Unplugged

gravwellGR3

How hard can it be to move from point A to point B? A lot of the most basic games out there have this as their sole mechanic: Candy Land, Chutes/Snakes and Ladders, Sorry!, Trouble and many others. It’s not usually a premise we see in modern, European-style board games, although you can still distill a few of them down to this simple challenge, like RoboRally or River Dragons. Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension, the debut design from Corey Young (published by Cryptozoic), asks this in the most straightforward manner yet. All you have to do to win is advance 54 spaces from the center of the board to the end of the single track. Sounds easy enough, right? READ MORE

replugged

Board games are awesome, but they are not without their flaws. The number one flaw, of course, is the fact that you actually have to get together with other people in the same physical location to play them. What is this, the Dark Ages? Note that for the purposes of this article, “the Dark Ages” includes the entirety of mankind’s existence on Earth prior to the mid-1990s.* Although probably only the period after the invention of the first board game counts, which is still a lot when you consider the likes of Go and Chess. READ MORE

GU-emerald1

When I first heard that Martin Wallace (The Witches, Ankh-Morpork and other non-Discworld games I haven’t covered) was designing a board game based on Neil Gaiman’s Sherlock Holmes-Lovecraft mash-up short story A Study In Emerald, my response was literallytake my money!” I haven’t even read the story yet, but the concept and talent involved sold me. So how did the actual game version of A Study in Emerald turn out? It’s mixed, honestly, but on the whole a satisfying experience. READ MORE

rftgalien1

After a couple years of dormancy, Race for the Galaxy has re-emerged with a new expansion, Alien Artifacts. However, unlike most expansions, Alien Artifacts is the beginning of a new arc for Race, incompatible with the previous add-ons. Games played with Alien Artifacts will be played with just it and the original base set, providing a fresh new take on these now-classic cards — and a smaller deck to shuffle, which is always nice. READ MORE

sentinelsvengeance1

After much delay, Sentinels of the Multiverse: Vengeance has arrived to Kickstarter backers. Originally planned as a standalone expansion, it has since been re-branded as a “mega expansion” but could still be played on its own if you don’t mind the lack of HP tokens and possibly needing to download the core rulebook. More importantly, what Vengeance brings to the table is an entirely new way of playing Sentinels. READ MORE

gu_euphoria

The latest offering from Stonemaier Games, Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia, is one of those awkward games that is easier to play than it is to teach. While certainly not intentional, it does accidentally tie into the game’s dystopian theme of knowledge being dangerous and carefully controlled. In fact, despite the game’s solid mechanics, Euphoria‘s theme is probably its most defining and memorable feature. READ MORE

starrealms1

My fondness for Ascensions brand of deckbuilding is very well-documented, with various editions receiving a place in my year-end favorites list for the last four years running. One of the co-producers of Ascension, Rob Dougherty, has teamed up with fellow Magic Hall-of-Famer Darwin Kastle to create White Wizard Games and its first product, Star Realms. This game brings a new twist to the genre, taking aspects of Ascension and tying it in a bit with its creators’ Magic roots. READ MORE

battlecon_devastation1

One-on-one fighting games have been a mainstay of gaming culture ever since Street Fighter II dragon-punched its way into arcades. The intricate dance of move and counter-move has played out for decades, and in 2010 Level 99 Games designer (and one-time Snackbar contributor) Brad Talton managed to translate that into a deceptively-simple card game system. Dubbed BattleCON (“Battle Connection”) due to the way players play pairs of styles and bases, the system made its debut in War of Indines after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

To say that the game won over a few fans might be considered an understatement, when you look at what happened with the campaign to fund the follow-up, Devastation of Indines. Blowing past its original goal to the tune of being over 500% funded, a truly mind-boggling final product was created. Everything about Devastation is bigger and better. READ MORE

2013best_GU

2013 was a good year for my unplugged gaming, but it could have been amazing. Unfortunately, Kickstarter delays are a fact of life. Of the dozen or so projects I backed scheduled for this year, at least four were delayed beyond my deadline for this column, and two more are currently on-schedule but sadly also due to arrive on the wrong side of my cut-off date. Those five or six games and could have made a strong impact on my list.  Instead they will join the various projects already scheduled for 2014 in what could be a crazy year-end process in twelve months’ time.

And then of course there were all of the new games I played this year that had nothing to do with Kickstarter. It can be tricky to balance supporting independent designers and publishers while still making contributions to the bottom line of my FLGS, but both goals are their own reward. After all, without the store I would have far fewer opportunities to play anything, Kickstarted or not. With that, here are the ten new games I enjoyed playing the most this year. READ MORE

terramystica1

Territory control is a tried and true game mechanic. Usually these types of games feature a military conflict, each player wresting control from the others via show of force or trickery such as in Risk or Small World. But direct player conflict isn’t often a theme of European game design, opting instead for more passive tactics like obstruction. Terra Mystica (published by Z-Man in the US) not only eschews combat, but also puts the focus on the terrain itself. READ MORE