot, despite the best efforts of all the players - until the very end. Because the game ends as soon as Doctor Lucky kicks the bucket, and the scheming fiend who drops him wins. So I guess at that point, his name becomes Doctor No-So-Lucky-After-All.

Doctor Lucky is not just lucky. He's a creature of habit. He roams a predetermined path around his mansion, moving from room to room, and you have to be in a room with him to try to off him. Plus you can't try to kill him if someone else can see you. So you have to lay in wait, hiding out, and then try to stab him with pinking shears when nobody is in your part of the house. And even then, he might pull a Magoo and bend over to pick up a dime just as you embed a fireplace poker in the back of the sofa. What the game needs is a really angry dog to chase him around, only the way this dude gets lucky, the dog would probably wind up stuck in the laundry chute with his furry butt on fire, trying to puke up a dish full of rat poison and kibble.

Every attempt on Doctor Lucky will earn you a spite token, so further attempts will have a greater chance of success. The longer he dodges rat poison and big red hammers, the more spite you build, so after a while, your chances of doing murder increase considerably. However, the other players are also earning spite for every failed murder attempt, and when you try to kill the old codger, the other players still get to try to stop you. They can play failure cards that distract you by making you forget whether a straight beats a flush, or they can burn their spite tokens to rob you of your desired vengeance. Only by overwhelming all the other players, planning a murder so devious that none of the other players can stop you, can you win the game.

Kill Doctor Lucky is an interesting game, but it's got some flaws. If you know how to win, you save up your spite, bide your time and wait for the perfect chance to hide behind the refrigerator and pop out to brain the doctor with a crepe pan. You build up spite a little at a time, and when the time is right, you throw down a murder plot so twisted that nobody else can stop you. You combine the right weapon with the right room, wait until everyone else is worn out from trying to save Lucky for themselves, and then strike. However, if nobody is playing smart, the game can stretch on and on and on, with Doctor Lucky living up to his name for hours at a time. You can't win by being lucky. You have to play clever, or the game isn't going to end for a very long time.

But if everyone is playing clever, being judicious with their countermeasures and quietly stocking up on spite and horrid weapons, Doctor Lucky can be a tense game of cat and mouse. The pieces are great, the board is gorgeous, the cards are hilarious, and the theme is brilliant. As long as you play with smart people who understand what it takes to win, Kill Doctor Lucky is great fun. But fair warning - your first play is likely to go on much too long, and if nobody learns the trick to the game, it's not going to get any better.

There are three variants to Kill Doctor Lucky that include his little dog, and hopefully they'll mix things up to make the game faster and a little less arbitrary. I'll let you know when I review the variants in a week or two.


Hilarious cards with great art
Beautiful components
Tricky and clever and fun

Tends to drag on a bit if you're not playing with the right crowd

Kill Doctor Lucky is an ingeniously deviant family game of killing a lucky old man. Paizo has it for sale here:

Monday, October 6, 2008

No Review Today

Last night, at 4 in the morning, I woke up to one of our dogs barking furiously. Since she doesn't tend to bark for no reason, I got up and looked out the window. I saw three wild dogs chasing my wife's cat. Without giving it any thought, I ran out the door and chased off the wild dogs - in my underwear. The dogs ran off, but not before they mauled the hell out of Circe. We took her to the emergency vet right away, but she was dead by the time we got there.

Circe has been part of my family for as long as I've had a family. She was my wife's cat when we met, and so when I married my wife, the cat was part of the package deal. I celebrate my 14th anniversary in a couple weeks, and the entire time I've known my wife, I've known that stupid cat. Having her die in my arms on the way to the hospital has pretty much sucked every drop of funny out of me this morning. I'm not all broken up - I didn't really like that cat a lot - but having anything die while you're holding it and it's bleeding all over you is a fairly heavy experience.

I didn't even like Circe, but I miss her anyway. She was part of the family, and now that she's gone, it just feels like there's an empty spot on the front porch. It's not the same, feeding the crazy wild cats that live on the porch, without having to sit out there and make sure they don't run Circe off her dinner. So I'm not writing a review today, or a rant, or anything else.

Come back Wednesday, and I'll write about games again.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Trivia Game Review - Trivial Pursuit 25th Anniversary Edition

What South American country speaks and spends Guarani?

If you knew that the answer is Paraguay, then you either A) come from Paraguay or B) spent a lot of time in high school picking wedgies out of your ass crack. And if you're not from Paraguay and you knew that, you're also likely to do pretty well at Trivial Pursuit. And maybe Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, but I'm not reviewing fad TV game shows that somehow manage to drag on for years after anybody quit watching them.

But let's say you're not a total goober who can answer obscure questions about Egyptian politics from 200 BC, but you still like to play Trivial Pursuit sometimes. In that case, you need the 25th Anniversary Edition that just came out. Because if you're as ignorant of the world as I am, you can maybe get by answering easy questions. The cards in this edition come with six questions, and you get the question that matches your die roll. So if you rolled a 2 to get to that impossible Paraguay card, you might instead get asked what language most people speak in Paraguay, and Spanish is as good a guess as any.

The traditional six categories are still on the board. There's geography (I suck at that one), sports & leisure (I suck a lot at this one), history (again, I suck), arts & literature (you guessed it - I suck), entertainment (I only get these if they're from the 80s), and science & nature (yeah, I suck). But the beauty is, you can get easy questions, so instead of having to name a strain of Amazonian tree frog based on its distinctive coloring, you might get asked, 'what hangs out in trees in the Amazon and croaks and eats flies?', in which case, 'tree frog' is not that big a leap.

That's not the only change in the old classic. You still run around a circular board, trying to put wedges in your pie (that's not a euphemism, but it should be). You still roll the die, trying to hit roll again spots until you can try for a pie slice, and then you race to the middle of the board to answer some ridiculously difficult question that someone else picks out for you. But now, as you answer questions correctly, you move a second pawn around the bonus track. This isn't game breaking, but it can make it easier to win if you're as horrible at trivia games as I am.

For instance, if an opponent lands at a pie slice spot while your outside pawn is in the 'Face Off' zone, you can try to answer their question before them, and maybe get that pie instead of them. Or if you're in the 'Easy Cheezy' zone, you can demand an easy question, so that you are almost guaranteed of getting the pie slice you need. And the coolest part is, if you go all the way around the track, you get a free pie slice without answering a question!

Here's some useless trivia for you: I've never beaten my wife at Trivial Pursuit - until now. I got really, stupid lucky, and filled my pie (again, not a euphemism, but it should be) right before she did. She had to answer all her questions to get her slices, and I got both the Easy Cheezy question (for one slice) and the freebie (for the last slice). Then I beat her to the middle spot. I'm not proud of that win - she still knows WAY more than me - but it sure was nice to win Trivial Pursuit, just once.

If you always lose Trivial Pursuit because you play with people who know stuff about Emily Dickenson and the Treaty of Versailles, the 25th Anniversary Edition could level the playing field a little. If you do win, it will be a cheap, undeserved win, but who cares? It's a win. And those can be hard to find with Trivial Pursuit, especially if you know as little as I do.


Shiny metallic box lid
Allows ignorant bastards like me to win at Trivial Pursuit
Still the same game that went on all night in high school because you played with a bunch of stoners, but now the stoners have a shot

Purists will hate that dumb people can win now

If you want to finally have a shot at winning Trivial Pursuit, go here and get a copy:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Board Game Review - Risk: Star Wars - Original Trilogy Edition

Boy, is that a long enough title for a game? It's not just Risk. It's Risk: Star Wars. And since there's more than one Risk: Star Wars, they have to add Original Trilogy. Thank God it's not limited just to the original movie, or the title could be something like Risk: Star Wars: Original Trilogy: Just the First Movie: No Jar-Jar Binks. And THAT would be a long name for a game. But this one is still long, so I'm just going to call it Risk: SW for the rest of the review, and you'll know what I mean, unless you're really dumb, and then you probably aren't reading about board games anyway. You're looking for barn animal porn or something - and having trouble finding it.

If you already know how to play Risk, you know the basics of how this game is going to work. If you don't know how to play Risk, you're either A) retarded, or B) not enough of a gamer to have ever played Risk, and reading my sarcastic review of a Risk spin-off isn't going to help you any. Besides, if you've never played Risk, why would you start with the Star Wars version? You wouldn't. Go get the new version that has objectives and stuff, and avoid the original version that will have you spending fourteen hours in a cramped basement with three guys who keep laying down beer farts and falling asleep on the game table.

Instead of a map of the world, Risk: SW has a map of the galaxy. Instead of continents, the galaxy is broken into systems, like the Core Worlds and Outer Rim and Ison Corridor. If you know where those systems are, and what planets are in them, then you're definitely a nerd, and probably own a Boba Fett costume, and have wet dreams about Leia in her slave outfit (incidentally, while I do not have a Boba Fett costume, I have had plenty of naughty dreams about that gold bikini, though I had never actually heard of the Ison Corridor before I played this game, so I guess I'm part nerd. Oh, who am I kidding - I couldn't wait to play a Star Wars version of Risk. I'm all nerd).

You might not think that Risk and Star Wars are two great tastes that taste great together, but it actually works pretty well. Instead of having everyone with even footing and the placement like the original Risk, you've got three different factions - Empire, Rebels and Hutts. You can play with anywhere from two to five people, by changing whether the Hutts are neutral or by splitting the Rebels and Empire into teams. Each faction has different goals - the Empire has to eliminate the Rebels completely, the Rebels have to kill the emperor, and the Hutts just have to control a few specific planets. This would seem like the Empire is screwed, but they also start off with like half the galaxy, and while the goal of killing the emperor might seem easy, he's hidden, and he can move around, and he might hide behind the Death Star. It balances out pretty well.

Faction-specific cards can be played to change the way things work. Like the Empire needs the 'Fire the Death Star' card to blow up a planet (which, by the way, is awesome). Other cards do other stuff, like get you extra troops or make your opponents lose their cards. You can also turn in the cards to get spaceships, because it's not Star Wars without spaceships. It's not much more complicated than regular Risk, but if you're a Star Wars nerd like me, it's way more fun than old-school Risk. For one thing, the game takes less than three hours, so you can finish in time to still get some sleep and not have to go to work all bleary-eyed and hung over from waiting for the last guy to take out Australia.

So yeah, I'm a Star Wars nerd, but apparently the guys who did the art and made the pieces were not. The board is kind of boring. The little plastic dudes are bland (the stormtroopers look like starving Ethiopians standing around like Academy Award statues), and the spaceships are just cardboard ovals. It's a little disappointing, because the game is a blast, but the pieces are crappy. It's not enough for me to get rid of the game - hey, it's Star Wars, and even without that bronze bathing suit and the gold chain, it's still awesome - but I would have liked better bits. It's freaking Star Wars. You can make toys so awesome that small children will sell crack cocaine to buy a collector's set of Jedi knights, but you make an AT-ST that looks like a drunken stork?

If you love Star Wars (like I do), and hate the crap out of the prequels (like I do), and love Risk (like I do) but hate spending ten hours playing just one game (like I do), Risk: SW should be on your game shelf. Or in your game closet. Or stuffed under your bed with all your other games. I don't know how you store your games, and frankly, I don't care.


Starts off the same as regular Risk, so you know the rules
Great execution of one of the greatest themes ever
Really balanced despite three very different factions
Wicked fun, finishes fairly fast, and you can blow up planets

Pieces are not as nice as I would have liked

This game is completely out of print, but I went and found you a few copies at Amazon. I care about my readers, dammit.