I’ve been curious about LEGO board games for a while. They’ve been on the market for more than a year now, yet there really hadn’t been one that looked enticing enough for me to finally bite the bullet and make a purchase. But this past fall, LEGO unveiled their Heroica line of dungeon crawl games. “Great!,” I thought. One of my favorite genres mixed with everyone’s favorite building blocks – what could possibly go wrong?
As it turns out, plenty.
This past weekend, my wife and I celebrated our seventh anniversary. Like any good geek couple shackled with the responsibilities of jobs, school, and parenthood, we didn’t have our hopes set too high for a night on the town or a weekend away. Instead, we celebrated the only way we knew how – by cracking open a brand new game. Lucky for us, it made our anniversary a memorable one. Why? Because Eminent Domain might just be our favorite game so far.
I was never much for charades, Pictionary makes my skin crawl, and the last game of Twister I played resulted in two separate ambulances and a bevy of court orders. Needless to say, party games aren’t usually my thing. And yet despite my general distaste for the genre, I found myself slapping on an engineer’s cap and playing conductor for a few rounds of Train of Thought. As it turns out, there’s a little party fun tucked away somewhere inside me after all.
Train of Thought is a party game that’s all about word association. Stacks of cards are scattered around the table, and on each card are six different words. Players will take turns being the conductor, and it’s the conductor’s job to roll a die to determine a starting word, draw a new card kept in secret, and attempt to get the other players to say the word on the secret card using a three word clue that contains the word on the first card. So if I roll a 6, and on the first card the sixth word is car and the second card the sixth word is engine, I might give a clue like “Under car hood.” Somebody might guess engine, and if they do, both the guesser and the conductor get a point.
As someone fairly new to the world of board games, I’m afraid that I have to admit that I’ve never played Dominion. In fact, I’ve never played a deck building game at all. Puzzle Strike has served as my entry into this particular sub-genre of gaming, and for the most part, it’s been a welcoming experience. With simple rules, quick gameplay, plenty of variety, and the fun of playing with chips instead of cards, it almost seems like the perfect entry point for those looking to delve into the world of deck building – almost.
Loosely inspired by the video game Puzzle Fighter, players will receive gems on each turn that they can try to combine and “crash” into their opponent’s playing field. The object of the game is to destroy your opponent by filling their field with 10 or more gems, thus ending the game. In case you’re not familiar with Puzzle Fighter, think of the gems as your falling blocks in Tetris. Once you have 10 or more of them, the screen fills up and its game over.
Amongst the board gaming elite, there are few words that draw more ire and disgust than “Monopoly.” The first real board game most of us learn as a kid, it’s simple dice rolling, property-buying, four hour sessions of free market economy really seem to rub some people the wrong way. In fact, this quintessential American classic scores no higher than a 4.5 average on BoardGameGeek. Yeesh.
It would seems serious gamers have a real hate on for Rich Uncle Pennybags and his thimble full of fun. Despite all of this, I’m here to sell you on a little card game called Monopoly Deal.
David Sirlin has become something of a maverick in the world of competitive games over the last few years. Puzzle Strike managed to recreate the experience of Capcom’s Puzzle Fighter in a tabletop experience, complete with its own set of Street Fighter-style characters. Yomi brought those same characters into a rock-paper-scissor style card battle. And wedged neatly in between those two releases was Flash Duel, a card game that brought Sirlin’s Fantasy Strike fighters back, albeit in a somewhat simpler fashion.
The basics in Flash Duel are incredibly straight-forward. Each player is represented by a wooden pawn, and at the start of the game these pawns occupy opposite ends of numbered board. In your hand are five cards, each of which features a number from 1 thru 5 on it. Players will use these cards to move, attack, defend, and push.
While I’ll always prefer the original, there’s simply no way around it – Aliens was one hell of a good movie. Games Workshop thought so too, and back in 1989 they decided to show this love by ripping off the premise and cramming it into the Warhammer 40k universe with the release of the board game Space Hulk. 11 years and 2 re-releases later, Fantasy Flight Games decided to use their licensing rights to re-imagine it as a card game. The results, like the film it’s ripping off, are exquisite.
In the Warhammer Universe, a Space Hulk is a derelict spacecraft left floating through the cosmos, its crew either dead or abandoned. Death Angel tells the tale of a team of Space Marines who board the ship Sin of Damnation. Their mission? To quell the Genestealer infestation aboard and destroy the forward launch control rooms.
Earthly elements have long played a role in card games, whether we’re talking Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon. But while water, fire, air and rock types in those titles tend to represent symbolic groupings, there aren’t too many games out there that simply address the blunt force of these elements. In the simplest way possible, Eleminis has stepped up to fill this void.
It’s a story as old as time: lemmings are born, raised, and – at some point in their life cycle – decide to jump off a cliff along with their buddies in a spectacle of mass suicide that would put Jonestown to shame. But here’s the thing – it’s just not true. Knowing this, the fine folks at a research lab in Montana have spent millions to breed and race a suicidal strain of lemming, so that they can be raced to their death to settle a $20 bet. We like to call this “science.”
When it comes to brand name American board games, there seems to be two schools of thought on how to pump out more products that cash in on the popularity of a decades old franchise. You can either pair an existing game with a popular license (Super Mario Yahtzee, Monopoly: Spongebob Squarepants), or you can take that popular brand name and slap it on a game that has nothing to do with the original product. Such is the case with Battleship Express.
There are boats in Battleship Express. It’s a strange observation to make, I know – but I point this out because, with that single solitary exception, this game nothing in common with Battleship. Zero. Zip. Bupkiss.
I have a confession to make: I’ve seen Mothra vs. Godzilla more times than should be legally allowed. This isn’t something I’m boasting about mind you – nobody should take pride in needing four digits to count the number of times I’ve heard “save our egg!” shouted by two miniature ladies. You see, rather than boasting, I bring you this fact with my head hung in lowly shame. I had thought I’d finally left my Mothra-watching kaiju ways behind me – but Toy Vault Games was insistent on dragging me back in with their city-smashing good time, Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars.
Let’s get one thing clear right up front: Kaiju World Wars is exactly what you’d want a Godzilla-licensed game to be – mindless destruction. Players will pick between one of four kaiju (giant monster for those not fluent in Japanese geekery) and set out to destroy buildings, military vehicles, and the kaiju of other players in an attempt to become the (wait for it…) king of the monsters!
Miniatures scare me. Not in that “things that go bump in the night” kind of way, but in that “this seems too complex/will inevitably make me look like the village idiot” kind of way. I have friends that war game with hulking space robots and bad ass vehicles, and the prospect of stepping into that world terrifies me to the very core. Needless to say, the idea behind Heroscape – miniature figures running around hex-based landscape beating the hell out of each other – did nothing to help me swallow that fear. Yet swallow I did – and you know what? I think it made me a better man.
Perpetual Geek Machine might be the place where big kids come to play, but even the biggest of kids can have little ones running around in their living room. If those little ones are your own kids (as opposed to an army of midgets/cats/robot badgers), you’ll no doubt be looking for a great way to bring them into your gaming world. Regardless of their age, Shake ‘n Take should easily get those kids unplugged from the TV and parked right at your kitchen table.
As the old saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Thankfully nobody ever said that adage applied to mice. This November Disney Interactive is preparing to launch an elaborate new adventure in the world of Mickey Mouse, and for the first time this generation that adventure will be entirely interactive.