Category Archives: Game Pile

The Game Pile is my weekly feature where I use a game to talk about something. To talk about anything. Once it started as a sort of Games Journalism approach where I wanted to use it as the corpus of work meant to get me into a videogame journalism job. Then I started to get bored with that idea of writing interesting ad copy and started focusing instead on treating games as critical texts with meaningful media expressions. Come tune in each week to see another article of me exploring games, or exploring ideas in games, or exploring ideas using games!

Game Pile: Thirsty Sword Lesbians

I feel ill equipped to even examine this book.

I do not think I am considered aesthetically or in my presentation particularly thirsty, I own no swords nor do I feel that that’s a deeply spiritual failing on my part, and I am not in any but the most technically accepting and deliberately broad definition an lesbians. I’m not asking for anyone to change the qualifications on my part.

splash art from the game Thirsty Sword Lesbians.

“Ah,” you may glibly say, “Talen, that doesn’t mean you have to be those things to participate in this game,” okay, cool, great, thank you for explaining the basics of fiction to me. I can understand that that’s something you may feel you have to do with my demonstration of difficulty grappling with that.

Come along, and maybe you’ll learn more about me by listening to me, as I talk about this book, and the game it ostensibly is about.

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Game Pile: Dream Crush

Back before you, satistically, were born, there was this thing called The Nineteen Hundred and Eighties. These are defined by nobody my age properly remembering them and attributing all sorts of things to them that didn’t necessarily exist. But also in that space, there were things like dating TV game shows, which took off in the 1970s and were petering out by the 80s.

Oh okay, so a dating TV game show is a TV game show where the premise is one of the prizes is a really cool date, and you win it by picking one of the potential dates and going out together.

Oh, so a TV game show is a type of game where the game is played primarily on TV, for an audience and—

Oh okay, so a TV is like a really big phone that only could receive streams from five people—

a picture of the game Dream Crush, showing the box and pieces set up. Sourced from Boardgamegeek's Image collection.

Anyway, the board game Dream Crush.

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Game Pile: Puzzmo

I was not at all prepared for the onslaught of time here.

Hey, have you heard of Puzzmo? It’s a website that does a bunch of engaging, carefully cultivated and constructed puzzle games, you know, like like the page from a newspaper, oh okay, okay, so a newspaper was, like, okay, back in the day, to inform you of things like mustache wax sales and the latest asbestos explosions, a company would take a tree, and, rice, slice it very thin, then press that flat, and then they’d roll it up and throw it at your house. At some point in this exchange, people made money doing this, and that the media ecosystem in which sample bridge hand games flourished, alongside crosswords and the entire Garfield media empire.

Anyway, Puzzmo is like that, as a reference frame, except, like, really good.

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Game Pile: Patreon and Channel Trailer Updates!

It’s a new year, so it’s time for two little updates to my video presence online: A new trailer for the Youtube channel, which is here:

Youtube Channel Trailer - 2024

And a new introduction video for my Patreon!

2024 Patreon Video

These are essentially packing peanuts for stuff I make, but I also have to make them. Leaving these things unchanged over a long time is a great way to leave old mistakes, old mindsets on things, and I think that every time I make something like this, I get a little bit better at making the next one.

There’s a script below the fold!

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Game Pile: Exploding Kittens

It’s easy to criticise extremely successful products. I know, I do it all the time because almost all the products I look at are the byproduct of some form of success, otherwise I wouldn’t know about them. I’m not some underground game developer showing up to the weirdest backroom board game conventions and seeing the dankest designs that everyone in the scene is buzzing about. I consume the mainstream slop everyone is seeing thanks to the same general apertures of distribution, and the only thing that differentiates that is that I can’t get a bunch of things that are unavailable because of international shipping rates. It is just the way of these things.

An image of the game box and cards, from Boardgamegeek.
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Game Pile: the 2023 State Of The Pile

Hhhhwhut.

Is the Game Pile?

For those unfamiliar, the Game Pile is a feature on this blog. It’s a column. It’s a weekly project. It is a war on the idea of a backlog. It’s an excuse to talk about whatever I want with a game as a feature. It’s a behavioural practice that I use to make sure this blog is not just twelve games back to back in a streak when I play them. And it’s a physical, tangible, thing.

I started using ‘game pile’ to refer to my games collection. This was originally because it was spread across my Steam collection, and some Good Old Games (remember when that was their name?), and some Humble Bundle games. I thought about it as a sort of form of the backloggery; that I’d play a game, and then write about it, in a purest diary sense. Some of my earliest Game Pile articles are microscopic, meaninglessly tiny examinations of games well before I got my dial in on how much time I spent on writing about games. Back when I started, I very much imagined this blog would be a gateway to working for a paid website selling my writing, ala a games Journalist.

Ironically, I think I was thinking of myself as following a path a bit like Ben Croshaw, which.

Huh, big news on that front this year.

Anyway, you ever wonder ‘what is the Game Pile? What’s the size? Is there progress in it?’

And sort of.

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Game Pile: Just One

Chances are if you’re like me, you’re going to be dealing with some family gatherings, and those gatherings are almost certainly going to feature downtime where people are looking for something to do. And again, if you’re like me you might be thinking well this is the time to bust out a board game or a card game and you have to resist that urge. You have to resist the urge because this is not the time to teach someone how to play Resistance with its tension and its lying and its complicated steps. Right now, you need a party game, and you need a party game so good that it’ll work for almost any grouping that are capable of engaging with the idea of playing a game together. I don’t have a lot of party games in my collection, and I know what my collection would look like if I was limiting myself to …

This party game is one of the easiest games to get playing out of any I’ve ever played. It’s a game that lives alongside other party beasts like Codenames, Werewolf and even the basically-free A Fake Artist Goes To New York.

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Game Pile: Free Stuff!

I talk about games all the time but I am also crucially talking about commercial products. When I talk about TTRPGs or videogames, I’m usually talking about games that you can’t play for free, and that’s a bummer. I don’t like the idea that my writing about games primarily requires some degree of effort or money on your part to check, as it were, my working.

But there are some games I played this year that are free, and I think are interesting and cool and I’d like to make sure you know about them. In the tradition of Decemberween Twenty Twenty Threen, this Game Pile Post is just about a handful of freely available games that I like and want to recommend you try out.

I remember one year I made the Game Pile articles entirely games you could play at parties with friends for no money, like I had some kind of idea of how a Christmas gathering should go. My upcoming Christmas gathering is going to feature someone recovering from COVID though, so like, it’s on my mind how close I don’t want to sit to anyone.

Anyway, free games!

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Game Pile: Here To Slay

Kickstarter has given rise to a particular genre of game which I think of as ‘crowdfundable.’ When you make games on kickstarter it’s very important to have an appealing hook that is communicated visually very distinctly; you simply need a sense of aesthetics to hold what you’re creating together. This means there’s a bunch of games on the market now, games that are pre-emptively successful, which are most notable for their aesthetics and the presence of important artists or setpiece gimmicks, that set precedent for a greater audience of designers to iterate on, and where the underlying game is maybe a bit deserving of a few more iterations of revision on the rules. Y’know, where just being good looking and being attached to an existing brand is enough to get units out the door so the actual game experience underneath it can be a bit ropy.

Oh hey, Here To Slay, what are you doing here?

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Game Pile: Phantom Ink

Let me show you one of my new favourite hidden information party games built around the theme of messing with a ghost. Which is weird in that it’s a genre that’s populated with enough cards that this game went through a period of being known as Ghost Writers before finding that they needed to shift the name to something else.

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Game Pile: Brew

Brew is a 2021 game made by Stevo Torres, and published by Pandasaurus Games, who you may recognise from other titles like Machi Koro, Dinosaur Island, The Mind, The Loop, Ctrl and – you know what, Pandasaurus just have a lot of great games in their catalogue. They also have Brew, which doesn’t tend to get that much attention, and that’s where I could do a great job of pivoting to rubbishing on this game, because hey, if they don’t promote it maybe it’s because it’s baaaad.

No, don’t worry about it, I like Brew a lot.

Brew has a really cool premise for its fiction. Something’s gone all messed up with nature, and day, night, and seasons are all happening at the same time and also at random. You represent one of four alchemists in this space, who’s going to travel into the surrounding forests where different seasons are happening, brew potions, tame animals, and get chunks of the forest to Settle The Hell Down for a bit, and all in the name of establishing some control. You can walk from one section of the forest where it’s winter across a line to blazing summer, while you try to find animals that are transformed by these chaotic magics. Along the way, you brew potions that let you perform transformative magics, channelling the energies of the land into safe, stable places.

The winner is the person who gets the most victory points.

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Game Pile: Ring Fit Adventures

Ah, the best of intentions.

I bought Ring Fit Adventure during the August 2020 lockdown. I bought it from a local business, so it could be delivered cheaply. When it arrived, I unboxed it, showed it to Elli and to Fox, and left it next to the TV for two weeks. I did this because Fox would go to bed at night, and take the Switch with her, meaning that I did not have a joycon-powered way to play the game. I did not check if I could use the spare joycons on my Switch Lite. I did not ask Fox to make space for me.

I just… ignored it for a little while. You know the thinking?

Tomorrow. Tomorrow. I’ll start.

I started using it on September the 4th, in 2020. I took notes, for my first twelve days. Twelve! I thought I’d have a lot more than that. And that was two years ago, with this article staying in draft form for oh so long.

I think that Ring Fit Adventures is pretty good. It’s remarkably nonjudgmental game which makes its particular focus of exercise interesting. I got it to get myself an outlet for exercise that I could maintain under lockdown conditions, when normally, I would be travelling around and doing things… and also, I know that I’m getting older and should have a more regular exercise schedule. It seems pretty good at what it’s doing and it didn’t make me feel bad.

I did, however, feel bad.

Content Warning: Under the fold is less of your typical ‘game review’ or critical engagement with the game text. It’s much more of a diary examining myself and my feelings about this game and how I struggled with it. There’s some reflections on my relationship to my body and I’m honestly embarrassed of it, but I think I need to fight that embarrassment and present a fair account of this game.

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Game Pile: HitchHiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

Did you know that one of the funniest English language authors in history wrote a bunch of videogames, and they’re really funny? Well, you probably did, because Terry Pratchett made that huge Oblivion mod, but also, his peer Douglas Adams also made stuff, though on earlier, clunkier, uglier hardware.

Yes, once more I delve into the infocom vaults to talk to you about a game that is, primarily, just text, almost as if I have some kind of bias towards that kind of media for some reason.

Anyway, I’m going to complain about Twine briefly.

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Game Pile: Dangeresque: The Roomisode Triungulate

Fox and Talen play The Dangeresque Roomisode 1!

Fox and I got a whole new Dangeresque game to play, and that’s what we did! I don’t play the whole thing, I just play the first third, and I try not to play too thoroughly, so my commentary about things isn’t getting in the way of a proper long play, but this is really fun! I recommend it! Thumbnail belowa tha folda!

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Game Pile: Hit The Silk

I like Hit The Silk. If you’re not familiar with Hit The Silk and also to extend the introduction a little bit, it’s a card game where the players are a bunch of crooks on a plane at the last part of a heist movie that has gone completely terrible. The characters of Hit The Silk are all riding a plane without a pilot, with a pile of money to divvy up, and there’s always not enough parachutes. You have two competing demands, then, as a player, one of which is a numeric value (how much money you get, and if you can get over a threshold), and one of which is a binary value (did you get out with a parachute or are you dead).

The plane is going down, and it goes down faster and faster as you go on – so there’s a clock on how many turns players can play and two competing failure states. Oh one of the other competing failure states is that you can kill people and lock them to one another with handcuffs but they can get out of handcuffs with keys but then those keys can’t be used to raid the plane’s lockbox and potentially get more money. You can attack people to take cards off them, and that means that now, you don’t want people to know too much about what’s in your hand, but your only way to get cards into your hand tends to be interacting with people in trades.

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