IMPORTANT After a gradual decline over the last year, I received a very small number of letters this time, representing rather less than 5% of the readership. I may well have been spoilt so far, but this isn't good enough I'm afraid. For me, incoming letters represent the main benefit of publishing and they form what I consider to be one of the strongest parts of the magazine. Without feedback there is no forum element and I very quickly feel that Sumo isn't worth doing. That means only one thing in the long term. So, I would like to ask politely for some more letters (surely there must be something in each issue to comment upon?), they don't need to be long and not necessarily every issue, but once every now and then (on disk when possible) would be great. Thankyou.

Andy Daglish Re The General advert: Apparently the U.S. title of SKC is Sumo, so it's official - be prepared for copyright litigation from whoever holds the TV/merchandising rights for this sport. I shall call my ASL fanzine 'Andy's Rap World' to target the teen and black market. I hear there is a game called Plague; let's do one on political incorrectness!

MS: Plague does indeed seem to be in extreme bad taste (and looks Ludoesque in its play depth on first inspection), but it pales into insignificance against some 'PI' topics that I could think of. Nurse, the screens.

John Webley Nice to see you in Essen. A good weekend, with several good new games. Modern Art is very good, but doesn't go down so well with the less hardened gamers, while Elfenroads, that I nearly didn't bother trying out, has gone down a storm here, if I could get hold of another 5 copies I could sell them tomorrow. Post Essen, apart from a trip to a rather tired Midcon, I have been busy translating, so this disc should contain Banana Republic, Modern Art, Packen Wirs (very silly and not up to much), Waldesfrust, and Quick which is one of the two new Abacus games and has been very popular. I was playing in a squash tournament on Saturday and took it along, taught a few people the rules and didn't see it for the rest of the day. I don't know what they are charging for it though. Their other new game is Revolution from Reiner Knizia which they have sent me sans rules, so that will have to wait.

MS: There seems to be a small problem on rules translations. John sent me this disk full and on the same day I received no less than two other sets of Waldesfrust rules making four in all, equally well done (with surprisingly few discrepancies), but this is duplicating work. If you don't mind, fine, but there are plenty of other sets waiting. Just drop me aline if you need a view on what is going to appear from other parties. Anyone fancy doing Cockpit for me?

Carol Benney One thing I would like from Sumo is nominations for the best two player games and/or any two player variants on the multi-player games. Every time we get someone round with the idea of playing games, we end up talking instead of opening the box.

MS: Over to the readers on this one. I very rarely play two player games that are not sport or wargames as these seem better suited to this number of people. In fact, come to think of it, I don't play that many two player games at all.

Mark Buckley Talking of computers, can you provide copies of Sumo on disk? I assume (perhaps foolishly) that you keep copies of the issues and articles. It would be extremely useful to be able to search through back 'issues' on disk to find references.

MS: Good, a lead-in. Paul Jefferies has recently compiled a comprehensive index to the first ten issues of Sumo which may help you - it's now in the rules bank. Thanks Paul. Secondly, I have been deliberating on whether to produce a composite Sumo featuring most of the reviews, letter comments and articles from the old issues. This would be a lot easier for me (and cheaper for you) than buying back issues which in any case are now in increasingly short supply. As for disk based Sumos, I see no reason not to apart from the minor hassle it will cause me for about three interested parties! I only have the stuff I've written or typed in, so no Chaos Gaming article for instance, though I am working on scanning some in. The data would currently fit on three high density disks - let me know if you are interested and send the formatted disks in with postage.

Neil Walters On playtesting, I don't think it's simply a matter of how many times a game is tested during development. It's also a question of the makeup of the group of playtesters themselves. With the exception of the big concerns like AH, I rather suspect most playtesting is centred around the initial development team, family, circle of friends, people in the trade etc. who within their groups have similar approaches and playing interests. The problem in this situation is that if you ask the game the same questions every time you play, you are invariably going to get the same answers back. Ideally the game should pass through several different groups failing which a single group of which each member would take a look at the game from a new angle. The advantage to the designer would be a broader view of opinion which he would be free to take into account or ignore at his choice. The important things is at least an awareness of potential criticism which might be hurled back unexpectedly once the game is in print. In reality, this may be difficult to achieve, but seeing as Sumo is well on its way in setting itself up as the focal point of the hobby [!], certainly in this country, you could consider acting as a middleman for designers and potential playtesting groups. Let the punters have their say - after all we're the ones who fork out the cash!

Another potential problem might be that people close to the designer may find it difficult to give anything other than 'polite' criticism. I certainly wouldn't fancy slamming (justifiably) the creation of someone I know well, which has been developed lovingly over the last ten years. I'm sure you wouldn't either. I'm not convinced that it's possible to take a totally objective view in these circumstances - the way of human nature I guess. But being as you're closer to this side of things than me, I'd be interested in your views.

MS: I agree with all this, especially that excess politeness can negate the benefits. Simply put, some playtesters, myself included, find it very difficult to strongly criticise the game for fear of offending the designer, even if he is expecting it and keen to hear the comments. But that is indeed human nature. Charles Vasey, when testing Chariot Lords, invited three other people with different gaming strengths to get a view from each. I was on board to check that the game remained playable as a game - if I got bored, then it wasn't working as an exciting system. The good news is that it did, as you will see. Others contributed good play, rules queries, historical validity, system stuffing skills and so on. I thought that worked rather well for the balanced mix, though it would still probably need to go out for blind testing where the designer is not around to answer rules questions.

As for criticising a game by a 'close' designer, it is difficult to do, but referring back to my comments in the editorial last time, I will make a big effort to do it. I don't think it is possible to be entirely objective, I would need to be Mr Spock or a computer, but it is important to maintain a generally consistent view for the readers. I suppose if Alan Moon, Ellis Simpson or Charles Vasey served up a complete duffer (very unlikely, admittedly) I would still feel obliged to say what I thought about it. It was bad enough doing Automania, Blackbeard and Final Score which are all from designers I respect but, in the end, if Sumo isn't sincere it seems pointless doing reviews at all. There is a paradox here as this makes me out as a hard man, but that is not the case - I'm just a big cream puff really.

Theo Clarke Mike Clifford is a long way adrift of the point if he thinks that Ian is taking criticisms of his games too seriously. Several people have suggested that Automania is trash because they object to the cards that are the heart of the game. Everybody has a right to their opinion and, after all, opinions are the essence of any review. Ian feels that the very negative review of his game adversely affected its sales in the UK. I am sure that he is right. Our experience at Furrycon is that a significant number of potential buyers had not tried the game because they had heard ill of it. [MS: Surely not just from me?] The game is costly and few people could afford to risk the cost for a game that they were unlikely to enjoy.

Sumo and SFCP are the only magazines regularly reviewing family board games for UK collectors. [MS: There are others, Cut & Thrust and Games Gazette to name two. Also, I would like to think I review for gamers.] Our subscribers are Ian's market. The combination of a negative review in Sumo and a very late one in SFCP made UK collectors wary of the game. At Furrycon we were surprised at how many people decided to buy the game having played it in the InterGame UK tournament.

Ian believes that there is a market of 1,000 collectors in the UK and Germany who will buy a limited edition family game. He knows that they will not pay the earth but expects them to recognise that small print runs are expensive. Ian sells his games at very little over cost. The price is still high but it is that or nothing. After the Automania debacle Ian must be thousands of pounds out of pocket. In his position I would take criticisms very seriously indeed.

MS: I don't really disagree with any of this (though I really do wonder if there are anything like 1,000 collectors out there, more so with the recession) but at the end of the day I still don't think the game is a good one and is therefore deserving of criticism. Gawd, I sound like a stuck record. However, I too am grateful that Ian puts the games out and it would be way too hard if I said I would prefer nothing to Automania (I missed the Livingstone release at Essen, for instance), but I do think the negative sentiment is out there. Anyway, if people play the game and then buy it afterwards, that's completely fine with me - didn't I suggest this as the way to go in the review?

On a personal note, just who would Mike eliminate from the playtest group? We are no band of sycophantic friends with a limited experience of games. I do not know who was responsible for the 'Go Back Two Spaces' card but it has never blighted the games that I have played and it certainly does not merit the disgust that it appears to have aroused. Clearly Ian has pitched the game at the wrong market. Automania is a sound family board game that may have received passing acknowledgement from the hobby had it come from Waddingtons.

MS: It is precisely because one expects 'Back Two Spaces' in a Waddingtons style product that makes it incongruous in a game designed by a very experienced gamer.

Brian Hughes (and several others) Elfengold: it seems to me that the rules indicate that you can mine in a space even if one has not put one's counter there previously. To me it seems clear that the game is much more interesting if played to the rule interpretation in your review. I would be interested to know if this was based on 'inside' information from Alan Moon?

MS: No, it was based purely on not reading the rule properly. However, the 'variant' has been officially recognised by the Moonman and features in the first Whitewind newsletter that appeared, rather unexpectedly, last week - only ten months late, but it was worth it. It doesn't change my view of the game which is still a good one.

Theo Clarke The problem with our reviews of Blackbeard was that we based them on four-player games. This seems reasonable to me. The game is marketed as being suitable for 1-4 players and there is no caveat saying that things deteriorate fast as players are added to the game. Blackbeard seems to be an excellent one-player game but one-player games are puzzles and we aim to review games. This is why we don't cover computer games or crosswords.

Don Greenwood Speaking of Blackbeard, I can't resist mentioning that it was one of the larger tournaments at Avaloncon - outdrawing such established games as Acquire, Adel, Football Strategy, Rail Baron, Russian Campaign and Squad Leader. Obviously it has something for somebody.

Mike Clifford Blackbeard. I have revised my opinion of this game having played it in a two-player sitting. I imagine that it would work very well solitaire, and to this end would recommend The General Vol 27, No 6 which features Richard Berg's design.

MS: The tide turns against the Sumo man!

Dave Farquhar I recently bought a copy of David Watts' Manchester, as reviewed in Sumo, and quite enjoyed playing it. I also, however, paid a small extra charge to have the cards for 'Thataway'. This uses exactly the same board, and similar rules, but instead of placing cards which allow chess moves, direction arrows and numbers are shown. Thus as the game progresses the board builds up with some interesting movement flows. I find it reminiscent of 'Take the Brain' (an old favourite of my teens). The game may be bought separately, and is in a limited edition of 200. It is not very expensive (about £6.25 I think), and I would recommend it for a thought provoking, two player, abstract game (not usually my cup of tea).

Theo Clarke I will have to give Droids another try in the light of Mark Bassett's comments on the game but I do not really see how the change of attitude that he suggests will make the game more interesting.

Alan Parr Conflix: We played this recently when Denis Arnold brought it along so I know he has a rough set of rules at least. I reckon it's nearly a very good game; it was great fun to play, but the end was rather a letdown. With a bit of tweaking it could be terrific.

Roger Heyworth Sherlock Holmes: I can confirm that Neil Walters that it is the player's choice entirely whether a card is played from hand or whether a fresh card taken from the draw pile. It does add an additional dimension to the game and does away with any possible arguments about whether a player has 'revoked' whether intentionally or unintentionally. I accept Nick Holliday's comment that the Sherlock Holmes card is a very powerful one, particularly when fewer players are involved. However if you design a Sherlock Holmes game you do need to put Sherlock Holmes in it somewhere!

Gary Jackson Another game in a different vein we've had a lot of fun with is Sherlock Holmes the Card Game. I'm still not sure if it is mainly luck or what, but it's cute to see the story unfold and it is very easy to get non-gamers involved.

Theo Clarke Your comment that 35 quid is a high price for Bausack is ironic in view of our experience. We have been surprised to find several nursery school teachers buying copies of the game because it is a cost-effective way of buying mixed sets of unusual building blocks.

Richard Berg Origins had several booths selling many of the games Sumo talks about - even a couple of copies of Ragnar's HOTW (which I have been informed Avalon Hill has gobbled up, although I think to print this on anything but old sail sheet would greatly reduce its charm....). The folks from Jeux Descartes were also there (somewhat in force), mostly as a 'vanguard' for the coming Gallic invasion....

MS: Sounds like time for Sumo to move into the US market. I think I'll hire a consultant from Sock Shop.

Gary Jackson I purchased History of the World on your recommendation and found it an excellent game. We have now played five times, and I still haven't pinned down the best strategy. Something we noted in two or three of the games is that the monumnet counters have run out before the end of the game - we have played this as a limit - no counters, no monuments built, no points - I would be interested to hear if anyone plays this any different.

Nik Holliday History of the World is my favourite game at the moment, usurping Shogun as the best megalomania game in my collection. By the way, I think the playing time is a little over estimated. We usually manage to fit in a five player game in four hours.

Neil Walters HOTW is a fine game - its only drawback being the time it takes to play especially with the optimum number of players which I reckon is five, possibly six. Four player is about right time wise, but lacks a little of the interaction due to the fewer empires appearing on the board, I mean cloth! I've tried it three player with two empires each, and this works quite well. You will have to devise a few house rules though, but these are easy enough to work out. HOTW also highlights that it also not always not necessary to have 'nice bits' and a 'German Style' designer label to receive a good game awards. Hoorah to that!

A lot has been said on the subject of playing/downtime and I think HOTW is a prime example of the link between time taken to play a game and the challenge inherent in the game itself. Leaving aside for a moment the difference in subject matter, let's compare a five player HOTW with a five player 1830, which I consider optimum for both. On the basis of time, they both take around four hours, give or take half an hour. Both have a faithful and possibly avid following. Both are generally acknowledged as good games in their own right. And yet, after half a dozen playings, HOTW gets consigned to the shelves. This is surely due more to the low level of challenge to sustain interest over a four hour period rather than any problems with the game itself. Unlike 1830 where the time between turns is particularly useful for boning up on your next move, in HOTW there is no need for any forward planning as you've no idea which empire you'll have in your next turn. If someone could come up with a scheme to halve its present playing time, I'm sure it would be played twice as often as it is now. Unfortunately, given the nature of the game, this is unlikely. Pity.

Don Greenwood I start work on the TAHGC version of HOTW next week. The designers have come up with some interesting changes and I think between us we can make the new version something of an event. Paramount among the concerns is to make it less of a random play and more of a test of skill without losing that panoramic brushstroke feel of history of the original.

MS: Good news that HOTW is definitely coming out from at least one second source as every last copy of the original 500 has long gone. If anyone dislikes it so much that you are willing to sell the original version, I have a number of buyers eager to part with money. Drop me a line.

Matthew Hayes History of the World may be published by a major UK publisher (minus tea-towel map, unfortunately) with revised rules. The main change to the rules is the introduction of a card system for events to replace the existing drawing of chits. Players are dealt a hand of three events cards, replenished in succeeding epochs. This reduces the element of luck as players can at least partially choose events to suit their current empires' situations. Tactical flexibility is also aided by a new rule by which units can be bought as you go along rather than en masse at the beginning of the turn. This in particular helps with the deployment of fleets which no longer necessarily have to be placed adjacent to the empire's capital.

MS: Personally, I hope the original system will be retained, at least as optional rules. Apart from the latter deployment change, I'm not sure either of these are good moves and seem to be 'easy life' options, rather like Stuart's Formule De suggestions last time. The thought of being dealt a leader or elite troops and having the choice to hold them until you get a strong empire (The Romans with a leader is bad enough, without an ability to plan for it) is not a happy one. I would think this increases the luck element from the point of view of being dealt two or three killer cards or equally bad ones. The choice of which units to buy strikes me as one of the few interesting decisions in the original game and should be preserved in my view. Quite why, in game terms, you should have the flexibility to march to the coast and then be able to build ships is beyond me. I can see that it may be justified historically (these are long turns after all) but it makes the turn far too easy to plan and play.

Unfortunately, the game is still greatly unbalanced by the overwhelming importance of the final epoch. On the whole I enjoy a game in which the final results are usually very close - apart from anything else it demonstrates that the game has been thoroughly play-tested and adjusted to ensure overall balance. There is a difference however in games (eg Silverton) in which scoring is neck and neck throughout and those (such as HotW) where quite large imbalances at the end of the penultimate round are wiped out by the overwhelming importance of the end-game. In Silverton I make sure to wring every last ounce of profit out of every deal, knowing that those odd $1,000s here and there are likely to make a difference in a close final reckoning. In History of the World, on the other hand, I just make sure that I'm somewhere in the pack at the end of the penultimate epoch (but definitely not first or second!) and hope for a good empire. It's almost as if all the other epochs have counted for nothing.

David Wright The Al Parlamento kit looks interesting and I have made some initial progress towards making a copy. By the way, issue 75 of Games & Puzzles (the one that says issue 77 on the cover!) has a photograph of Derek Carver's copy of the game - useful reference. One small request I do have relates to the vague number of seats for each issue. If any Sumo reader knows what seven reasonable numbers are, this would save having to reinvent the wheel.

Theo Clarke Sumo (the sport) must be an ideal basis for a card game. I, however, can live the rest of my life without a baseball game and feel no deprivation despite this.

MS: This is a game I would love to do, but I don't yet have the system cracked. Any suggestions?

Graeme Forster A postscript on the recent debate on 18xx games, I do not like them that much as I feel that the game tends to peter out at the end rather than build to a climax, although I can be persuaded to play a game from time to time. It is almost worth it to see Andy Daglish's frustration at the game ending just as he has built up a perfect route.

Matthew Hayes ['Modem' to his friends] My 3D6 bulletin board project is temporarily suspended due to an overwhelming lack of public interest.

MS: That's a shame, but I did think that the requirement for a modem would narrow your market a little too much. I'm sure it will come good in the future. Graeme Forster The components of Battle Masters are indeed impressive and it could be the ideal game to introduce my 10 year old nephew to the realm of wargaming. Even his younger brother (age 4) could use the map as a playmat for his cars. I may even get round to painting some of the pieces at some point, probably just after I have finished the campaign game of The Longest Day that I have promised myself I would play sometime.

William Preston I have to say I was rather wary of Battle Masters because of the price and its spikey ork image. Thanks to the review I have bought the game and agree broadly with your comments. I particularly liked the card sequencing.

J M Lyne Can I suggest you do an article on Essen with an emphasis on how the Spiel des Jahres jury is elected, the criteria they use for judging, what the different categories are and please, what does the term Auswahlliste mean? Aufgenommen in die Bestenliste presumably nominated in the list of games from which SdJ is chosen. Who nominates the games? Is SdJ announced at Essen?

MS: I am far from an expert on the subject, but it goes something like this. A jury of journalists (presumably from major German newspapers) are nominated, I think by the senior jurors (don't ask), to sit in judgement on the German games released in a given twelve month period. The games nominated have to attain a majority vote from the judges and they all get their heads together to choose the big prize, the Spiel des Jahres, which is announced in late Summer or early Autumn, well before the Essen show to let the publicity machines get underway. The Bestenliste is those half dozen games nominated, the Auswahlliste represents, I think, the highly commended games or the second division if you prefer. I believe there are also awards for graphics/design and childrens' games. To confuse matters, there is an entirely separate Essen award which was won this year by Flying Dutchman.

That's the theory. The practice seems to be, and I stick my neck out here, that the nominations and perhaps the prize might well be rotated among the bigger companies to secure a healthy industry and big sales for each in turn. Sceptics suggest, for instance, that Modern Art will not win next year because it is from a company that won recently and that it is, say, Ravensburger's turn to win. We shall see. Additionally, small companies seldom seem to get recognition in the list. As ever, there is no concrete evidence for these accusations but as with any jury and award systems, there are subjective anomalies. This year at Essen there was a group protesting the disgraceful exclusion of Airlines from the awards list and of course Fliegende Hollaender didn't make it either. To my mind, being on the Bestenliste is not always an indication of quality. For this reason, please don't regard the Red Poppel logo as a purchase recommendation.

On the positive side, almost every industry has its awards and if you take the winners from the last five years or even the last ten, there have been few if any really odd decisions. Beyond healthy cynicism (and I currently have a bad case of this), there is no real reason to doubt the integrity of the jurors, for all we know it may well be a straight fight based on personal taste and the pressure to choose the 'right' games must be quite heavy. On taste, a clue may be that the jurors are not young chaps in the main. To conclude, all I will say on the matter is that Sumo now has as subscribers the two senior judges of the Spiel des Jahres jury; whether it is read I cannot honestly say, but influence is a wonderful thing. If I have made any blunders here, would someone (Stephan?) let me know please?

Michael Keller The major 'Game of the Year' awards in the US are given out by Games magazine. However, like the European awards, the award winning games are often dogs. Last year's GotY was the card game Trumpet, a six suited tricktaking game in which tricks leads to advancing on a playing board (a cribbage like track) marked with various spaces which allow changes in the hierarchy of trump suits. The problem is that the game is virtually one of luck. The large number of suits ensures that someone is void in each suit nearly all the time, and the usual tricktaking techniques, like running a long suit after drawing trumps, usually don't work. Being on lead is usually a disadvantage since it's easier to win tricks by trumping them.

MS: Interesting comments; I will be trying it out in the near future as soon as my copy arrives from Merfyn Lewis, who rates it very highly. Trumpet is reviewed this issue; I assume it is the same as the game published in Germany as Trumpett?

Michael.. Abalone has won various awards here and in Europe. I suspect that some game design awards are given, not for the quality of the game itself, but for the components, which are undeniably excellent in Abalone's case. This year Games gave 'Best New Abstract Strategy Game' to Terrace, another game which I think will turn out to be lousy - it is at least as drawish as Abalone - two players at a game party I had in January played six hours to no result. [MS: Do you find yourself having to give away tickets for these parties Michael?] Robert Abbott (Eleusis, Ultima, Epamindondas) has often said that a game in which the defender usually has the advantage is more often than not a bad game. Another game that suffers terribly from this is MB's Shogun.

MS: I assume you refer to the deadly stalemate lines? I couldn't agree more. I have given up on Shogun for this reason alone. However, the best defensive games are those where you sit on a ridge with a British Napoleonic army and wait for the French to roll up. Not a lot of fun for the French, whereas I loved it. Bring on the next brigade...

Rolf Wichmann Books on Games: Spin Again - Board Games from the 50s and 60s (Chronicle Book, USA, 1991). This is a rather obscure, funny book with many coloured pictures that I picked up in London last year.

David Wright I picked up an interesting book, Spin Again (authors Polizzi & Schaefer) in Shipley's on the Charing Cross Rd. It is American and covers board games of the 50s and 60s. The pictures are superb however the text, as expected, tells you little about the games themselves. Lovely glossy production and lots of nostalgia - a reasonable number of games crossed the Atlantic, I certainly remember playing some of the 'glow in the dark' games.

MS: I appeared to have missed this one. Sounds good, will get my booksearch man on to it.

Dave Farquhar Are you aware that Radio 5 is running a Fantasy Football league? The programme is on 11.30 on Sundays, reviewing the previous week's performance. 'Real' players are purchased by the team managers at the beginning of the season at auction. They may then be traded, or other purchases made as the league progresses. Points are accumulated for a clean sheet (defenders and goalkeepers), assists and goals scored. It does not make riveting radio, but it is nice to see them promoting games in whatever form.

MS: This sounds very similar to the league I am involved with, except that we don't score for assists (a bit of a subjective stat) but we do get points for midfielders. I'm enjoying it a lot, even if it is one of those games that gives bags of pleasure to the players and piles of work to the GM. I have just watched the highlights of the England Turkey game and all four goals were by Sporting Sumo players. Absolutely no impact on the game, but great for the ego. For those that asked, the team is: Schmiechel, Pearce, Dorigo, Keown, Wright, Clough, Gemmill, Giggs, Shearer, Ferdinand, McManaman with Dozzell, Woan, Wegerle and Nicol on the bench. I also speculatively bought the rights to Gazza, in the vain hope that he would fall out with Lazio over a mooning episode and return home!

Chuff Afflerbach Since you are one of the Rainbow Man's biggest fans, I thought you should know about his sad demise. First the Giants pack up and leave, and now this. It's enough to make an atheist of anyone.

MS: For those baffled by this letter, the Rainbow Man was the loony in the multi-coloured wig with the John 3:16 sign who would always pop up in the cameraline when a field goal was going over in the Superbowl, Gretzky slotted one in the playoffs or right behind the plate in the Series. How he got the tickets, I'll never know. He did it all for God, and now he's gone a little weird. He has been arrested after a hostage seige while being sought by police for letting off stink bombs in a cathedral.

Brian Hughes Alan Moon's 1869: is it published? How can I get hold of a copy?

MS: It isn't published, though there have been several close shaves. I know of only three or four copies worldwide and it represents a lot of work to make and much more to play, though 18xx people do praise it to the heavens. I have no idea what the deal is on distribution; it certainly isn't public domain. I'll have a word with Alan.

Graeme Forster I was interested in Stuart Dagger's review of Candidate and Road to the Whitehouse. I found exactly the same problem with Candidate when despite taking California, Texas and New Jersey and being ahead by some 50 votes that I still lost in the end. Perhaps this is actually how it happens in the US, but I felt that my good (lucky?) earlier play was wasted. I have not as yet played RttW but I have seen a copy and it does look interesting. Perhaps the review might prompt us to play it soon but from the article it looks as if some careful grafting might result in a better ending for Candidate.

John Webley I have just got to Alan's letter in the last Sumo, as against Elfenroads, I didn't enjoy Santa Fe, not because it is a poor game, it isn't, but because you end up with such ridiculous networks. It may just be me, but it really goes against the grain to have these railways whirling round in circles before disappearing up their own posteriors. I suspect that Alan has a similar view and that the 'historical route' bonuses are an attempt to prevent this but it don't work.

Mark Green Some suggestions for Footmania: When playing against European opposition, your team gains full receipt value if it wins the match and half receipts if it loses. French League rules: When teams play league matches, one team is at home and one is away. The home team has a +1 advantage when reckoning its strength. Home teams gain full gate receipts, away teams get half (250,000 cash). Each match is played in two halves - 'It's a game of two halves, Brian'. All rules relating to matches hold, except as follows: a) A player may play three plus cards in a game, but no more than two in a half. Bonus cards may be played at any time. Cards are only valid for that half. b) Team strength is calculated as usual, plus the home team bonus of +1 if appropriate and any + card bonus. Each team rolls one dice and adds the result. Compare the two totals, establish a difference, and consult the table below:

Players may wish to add the dice roll to European matches, but are advised not to use the home team rules or make them matches with two halves.

MS: I did wonder about the use of dice in matches as a variant. It would certainly add a bit more excitement to the games, but I can only assume it was omitted for a specific reason - it seems so obvious to include it doesn't it? I must admit I looked for the rule just to check.

David Wright Just about the only game I've played recently has been the Homas Tour reissue [Demarrage/Um Reifenbreite] which for me lived up to the hype and has been worth the wait. My preference is for the game in its basic form without any of the advanced rules and also without the chance cards as I found these introduced too great an element of luck and unbalanced the games when we used them.

Nik Holliday Demarrage is much better than Formule De; superb bits, a variety of courses all on one board and plenty of room for both strategy and tactics. All those poor souls who splashed out their life savings on Homas Tour must be gutted; Demarrage is even better presented than the original and Jumbo haven't messed around with the rules too much. Excellent.

MS: Actually I don't feel too bad about it. We have had the use of it for the last three or four years and my dispassionate view is that the original is actually the better presented, but that's much like arguing over Punk.

Andy Key Britannia is a game for those who like to do the Right Thing to Do at every step. Success depends on knowing what you're supposed to do at every stage to conform to the designer's prejudices. I vividly remember one game I played a few years ago with, amongst others, a confirmed Britannia fan. This gentleman was very upset because, having only played twice before, I kept doing things I Wasn't Supposed To Do. This culminated in a minor temper tantrum because I'd done something like make the Roman invasion turn left and head for Wales rather than go for Scotland as all good players do. The game is mindless garbage. People have compared it to Risk, but at least Risk has the virtue of giving the player a free hand with the strategic decisions. Britannia rewards you for being a good little boy and doing what history says you should do.

Graeme Forster It was good to the stats prove that Britannia is a very well balanced game. I always knew that the Welsh scored well (fourth highest average) and I think the high number of first and last places recorded by red is explained by players perceptions that red is the strongest and that unless you cull the Saxons that they will have an easy win. This is possibly true but the average proportion of red's points that are scored by the Saxons - 53% - shows their importance to red's fortunes.

Neil Walters The Britannia statistics made intriguing reading - when all's said and done there is no hiding from the fact that the Reds are the team to beat. What really surprised me was the numbers amassed by the Purples and Blues. Presumably these tie in with the staggering highest scores recorded by the Romano- Brits and the Belgae - freak die rolls, surely? My experience of playing Britannia is a mere five times but I would still dispute any claims made by the makers that the factions are evenly balanced. Given four equally competent players, I reckon that the Blues and Purples would be hard pressed to get a result - I would even go as far as to say that they would need to co-operate fully with each other for most of the game at the expense of Red and Black to give themselves an realistic chance. For all that, I like the game a lot. It still provides the flavour and challenge, but a few tips for the Blues and Purples wouldn't go amiss, please. One final thought: The Avalon Hill rules quote 'overpopulation limits apply at the end of both movement phases of a major invasion'. This rule is bad news, particularly for the Scots and other small nation invaders. Ignore and check overpopulation limits at the end of the second phase only.

John Webley I greatly enjoyed the Brittania article, it even inspired me to get my set down, but trying to translate it for German players put me off, and it isn't worth buying the German version unless I see it going cheap somewhere, dream on John.

MS: Lest all the praise be misdirected, I should stress that the article was compiled by Mark Green; all I did was forget to put his name on it. Thanks Mark.

Mark Buckley Advanced Civilisation. Although I have owned this for a while, I only got to play it the other weekend. Overall I was impressed with it - the trading rounds are certainly much easier to cope with (I think this was the first game of Civ I have played and not had a headache at the end!), and the tradable calamities I felt were an improvement, not least because the person with the most cities and most cards will probably need to trade most and therefore stands to get more calamities passed on. Didn't get much chance to try out the new Civilisation cards much, but I like the fact that there are enough cards for everyone - I never felt happy with the fact that if other players had Mysticism, I couldn't have it. I think this will mean that Civilisation stands to be played more round here now.

Mark Buckley Outpost: We played this the other day with 7 people and I got thoroughly beaten (as an excuse I claim I was trying to interpret the rules for the others at the time!). Anyway, it seemed to me that once you fall behind, there seems to be very little you can do to catch up - except produce as hard as possible and hope that other people squabble for more expensive things so that you can buy what you want uncontested. The first few turns are important here, as it is very tempting to expand into ore and water factories when you should be saving a bit for later, otherwise (as I found) you seem to expand quickly but soon run out of steam. It reminds me a lot of the buying Civilisation cards bit (has someone already said that?). Even without the interaction, we found it enjoyable, and it rolled along pretty quickly, with some lively bidding. I also got some expansion rules from Eamon Bloomfield at Games Corner. I'm sure we will play it again at least a few times...(and I consider myself a Chaos gamer through and through).

John Webley Outpost was in play at Midcon, it looks unbelievably boring, all those monochrome cards, but I didn't try it.

William Preston Outpost: Yawn City, Minnesota. Games without interaction are just worthless exercises. You were far too lenient with it - I detect that this is not a game you will play again.

Don Greenwood I have played Outpost and my impressions were largely the same as yours. Of our four players only one was impressed enough to play it again. The rest of us cited the lack of player interaction for our non-interest. Blackbeard has decidedly more interaction and even I admit that is not the game's strong point. Actually, as a combined solitaire game for four players it wasn't all that bad - and I did find it moderately interesting - if only to see how it worked - but then I won. Actually, the fellow in our group who liked it is a big 1830 fan so perhaps your impression that there must be something in the breed is correct.

Graeme Forster Outpost. Although I agree with Mark Green in some respects, I do like the game, I believe that introducing some random events would test a players ability to react to changes in circumstances that the current structured system precludes. Events such as :- Delay of cargo ship - no new equipment available this round; Meteorite Storm - one random Warehouse, Nodule or Moonbase destroyed; Martian Flu - population reduced etc. I do not find that much wrong with the lack of interaction between players as I think that if the game is right that this is not vital. Incidentally I hated Millenium and got bored after destroying two of the other civilizations. Did you finish it ?

MS: No, I've hardly finished any computer games. In fact, as I've said before, I usually have a very short fuse in this respect. I think I played about two hours of Millenium and had seen enough to be mildly impressed and to know I didn't want to commit any more time to it. I tend to agree with you on the interaction point if taken in a wider sense, but there are many gamers out there to whom interaction is vital in any game. However, I can quite happily play a game low on interaction such as Liftoff or Arabian Nights as long as the subject matter or other elements of the game compensate adequately, in both these cases by their atmosphere and/or humour. Outpost just didn't have enough of anything much to get into and I therefore noticed the lack of interaction. Odd, but there you go.

Nik Holliday Personally I'm not too sure about Formule De, as there seems to be too much of the old 'roll the dice and if it's a one you're out of the game' business for me. Still, if you ignore those rules there's a fairly decent race game to be had, even if it is a tad expensive.

Mark Buckley Formule De. Um well, I'm not so sure. I think getting rid of the collision rule is a good idea (in our last game someone got knocked out on her second turn). The start placing on the grid has a big effect too, I suspect being placed 10th to start is seriously bad news for your chance to win, especially in a single lap race. I got the information on the extra circuits, and it seems to give the impression that they are all printed in black and white on paper (or have I misread something somewhere?).

MS: No, they actually do black & white maps of every track in the F1 calendar but are also bringing out luxury colour versions one by one, presumably until people stop buying them at £13 a shot. So far Ludodelire have put out Magny Cours and Monza with Hockenheim due soon. As for starting last, it certainly doesn't help but surprisingly doesn't hinder your chances of winning that much. Over the course of two laps (or even one), the die rolls will usually even out the eight spaces or so you lose on the grid. A good solution is to choose half the grid positions and then work symmetrically backwards for the other car of the team, so if you are on pole, you are also last.

For the full flavour of the game, I think you need to drive the Magny Cours track - only then will you get the full benefit of high speed straights, risky gear changes, nutty out braking and kamikaze cornering. The Monza circuit, by the way, is not brilliant. It is very short, doesn't allow much high gear usage and the track occupies just a fraction of the board size - the rest is filled with a large hot air balloon graphic. That said, what is now becoming apparent is that the tracks do really feel like their real-life counterparts (Shyeah Right; as if I've driven them all or something). I have no doubt that if they did Silverstone it would feel fast and Suzuka would be hard work. This is all achieved with the simple expedient of the numbered corners and scale lengths. If it was an intentional design trick, and I guess it was, it is rather ingenious. The game has now reached 10+ status here.

William Preston Koalition is growing on us steadily. I think you are right about the negotiation phases - they are almost meaningless at times. This is now one of my favourite games of '92, thanks for the recommendation.

Mark Buckley Koalition. Played this with William Whyte (see his comments last Sumo), and it seems to me to be a '2001' of card games i.e. despite the nice graphics etc there is a lot less to it than you think at first (I prefer Solaris!). OK, but something seemed to be missing.

MS: I prefer Star Wars writes Mr Populist. Open the pod door Rolf...

Rolf Wichmann Koalition: This is in my opinion one of the best games of 1992 which would have deserved to have been nominated for 'The List'. We play it normally once a week but with our own house rules because we realized rather quickly that in most cases there is a winning party but no coalition. The reason seems to be that the players have just two cards for each country. You should try it with three cards instead! This way the elections are much more interesting, although the game will become even longer (a big handicap for you?!). We also experimented with the total number of cards dealt to the players for each round; with the number of elections per round; with 'setting' of the most important countries etc.

Stuart Dagger Koalition: Our experience has been closer to yours than to those of the people who commented last time. In our games the negotiation phase is rarely long enough to justify 'phase', let alone 'negotiation'. It is nearly always obvious from a quick glance at the cards played and the score sheet to see what the optimal deal is, and those left out don't waste time arguing. As for single party governments, we had a lot in the first game, when people weren't familiar with the scoring system, but only two or three a game since. There is no point in being in the Government party if you don't score points, and once you realise that you stop following crowds. The one correspondent I did agree with was Stephan, both on the desirability of rotating the deal and on the luck element. To be in with a chance of winning it is usually necessary to have been last to go and holding good cards when one of the big four came up. Despite this we like the game a lot and rate it the best 'quick, light and cheerful' since Hols Der Geier. Razzia is also proving a hit. So thanks for alerting me to both games.

Graeme Forster I find both Razzia and Koalition enjoyable fillers for the end of a gaming session although I would agree with Dave's comments on the free-for-all nature of having too many players with Koalition even though he probably considers me to be one of those with the bullshitting ability he mentioned.

Wolfgang Luedtke Razzia: The best feature of Razzia is that it works well with eight players. I also like it, but compared to Adel there is too much luck involved. You get a random hand of cards, so you never know what the others got. The only strategy is trying to remember which cops have been played.

Mark Buckley Spanish Main. I was interested to see Mike Cliffords' comments on this. I bought a copy a few years ago (at the one and only Mindgames). Reaction so far has been that it seems a nice idea but I've never felt happy with it. I seem to spend all my time just sailing to the island, digging up treasure and sailing back with very little stuffing of the other player, and vice versa. Always felt this was a pity because the ideas are good.

Graeme Forster I found Spanish Main to be a very frustrating game, although I admit to playing only once. I was trying to move to my home port which was five spaces away, which is extremely hard to do with a handful of even numbered cards. I was a Spaniard, so no -1 cards and it was over ten turns before an odd card appeared. Perhaps a rule where you could forfeit a turn and drift one square (even if in a random direction) would ease the problem.

Mike Clifford Karom. Like Dave Farquhar, I bought Karom on spec. I am delighted, and even more so having found out that the perspex boards sold in Germany cost at least as much. However, I would suggest going for the Size 1 board, which is 'full-size' as far as the regulations are concerned.

Alan Parr I recently called on some friends of ours the day their son had just returned from a month in India. He'd not only bought a Karom board, but he'd persuaded Air India to transport it and smuggled it through customs as well!

Matthew Hayes On the subject of Silverton, my gaming group very much enjoys it but does find that player interaction is somewhat limited after the initial jockeying for strategic rail lines has been resolved. The main problem is that players operating from Denver/Pueblo are unable to influence prices (except for Gold) in Salt Lake City (and vice versa). The tactic of buying up strategic claims on the other side of the board appears to be largely self-defeating. Has anybody else found this or are there some dastardly 1830-style stabs we haven't discovered yet? Admittedly we haven't yet played the advanced game. Perhaps competing for locomotives makes all the difference?

John Webley Silverton I have now played three times and won every time, nonetheless I am not 100% in favour, a game that takes five hours shouldn't come down to the throw of one die but that is effectively what happened in Birmingham. The dice set being sold with it by Das Spiel makes things a bit quicker, but there seems to me to be a fundamental problem, in that if you play consecutively as per the rule book, then it drags interminably, while if you play simultaneously, then it causes unholy problems with cash flow, working out if you had the money to buy something when you had to buy it can be a nightmare retrospectively. It seems to me that the restriction about buying before selling only harms the game, and I see no conceptual reason why the mine owner couldn't give the route owner short term credit to get the stuff to market.

MS: This is pretty much the way we played it and, yes, there seems no real reason not to have the credit lines in place. Speaking from experience, mining is incredibly capital intensive and I can't imagine that banks weren't expected to assist even in those days - anyone know the history of mining finance? Thought not. It really does speed up the game if played this way. Perhaps the designer may care to comment?

Mark Buckley Silverton. Highly impressed, will rush out and buy a copy ASAP. Initially, due to a misreading of the rules such that the train needed to carry a cargo was: Total route length x amount carried instead of: longest track section x amount carried it seemed that the Claims were not worth having. However, once this was sorted out it proved to be a much better game with a very nice feel to it. One query, you mention it as being £15.00, I haven't seen it available for less than about £21.00.

MS: £15 was the conversion of what I paid in dollars. At the time it wasn't available over here, but I would say the average shop price is now around £25. On this subject, Andy Daglish rang me to talk about the prices I quote. Basically, they are what I pay - I really don't have the time to go off hunting for all the variations, that is down to you I'm afraid. I find out later what is happening, for instance I know that Battle Masters can now be found for £28 in Beatties and will be cheaper after Christmas I guess, but at the time of writing, I slot in what I've got and let you find the spreads. At Essen, John Webley mentioned he had played Silverton but that he thought there was a lot of dice rolling to establish the prices. This is true to an extent, but a clever German retailer (Das Spiel?) was selling the game with a set of dice selected for size and colour to do it all in one go, and this seems to help matters. John also suggested that the game would suit postal play well, and it could be underway soon somewhere in the postal hobby.

Carl Huber Personally I welcome the review of all games in Sumo, past and present. Yes, it may be frustrating to read of a game that sounds excellent, but is out of print, but perhaps it would create demand for someone to do a rehash, reprint etc.

Mark Buckley Regarding writing reviews, whether of new or old games, I would like to have a go. The problem seems to be getting hold of the new games in time to play them enough to write something in time, before thousands of earnest game players have also bought it. The other possibility is in 'old' games. I must admit I used to like the RIP column in Games International, even though the games were generally not available, but reviews of games out for a while, still available, and worth getting would appeal.

MS: Apart from using reviews strictly as a buying guide, I don't think there is any great pressure on timing of reviews, as long as they don't drag on a year or more and thus risk the minority games being unavailable. I have no problem with reviewing Tyranno Ex, Valley of the Mammoths or Supergang (when I get round to them) as they are still out there and there are definitely still potential buyers, despite the initial rush by the must-haves.

These latter buyers have a rather dispiriting effect on me as I often feel I am writing yesterday's papers; by the time Sumo is finished, we have heard the views on recent games, which are good and which have already been put away in the cupboard. Worse is the implication that the games I am reviewing are a little old hat. I wonder if the improvements in distribution channels (more shops carrying games, more Essen visitors, Adam Spiel) are making the games far less obscure? It hurts a bit, especially as I try to cover games that I think readers will be interested in (funded from my own pocket), I just hope the rest of you appreciate the efforts. I know you can't buy everything, so hopefully the reviews will help at least some of you. On the other hand, some reviews in Sumo have possibly been too quick, appearing way before the games are widely available, but if that digs up the likes of Silverton or Ostindiska Kompaniet, even if it is hard to get hold of initially, I think it a strategy worth pursuing.

I may be unusual but I enjoy reading good reviews of games even after I've bought them; they help to check that the game is working correctly, there are nearly always nuances to be spotted and I just like to read other's views. All part of the wider hobby as far as I'm concerned. I also appreciated RIP from the point of view of systems and ideas, but it had two drawbacks: it encouraged a rather elitist, smug 'I've got this game and you haven't' attitude and would often tempt me to go off and hunt down the game. Either way, from next issue, I'll try to run a RIP type review, probably linked into a design article.

Mike Clifford Re: Wives and games. My first wife (who, a 'friend' tells me, features in a bridge support pillar somewhere on the M25) thought me crazy. She paid the price. My current wife coined the phrase 'games loonies', but is happy to play games, and even suggests doing so. I think it's the level of commitment. After all, why read and write about them when you can play them. The simple answer for non-believers? Kill the b______ds. Oh, and I'll let you know when I've had the courage to tell the other students in my German language class what my hobbies are.

Martin Burroughs Attitudes: the mass response to gaming seems to be similar to the response to minor sexual perversions, a sort of mixture of puzzlement, amusement and disgust in varying degrees. Possibly not surprising when you consider that Gyles Brandreth is the best known gamer in the UK! Disgusts me, really. But seriously, boardgamers are superior to the plebs, as indeed are most people who have the guts to deviate from the sheep-like norm, so we might as well act superior too.

John Meara On the subject of admitting to playing games as a hobby, I think it is important to realise that we are a very divided bunch. The thought of playing with figures does not inspire me at all, although I will happily spend a couple of hours counting combat factors on bits of cardboard. Equally, I am less inclined towards computer games (although I have got this really good golf program) than other people. Breaking it down to its bare essentials, I like to understand the mechanics of a games system which I thinks why I can buy games and not really worry too much about playing them. I also like the social interaction in a game which explains why I am not that keen on computer games.

With reference to your comments on Trivial Pursuit I think you just have to accept (however unappealing) that it hit the right spot at the right time and have now passed into the realms of the establishment as far as gamesplaying is concerned. Of course, one point we all overlook is that it is very accessible for the non- games player - throw your dice, answer your question, take your cheese and so on. A whole lot easier to explain than ASL.

MS: Sorry if misled you, but I rather like Trivial Pursuit. It just happens to be one of the few mass market games that I will happily play, as long as excess smugness is outlawed. It is also a good example of what we are talking about. Did you see that the designers of Triv recently bought themselves a private golf course? No wonder there are hundreds of people trying to emulate them. Talking of extravagance, have you all seen the special limited edition Monopoly available at the usual bargain price from the Franklin Mint? 'Just £395 payable in convenient monthly instalments.' Obviously a new meaning of the word convenient I wasn't aware of. That said, you could have two for the price of one Fackler.

My only disappointment is that games do not get an airing in pubs very much. My local has a thriving domino team, why not backgammon? Is it because of the die? We often play cards, why not Koalition? Again, I think that this would challenge the established practices and, besides, we all know how to play crib.

MS: Interesting point. I suspect it would be as simple as introducing them to the pub and seeing what happens; when we used to have Diplomacy hobbymeets in a central London pub, the reaction from the public was very good, though the pub was known for bar and board games anyway. Recently, while conducting the auction for the Dreamteam league, there were numerous people interested to know what was going on and there is often only a little jump from initial interest to getting involved. On pubs in general, I have to say I'm not a big fan, being of the Mr Boring school that believes you can do it all at home just as well, with better chairs, cheaper beer (£2 a pint already!) and most importantly without the smoke. On crib, it is a game that I have been taught three times and cannot for the life of me remember how to play. I think you might also be surprised at the number of gamers without a cardplaying background of any sort.

In summary, I would like to think we are quiet about our hobby because there is a bit of it that we would not wish to be associated with and because playing games allows each of us to express parts of our character that we would not normally show and, perhaps, would not want to make too public. In reality, I fear that most of us are afraid of the reaction of other people who may think it childish. But does it really matter? I would like to play against a few different people and I like the idea of playing Six Day Race down the pub, but I also enjoy meeting a fellow spirit in an unlikely setting and having a conversation about the merits of 18xx. However small, the hobby lives.

MS: Amen to that.

Mark Buckley Telling people you play/collect games - I've always done it, usually quite soon after meeting them in fact, in case they turn out to be convertible! I think the problem tends to be that most people's exposure to games is purely of the Christmas family crap that gets churned out to make some cash. Once people understand the games do not just involve rolling dice and moving dobbers, they are usually receptive to the idea. Also the image is of a spotty adolescent type who is terribly over-enthusiastic all the time and can talk about nothing else. I don't think this is very common, however, the problem is that people who are like that attract much more attention than people who aren't! So the more normal an image we present, the more acceptable it becomes. I've also tended to feel, "Well that is what I do, if they don't like it, it's their problem". Thinking about the way games come across to the average non duvet-stuffer in the street (by 'normal' people here I mean those who don't play games - no offence intended):

People want game subjects they can relate to. This is a big enough problem amongst gamers (trying to get eight people to decide what to play can be a real problem), but I have noticed that normal people generally look at the subject of a game eg trains or rabbits or something, rather than the game itself, which we all of course know are completely separate matters, although one may reflect the other well, or badly. Perhaps some experimentation is needed here - the same game mechanics with different subjects, and see how people decide what to play.

Simple Mechanics - Complex Games. These seem to go down surprisingly well. Here I'm thinking of games with easy to learn rules which give rise to a complex game e.g. Hare and Tortoise, Six Day Race etc. Games perceived to be 'difficult' e.g. having a big rule book will tend to put people off even if relatively logically simple. I like to think that people do actually appreciate trying something challenging, and the crap turned out generally just doesn't do that, hence games get a bad press, or as something children do.

Time. This can be the other problem. It is very difficult to explain to someone that you have been playing Empires in Arms one day a week for the past six months - most people don't want to commit that amount of time - if they did they would be in there already. You can get away with 4-5 hours if the game is supportive enough, but usually 1-2 hours is an average.

Playing with the kids. Most games probably get bought to be played by, or with children. In this case you want a game that anybody can win, else pretty quickly someone will get tired of being thrashed. To achieve this, you have to have a large element of luck, firstly because if you lose, it wasn't necessarily your fault, and secondly because next time you may get to win. Of course once this is realised, there is little point in playing, because there is so little input from the player, hence it is a paradox - games of skill can't be played by families, and games of chance don't hold their appeal for long.

Nik Holliday Social acceptance of gamers and gaming: From my own experience I've found that a lot of people are closet gamers. That is, the initial reaction to my hobby/obsession is one of sidelong glances and barely disguised smirks. These reactions are often compounded when you see some of the games...'but it's all in German'...'You What? Demolish toilets with roads?'.. etc but if you can get some of them to play, more often than not they thoroughly enjoy them. Ok, so you won't get many ex-Triv players into 1830 or HOTW, but these games are saved for the games club. However, the likes of 6 Day Race, Vendetta, Drunter & Druber, manager and several others have all proved popular with non-gamers.

The main problem is that most people think there are two types of games: Triv et al for grown ups and Monopoly/Cluedo for the kids. Once they discover that there are in fact games which are suitable for adults which don't involve general knowledge or embarrassing questions then they are quite happy to play them. As to what my wife thinks about my ever increasing games collection, well, my games expenditure is on a par with her clothes expenditure. We therefore have an agreement; I say nothing when a yet another Freemans parcel turns up at the door and she says nothing when another parcel marked 'Just Games' arrives!

Chris Charles Concerning the 'image' of the hobby, I can only say that my other interests include Amateur Radio and Kung Fu. You can imagine that disclosing this produces predictable Tony Hancock or Bruce Lee comments so that, by contrast, an interest in board games seems quite ordinary.

Graeme Forster On a more serious note pertaining to the discussion on the acceptability of gaming in polite society I believe that things will get better. I too suffer from the comments (particularly at work) about my hobby from people who fly around the world to watch planes or, even more pathetically, Manchester Utd. I think/hope that as the latest generation of children will be more open to idea of playing general or war games due to their familiarity with computers and games consoles. The trouble is persuading them that a 'boardgame' can be as much fun as the bells and whistles on the latest version of Mario or Sonic. The conversion of the older nephew has already begun by playing games such as Merchant of Venus, Wrasslin', Sechs Tage Rennen and 'the ship game' - Enemy in Sight. He has won at all of them and I am hopeful of the younger nephew becoming interested as he did join in a game of Asterix, the card game, one time and although he thought he was playing snap, he quite enjoyed being allowed to play with the 'grown-ups'.

MS: Right, this angle is the logical development of what I was writing about last time and links to recruitment. I have discussed this at length with Mike Clifford recently and I indicated that I felt my recruiting days were over. I used to be quite gung ho about advancing the hobby but a long succession of setbacks, disappointments and apathy (mainly in the sportsgaming hobby) has really put paid to it. I have never been able to stroll into a room, as can some gamers, and start preaching. However, I would talk to people if they seemed interested and encourage them to play, with me if possible. Over the years though, with no real reaction to my efforts (perhaps I'm simply no good at it), I have now all but given up. I know I am lucky to have a number of agreeable opponents and perhaps this is why I now take such a selfish stance, but others have tried where I have failed and have come up with the same results. I hardly feel guilty about my contribution to gaming (in the shape of Sumo and other endeavours) and can't exactly be accused of being tight on purchases. To be honest, even though I have cut back drastically, there is very little that interests me that I don't buy. I do this mainly because of this nebulous 'support' concept, by which if someone is putting out a magazine, gamekits or whatever, then I feel obliged to support them. In fact, I enjoy it and feel the positive results far outnumber the let downs. Shame this doesn't happen more often. As for recruiting in general, I know Dave Farquhar and many others (from your letters) are actively working on new recruits and good on you for it.

And now, the last ever 5&10 listings. I can't remember who it was, but if that kind person who volunteered would like to compile the stats, I'll gladly print the leaders. Thanks to all those who wrote in, and to Charles for the initial idea. I've enjoyed them.

Matthew Hayes 5+: 1830, Adel, Airlines, Grass, History of the World, McMulti, Statis Pro Football 10+: 6 Tage Rennen, Acquire, Daytona 500, Der Ausreisser (unfortunately!), Formula 1, Mhing, Napoleon at Waterloo, PanzerBlitz, Pole Position, Railway Rivals, Sniper (the original SPI edition with the unintentionally hilarious rules - full of "erect men exposing themselves in doorways"!), Speed Circuit.

Alan Beaumont (Listing only those games I'm still enthusiastic about and excluding traditional and card games) 100+ Kingmaker, Careers, Aces High. 20+ Civilisation, Panzer Group Guderian, Rommel in the Desert, Russian Campaign, Formula 1, Napoleon, Kremlin, A House Divided, Wooden Ships & Iron Men. 10+ Kings & Things, Warlord/Apocalypse, A.Group South Quad, Circus Maximus, Napoleon's Last Battles, Operation Cobra, Acquire, Wizard's Quest, Enemy in Sight.

Michael Keller 100+: backgammon, chess, go, Monopoly, Strat Baseball, APBA Baseball 50+: Delta, Richtofen's War, Foxbat and Phantom, Reversi/Othello, cribbage, Mastermind, poker, Scrabble 20+: Risk, Mille Bornes, Water Works, bridge, Lines of Action, Black Box, Trivial Pursuit, hearts, super crazy eights, gin rummy, 500 rummy 10+: Domain, Cathedral, Strat Football, SI Decathlon, Stratego, Clue, Avalanche Chess, Extinction Chess, gomoku, Musket & Pike, mancala, Palabra, Sets, Liars Dice, APBA Golf, APBA Saddle Racing, Sackson's Card Baseball, numerous patience, Can't Stop, Orient Express 5+: Empire Builder, Entropy, Strat Hockey, Clubhouse Baseball, Pursue the Pennant, Diplomacy, Sleuth, 221b Baker St, Mah Jongg, Strategy One, Mem, Realm, Cartel, Flying Carpet, Hare & Tortoise, Abalone, Football Strategy, Metric Mile, Speed Circuit, Regatta, Orion

Martin Burroughs 5+: Cosmic Encounter, Illuminati, Circus Maximus, Apocalypse, Homas Tour, Thunder Road, African Star, Meteo, Dune, Colditz, Soceror's Cave, Quirks, Kremlin, Junta, Ulcers, Hare & Tortoise, Title Bout, 6 Tage Rennen, Britannia, Talisman, Kingmaker, Pass the Pigs, Shark, Stockbridge 10+: 1830, Aussriesser, Family Business, Diplomacy, Topple, Bamboozle, RR, Speed Circuit, Risk, Liars Dice, Chase, Sherlock Holmes Card game, Othello, Pole Position, Acquire.

Andy Daglish 5+: Thunder at Cassino (Much underrated and better than the other two). 10+: ASL, Up Front. MS: A slight understatement here I think, Andy.

Michael Hopcroft 5+: Kingmaker, Empire Builder, Republic of Rome, Diplomacy, Car Wars; the Card Game, Illuminati, Strat Football, 1830, Advacned Civ, 221b Baker Street, Tarrak, GURPS, Champions, Fantasy Hero. 10+: Eurorails, Statis-Pro Basketball, Strat Baseball, Strat Basketball, Strat Hockey, Monopoly, Pursue the Pennant, APBA Baseball. I am not including the various computer sports games I have used, where you can run up hundreds of games while not doing much at all - I still remember playing almost an entire season of Earl Weaver Baseball in my sleep (at least until the computer ran out of disk space).

Rolf Wichmann 5+: Favoriten, Hase & Igel, Sherlock Holmes Criminal Cabinet, Jockey, 1830, Adel, Exec Decision, Arbora, Forum Romanum, Sleuth, Aussriesser, Venture, HacMac, Asterix, Doolittle & Waite, Hecht, Abalone, Max X, Gute Nachbarn, Monad, Pole Position (Parker), Sopwith, Grass, Karriere Poker, Hyle, Jag & Schlag, Shark, Airlines, Can't Stop, Bauernschlau, Bockige Esel, Hols der Geier, Zug um Zug, Koalition, Schuss und Tor, Triv, Tutti Frutti [MS: not the RTL version, I trust], Ogallala, Kollier, 1835 10+: Playboss, Grand Prix, Cartino, Borsenspiel, Acquire, Facts in Five, WP&S, Silber Dollar, Legzetto, Zaster, Racko, Liar's Dice, Laska, Hextension, Quibbix, Rummikub, Choice, Manager, 6 Tage Rennen.

Gary Graber 100+: Strat Basketball and Stratego.

Brian Hughes 5+: Cluedo, Careers, Buccaneer, Totopoly, Mine a Million, Risk, Civilization, Black Box, Mysteries of Old Peking, Elixir, Astron, Test Match, Uno, Jungle, Boomtown, Kremlin, Enchanted Forest, Hare & Tortoise, Acquire, McMulti, Cul de Sac, Safari Round Up, Sorceror's Cave, Mystic Wood, Talisman, Sniff, Six Day Race, 221b Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, Ogallala 10+: 18xx, Mhing, Thoughtwave.

Wolfgang Luedtke 5+: Scotland Yard, Bauernsclau, Outburst, Tabu, Civilization, Quo Vadis, Pirat, Fliegende Hollander, Junta, Spitting Image, Um Reifenbreite, Greyhounds, Playboss, Mystic Wood, Waterworks, Forum Romanum, Marrakech 10+: Barbarossa, Adel, Pit, Kuhhandel, Malawi, Geister.

Mick Haytack 5+: Abandon Ship, Alaska, Amoeba Wars, Armchair Cricket, Asterix, Ausbrecher, Automania, Black Spy, Campaign, Careers, Chessington, Cluedo, Crude, Dallas, Devil take the Hindmost, Dirty Dozen, Drunter & Druber, Dune, Elefantparade, Empire Builder, Enchanted Forest, Entenrallye, Enterprise, Executive Decision, Flusspiraten, Gold Connection, Grass, Greed, Hols der Geier, Midnight Party, Milles Bornes, Monopoly, Pinball, Pit, Pony Express, Sahara, Scotland Yard, Sherlock Holmes Card Game, Shocks & Shares, Schoko & Co, Skirrid, Speculate, Speed, Stockmarket, Topple, 1830, 221b Baker Street 10+: Airlines, Bier Borse, Boggle, Boom Town, Borsenspiel, Cash, Connect Four, Aussriesser, Diplomacy, Discretion, Draughts, Election X, Enchanted Owls, Express, Family Business, Favoriten, Fictionary Dictionary, First past the Post, Flying Carpet, Formel Eins, Heimlich & Co, Password, Pass the Pigs, Pole Position, Penalty, Risk, 6 Tage Rennen, Speed Circuit, Trivial Pursuit, Vendetta, venture, Wildlife Adventure, Willi Wacker, WP&S 25+: Bausack, Chess, Hare & Tortoise, RR, Shark 50+: Ave Caesar, Liars Dice, Scrabble 100+: Acquire, Adel, Backgammon, Babu 1,000+: Bridge. Phew. Nice to round off with the first 1,000+ declaration! I'm prompted to wonder at how many games of Statis Pro Baseball I've played.....

Nigel King I see that the 5&10 lists are finally disappearing. I enjoyed reading these but never felt inclined to send a list myself. The reason for this being, is anything going to be gained by readers knowing that ten years ago I played White Bear, Red Moon (10+) again and again with my younger brother? Or that five years ago we had a spate of playing Titan (5+) never to be played again? Also the lists include games that people played years ago when they had more time and fewer games, ie Risk, Totopoly, Cluedo etc. A successor to the list could be 'Played recently and intend to play again' listing (similar to The General's What have you been playing'). It would help as a back up to your reviews to know if people are actually playing the new releases or simply sticking with the old ones. Blackbeard is an example; your review was negative but it appears that people are playing it (mainly solo which should be noted on the vote). Automania is a game that after the review and subsequent comments in Sumo I am still undecided about. It would be useful to know if people are playing the game and intend to play it again. It could swing it in favour of a buy here. The downside is that you end up with a Top Ten list that remains unchanged every month.

MS: Okay, this sounds feasible. Let's try lists of five games, no order required, played at least twice in the last month and that you will play again. Note if you played them solitaire. I'll see how this goes.

On to the Sumos or back to the Inside Pitch.

Sumo - Mike Siggins - Legal Notices and Other Information