iOS Universal, PC/Mac • Being a socially awkward 12 year-old in 1983 meant that I spent an inordinate amount of time by myself at the local mall, most of it at Aladdin’s Castle spending paper route earnings one quarter at a time. When the quarters dried up only a few other stores could garner enough excitement to get a visit before biking home. There was Hobby Horse, where I could peruse Dungeon & Dragons modules and Ral Partha metal figures. There was Spencer Gifts, whose poster section offered the alluring chance to spy sideboob before being asked to leave the store. And then there was Waldenbooks, one of the early Amazon casualties, which offered up more books than I could imagine and was far closer to home than any public library. It was here that I purchased my first Fighting Fantasy book, Warlock of Firetop Mountain.
iOS Universal, PC/Mac • When the first Where’s Waldo? book was published I was already in high school failing to impress the ladies with tales of my 7th level paladin, Sir Loinofbeef. Yes, even at 16 I was confused why girls weren’t impressed by the wit of a Bugs Bunny cartoon from 1949. Anyway, I was a bit on the old side for “hidden object” books that seem to still be a thing 30 years after the bespectacled barber pole made his first appearance. Hidden Folks is basically a Where’s Waldo? for the digital age. Each screen is loaded with a mind boggling horde of stuff, and you’re tasked with finding a needle in the figurative haystack. Sounds terrible, I know, but for some reason it isn’t. In fact, it’s a rather wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
Tabletop • In the comments following our review of Arkham Horror: The Card Game, there was short discussion of Fantasy Flight‘s recent decision to split their rulebooks into two separate tomes, a Learn to Play guide and a Rules Reference. Victory Point Games has done FFG one better. Actually, four better. That’s right, when you pull the lid off of the latest edition of Dawn of the Zeds you’ll find no less than six rulebooks staring you in the face. Six. If the tech writer at VPG was writing A Song of Ice and Fire the series would have ended back in 2005. I’ll admit, the six manuals seemed like a whole lot of overkill until I actually got this to the table. Dawn of the Zeds can be a massive, complex game if you want it to be, or it can be a simple struggle against invading hordes. Either way, it’s harder than hell and hell of a lot of fun.
iOS Universal, Android, PC/Mac • I worry about Scandinavians. They’ve been exporting bleakness long enough that it may actually have overtaken mythology as their principal cultural product. The Frostrune mixes peanut butter* with a bar of that bitter chocolate: it’s a point-and-click adventure in which you play the lone survivor of shipwreck, a thirteen-year-old girl. After washing ashore, you discover that everyone you encounter is dead, murdered by a legendary being with the power to create magical ice in summertime. I’ll spoil the happy ending for you: you use necromancy to stop it, but everybody’s still dead and you’re still alone.
iOS Universal, PC/Mac • The Games Workshop licensing bonanza continues. Crazy Warehouse Man says all licenses must go by midnight tonight! No exceptions. Battlefleet Gothic: SOLD! Man-o-War: Bring your floaties, we’ve got the flintlocks! Necromunda: It just makes such perfect sense! And don’t think we forgot about your massed armour fans! Sadly, that’s as excited as I’ll ever get when discussing HexWar’s absolutely perfunctory turn-based effort. I’m beginning to think they’ve kept the art team on and sent the coders home. What makes The Horus Heresy: Battle of Tallarn a tough one to level criticism at is a by-the-book approach to both source material and its tactical crunch. If ever a game felt like it was helping a studio reach a monthly quota, Battle of Tallarn is it.
Tabletop • While the Cthulhu Mythos burst like a purulent, racist boil from the twisted mind of H.P. Lovecraft way back in the 1920’s, it’s only been in the last 10 years or so that Fantasy Flight Games has managed to turn it into a means to print money. Fantasy Flight has mastered the genre and has created a handful of tabletop titles rife with existential dread and, of course, tentacles. Their latest recalls their first, and most popular, game to tread these dark paths: Arkham Horror. Only this time, there’s no board, no 8,000 cardboard chits, and no FAQ full of rules exceptions. Just cards. Lots and lots of cards.
iOS Universal, Android • The retreat from Game Center has opened a hole in the iOS board game development world. With Apple’s commitment to asynchronous multiplayer looking uncertain and the value of a unified multiplayer solution high, publishers of popular board games are likely to seek partnerships with developers who have proven multiplayer systems. That’s going to be very interesting to observe over the next few years. Potion Explosion is a Horrible Games/Cool Mini Or Not product in the tabletop world, but Asmodee Digital and Studio Clangore have brought it to mobile devices, which means you can use an existing account for any Days of Wonder or Asmodee title. That’s a pretty impressive catalog–just in my own iTunes library, I have Ticket To Ride, Small World (2, he added, rolling his eyes), the recently improved Colt Express, Pandemic, and Splendor.
PS4, Vita • Mention the title ‘Dynasty Warriors’ and some folk blanch at the prospect of once again scything to hair-metal through hordes of hesitant Han. Truth is, the Dynasty Warriors games are actually pretty damn good, and they’re one of the last bastions of the moribund beat ’em up genre. I’m here to talk about one specific spin-off for PS4 and Vita in Dynasty Warriors: Godseekers, a fresh turn-based twist on the long-running series. The Omega Force gang were said to have been jonesing to create something like Godseekers for a while, give the series hasn’t seen a tactics game since the PS2, largely honing their Han-themed crowd control simulators. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and time in the wilderness has justified the return to cogitative griddery. Cutting to the chase, Godseekers is absolutely terrific and the rest of year ought to get its tactical act together, because this is 2017’s turn-based strategy to beat.
PC/Mac • RimWorld is a colony building and survival simulation game that has everything you’d expect from the genre. You’ll act as the architect for a new colony and guide its residents to ever greater levels of survivability, self-sufficiency, and success. This includes zoning the settlement area for residential buildings, farming, and storage as well as identifying what structures should be built, how electricity should be generated, and what tools of production, furniture, and artwork should be used. There’s also the usual research function to build out a technology tree and open up new options. What’s cool about RimWorld is not that it hits these hallmarks of base-building and survival games. It certainly does. It’s not that it does it really well or better than most—though this is also true. What really makes RimWorld so good–I had to force myself to stop playing–are two things: a true open-world style and a relatively unique story-infused narrative.
Cricket, or baseball with less chewing tobacco. Second only to soccer in terms of global attendance and popularity, but a game of impregnable mystery to our North American friends. [Up until this article, my nearest brush with cricket has been watching Ian Faith smash his cricket bat into a television. -ed.] It was also a sport done a decade-long cycle of digital travesty in the 2000s, so much so that a game heralding one of cricket’s greatest clashes was released in such a state, it was removed from sight and beaten to death with a Gray-Nicolls.