Can you be a film critic if you've never seen Citizen Kane? Can you be a music critic if you've never listened to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band? Can you be a board game critic if you've never played Age of Steam? I'm not sure. Am I critic? I just run a silly website and make videos of about board games. If that's all it takes then I have a confession to make; I've never seen Citizen Kane... or listened to Sgt. Pepper... or played Age of Steam. (Yes, the rock I live under is very comfortable).
What do you get when a first time design team (husband and wife, no less) start their own board game company, design a game, and handle the logistics of manufacturing and promotion? Just one of the very best board games in existence. Three Kingdoms Redux is a shining example of what's possible in the modern age of board gaming. The barrier to entry is at an all time low. If you have an idea along with the drive and ambition to create your own board game you can actually make it happen. Online collaboration and crowdfunding have reduced the need for publishers as gatekeepers. On the whole, I think it's a good development but it has also meant a lot of half-baked games being released. So how does Three Kingdoms Redux avoid the pitfalls that are so common with independent publishers and put together one of the best board games I've ever played?
My first dabble into tabletop gaming was in 6th grade when I stumbled upon a deck of cards laying on the front counter of a KB Toy store while my mom was Christmas shopping for my brothers. It was an oddity. What was a deck of cards doing in a toy store? Magic: The Gathering? Was a deck of card tricks? I'd never heard of it. I didn't have any friends that played it so I don't know what compelled me to spend my $10 twelve year old fortune on that deck, but I did. Aside from the actual cards, the box contained a small pamphlet explaining how to play. And thus began my rocky relationship with games that have simple rules but cards that complicate them.
A game for all seasons, a game for all reasons. The notion that a game can or even should appeal to all audiences is a falsehood. After playing Stone Age recently, I can say without doubt that I am not the target audience for it. But that didn't always used to be the case. Stone Age used to be my favorite game. It was one of the games the spurred my love of board games the hobby as a whole. It was a major reason for me writing these very words. But I've moved on.
I cheated. I cheated and I don't feel bad about it. I selected a game that I already knew I loved for the game of the month. I never explicitly stated that I wouldn't, but it still feels like I'm cheating. But after a string of games that I couldn't really get into I needed something to be excited about. So I chose to look at one of my all time favorite games. Now let me try to convince you why it should be one of yours.
There's no more awkward feeling than being on the outside of an inside joke. You're not sure whether to laugh and play along or sit quietly and try it and let the moment pass. On the flip side, being in on the joke is great! And so I sit here wondering if should just smile and try to enjoy Venetia or just wait patiently until it's over.
There are many reasons for owning a board game. It might make you laugh or make you think. It might simulate something you have a keen interest or it might cover a topic so esoteric that you just can't resist. The wide breadth of themes and emotional responses that board games cover are a huge reason that I'm so fascinated with them and I can understand most reasons for wanting to own a particular game. Though I do wonder if the reason for owning a particular game primarily for its art is justified.
Last month, I confessed to not having watched an Alien movie when wrapping up my thoughts on Legendary Encounters. This month, I have yet another confession to make: I didn't play At the Gates of Loyang nearly as much as I intended to. Having a game of the month means exploring the undiscovered nooks and crannies, considering the unconsidered. It means digging beneath the surface of a game to sample its many layers. But what happens when you don't like what's on the surface? What happens when you just aren't having fun?
There was a time when a board game mixed with a TV or movie license was an automatic red flag. Content to ride on the wave of popularity that comes with a license, these games were usually examples of lazy design or just a reimplementation of Monopoly. We could only hope for a future where great games and great movies weren't mortal enemies, when licensed games wouldn't just be soulless cash grabs. Well, the future has arrived! And if you're looking for a great game based on a beloved franchise, look no further than Legendary Encounters.