Tuesday, June 27, 2023

The Scribbling Strikes Back: A Review of D&D Dungeon Scrawlers: Heroes of Waterdeep

“It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
Yogi Berra
Actually, it’s not déjà vu… it’s just the same game system with some nifty new wrinkles. If you’d like to, you can read my review of the original game (Heroes of Undermountain) on the Opinionated Gamers website – there’s a lot more detail on how the game system works (plus Dale chimes in with his thoughts on the design.)

For those of you unwilling to click the link & hit the wayback machine, let me do a quick refresher on the basics of Dungeon Scrawlers:
  • It’s a real-time game of drawing your way across a dungeon map, interacting with monsters, treasures, spells, etc. with various feats of scribbling.
  • Players “interact” (aka black out, draw a line through, trace a pathway, etc.) various elements of the dungeon to score points.
  • Some elements involve racing to finish them first (killing a boss monster, finding and completing orbs, etc.).
  • Each player has a “special power” which allows them to interact with a single dungeon element in an easier way.
  • Some dungeons are timed (players have X number of minutes to score as many points as possible) while others are finished when one player takes out the boss monster.
Two years ago, I described the original game as “not a serious game… but it is enjoyable fun and a friendly introduction to the D&D universe.” I also gave two keys to fully enjoying Dungeon Scrawlers:
  1. Manage your expectations – this is a frenetic exercise in scribbling and drawing under real-time pressure… it’s not Descent or Gloomhaven or even one of the D&D Adventure games. Enjoy the light game in front of you, not some idealized version of it stacked with all kinds of chrome and other bells & whistles.
  2. Play with the right folks – you know who in your group is likely to balk at real-time and/or scribbling… so don’t make them play it.
Nifty New Wrinkles

Heroes of Waterdeep adds an extra interactive element (Dragon Coins) and a new way to vary up gameplay (Mini-Dungeons) in addition to 7 new dungeons – one of which is actually a single dungeon spread out over two regular sized maps.
  • Dragon Coins
    – 4 coins per player are placed in the center of the table… when you cross off a coin, you grab one from the middle. Each coin is worth a point at the end of the game plus a three point bonus for having the most coins. (Note: coins can, because of the ways some dungeons are designed, be a distraction… but with tight scores, every point counts!)
  • Mini-Dungeons – the game comes with 14 larger dry-erasable mini-dungeon cards that are accessed by reaching a Mini-Dungeon symbol in some of the dungeons or by playing the Mini-Dungeon variant in the rulebook. (The addition of these cards means each player has slightly different challenges to deal with – a really nice bit of variety that makes the game have higher replayability. In addition, there are 4 Boss Mini-Dungeon cards for use with the Mini-Dungeon variant.)
  • New Dungeons – Having played both versions of the game, I’m partial to the new maps in Heroes of Waterdeep… I think they’re a bit trickier to navigate, have more interesting puzzles in figuring out what to prioritize, and utilize the Mini-Dungeon addition really well. I also love the big two-map dungeon… it feels like a classic D&D ending to a campaign!
Some Final Thoughts

Given the choice between the two boxes, I’d definitely go with Heroes of Waterdeep – it has all of the same silly/fun gameplay as the original with some added twists that increased the enjoyment for my sons and I. 

I have realized that there may be elements in the game that would be much more evocative for those familiar with the Undermountain or Waterdeep settings… but since the last game of D&D I DM’d was in the early 80s, there’s pretty much no chance of me seeing it.

It’s still a very light real-time game… so your mileage may vary – but I’m glad to have it in my collection.

A review copy was provided to the Opinionated Gamers. 

Friday, June 23, 2023

Unmatched: Magic to Marvel At... Plus Some Ping Pong

This post was originally two different reviews from the Opinionated Gamers site - which I've combined here to make it easier for you to read up on all the latest Unmatched news. In it, I review the three latest Unmatched sets as well as give commentary on the latest Unmatched news… all from someone (me!) who has played and playtested a good bit of Unmatched over the last few years. 

For those following along at home, a brief reminder of the Unmatched content I've previously published on the Opinionated Gamers site:
Which brings us to 2023 and my most recent reviews!

Houdini & The Genie

Let’s start with the newest Unmatched box… which brings us two new interesting characters with really great card art and impressive figures. The box also includes a new map (King Solomon’s Mine) that uses the same “secret passage” element from the Baskerville Manor map in Cobble & Fog – but this time sized for 1 v 1.

On the difficulty scale, I’d place both of these characters at medium difficulty. (For reference, other characters we put at that level are Beowulf, Ghost Rider, and the T-Rex.) The biggest issue for both Houdini & The Genie is deck management… many of their abilities are powered by boosts, which can leave you depleting your deck too quickly and taking damage in order to chase down your opponent.

As usual, the production of the game is top-notch (one of the hallmarks of Restoration Games products) and the rulebook does the always excellent job of laying out the basic game rules as well as the special rules relating to the characters (particularly Houdini’s “Boost Tricks”).

If you’re a fan of the Unmatched system, this is a must-buy. If you’re trying out the game to see whether you’ll enjoy it, I’d probably suggest the Volume 1 or Volume 2 box first… but this would be an excellent second purchase to add more characters and a new map. Reminder: with the exception of Deadpool & Bruce Lee, every Unmatched box is playable by itself.

Personally, I really enjoyed playing The Genie – the challenge of maintaining my hand and “lunging” at the right time with his extra action power is a tremendously interesting puzzle. Houdini’s escape power is impressive – but I didn’t do as well with it. (I need practice!)

A Peek Behind the Curtain

My sons and I were playtesters on the boxes I’m about to review… and while I’ve gushed for quite a while about how much I loved the prototype version of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, some of the other characters were less compelling in the versions we tested. Impressively, the good folks at Restoration Games tweaked and cleaned up those decks – and these two boxes are by far my favorites of the Marvel Unmatched series.

I will note that playing with the actual miniatures, a full-color board, and the beautiful art on the various cards makes a palpable difference in your gaming experience. As solid as the basic designs are, it just pops once it has gone through the capable/artsy hands of the Restoration team.

Teen Spirit

All of the usual accolades apply for both Teen Spirit and For King & Country – the box inserts are darn near perfect, the rulebooks do a splendid job of teaching both the basic rules and the special rules for each new character and battlefield, and the miniatures are top quality with a wash that makes them pop (without resorting to my less-than-adequate miniature painting skills).

What really stands out in the Teen Spirit box is the creative thought and design behind each of the characters. Squirrel Girl’s manipulation of her plethora of squirrels (seriously, there are eight of them!) is a joy to play and intimidating to play against. (Yes, there’s actually a card entitled “Horde of Squirrels”.) Ms. Marvel is, no surprise, Stretchy – and that enables her to make attacks up to 2 spaces away and get a free move at the beginning of each turn. Cloak & Dagger are a symbiotic team (again, no surprise if you read the comic books and/or watched the TV show) that need to balance their attacks and damage taken to be at peak effectiveness.

Difficulty-wise, I’d put Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl at medium difficulty (I’ll post our current version of our difficulty ratings at the end of this post) and Cloak & Dagger at the top end of challenging (due to how easily you can mis-balance their play and end up in trouble). 

If I was forced to pick only one of the Marvel boxes, this would be it for me – I like the Navy Pier map, the Battlefield items feel helpful without being over-powerful, and the mix of characters is really great.

For King & Country

Yadda yadda yadda box insert yadda rulebook quality yadda gorgeous miniatures. (In other words, just imagine I’m saying the same very kind things about For King & Country that I did about Teen Spirit.)

Once again, the creative nature of the character design is what makes this box shine. Black Panther has the ability to suck in enemy character cards (his Vibranium Suit) and use their boost value to power his own attacks. Winter Soldier has to struggle with powerful cards that also contain negative effects due to the lingering fallout from his programming by the Soviets. And Black Widow has mission cards in her deck that have particular requirements that must be met before they can be played.

On the difficulty spectrum, I find Black Widow incredibly satisfying but very tricky to play well, while Black Panther is easier to play and Winter Soldier is a medium difficulty character.

This would be my #2 Marvel box – these were the characters I was concerned about after our playtests that the Restoration team tuned up really well. I’m less a fan of the Helicarrier battlefield… I think it slightly favors ranged characters – but I can (and am often) proven wrong about these things. Just ask my sons.

The Wisdom of Crowds

Difficulty rankings for the various characters… courtesy of Mark Jackson & sons (and Owen, my younger son’s friend who has developed a major obsession with Unmatched: Battle of Legends) – in total, the four of us have easily played Unmatched 400-500 times.

Bad News / Good News Ping Pong

Let’s start with the bad news… Restoration Games announced on February 13th, 2023 that they are putting two Unmatched sets “into the vault” – Cobble & Fog and Robin Hood vs. Bigfoot. Both of these sets will not be reprinted when the current stock runs out. 

“With the success of the line and its continual growth, we find ourselves with an ever more crowded roster,” said Restoration Games owner, Justin D. Jacobson. “This, in turn, presents challenges for our retailer partners in deciding what to order and for our customers in deciding what to buy. By putting these titles in the vault, we can give more focus to our active and upcoming sets.”

The good news? On Twitter, Justin clarified that “vaulting” these sets was more like the old Disney film/VHS system, where something could come back out of the vault. That said, there’s no promise that the boxes will return to print – just that they are not permanently shelved.

The ping pong game continues with more bad news – though this information wasn’t entirely a surprise. Due to the expiration of publication rights, the Restoration Games Unmatched vault already contains the Jurassic Park, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Deadpool, and Bruce Lee sets. 

Ready for more good news? The press release also mentions that there are FIVE new sets coming in 2023 and 2024, including an unannounced licensed property. (And I’ll note that one of the unannounced sets we helped playtest was a delight, so there’s even more to be happy about!)

So, if you’re interested in picking up Robin Hood vs. Bigfoot (my pick for least expensive solid intro box to the game – what with two great characters and two maps) or Cobble & Fog (the box with the trickiest figures to play well – great for gamer-y types), I’d go ahead and do that.

Note: I received a review copy of Unmatched: Buffy, For King & Country, and Teen Spirit… the rest of my Unmatched collection was purchased with my hard-earned cash. Which reminds me – anyone want to buy my copy of Epic Duels?

Also note: there’s a new (announced) box coming – Marvel: Brains & Brawn – that we playtested and enjoyed. A Restoration Fireside chat video a couple of weeks ago shared that it will be available to order on their website on June 15 - which means it is already there!  The cooperative Unmatched: Tales to Amaze! is due out early this fall… with at least 5 more Unmatched boxes in the pipeline. (One of which we’ve playtested and loved.)

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Reconstructing My Faith: Pedigrees, Car Crashes, and Saying Goodbye


If any try to throw around their pedigrees to you, remember my résumé—which is more impressive than theirs. I was circumcised on the eighth day—as the law prescribes—born of the nation of Israel, descended from the tribe of Benjamin. I am a Hebrew born of Hebrews; I have observed the law according to the strict piety of the Pharisees, separate from those embracing a less rigorous kind of Judaism. Zealous? Yes. I ruthlessly pursued and persecuted the church. And when it comes to the righteousness required by the law, my record is spotless.

But whatever I used to count as my greatest accomplishments, I’ve written them off as a loss because of the Anointed One. And more so, I now realize that all I gained and thought was important was nothing but yesterday’s garbage compared to knowing the Anointed Jesus my Lord. For Him I have thrown everything aside—it’s nothing but a pile of waste—so that I may gain Him. 

Philippians 3:4-8 VOICE 
I'm kind of like the Southern Baptist version of Paul writing to the Philippian church:
  • born to parents who were deeply involved in their local SBC church (at one point, Dad was chairman of the deacons and Mom was head of the WMU)
  • raised in Sunday School
  • attended Training Union, graded choirs, and Royal Ambassadors
  • professed my faith in Christ and was baptized at age 7
  • sang in the youth choir
  • served on the church council as the youth representative
  • surrendered to ministry at a Centrifuge camp at Glorieta
  • attended and graduated from Baylor University
  • led BSU drama ministries at Baylor my junior & senior year
  • served two different summers with the Home Mission Board as a summer missionary in Alabama and Colorado
  • earned multiple Christian Life Diplomas from the Baptist Sunday School Board 
  • Completed MasterLife 1 and 2 as well as PrayerLife and Experiencing God studies
  • attended and graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts in Religious Education
  • taught elementary school Sunday School and led college & career Bible studies
  • married a Southern Baptist girl in a SBC church with a SBC pastor
  • served as a youth pastor at four different SBC churches (Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee)
  • took students to various state youth camps and Centrifuge camps at many of the "classic" Baptist encampments: Glorieta, Ridgecrest, Siloam Springs, Gulf Shores Baptist Assembly, Jenness Park
  • was part of the leadership for State Youth Evangelism Conferences and summer camps (Arkansas)
  • wrote teaching materials and articles for a variety of Lifeway publications
  • led youth ministry breakout sessions at national SBC youth conventions
  • planted and pastored a Gen-X focused church with the cooperation/assistance of the Tennessee Baptist Convention
  • consulted with the North American Mission Board on Gen-X focused ministry
  • served the Tennessee Baptist Convention on a project identifying and connecting with innovative SBC church plants in Tennessee
  • pastored a SBC church in central California for nearly a decade
  • served as associational children's camp pastor/director 
  • attended three different SBC churches after leaving vocational ministry (two here in Tennessee, one in Texas) - including sitting under the teaching of Ed Stetzer (then the head of Lifeway Research)
And, like Paul, "whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ." (v. 7 NIV). A lifetime (nearly 59 years) of being smack dab in the middle of SBC life is, as Eugene Peterson's The Message paraphrase so beautifully puts it, "compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung."

Fender Benders & Actual Crashes

I've been in four vehicle accidents in my lifetime - not counting the brakes of a church bus catching on fire and me backing my Honda Accord into a tree while attempting to impress a girl I was trying to date.
  • Two fender benders
    • one in college when I zoned out in stop-n-go L.A. traffic and bumped the car in front of me
    • one much later in life when I ran into the back of a car in a turn lane
  • Two actual accidents (both, not surprisingly, in Nashville)
    • one when an uninsured driver ignored the light and turned into the side of my car when I was making a protected left turn
    • one when (again!) an uninsured driver sped through the stop light and sent Collin & I spinning (the car was totaled) [pictures above]
I have some other SBC "accidents" that aren't likely to headline anyone's résumé:
  • As an elementary school student, we left the church I was baptized in after a powerful and wealthy family forced out the pastor 
  • As a summer missionary, I was aghast as one of the elderly godly women in the church emphatically insisted that the "curse of Ham" heresy was Biblical truth
  • As a youth pastor, I served a church that had an unwritten rule that the Family Life Center was to close if any black youth came to play basketball
  • As a youth pastor, I watched a fellow youth pastor be forced to close down his incredibly successful 5th quarter events because students of the "wrong color" were coming to know Jesus and getting baptized
  • As a youth pastor, I was fired (position was "being phased out") and reinstated due to a determined pattern of undermining from youth parents who wanted less discipleship and more kids attending
  • As a youth pastor, I was on staff when my pastor was forced to resign due to having an adulterous affair
  • As a church planter, our sponsor church fired their pastor (without moral or spiritual cause) and then dismissed the entire deacon board for supporting the pastor... which led to our church plant having to find a new sponsor church
  • As a pastor, I resigned after nearly two years of manipulation and pressure - including pressure to hire a spiritually unfit relative to a ministry position in the church
Saying Goodbye

But my choice to support my church's decision to leave the Southern Baptist Convention was not predicated on those fender benders & crashes. And it's certainly not because of the work of International Mission Board or North American Mission Board in reaching people with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Cooperatively, the denomination has done some amazing things - for example, the SBC Disaster Relief system (both funding & volunteers) is a great force for good in the midst of tragedy & difficulty - and without siphoning huge chunks of the donations to support the infrastructure of the program. I mentioned Centrifuge above - this SBC summer camp system not only played a major role in my own spiritual journey but continues to be one of the best high-impact low-manipulation youth camp experiences available.

But I wholeheartedly agree with the decision by the elders of our church to remove us from partnership with the SBC due to long-standing patterns of the cover-up of sexual abuse, abuse of power, continual infighting, and "an increased emphasis on cultural confrontation over redemptive engagement." The narrowing of 'friendly cooperation' this summer at the SBC convention is more confirmation of the wisdom of the decision... as are the continued struggles with dealing with racial reconciliation in a healthy & God-honoring way.

At the same time, I lament with my church's leadership this parting: "It is our desire to work with a denomination that better reflects our beliefs, values, and commitment to spiritual health. This does not mean we will never work alongside SBC churches or entities. It does mean we will no longer be a Southern Baptist church. Make no mistake, this was not an easy decision. Even in clarity we feel sadness, as there are many wonderful people serving the Lord with utmost integrity within the SBC."

For my part, I am immensely thankful for so many Southern Baptists laypeople and leaders who mentored me and showed me what following Jesus looks like "in real life":
  • the pastor who prayed with me about surrendering my life to Christ... and baptized me
  • the Sunday School teachers who encouraged my desire to learn the Scriptures
  • my parents... who modeled sacrificial giving and gracious love
  • my first full-time pastor as a staff member... who taught me about hands-on ministry and caring for difficult people
  • the BSU staff who gave me opportunities to grow and challenged me to follow Christ
  • the seminary professors who not only taught the material but lived out what they believed in the way they related to us as students
  • the various deacon bodies and laypeople who showed courage in the face of church politics
  • the launch team of our church plant who trusted me to lead them despite me knowing almost nothing
  • the second sponsor church who welcomed our fledgling church plant with open arms
  • a plethora in friends in ministry through the years who spoke truth and offered companionship throughout the journey
My prayer for my former spiritual home:
  • that the SBC will be a people who do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8 ESV) 
  • that the SBC will be a denomination who "give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute, rescue the weak and the needy; [and] deliver them from the hand of the wicked." (Psalm 82:3-4 ESV)
  • that racial reconciliation will once again be prioritized in the SBC and not waved away by cynical opposition to discussing CRT (critical race theory) - a smokescreen that winks at racism (and doesn’t actually deal with CRT in any meaningful way.) Our brothers and sisters of color deserve better than a half-baked statement cooked up by six white seminary presidents. 
  • that "justice [will] flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream" (Amos 5:24 HCSB) in the issue of sexual abuse inside SBC churches and the cover-up of that abuse by SBC leaders. The hellish patterns of resignations for "personal reasons"; avoiding asking or answering difficult questions during reference checks; pressuring victims to keep quiet "to protect the church"... all in the name of the "kingdom of God" - must end.
  • that the leadership of the convention and individual churches will reflect 1 Timothy 3:2 (NLT): above reproach, exercising self-control, living wisely, and having a good reputation.
  • that this renewed commitment to biblical justice and Christ-like character in the SBC will result in more individuals surrendered to Christ, more broken lives redeemed and healed, and more chances to celebrate the goodness of God in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13 NIV)
I finished writing this last night... and woke up this morning concerned that someone would read this and think that I'd somehow rejected my faith or theology. Nothing could be further from the truth. I resonate with Dr. Russell Moore: "The problem now is not that people think the church’s way of life is too demanding, too morally rigorous, but that they have come to think the church doesn’t believe its own moral teachings. The problem is not that they reject the idea that God could send anyone to hell but that, when they see the church covering up predatory behavior in its institutions, they have evidence that the church believes God would not send “our kind of people” to hell. If people reject the church because they reject Jesus and the gospel, we should be saddened but not surprised. But what happens when people reject the church because they think we reject Jesus and the gospel?"

This is the sixth post in a series... if you'd like to read the first five, here they are:

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Convention Report: Gulf Games 49

With the 50th Gulf Games just around the corner, I figured it was about time I posted my convention report from Gulf Games 49 (from February 2023)...

To paraphrase Chandler Bing (aka Miss Chanandler Bong): “Could the title to this post BE any more boring?”)

He has a point… but our three days plus change with the Gulf Games “family” was anything but generic and boring. There were epic battles, masterpieces painted, drift systems explored, and miniature golf courses designed. I terraformed Mars, raced Formula 1 cars circa 1961, and finally found the time to collect me some birds. (“The bird is my prisoner!”)

Collin (my 17 year old son) and I road tripped to North Carolina to enjoy our first Gulf Games adventure since 2019… and it was worth every long mile. This is Gulf Games 49 – wow. (Background note: while I wasn’t at Gulf Games One, I was at Gulf Games Two in the fall of 1998.)

What follows is my quick recap of my weekend of gaming (and a bit of his) – and it doesn’t begin to cover the entire event and the joy of gaming with folks I’ve known for years. I’ll end with a bit of rumination on why I think I enjoy invitational events so much.


Five hours (or so) of driving – including getting stuck in an inexplicable traffic jam around Sevierville and going over the Great Smokey Mountains on a moonless night – ended with our arrival at Gulf Games… and the fun began.

Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition

This isn’t my first play of the new-ish Definitive Edition (it’s actually my 11th play) but only my second with the Rook City Renegades expansion. Our team of Ra (Bob Trezise), Setback (Collin), and Nightmist (me!), managed to finally capture Ambuscade in the Realm of Discord.

For those (like me) who own the original game (and literally ALL of the expansion content) – Definitive Edition is really good. The re-tuned decks almost all have more interesting choices (and there are fewer “unusual situation only” cards), the artwork is more consistent (especially compared to the original box of Sentinels), and the game has tended to play with in an hour for most team-ups/villains. I don’t feel a need to get rid of my beloved (113 plays) original set, but I’m glad Collin has the new edition where I can play it.


Can’t Stop

Being early in the game room means I had the opportunity to teach a old game to some new friends – the Norman family! Mike and his sons joined me for the classic Sid Sackson game – and Jonah rode the 2 and the 12 to victory.

Split It!

This simple card game hadn’t been on my radar – but it got a good bit of play this weekend… and for good reason. With four players, the combination of “you split, I choose” and simultaneous selection translates into a great filler with lots of moments of inadvertent mind melds and lots of laughter.

Peter McCarthy (one of the other “original” Gulf Games Two folks) beat Bob, Ted Alspach, and I. (Ted – in addition to running Bezier Games and designing things like Suburbia – is an excellent game teacher.)

Note: Bob & I played this two-player later in the weekend… it functionally works as a 2 player game, but the fun is missing.


Renee and I have been planning to play Fresco (a favorite of mine and hers) for a number of years – and the chance finally came at Gulf Games. We threw in a number of bells and whistles (but not the Bells expansion): the Wishing Well, the extra paints, the Portrait Studio cards, the mixing bonus tiles, the Bishop’s Favor, the Glazier, gold foil, and even the Wall Fresco. I’ve written about my love for Fresco numerous times before.

Floyd pipped me out by three points at the end of an excellent and well played game against Renee and her sister Alison.


Yes, it’s taken me four years to actually play Wingspan… and, after all that time, I’m a bit mystified about all the love for the playable and solid game. There’s nothing mechanically wrong with it and there’s interesting decisions to make it, but it didn’t really blow me away. (Collin, on the other hand, found it very enjoyable.

This impression is despite my win over Collin, Bob, and Kim. I’m pretty sure some of you will have something to say about my “no big deal” mini-review.


An old-school Euro (stylistically – it was just published last year) with my long-lost Gathering racing buddies: Mark, Teri, and Kurt. A simple drafting game with some tricky decisions on when to spend your sand dollars and when to just take any ol’ towel and move on. The scores were extremely tight and Mark Noseworthy came out on top.

Xia: Legends of a Drift System

One of the treats of Gulf Games is seeing old friends – and it was a real pleasure to see Chris & Elaine again after all these year… and even more fun to get absolutely SCHOOLED by Elaine (the Xia newbie) in this incredible sandbox space exploration game. Highlight #2: finally getting to meet Kyle in person after years of conversation online!

We played to 10 points… which took right at two hours with four players. My noodling about and exploring led to a variety of close scrapes but not nearly enough points – while the serious scoring/economic/fighting action all took place on the far side of the board from me.


I ended the night by playing TEN with the head honcho of Gulf Games, Greg Schloesser. (Greg is a wonderful guy whose hard work and incredibly warm personal touch keeps this whole thing going.) Martin, Bob, and I lost to Greg in this odd combination of push-your-luck and auction that was actually a good bit of fun.


Bezier Games Prototype (Scram!)

I am sworn to secrecy… but I’ll just say that the prototype I got to play with Ted Alspach, Bob, and Michael was a lot of fun. I’d be happy to play again!

Note: I am no longer sworn to secrecy - Scram! was the game we played. And, although it is based on Cabo/Silver (which I don't enjoy), I think the partnership element in this version is the missing element that brought me so much enjoyment.

Catan: Explorers & Pirates

Sheldon’s last game of Gulf Games (since he had to go be the best grandpa ever) was this very long but really neat Catan variant that includes boats that move goods and crew about the map. I’m a big fan of this one – but have never bought it due to it not matching my much older German Catan sets. Collin beat us – his review was that he was glad he finally got to play it but didn’t need to play it again. On the other hand, I’d happily jump into this one.

Minigolf Designer

My first of two plays of Minigolf Designer at Gulf Games… in both cases, I got to teach new players the joys of this fantastic tile-laying game. And, in both cases, I did not finish first – which has been pretty typical for me in multiplayer play. That’s OK, though… I find the mental exercise of building the golf course within the given blueprint and preferences of the owners to be an interesting challenge – and, weirdly enough, relaxing.

David edged out Dan for the win, with Floyd & I getting participation trophies.

Race for the Galaxy

Bob was working to get certain games played for one of the Gulf Games contests (more on that later), so I agreed to play one of my favorite games. (He did not have to twist my arm.)

We played with the first two expansions in – which is a format I haven’t played in years – but I still managed to pull out a win, partially on the strength of my three 6-cost developments.

Let me put in a plug for those newer to the hobby who haven’t tried Race for the Galaxy – the iconography is not as difficult as some gamers grumble about and the game itself is worth your time and energy to learn & enjoy. (Plus, you can play it on BGA and/or the excellent iPad app.)

Dune: Imperium

Continuing on Bob’s quest to play games, he once again had no difficulty into convincing me to play another personal favorite… and we managed to rope in Charlie. Playing with the base game only (both expansions are really good, though), I led for most of the game… only to be edged out by Charlie on the ninth round with a well-timed drop of troops from the Spacing Guild.

Foundations of Rome

David S. brought his blinged-out (metal coins, wash on the buildings, etc.) copy of Foundations of Rome… a game I’ve really wanted to try. The table presence is stunning, especially with us using the Monuments expansion. The game itself feels like a bit of an old-school throwback city-builder… but it’s a solid medium-weight game that moves at a nice pace. I wish I could justify the hefty price point to own a copy for myself.


Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition

Thanks to Kevin & Joy, Jon and I were able to continue our tradition of trash-talking and playing Clash of Cultures together… of course, Kevin the Celtic leader won over Jon’s Phonencians, Joy’s Greeks, and my Huns. And, yes, Jon scored more than I did – but it was close!

The Monumental Edition has a number of positive steps forward from the original game – less rules clarity problems, better graphics, cleaned up combat system, actual miniatures for the wonders, a better system for events, and the impossible-to-find expansion in the box to begin with. I’m sorely tempted to pick up a copy – even though I already own the original version (which I love).

Note: if you're tempted at all, the new version is $67 bucks on Amazon right now, which is almost 1/2 price.

Memoir ’44: Overlord

Another Gulf Games tradition is me hosting a Memoir ’44 battle. (Note: if I end up at a summer Gulf Games, I’m going to need to plan on two battles to make sure everyone who wants to play gets to jump in.) Man, I love this game.

This year, it was Guadalcanal – the Overlord map in the Through Jungle & Desert expansion. Japanese forces (Chris, Collin, and Jon – commanded by Floyd) attempted to break through the American marines (Charlie, David C, and John – commanded by me) to get to Henderson Field. Note the word “attempted” – they failed.

It looked like a blowout at first, with American air power decimating a section of Japanese forces and scattered units being picked off… but then the tide turned (to some extent) and the final score was 13-10 Americans.

Tenpenny Parks

I received this as a Christmas gift… and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. Four of us sat down for a quick (45 minutes) series of rounds of building an amusement park. I managed a commanding win – but I think it may have been one of those “experienced guy takes advantage of the newbies” wins. Still, the production of the game is nice – chunky cardboard pieces, great artwork, and a cool 3-D carousel as part of the board – and the gameplay is fun.

Minigolf Designer & Split It

My second plays – see my thoughts above.

Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition

I’ve come to believe that the game works better (at least in the original box pre-trio of expansions that are about to ship) with 3 or 4 players… the speed of the game is just about right and the variety of actions chosen makes the game move along at a better clip. That said, I terraformed the heck out of Mars… and mostly by spending money.

Note: the new expansions arrived a couple of weeks after GG49... and they are very good additions to the system that raise my rating of the game.

Take It Easy

Take It Easy is, not to put too fine a point on it, basically “Gamer Bingo”. (In fairness, so are Rise of Augustus and Karuba.) But it’s been a long-time Gulf Games tradition to play a massive game of Take It Easy together on Saturday night – and Greg Schloesser (our hero!) tapped me to be the caller.

So, I call the game, playing along with everyone else (and doing a miserable job, thank you very much). Tradition dictates that once all the folks have completed their scoring, the group stands. As I announce different score thresholds, people sit if they haven’t scored that much.

When we went from 190 to 200, only two folks were left standing. Bob (my former boss when I worked at the TN State Legislature) and Collin (my 17 year old son). Collin beat out Bob for the win with 216 points!

Clank: Catacombs

We’d played a number of games of this two player (Collin is a big fan), so I was curious how it would do with four players. Warren, Sharon, Jay, and myself delved into the dungeon… and had one of those weird games where very few monsters appear. (This led to much shaking down of goblins for $ and an opportunity for a John Cusack reference.) We managed to explore most of the dungeon… with all of us finding our way back to the crypt except Sharon (who expired one space away). In the end, my backpack full of artifacts and pile of Secret Tomes won the day.

Side note: Warren & I realized that our advancing age means quoting “I want my two dollars!” is dating us in a rather serious manner.

Heat: Pedal to the Metal

Heat is what happens when you partner the designers of Flamme Rouge with the production quality of Days of Wonder – an auto racing game that zips along and was very enjoyable to play. My first play was a lot of fun… but now that I have 19 (yes, nineteen) plays under my belt (including racing the 1961 campaign solo and the 1962 campaign head-to-head against my son), I’ll declare Heat as one of the best racing games I’ve played. It’s easy to teach the base game – and then easy to add the extra elements (upgrades, weather, etc.) after that. Recommendation: use the Legends expansion to fill out the field to 6 cars regardless of the number of players… makes the race much more race-like!

I played twice at Gulf Games – once on Saturday night (in which I won handily) and once on Sunday morning (in which I was two full turns behind the rest of the field). Here’s the deal – I’d play it again right now if someone asked.


Baseball Highlights: The Dice Game

While I adore Baseball Highlights: 2045, I had a less than positive reaction to Football Highlights that has caused me to avoid the Baseball Highlights dice game until now. I was pleased as punch to find out that I like this roll’n’write baseball game that works with 1-4 players. Kyle, David C, and myself had a a great early morning game – which included extra innings when David & I tied. My superior number of power dice gave me the win.

Now I’m curious about Mike Fitzgerald’s Football Highlights dice game, too.

Final Thoughts
  • Interestingly enough, I got to play five of the games on my very recent One Game Per Page geeklist during the weekend.
  • A water main down the street broke in the middle of Thursday night… which made restroom stuff tricky for some portion of the day.
  • I didn’t get to play my copy of Mosaic: A Story of Civilization… but it got a lot of play this weekend.
  • Collin’s favorite games (that I didn’t play) included Mantis Falls, the annual kids/youth Werewolf game led ably by Tae, and Kabuto Sumo.
  • Thanks to Bob, who finally got Collin to play The Princes of Florence… then beat him on a tiebreaker. :-)
  • Other popular games: Heat was being played a good bit, as was Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Collector’s Edition and Everdell: Complete Collection.
  • My quick thoughts on invitational events:
    • Consistent groups of people over time form relationships and connection that are very enjoyable
    • Less issues with problem players (belligerent, hygiene issues, etc.)
    • Easier to trust people with valuable and/or interesting games in your collection
    • Can create events where children are welcome
    • Less people equals less stressful situations
    • Smaller events tend to less crowded schedules and more freedom to jump into games
    • Important invitational event safety tips:
      • You’ll need new blood (new invitees) to not age out your event over time
      • Know your target and communicate it clearly to your attendees
      • Make good decisions on invitations so you don’t have to do the hard work of un-inviting someone
      • Get a team to help you run the event
Can’t wait until the next Gulf Games!

picture credits

top row: Foundations of Rome, Memoir ’44: Overlord, Tenpenny Parks
middle row: Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition, me sporting an Esoteric Order of Gamers shirt, Xia: Legends of a Drift System
bottom row: Collin & Bob playing Princes of Florence, Fresco, Jon trash-talking me prior to Clash of Cultures

Monday, June 12, 2023

Stupid Crimes and Stupider Excuses + Wisdom from Proverbs

There’s never been a Trumpier scandal than this.

Superficially, the Stormy Daniels mess that got him indicted in Manhattan is a “Trumpier” scandal than concealing sensitive government information. There’s infidelity, a porn star, hush money, all the sordid, embarrassing things you’d expect from a guy who spent his adulthood jungled up with the sleaze merchants at the National Enquirer.

The documents scandal is Trumpier, though, because of how stupid and avoidable it was. “Mr. Trump brought these charges upon himself by not only taking classified documents, but by refusing to simply return them when given numerous opportunities to do so,” Mitt Romney said today, succinctly and correctly. The feds spent more than a year cajoling him to hand over the hundreds of sensitive documents he’d taken, an indulgence they wouldn’t have granted to anyone else in American life. He resisted anyway, per the reporting, and may even have instructed aides to hide documents on the day before the FBI visited Mar-a-Lago. He’s now facing at least one count of obstruction of justice.

Why did he take this insane risk, exposing himself to criminal jeopardy that could lead to him dying in prison? The most compelling theory is that … he just didn’t want to give the documents back. He’s never distinguished between the perks of public office and his personal interests, an authoritarian quirk that sets him apart even from wannabes like Ron DeSantis. He kept the documents because he wanted them; they’re “cool,” as he reportedly put it in newly revealed audio recorded in July 2021.

He’s thrust the country into a wrenching and needless political crisis because he couldn’t bear to part with “cool” stuff to which his old job had given him access despite many opportunities to do so without consequence. Between the immense selfishness of it and the inscrutable idiocy of his motives, it’s the Trumpiest scandal ever.
Nick Catoggio (The 'Fifth Avenue' Indictment)

He brought this upon himself.
“Like all Americans, Mr. Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence. The government has the burden of proving its charges beyond a reasonable doubt and securing a unanimous verdict by a South Florida jury.

“By all appearances, the Justice Department and special counsel have exercised due care, affording Mr. Trump the time and opportunity to avoid charges that would not generally have been afforded to others.

“Mr. Trump brought these charges upon himself by not only taking classified documents, but by refusing to simply return them when given numerous opportunities to do so.

“These allegations are serious and if proven, would be consistent with his other actions offensive to the national interest, such as withholding defensive weapons from Ukraine for political reasons and failing to defend the Capitol from violent attack and insurrection.”
Senator Mitt Romney (statement)

Innocent people have this thing going for them that guilty people don’t: the truth.
Trump has offered several competing explanations for what he did and why he did it. That makes me suspect he’s guilty. If I’m accused of robbing a bank and I say, in no particular order, “I couldn’t have robbed it, I wasn’t there”; “I was there but I had nothing to do with the robbery”; “what happened wasn’t a robbery and lots of other people did what I did”; the “FBI is framing me”; and “as president I had total authority to take money out of that bank,” I don’t think I have to take any of your denials very seriously because they contradict each other. Trump has floated versions of all of these, from “they planted evidence,” to “of course I did it because I can.”
Jonah Goldberg (They Just Don't Care)

He shook me with his mind powers.
So if I have this right, the right-wing defense of Trump appears to be that when a president leaves office, he can take whatever secret documents he wishes, at which point they're auto-declassified. This includes highly sensitive, top-secret, national defense related documents. He doesn't have to tell anyone which documents he took, which would leave most of the federal government in the dark about what is and isn't still classified each time the White House changes hands. The ex-president can then then do whatever he wants with those documents. He could publish them in a book. Show them off as trophies. Make NFTs and auction them off.
Radley Balko (Tweet thread)
If Trump declassified them with his mind, what if Biden RE-classified them the same way? 

What you’re saying just doesn’t make sense on its face.
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) sparred with CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday over former President Trump’s indictment in the Justice Department’s probe into his handling of classified documents.

Jordan firmly defended Trump during the segment, stressing that “the president’s ability to classify and control access to national security information flows from the Constitution” and that “he can put it wherever he wants, he can handle it however he wants.”

But Bash pushed back, noting a recording of Trump that revealed he acknowledged he couldn’t declassify documents once he was no longer in the White House.

“He says point blank on tape, ‘As president, I could have declassified it. Now I can’t.’ … It’s on tape as part of this indictment that he did not declassify the material,” Bash said of Trump, referring to a transcript of an audio recording obtained by CNN.

“Saying he could have is not the same as saying he did it,” Jordan said.

“He said, ‘Now I can’t,'” Bash said.

“Now he can’t — right, because he’s not president now. But when he was president he did declassify,” Jordan said.

“Which means that it’s classified. Which means that what he was holding was classified,” Bash said as the two talked over each other.

“Not if he declassified it when he was president of the United States, for goodness sake,” Jordan said.

“But he’s saying point blank in this audio tape that he did not declassify it. What you’re saying just doesn’t make sense on its face,” Bash said.

The king will do whatever he wants. (Daniel 11:36 CEB)
Declassifying a trove of information about our nuclear weapons, our military vulnerabilities and those of our allies, and our contingency planning in case of attack would hand to Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei, and Kim Jong-un the playbook to launch a strike against the United States. It would mean that the New York Times, Washington Post, and any media outlet could obtain the data with a mere FOIA request. Forget the “Top Secret,” “Special Compartmented Intelligence,” and “No Foreign” markings on the documents obtained when the FBI executed a search warrant on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property. Forget that the documents had been scattered about the resort on a ballroom stage, in a toilet, in hallways. In Jordan’s view, “If [Trump] wants to store material in a box, in a bathroom, if he wants to store it in a box on a stage, he can do that.”

Let that sink in. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee thinks it’s perfectly fine to store nuclear secrets in a box on an open stage. And he thinks that federal prosecutors who’ve taken an oath to protect the United States from all threats foreign and domestic are weaponizing the government if they try to secure these nuclear and other national security secrets in their rightful place.

What is wrong with you?
Sen. Josh Hawley, America’s self-proclaimed champion of “manhood,” responded to the news last night: “If the people in power can jail their political opponents at will, we don’t have a republic.”

Hawley, a graduate of Yale Law School, where he was the head of the Federalist Society, presumably knows the difference between text and subtext. On the text, he’s right. If the people in power could jail their political opponents “at will” you wouldn’t be able to say we have a republic. The subtext, however, isn’t merely asinine, it’s dangerously asinine. 

Peruse the newspapers: You’ll find nothing about Donald Trump being put in jail. You know why? Well, because he hasn’t been and he’s not about to be (and I’m agnostic that he should be, even if proven guilty in a court of law). More importantly, the people in power can’t put Trump in jail “at will.” Trump has to have his day in court. The state has to bring evidence. It has to cite relevant law. A jury and judge have to be persuaded. That’s the rule of law. That’s what makes us a republic, as Hawley claims to understand the word. But that’s the opposite of what Hawley wants you to think is happening. He wants you to think due process and the application of law aren’t happening and that he is one of the last honest men—along with Donald Trump—in a banana republic. 
Jonah Goldberg (They Just Don't Care)

Everyone knows they only lock from the outside.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) thinks it’s totally cool to keep sensitive, extremely classified state nuclear secrets in your bathroom, because bathrooms have locks.

On Monday, McCarthy was asked by a reporter at the Capitol if it was a “good look” for Donald Trump to keep boxes containing classified documents in his bathroom. The question referenced images included in the Justice Department’s indictment of former president Donald Trump that show he had stored boxes in a Mar-a-Lago bathroom.

“I don’t know,” McCarthy responded. “Is it a good picture to have boxes in a garage that opens up all the time? A bathroom door locks.”

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (Proverbs 14:34 NASB)
Governing authorities are not themselves exempt from the rule of law and must submit to the nation’s statutes, rather than mocking them...

Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment...

We urge all Americans to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office, and to elect those officials and candidates who, although imperfect, demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.

Light unto my feet and lamp unto my path.
The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
Proverbs 12:22 NIV
Eloquent words are not appropriate on a fool’s lips; how much worse are lies for a ruler.
Proverbs 17:7 HCSB

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Circadians: A First Look at First Light & Chaos Order

We were light years from our home, galaxies away, when we first discovered this ancient celestial body, a planet filled with intriguing, intelligent lifeforms, not too unlike our own. Some built kingdoms below the surface of the green seas, while others controlled the desert-filled plains and cliffs. Among them we found scientists, inventors, farmers, traders and fighters. While our presence has been unsettling for some, we have had very few incidents with the locals. Still, we Circadians, Earth’s famed explorers, must do what we can to ensure peace. We must respect this world and its hosts. The heads of Moontide passed down orders from above. We are to open negotiations with the three clans, in hopes of gaining their favor, along with our own security while on the planet. We must also collect organic samples for the depository on Moontide. This is new ground for all of us, but we must be brave and resourceful. The future of the Circadians depends on it.
With these words, the saga of the Circadians begins… and you as a player are right in the thick of it – collecting samples, negotiating with the clans, and competing to do so as efficiently as possible. Circadians: First Light is a benevolent exploration game – where the players function as explorers with a moral code rather than, say, the avaricious evil of the Resource Development Administration (RDA) of the Avatar films.

That’s the story behind Circadians: First Light – which was recently re-published in a second edition that updated the art and rulebook, added in the first expansion (Allies) and new leaders, and improved the presentation of the game.

What’s So Funny (About Peace, Love & Understanding)?

The gameplay is primarily worker placement and resource management – though workers are represented by dice whose values determine the effectiveness of a particular activity.

There are four phases to play:

  1. Plan – After an event is revealed, each player rolls their dice and secretly assigns them to their garages (to transport them to various locations in the game) or their farms (to harvest more resources).
  2. Execute – After HQ dice are placed, players take turns sending dice from their garages and activating those locations).
  3. Harvest – Players harvest resources from their farms and the location of their Harvester on the Planet Board.
  4. Rest – All dice are returned (with exceptions) to the players, the start player passes to the left, and players check to make sure they have no more than 8 contract cards and 5 dice (crew).
A game consists of seven rounds… after which points are totaled and a victor declared.

That is, I’ll be the first to admit, a pretty bare bones description of what happens in the game… but clarity on game flow helps put the rest of the game details in context. (That “big picture” view doesn’t happen until page 6 of the rulebook – and then only as a graphic above more detailed information about leaders.)

The game is played across multiple boards (locations) as well as player boards (research facilities):

  • the Planet board – where players move their Harvesters into position to increase their resources and (in the late game) their victory points
  • the Negotiation board – where players permanently assign dice to collect victory points and avail themselves of the clan’s assistance. Assigning a die here can also potentially bring a reward and/or a setback, depending on dice already placed on the Negotiation board.
  • the Spaceport board – which contains both the Headquarters (a place to park dice for the opportunity to go first in the next round) and the Depository (where players can fulfill contract cards and get rewards by permanently assigning dice to the location)
  • the Laboratory – where farms are purchased for their research facility
  • the Foundry – where updated garages are purchased for their research facility
  • the Market – where resources can be exchanged
  • the Control Room – where a player moves their Harvester on the planet board
  • the Academy – where players pay for more dice (crew)
  • the Mining Camp – where players can harvest gems (the most valuable resource)
At the end of the game, players score based on the location of their Harvester on the planet board, the value of their completed contract cards, the development of their research facility, the various agreements they have with the three native clans, and the gems they have remaining.

Thoughts on First Light

This is one of those games that I find intriguing and frustrating – intriguing, because the puzzle of manipulating resources and actions is challenging & interesting; frustrating, because I think the rulebook, while complete, makes it more difficult to learn the game by the way it is structured. (I will give the good folks at Garphill Games points for including a section on first time player strategies and the Irenic Union variant.)

Speaking of the Irenic Union… the original rules require players to assign dice in order (left to right) from their garages. The variant allows flexibility… and I’m here to say it’s a much more enjoyable game with that rule in play.

I do want to put in a good word for the well-thought-out solo system built into the game… both of my solo plays have been enjoyable and fast-moving. The AI robot – literally, they’re robots – is easy to use and makes intelligent moves to both hinder you and increase its score. My victories have been hard-worn.

First Light is, once you get your head wrapped around the rules and the various strategic/tactical elements, not really a long game – my solo games ran 50-60 minutes and our multiplayer games around 75-90 minutes. There’s enough variety in the contract cards, event cards, and leaders to keep things fresh for multiple plays.

War (What’s It Good For?)
The initial quakes were only minor tremors, but as the land began to unravel, so did our sense of security. We watched the Cliffs of Hytazch fall into the sea. Mighty trees of old, swallowed up by caverns below. As the waters rose, a great roar was heard across the plains. This was no cry of disbelief or heartache, but of jubilance. Songs began to fill the air as our once peaceful hosts, now readied themselves for battle. On the horizon we saw what appeared as huge bolts of energy shoot out into the depths of space, before disappearing again.

Despite the inevitable shock wave heading our way, the local clans continued to cheer as they made haste towards the origin of the blaze. What could cause such elation? Why abandon caution in favour of chaos? Had we missed something – some crucial misunderstanding of this planet and its inhabitants?

Upon reaching the site, we were immediately plunged into combat. Across the landscape lay six massive structures, towering over the forces fighting below. They seemed to pulse and flicker with a golden haze. Could these be the ancient relics the Oxataya spoke of? There is so much we still do not understand, but we cannot concede to indecision. Will we stay and fight, or retreat back to Moontide?

Unlike the peaceful exploration of First Light, Circadians: Chaos Order is a very confrontational area control game with highly asymmetric factions. A faction (player) can win by either controlling all remaining Relics on the map or by completing their individual faction Fame victory condition.

Over six rounds (one for each of the Relics), factions battle to not only to control the monoliths but also to develop their faction with research, constructing buildings, harvesting resources, recruiting new fighters, and moving into position to accomplish their goals.

The really clever part of the game design (aside from the wild creativity involved in making six very diverse factions) is the first step in each round – where the players work to set the prices to participate in each function. Factions can make actions they don’t want other groups to take more expensive… or make an action relatively cheap in order to receive payment. Whatever action the faction chooses to price is free to them – so it can be wise to preference an action you must undertake that game round.

The actions are
  • Discover – research in order to make various actions more powerful
  • Build – erect buildings in territories you control
  • Harvest – gain resources from production points
  • Recruit – bring new fighter units into play
  • Move – move fighter units into new positions and/or create battles
Combat is resolved using both combat wheels and dice – and allows players to choose to prioritize defending themselves, eliminating other fighters, winning control of the territory… or some combination of those goals.

In addition to pursuing the relics, players can push the fame goals of their particular factions:
  • AI – the antagonistic robot horde. Fighting is their jam… and particularly wounding other fighters to gain Fame. (Interestingly, they are the bot “player” in First Light’s solo mode.)
  • Circadians – the human tech squad. With a movable drop ship base, their objective is to upgrade all four of their attributes.
  • Jrayek – planetary natives with definite Klingon tendencies. Battles against other leaders (win or lose) bring them honor… and Fame.
  • Leyrien – fast-moving natives who love the swamps of their planet. Improving their morale gives them Fame.
  • Oxataya – ancient clan on Ryh. Winning battles is more important than causing death – and brings Fame.
  • Zcharo – brilliant aliens who target opposing buildings… and generate Fame by gaining research.
I’m well aware that my overview doesn’t begin to cover all of the details of this expansive game. I heartily recommend Dan Thurot’s excellent (and much more comprehensive) review if you’re interested.

Thoughts on Chaos Order

By the way, “highly asymmetric” does not begin to cover how many differences there are between the factions. I’m a particularly big fan of Portal Games’ Cry Havoc (which has a similar “aliens & humans fighting over a planet” vibe as well as asymmetric factions)… and it is like taking a Music Appreciation course versus the Advanced Neurobiology class that is Chaos Order. I likened it to Root meeting the original Avalon Hill version of Dune.

Actually, the mention of Dune brings something to mind – Chaos Order is one of those games that would benefit from being released when I was in college back in the 80s. First, there were less games, so we tended to play the same games a lot of times… which would be a real benefit with the asymmetric factions. Second, I had time for the set-up/play/tear-down cycle of this game (which is not short) in a way that I as a semi-responsible adult don’t have any more. (Suggestion: this is a game that benefits greatly from the host of game night setting it up ahead of time as much as possible.)

Admittedly, I’ve only been able to play it a single time… we enjoyed the intricacies of the game design but agreed that it would take multiple plays to grok all of the complexities.

Key Points to Remember
  • Circadians: First Light is a worker (dice) placement/resource management game.
    • First Light has a well-designed solo mode.
  • Circadians: Chaos Order is an area control/conflict game with highly (ha!) asymmetric factions.
    • Chaos Order is multiplayer only and has no solo mode.
  • Despite the similarity in box art/style and thematic settings, they are NOT expansions.

Review copies of both games were provided by Renegade Game Studios.

A version of this review originally appeared on the Opinionated Gamers site.