Unplugged

unplugged_henry

For the next two weeks, Snackbar Games’ columnists are all mixed up! Serotonin‘s Henry Skey steps in for this installment of Gaming Unplugged.  

I’m not exactly a board game person. Oh sure, I pretended to like Monopoly like everybody else growing up, and we’d roll out some obscure card game at a friend’s house, usually involving multiple languages, ripped cards and missing instruction booklets. The obvious joke of playing a “bored” game came up frequently. I sound like the perfect guest host for a column dedicated to talk about non-electronic games, don’t I?

The truth is, I like board games and card games, but they’re an entirely different kettle of fish from video games. READ MORE

galacticstrikeforce

The worst outcome for a first-time game designer is, ironically, capturing lighting in a bottle. Yes, you get all the benefits that come from a brilliant creation that captures the hearts and minds of players. But what can you do for a follow-up that could possibly compare favorably? This was the situation in which Greater Than Games found itself as it had to release its new cooperative space-ship deckbuilding game Galactic Strike Force in the wake of its monumentally-successful cooperative comic book superhero game Sentinels of the Multiverse. Did the team recapture the magic of Sentinels, or did it hit the somewhat inevitable sophomore slump? The answer is a little of both. READ MORE

caverna1

Seven years ago, Uwe Rosenberg’s Agricola took the modern board gaming world by storm, winning award after award and entrenching itself firmly atop the BoardGameGeek.com ratings, where it still resides comfortably as the third highest-rated game of all time. Its not flawless by any means, and many gamers opt to not even use the best — and to be fair, most complicated — aspect of the game: the occupation and minor improvement cards. The “family game” version sacrifices variability for simplicity, but loses little to none of the worker-placement struggle to avoid starvation as you develop your own farm. Now Rosenberg has revisited many of his Agricola mechanics for a sequel of sorts in Caverna: The Cave Farmers, which eliminates the cards altogether to provide one unified experience. READ MORE

tzolkin3

The whole “Mayan Calendar” doomsday scenario of late 2012 was an amusing, if ultimately pointless, event that will largely vanish into memory as time passes. For board game fans, however, it will forever be immortalized by the brilliant Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar, designed by Italian Daniele Tascani with help from fellow countryman Simone Luciani. Tzolk’in appeared on a truly impressive number of year’s best lists from late 2012 to early 2014, winning a half-dozen awards and nominated for at least twice as many more in that span. READ MORE

gu_spyrium3Worker placement is a recurring mechanic in a lot of modern board games. One of the very first games to use this mechanic was Caylus, designed by William Atta almost ten years ago. Nearly a decade after his debut creation, Atta has returned to the worker placement mindspace and turned it into Spyrium with some unique modifications. READ MORE

gu_lucky1

One of my very first Unplugged columns covered the deluxe version of Cheapass Games mainstay Kill Doctor Lucky. I’ve been a fan of James Ernest’s quirky game design philosophy for a while now, but my only experience with one of his flagship titles was not a favorable one due to one or two problems that really dragged it down. Fortunately, a new card-only version of KDL has eliminated these and made casual homicide fun again. READ MORE

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