Cosmic Encounter: Philanthropist, or the gamebreaking power of giving

Powerful aliens meet in Cosmic Encounter. One of them, Chronos, has the power to go back in time and force the opponent to replay a battle if he loses. Another, Zombie, has immortal ships and Mutant always keeps 8 cards in hand, taking more of them from the deck (or his opponents) if necessary. The strangest of them all, the Schizoid, changes the winning conditions of the game itself, forcing other players to try and guess which one he has chosen.

And then, there’s the Philanthropist. Compared to these powerhouses, it not only seems weak, but counterproductive. Why would you want to give cards to your opponent? Doesn’t that help them? Many players glaze over him, dismissing him as a joke or a narrow way to help an ally.

But not only it’s a tremendous power, it’s an insidious one and also a great piece of game design.

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Final Fight ★★★

Beat’em ups have the reputation of being a dumb genre. The idea of punching your way through group after group of enemies, once appealing, has become synonymous with boredom and repetition. Like many, I thought the genre was lifeless and dull, a matter of punching enemies harder than they could hit you.

And yet, when I played Final Fight and took the streets of a fictionalized New York city I realized it didn’t matter how hard my character could punch. What mattered was who.

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Theme Hospital ★★★

The average hospital wasn’t lucky enough to be designed from scratch. Most were forced to grow organically, absorbing new buildings as they ran out of space and new treatments were developed.

Medical centers that started out curing common diseases like Invisibility or the cheese-induced Bloaty Head could find themselves overrun by many, much more difficult patients just a few years later. The constant threat of earthquakes, epidemics or health inspections only made it worse, making it more and more difficult to fulfill a hospital’s most important goal: To turn up a big, nice profit.

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Gwent: Condottiere under another name

gwent-1-condottiere “So it’s just like Condottiere” I remember thinking when I first heard about Gwent. And when I first saw it on the table and played it, there was no doubt; Gwent was quite literally the same game. Same rules, same cards, same weather-inmune heroes and same scarecrow that returns cards to your hand.

At first I thought it was a new release based on Sapkowski’s fantasy world but I soon started to have doubts: The credits of the game did not mention its designer, but another man: Damein Monnier. Continue reading »

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