Friday, 23 December 2016

Review - Ghost Stories

Published by Asmodee
Designed by Antoine Bauza
For 1 to 4 players, aged 12 to adult


Ghost Stories title.


I've been gaming for a long time. Forever, really.

I always loved board games more than video games or computer games. While I owned a Sinclair Spectrum (oh, yes), and eventually upgraded to an Amiga, before getting one of those new-fangled Mega Drives, it was always board games that captured my imagination. I guess, part of the reason, is because I have always been creative. From my perspective as a writer, a board game is a framework of rules that allows you to create your own story. By contrast, a video game is a framework of rules that allows you to star in someone else's story.

Back in the good old days, Parker Brothers, Waddingtons, and MB gave me exciting worlds to explore, and stories to tell. But over time, I felt the lure of Games Workshop, and I progressed into the dark realm of brutal fantasy and grim-dark science fiction.

And then I went to the brutal and grim-dark world of university, and everything changed.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Review - Kingdom Death: Monster

Designed by Adam Poots
Published by Kingdom Death
For 1 to 4 players, aged 17 to adult

Kingdom Death: Monster


One Sunday afternoon, way back in my sepia-toned youth, I watched a film that changed my life.

The film was Clash of the Titans. And no, I don't mean that bloody awful travesty of a remake. I mean the original, which while not being an amazing film even by the standards of the day, was pure cinematic magic to me. The tale of gods and monsters, brought to life through Ray Harryhausen's incredible stop-motion animation, transfixed me. I was instantly transported to another world, and some people would argue I never really came back.

It's hardly surprising that my first trilogy of children's novels was an attempt to recapture that pure sense of wonder by creating a world populated by the same mythical beasts that had stolen my heart so many years before.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Review - Lost Patrol

Published by Games Workshop
For 2 players, aged 12 to adult


The front cover artwork from Lost Patrol, which looks like genestealers in a mosh pit.


When did the world become so bitter?

When did we start finding it so much easier to mock than to admire? When did we start seeing the bad in every good, and making sure no good deed went unpunished?

I blame the Internet.

I blame the medium that gave everyone a voice while taking away their face.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

It's About Time

I got an e-mail from eBay the other week.

Nothing particularly unusual about that. I get e-mails from eBay pretty much everyday: "You've been outbid," "That seller you like has listed something you didn't realise you needed until right now," "We know where you live," "We're coming for your soul."

But on this occasion, the e-mail was something rather unexpected: A £15 money-off voucher for any purchase over £30.

That's nice, but I couldn't really think of anything I wanted or needed.

After reading the e-mail, I returned to my latest game of Betrayal at Calth, and I moved my unit of Blood Angel terminators, repurposed from Space Hulk. You see, regular readers (if such mythic entities truly exist) may remember that when Betrayal at Calth came out last year, I really couldn't justify the £95 price tag, so I ended up purchasing only the cardboard components from a seller on eBay, and then proxying the miniatures.

Perhaps you can see where this article is going.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Review - Gorechosen

Published by Games Workshop
For 2-4 players, aged 12 to adult




"I'm a big fan."

I say that a lot.

I probably shouldn't.

I used to say, "I'm a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft." I've read a huge amount of the man's work, and I do occasionally get a bit sniffy about the way Fantasy Flight Games handles Cthulhu and the extended mythos.

But a while back (by which I mean a long time ago), I went to Florida to see Mickey Mouse. One day, I decided to wear my Miskatonic University tee, which (at the time) I thought was pretty funny. (Hint: It's not funny.) As I was walking around the park, I was suddenly beset by an elderly gentleman talking in a foreign language. He gabbled away for a few seconds, and then stopped, as if waiting for me to respond.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Review - Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower - Hero Cards

Games Workshop is really trying.

I honestly, truly believe it's trying.

It's still making mistakes, and every step it takes is met by dogged resistance from the people who decided years ago that Games Workshop is the actual Devil.

But it keeps trying, just the same.




When Games Workshop released the Mighty Heroes "expansion" for Silver Tower, there was a lot of noise. The use of that word - "expansion" - was the main problem. For some people, four plastic miniatures, with no cards for actually using them in the game seemed like a bit too much of a stretch in terms of what an expansion should actually be. The counter-argument was, the rules for those four miniatures are already in the Silver Tower rules book, and are also in the app.

Ah yes, the app... The Silver Tower app contains rules for over 40 additional heroes for use in the game (at a small charge to unlock each one, or a slightly bigger charge to unlock them all). But there is no way I'm using that. It's ugly, and poorly laid out. And besides, I don't use apps when I'm playing board games.

While I was... content... to print out the hero cards from the rules book, and resigned to not using any extra characters from the app, I was one of the people crying out for physical cards. I contacted Games Workshop and told them real, physical cards would sell. Lots of other people did the same.

Fast forward just a few short months, and a pack of cards with rules for 43 heroes (almost all of the heroes from the app, plus the extra heroes from the Silver Tower rules book) has just landed on my door mat.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Review - Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game

Designed by Brady Sadler and Adam Sadler
Published by Fantasy Flight Games
For 1-4 players, aged 14 to adult

Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game


Well, that escalated quickly.

I am, of course, talking about the split of Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) and Games Workshop (GW). You must have heard about it. It's the most news-worthy thing to have happened in the gaming world since that last Kickstarter campaign that everybody backed, which delivered slightly late and with slightly lower quality components than expected.

For the last few years, FFG has been using GW's intellectual property to pump out living card games (Conquest), strategy games (Forbidden Stars), adventure games (Talisman, Relic), and more. But recently, it has become increasingly apparent that the relationship couldn't last. FFG has been moving more into miniatures-based games, and GW has returned to producing board games for the first time since the '90s.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Review - Regency

Published by The Baronage Press
Designed by a fun sponge
For 2-4 players, aged 7 to 70 (apparently)



On occasion, I have been known to ramble.

This is an understatement.

I appreciate my reviews are often long, and sometimes come front-loaded with a preamble that is longer than the amble itself.

I would apologise, but my apology would be a lie.

I love words, and I love writing. I've been making what almost passes as a living based on my writing for a long time now. But I appreciate that not everybody wants to wade through a deluge of words to find out about some dusty old game they found in a charity shop. So, for the benefit of anyone who is in Oxfam or Scope right now, reading this review on a phone with a copy of Regency in one hand, I'll get to the point:

Regency gifted me with one the worst gaming experiences of my life. And I don't say that lightly, because I've played The Worst Case Scenario Survival Game.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Walking Dead: No Sanctuary - Inane Ramblings About Kickstarter

IPs aren't bullet proof. Miniatures games on Kickstarter aren't guaranteed to generate $1 million in pledges. Sometimes even a Plan B isn't enough.

These are the things that the current Kickstarter campaign for The Walking Dead: No Sanctuary has taught us.

It's been a painful lesson, and much like a bite from a walker, has caused a lot of backers to groan, gnash their teeth, and develop a thirst for human blood.

However, unlike a bite from a zombie, it looks like this little incident doesn't end with a bullet to the head.

In fact, unlike most zombie stories, this one has a happy ending.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Review - Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower

Published by Games Workshop
For 2-4 players, aged 14 years to adult


Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower



Some out of production games demand a reprint.

Some games deserve to be repackaged, updated, and made available to the masses so people do not have to pay obscene prices on eBay.

Some games are so timeless and superb that they should always be in print, and the world seems incomplete without them.

Guess what...?

Warhammer Quest isn't one of them.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Review - Pie Face!

Published by Hasbro
Designed by the Spanish Inquisition
For 2 or more victims players aged 5 to adult

Cover of the Pie Face! board game, showing a cartoon child covered in squirty cream.


Pie Face! (complete with the exclamation point) isn't really a game. I mean, you play it, it's got rules, and there are winning conditions; but it doesn't really feel like a game.

If I was feeling generous I would call it an activity.

But honestly, it's just a torture device. 

A torture device designed by The Three Stooges.

Kids love it though. Why wouldn't they? It involves squirty cream and slapstick humour. Playing it is like starring in your own episode of The Chuckle Brothers*. And yes, that is as bad as it sounds. Let me explain...

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Review - Family Fortunes

Published by Britannia Games
Designed by Britannia Games Limited
For 2 players or 2 teams, aged 8 to adult


Family Fortunes


Television was a big part of my life growing up.

I think, part of the reason is because my parents both worked incredibly hard. They bust a gut to make sure they could provide for their family, and when they finally got to have a moment of downtime, they invariably flaked in front of the television. British soap operas, like Eastenders, were a staple in our house; but really anything was fair game.

When I think back to my childhood, I don't tend to remember a lot of specific things; but I do remember particular feelings and emotions quite vividly, and a lot of those feelings are indelibly linked to television.

The jaunty intro to The Antiques Roadshow, even now, fills me with a deep sense of misery; because back in the day, that was the shot across the bow. It was the reminder that all I had to look forward to was half and hour of the dullest television ever created, followed by the mournful opening credits of Last of the Summer Wines, which ultimately meant bedtime, followed by Monday bastard morning, and another week of school predominantly comprising being bullied, feeling like I wasn't particularly good at anything, and being told to stop daydreaming.

I think that's why I don't really watch television anymore.

Don't get me wrong, I will binge-watch Daredevil or Game of Thrones with the best of them; but I never switch on the television just to watch any old crap that's on. And that's why I've never seen the newest incarnation of Family Fortunes (which American readers will know as Family Feud, I believe). Apparently the show is presented by Bolton's finest, Vernon Kaye, which has to be the best advertisement ever devised for switching off the television and going for a long walk.

But anyway...

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Review - Imperial Knights: Renegade

Published by Games Workshop
Designed by secretive grots in a dungeon somewhere
For 2 players, aged 14 to adult



Imperial Knights: Renegade title.


How do you review Imperial Knights: Renegade?

It's not a rhetorical question. I genuinely don't know.

I don't even know where to start.

I mean, I'm not even sure how to describe the game.

The whole thing is a conundrum wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a contradiction wrapped in... er... shrink wrap, I guess.

The game is at once too expensive and excellent value; massive in scale yet ridiculously small in scope.

It is arguably one of Games Workshop's most exciting board game releases in the last few years, and unquestionably the dullest.

And what you think of it... what I think of it... is entirely down to perception.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Review - Pentago

Designed by Tomas Floden
Published by Mindtwister AB
For 2 players, aged 8 to adult



Detail of Pentago board game box, with cover illustration showing the board rotating.


I'm not a competitive person.

In fact, I bet I'm less competitive than you.

I'm probably the most least competitive person ever, and if you don't agree then we'll have to settle it with an arm wrestle.

I like to win, obviously.

Everybody likes to win.

Although, having said that, I am reminded of that joke about how there are certain activities where it's better to come second.

But anyway...

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Review - Gears of War: The Board Game

Designed by Corey Konieczka
Published by Fantasy Flight Games
For 1 to 4 players, aged 13 to adult


Gears of War: The Board Game


Often, on sites such as BoardGameGeek, you hear boardgamers talking about games that "fired" other games.

"Hear about Thunderstone Advance? Totally fired Dominion."

"Tried Battles of Westeros? Fired BattleLore."

"Got a copy of Kingdom Death: Monster? Fired everything..."

Generally speaking, a game fires another game when it has a central mechanism, or a particular style of play, that it does better than an older game. These are the latest iterations in the constant evolution of games design, and they usually stand on the shoulders of giants, taking great games and giving them extra swagger.

Now, there are some people who see enough difference between two games to want them both, but I understand why a lot of people feel the need to fire older games from their collection. It's not necessarily a "cult of the new" thing; it's just practical. There is only so much time and space in the world, after all.

Recently, I reviewed a game called Fireteam Zero. If you read that review, you will know I am a huge fan. You will also know I mentioned it features a similar card system to the one found in another excellent game, Gears of War. (Or rather, Gears of War: The Board Game, to differentiate it from Gear of War: The Video Game, or Gears of War: The Action Figure, or Gears of War: The Meccano Set.)

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Review - Dungeon Command

Published by Wizards of the Coast
Designed by Chris Dupuis, Peter Lee, et al
For 2 players, aged 12 to adult




It feels like forever since I last updated my blog. It's certainly been longer than it should have been. Definitely longer than I intended it to be.

You see, despite all evidence to the contrary, I am a real person, with a real life, and real commitments.

I have a hundred things I need to do, hundreds more I want to do, and an incredibly small amount of time to do it all.

I am a novelist. I write books for young adults. But because the necessity to feed my family is a constant burden, I spend more time working as a freelance writer for other people than I do working on my own books. In fact, most of my time is spent making money in this fashion, because apparently Monopoly money isn't legal tender.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Review - Deathwatch: Overkill

Designed by the Patriarch
Published by the Cult of Games Workshop
For 2 players (up to 12 if you want to split the marines)


Deathwatch: Overkill


So, here we are again.

Games Workshop have released another board game, giving me another chance to talk about my fondness for the 40K universe, and the company's style of streamlined, muscular games with strong narratives.

But, you've heard me do that before, and I'm a bit worried all of my reviews are starting to sound the same; so this time, I'm going to do something a bit different. I'm going to review Deathwatch: Overkill for the people who enjoy tabletop wargames, particularly Warhammer 40,000.

Here goes...

Monday, 22 February 2016

Review - Dread Pirate: Buccaneer's Revenge

Dread Pirate: Buccaneer's Revenge


Dread Pirate: Buccaneer's Revenge
Published by Front Porch Classics
Designed by Dan Tibbles
For 2-4 players, aged 8 to adult.


The beautifully presented box for the Dread Pirate: Buccaneer's Revenge board game.
Is there treasure within?


Ahar, Me Hearties.

Uh, no. Wait...

Avast, ye scurvy landlubbers,

No, that doesn't work...

Ahoy, Mateys.

Maybe?

Batten down the hatches, splice the mainbrace, shiver me timbers, and... uh... Roger the Cabin Boy?

Nope. Screw it. Let's start again.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Review - Fireteam Zero

Fireteam Zero


Fireteam Zero
Published by Emergent Games
Designed by Mark Langlois and Christian Leonhard
For 1 to 4 players, aged 14 to adult


The Fireteam Zero board game box, showing the exciting cover artwork with a group of heroes surrounded by monsters.
Deep box... Deep trouble...


A few days ago, I wrote a review of Mansions of Madness. During that review, I mentioned how I have recently started to lose interest in games that confuse clutter with depth, or which mistake having lots going on with offering meaningful decisions. I'm talking about those games where fiddling around with tokens, and exceptions to the rules, gets in the way of actually playing and having fun. Where your immersion in the world is constantly impeded by ugly rules intrusions that jab you in the ribs and say, "It's only a game, Son."

Huge games with hundreds of cards and dozens of counters, and handfuls of miniatures, and a 32 page rules book, have started to feel like a chore. They often take a long time to set up; they take an age to teach; playing the game could take all evening; and at the end of it all, you are left to wonder if all of the bookkeeping and rules referencing really added up to an enjoyable experience. Did you feel like a bloodthirsty barbarian, or did you feel like the bloodthirsty barbarian's overworked accountant?

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Review - Mansions of Madness

Close up detail on the title on the cover of the Mansions of Madness board game box.


Mansions of Madness
Published by Fantasy Flight Games
Designed by Corey Konieczka
For 2 to 5 players, aged 13 to adult


View of the Mansions of Madness board game box, with artwork depicting nervous investigators entering a mysterious building.
Tenatacles on the box... Must be a Lovecraft game.


Way back in the mists of time - and I mean way, way back - I was a young man. Naive, adventurous, and a bit geeky.

Back then, I met a girl, and if you asked me at the time, I would have told you I loved her. Remember, I said I was naive?

She seemed to like me, and we began a "whirlwind romance." We made a special effort to make space in our schedules to spend time together. And it was all exciting and new.

But over time, and actually rather swiftly, we started to realise that we didn't really have very much in common. Remember, I said I was a bit geeky?

It became more and more obvious that we weren't really enjoying our time together.

So it ended.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking this is a very familiar-sounding story.

And it is.

It's familiar to the point of cliche.

And it's familiar, because it happens all the time.

It even happens with board games.

That's why I'm writing this review of Mansions of Madness, a game I actually reviewed years ago, but which I felt the need to revisit.

After all, sometimes (like with a childhood romance), it's hard to let go...

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Review - Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective box art.


Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Published by Ystari Games
Designed by Raymond Edwards, Suzanne Goldberg, Gary Grady
For 1-8 players, aged 8 to adult




I love Sherlock Holmes.

I don't mean the television show, Sherlock, starring Bandersnatch and Bilbo. I don't mean those loud and obnoxious movies starring Iron Man and Gigolo Joe.

I mean the original works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I remember the first time I read The Hound of the Baskervilles, reading every description carefully, trying to see if I could figure out the mystery. I remember pausing at various sections, and thinking through the chain of events, making deductions, puzzling through clues.

I wanted to solve the case before Holmes did.

Of course, I didn't.

But it was fun to try.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Review - Mr. Jack: The Carriage

Mr. Jack board game, showing Sherlock Holmes puzzling over a murder while the suspect escapes behind.


Mr. Jack: The Carriage
Published by spielbox magazine
Designed by Bruno Carthala and Ludovic Maublanc
For 2 players (in conjunction with the Mr. Jack base game)


Have you been to Morrisons lately?

(That, by the way, is one of my least successful chatup lines. Go figure.)

I was in my local Morrisons the other day. I was probably buying milk.

I always seem to be buying milk.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Review - Space Hulk: Death Angel - Deathwing

Space Hulk: Death Angel - Deathwing retail packaging, showing cards in plastic blister.


Space Hulk: Death Angel - Deathwing
Designed by Brady Sadler
Published by Fantasy Flight Games
For 1 - 6 players (in conjunction with the Death Angel base game)




2015 was a funny year for Games Workshop fans, especially those of us with fond memories of the Games Workshop of the Old World.

In fact, it wasn't just funny, it was pretty damned exciting; and when I think back to the most important events in gaming from that year, it's all the Games Workshop stuff that springs to mind.