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Illuminating Games

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Recent news and blog entries from Illuminating Games

Freedom: The Underground Railroad (7th Apr 2014)

If you haven't switched over to my WordPress blog yet, now is the time!I can also be found on Tumblr now, and as usual I'm on Twitter and G+.There are a fairly limited number of core go-to backdrops for games: railroad bui ... Read More

Caverna (21st Mar 2014)

(I have moved over to WordPress – check out the new digs if you want to get join the discussion)Agricola hasn’t come off the shelf in ages in my game groups. Interestingly, it seems like the game feature that gave it its initially high repl ... Read More

High Frontier Colonization (18th Mar 2014)

(I have moved over to WordPress – check out the new digs if you want to get join the discussion)High Frontier is one of my very favorite games of the last 5 years, and I realize that somehow I’ve never written anything about in my blog. With the ... Read More

Numenera: The Beale of Boregal (13th Mar 2014)

(I have moved over to WordPress – check out the new digs if you want to get join the discussion)I finally got to play some Numenera. Kim had played an intro module atBigBadCon last October and really enjoyed it, so it wasn’t too hard t ... Read More

A Distant Plain (3rd Mar 2014)

(I have moved over to WordPress – check out the new digs if you want to get join the discussion)Although I wasn’t very impressed by Andean Abyss, I’m still intrigued by the idea of GMT’s COIN game system, so I went up to EndGame in Oakland ... Read More

Pathfinder Adventure Cardgame (27th Feb 2014)

For a guy who ostensibly thinks dungeon-crawling is stupid, I sure have played a lot of games in that genre of late. The latest is Pathfinder: The Adventure Card Game, a cooperative game from Paizo Publishing, and it's not bad.The game is a quite ... Read More

13th Age (5th Feb 2014)

I've been fed up with D&D and its many incarnations (basically D&D 2, 3, 3.5, and 4, Pathfinder, and other d20 knock-offs) for some time now. The picayune rules complexity is painful and unwelcome; the generic European medieval fantasy ga ... Read More

LOKA (30th Jan 2014)

I have never cared much for Chess, but I've always been intrigued by various chess variants. One of the most interesting was Shuuro, designed by Alesso Cavatore (who I knew through the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, which I enjoyed until  ... Read More

Lost Legends (18th Dec 2013)

Reactions to Lost Legends, Mike Elliot's latest attempt to repurpose an existing game (7 Wonders) as a dungeon-crawler, have been all over the map around here. One player thought it was the greatest game ever. Another called it broken. I think it' ... Read More

Tzolk'in (1st Nov 2013)

I've been wanting to write something about Tzolk'in for quite some time. It's a game I had to be convinced to even try – my experience with CGE has been mixed, and the gears struck me as a gimmick. When I finally got around to trying it t ... Read More

Trains (27th Oct 2013)

On first inspection, Trains looks like a bigger Dominion rip-off than usual. It's got the basic structure we have come to know and love (draw and cycle 5 cards each turn; choose 8 random stacks of cards available to buy at the beginning of each game; ... Read More

Guns of Gettysburg (25th Oct 2013)

Gettysburg is a battle which has spawned a ton of wargames. Which, just from a gaming standpoint, seems odd. It was a battle where the Confederates had very little chance of achieving any meaningful military victory. It mostly featured them impaling thems ... Read More

In Praise of the Adequate (27th Sep 2013)

I was pointed to this fun NYT article about personal satisfaction by Sarah Vowell's Facebook feed:"Not everything has to be great. Maybe it’s a thrill to watch things become great. Maybe it’s healthy to feel that a meal is reasonable, that a perf ... Read More

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire (11th Sep 2013)

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire is Fantasy Flight's attempt to bring the Star Wars universe to tabletop roleplaying, and by my count this is the third or fourth crack at this general problem. Wizards of the Coast had two iterations using a d20-based sys ... Read More

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Knizia) (25th Jul 2013)

There has been a recent avalanche of Hobbit games, for some reason. When Knizia designed his classic Lord of the Rings game back in 2000 it didn't have to worry much about collisions in the namespace. Now, everyone is on the Hobbit bandwagon ... Read More

Terra Mystica (16th Jul 2013)

Terra Mystica was the last of the hot Essen '12 release I tried. And the first time out, I wasn't very impressed.Especially if you're being taught by someone else and haven't personally absorbed the rulebook, Terra Mystica is a rather ... Read More

Keyflower (4th Jul 2013)

Keyflower is a game, that much I can say for sure. I think the idea of it – not that you will see it explained anywhere – is that we are leaving the Europe-ish environs of previous installments in the Key-games to found colonies in a New England-ish place ... Read More

Copycat (7th May 2013)

Friedmann Friese's Copycat was my favorite game coming out of BGG.con 2012, and I picked it up at our local game shop as soon as it came out. It's a very clean, elegant design with a lot of variety. The game premise, ostentatiously ripping off the ... Read More

Göthe takes on The Virgin Queen (24th Apr 2013)

Despite having turned on Here I Stand after a handful of games, I picked up The Virgin Queen at GMT West last year – lured perhaps by the lower turn count, the more open game situation, the promise of more reasonable rules for playing with fewer players, ... Read More

Andean Abyss (10th Mar 2013)

Volko Ruhnke's Andean Abyss is the first game in GMT's new game series on counter-insurgency (COIN), with a game engine that could be described as a wargamicized El Grande (or perhaps El Grande meets Labyrinth). Four players fight over a Colo ... Read More

X-Wing Miniatures Game (3rd Mar 2013)

No franchise is more beloved of gamers than Star Wars, and it's actually had a number of pretty good games. My personal favorite is The Queen's Gambit. The two Star Wars adaptations of Risk (Clone Wars and Original Trilogy) are still Ris ... Read More

Ginkgopolis (22nd Feb 2013)

After a bit of a drought, the last 6 months have been great for the "artful euro". I've played quite a few that have kept me coming back for more: Escape, Qin, Il Vecchio, SewerPirats, Nieuw Amsterdam,  Mutant Meeples, Copycat ... Read More

The One Ring RPG (2nd Jan 2013)

I threw in the towel on D&D (3, 3.5 and 4, plus Pathfinder) a couple years ago and switched my roleplaying energies to Gumshoe, a decision I'm quite happy with. But, as is usual with these things, I didn't bring along all the friends I game wi ... Read More

Pax Porfiriana (30th Dec 2012)

Sierra Madre has continued on its recent roll for me. I was torn on Origins: How We Became Human, and didn't really like anything before that, but I have enjoyed High Frontier, Bios: Megafauna, and Pax Porfiriana a great deal, all for similar reasons ... Read More

Rex: Final Days of the Empire (10th Dec 2012)

Back in the day, I was a huge fan of Avalon Hill's Dune. I must have played it a hundred times in the late 80s to mid 90s, enough to even have played the lousy Spice Harvest, The Duel, Landsraad, and Tleilaxu variants several times (you have to be pre ... Read More