May in Review: Stormy Weather, Stormier Opinions

Despite the conclusion of the school year — and me being forced to read thirty thirty-page essays — May was a productive month over at Space-Biff! Here are the highlights:

* The rulebook for the second edition of Bios: Megafauna (review) took some time to parse for the usual Phil Eklund reasons — copious footnotes, a weird index layout that's wargamey but still tricky for looking up information, and a dependence on a particular jargon that doesn't exist beyond the confines of a biology course — but then immediately stood out as one of the smoothest games in Eklund's catalog.

* Because I can't stop talking about Darkest Night, I talked about it some more with my good friend Brock!

* Two of the terms we've been conditioned to use interchangeably are "simple" and "elegant." Perhaps because it's easier for a simple game to be elegant than a complex game. Case in point: The Fox in the Forest (review), a totally simple, totally elegant little trick-taking game.

* Don't ever accuse me of being too positive, because May included some decidedly negative writeups. In spite of some puzzle-based goodness (and some interesting round-the-rondel gameplay), Heaven & Ale failed to win me over. Meanwhile, Feudum proved too cluttered and under-developed for its own good, while Martin Wallace's upcoming Lincoln appeared not to have been playtested in, uh, ever. There are apparently some fixes for that last one, but I can only speak to the quality of what I was actually sent.

But hey, don't let the gray clouds of spring get you down! To restore the blue skies, I wrote up a feature of some of the best sandbox-style games ever designed. On BGG's rating scale — which tops off at "always want to play" — every one of these games earns a hearty "rating scales are pointless and unqualifiable" from me. Because they're great games, but there's no such thing as a game I always want to play. That's just silly. Also frightening. If there's a game you always want to play, you may be suffering from lupus.

* Does Decrypto kill Codenames? That's the question I didn't answer at all in my review.

* One of the most exciting independent companies working right now is Hollandspiele. Tom Russell's Charlemagne, Master of Europe (review) didn't fully secure my affections, but it was a solid enough solo experience that I was happy to play through its three-hour campaign three times.

* Sol: Last Days of a Star (review) did the impossible: it made me care about a board game's fluff. Normally, if I thumb open your rulebook to discover a wall of background text, that's an immediate minus one point on BGG's rating scale. But in Sol's case, the gameplay embodies and reinforces the fluff's message that you shouldn't explode your sun.

Okay, so it isn't necessarily the deepest message.


I'm going to go ahead and cheat, because I'm an adult and can do whatever I want, Mom. The best game of the month award is a three-way tie between Bios: Megafauna, The Fox in the Forest, and Sol: Last Days of a Star, for very different reasons and complexity levels. On BGG, I would rate these "Would always consider playing, but don't always want to play, because always wanting to play a game is a sign of late-stage lupus." Which isn't an option, but should be.


I've got some cool stuff planned for June. Here's a sneak peek.

First of all, some reviews are forthcoming. History of the World, The Mind, The Wars of Marcus Aurelius, Dungeon Alliance, and Pendragon are all ready to go, with many more following shortly behind. Like Comancheria. Y'know, maybe.

Also, I'll be speaking at the Tabletop Network's Boardgame Designer's Retreat next weekend. The topic? "How to Trick Me Into Giving Your Game a Positive Review." Also known as: Why you should foster a relationship with game critics (including those who'll give you negative reviews), the critical process (how I decide what to say about your game), some tricks to avoid getting a negative review (pet peeves), and then — drumroll — we'll be evaluating a game that I designed. Mercilessly, pitilessly, brutally evaluating it. Totally shredding it. My body is ready.

Lastly, we'll be doing another raffle. This time, the prize will be a totally rare (not that rare) Kickstarter copy of Ryan Laukat's Empires of the Void II. It's a pretty one.

Truly, your support means the world to me, and I appreciate it down to the cockles of my heart. If there's something you want to see from Space-Biff!, don't hesitate to let me know!