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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,…

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Feature

The Dismal Western Front of The Grizzled

The First World War is often referred to as The Great War, due to its immense scope, as it incited all the world’s national powers and resulted in a devastating death toll. Set within this war is the tabletop game The Grizzled, which makes no attempt to capture such scale, and instead hones in on a small squad of French soldiers whose camaraderie is their greatest chance for survival. In this, The Grizzled prompts comparison to Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, which describes the war through a concise and emotional narrative. The story follows…

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A board game about Indian colonialism from the creators of Somewhere

Even in board game form, games by Studio Oleomingus are simply mesmerizing. The team behind Somewhere, a surreal stealth game set in an alternate world version of colonial India, have started work on an unnamed historical project about running a Portugese colony in 17th century Goa. In a recent post about the project, Oleomingus provides a series of mockups detailing their German-style board game influences and diving into how the game works. The map is dotted with vibrantly colored squares, representing the majestic palaces you’ve built up and the different resources there are to extract: cotton, wood, gold, grain, and…

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Why are tabletop games killing it on Kickstarter?

We are in the midst of a board game boom, and FiveThirtyEight has figured out why: Kickstarter. You should read the whole story, but here’s the crux of Oliver Roeder’s analysis: “Since [2009], pledges to board and card game projects on the site have totaled $196 million, according to the company. Ninety-three percent of that money went to successful projects — those that reached their fundraising goal. For comparison, pledges to video game projects, including hardware and mobile games, have totaled $179 million. Of that, 85 percent went to ultimately successful projects. On Kickstarter, analog is beating digital.” (Disclosure: Kill Screen has…

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Soccer City’s ironic realism does away with pesky player agency

“Football is a simple game,” the onetime England striker and fulltime milquetoast TV personality Gary Lineker once explained. “Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” Alternately, football is an incredibly complicated tactical exercise at the end of which the Germans admittedly tend to win. Soccer City, a strategy boardgame about the beautiful game that is currently raising funds on Kickstarter, veers towards that latter view of the sport. Soccer City bills itself as “the most realistic football board game ever made,” which is big talk from a game with soccer in…