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).
Where are you right now? What are you doing? I suggest you sit down, I have some amazing news. It's quite extraordinary actually. You know how you're always lamenting the lack of train games? Oh... you think there's too many train games? Well, how do you feel about trams? They're really quite different if you think about it. There's no steam or coal and instead of rails, you're laying down Tramways!
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?
The Han dynasty has fallen and China is in disarray. Three major powers have arisen from the ashes of the past to vie for control of the land. Feudal lords are keen to seize the moment. Take control of the Wei, Wu or Shu and unite the nation under one banner. It will take a keen leader and savvy commander to come out on top in Three Kingdoms Redux.
The Bottom Shelf has been missing in action. It's not what I wanted. I started it as in exercise in web design, product photography, and video production while exploring a subject I enjoy. It was fun and having kind comments along the way was gratifying. My goal was always quality over quantity, but when your quantity is zero, what am I really accomplishing? The fact of the matter is I've had a rough year. I won't rehash all the details, but if you're interested you can read a little about it here. It all came to head when my mother passed away earlier this year. Aside from my wife, my mother was the most important person in my life. I was and still am devastated.
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.
History is set in stone, but that doesn't stop us from asking, "What if...?" The ebbs and flows of empires are at your fingertips as you take control of one of the world's most powerful empires. As either the Japanese, Romans, Egyptians or Barbarians you will forge your own destiny, you will create your own history. Gather resources and construct marvelous wonders to prove your worth as the best of the Imperial Settlers.
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.