Tactics & Tactility #5 – The Clairvoyance of Failure

[Tactics and Tactility is our column about the feelings, details and pleasures of tabletop gaming. This week Ava is looking at Quacks of Quedlinberg and the perils of prediction.]

Ava: I’m a potion maker, I’ve got a bag of secret ingredients. There’s magic spilling everywhere. In this moment, I know the exact odds of failure, and I make the fatal mistake. I say it out loud.

‘There’s only one thing that can kill me, and there’s loads in here. Knowing my luck, I’m doomed.’

I pull out that one ingredient, my cauldron explodes, and so does the table. A wave of sympathy and laughter. Of course I did the thing. A one in six chance was the only possible outcome.

Quacks of Quedlinberg is a simple push your luck game wrapped in the right trappings to take it off the table and into your hearts. It’s built out of simple probabilities, a little calculation, and the illusion of control. You pull tiny cardboard chits out of the soft, black bag you’ve built for yourself. You always know exactly how many of the dreaded berries inside can ruin everything.

Read moreTactics & Tactility #5 – The Clairvoyance of Failure

Tactics and Tactility #4 – Mexica, and other great heel turns

[Tactics and Tactility is our column about the feelings, details and pleasures of tabletop gaming. This week we’re looking at Mexica, and the glory of giving good friends the space to be cruel.]

Ava: Some games are a particular joy to teach, because you get to slowly watch the implications play out in real time on the face of your fellow players. Some rules are like a little snowball you start rolling down a hill, and watch turn into an avalanche. Games are systems, and it’s not easy to see the impact of a system until you’re in it.

Enter Mexica.

I’ve explained the rules. I’ve told people that we’re trying to found districts of specific sizes, surrounded by canals, claim those districts, and then vie for ‘spiritual grandeur’ by building the biggest temples in each one. I’ve explained moving, bridges, placing canals and the scoring structure.

What I’ve not explained, is that in about fifteen minutes, everyone around this table will have been an absolute monster to everyone else.

Read moreTactics and Tactility #4 – Mexica, and other great heel turns

Tactics and Tactility #3 – Songbirds’ Pretty Little Vice

[Tactics and Tactility is our column about the feelings, details and pleasures of tabletop gaming. This week we’re looking at Songbirds, and nasty little puzzles.]

Ava: There’s a specific sort of puzzle that takes you by surprise. You hear some rules, you start making gentle moves, pushing towards one path or another, placing pieces, making choices.

Then things start to tighten. The points and the prize and the folks sat beside you suddenly crowding in. Everything matters.

And it’s only going to get harder.

Songbirds is a beautifully sweet game of finding your favourite bird and hoping it’s eaten the most berries.

Except actually, Songbirds is a ruthlessly cruel game about second guessing, outmaneuvering, and slowly being left with no options whatsoever.

Read moreTactics and Tactility #3 – Songbirds’ Pretty Little Vice

Tactics and Tactility #2 – With your eyes closed

[Every two weeks, Tactics & Tactility explores the culture and magic of tabletop. To read more, check out the series’ archives or Ava’s original Tactics & Tactility blog.]

Ava: Some games begin with a ritual. An incantation of instructions that call forth the playing field.

Some games have an exchange of secrets. Something hidden. Choices to be made, information shared, and not with everyone, not by everyone.

When this happens, we do something incredibly simple, incredibly mundane. It’s an unusual enough social ritual that it brings magic, uncertainty, dread and wonder.

Sometimes, when we play games, we close our eyes.

I’m playing Just One, at the local pub, and it’s my turn to be led towards a particular clue with the help of the other players. I pull a card, call out a number, and wait while everyone thinks and scribbles. When everyone’s ready, I close my eyes…

Read moreTactics and Tactility #2 – With your eyes closed

Tactics and Tactility #1 – On going with your gut

[Introducing a new bi-weekly column! In Tactics & Tactility, Ava Foxfort will be exploring the culture and magic of tabletop, accompanied by fabulous illustrator Tom Humberstone. The series began its life on this blog, and we feel privileged to offer it a new home.]

Ava: I can see all the numbers in front of me. Power Grid lays out every variable incredibly clearly. So many numbers, spread out in stout cables across the board, paper money rustling in my hand, and adorable little power stations. Every number is ready for taking, and there’s just no way I can get them all into my head.

Good evening, folks, it’s time to watch my brain slowly crumble.

Read moreTactics and Tactility #1 – On going with your gut

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