Quinns: Paul, I’ve got great news!
Paul: Russia’s pulling out of Ukraine?
Quinns: No, I… we got an email from a reader called Timothy Meyer. He says-
Paul: The Western Black Rhino is no longer extinct?
Quinns: STOP IT he heard from Ystari customer service that the legendary Consulting Detective expansions, previously available only in French, will be arriving in English in January 2016!
New cases are coming! Don’t bury your copies of the phenomenal Sherlock Holmes game just yet.
Paul: I have taken a lot of medicine in a huge overreaction for what might be a very mild cold so let’s do this how could this news possibly go wrong there was caffeine in those painkillers I am so up for this let’s-
Quinns: Great! First up, I want to show you Timebomb, a Japanese game which re-imagines perfect bluffing game Skull as a giant bomb full of wires you should and shouldn’t cut.
But it’s also a game of hidden roles! Depending on who you are, you might really want a bomb to go off or for a bomb not to go off.
Paul: There are two types of people in the world and those are the two types.
So you don’t know who around the table has which philosophy regarding explosions, only what you want. You also happen to know what’s on the four cards that you’ve laid out face-down in front of you. But nobody else does. Player by player, you reveal a card in front of someone else in the hope of either revealing all the thumbs-up cards that proudly proclaim “SUCCESS” (if you’re of the non-explosive inclination) or by revealing the “BOOM” card (if you’re an advocate for bombs). While you know what’s in front of you, you’ve shuffled those cards so you don’t know which is where…
Quinns: And, of course, you’re all lying to each other, trying to get everyone to choose or not choose to reveal one of your cards next. You’re a bomber who knows they have to bomb card and you’re desperately trying to convince anyone else to turn over just ONE MORE of your cards. Or you’re not and you’re just trying to work out who else around the table is on your side, who else agrees that making things explode is bad.
Paul: I must play this. I may well be dying soon, so I need to get certain things done before I hand over my estate.
Quinns: A couple of colossal Kickstarters strode onto the board game scene this week, blotting out the sun with their pendulous unmentionables. The first is a pretty new edition of 2003 game Mare Nostrum, brought to us by the safe hands of Academy Games.
Here’s the thing. When you and I were getting into board gaming, the joke among the games press was that everyone was sick of “trading in the Mediterranean” games. I guess that theme was to the early ‘00s what zombies are today.
Paul: That’s a really good comparison and one I can relate to myself as my health and sanity both gradually bleed out of me, as my tears themselves even turn to blood, as-
Quinns: I think I’ve said this before, but I feel like I want to see what all the fuss was about. I want to trade in the Mediterranean! Imagine it, Paul. You and me, trading figs and hummus. The lemony fizz of the gentle Mediterranean ocean, as if we were sailing in a big bath of 7 Up.
I’ll tell you what else. Reading about Mare Nostrum, it’s immediately apparent how far today’s board games have come. I’m sure this game is great, but it’s missing the unique selling point that games today need to stand out. The description’s so funny. It’s perfectly confident as it tells players that they can trade resources, build temples, pillage cities and… that’s it.
Paul: It sounds like it could certainly be worse. So, the Shogun Big Box is the other classic game that’s back on Kickstarter? Let’s take a look here.
452 custom-made wooden components!? What is this? That’s disgusting opulence. This is like that time that Tokaido was republished with all sort of flashy components. It’s a sign that board gaming’s golden age has become decadent and overblown. We’ve all grown fat and amoral on our own success. This is the end. This is the end of an empire. We’re all Nero fiddling as Rome burns. Or at least we have dining rooms that rotate. We’re at least that far.
Quinns: Dining rooms that rotate?
Paul: I think Nero had the first revolving room ever. I think I have the latest revolving room. That may be the drugs.
Quinns: Hang on. Pshaw! I’ve just seen that they’re replacing the original Shogun’s wooden cubes, which represented everybody’s armies, with literally hundreds of meeples.
Now the meeple’s the de facto symbol of board games you can’t use it that carelessly! It’s no longer a subdued, colourful way of representing humankind. It’s a sugary exclamation mark and it’s ruining this map of Japan for me. RUINING IT.
Paul: I was hoping they would at least be meeples that looked like old Japanese armour from the era, but… they don’t quite. Still, I like the dice tower. And I do sort of slightly like the idea that it’s like a really angry Carcassonne. Sort of. A tiny bit.
Quinns: Oh, Shogun’s dice tower is the stuff of legend!
When two armies fight, you drop all the playing pieces in the tower, over and over, until only one side comes out, with the consequence that some other player’s armies might get dislodged from baffles in the tower and return to that player as a nice surprise. Best way of solving fights ever.
Paul: What about the idea of The Incredible Shrinking Game Box, then? Paul Jefferies is re-homing all of his games in miniaturised versions of their boxes. This is something I can get behind. Or inside of. Or actually can’t get inside of any more. But that’s a really good thing. I mean, what he’s doing is the good thing. It’s not so good that I can’t get in the boxes or keep this goo that keeps flowing inside my head.
Quinns: Haven’t I been complaining about the absurd box sizes we get today? Good on you, Mr. Jefferies. I’m as full as enthusiasm as I can be for one man’s mission while also never wanting to meet him I mean come on he is filling the world with even more boxes.
How do you think he transports all of his new, smaller boxes to a convention? Do you think he also made an even larger box?
Paul: This reminds me of how video game boxes used to be larger. But then got smaller. Okay, it’s not quite the same because some have now disappeared entirely, but there’s definitely something to be said for making efficient use of space. One reason I still like Citadels is because it’s just so portable. If we shrunk a lot more games like this, suddenly we might see a lot more of them as being just as portable.
Quinns: Citadels was actually part of Fantasy Flight’s discontinued “Silver Line”, all of which packed phenomenal games into tiny boxes. I guess they stopped doing them because they didn’t sell.
Paul: There is no drug that can kill that pain.