In an age when it's counterproductive to publish a second-dose horror story, I'm relieved to announce that the days following my second vaccine were entirely boring. Immediately after getting the jab, I posted a reference to Doomguy going from near-death to feeling great. If you were alive in the '90s, there's a good chance it'll be familiar—
—and then I spent the next few days watching TV and napping. Some minor aches. Some fatigue. The weirdest part is that the aches didn't seem to follow any pattern: left bicep, right thigh, some muscle in my butt, a crick in my neck. Then gone. All better. I didn't publish anything that week, but I wasn't anticipating getting much done anyway. Somerset took off the two days after my jab so she could watch the girls if I became too drowsy. Overall, the experience could even be described as refreshing.
And here I'd been led to expect... I dunno. Something worse than needing a nap.
In other words, April wasn't quite as productive as it could have been. Not that I'm complaining. A week off in exchange for a vaccine? I can live with that. It isn't like I didn't get anything done.
The month's weaker entries were, for the most part, entirely palatable. The exception is Trekking the World (review). This thing showed up on my doorstep unsolicited, which means I'll try to get around to it, but no promises. Our first play was bewildering. Why would anybody think that this is my sort of thing? In the review I mentioned zoning out on my own turn. That wasn't a joke. While trying to decide which space to travel to, my vision slipped into middle distance and remained there, reliving the wars of lives past, until somebody asked whose turn it was. Not every game needs to grab attention or intellect or emotion in equal measure, but I usually hope that something will be grabbed.
The month's other low points weren't properly bad. Dawn's Early Light (review) is a touch too focused on attrition, with lots of back-and-forth across a strip of no man's land and events determined to pull the players back to center, but I don't regret having played it. The opposite is true of Bristol 1350 (review), a social deduction game in which there's very little reason to deduce anybody's social standing, but one that remains addictively playable nevertheless. Sometimes a game can be barely functioning in one sense but so brisk and enthralling in others that the problems don't matter much.
As for the good stuff, I wouldn't be surprised if we're already seeing some of the year's best releases. Pax Viking (review) has prompted plenty of opinions, including a range of feelings about how Paxy it is. My two cents are that it's a surprising but fitting inclusion for the series, easy to teach but every bit as knotty once the victory checks slip over the horizon. The folks at ION reached out to ask if they could include my victory variant as a promo card. Of course I said yes, although I declined to have my likeness immortalized on the card itself. I'd rather that prospective customers seek to acquire the card for its content rather than because it has my ugly mug crowding the front.
The month's most idiosyncratic title was Rocky Mountain Man (review), a delightful game that I wouldn't recommend to many people. It's deliberate, even boring if you want to stoop to the word, and features so many flipped cards that I wouldn't be surprised to learn that I missed around eight percent of the necessary checks. It's also a meditative experience, and sparked some reflection on Charlie Theel's part when he got around to reviewing it.
What else? Bullet (review) is very good, in part because it's so easy to play. Designers of overburdened games, take note: stripping away some upkeep might do your design wonders. And then there's my game of the month, and possibly more: the long-awaited second edition of Summoner Wars (review). I've been playing this thing way too much, both digitally and in person, and I can't decide if I love it or if I'm desperate to love it. Either way, I'm eager to see how it continues to shape up. As with the first edition, this release is a treasure trove that leaves me wanting more. And more. And more.
For this month's podcast (recorded way back in February), I was happy to be joined by Professor Patrick Rael to discuss his perspective on categorizing slavery in games (link). The reaction was interesting; wherever it was discussed, the feedback was positive. On r/boardgames, the comments were largely in line with what I've come to expect from Reddit. The grousing began only a few minutes after it was published — a feat of listening for a two-hour episode!
At any rate, it was enlightening to speak with Patrick. His focus is academic categorization rather than evaluating the titles in question for playability, offering a different angle on a familiar topic.
No, this teaser is not a tease.
Comanchería has become something of a regular in these UPCOMING segments. Truth is, I've meant to play it every month for a few years. Any number of factors prevented it. Now I've been playing most days, and hope to reach a point where I can talk about it sometime this coming month. Maybe. Hopefully.
Meanwhile, expect a few titles that don't cause me quite as much emotional consternation. Shasn, Cryo, Sleeping Gods, Umbra Via, No Country Without — and that's just the stuff that's ready to go. All Bridges Burning, Red Rising, and Oath should follow soon after.
As always, a huge thank you to those who support my work on Patreon! Hopefully we'll be able to meet face to face sooner than later.