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Tales From the Loop is a board game from Free League publishing based on the art book of the same title by Simon Stålenhag. In it, 2-5 players play a group of kids in the ‘80s solving various sci-fi mysteries. Free League was kind enough to send me a free copy to review.

The Tales From the loop box
The Tales From the Loop box


The games comes with 9 standees, 8 dice, 6 machine minis and sheets, 8 dice, 143 assorted tokens,45 time cubes, 5 favor cubes, 35 general counter cubes, 8 character boards and trait tiles, 9 event tiles, 2 dials, 2 summary sheets, a rulebook, a setting book, the game board, and 248 cards. Of those, 7 are scenario cards, 38 are diary cards, 12 are machine response cards, 20 are school cards, 20 are chore cards, 20 are items, 20 are anomalies, and 111 are rumor cards. There are also various bits that go with other things, such as mounts for the standees, stickers to tell the machines apart, and stuff to attach the dials to the board.

Components on the table.
Components on the table.

Like another game I reviewed, Final Girl, the insert has so many compartments that I was a little confused at how everything is supposed to fit in the box. I don’t think we figured out how everything is supposed to fit, but it does fit. There is some empty space (some of which is reserved for expansion content) but I can’t figure out if we’ve mismanaged packing it up or if there is generally more space than necessary.

Tales From the Loop components in the box. Character boards were removed to show the compartments underneath. The minis go under the big machine cards.
Character boards were removed to show the compartments underneath. The minis go under the big machine cards.

I have some minor aesthetic complaints. In the standard edition the minis come unpainted. While I do enjoy painting minis, I’m not super keen on this. The robots are pretty iconic pieces in the Loop art, and I think they really lose something by not being painted.

A pre-painted Paarhufer MK79 from the deluxe edition of Tales From the Loop
And the deluxe edition minis are so pretty.

I also dislike the dice. The color is just not flattering at all. One of my players liked them because they looked like the erasers they used back in school, but I’ve never seen an eraser like that so I can’t relate. I really like some of the specialty tokens though. They all have really nice art and look very good.

The games dice and 5 of the game's scenario tokens
The dice and some of our favorite tokens.

How to Play Tales From the Loop

The game takes place in three phases. First is the school phase. Draw a school card and place the new rumors, then the first player resolves the school event. Move the bots and resolve any firmware upgrades or state changes. Next is the adventure phase where each player has six time cubes to spend investigating rumors, hacking bots, doing chores, and trying to get home in time for dinner. Kids who get home in time for dinner maintain favor with their parents, which can be leveraged for car rides, and kids who aren’t home lose favor and risk getting grounded. When everyone is done then play moves to the end phase. Anyone who has more than 4 items has to discard down to 4, then check who was and wasn’t home for dinner, ground anyone who’s lost all parental favor, then heal injuries and resolve chores.


The theme is very well done. Aside from my issues with the robot minis, I think the game captures the Tales From the Loop feel pretty well. However, some of my players had a hard time grasping what Tales From the Loop was. I was the only one in either group familiar with the art book, and I did my best to try and explain it but I don’t think I did a very good job. The game does come with a booklet about the Loop universe but it’s a lot of text to get through and most people would rather get into playing the game than stop and go through it all. I personally think the setting is still really neat and you can still enjoy the theme without knowing the full lore, but enough of my players brought it up that I felt I had to mention it.

A minor detail that one of my players really loved was the dice probability of success table. It tells you how likely you are to succeed at a given task based on how many dice you’re rolling. Most other games with dice-rolling don’t have something like this, and they were excited to see that there was something to help determine which tests would be worthwhile.

The First Scenario

The game recommends that you run Bot Amok as your first scenario. I personally feel you shouldn’t. I tried it twice with two different groups of players and neither went well for a variety of reasons. The two that I’ll mainly focus on are the amount of time commitment it requires and the amount of interaction you need to have with the bots.

Set-up for our first Bot Amok game
Set-up for our first Bot Amok game

The Bot Amok scenario gives you both weeks instead of just one to complete the scenario. While scenarios that limit you to only one week are technically harder, they can give you a better idea of the amount of time it will take you to play the game, especially on your first run when you aren’t as familiar with the rules. The box has a stated playtime of about three hours, and it generally took about 3-4 hours just to get through one week.

A lot of that time is going to be spent going to the rule book to look something up. It’s an intricate game with a lot of moving parts and it’s hard to keep track of everything. It can be particularly confusing to people who don’t play board games much. The summary sheets help but they don’t have everything you need. There are also certain rules that seem like they should work a certain way, but there’s no direct confirmation in the rules to iron things out.

The bot interaction issue is twofold. One, the scenario starts with 3 robots instead of 2, and due to certain plot events, the robots are harder to maneuver around. In our second attempt, one of our players basically could not go home because there was an angry robot parked outside their house and the consequences for failing the avoid check was to get pushed out of the space. Two, pretty early on in the scenario you’re encouraged to start trying to hack things. Hacking is a mess, and I feel it’s responsible for a good chunk of the problems with the game overall.

Hacking and You

In order to hack, any number of players nearby a machine can spend at least 1 time each. The player who spends the most is the lead hacker who will take control of the robot if the hack succeeds. Each robot has a certain number of firewalls that must be passed for the hack to succeed. Firewalls are randomly drawn and placed on the robot’s board, then players begin to hack. Flip the leftmost firewall token and resolve the one or two skill checks (or special firewall action). Any participating player can make the role or help with the roll. In a 2-3 player game, the lowest amount of firewalls any bot has is 2 and the highest is 4; in a 4-5 player game the lowest is 3 and the highest is 5. If a player fails the firewall while the robot is in routine mode the robot becomes alerted, if it is already alerted the hacking attempt fails and they have to deal with the machine’s response.

In our second attempt at Bot Amok, my character was focused on dealing with rumors and generally not involved with dealing with the machines or hacking attempts, and it was almost like I was playing an entirely different game from the rest of the group. My other two players were frustrated, constantly looking at the rule book to make sure they were doing things right, trying and failing various skill checks. They also had to deal with getting close enough to the machines to try hacking them in the first place, which meant not only spending time to get there but also struggling through even more skill checks to see if they could even enter the spaces near the bot since they were either erratic, alerted, or both. There were so many hoops and hassles that it ultimately ruined the experience for them. We didn’t end the game by winning or losing, we gave up because it had been 4 hours but we were still only halfway through and the other half of the table wasn’t having fun.

In our third playthrough, we tried The Passenger, and generally had a better time, up until we got to the end and we had to go somewhere you could only get to with a machine ride and had to hack a machine. It didn’t feel great and contributed to a general feeling of a lack of player agency. It didn’t come down to what decisions we made or how we organized ourselves, either we succeeded at a repeated series of dice rolls or we did not. In the fourth game we tried Mysterious Islands, which is a much more rumor-focused scenario that we got through without interacting with the machines much at all, and it too was a generally better experience.


So What Should You Run First?

Set-up for the Mysterious Islands scenario
Set-up for the Mysterious Islands scenario

We ran Mysterious Islands again for game 5 with a group of 4 players, 3 of which were new players unfamiliar with the game. They lost halfway through, but they still had fun. It was by far our most successful game. Yes, it is difficult to win, and the lack of direction might put some players off, but I still feel it’s one of the better scenarios for testing the waters and learning the rules due to how straight-forward it is. It can serve as the base for a light-hearted practice run before you get into a bigger mystery.

Players debate about their next move, featuring my fiancé's arm.
Players debate about their next move, featuring my fiancé’s arm.

Other Issues

The game can feel really punishing at times. The consequence for failure is usually taking a condition, which is ultimately a loss of time. Not only is that time locked off, you often have to spend more time to get rid of it. Losing time makes it harder to meaningfully contribute and still get home on time, which punishes you even more by causing you to either not help the team or get grounded and lock off 2 more time cubes. I imagine you’re intended to mitigate this by helping each other with rumor tests and by hacking the machines to make moving around faster, but depending on what rumors you get you might be forced to spread out and not help each other much, and we’ve already discussed the issues with hacking.


I give this game 3.5 out of 5 cthulhus. I think Tales From the Loop has a lot of potential, and there were parts I really liked, but there’s a big learning curve and parts of the game can be really frustrating. You can check out Tales From the Loop on the Free League website. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)


Munchkin Big Box hitting Backerkit!



Hey, Munchkin Maniacs! Ready to level up your game nights? Dive into the ultimate Munchkin experience with the Munchkin Big Box! This collector’s bounty is packed to the brim with over 600 cards decked out in John Kovalic’s iconic art, not to mention the rad new gameboards, standees, and more surprises than you can shake a +1 Sword at!

Here’s the rundown:

  • Playable with 3-6 Players
  • Epic game time of 1-2 Hours
  • Perfect for ages 14+
  • BackerKit steal of $125
Picture courtesy of Steve Jackson Games – Disclaimer: Images Not Final and may change before game release

What you’re getting:

  • A mind-blowing 650+ cards including all your faves and new exclusives
  • A killer box that can hold over 2,000 cards and gear
  • Swanky card separators and dual gameboards for ultimate play
  • Six colorful dice, two Kill-O-Meters, and an updated rulebook to keep things spicy
  • 12 Standies in various colors, standie bases, and a playable bookmark because why not?
  • The cherry on top? A Limited Edition Spyke Enamel Pin and exclusive Munchkin decals!

Since its epic launch in 2001, Munchkin has been slaying at game nights worldwide. Now’s your chance to be part of the legend. Get ready to take a one-way ticket to Munchkin glory, and you need to do is click on to BackerKit and help this bad-boy come alive!

Picture courtesy of Steve Jackson Games – Disclaimer: Images Not Final and may change before game release

So, what are you waiting for? Summon your crew, back ’em on BackerKit, and let’s make the Munchkin Big Box a reality. Your adventure begins now – don’t miss out on the loot, the laughs, and the ultimate betrayal. Back it, unpack it, and start the munchkin madness cuz you KNOW HauntedMTL is up and ready to back!

Picture courtesy of Steve Jackson Games – Disclaimer: Images Not Final and may change before game release

Join the adventure on BackerKit and let’s slay this beast together! 🐉🗡️✨

Click here to back the Munchkin Big Box on BackerKit!

Don’t just play the game, BE the game. Let’s do this, Munchkinheads!


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Let’s! Revolution! @ PAX: Minesweeping Madness



Continuing with video games I got to try out at PAX East, I was delighted to demo Let’s! Revolution! the debut game by developer and publisher BUCK. BUCK has historically been an animation and design studio, notably having worked on Into the Spiderverse and Love, Death, & Robots. Let’s! Revolution! marks their first foray into the world of video game development. I found this so interesting, I spoke to the Creative Director for Let’s! Revolution! on his career and how BUCK navigated that transition (find it here).

Let’s! Revolution! is a roguelike puzzle game inspired by the classic game Minesweeper. In it, you play as one of six heroes fighting their way along the dangerous roads to the capital city. Once there, you can defeat the tyrannical king and save the kingdom from his reign. Released in July of 2023, the game has been met with high praise. Unsurprisingly, this includes the game’s artistic and musical direction (by the team at Antfood), which is both stylistic and beautiful.

Watch the console reveal trailer here for a taste of the delightful animation and music:

I had the opportunity to play a 20 minute demo of Let’s! Revolution! on the PAX East show floor. I played alongside the Creative Director and other people who worked on the game. It’s important to note that this wasn’t long enough to get a feel for all the characters or the replayability of the game. But, it was definitely long enough to be enchanted by the game and the passion of the people who made it. 


The core mechanics are inspired by Minesweeper. The player must use the power of deduction to uncover procedurally generated maze pathways to the exit. However, enemies are hidden along the way and can defeat the player before they reach their goal. Each character has their own special abilities that can help. Items and general abilities can also be bought or discovered to make your hero more powerful. All of these are limited in some way either by energy (your action currency) or limited uses per run.

A screenshot of gameplay from Let’s! Revolution!

From what I played, the gameplay is relatively simple with a mix of chance and strategy. I liked the cozy atmosphere, especially when combined with the ‘high stakes’ mechanics associated with Minesweeper. The UI was easy to understand and interact with while still being cohesive with the storytelling. And of course, the character design is exquisite and narratively driven, with many of the characters presenting as queer. 

Having released on consoles earlier this month (April 2024), Let’s! Revolution! is even easier to access than ever. Let’s! Revolution! is a perfect game for those who love cozy roguelites and beautiful (queer) aesthetics. I definitely recommend it for fans of roguelites looking to try something fresh. Look for it anywhere you game!

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Check out my other PAX posts here!

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Interview with Creative Director Michael Highland: Let’s! Revolution! @ PAX



Another game I had the chance to play at PAX East was, Let’s! Revolution!, a Minesweeper-inspired roguelite puzzle game by animation (and now game) studio, BUCK. I talk more about the game itself in another post. Here, I wanted to highlight the conversation I had with Michael Highland, the Creative Director for Let’s! Revolution! and his journey through video game development.

How did you become involved in video game development?

I studied digital media design in college; this was before there were many programs dedicated to game development. After graduating, I self-published a mobile game called Hipster City Cycle with friends. Over the next few years, I slowly got more freelance work as a game designer, and eventually landed a full-time role at thatgamecompany working on the follow-up to their 2012 GOTY Journey. I worked my way up there and was eventually the Lead Designer on Sky: Children of the Light. Working at thatgamecompany opened a lot of doors professionally. I eventually wound up at BUCK, where I saw the opportunity to help establish a new game studio within a very vibrant existing creative culture.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the development process?


Each studio has its own unique issues based on the people involved. There are commonalities like the need to fight feature creep and building consensus around ideas early in the process when all you have is an abstract grey box prototype to react to. At BUCK the biggest challenge has been channeling the abundance of creative energy and talent into a shippable product. There’s a ton of enthusiasm for games within the company, and without clear product-centric goals (who is the target audience, what platform are we releasing on, what’s the marketing strategy), projects have the tendency to spiral out of scope. Another challenge has been building credibility with publishers. BUCK has an amazing pedigree for animation and design, maybe the best in the world, but when we initially pitched ideas to publishers, they all said the same thing: looks great, but until you’ve shipped a game, you’re too high-risk. That’s what led to us self-publishing Let’s! Revolution! Now that we have a well-reviewed game out in the wild, I feel confident we’ll have more luck with publishers. 

BUCK primarily has its roots in animation, what led the decision to start branching into video game development?

It started with a general excitement about the medium and a desire among the staff to work on a game. Leadership at BUCK is all about providing the staff with exciting creative opportunities, and getting to work on a game, is, for some, a creative dream come true. And putting BUCK content out in the world is a point of pride and a boost to morale. From a business perspective, the fact we can staff out game projects with the top animation and design talent in the world is a huge advantage. We’re already starting to see new opportunities for the service side of the business based on the success of Let’s! Revolution! 

The art, unsurprisingly, is delightful. What were some of the priorities during the character design process and how did those influence the final hero designs?

Our Art Director Emily Suvanvej really led the charge on the look of the game. There are obvious influences like Studio Ghibli, Moebius, and Steven Universe. My shared goal with Emily was to make something together that reflected the diversity of the team’s artistic and lived experiences. The artists put so much love into the character designs and animation, it really shows. 


Some of the primary game mechanics take inspiration from Minesweeper, what was the process like to create your own interpretation of those classic mechanics?

This article goes into depth on this topic. The TLDR is that we took a very iterative approach, at each stage trying to identify what was working about the prototype and lean into that. The initial game concept came together relatively quickly in part because our goal for this project was just to finish a game. We just focused on what was good and kept building on it. I wouldn’t say the final game is “perfect” – but we wound up with a much bigger and higher quality experience than I expected by not letting perfectionism get in the way of making good better. 

Is there anything else you would like to plug or that you think is important for people to know about Let’s! Revolution! or other upcoming projects?

The music and sound design for the game is stellar. We worked with a creative audio company called Antfood and they knocked it out of the park. The audio got an honorable mention from IGF, which I think is extra impressive because most of the other games were audio-centric titles with some unusual hook to the sound design. For the OST, Antfood reworked all of the music from the game into a continuous flow, like a concept album. It’s so good. I love working with them.

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