Tom Chick

7th best game of 2019: Phoenix Point

, | Game reviews

You can play X-com for the first time exactly once.  And what a precious time that once. All the mystery and uncertainty, the danger, the discovery, the horror of what those weird little aliens were doing to our cows.  Our innocent cows! What else were they up to? What would you reveal when you finished researching this thing that you found? What startling discoveries would you make on the UFOpedia?  What new powers and weapons would your soldiers carry down the ramp of the Sky Ranger? What horrific things would happen out in the field? What was out there, in the darkness, just outside the range of your flare?  And what is that? You’ve never seen one of those before!

Even after Firaxis picked up the mantle and applied lessons learned from a decade or so of game design, it was a reboot of some of the same mysteries, the same settings, the same aliens, the same weapons.  It was familiar territory, which is partly the point of a reboot. UFOs invading Earth is old-school comfort food, familiar and delicious. Even XCOM 2’s slightly forced concept of a rebel uprising against conquering aliens was mostly familiar.  New words for the same concepts.

Then there’s Phoenix Point.

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8th best game of 2019: Rebel Galaxy Outlaw

, | Game reviews

In modern aerial combat, aircraft fight against blips on screens.  Maybe — just maybe — they might fight against a speck far off in the sky.  Conflict and technology has advanced in such a way that combatants stand farther and farther apart.  From the bow to the gun to artillery to aircraft to ballistic missiles to remotely piloted drones. In future combat in the vacuum of space, combatants will stand even farther apart.

What’s an arcade space game to do?  The best it can. Even then, you’re usually fighting specks far off in space.  If you squint, you just might be able to make out a shape. Is that supposed to be a spaceship?  Yes, it’s supposed to be a spaceship. Then when you get closer, spaceships are so fast and a monitor only affords so much screen real estate, that you’ll miss it if you blink. When things get really up close and personal, you can try to follow a reticle some distance in front of whatever you’re trying to shoot.  Blips, specks, and reticles.

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9th best game of 2019: Transport Fever 2

, | Game reviews

To some people logistics is a chore.  A necessary part of getting to the fun stuff.  The vegetables. To others — me, for instance — logistics is a foundation for the fun stuff. Without logistics in a game, you’re sort of cheating.  How did those bullets get into that gun? How did that fuel get into that spaceship? How did that party get its rations for the trip to Evil Wizard Castle?  What’s in that caravan you have to escort? How did this tavern get its mead? To be perfectly honest, I’d rather move something from point A to point B than shoot a bad guy, slay a monster, or even build a fort.

One of my favorite things in Master of Orion wasn’t any black hole generator or Darlok espionage mission or huge ultra rich gaia planet.  It was getting food from farm planets to the colonies that needed it to grow. This is as good a place as any for a quick shout-out to Star Ruler 2, one of the most lovingly logistics-intensive science fiction strategy games you will ever play.  I’m making that chef’s kiss gesture as I type this.

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10th best game of 2019: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3

, | Features

Boy, do I feel silly about this.  A Marvel boondoggle taking up a slot on my 2019 top ten list?  I don’t even really like superheroes. They’ve been foisted on to me. They’re shrapnel in a cultural explosion whose blast radius I can’t escape.  I’m at the nexus of three different infection vectors: movies, boardgames, and videogames. I suppose I haven’t put up much of a fight. Come to think of it, I’ve been a pretty willing participant.  I might grouse about Spider-Man Goes to Europe and Marvel Endgame Self-Congratulatory Three-Hour Fan Service Session. But last night, I watched Captain Marvel for a second time. I’ll hold forth to anyone who will listen about Fantasy Flight’s abusive business model, but I just ordered the Captain America deck for Marvel Champions.  Instead of talking about Uncut Gems or Little Women, I had a lengthy conversation with a friend’s mom about how Logan was an Important Movie. Of course a Marvel boondoggle would find its way onto my 2019 top ten list.  

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Qt3 Boardgames Podcast: Marvel Champions, Claustrophobia, Reavers of Midgard

, | Games podcasts

Hassan’s new game, Manaical, is out! If you missed the Kickstarter, you can get it from eaglegames.net. In other news, Tom Chick fights the dumbest villains, Hassan Lopez spelunks with demons, and Mike Pollmann pillages some villages.

Marvel Champions at 6:03, Claustrophobia at 28:15, and Reavers of Midgard at 43:56.

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Pretend the darkly cynical Spinnortality has a name that doesn’t make it sound wacky

, | Game reviews

And who by avalanche, who by powder
Who for his greed, who for his hunger
And who shall I say is calling?
        -Leonard Cohen, “Who By Fire”

It’s the summer of 2114.  South America just collapsed into anarchy due to, I’m told, “cataclysmic heat stress”.  It joins North America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Russia, Europe, and Oceania still stand, each shoved closer to chaos by this year’s heat stress.  The world will probably end next year. It might hold out until 2116 if it’s lucky. There’s nothing I, or the board of directors, or our company, or the European government, or anyone else can do.  Which is especially disappointing, since my new body would have lasted until 2120. Those are four years I’ll never see. I paid dearly for them. 200 million for the body, 400 million for the tank it grew in.

Did I mention that we just launched a new Autoposter into the Russian market?  Just Russia. Europe and Oceania have banned Autoposters. To appeal to the Russian predilection for privacy, we called it Never Bare Again.  “Do we really have to bare all on social media?” our messaging suggested to shy Russians. “Do we have to share our deepest secrets, confess our truest selves?  No. With Autoposter, we’ll fill your feed with content that has zero personal info.” A $30 million launch that will only make $6.36 in its first year. Minus whatever losses are caused by next year’s cataclysms.  It’s not easy to turn a profit as the world burns.

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Qt3 Boardgames Podcast: Agents of Mayhem, Palm Island, Fantasy Realms

, | Games podcasts

What if you have to learn wargame rules to play a wacky superhero game? What if you don’t have a table? What if the unicorn gets a princess? Tom Chick, Hassan Lopez, and Mike Pollmann consider these and other hypotheticals.

Agents of Mayhem at 5:06, Palm Island at 36:27, and Fantasy Realms at 45:40. But first, an update on Maniacal, Hassan’s new game, now available from eaglegames.net.

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