Tabletop • My bike is a recumbent–basically a recliner welded to a bike frame–which is perfect for getting my fat butt around town. And that, ladies and gents, is the full extent of my cycling knowledge. Much like all sports, cycling is something I neither participate in nor understand. Several members of my regular game group, however, are active cyclers who not only own more bikes than I’ve owned in my entire life, but, when not cycling, will sit and watch other people racing their bikes. I bought Flamme Rouge for them, thinking that getting it on the table would be an easy sell. It wasn’t, but we did finally manage to play it which led to three consecutive games in a row. In other words, it went over well.
iPad, PC/Mac • Subsurface Circular exists primarily because of a willingness to experiment during a lull in the developer’s schedule, but it also seems to suit the needs of a maturing game-playing public. While its gameplay is aptly described as “text adventure”, the game deserves credit for establishing an atmosphere and an aesthetic using high-quality audio and visuals. This is possible in such a short window largely because it’s a single-room mystery: the game is played entirely on a train for robots, with the player taking the role of a robot detective smart enough that humans have rendered it unable to leave the train as a precaution.
iOS Universal • Since the release of Card Crawl a few years back, the Solitaire Card Game With A Cool Theme That Makes It Cooler Than Your Standard Card GameTM genre has really taken off. Tinytouchtales by themselves have released both Card Thief and Miracle Merchant, but there have been others as well, such as Guild of Dungeoneering and others that I can’t remember, not to mention that this opener is already getting a bit long in the tooth. Underhand is the latest game to arrive in the genre but, unfortunately, feels less like Card Crawl and more like the unholy love child of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books and Groundhog Day.
Tabletop • Games Workshop has been in the business of creating miniatures and games for more than 30 years. Earlier in their history, when this writer was much less grey, the company was known for creating a wide series of miniatures board games that served as entry points into their Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy universes. Some were great fun, while others were wild, crazy and unbalanced (and still a bit fun). Nevertheless, the company took efforts to attract gamers into their orbit and keep them there. GW underwent a change in focus for many years, purging almost all of those gems from their catalogue and putting their time and money solely into miniature games. It seems there has been a change at Games Workshop, however, and they’ve been quietly releasing a series of miniatures board games for the last few years. Many of these were not priced to appeal to mainstream gamers, focusing on the GW fanbase instead. With their latest miniatures board game, Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire, however, GW is taking a direct aim at competing with the mainstream products from their main competitors, Fantasy Flight and Cool Mini or Not.
iOS Universal • Some games just aren’t ready for release. Lets keep that in mind while we talk about the recently released Eminence: Xander’s Tales. Eminence was originally billed as a CCG/MMORPG when it was Kickstarted by Aeterna Studios in 2014. Now it’s 2017 and Aeterna Studios has finally released an iOS version of Eminence, without the MMORPG elements, leaving a odd card game that combines deck-building and random card packs but none of the other traditional elements of a CCG. It’s about as much fun as finding out your ice-cream sundae was made with hot fudge and cottage cheese.
Tabletop • While board gaming is still a fairly small niche of the hobby world, it’s made up of many smaller niches. Many of those I’ve dabbled in: war games, miniatures, 18xx, smelling like you haven’t showered in three weeks. One group I’ve never participated deals with something called Print-and-Play. These are the crazy people [I only say this because a good friend is one of these people and he’s only slightly not crazy -ed.] who spend a lot of time to handcraft beautiful copies of games released for free and posted on sites like BGG. I haven’t even been one of the lazy ones who just print everything on regular paper and tape it together with Scotch tape. Nothing in this process interested me in until I helped design a Print-and-Play game of my own, and now I think they’re the greatest thing ever. Well, this game is, at least.
Tabletop • You may not of heard of Restoration Games–they’re relatively new–but I don’t think that will last for long. For one, you’re reading this, and I’m about to talk about them as if they’re my first middle school crush. Secondly, they’re taking older games from the 80s and 90s and updating them for modern gamers which is a really cool thing to be doing. What games, I hear you ask? Well, let’s take a look at their racing/gambling hybrid, Downforce.
iOS Universal, PC/Mac/Linux • Warbands: Bushido is a digital miniatures skirmish game from Russian developers Red Unit Studios aiming to bring the experience of tabletop minis gaming to digital. All the cards, dice, and miniatures without all the messy assembly and painting. The game is set in the later Warring States, or Sengoku, period of Japan’s 16th century and allows you to build warbands of varying sizes taking on all comers in PvP gameplay. Warbands had a rather difficult Early Access release on Steam which I, thankfully, missed. They appear to have weathered those initial difficulties, however, and have added a Mac and mobile release to the Warbands: Bushido stable. Make no mistake though, this is still an unfinished product. Playable and very fun but still not a done deal.
Switch • I like to imagine that Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was pitched by the most dependable, sober person at Ubisoft. You may have heard that it’s mostly XCOM, but with much less uncertainty and with some light puzzling elements replacing base management. Add a manic, child-friendly theme and remove permadeath, and that’s pretty accurate, which makes me think that pitch involved a virtuoso in the projection of normalcy. The characters are pre-made (so I can’t do what I’ve long done with XCOM and learn my kids’ classmates names by assigning them to my soldiers*) [I, on the other hand, change all my soldiers to British redheads named Amy Pond. It’s a bit weird. -ed.] but they have distinct skills trees which allow them to specialize in quite varied ways. Consequently, you have a lot of freedom to build the tools you want, but the game is correspondingly free to offer rather off-the-wall challenges.
iOS Universal, Android • I’ve given up being mad about freemium games. Its akin to fighting the tide, doesn’t really have any impact, and, after all, most freemium titles aren’t games at all but psychological engines devised only to part people from their money. Occasionally, however, a freemium title releases that, deliberately or accidentally, is actually a good game and that old rage begins to brew. Stormbound is a strategy CCG developed for Kongregate by Paladin Studios in the Netherlands. It’s a vibrantly styled, unique take on the CCG with some very interesting gameplay elements. It also has a freemium pay-engine strapped to it, by Kongregate I presume, that will make you weep for what could have been a true gem. It’s not as sad as the ending of Old Yeller, but you will ponder how greed can so often overcome the desire to less egregiously monetize a very good game.