Author Archives: Hentzau

Thoughts: Through The Ages

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I’ve been somewhat getting back into boardgames recently after a five-year hiatus. Strictly speaking I never really left them – I play games all the time and I’m not particularly bothered what format they come in so I was always playing them on and off, but the overhead required to get a bunch of people together in a room to mess with a bunch of physical cards and playing pieces is always going to make them a more infrequent pastime than just booting up Into The Breach for a hour-long session. This is why I’m quite cheered to see a few of the iThing ports of popular boardgames making their way onto Steam, as it makes them rather more accessible than they would be otherwise — and this accessibility can more than compensate for the loss of that experience of playing with other people, if the port is done right.

That being said, you’ve got to pick the right kind of boardgame for one of these ports. Years ago I bought the Ticket To Ride port — reviewed it on this very blog, in fact — and by removing the physicality of it and reducing it to a set of raw mechanics it was exposed as a rather shallow experience. If nothing else, you can’t see the expression of rage on an AI’s face as you block their route from St Petersburg to Barcelona with a single train. No, if you’re going to port a boardgame to a computer then it has to either gain something in the transfer or else already have enough depth to it that it can survive as a concept once the associated boardgaming accoutrements have been stripped away.

By that metric, Vlaada Chvatil’s Civ-lite Through The Ages is an almost perfect candidate for conversion. And this port stands up very well indeed.

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Civilization Through The Ages: Civilization

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Over the Christmas break I found myself playing through Civilization 4 for the first time in about ten years. It did a lot of neat stuff that I’d just plain forgotten about, so I decided to play through all of the Civilization games to see how well they held up today and how the series had evolved from one iteration to the next, and then write something summing up that experience so that I’ll have something to refer back to when I inevitably forget again.

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Civilization has the distinction of being the very first game I played on a proper IBM PC. This was way back in my school computer room in 1995, which was an environment that was far too cheap for Windows 95 and the flashy multimedia games that came with it, and so the four year-old Civilization was the best we could manage on the 386s we had available. By this point I’d played newer, better-looking games on the Atari, Archimedes and Megadrive (not to mention Doom and Command & Conquer on some weird PC card hookup jammed into an Acorn RISC PC), and Civilization looked positively primitive by comparison. It didn’t matter. I was instantly hooked.

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Thoughts: Book Of Demons

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Book Of Demons is an ARPG with a very important question to ask: did you like Diablo? You do remember Diablo, right? Oh, maybe you don’t. It was a niche game released by tiny indie dev Blizzard studios back in 1996; you’ve probably forgotten all about it by now since there certainly haven’t been any other games released like Diablo in the intervening twenty-two years. Never fear, though; Book Of Demons is here to forcefully remind you that Diablo is a game that exists by charging out in search for the line separating “tribute” and “ripoff” and then using it to beat you within an inch of your life.

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Thoughts: Hitman 2

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I don’t think the Hitman series really clicked for me until I played Hitman 2. I really enjoyed Blood Money, and I really enjoyed what I played of the 2016 Hitman, but they were both one-and-done games for me — I gave Hitman’s Paris level a few replays, but otherwise I just completed all of the levels in order and then called it a day.  Which is a bit of an odd thing to say about a game because that’s how they’re usually supposed to be played, but Hitman is a series that rewards replaying individual levels again and again to find alternate routes, assassination methods and background information about the people you’re assassinating. Playing through the levels just once meant that I arguably was doing it wrong, but for whatever reason I never really felt much of an impetus to do it right — until Hitman 2.

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Thoughts: Warhammer 40,000 – Mechanicus

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And so we go from a terrible Warhammer 40k video game to a really quite good one, and one which I wasn’t expecting to like anywhere near this much. Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus is a tactical squad-based strategy game somewhat in the vein of XCOM that stars the Adeptus Mechanicus and their tech-priests as they raid a Necron tomb world for technological secrets. Right off the bat I’m inclined to think favourably of Mechanicus because it’s eschewed taking the obvious route of making an XCOM-alike featuring Space Marines and instead chooses to focus on two of the 40k universe’s lesser-known factions, which is an extremely smart move because there’s something like fifteen different factions in 40k but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of Warhammer video games that don’t have you either playing as the Space Marines or as a force that includes them1. This allows developers Bulwark Studios to create something that feels very fresh when compared to the 40k adaptations I’m used to, not only in terms of atmosphere but also in terms of the amount of mechanical tinkering they do to make the squad-based gameplay something that’s appropriate to the Mechanicus and their Necron opponents.

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  1. The list goes something like Rites Of War, Fire Warrior, Dawn Of War (which I guess counts for Dark Crusade and Retribution), Battlefleet Gothic, the 4X that came out recently that’s apparently not that great, and that’s about it.
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