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Feature

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…

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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
Feature

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
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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
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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…

AlphaGo
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Just what are we losing to Google’s AlphaGo?

In Tang dynasty China, Go was one of the skills socially required of a certain class of educated elite—along with calligraphy, painting, and the ability to play the stringed guqin, it was part of a kind of artistic quadrivium. The art and beauty of the game are present in the way it is played, but also in descriptions and metaphors for the shapes that appear on the board during play. One of the first shapes shown to new players is the “eye.” If a group of white stones is surrounded by black stones on all sides, it is captured. The…

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Article

The year in boardgames

“2015 is the year of the board game,” I told everyone I knew. I wrote it out in emails. I typed the words out in text messages. I casually said it over the phone. If friends or family wanted to get me something for my birthday, a PlayStation gift card would not do: I had a manicured Amazon wish list pruned with all the games I wanted to play. Sure, I occasionally played games on a screen. But people know, now: when they invite me over for dinner, they better be ready to play Love Letter or Netrunner or whatever…

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Chesh reinvents Chess for the people

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Chesh (iOS) Damian Sommer It seems nothing is safe from the dubstep-happy clutches of remix culture, not even the ancient and tried game of chess. Damian Sommer’s new iOS game Chesh can be thought of as chess if chess was a person who went to Firefly, took MDMA, and had a “life changing experience” while listening to DEADMAU5. Like many remixes, Chesh is pretty selective about what it borrows from the original. There’s still a heavy turn-based strategy element to the board. But instead of…

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A 1,500-year-old board game has been unearthed in a Chinese tomb

When one thinks of the tombs plundered by videogame heroine Lara Croft, or even legendary adventure film archaeologist Indiana Jones, untold treasures and riches typically await them. During a 2004 excavation in China of first emperor of the Qin dynasty Qin Shi Huangdi’s self-constructed, terracotta warrior guarded, 2,300-year-old tomb, various artifacts were uncovered. Though not entirely reported until a full decade later in 2014 Chinese journal Wenwu, and translated recently into English and published in the Chinese Cultural Relics journal, the surprising find of an ancient board game was uncovered. The ancient game, having been unplayed for approximately 1,500 years,…