Dead of Winter: The Long Night is a survivor

The Andes Flight Disaster of 1972 is infamous for the part about the cannibalism. On October 13th, a chartered Fairchild FH-227D crashed on the spine of the Andes between Chile and Argentina. A search was conducted for just over a week, leaving the team stranded. After two months of starvation, frostbite, and sickness, the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571’s original 45 members had dwindled to 16, who all had to resort to eating the dead to survive. The survivors were all part of a rugby union, all Roman Catholic, and operated as a team: they salvaged together, they kept warm…

board games oliver quinlan

Isaac Vega wants to make board games for everyone

An hour into our interview, Isaac Vega is still brimming with energy, gesturing and talking about his next project with all the verve of a life coach or an eager teenager. Vega’s a lead designer for Plaid Hat Games, who have published the board games Dead of Winter (2014) and Summoner Wars (2009). It’s obvious he loves what he does. “I’d like to break the barrier in board games that we don’t see in other media,” Vega tells me. Tabletop gaming has a unique barrier to access that no other media has: a steep learning curve. To gather a group…


Bloc by Bloc aims to be the board game for modern revolution

The Earth has seen her fair share of revolutions in the last decade. We have watched them on our televisions, followed them on Twitter, witnessed them both in our hometowns and impossibly far away. In such a tumultuous period they often seem inescapable, but unless they were brought directly to your door, they are also usually preserved pristinely behind a computer screen. The reality of the action has a hard time crossing the border between activists on the street and spectators at home. Bloc by Bloc: The Insurrection Game, by Out of Order Games and now on Kickstarter—described as “semi-cooperative…

game of the goose 1

The insightful history of one of the first modern board games

Though many people might think that board games are a relatively modern phenomenon, the likes of Trouble (1965) and The Game of Life (1960) were actually preceded by years and years of table-based entertainment, flung as far and wide as Egypt, India, and ancient China. A brief glimpse into this long and storied history is provided by the Grolier Club in New York and their exhibition The Royal Game of the Goose: Four Hundred Years of Printed Board Games. Curated by Adrian Seville, this exhibit interrogates the many different forms of “The Game of the Goose”—one of the first modern-style…

cropped Cannes Games

The Future of Board Games According to The Cannes Games Festival

During the awards ceremony at the International Cannes Games Festival, three men walked onto the stage with Cuban hats, throwing fake money to the audience. They were the ones behind Mafia de Cuba, an intrigue and deception board game set in La Habana during the Cuban revolution. The game was one of three nominees for the As d’Or Award (Best Game of the Year) and these creators had decided to project its universe into ours by becoming the game’s characters in real life. Mafia de Cuba didn’t win, but this stage act set the mood for the following days: a…


An upcoming puzzle game tasks you with decoding classic literature

In the world of Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, books have been outlawed and are burned en masse by the state, only kept in small collections by the occasional revolutionary. Instead of reading, the majority of people spend their free time in “entertainment parlors,” rooms lined with massive screens that constantly broadcast Dora the Explorer-style call-and-response programs meant to elicit the illusion of interactivity. It’s a pointed premise, conceived during the early years of the television’s rise to prominence in the American household. It also reflects a constant theme in Bradbury’s work: that with advances in technology, culture tends…

Settlers of Catan

An intro to tabletop gaming as ritual

Every time I unbox a board game it feels as though I’m ‘starting something’. There’s a secure rhythm in drawing out components, shuffling decks, placing pieces; it feels significant in the same way that the placement and positioning of elements in communion or offering feels holy. Mats are laid out, figurines placed, tokens piled according to kind. Victor Turner wrote the following in “Symbols in African Ritual” in 1973: “A ritual is a stereotyped sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and designed to influence preternatural entities or forces on behalf of the actors’…

Posthuman: Sanctuary

Posthuman: Sanctuary challenges how board games are adapted

When adapting a game from tabletop to computer, emphasis is often placed on reducing abstraction. Objects, characters, and events only representable by cards, markers, or dice in the physical world can instead be fully realized by digital artists in a videogame. But Gordon Calleja, game designer at Malta-based studio Mighty Box, isn’t sold on this approach. Calleja is currently heading a Kickstarter campaign for Posthuman: Sanctuary, a videogame that expands on the ideas of his board game Posthuman (2015), itself an unusual and technically complex mixture of tactics and narrative storytelling. “for games we need a radical reconceptualization of those…

Alphago on big screen

AlphaGo’s win is a victory for humans, not machines

Google’s stream of the 5-game Go series between DeepMind’s AlphaGo and Lee Sedol was odd. It put little vector-graphic landmarks from Seoul opposite little vector-graphic landmarks from London. But I never once heard it suggested that this was a battle between Korea and the UK. Maybe it would have been more appropriate to put a brain on one side and a processor on the other, but that’s equally inaccurate. It may not seem it at first, but AlphaGo and its victory represents human effort and human progress. While we still have “the machines” under control, they are tools for our…