Review: Legend of the Five Rings

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Quinns: Phew! I birthed two of the year’s toughest reviews last week, but there’s no rest for the wicked. Today we’ve got some coverage that a lot of people have been asking for.

Remember when Fantasy Flight Games bought the rights to 1996 collectible card game Netrunner and released a new edition that took over my life? Well, Legend of the Five Rings (henceforth “L5R”) is them doing that again. This was originally a 1995 card game, but any week now shops will receive FFG’s beautimus new edition using the Living Card Game business model of releasing fixed expansions rather than randomised boosters. This makes it cheap compared to most collectable card games, albeit still expensive compared to board games.

In other words, we could have a hit on our hands. Have Fantasy Flight folded the original game’s steel into a captivating card katana?

Let’s find out.


Review: First Martians

plodding & prodding, it's a crane not a gun, every flavour of lozenge
OH MY GOODNESS! It's time for a fantastically exciting box. First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet is a game of surviving as the very first colonists on the Solar Satsuma, and keeping your wits about you as your home crumbles like a dunked biscuit.

It's also the sequel to 2012 release Robinson Crusoe, which Quinns didn't get on with very well. What's changed in five years? A lot, we can tell you.


Review: Terraforming Mars

this makes no sense, lonely algae, the british national anthem, the solar satsuma
For many board gamers, Matt Damon wasn't the biggest imaginary thing to happen on Mars in 2016. That honour belongs to Terraforming Mars, a game so popular that the publishers have already announced four expansions!

But what will we make of this smash hit? As Matt Damon said so aptly last year, "Wrap your face flaps around this! Mine's a lumpy one."


Review: Warhammer 40,000 (8th edition)

19 organs, 90 dice, 400 of dollars, 7 previous editions, 1 life
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Eric: For any of what follows to make sense, I need to take you to a place in my past. Imagine the house where I grew up. Follow me down into the basement, past the unfinished walls and pantry shelving and washing machine. Back here, hidden under the stairs. Do you see it?

That was my desk.

It isn't much to look at – an austere, industrial thing. The kind of desk I now imagine factory workers flipping over in some proletarian revolution. But I spent huge amounts of my late childhood and early teenage years here. Pouring through those roleplaying manuals stacked in one corner, drawing elaborate maps on that graph paper, and – as the spackling of color attests – painting the little figurines that line the shelf above.

Those were my first space marines.

About a month ago, Games Workshop released their 8th edition of the Warhammer 40,000 rules. Back when I was painting at that desk, it was 3rd edition I played. As much as those iterations between then and now can be seen as cynical cash grabs – partly because some of them were – there is something noteworthy about this new one. But more on that in a minute.


Review: Tigris & Euphrates

Everybody, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! We of course refer to the Annual Summer Goodtime Tile-Based Reinerstravaganza, and this year the star of the show is the new Windrider edition of Reiner’s 1997 classic, Tigris & Euphrates.

Don’t know who Reiner is? Don’t like tigers? Allergic to tiles? Well frankly, that’s just not good enough. This box is a bulwark against boredom, a titan of the table, and the new edition deserves just a little more love.


Review: Fields of Arle

Cow compression, campestral candy, for peat’s sake
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Paul: I’m not sure what it is about all this grit and graft that hooks me. Uwe Rosenberg keeps making games about hard work and manual labour and there I am again, scraping at the soil or sweating at the forge as I worry if we have enough food for the winter. My servile son shoves another horse into the stables, while my wife trudges through the fetid, bubbling peat bog that marks the edge of our land. There is so much that needs doing. Fields of Arle is the greatest farming challenge I've ever taken on and… is it weird that I relish that?

Review: Imperial 2030

Money! Money makes the world go round. Money also makes factories, fleets and armies that around that world and bash each other to bits, at least that’s according to Imperial 2030! But is it really all about war? Just because it looks like Risk and even smells like Risk, that doesn’t mean you should make risky assumptions.

Paul has been learning the ever-twisting dance of the supercapitalist, twirling his way in and out of continental conflicts just as long as it’s profitable. In between buying various generous chunks of the globe, he’s discovered that war is only sometimes good


Review: Millennium Blades

sweat washes off, john lemon, millennium dollars
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Thrower: The table is a wreck of cards, tokens and wads of cash. One player has collapsed on the sofa, eyes closed, exhausted. Another feverishly sorts their deck, cards held close to face, unable to understand what went wrong. Someone else has walked out, professing a desire for space and calm.

I'm wondering where the last two hours went and how I didn't notice we now have an audience of a new visitor and a cat. I realise, suddenly, that on this cool spring evening I'm bathed in sweat. This is the aftermath of Millennium Blades.

We've spent the time pretending to be players of a fictional collectible card game in an anime universe. Millennium Blades is, then, a game about playing games. This sounds like a recipe for a design that disappears up its own backside. Instead, this game is interesting, intense and ingenious. Stuffed with self-referential satire, it sits, winking at its players from the comfort of its oversize box. If you can unpick all the parodies from a card called “I’ll Form the Head” from the “Obari as Hell” card set, you’re a higher voltage gamer than me.


Review: Great Western Trail

quinns stop clicking your fingers, number-udders, that's cowboy magic
Hoo baby! The profoundly beefy 2016 game of Great Western Trail is finally back in stock the world over. We've had ample time to test its systems, prodding its many rules from every conceivable angle, and today want to tell you that it lives up to the hype.

And thank goodness for that! When was the last time your evenings contained a dose of cowboy magic? It was too long, wasn't it?


Review: Cry Havoc

a dead prince, a drifting stick, a strong spine, steve holt
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Quinns: Oh my god. Where do we start?

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!