For the last few weeks I’ve been fretting and sweating against these games' arbitrary countdowns, searching for the best simulation of being locked in a room. And do you know what? I had a consistently happy time of it.
But the time for happiness is over. Two series emerged as front-runners during my trials, and it’s only right that I pit them against one another in cardboard combat. From Germany, in the blue corner, we have the prestigious series of EXIT: The Game. And from France, in the red corner, we have the flashy contender known as Unlock!
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! LET’S GET READY TO
I’ve spent a while poking my nose around for a worthy replacement, and - for me - I think it might be Burgle Bros.
Dropping two to four players into a classic bank heist, Tim Fowers’ has squeezed an almost comical amount of theme and bits and ideas into a box that - being generous - might hold a small shoe. Our intrepid / idiotic thieves have failed to case the joint ahead of the job, so it’s up to you and your Colleagues-In-Crime to first find the safes, then crack them, grab the loot, and get out.
Here are three other things that feel awful: 1) When the guy at the market has nothing to sell but combinations of the same sickly yellow paint (“I’ve got a bit of yellow, some yellow, or lots of yellow.") 2) Mixing colours that you can’t then use because someone beat you to the cathedral again. 3) When the bishop buggers off. Honestly, what is the point of bishops?
Here’s something that’s great: Fresco.
In other words, if you haven't yet watched Firefly, you need to get on it.
But enough of that! The real question here is whether the Firefly roleplaying game is any good.
Readers, friends: yes. Yes it is.
I've just finished playing an advance copy of Terminal Directive, the most dramatic expansion that Android: Netrunner has ever received. This big box introduces not just a campaign to the superlative cyberpunk card game, but the dramatic "Legacy" elements that you might remember from Pandemic: Legacy. As the story unfolds players open new packs of cards, but also destroy cards and cover them with stickers.
Best of all, Terminal Directive is a long-awaited stepping stone for new Netrunner players! Previously if you bought the core set and liked it, you then faced the intimidating proposition of simply starting to buy up Netrunner's forty-two expansion packs. Now you can buy the core set, and then enjoy Terminal Directive's campaign, and then - erm - begin buying forty-two expansion packs.
There's just one problem. After being a zealous advocate for this game for years on end, today I don't play Netrunner anymore. Let's talk about why.
Maybe just gaze into the above image. Try and take it all in. Crystals! Robots! Colours! Cards! Three dozen unique kinds of token, each with a different shape, as if they were all so scared of this primary-coloured scrum that they started to collapse in on themselves.
This is Cry Havoc, one of 2016’s most striking and well-received war games, and if you take anything from its Shakespearean name it shouldn’t be wry sophistication, but that this design is as wild and energetic as a pack of dogs.
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!" Let me tell you what I think of this grand box.
That was another quote from Julius Caesar, you see. I might even do another before we're done. Brace yourselves!
Quinns: I'll allow it!
Paul: Diamant is probably the most fun I’ve had for the least investment of time and energy SO FAR THIS YEAR. I’m so sorry. I just had to blurt that. It’s a petite wonder. PETITE. WONDER. Like… Danny DeVito. Or... a teabag?
Quinns: You’re arriving at this party a little late though, aren’t you? Last year I called Incan Gold the best little push-your-luck game I’d played in forever. Diamant is just a beautiful new edition of the same game! You can’t talk about it like you’ve just found a dead sea scroll in your back garden.
Paul: All right, all right, back that boulder up, snarkaeologist. Incan Gold? The 2006 game? And when did you come to it, exactly?
Quinns: Erm. 2016.
Paul: An entire decade of incompetence.
For this uncanny place is our Earth, far, far, far into the future, after our civilization and seven others have climbed, peaked, fallen, and been rusted over. More than one alien invasion has occurred, and more than one alien species has mingled genes with humanity. A new civilization has arisen, but hasn't really gotten past the middle ages. The perplexing debris of past civilizations, from humming obelisks and transdimensional portals to enchanted amulets and portable CD players, is everywhere. The people of earth call these weird objects "filled-with-power-things": numenera.
Welcome to the Ninth World, the setting of Monte Cook's Numenera. I would say, "come on in, the water's fine," but it's probably filled with flesh-eating microdroids or laced with bubble-gum flavored psychotropic drugs or something. But forget the water, there's so much here. This place is so ancient, and vast, and tremendous. Let's explore!
Matt's head made from papier-mâché: that’s because you're great quinns
Quinns: Ha ha, you flatter me! Let’s get down to business, Matt.
Matt's head made from papier-mâché: i love business
Quinns: Today we’re reviewing Quartermaster General 1914, the third (and most highly-rated) entry in the Quartermaster General series. Like Memoir ‘44, these games might look like stodgy wargames, but don’t be fooled! 1914 is a tricky, playful card game that lets you get stuck into the drama and anxiety of WAR without having to measure any distances or frown at charts.
Now, our site has said over and over again that there aren’t enough team-based board games -
Matt's head made from papier-mâché: oh goodness no, nowhere near enough
Quinns: Don't speak, you're getting flakes of glue on the table. So team play is exactly what the Quartermaster General series is all about. In our case, 1914 is a five player game where three frail players take on two wealthy ones. It’s a tremendously exciting hook, and we're just getting started.
Robo Rally might be the ultimate illustration of this. With three people it's a rambunctious clusterpickle of robots and conflicting agendas where your neatly programmed sequence of moves gets nudged hilariously and disastrously off course. With two we ended up trying to house-rule it so we could ginger up the experience and keep our momentum. Quinns informs me that SU&SD is all about reviewing board games in their favoured conditions, though, so consider this a review of Robo Rally the beloved 3-6 player omnishambles, and not Robo Rally the 2 player compromise-simulator.