Review: Forbidden Stars

Review: Forbidden Stars

Quinns: I don’t really like the Warhammer universes. When I was a kid I couldn’t get enough of them. “In the grim darkness of the future there is only war”? Holy shit!

These days I find them a little tired. Conflict is exciting, but not without peace to contrast it with, and not when you siphon all the humanity out of it. Where’s the ego and romance? Where are the themes and mysteries? And obviously: Where are the women?

Let me wrap this up before people start sending me photos of Sisters of Battle, or pointing out that the expanded universe is awesome (I know!). My point is I was a little grouchy when I opened up of Forbidden Stars, Fantasy Flight’s new, striking war game set in the Warhammer 40K universe.

I’m happy to say that Forbidden Stars defrosted my icy heart. This game is sensational.

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Review: Dogs of War

Review: Dogs of War

Quinns: This was meant to be a video review. Alas, my PC overheated. Repair parts are already enroute (thank you, indomitable Gold Club members!) but the show must go on, so I need you guys to imagine everything that follows with the glitz of a fancy video.

Picture the light playing over linen-finished game boxes. My powerful arms cradling components as if they were a baby animal. The caramel baritone of my voice.

You see, it’s important for your board game collection that you take Dogs of War as seriously as possible. It turns out this is a fantastic game. It’s also a terrible, friendship-sundering thing that made me more angry than a game’s made me in months.

Let’s get started. There’s a war on, and you need to pick a side.

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Review: Legion of Honor

Review: Legion of Honor

[We’ve got an unusual review for you this week! Legion of Honor is part wargame, part storytelling game, all labour of love. Images courtesy of BoardGameGeek.]

Thrower: Amongst the carrion on the field of Waterloo lay the body of Major Cholet. He was a favourite of Napoleon, having helped uncover a plot to assassinate the Emperor, but through ill luck, and an unfortunate penchant for duelling, he never managed to translate that favour into promotion to the highest echelons of the French army. Had things been different he might have been remembered as the hero of a famous French victory at Mont St Jean. Instead, his entrails are a feast for the crows.

Still, at least this way he never had to suffer the ignominy of the world realising that he was named after a womble.

This is Legion of Honor, the card game of career soldiering in Napoleon’s Grand Armee. Except that really it’s more of a competitive role-playing, story-telling game with cards. Think Tales of the Arabian Nights, if you took away the Rocs and Sorcerers and replaced them with garrison duty and overbearing Sergeant-Majors.

Like a garlic and gunpowder-smelling Arabian Nights, it’s also a game in which decision making plays a limited part in determining the winner. If your character survives all the way to Waterloo with nary a medal or a franc to his name, he can still win an instant victory by drawing one lucky card from the battle deck. And unlike Arabian Nights, this can happen after nine hours of play, instead of three. So if you dislike the idea of a nine-hour game that can be won by a lucky card in the final turn, walk away now.

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Review: Star Wars: Armada

Review: Star Wars: Armada

Paul: Oh God, my head… Quinns? Quinns, why are you here? What did we do last night? Where are my pants?

Quinns: How much wine did you have? Oh, it was beautiful, Paul. We circled each other for hours, laughing, getting closer and ever closer. Finally, I got past your shields. It was wonderful.

Paul: Oh no.

Quinns: Then you activated your squadrons and managed to disable my turbolasers with your mighty TIE bombers.

Paul: Oh no. Wait. What?

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Review: Cyclades: Titans

Review: Cyclades: Titans

First, there was nothing. For our evenings were without form, and void. Then there was Cyclades, which let us fill them with a really lovely, accessible war game. Then came the expansion of Cyclades: Hades, and there was a great sadness because we thought it was rubbish, and said as much.

And then there was a great rejoicing, as Cyclades: Titans graced the shelves of our shops, and brought joy to our hearts. Finally came this Cyclades: Titans review, so the people could sit, and listen, and see if it was shit or not.

So it is written, and so it shall forever be.

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Review: War Stories

Review: War Stories

(Images sourced from BoardGameGeek.)

Thrower: You’re a platoon sergeant, patrolling the Normandy hedgerows in 1944. Suddenly, a burst of automatic fire opens up from the treeline. You don’t know what it is: it could be a machine gun, or a tank. It could be a lone rifleman, or the forward elements of an enemy brigade. Each demands a different course of action, and your life, and those of your men, depend on your picking the right one. What do you do?

Replicating this is the central problem faced by tactical wargame designers. Good tactics start with determining who your enemy is and where they are. Yet for all the effort they put in to simulating weapons and doctrine, tactical board games fail to take this into account. Most of the time you can see exactly what you’re facing.

Two new designers have decided to tackle this intractable issue with their first release, War Stories. It comes in two flavours, Liberty Road for the Western front and Red Storm for the east. As if implementing hidden movement wasn’t ambition enough, it also seeks to be realistic, quick-playing and easily learned. That’s two of the wildest dragons in wargaming, slain by the same title. No wonder people flocked to support the kickstarter.

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Review: Xia: Legends of a Drift System

Review: Xia: Legends of a Drift System

It’s big, it’s as colourful as a bag of sweets and it wants YOU to become a space-faring superstar. Xia: Legends of a Drift System was one of the Kickstarter success stories of 2013, and a retail version is finally upon us, complete with pre-painted ships and metal space-coins.

Quinns has buckled himself into the driver’s seat of this board-behemoth to deliver the official SU&SD verdict.

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Review: Fire in the Lake

Review: Fire in the Lake

Thrower: Vietnam. Sex, drugs and terror lurking in the tropical night. If even half of what you read about it is true, then this was the war to end all wars: the war of America against itself. The Viet Cong were just along for the ride.

This was my generation’s World War 2, the conflict from which 80’s society forged martial myths of heroism. Yet, hard as it tried, pop culture couldn’t quite scrub the filth away. Always there were undertones of dirty warfare, of eventual failure. It wasn’t ideal hero material, but it was all we had. For me, that complexity made it all the more compelling.

Then I read Dispatches. This account of a journalist’s experience in the conflict is the finest book on war I have ever read. As well as the history, there is an important lesson. Dispatches taught me that war can be both beautiful and terrible at the same time. That it was okay to hate war and love militaria. To be a pacifist and to play wargames. Reading it made a piece of distant history into a personal thing, a hot piece of literary shrapnel lodged close to my heart.

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Review: 1944: Race to the Rhine

Review: 1944: Race to the Rhine

(Images courtesy of BoardGameGeek.)

Thrower: General Patton chewed his cigar and look East, over the Rhine, into Germany. He’d done it. By loading his divisions down with fuel, he’d stolen a coup on the other Allied commanders and made it to the river first.

Now, only the 155th Panzer Brigade stood between him and the history books. Disorganised and demoralised, they were no match for his crack US corps.

Suddenly the field telephone crackled into life. “Sir? Sir! We can’t action that advance order. The troops have no ammunition. Montgomery requisitioned the lot.”

“WHAT?” bellowed Patton, spraying out a mouthful of cheesy wotsits. “That British f*** took EVERYTHING? Jesus!”

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Review: Eight-Minute Empire

Review: Eight-Minute Empire

Paul: Brendan! That’s a fine flag there. What is that the flag of? An organisation? A cause? An idea? Please don’t tell me it’s the flag of those most arbitrary of constructions, the nation.

Brendan: This is the flag of the Brendovian Empire. You will respect it. You will honour it. You will put it on mugs and t-shirts and probably socks at some point. We have destroyed our enemies. Laid waste to continents. Far is the reach of Brendovia. No persons in the world match the might of our brave men and women. No foreign fiend can meet the ferocity of our will. Our national dish is lemon tart.

Paul: Is that… Is that the Brendovian flag on the news? Is that Panama? Has your empire invaded Panama!? I don’t understand. When did all this happen? When did you found an empire!?

Brendan: About eight minutes ago.

Paul: Oh no. I know exactly what you’ve been playing.

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