John-Michael Gariepy

Archive for the tag “Rio Grande Games”

Dominion: Dark Ages – Thriving through The Fall

Good news:  Dominion Dark Ages is a lot of fun.

The design is excellent.  My first impression was that Donald X. Vaccarino created Dark Ages set with a mechanic first – printing a lot of “When you trash this card” abilities – realized that theme worked well with a “Dark Ages” concept, created a list of cards that would work well in The Dark Ages, and designed excellent top down Dominion cards around that.  It sure does look like the expansion formed itself from nothingness with a few strokes of genius.  Reality, though, is not that simple.

In “The Secret History of the Dark Ages”, Mr. Vaccarino mentions that many ideas in the expansion were warped from early Dominion design.  Vaccarino had a good understanding that Dominion would have a long shelf life, and planned multiple expansions from the start.  Dark Ages wasn’t a great idea that came together with ease;  it was an idea for an expansion by the name of “War” which was slated to come out much earlier.  But “War” was shelved because it’s original theme, tons of attack cards, proved too overbearing.

Over the years, “War” dispersed cards into other sets, and absorbed loose cards until it gelled into Dark Ages. Seen from this angle, with many mechanics in Dark Ages pushing on five years old, it’s a piece of amazing that the expansion can feel fresh and modern.  There’s also a certain inevitability, too, that Dark Ages would have this effect, since each expansion taught Dominion’s design and playtest what clicked in their game, and what squawked.  Dark Ages encapsulates the feeling of experimentation that Dominion provided on release four years ago without trailing into embarrassing mechanics that look more fun than they play.  There are attack options, but nothing as egregious as the ‘feel bad for having played it’ card ‘Saboteur’.  There’s some goofiness, but nothing as infuriating as watching a player take fifteen minutes to resolve all of their ‘Possession’ cards.  And while I haven’t played Dark Ages enough to know there aren’t any broken cards in it, at least nothing jumped out at me like Shanty Town did in Intrigue (Though, the value of Shanty Town in Intrigue may have more to do with a low number of cards that provide +2 actions.  A lot of cards in Dark Ages seem to grant plenty enough actions.  Again, this is first impression stuff.  I could be wrong).

What’s really nice about Dark Ages is how it handles many themes, while providing interesting toys to play with.  Here’s a quick rundown of some individual features: Read more…

Power Grid: First Sparks – Respect: What Is It?

Let’s say you have a new public park in your city.  It’s nice and open with plenty of space for sports, a play yard for children, some grills… nothing too fancy, but there was a lot of thought put into this park.  Let’s say that after one week of the park being open to the public, a huge crevice opened up.  It’s about twenty feet across, five feet wide and ten feet deep, and stretches between the see-saws and the tennis court.  It was nobody’s fault:  There was a small underground cave here that no one knew about, and the increased foot traffic toppled the cave’s roof in.  Let’s say the park authority put a bunch of signs up and some traffic cones.  It’s been a month now, and this is it.  When people contact the park authorities, their response is “We informed the public about the hole, took out space in the local newspapers and clearly marked the hole so that no one could fall in by accident.  If anyone falls in and hurts themselves, it’s their own fault.”  How would you feel about that?

I feel that way every time I think of Power Grid: First Sparks.

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