Don’t Fear The Reaper – Death Wish review

Death will come to us all. Sure, that’s not the happiest thought to kick off a game review, but still it’s something to think about. Western culture takes a very dim view of the whole death thing, and bringing it up in polite conversation is weirdly frowned upon by many. I find it odd; it’s going to happen to literally every single person on this planet, but talking about it inspires hushed tones and a curious kind of embarrasment. Not for game designer Jason Hibbert, though – no qualms about shuffling off this mortal coil for him. Not at all, because he went and made a game all about getting as sick as possible and breathing your last. Die first, and you win. That’s pretty metal.


Death Wish, currently on Kickstarter, may be bleak as hell as a concept, but you’re actually looking at a relatively light card collecting game. Fun for the whole family – and we’re not just talking about the Addams Family… The game comes with four separate decks that will combine to spell your doom, and although our subject matter is as morbid as can be, there is a lot of humour in there. This is pretty necessary – playing this with a bunch of folks who fear the oncoming reaper isn’t going to be the happiest experience you’ll have around your gaming table, but if you can see it as the lighthearted affair that it’s meant to be, you’ll have a splendid time.

Of the four decks, the Disease deck is probably the one you’ll scrabble through first – after all, its the diseases that will kill you. Not a single disease is ‘real’ but you can easily work out what horrid things they’re based on, and you can kind of tell that a lot of the names were sourced on Reddit with potential killers like Multifartosis and Buttulism on the list.Yes, this is not exactly the most highbrow of games, but the approach works, keeping things light and fun in the face of the void.

Each Disease card shows a number in the top left corner which determines the amount of Symptom cards of that colour that are required to trigger the sickness within. These are generally less daft, though I have to admit a soft spot for “I’m Bleeding Everywhere”, which feels like Death Wish’s equivalent to Cards Against Humanity‘s nominee for the greatest sentence on a card ever – the excellent “Why Am I Sticky?”. Collect the necessary Symptoms alongside an Afflicter card of the same colour, which range from the normal stuff like being bitten by a raccoon (normal for New Hampshire, anyway) to never showering and you score the Disease, as shown by the amount of skulls on its card. First to hit a certain amount of skulls from their various illnesses wins – nice and simple. And dark. You’re dead! Well done! A winner is you!

There are a couple of little twists in the game that add to the play experience, though. Some Diseases show an Outbreak symbol which effect the flow of the things. Most are one-offs that can either benefit you by simplifying the diseases you contract or screw over your opposition by making things more difficult for them. The most entertaining ones (in my opinion, anyway) are those where you get to keep the card secret until a triggering moment – fancy bringing someone back from the grave after they reckon they’ve won? Boom! We’ve got a card for that! And it’s bloody hilarious when you throw it down, and you stuff defeat down the maw of victory. Different diseases are also ranked at levels from basic to rare – white to red – and the higher the illness’ rarity, the more points it’ll score. Legendary elements can also be used as Wild cards, making things easier as you get closer to your inevitable death.

Now there’s not much more to Death Wish but it’s an entertaining diversion that is, frankly, a bloody delight in an era when every third game on Kickstarter is another CAH clone. Boiled down to its bare bones it’s a simple set-collection game, but the strength lies in the humour and interactions between the players. Yes, you need the right people to play with to get the most out of Death Wish, but this is the perfect game to break out when you and a bunch of friends get back from the pub and they look in worried consternation at that giant stack of Euros that are weighing down your shelves. “Look at this instead!”, you’ll cry, waving it in your non-gamer mates’ faces, and they’ll be delighted.

Sure, it’s no Twilight Struggle, but does every new game have to be? This is far more likely to sell 100,000 copies later down the line with people picking it up in their local Target than anything else on Kickstarter at the moment, and that’s A Good Thing. There’ll always be a place in the world for a decent game that makes people laugh. It’s the very definition of a mass-market party game that’s going for daft, lowball giggles, but it also functions perfectly well as something to play. It’s well balanced, it looks great – the simplistic, flat imagery is cute and fun – and it’s well worth a moment of your time to check out the campaign and consider lending it your support.

Death Wish was designed by Jason Hibbert and will (assuming it gets funded) be published by Sketchy Games. Between two and eight players can get involved, but I found it works best around the four or five mark. Games are quick, taking about twenty minutes, and you can pledge for a copy yourself for twenty quid. Bargain!

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Little Metal Dog Show: Episode 2.6 -A Game of Chance with Alan Gerding!

A new episode appears! You can grab it from iTunes or – if you’re an impatient type – listen to it right here:

This time, the awesome Alan Gerding joins Michael to discuss all manner of things – from Dark Souls to death threats (yes!), it’s the traditional meandering LMDS that you all know and love. Alan (and his partner in crime, Sean McCoy) run Tuesday Knight Games, makers of Two Rooms and a Boom! aka: The World’s Greatest Party Game EVER, and are now back on the crowdfunding trail with their all new release…

World Championship Russian Roulette is currently on Kickstarter, and it’s unlike anything you’ve played before. After checking it out (and loving it) at Gen Con 2015, the guys have worked like demons on the game and – having learned MANY lessons from the 2R1B campaign – you know that this is going to be a good one. We talk about the Two Rooms journey, the perils and pitstops of making games, and what we can expect from Tuesday Knight Games in future.

Oh, and you should totally listen to the Tuesday Knight Games Podcast too, because it’s excellent. Head over to the KS and throw some money their way – you won’t regret it!

By the way, this was meant to be a much bigger podcast – I actually recorded an hour long interview with Patrick from Crash Games and Lance from Tasty Minstrel (yes, he came back following his appearance a couple of episodes ago!) all about their adventures at the Tokyo Game Market. Everything was great while we recorded… and then my apartment got struck by lightning. My computer was fritzed and I lost a LOT of files, including the recording with Patrick and Lance. I’m gutted, but we’ll be catching up again in the near future, hopefully at Origins, where we’ll discuss what they got up to again.

As ever, thanks for listening!

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

On Gen Con, Angry Men and The Importance of Inclusion

Hey everyone. Yesterday I posted a video on the Little Metal Television YouTube channel in response to some offensive bile that’s being spouted by certain sections of the board gaming community in regards to the increased presence of women and representatives of the LGBT community at this year’s Gen Con event, being held in August in sunny Indianapolis. If you’ve not seen the video, I’d be greatly appreciative if you took ten minutes out of your day to check it out. It’s a bit angry and sweary, so is Not Safe For Most Workplaces, but it’s a subject that has really pissed me off.

Now, a few people have been in touch about the video and wanting to share it, but as I am a sweary chap in it they’d sooner disseminate something a bit less… blue. Normally I’d pretty much ignore such a request as I don’t have much of an issue with swearing, but as this is an important message, I said that I’d put up an edited transcript – so here it is.

Thanks for watching, reading, listening… whatever you do. Please don’t let the dark side win.

“This is very much a video where I’m preaching to the converted, but **** it, things need to be said. Before that though, I’d like to tell you a story.

When I was a kid, I was bullied for years. I was fat, I was short, I was basically the prime target for anyone who felt like being an arse for no reason aside from plain hatefulness. The advice I was given was the normal stuff you expect – keep quiet and ignore them, and like a bee, they’ll go away eventually. Which they did, sure, because there’s always going to be someone else who attracts a bully’s attention for a while, but the focus will get back to you eventually. Unlike a bee, the bully keeps stinging, and it hurts more and more every time.

Now I’m older, and I’ve realised that this turtle approach is frankly, **** bull****. As the internet has become more and more dominant in our lives, the ability to bully and intimidate anonymously is something hundreds and thousands of people have to deal with on a daily basis. The only way to stop this tsunami of crap is to address it, face to face – call it out and show the bullies just how much of a joke they are. In the words of the inimitable RuPaul, my goal is to always come from a place of love …but sometimes you just have to break it down for a ****.

Inclusion is important, not just in gaming, but in everyday life. We live in a world where arguments are regularly heard about where people should go to the toilet, where people are denied the ability to stay in hotels or get bloody wedding cakes just because the person they love happens to be the same gender as them. You’d think that kind of thing wouldn’t affect something as daft as playing games, but there has been a horrifying growth in the amount of people who seem to think that gaming is just for white, straight men, and at the moment a lot of it seems to be focusing on the biggest party on the American convention circuit, Gen Con.

Before we start calling out this bull****, let’s look at the positive side of this. Earlier this week, Gen Con announced that over 50% of their Featured Presenters will be female. This is excellent. It shows a growth in the hobby that it truly needs. Games should be not only be played by everyone who wants to try them, they also need to be more represented in the creative fields. There’s also several special guests who are looking to promote LGBT issues in the games they make and play, which is great. Why not reflect the lives of the people who are playing them? After all, cardboard and bits of plastic don’t discriminate. A dice won’t consistently roll badly just because you’re gay or identify as female – dice roll badly because they ******* hate you.

And now onto the dumpster fire of humanity that is people who think diversity is a bad thing. I’ve been made aware of a putrid little corner of the internet called Alpha Game blog which is apparently “Breaking the chains, winning the games, and saving Western Civilization” – according to the writer Vox Day (real name, Theodore Beale). He’s also one of the figureheads of the Rabid Puppies, which is a **** in itself but we’re focusing on games here, not science fiction writing. There’s a small but rabid bunch of subscribers, all of whom seem terrified that women will destroy the world of gaming because – and this is posted all over the blog – “Women Ruin Everything”. Most posts are a carnival of lunatic viewpoints, but a few recent posts have been highly critical of Gen Con, in particular the increased female presence of list of Featured Presenters at the show (which is actually 13 to 12 this year), and Beale firmly believes that Gen Con will shut down over the next decade, apparently for no more reason than he just hates half the population of a planet. Here’s an actual quote: “Men, particularly low rank men, never understand that by inviting women into their interest groups, they will destroy those groups in time.”

Holy **** crap, where to even begin…

Speaking as a Low Rank Man, because this is invariably what I’d be referred to as by this Caravan of Twattery, let’s take that quote and switch it up for some other massive sections of the population.

  • Something stupid to start. “by inviting Belgians into their interest groups, they will destroy those groups in time.” Of course, without Belgium, we wouldn’t have had the release of 7 Wonders, making the world a worse place.

  • Something a bit harder? “by inviting black people into their interest groups, they will destroy those groups in time.” Hmmm. That sounds pretty **** wretched to me.

  • “by inviting Jews into their interest groups, they will destroy those groups in time.” Hmmmm. Hmmmmmmmm.

Basically, these people are the worst. A festering pile of actual human garbage who, when called out on their utterly **** crazy opinions, accuse you of being under the thumb of Feminazis.

Note: if you ever use the word Feminazis in any fashion that even appears vaguely serious, you immediately render any and all of your opinions invalid.

So, let’s see how Gen Con actually goes, shall we? I don’t think we’ll see the entire building ablaze by 11am on the Thursday morning, just because there are people with vaginas in the halls. Hasn’t happened before, but you never know.

I am all for freedom of speech – its a central tenet of the country I choose to live in, after all – but these ******** should also remember that it gives me the right to call you out on your absolutely ******* ludicrous, disgusting opinions.

It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, transgender, black, white, gay, straight, or anything in between – if you sit down at my gaming table, you’re a Person, and I want to play with you. Unless of course, you think that it’s OK to deem anyone else sat at that table as a lesser being than you because of their genitals, the colour of their skin, or their sexual preferences. In that case, how about you bring your little gang behind the bike sheds at Gen Con, and I will bring Literally Everybody Else? Let’s see if you’re willing to voice your opinions in the face of tens of thousands of members of the public. Anyone can post ridiculous rhetoric on a blog, but expressing your opinions in the face of those you’re deeming as less worthy than you is a very different thing.

I can’t wait for Gen Con – it’s an incredible event that offers countless amazing experiences every year, as well as amazing amounts of new games to check out. However, if you’re doing or saying anything that will lessen that experience for even a single person, I will do everything in my damn power to see that you never get to attend that – or any other – convention again.

However, I want to be fair. Muppets like this seem to thrive on the oxygen of publicity, and it just so happens that I have the means to offer just that. The Little Metal Dog Show has a decent audience of several thousand gamers, many of whom will be in attendance at Gen Con, and I hereby offer a platform to anyone who holds these absurd views. You come to me with measured, provable facts as to why anyone who plays the games we love who doesn’t happen to be a straight white male will lead to a negative impact on the hobby and I will be delighted to publish that as an episode of the show, in full. Not half-considered opinions. Not empty rhetoric – stone cold facts. Arguments live and die through provability, and if you’re the kind of person who actually believes that women playing games is going to lead to the collapse of the biggest convention in North America and the end of gaming, you surely have something in your pocket that will back it up, yes?

I’m not hard to find. My email is I’m on twitter too, @idlemichael. Come to me and do your best to convince me. You’ll inevitably fail, I tell you now, but I’m giving anyone and everyone the opportunity to express your side of the argument in measured, considered terms. It’ll be interesting, at least.

It’s not about being a feminist. It’s not about being pro-LGBT. It’s about being a decent ******* person, and if you can’t realise that, you you probably shouldn’t leave your basement. Hell, you probably shouldn’t leave your house, as you’ll inevitably find the world a very scary place. We’ll have fun playing all the awesome new stuff as you complain like Chicken Little that your world is being destroyed by the rest of us.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

The Score: Eurogames for Eurovision

It’s that time again, the annual festival of musical awesomeness that it Eurovision! To celebrate what’s basically my Christmas, here’s a daft video with some recommendations of excellent Eurogames that you really should be playing…

Enjoy the show from Stockholm this evening (still gutted that Serhat didn’t qualify for the final) and get playing some excellent games!

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Never Ending Story – Ilios review

Oh man, The Iliad. It brings back weird memories for me, of schooldays when I thought I was clever because I was reading Homer and listening to The Smiths when everyone else was outside playing football and actually having fun with other people. Eh, whatever, I was having fun in my own, lonesome way. Plus I liked hanging out in the library, because occasionally folks would stumble in and we could play RPGs. Yay for the more antisocial members of my school!
However annoying a teen I may have been, the story of The Iliad is still one that I enjoy. The battles, the heroes and villains, the siege of Troy… it remains an incredible tale, even moreso when paired with The Odyssey. Of course, many game designers have drawn inspiration from these legendary tales, the latest of which was developed by Eliot Hochberg; his new creation that recently funded over on Kickstarter is called Ilios, and it’s really rather splendid. One thing though – if you’re looking at a game that will evoke stories of high adventure and embittered gods, this may not entirely be the one for you. That’s not to say that Ilios is bad – not at all, it’s actually excellent – but it’s abstract in the extreme, almost to the point of themeless.
That’s not a problem though – abstracts are much loved by a lot of gamers; look at the GIPF series, for example, and the company responsible for Ilios are also the folks behind another game I really enjoyed, Cartography, so there’s certainly a track record for quality there. Like most games in the abstract genre, Ilios attempts to capture the classic concept of ‘moments to learn, but a lifetime to master’, but does it achieve this lofty goal? Well, first things first – how does it play?
Pretty straightforward, as it turns out. A grid of squares is your battlefield – my prototype copy came with a 7×7 sheet, but the rulebook suggests a 6×6 set-up, or 4×4 for a quicker game. Between two and four people can play, each one represented by an army of coloured discs that will track your plays as well as what areas of the board you currently control. The only other components in the game are a selection of thirty-five wooden Warrior Tiles (of which there are five different types for use during standard play) and one further set of four Iron Weapon tiles that are used to start the proceedings. Each player takes one and placed them on the board, determining where future tiles can be placed for at least the first round…
Each turn sees players choosing from one of three tiles in their hand, which is then placed on one of the empty squares on the grid. The only rules regarding placement is that at least one of the arrows on a tile must be pointing towards a square occupied by an opponent or one of those Iron Weapon tiles that begin the game. Once a tile is in play, anything its arrows point to are ‘attacked’ – in other words, you replace the current coloured disc on enemy tiles with one of your own. You then mark the tile you’ve just played with a disc of your own and, should any tiles now be completely surrounded by a combination of discs, tiles, or the board edge, you get to claim it for yourself (leaving your disc behind to show your feat of strength!), scoring the points shown at the end of the game.

Placing this ‘1’ tile means you get to seize the 10-point Iron Weapons token – vital if you’re going to crush your enemies before you!

And so it continues – place a tile, switch out coloured discs, occasionally claim a tile for points, then draw back to three tiles – until there are no open squares left on the board. Points are tallied and the highest scorer wins… and that’s very much it, so it definitely satisfies the quick learning time criteria.
As for the ‘lifetime to master’ bit? Well, the games I’ve played of Ilios have been challenging and are often very close, but I get the feeling that if I were to be facing off against someone who had a lot more experience I’d be getting destroyed on a regular basis. While it doesn’t feel like the game suffers from the problem of being solvable (which is an issue some abstract titles can suffer from), greater experience will most certainly pay off as you learn little strategies that can give you an edge in play. The fact that you can also play with between two and four people as well as switch up the size of the board means that there is plenty of variance in Ilios – a smaller board with a larger amount of players leads to an incredibly cut-throat game, while more space means there’s more room to breath and consider your options. It’s a refreshing approach to abstract gaming, and each different game set-up does indeed manage to feel a little different. Sure, the general premise is always going to be the same, but the mix of player count and board size does keep things fresh.
Now, with all that said, I know in my heart that I not everyone will get into Ilios. While yes, I enjoyed playing Ilios, a large amount of gamers out there who will immediately turn it down simply because it’s an abstract affair. However, I encourage you to keep an open mind and give this rather charming game a shot – after all, pretty much every game deserves to be played (unless you’re talking about that bloody awful Doctor Who Trivia Game we reviewed a couple of years back). With even a four-player game taking around twenty minutes, it’s a quick brain-burner that the right group will really enjoy – just make sure that you’re a part of it!

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews