Hellas Yes – Lords of Hellas in Review

There’s a table out there right now, where little Spartans and Thracians are battling under the shadow of colossal monuments to colossal gods. Achilles is lopping off the head of a three-headed dog stuffed full of cybernetic wires and pistons and also blood. The constructed embodiment of Athena, still and glowing, stares out across the Aegean. Calm the waters are no more.

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Lords of Hellas. Lords of Hellas.

It’s as fun to say as it is to look at. This is one of those $100 Kickstarter games that one side says is only about the minis and the other side says is about something more. I say it’s about something special.

We’ve seen this story before – Greek gods interfering with the lives of those cosmically wee. Yes, here we have robotics, lasers, and a Hellenic version of Skynet, but it’s virtually identical to those who have come before it. This is Cyclades, Runewars, Blood Rage, and a thousand other sons all influencing each other in timeless repetition.

So then, why Lords of Hellas?

This is a Euro/thematic hybrid that is all about flexibility and control. It’s a race of sorts with contestants marching armies, erecting statues, and slaying beasts as they advance down the track. It hits that 90 minute sweet spot that so many of these modern ‘Dudes on a Map’ games comfortably slot into while feeling meaty and satisfying.

Setting this one down next to Rising Sun to compare their warts and dimples is inevitable. With two releases riding the ballyhoo hand-in-hand, they simply must be talked about in relation to one another. Rising Sun also happens to be my projected selection for 2018 game of the year. That may not mean much as the calendar turns to April, but it does mean something.

Eric Lang’s 2018 killer release is all about letting go. It’s an opaque design that has players making seemingly small decisions that ripple outward from a starting point of elegance to an end point of clusterfuck. It’s one that sticks in your craw for a week and has you questioning your life choices in the aftermath. It’s fascinating.

But Lords of Hellas is no chump. This is a game that’s more direct with a higher velocity. The pressure is more succinct and overt due to a stronger clarity. As mentioned previously, it’s a ‘Dudes on a Map’ race game where you hit the pedal and point the nose towards the bullseye.

Within the context of its war-torn isle, Lords of Hellas works so remarkably well due to overtly highlighting player agency. You’re given multiple distinct paths to victory and each is equally compelling and seemingly achievable. It’s about the pursuit of those vectors while trying to dance with your enemies and not stumble.

The two designs contrast heavily and feel extraordinarily different. Rising Sun is all about adapting and flowing with the current. It’s about making the best choices you can while remaining flexible and uncertain of the future. Hellas allows players to set the pace and tone of play themselves. It’s important to understand that flexibility is valued here as well, but you’re in the driver seat and are required to establish tempo.

There’s a forward momentum to this game that players directly throttle. Each turn you move your asymmetric hero and some of your troops, and then perform a special action. The latter consist of erecting holy temples, marching larger groups of warriors, and combating hellacious beasts forged from a special brand of hell and dystopian future. When you choose a special action you block it off and may not repeat the ability until someone elects to build one of the oversized 3D monuments. This causes everyone to reset their boards and transforms a narrowing decision set into a field day once again.

20180105_124026Athena, in progress

That oscillation between tight constriction and chaotic power is tantalizing. It perfectly frames the game’s balance between the sleek Euro personality traits and the drunken free-wheeling Ameritrash features.

What’s especially gripping is the fact that a participant could repeatedly hammer the build monument action and complete the structure in a mere four turns. This will trigger the end game and give the players three more rounds to battle for control of the massive structure’s space. Then that’s it.

Or, you can have a drawn out war of land accrual and temple building as the countryside develops and scars before your very eyes.

This wide-open feel and multitude of nobs to twist is exciting because it allows you to grapple with an element of your destiny and feel as though you’re in control. If Rising Sun is repeatedly getting hit in the face by a Tsunami and then trying to pick up the pieces, Lords of Hellas is digging your heels into the ribs of a bull and directing it into the crowd.

Can we talk about those miniatures for a moment?

When you physically construct something in the real-world that you’re building in the imaginary one it just feels so damn fulfilling. It’s theme reflected to the tactile senses and it’s wonderful. Erecting a huge cybernetic statue with a multi-part miniature is fascinating. It has table presence and it makes your eyes catcall.

“It’s only about the minis.”

My inner-child is punching yours in the face.

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One of the strongest elements of this release is the utilization of asymmetric heroes. They function distinctly from the armies of hoplites in a manner that I can’t help but compare to the classic Runewars. In both games you send your avatars to the far reaches of the map to embark on quests and pursue personal achievement. This is a facet of play that disappointed many in that older FFG release, and for fair reason. In Lords of Hellas those complaints have been addressed and cleaned up quite a bit.

No longer does hero movement and combat feel tacked-on or unnecessary. In addition to a couple of the options directly affecting infantry movement and battle, every player can pursue the large mythological creatures that stomp about the board sowing chaos. Slaying three such monsters qualifies you for victory and each offers incremental rewards such as additional priests or artifacts to aid your cause. The integration and balance within the scope of play is damn near perfect.

Another parallel to Runewars is card-driven battles. Against other player’s infantry you alternate playing cards from your hand that add to total strength. The rub here is that the loser must remove only a single soldier from the area before vacating the region. The bulk of casualties are self-inflicted as a cost to playing those battle cards. Again, this reflects that sense of control imparted to the participants throughout the design.

Combating the monstrous behemoths utilizes the same components but in a different way. Here you refer to a symbol on the top half of the card and inflict wounds on specific slots. These persist even after the hunt has ended, which can be tricky if you wish to avoid someone swooping in and stealing your kill.

These battle cards inject just the right amount of drama while keeping the flow of combat steady. This is a game that lacks significant bouts of downtime and it continually works to keep everyone engaged.

It’s easy to spout excessively about the joys of this design, but there are undoubtedly a few aspects which are potentially off-putting. The main perpetrator is that this game can end unexpectedly fast. You can be amassing armies upon the borders of your enemy and all of the sudden you realize another poor sod abandoned his original plan and decided to rush out a monument.

Much of the strategy can be attempting to slow down opponents who are pursuing objectives which you can counter – such as taking land from an aggressor or trying to move monsters away from thirsty heroes – but there are times when this is simply unattainable. The game doesn’t feel random, but it can feel frustrating when you miss the inception of significant events and only realize the repercussions upon the outcome.

This is a similar issue to that found in Cyclades and Inis. Ultimately it’s one you learn to deal with or at least accept.

One could also tag this game with trying to do too much. While it’s overall comfortably situated on the lighter end of the medium weight category, it has subsystems for quests, two distinct types of combat, separate rules for heroes, and even mid-game drafting of special abilities at irregular intervals. It’s not nearly as clean as something like Cyclades, but it also purports to successfully tackle more simulative elements than its peer. This is a trade-off in abstraction that all games commit to and Lords of Hellas stands its ground.

Beyond that it’s all taste. You may prefer Cthulhu Wars due to the larger degree of asymmetry or Rising Sun due to the emphasis on negotiation, but the individual nuts and bolts of Lords of Hellas are not far off from flawless. That’s a significant amount of praise and there’s no doubt in my aging mind that it’s justified.

I mean, look at those minis.

 

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The Curse of the 7th Continent

You couldn’t miss it. As I walked up to my front porch, slouched and tired from not enough sleep and more than enough work, the large package was sitting there. This isn’t an unusual sight as cardboard shipping boxes containing cardboard gaming boxes arrive weekly at my suburban dwelling. This one was different because it was unexpected.

I hurried inside lifting with my legs instead of my back, and laid the thing out on my dining room table with a pietistic moment of silence.

A careful slice of the knife and there it was, that sleek black and gold cover staring me in the eyes with all the atmosphere of an Ingmar Bergman directed game of chess.

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This happens often. I toss a wad of cash into the pot of a Kickstarter campaign and several years later a game arrives unexpectedly. It’s like a subscription box that delivers once a year and takes your arm as recompense.

You may have heard of the 7th Continent (cue church bells, doves, and Matthew Fox). It raised eight million dollars over two crowdfunding campaigns and has received much acclaim. As an experience it abandons players on an island and has you working together to lift a cryptic curse. And everyone absolutely loves it.

For good reason too. In many respects this is the ultimate exploration game as you cut through jungle, stumble through snow, and snarl in the face of the weirdest of beings. It’s captivating and overwhelming in the sheer amount of content you can discover over the course of play. One could literally set fire to the rest of their collection and dedicate themselves to the 7th Continent for the rest of the year. Probably the rest of all of your years.

Although I don’t actually recommend that.

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Never have I so thoroughly committed myself to a game and felt so conflicted. This monstrosity in a box has provided me with double digit hours of wonderful discovery and adventure. It’s provided some really standup moments of shock and it continually surprised me with the elegance of its core ‘push your luck’ mechanism. In short, it’s a beautiful piece of design and an unparalleled experience – for 12 hours or so.

The 7th Continent thematically exists as a sort of heartbreak simulator. It accomplishes what Fog of Love couldn’t in that it presents a genuine emotional journey of courtship, love, consumation of that love, comfortability, annoyance, aggravation, hate, and eventually divorce. Yeah, that’s quite a bit of steps to unpack and work through. Relationships are complicated, yo.

The problem with a design predicated on exploration is that you need something to explore, something that will eventually be fully discovered and lose its purpose. Think about that for a moment. When the premise of your creation’s fun is in the process of discovery, the lifespan is outright limited. You’re working towards something, and that something is likely an unsatisfied ending. The damn finish line is the knife that’s going to kill you, not the 20 mile long trek.

People like to throw around that special phrase ‘it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey’. Usually to sort of couch disappointment in a revelation that’s not up to snuff. I watched Lost, I know disappointment.

The 7th Continent’s solution for this problem of terminus is to throw it all at you. Not just the kitchen sink, but the loofah, the hand towel, the tiles, and even the blackened grout between them. What feels like the entire run of DominionLegendary, and Thunderstone is all crammed into a single box where you must meticulously curate and file each card so as to make retrieval during play minimally painful. By giving you so damn much to explore and wade through, you’ll never hit that unsatisfying end-of-the-line where you look back and question your life choices – at least that’s the theory. And while everything is fresh and exciting, that pain of leafing through cards and maintaining a perfectly organized library will be subdued and easily covered up. Eventually fresh and exciting turns to rote and monotonous, end of the journey or not.

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The island feels enormous in the early days. You’ll push through alien territory and encounter bizarre vegetation and bizarre-er lifeforms. You’ll hit breathtaking pieces of geography and your mind will race with possibility. It all feels so damn wide open and refreshingly free. You can do whatever you want and go wherever you’d like.

That’s the premise at least. It’s not the reality, however, in that depending on a specific curse you choose prior to play – think of curses as very light scenarios or objectives – you will need to travel a specific path and head to specific points on the continent.

But what about that curious bit of flora off to the west?

Veer off course and the gods of the lost continent will smack you in the forehead with a sledge hammer. The worst part is you won’t even realize you’ve been jerked around and gutted until it’s too late. Sometimes this will even occur by accident as perhaps you’ve missed a clue or made a false judgment. Forgiving is not an adjective I’d apply to this release.

A key element of mainting a cooperative game, particularly one hinged on mystery, is a sense of tension. This design accomplishes that by utilizing your pool of action cards as currency and health. Whenever you want to move or perform a task you need to discard cards from the deck. Sometimes you’ll need to flip them one at a time and look for a certain threshold of stars that appear in the left margin, the requirement set by the difficulty of a skill check. Typically you may draw additional cards beyond what’s required to maximize your odds of succeeding at the cost of running through your deck faster.

This works well and feels extraordinarily smooth as a light ‘push your luck’ mechanism. The problem is that it’s fatally flawed when paired with the overall structure of play. When you eventually burn through your cards you risk the game coming to an end from a single flip. This is exceptionally tense and wonderful in its torture, that is until it actually occurs. There ain’t no way in hell I’m starting an eight hour session completely over because a deck of cards decided to spit in my mouth. Screw your faraway gods of a lost kingdom – as I said, I watched Lost and I’m not getting taken for a ride again.

Stomachs growling like an MGM mascot, our chins raise ever so higher as we come across a set of hoof prints in a clearing. Finally, we can hunt. The collective sigh of relief shakes the poorly insulated windows in my dark basement.

“So…how many cards are we going to draw?'”I let out with a wince.

“If we flip a curse we’re done. Let’s just reveal one and then I can add two stars with this card I’ve been saving.” Ben states with hope.

We nod along in unison as the plan is sound.

So you cheat, or at least you should because it’s downright absurd. I already get antsy when playing multiple loops in T.I.M.E. Stories and want to skip past the most repetitive parts, so I sure as hell am not going to sink an entire day back into re-exploring places I’ve already been.

“It’s all about the journey”, said no one earnestly.

The game foresees this problem and tries to handle it. When one of those wonderfully illustrated map cards comes onto the table you do so by referencing the number on its back. Often there are multiple copies of a given location which means the details may change when you visit it again. You’re instructed to draw the card from the pool randomly so you never quite know what you’re going to run into.

This clever trick does keep things somewhat fresh for an extended period of time, but it’s not a miracle and the features rarely change so drastically that they’ll re-instill that vigor from your first run through.

7C_BoardSpoilers!

You can also hunt for food which integrates a resource management aspect into the game. When you kill beasts and acquire meat you will haul it raw, alongside your other limited inventory, until you decide to stop and cook it. Or you can scream YOLO into the jungle and consume the rainbow bird-gator hybrid rare. Sometimes this comes at a steep cost.

Finding sustenance allows you to shuffle cards back into your deck and prolong that horrendous abbreviated end-game. The tension that arises from the see-saw of cards in and out of your draw pile is captivating for a time, and that pressure certainly feels at home in the survival setting of the game. Unfortunately, like many aspects of this design that process becomes repetitive and work-like only a few hours into the expedition. When aspects of your game start to become a chore you have a problem. A game that was once aggravating members of your household while permanently setup on your dining room table starts to come off the shelf less and less. The joy fades and the yoke of ‘the man’ sets in.

When you view this commitment and the adventure from a bit of distance, it appears almost farcical. It’s as if we’ve been put into a reverse situation of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. As we emerge from the underground, our eyes wide with hope, we discover a land of possibility that’s inexhaustible. It’s only much later that we realize this is in fact a facade and our confined dwelling was the reality to which we must return.

And now we’ve come to the most important part of the review. You want to know – “is that lack of fulfilling resolution a cost worth paying for a solid 12 hours of enjoyment? And what about that large price tag?”

‘You do it’ I murmur to Ben. There’s no way in hell I’m going to be the one to pull our hunt result.

Ben nods and the rest have no problem shunting the pressure to the tallest person in the room.

‘Here it goes…’ Ben affirms.

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Fog of Unrequited Love

Welcome back boys and girls. This week at Player Elimination, we’re talking love. Take Kanye’s prescient advice and holla – “we want prenup!”

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Man, I love games that try to do something unique. Some would call me a sucker. Designs like The Grizzled and The Mushroom Eaters dig into my brain and wrap their claws around soft tissue, refusing to be dislodged. This is why I had all the hope for Fog of Love to burrow down into the most imaginative parts of my cerebrum. But the magic never happened. Like the most predictable of rom-coms, it doesn’t manage to break through or achieve greatness.

Yet just like Jake Gyllenhaal, it doesn’t know how to quit us. This relationship simulator is awash with interesting quirks and details. The setup of a two player game with a couple trying to feel out their conjoined existence is endearing. As cards are played and scenes unfold, the simultaneous answering of questions manufactures engaging moments laced with a bit of drama as you explore unknown territory.

That concept of ‘relationship simulator’ is pretty kooky and something I can totally get behind. On paper it’s pure potential, able to fork off into existential discovery or skip about in lighter social reverie. Newcomers approaching the game have no idea what to expect, and that’s wonderful.

It even starts off with a fastball. There’s this quaint character generation system that parrots aspects of the tabletop RPG genre. You’ll get an interesting and sometimes humorous career such as a florist or a dancer. You pick several personality traits which function as hidden goals, offering guideposts for play and directing your decisions. It’s fantastic in its simplicity as well as its depth of what it accomplishes to set the stage.

Sometimes it can be very odd. When you’re saddled with a trait like ‘wears cheap jewelry’ you’ll immediately form a preconceived notion. We’re used to feeling exaltation and excitement due to our barbarian’s 18 strength or thief’s 17 dexterity. When we’re offered a personality that we connect to primarily through pity, it can be bewildering and uncomfortable. And that’s great as it challenges our personal character and naturally questions our feelings. These difficult compositions can help cement a tender relationship with not only our in-game extension but the design itself.

20180222_165711An insurance agent with a facial scar, old cell phone, and odd socks walks into a bar…

Unfortunately our relationship begins to show cracks early. Right from the get-go you’re humming along and energized, maybe even butterflies buzzing back and forth against the walls of your stomach, and you begin to embody this fresh-off-the-boat personality. You want to explore the budding couple and engage in those roleplaying elements that are presented so succinctly yet effectively.

Then those pesky questionnaires start to pop up. Each scene presents you with a four option multiple-choice question that both participants answer privately. As hinted at previously, this feels really spectacular at times. You want to lean into the RPG qualities of the design and explore two human beings attempting to find their way.

When making crucial decisions in these moments, which is what the majority of the game consists of, you really want to approach the experience from an emotional angle. Relationships are messy, unpredictable things and you often have to take a deep breath and close your eyes as you leap. The far away outcome of these life defining moments is never known. Uncertainty eating away at our everyday life is a common occurrence and what defines our short little existence. Fog of Love rarely feels this way. More often, you’re responding to those pop quizzes from a strategic vector as you desire a specific mechanical outcome.

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With the scene set and the trip to Ikea mid-occurrence, you’re less concerned about what Barry the electrician is actually feeling and more focused on raising your discipline or sensitivity, as well as your personal satisfaction. The mechanisms are bare and fallout from the decision process so stark and cold that it saps the emotional strength at nearly every turn.

By presenting such a strong focus on the defined results, Fog of Love loses its way just as soon as its begun. It struggles under its goals of coupling roleplaying with a strategic Euro-style design, an uroboros devouring itself as both ends meet. These two vectors possess such disparate design goals and philosophies that reconciling the two is impossible, and this game never quite manages the impossible.

To be fair, the issue is partially alleviated in later scenarios. By introducing the ability for the relationship to dissolve, there’s a shift to mechanically nurturing your opponent’s goals. That aspect of cooperation and thoughtlessness can certainly exist without this prompt, but this is usually adopted outside the bounds of your incentives and for pure narrative or emotional reasons. Ideally, the game would nurture those emotional proclivities instead of hampering them. Some of the evolving mechanisms and scenarios make it halfway, but they never supplant that sterile calculating base completely. While you will have moments of concern for your partner and perhaps struggle with indecision, the majority of play is still framed around those individual needs and accomplishing them.

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Tone is also problematic. The game wants to see-saw between moments of smirking comedy and dramatic impact. This dichotomy is fragile at times as it can feel like Will Ferrell being directed by Terrence Malick. While this variance of atmosphere can lead to some of the strongest flashes of roleplaying, it can also undercut the emotional depth and pull you out of the flick in the midst of your engagement.

Ok, let’s wax philosophical for a second.

There’s a nagging feeling that the gamification of love is folly. By laying down strict goals and measurements, Fog of Love can’t help but judge your character – by proxy you – and their success in pursuing a very nebulous and subjective state. I certainly think the attempt is noble and at times impressive, but the impact and emotional characterization leads down a path that jails creativity and feels oppressive.

This can also be an experience that melds in uncomfortable ways with the outside world. The sheer possibility of this occurring sounds enticing, and it’s something I regularly praise in a design when it’s able to affect us on a greater level, however a couple with a troubled relationship may find their unresolved issues weaving into the play-space. I’d like to think that this can give way to resolution and a deeper sense of affection, but this is a subject that is extraordinarily tricky and walks upon dangerous ground. Combine this fragility with that gamification aspect, and you have an exercise which can offer mixed messages with a judgmental tenor. Let’s just say there’s a reason a relationship therapist charges $100 a session and Fog of Love retails for $50 at Wal-Mart online.

Despite this flurry of criticism, there’s quite a bit of turmoil and conflict raging within my mind. Fog of Love does present moments of profundity as you and a spouse perhaps deepen your understanding or stumble upon new realizations. These moments are special. In those brief glimpses this game achieves a status of art that is highly commendable. These experiences end up justifying the design at a base level, earning its time for at least a couple of plays.

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It’s also obviously lovingly crafted. The presentation is clean and crisp. The components are fantastic from the solid chips you can’t help but play with nervously, to the unveiling of scenarios through sealed decks of CCG-like boosters. Hush Hush productions and designer Jacob Jaskov come ever so close to presenting the real deal.

While the core of Fog of Love is singularly flawed, this is a design I’d recommend be experienced. Its deficiency is not in failing to present an interesting game, but in taking a leap of insight and failing to stick the landing.

 

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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A Review Philosophy

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Hello!

Some of you may know me as that long-winded fellow who loves everything he reviews.

Well, yes. I mean, no. How dare you.

My name is Charlie. I write for many outlets, mostly because I’m vain and desperately hoping for some level of higher success as I push my games writing resume to grow every which way it can. As of this moment I contribute at least semi-regularly to Ars Technica, Geek & Sundry, The Review Corner, and Tabletop Gaming. I’d love to expand that and have my name published on Polygon, Kotaku, and even tattooed on someone’s nether-regions some day. We all have hopes and dreams.

One of the few benefits of working in print is that these places all pay. They’re professional outlets and that chunk of money which ranges from ‘hey, McDonalds is on them tonight’ to ‘this hobby is self-sustaining’, well, it’s a real thing and it’s swell. Which is great, because you don’t want to see me awkwardly positioned between a shelf of games and the best Amazon reviewed cheapo camera.

But everything’s not peaches and cream. Editors, style guides, and mission statements are great, for the most part. Player Elimination is for that other part.

At times it can feel as though you’re hamstrung, not able to write a specific way or in a specific style. It can feel as though you’re trying to speak with a mouthful of sand, perhaps trying to rain glorious syncopated beats from the heavens and someone’s telling you to use your inside voice.

Don’t read me wrong – I appreciate each and every place I write for. I put a lot of work into my pieces and my editors are all much smarter people than I could ever hope to be. But a chicken’s a chicken and it’d rather be free range than all cooped up.

So I’ve decided to do some writing for myself. And for you.

This here is a proclamation to deliver content at Player Elimination every single week. An article that may be some kind of review (although not a “review” review), maybe just some ramblings on a table top subject, perhaps just a bit of news. Part of the fun is in seeing your child grow in ways you couldn’t have imagined.

Why ‘Player Elimination’?

Player elimination, the mechanism, is a sticky subject. Antiquated as a dinosaur, some say. Like any mechanism, I believe it can be properly implemented and it has its own special time and place. To some degree, they also don’t make ’em like they used to.

This weekly column will tackle sticky subjects. I may be old and dated but I have a place dammit, and it’s here, rambling, like a man that’s mad.

It’s also the only name that wasn’t already taken.

So Player Elimination it is. Anything is better than another brand with meeple in the title. Ugh.

The nebbish ideology.

So let’s get real for a moment. For the first post of this weekly editorial I want to take an introspective glare at the philosophy behind my writing. I want you to understand how I approach a game, where my critique comes from, and perhaps justify the time we’re both sinking into this relationship.

First and foremost, I’m an experiential reviewer. Oh, and by the way, I am a reviewer (or critic as I’d prefer). There’s a movement to get away from that designation by some of the big media in the industry. I’m not afraid of that word and the baggage it contains.

But yes, experiential. By that I mean that I approach my writing from an angle of what it feels like to play a game. I don’t care one whit about teaching you how to play a design or conveying rules information in one of my articles, at least beyond the necessary context to elucidate a point. Yes, I leave information out, on purpose.

Describing what a game feels like is a difficult task. This is why you don’t see the bulk of reviewers adopting this approach. You have to analyze and evaluate from an emotional level. You have to contemplate a game’s position as a piece of culture. You need to distill a complex and sometimes bewildering social experience into words, hopefully ones that read beautifully and fire up your imagination.

The types of games I enjoy are full of emotion and drama, which is exactly how I approach transferring the experience to paper. I yearn for releases that stir my cold dead heart and get my blood pumping. When a game accomplishes that, I want to convey this through words and put you in that warm seat I was occupying.

And when a game fails to come through on its promise I want to encapsulate the anguish or apathy engendered. Nailing the highs and the lows can be difficult, but that doesn’t change the fact it’s a reviewer’s job. Tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may.

Sometimes I get lost in my own writing and emotions and go too far. I’m constantly trying to evolve as a writer and critic, and like a purposeful adventure, it’s a journey. I will continue to grow and I hope you stick by my side.

Enough of this nonsense, I want an objective review.

Oh boy. Objective is something I will not be. A critic’s entire purpose is to offer evaluative commentary on a particular thing, whether that’s a film or a piece of music or a collection of card board we’re hunched over at the table. An objective review does not exist. It just doesn’t.

Because these words and emotions are subjective, sometimes we make mistakes. I aligned myself early on with the notion that I would not review a game before reaching at least three plays. Ideally I’d reach many more, although that’s not often practical.

One revealing psychological quirk I have is that it gives me dread whenever someone reads one of my articles and then responds with excitement exclaiming – “added to my list!” or “thanks for the recommendation, just bought it [now my family will need to eat tuna for a week you sod].” Leading people to quality titles is an enjoyable byproduct of this thing we do, but hearing someone purchased a game I recommended and then was disappointed is a bit like pissing yourself in front of the school.

Progress is forward and I hope to offer you much more in the coming weeks and months and maybe even years. My hope with this editorial work is to discuss games and particularly how they make us feel. The emotion and drama involved, not the weight of the box, quality of the components, or every little rule that you can already find in a book written by a professional. I want to delve into what makes a game work, whether it comes through on its promise and what it hopes to achieve. I want to talk about the play that happens above the table, the fire behind our eyes and the acid flying from our tongues. We don’t play games of little shaped cardboard and plastic, but games of big immature boys and girls talking trash and hurling spitfire.

One thing I won’t be kicking anytime soon is my enthusiasm for the hobby and for great games. Great games like Cyclades and Rising Sun and Earth Reborn and Tigris & Euphrates and even Happy Salmon. I’ve managed to avoid burnout thanks to a commitment from many designers to pursue innovation and creativity that continually sparks my imagination.

More of that, please.

See you next Monday.

 

 

If you enjoy what I’m doing at Player Elimination and want to support my efforts, please consider dropping off a tip at my Ko-Fi.