The Dork Den Blog
For all your comic and board game review needs.
How many fking castles does this guy need?
Between Two Castles is, as the name does not make any effort to hide, a mash-up of Between Two Cities and the Mad King Ludwig franchise. The core gameplay comes from Between Two Cities—there are two rounds, and at the start of each round, each player takes a stack of tiles. Draft two tiles, pass to the left, draft two tiles, pass to the left, until only one tile remains, which is discarded. You’re building a castle with each of the people adjacent to you, and your score is the lowest of the two castles you help build, which means you can’t let one of them suck.
The Mad King aspect is how all the tiles go together. There’s no spatial aspect like the original Castles of Mad King Ludwig; instead, you have several types of square tiles which can be placed around the core of your castle, the throne room. Like Castles, each tile has a type, and most tiles have a way to score points that relates to other tiles in the game. The most common adjacency rules are to score for tiles in the eight spaces around a given tile, or for all tiles above a tile, below it, or both. These can relate to the room type itself (utility room, outdoors area, etc), or the second icon on these tiles (swords, a mirror, and so on).
Another similarity to Castles is that you have much more freedom to build your castle however you want. Most rooms have to be built at the ground floor (the level of the throne room) or above, but there are downstairs rooms that can go below. Tiles have to be placed adjacent to other ones. The castle can go as high as you want, but all rooms must be supported by actual room tiles beneath them (you can’t place a tile above an outdoor area). Alternately, you can go as wide as you want—whatever works for your grand architectural plan.
Also like Castles, you get bonuses for fulfilling certain basic requirements. In this case, if you place three of a tile type, you get an associated bonus, and if you place five of one type, you get a specialty room tile that can add substantially to your final score. It takes some getting used to the bonuses; none of them are hard to understand individually, but understanding them well enough to grab them quickly in the flow of the game can be hard.
And if there’s a flaw in this game, the bonuses are it. Between Two Cities is a fantastic game. Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a game I don’t like playing, but which I can’t deny is well-designed—I’m just crap at spatial awareness. Putting together a castle in the Ludwig vein, according to BTC rules, is quite fun on a basic level. But the draft mechanic works best when everybody sorts through the available tiles, picks two, then everyone plays their tiles together and moves on to the next decision. When people get bonuses, new players will often overlook them because they want to move on to building more castle pieces; once everyone’s used to grabbing their bonuses, then the game either slows a bit while decisions are made (some of the bonuses require players choose from tiles or bonus cards), or some people move on with their next decision and are left to wait while the bonus earners catch up.
I didn’t have a chance to play this with a group who was experienced enough to blow through the bonus-grabbing process, so it’s theoretically possible the game plays very well once everyone is on point. Thing is, BTC is a fairly casual game, and it’s unlikely this game (especially with a bigger group) is only going to have experienced players in it. The rhythm of Between Two Cities that this idea relies on gets thrown off by the Mad King Ludwig aspects. Thus, while the idea is sound and the baseline game is pretty good, it winds up being about 90% as good as what you’d hope to get when putting two games of this quality together.
Still, when you’re working at this level, 90% is solid. If you liked both of the component games, you’ll probably like this. If you liked one and didn’t play the other, it’s worth trying. If… look, just play the game if you get the chance.
(4.1 / 5)
This is an interesting comic to say the least. When I grabbed this guy, I had absolutely no idea what it was, what it was was about, or anything about the creative team. However, the cover was awesome and it immediately gave off Scott Pilgrim vibes, which is one of my personal favorite comics of all time. Upon my first read, I was extremely confused, the story seemed to be jumping around, characters were undeveloped and world building was too quick and unexpected. I was, honestly, extremely disappointed by the comic simply because I was so thrown off by its contents. However, I really wanted to give this comic a revisit and thus a second opinion.
What I first learned by simply looking at the cover a little more, was that Sun Baker is a comic book anthology magazine. Essentially what this means is that they usually use different artists and different writers to make short, very quick stories within one issue. This explained the inconsistencies I found my first time through, and almost completely eradicated my confusion. This allowed me to take in each story (there’s only 2 / 3 in this one) as its own entity and appreciate them on an individual level. I also just spent more time with this comic in general the second time around, giving it an actual thoughtful read, and honestly, after the second time through, I liked this comic so much more. In fact, I loved this comic the second time. It’s extremely quirky and fun, in many similar ways that Scott Pilgrim was. The stories they introduce are simple, but insanely fun and if they revisit those worlds I’m all in. There’s no real character development here, but it’s not really needed to fit into the ‘anthology feel’.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this comic. If you liked the vibes of Scott Pilgrim, or if you just like that indie vibe at all, sit down and read Sun Bakery, it has the workings of something really special for that kind of audience. If you’re not so sure, or you don’t like that Scott Pilgrim-esque, silly and over the top indie feel, then Sun Bakery might not be for you. It’s definitely a unique comic with awesome and funny art, some great dialogue, and the workings of some really cool action adventure stories with a couple sweet female protagonists. At the very least, give Sun Bakery a shot, you may just find a new favorite out of this one.
(4 / 5)
YOU ARE A GOD. The god of a pyramid-shaped universe. Make it a properly blasted hellscape.
Orbis is a game about managing two types of resources: your territory and your worshipers. Your goal, as is the goal of every reasonable god, is to accrue the most victory points (little known fact: the concept of victory points was first alluded to in the Book of Moses). By the end of the game, you’ll have chosen fourteen land tiles and one tile which solidifies your deific identity; this will create a pyramid, with yourself at the top, that is the finest universe in the cosmos, unless you lose.
Every round, you pick one tile from a 3×3 grid to add to your universe. Each of these hexagonal tiles has a color. You put a worshiper cube of the appropriate color on each of the adjacent tiles, then place the tile in your universe. And from this simple baseline, things get interesting (in the legitimate way, not the “I don’t have any other word to describe this” way) very quickly.
When you take a tile, you take under your wing all the worshiper cubes on that tile. These cubes are used for various purposes—at first, you might use them to pay for effects on the tiles you take, but relatively quickly you’ll need to start discarding certain sets of worshipers to take tiles off the grid. Tiles are placed according to a few particular rules. First, after you place one tile, all others must touch at least one tile already in your universe. Second, to place a tile on a level above the bottom row, there must be two tiles below it (so it makes the pyramid). Third, if a tile is placed above the bottom level, it must match the color of one of the tiles below it.
Once your on to your third or fourth tile, you already have some major decisions to make. Do I take the tile with more worshipers or that’s worth more points? You can only have a max of ten worshipers, but you can trade three of one color to get one of another, so you rarely have to discard any. Do I take the tile that’s more useful but which puts yet another worshiper on a different tile that I know one of my opponents is likely to take? Just how do I build my universe? (Something that doesn’t become obvious until you’re well into your first game is how the pyramid structure limits the types of lands you’re able to make maximum use of, since you have to string colors up the chain rather than place them wherever you want.)
On one turn during the game, you have to pick the god you want to be. Each of them potentially offers bonus points of you meet certain requirements. This choice is less impactful than it seems like it should be, as you will frequently be the only person able to make good use of a certain god. In many cases, you’ll wait until the end or take it on a turn when there are no tiles you want. However, in some cases—especially ones where a god is out that offers a bonus for having the most of a certain tile type, and you and an opponent are both going hard after that type—this does become a serious matter.
Now, what happens if you can’t pay the worshipers for a tile? Then you turn it into wilderness, which fits into a slot and is worth -1 at the end of the game. That sucks… except the wilderness counts as all colors. This means that it’s not just a penalty for poor planning—you can, and often should, strategically place wilderness in your universe so you can take a tile that doesn’t match the rows that come before. It’s another angle for building your realm that takes a bit of cleverness to use well.
All in all, Orbis is fairly light and easy to understand, but it’s a game that is going to leave people mulling over most of their moves. Planning is paramount, and for this reason an experienced player is going to have a major advantage over new ones, more so than is the case in most light games. But that just means you need to play it again. There are worse fates than a second go at Orbis.
(4.1 / 5)
As far as I’m aware the X-Men comic franchise as of late has been doing alright for itself. It’s separation of its vast array of mutant characters into color-coded teams and styles has been pretty interesting, and for now, a fresh take on the X-Men and its many villains as a whole. With a giant mix up of the timelines the personalities and tendencies of every well known X-Men character has been kind of up in the air. I suppose the benefits of having a really convoluted and overblown history that Marvel is constantly expected to keep intact while doing new things is that anything goes, and if it doesn’t work, you just try something different. Magneto has been all over the place in terms of story for the past many years. Before the apparent disappearance of X-Men from the Marvel comic lineups Magneto had a very decisive solo comic book series, but since then he’s been M.I.A.. Now with X-Men Black, Magneto makes a welcomed return to the comic book world, though sadly, only in a single issue for now. As a character that succeeds most in a very anti-hero setting, I’m curious and hopeful that they bring this character back in the best way possible. But with the range of quality that the X-Men comics have been across their many new stories, I’m ever skeptical.
In the light of the political turmoil of today’s world, X-Men is a welcomed take and spin on the issues of immigration and nationalism. The idea of Mutants as unwelcomed foreign entities has been an in-world political issue for as long as X-Men has been around and works just as well today as it did when it first appeared. Magneto is a champion of the Mutants, a believer in not only their right to belong but often a believer in their superiority over non-mutants. These sometimes radical beliefs has put him at odds with the X-Men over the years, always advocates for peace between the Mutants and Non-Mutants. Fuel has only added to the fire however, as the constant struggle for the X-Men’s peace is met with a non-mutant hate for all mutant kind. With a bunch of mutant children being kept prisoners by the government, Magneto sees no reason not to utilize his unstoppable power to destroy the prison and break the mutants out. He quickly realizes however, upon easily defeating the guards and destroying the prison’s thick walls that perhaps the kids don’t want what Magneto has to offer them. Violence beyond reason isn’t what these young Mutants want. As they explain to the X-Men villain, maybe there’s more to earning respect than fear.
This comic does an admirable job of modernizing the Mutant-Problem that Magneto’s character is so often built around. X-Men’s issues with acceptance has always been a political statement, as comics often are. There are obvious under and overtones of the current political climate in here, and I think despite the comic book world’s liberal leanings, it does a good job of showing every side of the issue. X-Men does a great job of blurring lines. Magneto believes in the freedom for all Mutants, but at any cost. He’ll gladly kill any non-mutant that gets in his way for the betterment of his race. Meanwhile the X-Men want to live peacefully among the non-mutants, but they fear those with powers, and suppress them for it. It’s a never ending battle, and I think this Magneto comic book does well capturing that endless cycle. Magneto is an awesome character, and they seem to be writing him as fans of his classic style. I’m on board with anything for the future of this character.
(4.5 / 5)
Dr. Eureka is a manual dexterity game designed to keep kids entertained, if the box art wasn’t enough of a clue. The BGG community is wise in this case; the game is listed as being for ages eight and up, but the community vote is for age five and up, and they’re probably right. If you like watching small children fumble objects all over the floor so you can feel more accomplished in life, they’re definitely right.
You start with three test tubes, each holding three balls of a single color—red, purple, or green. A card is flipped over with a way of sorting the balls in the test tubes. There may be any number of balls in a given tube (up to the five they can hold); some cards have an empty tube on them. Your job is to figure out the most effective way to move the balls from tube to tube until they match the pattern on the card. The catch is that you have to tip one tube into another to move the balls. You can’t move them with your hands. And if you drop a ball, you’re out of the round. First person to complete the pattern wins the round, takes the card, and the first to five cards wins.
That’s the whole game. Is it fun? Yeah. It’s not going to amuse adults for more than a couple playthroughs against each other. Kids might get a kick out of it if they’re at a level of coordination where this is a challenge, but a doable challenge. (Actually, by that standard, a lot of adults might like it too.) It’s something you want to find for cheap and stick on a shelf if you know you have to deal with kids that like to constantly do things with their hands.
(3.3 / 5)