Geek Salad 002: Player Unknown Battlegrounds, LateShift, Rick & Morty and more


Randy breaks down Player Unknown Battlegrounds while J.A. gives his thoughts on the FMV game, Late Shift. This weeks board game reviews include Super Dungeon Explore and Rick and Morty Mr. Meeseeks Box O’ Fun.

Gambler

Gamble by parker bros

A little known classic board game that deserves more attention than it gets is the 1974 version of Gambler, by Parker Brothers.  This game plays very much like its title implies: forget about strategy; throw the dice and let Lady Luck be your copilot.  And since you don’t need to puzzle out your victory, any group of players can jump right into the game with a brief scan of the rules.

Since this is a Parker Brothers board game, the game play is similar to others of the period: you take turns throwing the dice, moving your token and experience the joy of whatever you’re required to do on the square you landed on (like “Making Enemies” –Roll one die and all other players pay the Jackpot 10 times the number rolled or “Win a Few…Lose a Few” – Place bet. Roll Dice. Even total wins amount bet from Jackpot. Odd total, Jackpot gets amount bet.  Sometimes you draw a card, like, “Good News/Bad News” – Platinum Discovered Beneath Alberta Tar Sands!! (But you traded your stocks last week. Nosedive. Pay the Jackpot $40 or “Good News/Bad News –Hot Tip From Your Stock Broker!! Roll doubles and cop $250 from the Jackpot.  With each play, sometimes you come out a winner, sometimes you’re penalized; and it’s always a gamble.

Gamble by parker bros

This is not a game for the anti-gambling crowd.  When playing this game you gamble at every opportunity, and often entice your opponents to gamble with you.  You bet on the horses. You visit casinos. You play bingo. You play the lottery. If there’s a way for you to gamble in this game, the designers’ thought of it and you’re part of it.  There is even a special “Sweepstakes” dice shaker that you use to try to win big.  Mind you, my sister and I played a lot of this game in our younger days, and the biggest gamble I make these days is taking a chance on a new brand of coffee at the grocery store, so it doesn’t seem to have corrupted our psyches with its wicked ways.

If you’re looking for a retro game that you can enjoy without having to take a course in the understanding the rules, Gambler is the game for you.  It’s suitable for 2-6 players, ages 8 and up.  The more the merrier in this game, though!  Have fun!

Mouse Trap

Has any game inspired so many budding engineers than Mouse Trap? If there ever was a game that taught cause and effect, Mouse Trap was it. Some have claimed it was “too difficult” to put the game board together. Heaven forbid we teach our children the value of perseverance and rewards from accomplishing something difficult, or take the time to pull ourselves from our daily grind to actually spend quality time with our children. Our microwave society seems hell-bent on celebrating “everyone gets a medal day” while removing any challenges from our children’s paths, while decreasing the level of difficulty for any task to the point of being ridiculously simplistic. But I digress…

mouse trap
Box front for the 1963 Mouse Trap game.

Mouse Trap was created by Harvey Kramer, while working for Marvin Glass & Associates, and in 1963, the game was licensed to the Ideal Toy Company. Mr. Kramer was an odd duck: a toymaker who disliked children. (Shades of old Stauf from The 7th Guest!) The original game design called for very little interaction, with players simply moving their pieces around the game board and trying to avoid being trapped. The lack of interactivity wasn’t surprising, as the game was originally envisioned as a toy, and it wasn’t until well within its development that a game board and die were added. The resulting game sold well enough to propel Ideal into the market as a board game publisher.

mouse trap
The incredible Sid Sackson.

The game was redesigned somewhat in the 1970s by the legendary game designer (and freelance game troubleshooter), Sid Sackson. He added extra game elements to improve Mouse Trap’s interactivity: players now collected pieces of “cheese” while roaming the game board, and could now contrive to get their opponents into the special trap space. This version was released in 1984 by Milton Bradley – who had assumed the game’s manufacturing rights from Ideal – and remains the one embedded in the gaming community’s popular consciousness.

mouse trap
A typical Rube Goldberg contraption.

Mouse Trap was indeed a GREAT game. It was inspired by the drawings of Rube Goldberg, whose complicated contraptions had entertained Americans through the middle of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, although Marvin Glass acknowledged Mr. Goldberg’s influence to the game’s design, declined to play the then quite elderly artist any royalties, which Mr. Goldberg had neither the resources nor strength to fight. It’s hard to believe, but board game history is full of dastardly deeds such as this –just ask who actually invented the game of Monopoly. (But I digress…again.)

mouse trap
How the Mouse Trap works…

In a typical Rube Goldberg drawing, many small actions build one upon the other to create a chain reaction. In Mouse Trap, the sequence is as follows: the player turns a crank, which engages a set of gears. As the gears turn, they push against a lever, which causes a shoe to kick a bucket containing a metal ball. The bucket tips over, and the ball is sent down a set of stairs and into an eaves trough (rain gutter), eventually reaching the bottom where a rod holding a “helping hand” sits. Once the ball strikes the rod, a large marble is dislodged, passing through a bathtub, and landing directly onto a diving board, which in turn sends a surprised diver sailing through the air and into a large wash tub. The impact causes a cage to drop down onto the “trap square,” trapping whatever poor mouse is under it. Whew! I don’t know about you, but it sure sounds like a Rube Goldberg device to me.

mouse trap
Mouse Trap game box.

Although Mouse Trap is a game for 2 to 4 players, and is recommended for ages 6 and up, it really isn’t meant for kids to play unsupervised. The game board is too complex and finicky for a child to set up on their own, without a parent to either guide the process or to offer encouragement when things go awry. However, the game remains one of the best teaching tools to show the relationship between cause and effect, and the consequences of small actions. It can lead to a great conversation between parent and child on this topic, or can be a segue to a long discussion on the unforeseen consequences of undesirable behavior. Any game that can accomplish those tasks is a classic board game, and highly recommended!

And just because it is the best live-action Rube Goldberg machine I’ve ever watched on YouTube, here’s This Too Shall Pass from OK Go:

The Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Crisis

The Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Crisis

Growing up in the 70s and watching TV was awesome, with shows like Battlestar GalacticaThe Incredible HulkSpace: 1999Buck Rogers in the 25th CenturyMork & MindyWonder Woman, The Shazam/Isis HourThe Star Wars Holiday Special,Happy DaysThe Bionic Woman, and The Six Million Dollar Man.  Parker Brothers was quick to capitalize on the popularity of many of these shows within their own target demographic by releasing games based on each series.  Some were terrible, the board game equivalent of shovelware, but one in particular was a classic – The Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Crisis.

The Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Crisis

The Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Crisis

Bionic Crisis was a game that contained both elements of chance and deductive reasoning.  To set up, each player took one of the four Console Boxes and inserted a Console Card into it.  The red and yellow board pegs are placed somewhere where everyone can reach them. Then the deck of Bionic Circuit Cards was shuffled, and one was dealt to each player, who kept it hidden from his or her opponents.  Finally, the deck of Number Cards was shuffled, with each player given three cards and the rest placed face down for everyone to draw from during gameplay.  Once set up, the play began.

The Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Crisis

The object of the game was simple: be the first to use the Number Cards to duplicate the Bionic Circuit of the player on your left.  Each turn a player called out a number from one of the Number Cards.  If number was on his left-hand opponent’s Circuit Card as one of the ten red spaces, he got a red peg.  If the number was adjacent to a red space, a yellow peg was given instead, and if the number completely missed the mark, then the player ended his turn empty-handed. (Yes, I realize you now want to chant, “You sank my battleship!”…but control yourself.)  This process continued until the Bionic Circuit Card was revealed.

The Six Million Dollar Man - Bionic Crisis

A shortcut to winning the game was to simply map out the entire Bionic Circuit Card by making a guess.  If you were correct, you won the game.  However, if you were wrong – even by a single circuit – you were no longer able to win, though you still had to answer questions from your opponent.  This consequence were so severe that guesses were rarely worth the risk.  We had a House Rule that granted up to three guesses to each player, which added more deduction and less random chance to the gameplay.

The Six Million Dollar Man - Bionic Crisis

Parker Brothers labeled the box for ages 7 to 14, which is quite accurate, as Bionic Crisis was clearly not an adult’s strategy game.  However, the game still brings back fond childhood gaming memories, and must be judged for what it was: a child’s game based on a television property.  It was fun then, and if you can bring back your inner child, it can be fun to play even today.  Only the best classic games can do that!

WHOSIT?

WHOSIT

A little known classic board game that’s fun for the whole family is WHOSIT? by Parker Brothers.  Released in 1976, WHOSIT? is a game where players begin by randomly taking one of 20 Character cards, keep it hidden from other players’ eyes, and then try to guess who has which card based upon the questions they draw from the Question Card deck.  Players answer YES or NO depending on the question, such as, “Are you holding something?”, “Do you have glasses?”, “Are you male?”, or “Do you smoke?“ Lucky players can draw a “Ask ANY Question” card, which contains all the questions in the deck on one card.

WHOSIT

The characteristics vary from card to card, such as the Genius (White / Male / Child / Glasses / Tie / Gold Room), the Vampire (White / Female / Adult / Blue Room), or theHero (Black / Male / Adult / Moustache / Smoking / Jewellery / Gold Room).  Players pick up Question cards that give them the opportunity to see who has what feature. But it’s not as easy as you might think, because there are a few curveballs thrown in.  Some characters may not answer truthfully, no matter what the question is, such as the Spy (Always LIES / Oriental / Female / Holding Cigarette / Adult / Hat / Smoking / Glasses / Red Room), the Censor (Always Says NO), or the Director (Says YES or NO / White / Male / Adult / Moustache / Gold Room / Scarf / Holding Riding Crop).

The game board helps in identifying players as it shows each of the characters as they are shown on their Character Cards.  This is darn right necessary when you start trying to remember all the different answers to match up who might be whom. There are no player tokens or dice; the game board is provided just for a place to store the Question cards and as a visual reference.

Once a player is ready to make a guess on the identities of all their opponents, a special box, divided in two (one side for YES and one side for NO), is handed around the room.  If their character card has been identified, then they put their chip into the YES side, if not, into the NO side.  If all the chips are on the YES side when the box is opened, the game is over.

This is a fun family game that can be played in less than an hour.  There is nothing risqué about the characters or the questions, so even the younger members of the household can play (though they will need to be able to read their Character card).  Although as little as two and as many as six players can play WHOSIT?, more players make for a more challenging game.  WHOSIT? is yet another wonderful Parker Brothers classic game.  Highly recommended!

Why everyone should have some eurogames in their tabletop collection

euro board games

The other day I sat and looked at my tabletop collection to see how many of them were Ameri-trash and how many were Euro games and it turns out that I have more of the latter.  Now, some of you may be asking what is the difference between them?  Well, as some of you might remember, in my last article I went on to talk about how there are games that are all about how the game plays (game mechanics) but they don’t have too strong of a theme.  These types of games are called “Euro games” and European developers, mainly Germany, make them reason for which they are sometimes called “German-style board game”.  Some of the games that belong to this category are Power grid, Castles of Burgundy, Agricola, Alhambra and Ticket to Ride.

euro board games

Power grid is an example of a great Euro game that has won several European game awards and even though it was originally published in 2004 it still sells really well and has had many expansions as well as games developed in the genre.  When you look at power grid the theme itself is nothing crazy, you’re an owner of a power company that needs to buy power plants, buy resources to power those plants as well as build said plants in cities across the U.S. or Europe.  When you look at the game it looks bland and you would think that you would not have a good time playing it.  How wrong you would be once you actually play the game. The mechanics are superb, the global economy that the game creates is amazing and after you are done playing it you want to reset the board and play again.  That is what makes a game a great game in my opinion.

euro board games

Now to go and describe Ameri-trash games they are usually games that have an outstanding theme to them but their game mechanics fall a bit behind their euro brethren, not to mention that they involve more of luck instead of strategy. Some of the games that fall in this category are:  Arkham Horror, Stracraft: the board game, Clue, Monopoly and Super Dungeon Explore.

euro board games

One of the best Ameri-trash games I have ever played is called Arkham horror.  This is a phenomenally themed tabletop game set in the Cthulu mythos.  The game does an excellent job in making you feel like you are a paranormal investigator in the roaring 1920’s trying to stop this great evil from destroying the earth.  When you sit down and look at this marvelous game set up on a dining room table you are intimidated into thinking this game is way too complicated for me to play.  When you look through the rulebook it makes the game seem like it is more complex than it actually is.  Trust me!! I read through the book multiple times before looking up a video online on how to play the game.  Once I saw how easy it actually was to play I sat down and gave it a whirl.  Let me tell you the game blew my mind away with how awesome the theme was but when you actually looked at how the game played, especially when compared to a euro game, it didn’t quite stack up to it.  Now I’m not saying that people should not try out Ameri-trash games but if I really had a choice between the two I would definitely pick up a Euro game before I grab an Ameri-trash game.

euro board games

When you look at both these game types it goes without saying that some people when they look for their games they want to get a great experience out of it.  Heck for me as long as I have fun by the end of the game I will try anything.  Now, there are people out there wishing that there is a game that takes the best of both worlds and puts them together.  Well I’m here to tell you that there was once such game.  The game in question is called Twilight Imperium.  It was a game that when it was developed they took the great game mechanics from a euro game and paired it up with the great theme of an Ameri-trash game.  The result was a huge success that sold extremely well and still to this day has had expansions come out for it.  The only thing that I have heard from people who have played it complain about is the fact that you need like eight hours to actually play an entire game of it.  For me that is way too much time to sink in one sitting and, I would love to give that game a try in small chunks.  The only problem I would have is where I could leave the game sitting because I have two cats who would love to jump up on the table and play with the new cat toys.

euro board games

All things said this is the reason why I feel like people should have more euro games in their collection.  For me they have been a great addition to my shelf that my wife and I find ourselves picking up and playing multiple times over and really enjoy playing them.  In my next article I hope to come up with a list of my personal ten euro games that everyone should have in their collection and why I feel that way about them.  Until them guys remember to grab some friends together and play some games.

Stop Thief

Stop Thief - Parker Brothers

Another one of my all-time favorite board games is Stop Thief!, produced by Parker Brothers in 1979.  This was one of the first electronic board games: players used a handheld device called the Electronic Crime Scanner to hear clues, like the sound of the thief walking across the floor, running down the street, breaking a window, or opening a door. Players move little private detective tokens around the game board, using the Electronic Crime Scanner to check out buildings and search for the thief.  But every turn the thief moves, too, so you have to keep up!

It’s a game of deductive reasoning, meaning random guesses won’t help you.  The Electronic Crime Scanner can replay the clues to aid you in your quest to locate the thief.  Once you think you know where he is, you call the police, and hope to hear the sounds of the thief being taken away to jail.  But if you’re mistaken, you’ll hear the sound of the thief escaping, and a big raspberry for your trouble. That sound still makes me cringe as it represents the same thing today as it did over 20 years ago: the utter failure of my detective skills.  And I still smile when I hear the thief being taken away by the boys in blue, all courtesy of the Electronic Crime Scanner.

Stop Thief - Parker Brothers

The game play is fairly straight-forward: there are 19 possible locations (marked in red on the game board) that the thief may have committed the crime.  Detectives chase down the thief as quickly as possible, trying to arrest the thief first.  There are 10 WANTED cards for a total of ten thieves to be hunted down, and the first player to earn $2,500 in Reward Money wins the game.  Along the way players draw STOP THIEF SLEUTH cards which can send them to different locations on the game board, earn free turns, lose turns, or even get extra clues.  Between the cards and the dice rolls, there is enough random elements to make games fresh each time they are played.

A quick note on the box colors in the images you see above and those you see in the original TV spot below: Stop Thief was sold in Canada and the United States with different box designs.  The Canadian version of the game had to be in both English and French, so the box had to be altered to show this (and there are extra French-only game cards in addition to the English once, also).  The American version was only in English.  Though they have different box covers, they are otherwise the same game with the same game play.

Stop Thief! is yet another classic board game.  It may be older, but it still has what it takes to be hilarious family fun, and is recommended for 2 to 4 players ages 10 and up.

 

Why I agree that we are in the golden age of boardgaming

battlestar-galatica-boardgame

In this day and age it is hard to ignore a great phenomenon that is sweeping across the land and that has evolved from a lonely hobby to a widespread craze, yes my friends, I am talking about board games!! Now, I have considered myself a gamer in all rights because I love to play videogames but, when I think about it I really wasn’t. You see, in my world the only games that existed were videogames; granted I enjoy to throw down a game of monopoly with my friends time to time but that was it, to me, board games were only monopoly, clue, life and dragon and dungeons but what I didn’t know that there was a whole other world out there with board games for me to discover.  Everything started approximately six months ago and it was as follows:

Mr. C: Do you like to game?

Me: What do you mean? Like what type of videogames?

Mr C: No, I mean board games.

Me:  (Chuckles) Oh yeah!! I like to play monopoly and those games.

Mr. C: No, no those types of board games. Haven’t you heard about Dominion, Agricola, Puerto Rico, Is a Small world…. (And he kept naming games)

monopoly

 What he showed me that day was some of the most amazing games that I had ever seen and played.   It opened my eyes to a new world that I never knew existed. That night I went online and started to look up what I could about these games that I was newly introduced to.  What I found blew me away.  I found tons of blogs and websites with reviews and tons of info about all these different games.

One of my favorite blogs that have a phenomenal game reviews is Shut up and Sit down. This blog is written by a group of British guys. A few days ago, one of them wrote an article about how in these days we are living “the golden age of board games” and it was a great read by all means.  In this article he goes on to talk about how many games have come out a few years back compared to the number of ones that were coming out now.  When you actually look at the numbers it’s astonishing.  The actual number of games that have come out has nearly tripled.  Now you may ask why would that be and I looked into that same question.  In the past two years, the number of people that have actually bought and played board games have increased at about the same rate at which the number of games have come out.  It’s simple math if demand goes up for a product companies are going to jump on the bandwagon to get some of that money.

zombicide

There are some great games that have amazing themes to them and they are extremely fun to play. For example, zombicide and super dungeon explore are some that come to mind. To be honest, I thought that North America was where all the big games were coming from but boy how wrong I was!  As it turns out the biggest place where games come out is actually from Germany.  Every year all the major board game companies debut their games at Essen, the largest board gaming convention on the planet.  And yes before you ask that is on my bucket list to go see before I die hehe.

Now when talking about games you have two groups to talk about, euro games and what they call ameritrash.  Euro games are games that will implement some of the best mechanics known to board gaming with very little theme to the actual game.  When playing a euro game you will sit there and look at the game and say wow this game really has no story or theme to it but wow what a great game.  Now when it comes to what they call ameritrash games these are games that have an amazing theme but can definitely use some mechanics to help it along.  When you play one of these games you will love the story or the theme but will with the game played a little bit better.  Now to give you guys some examples of eurogames would b e games like the castles of burgundy.  Castles puts you in the role of a duke that has a bit of land and has to build his land through tiles that you pick up dependant on two dice that you roll.  It is an amazing game based on the mechanics but when you see the actual game and theme you think this can’t possibly be fun.

super dungeon explore

Now when it comes to American based games you have to think about games like starcraft the board game.  Yes, there is a board game based on the starcraft video game.  The game itself looks amazing, has some of the best components however, the actual game play of it is a bit dry when compared to the euro games.

Now to get back on track as to why I agree that this is the golden age of board gaming.  We are in a time when more and more people are actually spending money on board games, and in turn companies are making more and better games.  When you look at it this way, you can go out and spend 60 bucks on a night out with some friend and only get a few hours of entertainment out of it.  You also can spend that same 60 bucks and get yourself a great board game and invite your friends over and have hundreds of hours of great times with them.  Let me tell you, I am not the only one that has looked at this and thought man I would rather get together with my friends and sit and have a great time where we can always think back and say man we had such a great time that night.  Because of this very reason companies that would never have a chance to make a game can throw it up on kickstarter and get their game printed.

I, for one, am a videogamer that has slowly but surely been transformed more and more into a boardgamer and I am proud to be one.  I hope that one day you can give them a chance to try some out.  One piece of advice I can give fellow gamers is that if you are not sure if you would like board gaming or not, I would find a local game shop and check to see if they have gaming nights and swing by and give them a shot.  Although, I have to warn you as once you get bitten by the bug you might never go back.

Ten Questions: Yehuda Berlinger: It’s Alive

Yehuda Berlinger a blogger, avid gamer, all-around artist and game designer, is also the creative mind responsible for the forthcoming and frankly brilliant looking It’s Alive board game by Reiver Games. What follows is an interview Yehuda was kind enough to offer to the rowdy lot that inhabits Gnomes Lair. Enjoy it.

Yehuda Berlinger
1. Let’s start with something personal, shall we? Nice. How did you get into game design?

The same way that artists get into art: it’s something that I must do.I can’t help but tinker with any game I have, while, at the same time, trying to figure out the reasons that the designer or publisher came up with the final rules as they are.

After some experimenting, I began to realize that there is nothing holy in the end results of a game. Often as not, they are just that way because the designer or publisher had to choose something. Often, it was the first number they came up with, or whatever matched the type of game that they liked to play.

Since different people like different things, it seems obvious to me that games should be played differently by different people. There is no “right” way to play the game, despite what the rules say. There are better and worse rule sets, but even then, if people like playing the worse one, why stop them?

After tinkering with other games, the next natural step was to take different game ideas and try putting them together into new games.

2. Is it only board games you’re interested in designing or are you looking to expand into video gaming and/or RPG territory?

Definitely not video games; they’re not my thing, even though I’ve programmed for many years.RPGs: if someone wants to hire me, I’d take a stab at it. Naturally, whenever I play RPGs, I’m always making up new classes, weapons, spells, and so on.

3. Care to mention some of your favorite games?

I interpret the word “game” fairly liberally. Not only does it include different game genres, but it would have to include different ways to play the games that I have.For computer games, I’ll play board and card games or rogue-like games. In board and card gaming, Go, Bridge, Scrabble, Anagrams, Puerto Rico, El Grande, and a few other top Euro-games. For Puerto Rico, my favorite is playing with random buildings from the sets I created. For CCGs, it’s drafting cards, and building decks on the fly.

I also love Frisbee and Soccer. I like word based party games. I like dice-light role-play and biblio-drama. And I like inventing games, as a game.

Yehuda Berlinger

 

4. So on to your brand new It’s Alive! board game. It’s your second one right? Care to describe it a bit?

It’s actually a re-theme and slight tweak of the first one. The new theme replaces the Menorah theme which appealed to Jews and probably some religious Christians.It’s gone through several other themes as well.

5. A set-collection and board game it is, then. How do those game mechanics work?

It’s a simple set-collection, auction game, where you have to collect eight different items in order to complete the set. Each round, you either buy the item for its value, toss it out for half its value, or auction it off.That’s the heart of the game. In most games, you likely have to do all three in some combination. And the game is naturally balanced so that almost every game is fairly close.

The simplicity and auction ideas are fairly reminiscent of Knizia’s design style, I believe.

6. Regarding the weird an wacky game setting/plot. Did you decide on it? Could you briefly describe it?

The new theme is entirely Jack’s idea. I merely gave my approval. I think it’s a good theme for the market he’s aiming at.It’s about a mad scientist trying to collect enough body parts to build a monster. Sometimes you find whole coffins, and sometimes the rampaging villagers try to burn you down. The truth is, I think Jack chose the theme because, when you have your entire body, you get to yell “It’s Alive!”

The game won’t be able to sit on the same shelf as games like Rummikub and Canasta, and I know that some little old ladies would buy the game if it did. But that’s not the first market Jack’s looking to approach.

7. Still, should be fine for kids. What’s the target group of It’s Alive?

Gamers and geeks.

8. Are you happy with the final product and Reiver Games? Why did you decide to go for a limited 300 copies only release?

I haven’t seen it yet, and, in fact, it’s not actually ready yet. The 300 copies is, again, Jack’s way of operating. He hand cuts and assembles each game by himself.

9. Anything planned for the future? Should we be looking forward to more designed by Yehuda games?

Absolutely. I always have a few game ideas buzzing around. Every once in a while I’ll make up a prototype and bring it to my game group. If it’s good, I’ll move forward with it.

10. Improvise, please. Is there anything you ‘d like t add. Something related to your blog perhaps?

Game design is just another art, like writing, poetry, and creating literature parodies of famous poems and legal codes. It’s what keeps me going.

Thanks for taking the time, best of luck with It’s Alive!

Thanks, Gnome.

Kondtantinos or Gnome is a classic and indie gaming writer. You can see his wonderful blog by following this link – Gnomes Lair.

RISK, Strategies Explained

risk

Risk (BGG entry), according to sources that prefer to call themselves voices and are not to be taken seriously, is one of the most successful, imitated and thus influential board games ever devised. It also is a particularly enjoyable game, that comes in a variety of flavours ranging from Star Wars to Lord Of The Rings to Classic, with the added bonus of being less prone to shatter friendships than Diplomacy. Also, also, Risk has the dubious honour of being the first truly mainstream wargame.

With wargaming, though, come tactics and strategies. Strategy guides too. Some of the best can apparently be found over at the rather specialized RISK, Strategies Explained… website. It even has a basic beginners guide. An advanced one too, obviously. Try them out in battle (for free), over at netRisk or by downloading the very Risk-esque Dominate Game.

Demonlord

demonlord

Dwarfstar Games, a former division of Heritage USA, that was recently (as in 2003) saved from ultimate financial doom by Reaper Miniatures, was quite the board game creator back in the early 80s. They released solo-games, micro-games, epic-games, goblin-games, strategy-games, even 2-player games (!), with such lovely 80s names as Barbarian Prince, Dragon Rage, Goblin, Demonlord or Star Smuggler. Good news is you can download all these games for free, print them out and play them. Or just browse through their PDF manuals, tokens and maps and have a glimpse at gaming history…

Anyway. Just visit this beautiful and cozy corner of the web for you downloads. Ah, don’t thank me. Thank Mr. Forbeck instead (who actually thanked Mr. Costikyan for first discovering this little treasure).

[UPDATE]: The excellent Vintage Gamer blog has reviews of both Barbarian Prince and Demonlord. Check them out, you really should…

Mutant Chronicles Monopoly

mutant chronicles

Quite straightforward this one, I believe. Save the picture (taken from this excellent site), print it, spend a few hours preparing thematically appropriate game-cards, use your Warzone minis, 2d6 and enjoy a game of Mutant Chronicles Monopoly.

Zombies 2

 zombies2

Zombies!!! 2 is, as should have already been noticed by any bearded board games’ scholar, closely related to the excellent board game Zombies!!! An expansion actually, or to elaborate a bit, a great, tidy, compact and beautifully produced expansion. Assuming those interested in Zombies!!! 2 are already Zombies!!! players (well, they really should be, as the original game is quite required to enjoy the Z!!!2 affair), I’ll get right to the new stuff. Ruleswise you get a slightly tweaked core ruleset, that helps speed the game up and clean up slight problems, a nice FAQ and quite a few brand new rules. Without wanting to spoil the overall fun-of-the-fan I’ll just mention two of them: 1) you get to ride vehicles, 2) tougher (government enhanced) zombies are introduced. Add to the improved rules:

– 15 new map-tiles that will let you fight the undead in a military base
– 30 new event cards (actually 2*15 new ones)
– 6 goofy looking but definitely nice glow-in-the-dark (super) zombies
– some blank replacement cards & tiles
– and (at last) quite a few (around 50) red heart tokens

and you’ll understand why this expansion too, is a no brainer!

That’s an (eight and a half) out of (ten).

Guillotine

Ladies and Gentlemen,

King Louis the XVI was neither the worst nor the dumbest of the rulers of France during the 17th and the 18th century. Although one could say that he lacked a certain determination – a fact that may be perceived as an indication of cowardice, he cannot be considered as particularly mean or nasty for his era (let us not forget that the competition in that domain was rather fierce…). On the other hand, the publicity given to some “saucy” details regarding the private life of his wife (the fabled Marie Antoinette), definitely affected Louis’ public image, but then again, no one can sanely claim that the scandals of a queen may be the sole cause of a revolution (unless we’re talking about some amazingly humongous, supergalactic, inter-species-erotic scandals)

This card game is not about the scandals of Marie Antoinette. After all, it is called “Guillotine”, not “Scandals”. On the contrary, it focuses on heads: Initially, as parts of the human anatomy; after a moment in time, as contents of baskets or spike ornaments.

Guillotine Card Game

The players (2 to 5) are given the privilege to impersonate for about 30 minutes (the duration of each game) the sensitive souls with the modest hats, those deeply political figures, without the help of which history would not have evolved as rapidly. At last, ‘Guillotine’ pays appropriate homage to the underestimated class of executioners, and portrays them in a time when there services were very much sought after: Revolutionary France.

Gaming purpose focuses on “collecting” the heads of the most famous of nobles, military officials and members of the clergy, or any other rotten supporter of the Ancien Régime. Of course, the value of each collected head is connected to the reputation of the deceased: The executioner who reaps the iconic head of the King is valued much more highly that another, who only manages to behead a puny piss boy, or a court guard.

Game mechanics are wonderfully simple: the noble cards are arranged in a line, each player collecting the head of the noble at the front. Players can alter the arrangement of the line, by playing specific action cards (such as bribing the guards, rescuing a Noble etc.). The player with the most valuable collection of heads wins. It’s that easy. It’s luck you need in this game, not wits.

Still, this simplicity adds to the overall enjoyment. It is not only the hilarious artwork of Christopher Rush, Quinton Hoover and Mike Raabe; Guillotine exudes an aura of lightness (in a “let’s-all-chop-heads-and-sing-till-we-get-tired” kind of way). Chopping and singing. Or to put more eloquently: chopping as entertainment for the masses.

The game keeps a loose connection with historical events. Players can reap the heads of King Louis, Marie Antoinette, Rovespiere (whose decapitation historically marks the end of “la Grande Terreur”, which partially takes place in the game as well), while other action cards make reference to famous punch lines (‘let them eat cake’) or literary figures (the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’).

Nice game: easy as pie; and funny. “Guaranteed to brake the ice at parties

War on Terror

 war on terror the board game

I’ll be honest and say I’ve never played The War on Terror board-game and haven’t really been following TerrorBull Games. Apparently that’s been quite a mistake of mine as a) The War on Terror seems like a truly great and impressively illustrated satirical game, and b) as TerrorBull definitely has a taste for the weird, the humorous, the political and the downright odd. In a nutshell? Well, I’ll have to do my research or most probably grab a new board game and let you know what the fuss is all about.

After all, the second edition of The War on Terror will soon be released. And -according to its publishers- it will be great. Spectacularly so. Oh, and yes, you can also get your cute little faces on the game’s money via one, two, three, four, five, six outrageous auctions. It’s all part of the aptly (let alone, cunningly) named Get Your Face on Money craze funded by the ever-popular World Bank of Capitalism. Or -of course- not.

Proletariat

Proletariat-The Uprising-molotov
We’ve already enjoyed Vampire: The Requiem, Werewolf: The Forsaken, Mage: The Awakening, Something: The Something Else, but now the time has come to rise, raise our left fist and salute Proletariat: The Uprising. It’s a vaguely satirical, not particularly funny, yet quite interesting RPG-ish board game. Grab it here. It’s free. Obviously.

Talisman Returns

 TalismanBoardgame

Games Workshop, even if via the deceptively named Black Industries, seems to be returning to a few beloved games of yore, that don’t necessarily fit into the wargames category. It all began (Oh, praise the Dark Gods, cherish the Ruinous Powers, thank LotR!) with the new edition of the excellent Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay RPG, went on to its 40k counterpart and is now maturing with the forthcoming release of Talisman edition 4, bound to happen when the stars are right or sometime during October 2007; whichever comes first, really. Oh, and yes, I did mean Talisman, as in Talisman.

TalismanBoardgame

Why not then hop over to the official announcement? Why not indeed. Just click here, or there for a nice press release. Expect to read something along the lines of: “Talisman is a cult fantasy board game for 2 – 6 people. Players control a myriad of characters from a heroic warrior to a powerful sorcerer. In this perilous adventure, play centres around the journey of these gallant heroes to find and claim the Crown of Command, a magical artifact with the power to destroy all rivals and make the bearer the true ruler of the kingdom.”


Puttanopoly

puttanopoly-

Monopoly. Definitely not a good thing, thoroughly described by Lenin, detested by most, but also one of the landmark board games of the 20th (and apparently 21st) century. And with more than 100 different versions too. Problem is, Monopoly doesn’t have the history we all believed it had… Head over at SnakeOil labs, read everything about Anti-Monopoly, the true story of the game and the obscure Landlord’s Game , thus preparing thyselves for something completely different. The actual point of this humble little post.

Puttanopoly:

puttanopoly

An Italian adaptation of Monopoly, that does to board games, exactly what Pimp: The Backhanding (by none other than the prestigious White Wolf of Vampire fame) did to card games. Unfortunately, it’s only in Italian. Still, the idea is internationally understood. Be a hooker, avoid evil pimps, get to the rich customers, avoid Jack-the-Ripper wannabes and cops and (that’s the Monopoly bit) protect and expand your turf.

If you must know, Puttanopoly derives from the word puttana, a mostly Italian -partly Greek- word that could not mean anything else but whore…

Great stuff. Let’s wait for a translation, right?


Class Struggle

 class struggle - avalon hill

Yes, this is Karl Marx. Yes, yes, he is indeed armwrestling a Rockefeller and both were the stars of an Avalon Hill board game’s box-art. Not any board game’s of course, but a game’s created by New York University professor Bertell Ollman as a socialist alternative to Monopoly. Obviously in the 70s when such ideas were actually allowed (!). This infamous and nowadays obscure board game was (and still is) called Class Struggle.

(Oh, and since it was released in the 70s and then again in the 80s don’t expect the glossy/ultra-polished feeling of contemporary board games.)

Class Struggle manages to combine marxist theory, excellent humor and sheer fun. Each player is randomly (as in real life) assigned as a class and races towards the center of the board (in a spiraling way) in order to win the final confrontation of the classes. Should the workers or their allies win, it’s socialism. Should the capitalists or their allies win, it’s not. The rules are simple, logical and you can check them out here, on Bertell Ollman’s NYU page.

The one most interesting and enjoyable aspect of Class Struggle is the way in which real life is put inside the game mechanics. Here’s is an example of a worker’s Monopoly-styled chance card: ‘If you haven’t washed the dishes or made supper in the last week, move two spaces back’ (which is in game terms a bad thing). On the equivalent capitalist’s chance card you get told to move two spaces ahead (a good thing). Simple as that. Educating too.

That’s an (eight) out of (ten).

Space Hulk 2nd Edition

Space Hulk 2nd edition is apparently the 2nd edition of the 1st edition Space Hulk, which was published by the massive miniature making 500lb gorilla, usually referred to as Games Workshop. Thus, the setting of the game is none other than the dark, sci-fi and quite gothic 41st millennium. A time of war, theocracy, aliens and incomprehensible gods, war, famine, war preparations, battles, war and 80s music. And as war seems to feature quite heavily in the imagined year 40,000, a war inspired game shouldn’’t come as a surprise to anyone. The fact that humanity of the distant future is struggling under the boot of a rotting vegetable-Emperor, is quite irrelevant to Space Hulk 2nd edition being a war-themed board game and not a wargame. The Alien, Aliens etc craze that raged throughout the late 70s and 80s should explain the overall feeling/aesthetics of the board game, that are glorified in the following picture (directly scanned from the rulebook):

 spacehulkbox2nd

Silliness aside, the Warhammer 40000 universe, Space Hulk‘s setting, is a very rich in detail and well-portrayed world. An unholy bastard of a fantasy and sci-fi setting it may be, but also one of the better gaming worlds around. Space Hulk 2nd edition (Space Hulk henceforth) is accordingly one of the better board games around. Perhaps the best I’’ve ever played, and one I can’’t recommend enough. It might be difficult to track, but at least it’s easier to find than the really obscure first edition, and it will not cost you a fortune. When it was released, some 10 years ago, it was actually great value for money. You bought an -almost- huge box that contained:

– a 36 page full-color rulebook
– a 52 page full-color mission book
– 10 Space Marine Terminator plastic miniatures of the usual Games Workshop quality
– 20 Genestealer plastic miniatures
– dozens of high quality counters
– almost 100 beautifully illustrated board sections
– 7 dice

Space Hulk‘’s game mechanics are rather simple, but extremely atmospheric and varied (that’’s what a 52 page long mission book is good for). Each player (in this two-player game) controls either the tough-as-nails and hip as anything from the 80s Space Marine Terminators, or the Giger-esque, fast and numerous Genestealers. After sides are picked, the players battle it out using the missions (and dice and miniatures) provided, over the modular cardboard terrain, that represents the narrow corridors of an ancient and derelict spaceship. The rules are simple, simpler than the first editions’’ (no stopwatch, just actions/time units per turn for example), but really interesting and appropriate. For example: the Terminators player can’’t see the Genestealers models, but only blips on his radar, represented by small counters his opponent places and moves over the board. Each counter can stand for either one, more or even none of the aliens; this of course can only be revealed when the Space Marines establish eye contact with the blip. Pure genius and a prime example of how atmospheric Space Hulk is.

In typical board game review fashion let me also inform you, that each game (match?) lasts for about an hour. In not-so-typical fashion I’’ll let you know a small fact: Space Hulk has been successfully ported to video game format. Take a look here. This video game even had a PC and console FPS sequel. Fancy, that.

Oh, and concerning my grading of Space Hulk, I guess …

that’s a (nine and a half) out of (ten).

Why I Prefer Video Games Over Board, Card, and Pen & Paper Games

Why I Prefer Video Games Over Board, Card, and Pen & Paper Games

I grew up playing a ton of board games, card games, and pen-and-paper RPG games but for many years now I’ve been sick of playing them and have favored video games ever since multiplayer and playing online against other people became abundant.

Battletech Box
Battletech Box

Well, even before then back in the days of hotseat (hotseat is multiple players playing on the same system at the same physical location), especially on my Commodore 64 and Amiga, as well as my friends’ NES, Sega Genesis, and SNES consoles, I would rather play a good balanced video game than deal with the arguments and drama that playing traditional games came with.

Now I love board games, card games, and RPGs but the problem I found throughout the years is that most people you play with will cheat at every opportunity or they don’t really know the rules of the game or they create their own house rules that sometimes make the game have nothing to do with the original game.

I grew up playing Monopoly, Sorry, Talisman, Battletech, Hero Quest, Munchkin, Guillotine, Chez Geek, Magic the Gathering, Jihad (the Vampire the Masquerade card game), Dungeons and Dragons (every version; AD&D every version as well), Shadowrun, Mechwarrior, and Vampire: The Masquerade. I’ve played more but those are the ones that easily pop into my head right now. I remember playing Battletech at a game store called Gamesters here in Miami with my friend Tom Birmingham and it was us two against two other players. The other players would do shit like waste time then make their guys move twice and fire twice. Even with their cheating, we decimated them.

Munchkin Card Game
Munchkin Card Game

For card games, especially Munchkin, there would be so many arguments that one time my friends stayed up all night playing the game and they decided to wake me up at 5 AM asking me to make a rule judgement. The conversation went something like this:

Friend 1: “Yeah we wanted to know how to interpret the Loaded Die card…”
Me: “You have got to be fucking kidding me. You know I’m going to kick you guys each in the balls the next time I see you.”
Friend 2: “I told you not to wake him up because of the game.”
Friend 1: “Shh… Anyways, we want to know if you can counter a Loaded Die card with another Loaded Die card.”
Me: “Yes, now please fuck off and never call me again not even if there’s an emergency. And yes, I will cock/cunt kick you all next time I see you. Good night.”

Vampire The Masquerade book
Vampire The Masquerade book

For pen and paper RPGs people would cheat on their die rolls just so their character would always do well. What’s the point of doing something if there is no penalty? How about playing a game where your character can actually die? What would be the point of real life if no bad things happened? Another problem that I found is that almost nobody knew how to actually role-play anything other than being a combat monster useless fucking character that killed everything that the Dungeon Master (DM) or Game Master (GM) had spent hours designing. I always think of the D&D sketch by the Dead Ale Wives when I think of RPGs. For that I’d rather go play Diablo, at least that’s the point of that game!

Anyways, I grew tired of people ruining games for me so even as a kiddo I knew that unless the controller was broken in hotseat or somebody was using a bot online, video games would solve all that shit by preventing arguments from happening. Whereas on a traditional game you have to enterpret the rules and logic, in a video game everything is happening much faster (no need for die rolls other than internally within the program) and everything is more fluid. Whereas before playing something like Battletech, a battle would take 4 hours of real life time, that would translate into a 5-10 minute match in an RTS game.

Spy vs Spy on the c64
Spy vs Spy on the c64

The logic is simple and it’s even more obvious to me these days as I grow older than video games will continue to propagate even more and those old games will just continue to die. Now yes, I do agree that they should continue to exist. What are you going to do when a natural disaster happens and there’s no power? They’re great for that. Sometimes they’re great for parties so that at least you can play something with a non-gamer.

Auto Assault Box
Auto Assault Box

Now I’m not encouraging people to play an MMO unless it’s something like Auto Assault or Mechwarrior (two dead games) or PlanetSide (still around but almost nobody plays it) where skill and strategy mean something but more something along the lines as playing Starcraft or any favorite FPS game or anything else for that matter, so long as it’s not a gear based shitty game.. Just be careful with the online cheaters that will employ bots to win like a little bitch!

Another problem that traditional games have versus computer games, especially pen and paper RPGs is that they would take up so much time that it essentially became a ritual that you would have to dedicate time for each week. Think of it as the dedication a WoWhead gives their guild for raiding and other stuff in that game, except instead of clicking on World of Warcraft from any computer to connect you have to go to their house, buy food and drinks, and then drive home (usually really late that night or the next morning). It was even worse as a kid because of parents imposing curfews but I guess that doesn’t matter these days since parenting has gone to shit. =P With online gaming these days, you literally can play any game 24 hours a day and find people willing to play with you. You can’t beat that (although that does create problems like gaming addicts and more but that’s another topic for discussion)

Ur Quan Masters Battle
Ur Quan Masters Battle

I’d rather play a video game against a friend where it’s much harder to cheat than play a traditional game that could potentially ruin a friendship. I’ve seen some of my friends get into a permanent feud both over traditional games as well as video games but not as much for video games. Anyways, I’ll take something like a hotseat game of Star Control 2 (The Ur-Quan Masters) over a shitty game of Monopoly! However, just because I love video games that doesn’t mean that I won’t join you for a quick board game or card game or RPG session either!