Unplugged

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When I talked about Aquasphere, I mentioned my day job in scientific research. Little did I suspect at the time that I would soon play another game, Alchemists, that would essentially focus on the ins and outs of academia (sort of).

In Alchemists, each player takes on the role of a potion brewer attempting to learn the secrets of their art via experimentation and deduction. There are eight “alchemicals” in the world, and eight mystical ingredients that each contain one of them. Your job is to determine which ingredient represents which alchemical. READ MORE

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Race for the Galaxy is still one of my all-time favorite games, but I won’t deny that it has a fairly steep learning curve. It can be hard to teach to new players, especially after several expansions had fundamentally changed the game for me, making a stripped-down “base” game awkward for all involved. A new, streamlined start would be a better option, and that’s exactly what Roll for the Galaxy offers. READ MORE

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I really appreciate good world-building. For me, the sign of a solid, well-crafted setting is the ability to re-use it in other creations beyond the original and its sequels or expansions. This isn’t something that happens in the board game world very often without a licensed property being involved. A good recent example is Fantasy Flight Games’s Android universe, which spun off into Infiltration and served as a natural fit for the revival of Netrunner.

Level 99 Games has now done something similar, taking its World of Indines, most notably seen in its BattleCON Street Fighter-style fighting games, and exploring one of its key locations: Argent University. READ MORE

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In general, I am a fan of the way Stefan Feld designs games. His creations (like Trajan, Rialto, The Castles of Burgundy and Notre Dame) typically feature several point-generating paths, a simple yet intricate way to navigate them and, frequently, some sort of negative element that must be mitigated. You often have to plan moves several steps ahead, and it often feels as if you never have enough time or actions to do everything you need to get done. There are definitely a few titles of his that fail to grip me or even actively turn me away (Macao comes to mind here), but for the most part, I am willing to give any new release of his a fair shot. READ MORE

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Sentinels of the Multiverse remains one of my favorite games of all-time, but I readily admit that the mechanics can be a bit much at times. Fortunately, my friends and I have decades of playing and judging Magic: the Gathering under our collective belts to help us manage dozens of card effects. If you’ve tried Sentinels and enjoyed the concept but found it too “mathy,” perhaps a more tangible system is for you: enter Sentinel Tactics. READ MORE

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The ever-expanding multiverse of Greater Than Games’s “Sentinels Comics” takes an interstellar road trip with the latest supplement, Wrath of the Cosmos. As with previous expansions, Wrath contains two new heroes, two new environments, and four new villains for your cooperative comic-book enjoyment. Also like previous expansions, this one focuses on one particular aspect and related tropes of traditional comic superhero storytelling; in this case, that means extra-terrestrial threats to Earth and its surroundings! READ MORE

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As is apparently tradition, it seems that my analog gaming year was much better than my digital one. Writing my official Staff Picks list (running tomorrow) often feels more like a question of “do I even have ten games to list this year?” than it is which ones were my legitimate favorites. That is never the case for this list, as I usually keep a year-long draft on my BoardGameGeek profile that changes constantly as new games arrive and older ones fall out of favor. This list is also not always entirely about the current year, due to vagaries concerning actual US release dates versus European releases, Kickstarter bonuses or even when I simply first become aware of the game in question. At least this year, I have already talked about every game that made the list, which has rarely been the case in the past! READ MORE

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Emergents: Genesis is a new deckbuilding game currently finishing up a successful Kickstarter campaign. Designer Anthony Conta took some time out of his schedule to talk to us about the game.

Snackbar Games: To begin, tell us a little about the Emergents Universe.

Anthony Conta: The Emergents Universe is a world where individuals have begun to realize powers that lay dormant within them. As the storyline unfolds, peoples’ powers emerge and they start to become extraordinary. The first emergent, Zeroth, uses his powers to recognize and fend off an alien invasion, with the help of several others he gathers to fight. The others that fight also have powers, and after the battle, the four go on to form a school to teach others These four others — Helios, Moxie, Billy Stopless and The Abyss — were each members of the Genesis Squadron, the first team of Emergents. Thus, we’ve named this game after them: Emergents: Genesis. READ MORE

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When you first sit down to a game of Five Tribes, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. A grid of 30 tiles, representing five different types of district in the sultanate, each begin with three randomly-assigned colored meeples, representing the titular five tribes. A market of cards representing various goods are laid out to one side, and a selection of djinn on the other. Your mission is to maneuver the meeples to specific tiles to best take advantage of both the tribes and the tiles. Sounds simple, and it is, but it sure doesn’t seem that way when starting out. READ MORE

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The “4X” (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate) genre is one more familiar and accessible to PC gamers (e.g., CivilizationStarCraft) than it is to the cardboard crowd. The most well-known 4X board games are usually epic, sprawling affairs like Twilight Imperium, Age of Empires, Eclipse or even Civilization: the Board Game. These games have their devotees, but turn away many with their intensive session times, excessive number of pieces, intricate rules, or any number of other factors.

Combining traditional 4X gameplay with the recent design trend towards “micro-games” — games with minimal components that can be played in under 20 minutes — has resulted in Scott Almes’s Tiny Epic Kingdoms, published by Gamelyn Games (Dungeon Heroes). TEK actually has a play time of about half an hour, but that’s still at least one-eighth the time commitment of a normal 4X so the “micro” label still fits. But can you really condense 4X gameplay into a box the size of about two DVD cases stacked on top of each other? READ MORE