OK, Now I’m Dead

I’m not really dead. But I’m also not going to be writing any more reviews. I got into this review racket to get free games. In the last 15 years, I have written more than a thousand reviews, for everything from actual, printed magazines to dark-corner-of-the-Internet fan sites. Most of those reviews were right here, at Drake’s Flames. I’ve enjoyed it, too. I loved writing rants that got people riled up. I got a kick out of making whiny game designers show their asses to the public when my review didn’t say what they wanted to hear. But most of all, I absolutely loved connecting with people who were actually taking the time to read my dick jokes and wildly uninhibited opinions. With all those reviews, I also got a whole hell of a lot of games. Sure, there are more coming out all the time, and yeah, I want to play lots of those. I would love to get a review copy of Imperial Assault or the Krosmaster Arena expansions. I think it would be awesome to actually get the copy of Galaxy Defenders that the assholes at Ares Games promised me when I reviewed their Kickstarter, because that game was fun but those people can run up to my house and lick my balls because they never gave me the game (like it’s my fault ‘GD’ means something else to Americans). But what I’m saying here is that I have enough games. Hundreds and hundreds of them. I’ve donated games to charities, given them to the local church for game nights with the kids, and handed out enormous stacks of games to my friends, and I’ve still got more than a hundred, even after a thorough culling. Not only that, but I recently got a magnificent promotion. I’m no longer a graphic designer. Well, not exactly. Now I’m an art director, which means I’m the boss of the graphic designers. And that bump came with a whole lot of paycheck. I don’t need to get free games any more. I can just buy the ones I want. Considering how many absolutely worthless games I’ve reviewed in the last 15 years, I don’t have a whole lot I want to buy. I do want Imperial Assault, but I’ll just buy it like normal people. I don’t want shitty prototypes of games that are about to go on Kickstarter and tell you the exciting story of cooking snacks for... read more

I’m Not Dead Yet

I just checked this morning and realized that the last review I posted happened a month ago. For the sake of comparison, last October I reviewed 13 games in a month. This last month? None. But don’t worry, I’m not dead. I just got real busy. Until you have 600 pounds of playing cards in your living room sitting next to a roll of bubble wrap the size of a circus fat lady, it’s difficult to imagine how bad it would be to ship 500 orders. A quick word of advice – if you’re going to run a Kickstarter, do yourself a favor and have it fulfilled. Make someone else do all that shipping. I got the tail end of the orders out Saturday, but I’m still not done because I have a handful more to ship to people I had to bribe to help me sell cards. So anyway, I’m not dead. I’m just busy. More reviews will happen at some point, I promise. I still have a stack of review copies that need reviewing, and with the holidays coming, I know you’ll all be itching to find out what crappy games are out there so you can avoid them. Just hang in there. Like Arnold says,”It’s not a tumor.” Wait, wrong reference. I have got to quit hitting the mescaline at work. That was supposed to be, “I’ll be... read more

Expansion Review – Arcane Fire

It is not easy to get my wife to be seriously interested in a card game. The last time she really wanted to play a CCG with me, the game was Doomtown. And not the Reloaded version, but the old one that actually had a lot of cards to choose from. So when she keeps asking me to play Romance of the Nine Empires, it’s not hard to figure out why that’s my new favorite game. Recently, she has been after me to build new decks using the Arcane Fire expansion box. This thing is chock-full of cards, the way an expansion should be. There are more than enough cards to build a variety of decks for either of the new factions, or to simply augment the decks you already have with loads of new, cool cards with wild new effects. Some of those effects will only be useful if you have a specific strategy in mind, and then others will be big winners all the time. But the real reason you want to get Arcane Fire is to get your hands on those two new groups. Me, I’m partial to the Magocracy of Arcanix. I like to flood the field with cheap guys and just pour on the heat, overwhelming through sheer numbers even against a superior foe. And the Arcanix handle that like a champ, because once you get a mage in play, you can summon cheap guardians like they were going out of style. And you would think these cheap guys would be weak and underpowered, like magical cannon fodder, but they’re actually serious ass-kickers on a budget. The only catch is that summoning these guys requires a mage, and then that guy is spent for the turn, so you have to plan ahead a little. Or you can use the apprentice chump, who is crazy cheap to summon and then conveniently dies to make your guardian summons really quite affordable. It is possible to summon guardians with clans other than the Arcanix, but it’s not as convenient. Their superpower lets you save a couple bucks when you’re bringing out the big guns, and while other factions might have the mages they need to make this work, they’re going to go broke in the process. This makes the Arcanix a seriously imposing force – lots of guys means lots of chances to attack, to raid, or to defend. Stack the little suckers three deep and even... read more

Card Game Review – Dungeon Twister Card Game

Remember when I really liked Dungeon Twister? No? Maybe that’s because it was seven years ago. Then I played Dungeon Twister Prison and it put me off the game completely. Now I played the Dungeon Twister Card Game and don’t even want to hear the words ‘Dungeon Twister’ because it makes me a little sick to my stomach. The original Dungeon Twister was pretty great. It was a little contemplative, but it was brilliant and tricky and fun. Then Prison made all those tiles that wouldn’t let you get off the map, and after that it was horribly frustrating. Then the Dungeon Twister Card Game came out and tried to recreate the experience with just a bunch of square playing cards, and now it’s almost impossible to play because it’s so dad-gum confusing. But at least you can get your guys off the board now. In case you don’t want to go back and read the original review (IT’S RIGHT HERE IN CASE YOU DO), I’ll sum it up real quick. The idea is that you have a handful of rowdy knee-breakers that have been kidnapped by some twisted wizard and forced to run through a crazy French dungeon and spin rooms, and your opponent has the same thing, and the first one out wins. Plus you can kill people. There’s no luck, just lots of planning and outmaneuvering and blocking and bluffing. I really enjoyed the original. I played Dungeon Twister lots of times, with lots of different people, because I loved the combination of lean, brain-heavy mechanics and blood-soaked rumbles. It could get a little slow when you were trying to plan a turn, but it made your brain hurt trying to calculate a long-term strategy and put it into effect over the short haul. It was an exercise in strategy and tactics that could have challenged Napoleon. But that experience simply does not translate to a card game. It seems like it should, but there were some incredibly enormous flaws that absolutely ruined it. Let’s start with how the designer turned Dungeon Twister into a card game, and see if you can spot the bad parts. For starters, every room is on a square card, and every card has four ro0ms, each with a symbol like a triangle or circle or spinning wheel. Then you have character cards, and each character card has those same symbols. Then you have object cards like rope and keys and... read more

Board Game Review – Exile Sun

I’m going to start this review off with a spoiler. Usually I like to save the big reveal for the end, where I say whether I like a game, but this time I’m going to lead with it and just ruin the surprise altogether. Exile Sun sucks. It’s like the designer said, ‘I really like Eclipse, but I just don’t have the patience for exploring. Or for building technology. Or making sure I have the income to make stuff. You know what, all I want to do is blow stuff up.’ Which I can get behind, blowing stuff up I mean, but when you take your game of blowing stuff up and then make the explosions the most boring part of the game, I think you may have made some errors in judgment. Exile Sun is all about conquest and grabbing planets and winning fights and stuff. You get points for doing various things, most of which involves blasting the pee-pee out of somebody else. I’m on board with that. I am full-tilt happy with a game about wrecking people and stealing things. Body count makes me smile. Right up until the fights start, there are a few interesting decisions to make. You can decide how to spend your limited income, using it to launch fleets or build ships or draw cards that don’t help very much (I wouldn’t do that last one, if I were you). Then when you move you can fly your fleets of warships to other people’s houses and throw rocks through the windows. Only the rocks are attached to chunks of C4. Mostly, the part before the fights is OK. There is one weird, irritating mechanic where, at the end of the turn, you advance the turn timer – but you can move it backward. This makes the game longer. And that is not cool, because eventually all your ships will be stuck in fights somewhere and you’ll just be waiting for the battles to commence so you can see who wins and let the game end. But then, sooner or later (probably later), you will get to the part of Exile Sun where people break out the laser guns and start to blasting. Now it should get good. Now it should be exciting. Now you should go make a sandwich and call your mom because you are about to experience the most downtime I have seen in any game I have ever played.... read more

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