Archive for the ‘ Reviews ’ Category

CRASH GOES TO THE BEACH: A PARADISE FALLEN PREVIEW

I have never been to Hawaii, but if it’s anything like the post-apocalyptic vision from Crash Games’ upcoming title, Paradise Fallen, I think I’d rather stay away. The beauty of the islands call out to me but the lack of supplies, savage tribes, and disruptions in the natural order of time and space doesn’t make for the type of quaint vacation spot I’d hope for. While I’d be too much of a sissy to visit this fallen version of paradise for a little fun-in-the-sun, it does make a great theme for a board game! And a good one at that!

Box art mock-up for Paradise Fallen. Now on Kickstarter!

Box art mock-up for Paradise Fallen. Now on Kickstarter!

In Paradise Fallen, from Crash Games and first-time designer, Andrew Wright (II), players assume the role of tribesmen seeking to explore 9 islands in search of the mystical powers they provide in a not-too-distant-or-friendly-future. Think Lost meets The Hunger Games meets Indiana Jones…kinda.

Set-Up

Game set-up is a cinch. Shuffle the 9 island cards and place them in a 3 x 3 grid in the center of the table. Shuffle a deck of cards and deal 5 to each player. Place your player piece on the corner island closest to your seat. Dump the Kanaloa Tokens near the board. That’s it! You are ready to explore.

Boats on an island. (Not final components)

Boats on an island. (Not final components)

Game-play

Learning how the game works is almost as simple as the set-up. On a player’s turn they can move around the islands and play cards from their hand as much as they want as cards allow.

Movement

To move to an adjacent island you must play Ration Cards (Island Cards may also be used for 1 ration) that are equal to or greater than the cost specified on the island you wish to enter. Any rations above the specified amount are lost so it is necessary to plan your movement carefully and efficiently.

Play Cards

Discover an Island: A player can Discover an Island they are stopped on by playing an Island Card with a matching name, placing the card in front of them and placing a Kanaloa Token on the card that can be used one time to activate that island’s special ability. You can only spend one Kanaloa Token per turn but they can be very helpful if you time it right.

Aptitude Cards: Aptitude Cards are special action cards that breaks some of the basic rules and can be played to either help you help yourself or hinder your opponents. Each card is used once and discarded when you play it.

Aberration Cards: Aberration Cards are played on the island grid either on an island or in-between islands and can also help you or hinder your opponents. They can even hinder your own plans since the effects are applied to the player who placed them as well. So be thoughtful about where you decide to play these cards. Aberrations are cumulative so the more cards placed on a location the more the effect are amplified.

Winning The Game

Play continues until one player discovers a certain amount of islands. The number of islands is determined by the number of players in the game. Once someone discover the set amount of islands all other players get one more turn. The player who discovered the most islands wins. Ties are broken based on who has the most unused Kanaloa Tokens.

Sounds pretty simple, eh? But don’t let this simplicity of set-up and game-play fool you. There is a lot of game here. At it’s core the game is a medium-weight, hand-management game that involves luck, tactics, and strategy. At times the game feels very puzzle-y as players will have to figure out how to use their cards to optimize movement and make the most of the rations available. All of this works very well in a 30 minute time frame where the experience feels different with each game.

Little game. Big punch. (not final components)

Little game. Big punch. (Not final components)

Conclusions

My wife has this rule about the time of day that is acceptable for learning new games. On weeknights, if the sun looks like it’s thinking about going down in the next hour or two, she doesn’t want anything to do with anything new. But when I suggested giving Paradise Fallen a try a little after dark this week, she accepted my invitation when I told her it would only take a minute to learn the basics and be done in thirty minutes. After cruising through our first play she told me she really liked the game and was looking forward to playing it again. That is considered a huge win for me!

I’ve also got a soft spot for small games that pack a big punch. So much so that this was one of the design goals for my own game, The Great Heartland Hauling Co. I’d happily place Paradise Fallen in this category of games. Using a few simple components and a deck of cards, Crash Games and Wright have delivered a portable game that can be learned and played quickly. I can definitely see myself taking this game along when I am taking off for vacations to much less fallen paradises than the one explored in the game.

And what about the art and design? This game is gorgeous! Artist, Jason Carr, and designer, Darrell Louder (of Compounded fame!) have created a visual experience that captures the beauty of the islands with the chaos of the theme in a very functional way. This thing looks HOTT! The iconography depicted on the cards to illustrate special abilities allows the art to shine without being covered by an excess of words. The icons work but will probably take a couple plays to get all the details stuck in your head but once it clicks, it really clicks.

Paradise Fallen is a fun, quick game with an interesting, unique theme. It’s on Kickstarter, so get on board now. Just remember to be on the lookout for rogue tribes trying to get in the way of you harnessing the power of this fallen paradise…or something like that. Just do it. It’ll be fun.

A prototype of Paradise Fallen was provided for the purpose of this preview. I’m also friends with Patrick Nickell (owner of Crash Games) but I would tell you if this game sucked, which it doesn’t, so there.

PATHAGON: ABSTRACT FUN WITH A CLASSIC FEEL

Last November, during my annual trek to Chicago with my wife for the Chicago Toy and Game Fair, Lisa and I came across a booth that really grabbed our attention. Tucked away in the back corner of the exhibit hall, my wife was drawn to the Maranda Enterprises booth like a magnet. And, you know, I’m happy to go where she wants to go, especially when something gaming related peaks her interest, so I followed along.

The Maranda Enterprises booth displayed 6 wooden, bookshelf/heirloom quality abstract games that were designed by Mark Fuchs. Fuchs and his company are known mostly for introducing the world to Ladderball, the popular yard game involving a PVC pipe target and two golf balls connected by a string and flung through the air toward said target. In 2011, he expanded the company to include a unique line of board games that deserve some attention, especially for fans of abstract games.

After talking to Mark’s wife for a few minutes, she told us that his true passion was classic strategy games. She told us that he spent a lot of his free-time in his workshop, lovingly crafting his own wooden games. When you see these games, you can see Mark’s passion shining through. After trying out most of the games, we wished our budget would have allowed us to take home all 6 games but we settled on Pathagon.

To be honest, I’m generally not a huge fan of abstract strategy games (maybe because I rarely win!) but there is something about the visual appeal and big chunky octagonal pieces that draw me to the game. The simple rules help, too.

In the game, each player takes turns placing one of his pieces on the board trying to complete a connected line of his color from one end to the other. Once all of the pieces have been placed, players take turns moving one piece at a time. If your opponent happens to capture one of your pieces between two of her own, that piece gets removed from the board. It’s quick to play, easy to learn, and nice to look at.

From my experience, Mark’s games stand up to many to the classics. Fans of Corridor, Othello, and Cathedral will find themselves on familiar ground while gaining a unique and challenging game experience. I know I enjoyed the experience enough to share it with you guys more than a half year later. I hope that Maranda Enterprises’ line of strategy games, stick around for a while as they scratch a unique itch in the gaming world.

What’s your favorite classic board game?

BEST GAMING EXPERIENCES OF 2011

In this 3 part series, I will explore some of the best of 2011. These selections are based on things I experienced in 2011, not necessarily things that came out in 2011. Please feel free to discuss my list and what you would add in the comments section.

Sorry, I’m a little late on this one…

Backing New Games on Kickstarter

To be sure, one of the highlights of my last year of gaming was discovering and backing cool projects on Kickstarter. Kickstarter, if you haven’t heard of it by now, is a crowd-funding website that allows people to post an idea for a new project, along with a funding goal, and invite interested folks to help get the idea of the ground. If people from the online community pledge enough money to reach the goal, the project moves forward and the project backer’s credit cards get charged. Otherwise, the project fails and the originator of the idea never gets a dime.

Sounds like a cool way to minimize risk for businesses that might not have a lot of capital on hand, eh?

Over the last year, Kickstarter has really become a hub for getting new boardgames to the marketplace. It’s been used by established publishers and brand-spanking-new self-publishers, as well, with varying degrees of success.

The coolest part for me is that I get to feel like I’m a valued contributor to the process of getting good ideas into the world rather than a simple consumer who picks something off the shelf. I know, I’m still a consumer but I have more control over where I direct my energies in the marketplace and that’s exciting to me.

I backed several projects last year, starting with Lorien Green’s board game documentary, Going Cardboard. This was especially cool because my contribution got my name in the credits of a movie for the second time! This is just one example of the kind of perks you get when you help launch projects using Kickstarter.

Since my initial project, I have helped back several board games that have turned out to be fantastic additions to my collection. If you’d like to check out some of the games I helped bring into the world you might want to head over to BoardGameGeek.com and check out Glory To Rome: Black Box Edition, Uncle Chesnut’s Table Gype, Get Bit!, Caveman Curling, and Flash Point: Fire Rescue.

Signing a Deal to Publish my First Game with Cambridge Games Factory

As I’ve written elsewhere, my game Over The Road got picked up by Cambridge Games Factory. CGF is responsible for a great catalog of games that come in small boxes that pack a lot of punch. They offer a wide range of selections from family games to heavier strategy games including Zombie in my Pocket, Barons, Pala, and Glory to Rome (one of the top 100 games in the world according to BoardGameGeek.com). I’m super excited to be bringing my contribution to the gaming world sometime in 2013. I’ll continue posting updates here from time to time. In the meantime, I’ll be continuing to work on some other games I’m developing and trying to find them a publishing home as well (if you are a game publisher, CALL ME!).

Origins Game Fair

Shortly after signing with Cambridge Games Factory I thought it would be a good idea to meet some of the people that work with the company to gain a sense for what I was getting into. So I figured what better way to check them out but to see them in action at one of the biggest gaming convention in the United States.

In June, I travelled to Columbus, Ohio to Origins Game Fair. I volunteered to spend some time at the CGF booth demoing and selling games. I worked a few hours a day and spent the rest of my time checking out other publishers, meeting cool people, and playing lots and lots of games.

As it turns out, CGF’s Commercial Director, Jeremiah Lee, who runs all of their convention appearances, lives about an hour away from me in the Ann Arbor area. He had brought most of his gaming group along to help peddle CGF’s wares. During some late night gaming sessions, we all hit it off rather well and have made a point to get together for more late night gaming sessions a little closer to home. I have come to consider them my very own gaming group (awww, shucks) since most of the game events my wife and I hold are a little more social and serve to introduce interested people to the world of hobby gaming. My friends in Ann Arbor are serious (ahem) gamers and have shared their passion for games with me in a very reciprocal way.

So this highlight is really more about making new friend than going to a big gaming convention, but that was super cool, too. And something I’d like to make more of a habit of.

What were your gaming highlights in 2011?

50 WORD REVIEWS: GOING CARDBOARD

The movie comes with a game designed by Dr. Reiner Knizia!

Lorien Green’s documentary explores board gaming, especially the European variety. Interviews with famed designers and convention coverage paints a picture of a committed niche community. One downside was the missed opportunity to ask, “Why play these games?” Still, it’s packed with tons of bonus footage and well worth a viewing.

BEST MUSICAL EXPERIENCES OF 2011

In this 3 part series, I will explore some of the best of 2011. These selections are based on things I experienced in 2011, not necessarily things that came out in 2011. Please feel free to discuss my list and what you would add in the comments section.

Kelsey Rottiers and The Rising Tide

If you have been hanging around The Green Couch at all over the last year, the name Kelsey Rottiers might ring a bell. She’s a fantastic singer/songwriter that lives in Grand Rapids (she grew up in my home town of Davison, Michigan). Last March, Kelsey released her debut, self-released full length album entitled Kelsey Rottiers and The Rising Tide. As soon as my wife and I heard her latest work we knew that is was something special. A few months after that initial hearing of the record, I offered to help Kelsey by becoming her booking agent. I was convinced that she has something so special that it was worth pouring time and resources into sharing it with others. I used to handle all of the booking for my old band so it started to come back after a while. In the last half of 2011, Kelsey Rottiers and the Rising Tide has played something like 40 shows. We are playing lots more for 2012 including at least two short tours. It’s been a lot of fun to get behind such a talented musician and person of character.

 

Cheap Girls

This is one of my favorite new bands over the last couple of years, even though I’m pretty uncomfortable wearing their t-shirt in public, especially when I’m scooting around town with my wife and daughter. 🙂 Cheap Girls are old friends from Lansing, Michigan. My old bands used to do shows all the time with their old band. I have known a couple of the guys since they we in middle school and have continued to love them more and more with each release. Cheap Girls’ music has a way of reminding me of all the bands I loved in the early 90’s before I discovered punk rock and thought I was “above” all that “Alternative-and-Grunge-nosense”.  It’s part Replacements, part Dinosaur Jr./Buffalo Tom but a little more punk rock. Great melodies deleivered over a wall of sound. They just signed with Rise Records and their new album that was produces by Tom Gabel from Against Me! comes out in February.

 

The Swellers

Lots of  local music (local to me, anyway) on this list! I hope you are catching the theme that Michigan has some great music to offer! The Swellers are a Flint band that played some of their first shows with my old band South Bay Bessie. They were those kids who had some of the best chops in our little scene when they were 14-15 years old. Now, they have two albums out on Fueled By Ramen and they are the band that reminded me that I still like punk rock! Their latest album, Good For Me, was produced by the legendary (fanboy speaking here) Bill Stevenson from Descendants/ALL. For me, the album explores those people and places from the past that shape us in all the ways that make us who we are. I haven’t seen them play live in years but I don’t really have a good excuse since they have been busy trekking all over the world.

 

What are your favorite musical expereinces of 2011?

BEST READING EXPERIENCES OF 2011

In this 3 part series, I will explore some of the best of 2011. These selections are based on things I experienced in 2011, not necessarily things that came out in 2011. Please feel free to discuss my list and what you would add in the comments section.

 Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazerro
This fantastic book tackles the issue of the lack of maturity that can be found in much of Christianity. Scazerro points to the problems of this immaturity and offer the solution of combining contemplative spirituality with emotional health. The book lays our the symptoms of immature Christianity without making the reader feel damned for falling short. Then, it moves on to explain the pathway to an Emotionally Health Spirituality. The solution is described as a journey rather than a list of things to check off to get your life in shape. At the beginning of the year, out entire church went through this book together in small groups. While the book feels very personal it was helpful to read and discuss it as a group. The group setting helped me to articulate my own story and find places where I suffer from emotional and spiritual unhealth. Being surround by gracious, loving people helped make the findings of my self reflection a little easier to swallow. I’d recommend this book to anyone who is curious about Christianity and those who feel stuck. This book can provide a foundation for understanding  many of the short-comings of the church, and provide a grace-filled path that leads to healing and wholeness.
 
The Waiting Place by Eileen Button
At first, I was excited to read this book because the author is married to one of the pastor’s in my church conference and because my mother-in-law was always recommending Eileen Button’s column that was published in the local paper. But as I continued to read story after story of those in-between moments of everyday life that make us who we are, I found myself fully engaged and evaluating my own waiting place. This conversational memoir is filled with beauty, suffering, and a hefty dose of humor. Even though I’ve never met Eileen Button, I felt as if  I was reading the stories of an old friend. Hopefully, with her newspaper column recently coming to an end, we’ll get to hear more from her in the future, preferably in book form.

 

 
The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
This year, I spent a lot more of my reading time in the realm of fiction. In the past, I’ve fund it difficult to get into fiction and stick it out to the end. Maybe I just wasn’t reading the right books! A few months back, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series maybe me feel a bit like a widow for a week or so as my wife devoured the pages each night. I’ve always thought she was a fast reader so I didn’t put much thought into it and kind of blew off her recommendation that I would enjoy the books. I reminded here I didn’t read fiction and told her I’d consider it for the future in case I got bored. From the moment I opened the first book in the series, I found it hard to put the books down. The story was fast-paced, told as a first person account of a young girl from a poor district in a dystopian society who was chosen to fight to the death against 23 other children for the entertainment of the rich and to gain extra rations for the people in her district. Filled with themes exploring issues of war, violence, poverty, sacrifice, and redemption it wasn’t hard to see similarities to the ways of the world in Panem and our own world. I’m looking forward to seeing how this story plays out on the silver screen later this year.

50 WORD REVIEWS: DEMO

This gritty, graphic novel by Brian Wood and illustrator Becky Cloonan, collects 12 stories of people at points of decision. “Gifted” individuals choose to DEMOlish old for new, remain stuck, or dive into despair. These comics aren’t for kids but brim with moments that those further along should relate to.

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