Tonight I had the pleasure of playing The World of Smog: On Her Majesty's Service, a Victorian-themed board game with strong steam punk elements.
Besides the game play, which I'll get to in a moment, I'm pleased to support World of Smog because of its origins as a fan-funded Kickstarter campaign. The promotional video says more in two minutes than I could in two pages.
For those inclined to skip the video, the game is set in a magical, high-tech alternate London. The events of the game are instigated when Queen Victoria commissions a motley group of preternatural agents to recover four artifacts from the sinister Shadow Market.
The game itself is the sort of simple concept that's disproportionately hard to explain in words but is easily grasped through hands-on experience. Here's the gist of the rules.
- Play takes place on a movable board of thirteen tiles, twelve of which also move.
- Each player may take three (sometimes four) actions per turn, including turning tiles, moving between tiles, and buying magic and items.
- The price of the wares available on each tile depend on the tile's orientation relative to the player.
- Buying something causes a token to be placed on the icon of the wares purchased, which must be removed before anyone can buy the same thing again.
- Players can move only in straight lines of 180 or 90 degrees. Diagonal movement is forbidden.
- Each player is randomly issued two cards before play begins: a card showing that character's exit point from the Shadow Market, and a second card revealing the combination of magical elements (aka ethers) needed to open the gate and escape.
- The first player to acquire all four artifacts, gather his specific ether combination, and move to the tile indicated on his exit card wins the game.
Again, this sounds far more complicated than it is in practice. Even considering the Shadow Master token that grants the controlling player initiative, plus an extra action each round, and the Shadow Agents that inflict various harmful and beneficial effects, the rounds flew by.
Most importantly, everyone had fun exploring the arcane world of the Shadow Market.
The World of Smog: On Her Majesty's Service comes highly recommended for serious and casual board gaming fans.