Fall of Magic turns everyone into a gifted author

Fall of Magic is the kind of free form storytelling you could do with your friends on the floor just about anywhere. Play some Howard Shore soundtracks in the background, light a few candles, and unroll the scroll. As an engine for creating stories it’s deceptively slight. From the rulebook: “Someone may ask, ‘Is a Raven like the bird?’ or ‘What is a Crab Singer?’ To this we reply: ‘It means what you want it to mean.’” This open-handed approach extends to the rules. A six-sided dice is included but rarely used, and the rest of the game world’s description…


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…


A new tabletop game challenges you to maximize ratings as a TV executive

Operating a television network is not a game. Hold your laughter and that thought. We’ll return to it momentarily. The Networks is a tabletop game that challenges players to perform the duties of TV executives who seek to maximize viewership and, consequently, profit. You bid for shows and talent and allocate them in a way that will hopefully see your ratings soar and your opponents demoralized—not necessarily in that order. The game collected over $103,297 on Kickstarter, which is roughly four times what it set out to make. In light of the rise of cable cutting, it might therefore be…


Cards Against Urbanity lets you study and mock urban planning at the same time

The difference between Cards Against Humanity and the sort of flashcards used for revision is, I suppose, that the latter can come in a greater range of colours. Sure, “a cat video so cute your eyes roll back and your spine slides out your anus” is not the typical exam prompt, but the mechanics are fundamentally the same. Flip the card over; deal with the hand fate has dealt you. maybe it’s a little bit worrying  Cards Against Urbanity, which applies its generalist forebear’s mechanics to the lexicon of urban planners, splits the difference between these approaches. Its cards can…


Forget Donald. The Contender stages your own, better presidential debate

The Contender is a tabletop game that combines the rhetoric of political campaigns and the mechanics of Cards Against Humanity, all of which raises a thorny interpretive question: Would tonight’s second Republican presidential debate be improved if it were replaced by a televised game of The Contender? To answer this question, let us consider the rules of each debate. CNN’s primetime debate and the straggler’s undercard that precede it surely have rules, which probably involve speaking times and not interrupting others. If history is any indicator, those rules will probably be ignored by at least one of the candidates, and…


Scale is exposing the challenges of scaling videogames

Scale is a puzzle game with a straightforward elevator pitch: “You wield a device that can make any item any size.” This is a popular pitch. It earned the game $108,020 in funding from over 5,000 backers during its Kickstarter campaign. Steve Swink, Scale’s creator, subsequently created an alpha version of the game and has now written about what he’s learned in an illuminating update. Swink’s post helpfully addresses the challenges of scaling (excuse the pun) from a demo to an actual game. Things that worked in the former may not be as compelling in the latter. The growing size…


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…