Under the Geek Tree 2019

Board games and role-playing games vied for dominance under the Geek Tree this year with the arrival of Roll for the GalaxyPandemic Legacy: Season 1, and Vault of Dragons as well as the RPG books Eberron: Rising from the Last War and Alien: The Role-playing Game.

Roll for the Galaxy (Amazon / Website): The Race for the Galaxy is one of my gaming group’s favorite card games. Roll for the Galaxy takes the same basic concept – be the first to build a galaxy-spanning civilization – and trades cards for dice … 111 dice to be specific. This game’s been on my wish list for several years, and it makes me giddy to think of rolling all those dice (or even just a significant fraction of them).

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (Amazon / Website): The original Pandemic board game – in which you take on the role of researchers trying to save the world from rampaging viruses – is a favorite of my gaming group and my family. Pandemic Legacy extends the concept of the original game by including a campaign mode. Instead of just playing the base game over and over, with a fresh world each time, the “legacy” edition remembers what happened in the previous game. Over time, the choices you make (and the games you win or lose) impact how the game’s story unfolds. The Legacy edition’s received rave reviews from those who played it; I’m hoping we’ll find (well, make) enough time in 2020 to play the game to its conclusion.

Vault of Dragons (Amazon / Website): This game takes the concept behind the Waterdeep: Dragon Heist hardcover adventure book and turns it into a board game. Players take on different factions in the City of Splendor as they see out a lost cache of gold coins known as dragons. The factions compete against one another for resources, launching missions around the city and into the megadungeon known as Undermountain.

Eberron: Rising from the Last War (Amazon / Website): Eberron is my favorite Dungeons & Dragons setting that I never get to play … but that doesn’t stop me from getting sourcebooks for this now-classic setting that mixes noir, pulp, and techno-arcana. This new sourcebook updates the setting for 5th Edition.

Alien: The Role-Playing Game (Amazon / Website): One of my goals for 2020 is to play more (and different) role-playing games. The Alien RPG by Free League fits that goal nicely; just like the movie that inspired it, the role-playing game pits everyday people against the ruthlessly efficient killing machines known as xenomorphs. Survival is not guaranteed.

The Electric State by Simon Stålenhag (Amazon / Website): Tales from the Loop featured haunting and beautiful depictions of life in an alternate 1980s Sweden where robots, dinosaurs, and mag-lev skyhaulers coexisted. With The Electric State, Stålenhag does the same for a United States in which the plague of virtual reality has crippled the country. It too takes place in an alternative timeline – the late 1990s – and in a world similar to – but not quite – our own.

Fall; or, Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson (Amazon / Website): A follow up to 2011’s Reamde, this novel finds Richard “Dodge” Forthrast’s consciousness uploaded into a virtual reality. It’s a kind of immortality, but not the kind he was looking for.

Recursion by Blake Crouch (Amazon / Website): This is the first book by Blake Crouch I’ve read, but his work’s gotten good reviews and he’s had a few books on the New York Times bestsellers list. This novel is about a police detective investigating cases of False Life Syndrome, in which a person has a near-perfect memory of another life that never happened.

Bloom County: Best Read on the Throne by Berkley Breathed (Amazon / Website): My favorite comic strip of the 1980s and 1990s returned in 2015. This is the third compilation of the new, internet-published strips covering 2018.

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