You'll remember the ending sequence in Raiders where the Ark gets stored away in that massive warehouse, presumably never to be seen again? At the moment, I feel exactly the same way about the games coming into Sumo Towers and passing into 'the collection'. There are a lot out there, what with Essen and a steady stream of new releases, and I have far more games to play than time at the moment. As an indication, post-Essen normally sees a glut of gaming sessions and a jaded Siggins, but it is now late November and I've played next to nothing in the last month. I am, as a result, dead keen to get playing again. Hopefully then, these games will be gradually cleared and reviewed over the next few issues. I also think, for once, it is rather a good thing to be building up a backlog. There is very little coming along that grabs my interest, with the board wargame market in particular looking distinctly ropey. But hey, I can always play some of those older games again.
Perhaps in compensation, for some reason there has been a little flurry of gamekits arriving this month, three of which concern 18xx variants. 1899 and 1837 are sets of basic tools (cards, reduced maps etc) to make up kits for China and Austria respectively. These are in the rules bank. The impressive 1839 (featuring Italy) is rather better developed and includes everything bar the maps, which I assume the publisher has access to. It is available from Federico Vallani, 40 Via Le Verdi, 41100 Modena, Italy and I am awaiting a reply to establish a cost price for the kit, but as the map copies are reputedly coloured I would expect at least a fiver, possibly more. I also have a gamekit for Card Cricket in the rules bank, which is a fully working set of rules and cards for the old Games & Puzzles game, courtesy Michele Montagni, and also a Paul Jefferies Energie Poker kit that will be featured in an article next time. All good stuff gentlemen, thanks for your efforts.
I seem to have been added to the Avalon Hill mailing list, which brings me a copy of the latest Update of their releases. Deluxe Diplomacy is imminent and will cost almost £50 (perhaps more now the Pound has dived); not one I would be buying even if it were a fiver. Croix de Guerre is coming for ASL, which I shall buy (I enjoyed Crescendo of Doom greatly - it's those French helmets), along with lots of Runequest stuff, Guadalcanal in the Smithsonian range (am I alone in finding Midway unplayable?) and Across Five Aprils sounds like a quaddish (quinnish?) ACW system. Roadkill, a Mad Max type card game, is now slated for February and the long awaited (but troubled licence-wise) Breakaway Hockey is delayed to August '93 having missed the '92 hockey season. All steady if not inspiring stuff. Presumably, in addition to the above, we will see History of the World for definite and possibly Extrablatt, depending on who you listen to.
Despite the tribulations of work, I somehow managed to escape for a short break in September which was fortunate as all holiday has been cancelled since. Scratch Australia for another year. Cancelling Christmas will probably be next, and I'm not joking. France was as good as ever and I enjoyed it right up to the severe gastric flu that saw us having to come home early in pretty poor shape. Bummer. Otherwise, I would have gladly married one in three women of eligible age, I know I could never live there because the unbelievable food would kill me and if that didn't, the lingerie shop windows would finish the ticker eventually.
A major highlight was a trip on the TGV which was nothing short of incredible. We got on at Tours, about 170 miles from Paris, 1st class naturellement, and accelerated steadily to 125 speed, went up another gear that was impressive and then the driver cranked it up to the maximum. It was almost worrying to see the fields flying past at such a speed, but Tours to Paris in 55 minutes with not so much as a deceleration until the end is something that BR can't even sniff at. Fucking A.
We had a great time in Paris, a city I always enjoy visiting. This time was even better as for the first time in several visits, we didn't have anywhere specific to go. As a result, we just shopped, pottered randomly around the backstreets, found some great shops and restaurants and had a generally memorable time. Finding a book on Detaille I have been hunting for six years, a new Bilal book and the Formule De Monza track all helped matters no end. It is odd, but only now am I starting to get to know the place a little and consider it better than London in many ways, which as you know is saying something for me.
The disappointing part came late that evening, sitting on a train heading back to Tours reading the latest Casus Belli, when I spotted an advert for the international game convention organised by Xavier Blanchot on that very day. I suppose sod's law indicated that I would find this out as we left Paris and needed to head South to make up some time. We had been within a couple of Metro stops of the location, but I suppose all I would have done was called in to say hello. As it was, I understand Iain Bowen was the only UK delegate so at least we were represented. Oh well, perhaps next year.
I managed to get along to Lambourne's Gamesday in October and had the usual good time, meeting and chatting with the hobby luminaries and checking out Terry's latest designs. He had three new releases, Sport of Kings (a horse racing simulation - reviewed elsewhere), World Cup Cricket (a fast play system) and 800 Metres which he insists is a true gamer's game rather than a replay system. More when I have investigated these.
Bob Valvano, on his usual flying visit from the States, launched a clever, minimal effort postal game system that fifteen of us are now playing. Basically, each participant runs a sixteen team/player tournament in whatever sportsgame they select, ideally different to everyone else's. Each player then secretly drafts, through the central umpire, one team or player in each of the other fifteen games with the aim of being the best overall scorer when all the results are returned. The beauty of the system is that there is no point in fudging results because you have no points interest in the tournament you are running and, above all, it gives everyone a justification and incentive to run the tournament in the first place. Very clever.
I suppose the chat on sportsgames, designing, marketing and stats that I enjoyed through the late afternoon and drive back from Ipswich summed up a lot of what I want from the hobby - intelligent discussion with knowledgeable gamers, sparking ideas and identifying and appreciating the different approaches of each individual designer, all in the hope of cracking the next system. Believe me, if the elusive Sumo system is going to be cracked, it could well be at such a time. There were three other people (Clifford, Kelly and Montagni) involved in that chat, and if we had had Ellis Simpson and Alan Parr in the car as well, that might well have represented the full turnout for Sportcon that was scheduled for the next day.
The intention was to fill a day with the abovementioned productive discussion, run a few flags up poles, eat some pizza and play some games to finish off. As it was, because of apathy and a remarkable drop out rate, the event was cancelled. This is sad if, with hindsight, not all that surprising. I felt bad for Ellis who had put in a lot of effort to get it off the ground and for those few who had intended to come. The intention is now to run it in April or May next year, and I hope the support is better at that time.
I got along to the SELWG show in Lewisham last month and tucked away between the many figure games was a five foot long model of the British isles. Not an easy thing to pass by, I looked closer and spotted a set of Avalon Hill rules in among the debris and toolboxes. What it turned out to be was a demonstration game of Britannia, complete with well painted 15mm figures on colour coded bases, all laid out on superbly sculpted terrain. It looked excellent and seemed to be going down very well. There is hope yet, though it is notable that the initiative came from the figure hobby.
Oh yes, Bob Valvano tells me that there is a set of twenty individually liveried Nascar models out in the states suitable for his Good 'ol Boys and of course Daytona 500, if you care to make up a massive track to go with it. My men are working on a supplier.
Links Pro is incredibly good. Graphics like I have never seen on anything short of custom rendered stills, excellent animation, every conceivable option and, at last, workable chips and backspin. I shot an eagle last night and have turned in a sub par round already. It's addictive stuff. There aren't many courses out as yet and I hope this is rectified as I am getting a bit sick of the basic one supplied, though Bountiful is in the mail from the States. I am told there never will be an Augusta disk which is a great shame - is this true? I think the only complaint, apart from occasionally slow screen updates even on a 486 (well, in its defence, I suppose it is rendering each individual leaf), is that when you play silly buggers and tee off in the wrong direction, it lets you chip all over the place, even up to Lighthouse or the Captain's back garden, but it stops short of actually letting you break his windows.
TV, as and when I can get to watch the tapes, is one of the things keeping me on the rails at the moment. News for You is not quite as good as it was, but still way better than most programmes and often very funny - Deayton and Merton are excellent, Hislop I find increasingly unfunny - incessant cynicism grates when you are feeling cynical yourself. Sticking with humour, Trevor and Simon are back on Going Live which cheers me up no end. I find I can't watch Stingray beyond the immortal start sequence, it is just so bad, whereas Man from Uncle is surprisingly good, and while it seems to be to trendy to denigrate Bottom, I found it amusing in the main. I am taping all the episodes of The Prisoner (you don't catch me out twice) and enjoying them even more the second time round - there is so much more of interest to spot. Many Happy Returns is by far the best episode so far, and probably the best overall from memory. Kinsey is okay and Pole to Pole lacks the deadline element of 80 Days, but is still worthwhile viewing just for Palin. And quite why Law & Order is on at such a daft hour is beyond me, this excellent series could make prime time.
On the big screen, the only film I have seen since last time is Alien 3, and that was dire. The genre has thankfully been redeemed on TV by the brilliant Cinema Paradiso, the Depardieu season and the amazing Ghostwatch, perhaps the scariest piece of television since that chap went a bit funny in Twin Peaks. I know it featured Mike Smith who acts like a plank and the talentless Craig Charles and was undoubtedly a bit patchy at times, but it had that Twiglet Zone quality that made the old spine tingle - I wanted to turn it off to escape the discomfort, but couldn't. Powerful stuff.
Please don't brand me a grunge merchant, but Nirvana's Nevermind has been getting a lot of play here recently. I had it on tape and, you know how it is, it just kept getting rewound over and over, so the CD was purchased forthwith. Okay, so it's pretty heavy stuff, but there is hardly a duff track and all of them are extremely catchy, not least those released as singles. Paul Oakes tells me that this is due to the presence of a lot of hooks, and I'll take his word for it. Also catchy are Shanice's couple of singles and, as befits the Motown label, the album isn't too bad either. I am rather taken by Boss Drum, the single, from those pill popping dorks The Shamen and, sound of closet door opening, I have purchased Kylie's Greatest and like at least half of it. I told you I was having a rough time at the moment. Album of the Month though, surpassing even Nevermind, is The B52's Good Stuff (could have been written for me, couldn't it?). One of those albums you can listen to once and instantly like virtually everything - Is that you Mo-Dean? is a minor classic. Er, good stuff.
Due to tiredness, lack of time and having to read seemingly endless documentation for work (have you spotted the theme word for this issue yet?), I am ashamed to say I have read very few proper books in the last couple of months. Lots of magazines, lots of computer manuals, but very few books. I enjoyed Road to Hell, Graham Watson's new volume on the one day cycling classics, resplendent with his superb photography. Also good were Into Print, the BBC's introductory guide to DTP and Beevor's Inside the British Army. In an effort to spend myself out of the gloom, I am once again buying books faster than I can possibly read them, and this really should stop.
Having made the big decisions to upgrade from the Amiga and to take the IBM route over the Mac, I have spent the last few months deliberating over which PC to purchase. It wasn't easy. I don't think I could have imagined a situation where almost every time I phoned to order something, the prices had dropped and another company was offering a 'better' deal. I also didn't reckon on the half a ton of paper acquired by way of the various review magazines (have you seen the size of these things?) or, indeed, the brain meltdown caused by reading dozens of contradictory, sloppy reviews and recommendations. The only worthwhile magazines, by the way, are PCWorld (still), Byte and PC Magazine. The rest are just playing at it or providing listings.
The net result of all this was inactivity on the basis that the longer I waited while not really needing a PC, the better deal I could probably get. In the end, with the Amiga creaking and losing keys by the week, I bought a Ti'ko 486/33 with the spec I was after - a big cached hard disk, 4Mb ram, Super VGA and 3 years on-site maintenance. It is quick. Very quick. Software installed so far is WordPerfect for Windows and Dos, Corel Draw, Symphony, Links Pro and half a dozen different fractal generators and ray tracers. I have also been lent Tetris and am doing my utmost to avoid loading it as I have little enough time as it is. Turbo Pascal or Visual Basic II are under consideration in case I ever get round to doing some games (I need to do bitmap tiling - are these appropriate?) and I have a freebie magazine version of Pageplus ready to try out for DTP honours if WordPerfect is not up to the task (though I'm sure it will be given my requirements).
For those still awake, the reason for both versions of WordPerfect is that I am old fashioned enough to prefer writing and editing in green on black, monochrome and monospaced. I have real trouble with black on white wysiwyg, so I just use this for layout - it is slower anyway, but thanks to the considerate and cheap multi-platform licence offered by Wordperfect, it is no problem to run both. Not sure what this will do to Sumo, as the system wasn't specifically bought with DTP in mind, but you'll be the second to know.
On this subject, in the vain hope of a sale, I have a mint copy of Borland's Objectvision 2 that I won in a 'business card raffle' and have no intention of using. If anyone is interested it is yours for a decent offer or as a straight swap for some decent fonts. Next time, unless you are very lucky, my thoughts on Windows 3.1 and why there must be a better way.
On to the Letters or back to a report from Mulheim.
Sumo - Mike Siggins - Legal Notices and Other Information