RPG Review: Lady Blackbird

wrg snargles, top fruit, pints of cream, juicy specificities
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Cynthia: Everyone, I have a little secret that I want to share with you. Ok. Maybe it's a decently-sized secret. Maybe it's not that secret at all. MAYBE it will change your tabletop gaming life.

DON'T TELL ANYONE, but some of the best roleplaying games out there are not available at your local retailer. Thanks to the magic of the internet, they're completely free.

These irresistible blossoms of RPGs can suddenly appear on Twitter or Reddit only to vanish within a few days. Sometimes they'll quietly bloom on a designer's Tumblr or publisher's homepage. A few older ones thrive quietly in the dark places of the internet to be occasionally plucked by some intrepid RPG gatherer who brings them back into the light. There's even a contest-fed bouquet of 200-word RPGs out there, as Quinns and Paul mentioned in a recent edition of Games News. The brightest flower of all these lovely free RPGs, however, is Lady Blackbird.


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.


Miniatures Game Review: Bushido

mount your turtles, biting risks, bloated samurai, tasty details
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Eric: I'm standing here, what feels like a katana in my chest, the bodies of my soldiers piled around me. I'm standing here defeated and absolutely delighted, a big grin on my face, trying to figure out what it's doing there.

That was the end of my second play of Bushido by GCT Games - the actual impaling being only metaphorical, if you're the queasy sort, but the defeat and delight being real. From my first encounter, what intrigued me about Bushido was that I found it immensely pleasurable even when I lost horribly. Let me try to explain why.

If the name and picture don't make it apparent, Bushido is a tabletop skirmish game set in a world inspired by Japanese folklore, or at least a western, Tolkein-filtered riff on Japanese folklore. Elves and Dwarves are replaced by Tengu and Oni, the heroes include snake-people and warrior pandas, and the outfits look like the result of a raid on a Kurosawa film's prop closet. All in the best possible way.


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


RPG Review: Trail of Cthulhu

a cardboard graveyard, nipping terrors, scary geometry, a fulfilling ravaging
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Cynthia: It is a little known fact I accompanied Paul Dean during his fearless investigations into the horrific Mythos Tales affair earlier this spring. I witnessed some of those same horrors, unearthed dark revelations couched in official documents, grappled with non-euclidean maps, and ventured alongside him into spaces where our accustomed rules of time and space seemed to break down.

None of that prepared me for the bizarre investigations that I commenced upon my return to Minneapolis –– investigations that continue as I write. Therefore, while I still retain enough of my mind to write, I find it imperative to tell you all this:

There is no Lovecraftian mystery game as engrosssing, as well-crafted, or as much sheer fun as Pelgrane's roleplaying game, Trail of Cthulhu.


Review: Ethnos

BOLD TRAVELLER! Dare you enter the land of Ethnos? There live creatures the likes of which you cannot imagine. Trolls! Orcs! And what's that, hiding over there in that bush? Why, it's a wizard, laying a wizard egg. It is spring here, after all.

Alright, so the "land" of Ethnos is a bit rubbish. But this is a new game from Paolo Mori, who gifted us with Libertalia in 2013 and Dogs of War the year after that. Surely he has earned a moment of your time? Sit a while, traveller, and listen to Matt and Quinns rave about his latest design.


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: Burgle Bros.

a dollop of chaos, a crime soufflé, a misplaced acrobat, and a bloody cat?!
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Matt: Chucking Pandemic Legacy in the bin proved to be an uncomfortable day for my board game collection, causing a cardboard-flavoured existential wobble. As much as I love - had loved - Pandemic, experiencing the full-fat campaign spin-off had left me wondering if I’d ever bring myself to go back to the standard co-op game that had been such a household staple.

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.


Review: Fresco

i got you yellow, she doesn't want yellow, THE BISHOP!
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Paul: Here are two things that are absolutely and irrefutably true: 1) I love art. 2) I hate getting up early. Here are two more things that are painful in their truth: 1) Sometimes you have to get up early in the service of your art. 2) This feels awful.

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.


Review: Android: Netrunner – Terminal Directive

unsightly beans, matching tattoos, quinns are you crying
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Quinns: Oof, reviews don't get much tougher than this.

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.