Make Games Scare Again: ghosts of games past

In October, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone’s “best horror games of all time” list. So that’s not this. Instead, this week we’re running a list of recommendations for recent horror games we really like and think you should play, but might have skipped or even not thought of them as horror. If you can come up with a snappy way to stick that at the top of a list, let us know. In the meantime, we’ll roll out two a day. Today we recommend a couple of games for how they put us in mind of older games.

After the jump, ghosts of games past Continue reading →

Make October Scare Again

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Just before the start of fifth grade, my family moved across town to a new neighborhood and subdivision. I only knew a few kids on my street since I stayed at my old school. October and Halloween could have been awkward, so I was thrilled and relieved when some neighbor kids asked me to go trick-or-treating with them. My parents didn’t seem to bat an eye at this (though I think they’d gotten to know the other parents in the neighborhood pretty well), and on Halloween night I set off with three kids I’d known for less than a month, after dark, in a neighborhood I barely knew.

After the jump, welcome to old school Halloween. Continue reading →

Lovecraftian epic Eldritch Horror got better, worse, and more confused

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Last year, I predicted that Fantasy Flight would choke their elegant Lovecraftian adventure boardgame, Eldritch Horror, with the usual glut of add-ons. This was like predicting the sun would rise in the East.

Was I right? In a fit of pique, curiosity, and indiscretion, I bought all of the expansions. I spent a day organizing everything. Labeling plastic baggies (not included), integrating the bits and bobs from six (6!) separate boxes, and trying (and failing) to fit everything in fewer than three full-size boxes. Then I spent several more days playing Eldritch Horror. I lost several points of sanity. But I have emerged to update you on my prediction.

After the jump, rumors of Eldritch Horror’s death are mildly exaggerated. Continue reading →

The 10 commandments of boardgame design

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The god of boardgaming is an angry god. Very Old Testament. I have just come down from the mountain with these 10 commandments printed on quality cardboard stock mounted on boards that unfold like, uh, like this, I think. Here, you hold that side, and…no, no, that doesn’t bend that way, it bends the other way. No, no, yeah, okay now this part folds out like so. Okay, lay it out on the table. I think it’s upside down, spin it around thisaway. Okay, there. Let’s see what we’ve got here.

After the jump, this god sure does cuss a lot. Continue reading →

You suck at real time strategy games, so here are 10 ways to improve

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(The following article is reprinted without the permission of the site where it orginally appeared, because they never paid me, so I can do whatever I want with it. The article is relevant now because I’ve been playing weekly Age of Empires III matches against my good friend, Jason McMaster, and I’m hoping this will help him out of his 4-to-1 losing streak.)

There are different levels of playing RTSs. Like chess. In chess, the first step is knowing how the pieces move. Once you reach that point, you can theoretically play a game just fine. But then there’s a deeper level where you know things likewell, likeokay, I’ve never gotten further than learning how the pieces move in chess, because I’m too busy playing RTSs. But I know there’s a deeper level where you use phrases like “Sicilian opening” and “Queen’s gambit” and other stuff referenced in the titles of spy novels.

So maybe that’s where you’re at with real time strategy games. In which case you’re probably not reading this article. So send the link to this article to all your friends who suck at RTSs. Because I’m going to give them ten tips to make them better. Note that some of this applies to MOBAs, which are just RTSs for people who can’t handle the challenge of actual RTSs.

After the jump, A.B.V. Continue reading →

The top five games you’ll be playing in 2016

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The year of gaming 2015 gave us is undoubtedly good. We got epic, million-hour games like Fallout 4, Pillars of Eternity, and The Witcher 3 to quick multiplayer engagements like Rocket League, Battlefront, and Heroes of the Storm. You wanted a better Assassin’s Creed? You got it. You asked for more Call of Duty? There it is. Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls II not punishing enough? Get some Bloodborne and get slapped silly. More Batman! More StarCraft II! Looking for an ultra thoughtful indie game? Take your pick of Her Story, Undertale, or Everybody’s Gone to Rapture. Maybe a less navel-gazing indie is more your style? Look up Massive Chalice, Vietnam ’65, or Invisible Inc. Heck, one of the best horror movies of the year was in Until Dawn. Even Nintendo dropped some love on gamers with Splatoon and Mario Maker.

The mind-blower is that there’s more gaming goodness right around the corner in 2016. Beloved franchises will return. New properties will launch. Huge games will get even more content in the form of expansions. Will the gaming in 2016 equal the buffet of awesome that was 2015? Based on what we know already, there’s a good chance we could see a tidal wave of gaming coming our way.

After the jump, let’s check out the games you should be looking forward to playing in 2016! Continue reading →

12 games you didn’t play in 2015 but should have

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I don’t actually know what games you played in 2015, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you didn’t play more than two or three of these 12 games. Five, tops. I’ve only played 11 of them, and some of those for only an hour or so. So far, I’ve actually reviewed just one of them. And I’m the guy writing the list!

Now I’m sure you have your reasons: The Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid 5, Fallout 4. But as those reasons wind down, as your backlog threatens to shrink, as you wait for the release of highly anticipated games like XCOM 2, No Man’s Sky, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, consider pulling some of these gems out from under the avalanche of 2015 releases.

After the jump, S&R Continue reading →

Quarter to Three presents the 2015 Quarterly Awards

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Welcome to the sometime annual awards ceremony for the 2015 Quarterlies! Our panel of judge (not pictured, left) has carefully considered all the nominations and Steve Harvey is about to reveal the lucky winners (not pictured, right), each of whom will receive (not really) a trophy (not pictured). Please take your seats.

After the jump, we’ll skip past the opening musical number. Continue reading →

Top ten games of 2015

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For the first time since I’ve been doing these lists, which is probably ten years or more, over half of my choices are from independent developers. It’s an encouraging development. When you consider the movies chosen by critics on any given year, you won’t necessarily see the most popular, and you probably won’t see the most profitable, or the movies with the biggest budgets. Instead, you’ll see lists that include the best of independent cinema, arthouse releases, or at least the indie branding from the major studios. When the best of the year skew towards people who aren’t beholden to stockholders, it’s a sign that a medium is maturing creatively. Leave financial success, hollow fun, and the pursuit of pure entertainment to the corporations. Leave thoughtful design, innovation, storytelling, and creative impact to the hungry men and women with something to say.

Not that I didn’t enjoy my share of AAA releases this year! There are four in this list. Another five were in the running but didn’t make the final cut (Anno 2205, Mad Max, Total War: Attila, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Star Wars: Battlefront). Another half dozen or so I didn’t play or didn’t play enough. But on the whole, it was a year in which independent developers took the wheel and confidently steered us in exciting new directions.

After the jump, the top ten games of 2015. Continue reading →

Most overrated games of 2015

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Overrated is a loaded term. It looks good in a headline. It’s often used for no purpose other than to goad a reaction. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. When I call a game overrated, I don’t mean it’s bad, that the reviews were wrong, that the people who liked it were dopes, or even that I didn’t like it. It just means I’m surprised more people weren’t more critical, that the conversation wasn’t more often about ways the game could have been better.

After the jump, the ten most overrated games of 2015. Continue reading →

The most surprising games of 2015

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So if the most disappointing category is a list of games that should have been better, the most surprising category is the opposite. These are games that were better than they should have been. Just as disappointing is about falling short of expectations, these surprising games exceeded expectations and, in some cases, were among the best games of the year.

After the jump, the ten most surprising games of 2015. Continue reading →

The most disappointing games of 2015

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Calling a game disappointing arguably has more to do with me than the game itself. Disappointment isn’t an inherent quality. It can’t exist without some sort of expectation in the first place. In many cases, these games are sequels, or the creations of developers with proven track records, or entries in established genres, or games with promising beginnings. But for various reasons, the central fact about these games is that I had personally hoped they would be better.

After the jump, the ten most disappointing games of 2015. Continue reading →