by David W.
| published Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Well folx, as we stagger to the end of another year, shellshocked by humankind’s ongoing inability to either learn from its past or plan more than two nanoseconds into the future, I–like many of you–have damn little left in the tank. And although tabletop games continue to bring me joy (as do puzzles, music, musical theatre, the small kindnesses we show each other), I find that I don’t have much to say about them that I feel is worth sharing. I’d rather spend what little energy I have at the moment platforming under-represented voices instead of “imparting wisdom from on high”.
Nonetheless, there are a few games I am very much looking forward to playing in 2023, so I thought I’d take this space to list them and make a few comments. If, by talking about them, I pique your interest to the point where you also check them out, then I’ll feel like I’ve done a Good Thing.
So off the top off my head and in no particular order…
Votes for Women (Tory Brown, Fort Circle Games) FCG put out the excellent introductory wargame Shores of Tripolia couple of years ago, and Votes for Women looks to be an interesting companion piece to Hollandspiele’s The Vote: Suffrage and Suppression in America. Arguably The Vote has a wider scope, since it also deals with reforms to the American Senate which made passage of the 19th Amendment much more do-able. But Votes for Women, on first glance, has a lighter touch and shallower on-ramp, which may make it more accessible. We’ll see. But this reminds me, I also have to play more Stonewall Uprising.
Rising Waters (Scout Blum, Central Michigan University Press) Now here’s a historical theme you won’t find anywhere else: The Mississippi Flood of 1927. Players work together in the roles of African-American farm workers desperately trying to keep back the waters while simultaneously having to deal with the indifference and outright hatred of Southern White politicians and landowners. Being published by a University, there’s a clear pedagogic mission here–but I’m curious to see if its gameplay holds up its end, too.
The Fox Experiment (Elizabeth Hargrave, Pandasaurus Games) I mean, who wouldn’t be interested in trying out Hargrave’s new design, about 1950’s Soviet scientists trying to duplicate the process of domestication? You know it’s going to be faithful to its scientific underpinnings and play elegantly, and that Pandasaurus will give the game a spiffy treatment.
Worldbreakers: Advent of the Khanate (Elli Amir, self-published) I’m personally invested in this inasmuch as I did an extensive interview with Amir at the end of 2021 (you can read it here: part one, part two, and part three). But for those who are too impatient to go back and read it, the tl;dr is that Amir has created an alternate history without European hegemony with rich lore and managed to create an interesting game where gameplay and theme work together to tell an emergent story. So, it’s my kinda jam.
Super Dark (no designer credited, self-published) is ying to The Vote’s yang in that where the latter is about a grassroots movement working to expand democracy and give women a voice, the former is about plutocratic individuals working behind the scenes to bend the body politic to their will and further their own agendas. Yesssss, feel the power corrupt you from the inside…let the hate take over…
Honorable Mention: Slay the Spire (Gary Dworetsky/Anthony Giovannetti/Casey Yano, Contention Games) Arguably no videogame has done more in recent memory to bring tabletop mechanisms (and specifically deckbuilding) to the digital realm than Slay the Spire (okay, maybe Hearthstone–but aside from that). So how natural that some one (or ones, in this case) would license the StS IP and bring it back to its spiritual home. And will the result succeed or–as is often the case–suck horribly? Well, based on the Tabletop Simulator mod I’ve tried, my feeling is that it will succeed (and yes, I’ve backed it based on that opinion, so I’ve put my money where my mouth is). The designers seems to have figured out what aspects needed to be adapted for the analog world and what needed to be left alone. The reason I’m giving it HM status is that although its delivery date is promised as December, 2023, I’d bet at least $50 that it will be delayed well into 2024, because they’re first-time designers/publishers and, well, Kickstarter.
David is the Managing Editor of the DWP. He learned chess at the age of five and has been playing tabletop games ever since. His collection currently consists of about 600 games, which take up way too much space. His game "Odd Lots" won the inaugural TABS Game Design Contest in 2008. He is currently Managing Editor of The Daily Worker Placement.
All in all he's pretty smug about his knowledge of games and game