Tor.com content by

Bob Gallo

2013 International TableTop Game Day, Saturday March 30th

Wow, it has been over a year since my last installment of The Analog Gamer. Lots of changes in my personal life, a new career, a new location, and a new addition to the family on the way. Lots of changes to the tabletop gaming hobby as well. Signs of the hobby entering popular culture are everywhere; frequent episodes of The Big Bang Theory feature the gang playing games well known to hobbyists, TableTop, a slickly produced reality-based videocast with host Wil Wheaton and other game playing celebrities, is entering its second season, and games like Pandemic, Ticket to Ride, and Settlers of Catan, once strictly the domain of specialty stores can now be found featured in your local Target.

[Game on…]

2011 Halloween Board Game Roundup

Halloween marks the one year anniversary of the Analog Gamer series on Tor.com. One of the nice things about board and card games is that they have much longer shelf lives than video or computer games. Video games tend to become instantly obsolete as soon as a sequel is released and even without sequels technology passes them by in two or three years, a good board or card game on the other hand can retain its play value for decades. With that in mind, I stand by my 2010 list of Halloween games and offer this new list not as a replacement but as a supplement to those titles.

[Zombies, killer puppets, more Cthulhu ]

Series: The Analog Gamer

Five Pirate Games Not Inspired by an Amusement Park Ride

Ahoy, it’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and whilst I have no particular skills at pirate speak (and it gets old quick without ample amounts of grog) I have wrangled up some board and card games with piratey themes for your perusal. Given the wealth of available source material, both historical and imagined, it’s surprising how few good pirate games are on the market. Dozens of games are released each year with questionable themes such as mercantile economics during the renaissance, but of ships festooned with cannon and swashbuckling pirates? Not so much. Never the less, here be a select few, and if ye look close enough ye might spy a few gems in the lot. (Next month will be my Halloween roundup, but keep yer eyes peeled for Ninjas before the end of the year).

[Aarrr, there be games over the horizon]

Series: The Analog Gamer

Clash of the Heavy Weight Game Licenses: Star Trek vs. Star Wars

I know what you’re thinking; “licenses? … don’t you keep telling us that licensed products suck”? Generally they do, and with the exception of Star Fleet Battles and Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit and maybe a few others these licenses in particular have long histories of producing very under developed, mass market trash.

So what has changed? It’s the companies and designers behind these licenses. WizKids with Star Trek is going head to head against Fantasy Flight Games with Star Wars and the gaming public is likely to be the winner. Both companies are no strangers to turning licensed intellectual property into gold and what they’re promising now doesn’t disappoint. Let’s take a look…

[To boldly go where no games have gone before]

Series: The Analog Gamer

Not Your Father’s d6: A Look at 6 SFF Dice Games and Other Dicey Things

I remember receiving the white box edition of Dungeons & Dragons as a gift back in the mid 70’s. The rise of the RPG phenomenon since that time has been well-documented, but what is often overlooked is the evolution of the dice. Prior to D&D dice were strictly 6 sided cubes that came in any color you wanted as long as it was black, white, or red. By today’s standards the Basic D&D dice were laughable; soft plastic polyhedrons with dull, frayed edges that wore down after only modest use, but at the time they were a wonder to behold. A standard set included 4, 6, 8, and 20 sided dice (the Platonic Solids for you math majors out there). Since that time the 10 sided die, bastard child of the Platonic Solids, has become quite popular, and dice with 100+ sides have been produced.

While not entirely new, advancements in short run manufacturing have made it increasingly possible to design small print-run games using custom dice. You can even have your own dice made in as few as 10 copies. What follows is a brief overview of some games based on very cool looking dice, and a selection of custom dice that can be used to pimp out your favorite RPG or boardgame.

[Breaking news for Lovecraft fans from Fantasy Flight Games, just jump through the gate…]

Series: The Analog Gamer

Games of Game of Thrones

It is spring 2011 and winter is coming. It’s time to call my cable company and tell them I’m done watching Shameless and Californication on Showtime and I’m ready to switch back to HBO, once again, for True Blood, Entourage, and of course Game of Thrones. Honestly, does anyone watch movies on these stations anymore? …but I digress.

There are currently three boxed games and a role-playing game set in George R. R. Martin’s embattled lands of Westeros. All three boxed games are published by Fantasy Flight Games, the company that currently sets the standards for high-end board game production values. One thing Fantasy Flight Games has proven repeatedly; they know how to bring licensed properties to life. These games are not new products exploiting the anticipation surrounding HBO’s mini-series; they are mature product lines each with expansions and well established player bases.

[“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” – Cersei Lannister]

Series: A Song of Ice and Fire

Warhammer 40,000

It is the 41st Millennium. For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the master of mankind by the will of the gods, and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the Imperium for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day, so that he may never truly die.

Yet even in his deathless state, the Emperor continues his eternal vigilance. Mighty battlefleets cross the daemon-infested miasma of the warp, the only route between distant stars, their way lit by the Astronomican, the psychic manifestation of the Emperor’s will. Vast armies give battle in his name on uncounted worlds.

[…for in the grim dark future there is only war]

Series: Dystopia Week

11 Games Depicting Dystopias Past, Present, and Future

Okay, to be honest, most of these games are dystopian visions of the future. They are either based on, or borrow heavily from, books, movies, and even television shows with which we are very familiar. Some are deadly serious, others are over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek parodies of society gone haywire. This list is not in any particular order but there is a glaring omission. Watch Tor.com later in the week for an overview of the mother of all dystopian game settings….

Battlestar Galactica the Board Game

The survival of humanity hangs by a thread. Fewer than 50,000 survivors flee extinction from Cylon xenocide on a rag-tag fleet of ships protected only by the aging Battlestar Galactica and her crew. Fuel and food are running short, morale is low, the population is dwindling, and to make matters worse, there are Cylons among us spreading mistrust, intrigue, and ultimately betrayal.

[Neurotic detectives, psychotic drivers, pandering executioners and more…]

Series: Dystopia Week

The Analog Gamer: Galaxy Trucker

As a child have you ever built a tower out of blocks or cards with the sole intention of knocking it over with a toy car or train? Maybe it’s just me but if the idea of building a spaceship and then watching it blasted apart piece by piece sounds like fun, Galaxy Trucker may be for you.

 Galaxy Trucker was published in 2007 by Czech Games Edition, designed by Vlaada Chivatil, and distributed by Rio Grande Games. In Galaxy Trucker sewer parts manufacturer Corporation Incorporated needs to deliver sewer pipes and fittings to the outer edge of the galaxy as safely cheaply and quickly as possible. Enter the galaxy truckers, brave men and women expendable independent contractors that assemble spaceships out of sewer components and pilot them on the dangerous journey to the outer edge where the ships, or what’s left of them, are disassembled and sold as parts. There’s a lot of money to be made as a galaxy trucker, assuming of course you survive the journey (and Corp. Inc.’s contract clauses).

[It’s a rough road beyond the jump…]

Series: The Analog Gamer

The Analog Gamer: Deck-Building Card Games, Part 4: Resident Evil—the Deck-Building Game

In the first post of this series we looked at Dominion and its role in establishing the deck building card game format. In the second and third posts we looked two games that followed closely on Dominion’s success, Thunderstone and Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer. In this final post we look at a surprise hit with a questionable heritage. We also take a very brief look at some new titles expected in 2011.

Any game based on a licensed property raises immediate suspicions. More often than not the game is an underdeveloped, cheaply produced knock-off attempting nothing more than to exploit the popularity of the original property. And when that property is a series of video games with questionable movie spinoffs, needless to say the odds were steeply stacked against Resident Evil—The Deck Building Game from amounting to anything more than a marketing gimmick.

[Guns, guts, grenades, and a pretty good game…]

Series: The Analog Gamer

The Analog Gamer: Deck-Building Card Games, Part 3: Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer

In the first post of this series we looked at Dominion and its role in establishing the deck building card game format. In the second post we looked at the challenger to the throne, Thunderstone. In this post we explore what happens when three professional Magic players get into the act and create the game Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer.

Ascension card gameAscension: Chronicle of the Godslayer was published in 2010 by Gary Games and designed by Magic Pro Tour champions Justin Gary, Rob Dougherty, and Brian Kibler. In Ascension 2 to 4 players start with a small army of Apprentices (providing runes, a magical currency for buying other cards) and Militia (power cards used to defeat monsters). The goal is to build up that army and accumulate the most honor points, either by defeating monsters or by purchasing other valuable cards.

[Does Ascension slay the competition? Read more…]

Series: The Analog Gamer

The Analog Gamer: Deck-Building Card Games, Part 2: Thunderstone

In the previous post we looked at Dominion and its role in establishing the deck-building card game as an accessible alternative to collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering. In this post we look at the second title to adopt the format, the dungeon adventure Thunderstone.

Thunderstone was created by game designer Mike Elliott and published by Alderac Entertainment Group in 2009 on the heels of Dominion’s success. The game supports solo play or up to 5 for competitive play. The publisher claims an average game length of 60 minutes although it has been my experience that certain setup conditions may make the game take much longer. The mechanics of Thunderstone are so similar to Dominion that many initially dismissed it as simply a clone or rip-off of the original deck building concept. At this point those accusations have largely subsided and Thunderstone is recognized as the second entry in the new genre of deck building card games.

[There be dragons beyond the jump…]

Series: The Analog Gamer

The Analog Gamer: Deck-Building Card Games—Cures for Magic: The Gathering burn out?

Richard Garfield revolutionized the gaming industry in 1993 with the introduction of Magic: The Gathering. Magic has been a phenomenal sucess spawning a multitude of clones and popularizing the use of cards in games not traditionally thought of as card games. By 2006 Magic: The Gathering’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, reported over 6 million players in 70 countries. After nearly 17 years the game is alive and well with league play and tournament fees being the primary source of revenue for many local game stores. Despite this success there is also a growing population of former players like myself that can no longer afford the investment of time (and frankly, money) for competitive play.

Dominion card gameIn 2008 game designer Donald X. Vaccarion turned the collectible card game concept on its head with the release of Dominion published by Rio Grande Games. The goal was to offer the experience of a collectible card game in a single box without the time investment in deck preparation and cost associated with collectibility. To achieve these goals Dominion incorporated two important innovations; it made deck-building a part of the game and eliminated the collectability aspect by allowing players to “purchase” cards in-game from a common pool. Dominion has been very successful with a large well established player base and 4 expansions currently in print. A number of similar games have been released from other publishers as well. What follows is a series of posts looking at the four most popular deck-building games; Dominion, Thunderstone, Ascension, and Resident Evil and also a brief look at what we can expect in 2011.

[First up, Dominion…]

Series: The Analog Gamer

The Analog Gamer: Stocking Stuffers—10 Science Fiction and Fantasy Games Under $20.00

If you’ve been following my blog posts it will come as no surprise that my gaming preferences tend toward large, immersive, heavily themed games. These games also tend to come with equally heavy price tags running somewhere in the $40 to $60 range. However, you don’t have to spend a fortune to find an interesting game with plenty of theme. In honor of Cyber Monday I’ve created this list of 10 games, each with a strong science fiction or fantasy theme that retail for $20.00 or less.

[Lord of the Rings and more below the cut…]

Series: The Analog Gamer

The Analog Gamer: Android

The world changed. Crime did not.

Early in the month of November I had the good fortune to host a session of Android at MACE, a local gaming convention in High Point, NC. Android is a difficult game to get played during casual game days, it’s long (about 4 hours with new players), it has an undeserved reputation for being complex, and it requires enormous amounts of table space. These barriers to play have lead to very polarized opinions and reviews which is unfortunate because Android provides one of the most immersive experiences you can get from a board game and is well worth the effort invested in playing.

[Murder, conspiracy, personal redemption, and a few less than humble opinions below the cut…]

Series: The Analog Gamer