First Impressions: Scythe

pic2323719It took me a while to realize that there’s a very, very passionate fan of Stonemaier Games among my friends. In my defense, it was hard to notice; they were divided among a whole bunch of people. Between us, we have nearly every game published by Stonemaier games.

I suppose it was my turn to help out so I was one of two people to Kickstart Scythe, a crunchy game set in an alternate Europe between the world wars, but with giant mechs, too. Everyone represents a nation not-so-subtly inspired by real nations, vying for control in the lands surrounding the now-shut factory that had armed them in the recent past. Really, how could I not jump on board? Between their outstanding reputation and an incredible theme, I backed the project and then promptly ignored everything about it until it arrived in the mail.

Apparently I missed a whole heck of a lot of hype, as every other review I’ve seen or read has mentioned. Let me start off with my own expectations: I expected a good game, with high production values, and an effective use of a compelling theme.

Did it succeed? Read more to… eh, that feels dirty. I’ll tell you now: it hit all three points. There’s my thesis, and I’ll just clarify them in the following. Continue reading “First Impressions: Scythe”

First Impressions: Codenames

pic2582929No one game is for everyone, but for every person, there’s a game out there that they will probably enjoy. (Odds are more than one, but I’m hedging my bets with terse generalizations.) Board games are incredibly diverse, as are the tastes of people who play them.

That’s what made Vlaada Chvatil’s Codenames such a big surprise—there’s a consensus, and a positive one at that. There were a ton of great games released in 2015, but if you ask anyone what the best party game was, or filler game, or word game—or just about any category that can reasonably describe this game—people will say Codenames is one of the best in class. Not only is it the top-rated party game as determined by the users of BoardGameGeek, but it’s the nineteenth best game period.

So, now that I managed to play a game, careful to manage my expectations, I can confidently say—I get it. It’s really good, and just about everyone ought to try it. Continue reading “First Impressions: Codenames”

First Impressions: Dominant Species

pic784193This is a game I’ve been eager to play for a long, long time.

Dominant Species has gotten a lot of praise over the years, and the theme instantly hooked me. It tickled the part of me that was so fond of “edutainment” as a child. Not that I expected a learning experience—I’m fully aware of the basics of survival of the fittest by now—but combining an unusual theme I was taught in school with a game reminds me of the days when those topics were made more engaging and more palatable with games or video.

My expectations were for a robust and highly thematic game outside GMT’s wheelhouse. After all, they’re a publisher best known for war games, not something like this. I wanted to develop my species into the most competitive ones around, even though the cover of the box kind of made it look like we’d be teaming up like some kind of weird rag-tag band of animals teaming up for an action movie. Like a prehistoric version of the A-Team.

So how did it stack up? Pretty well, as it turns out—though it’s a very different game from what I thought it would be. Continue reading “First Impressions: Dominant Species”