Andy Daglish So what am I to do with 10,000 copies of Siege At Waco now it is a bad taste game? Fundamentalists vs Treasury Dept [MS: Sounds like Costains - in joke, mainly for my benefit], everyone's best friends, I thought this was a sure recipe. Still, no one levelled this criticism at Phaseline Smash. BTRC's Black Death is now out, wherein everyone plays a disease. Reminds me of my Uncle Jack game, taken from Ripping Yarns, where the idea was to collect as many different conditions and avoid hospitalisation.

MS: Come over here lad and I'll show you me buboes. Just how many Bad Taste ideas do you have up there Andy? Nevertheless, I feel we should see the Uncle Jack game in print - get Spencer onto it now. Dave Farquhar reported in from the Hot Off The Plane gaming group (they aim to beat me to every new title, and succeed dammit) and it seems Black Death may well have some merit, even if it is only educational. Amongst other goodies, it simulates the spread of disease around medieval Europe and lets you choose the name, contagiousness and lethality of your bug. You also get to say, 'It's your turn, Scrofula' or 'Another Drink, Elephantitis?'. Sick, or what? It also sounds quite well developed which, perhaps surprisingly, is typical for BTRC's games.

Phil Bootherstone Your support for Beer & Pretzels and encouragement are greatly appreciated and contrasts with the wargames magazines - once again all three have omitted B&P from their convention listings and refuse to explain why. RPI have missed it due to a genuine cock-up and plan to make amends with a big plug in the next issue. I desperately hope they survive that long. They are suffering from 'You're going to go bust anyway so we won't bother supporting you' problem typical of the trade, which is a real shame.

MS: Good foresight there boys. Try looking up self fulfilling prophecy sometime. I have no axe to grind with the wargame magazines (they are among my must reads, along with Empire) but when Wargames Illustrated ran a review of The Round Table (hardly related to the miniatures field) I took the opportunity of firing off a couple of Sumos - but to no avail. I think Sumo has amateur written all over it and card covers and one splash of red ink carry disproportionate weight. Sniff. Thanks for your efforts in keeping Beer & Pretzels going Phil, it is much appreciated.

Marcus Watney Charles Vasey warns that players who explain what they are doing put themselves at a disadvantage by reducing the amount of work the opposition has to do puzzling out their strategy. I disagree. I talk a great deal about the options open to me, the dangers to others, etc. etc. Most of the time, these ramblings are accurate, and palpably so. As a result, when the time comes for me to lie through my teeth, I find it that much easier to sell my opponents a dummy. They've given up thinking for themselves.

Andy Daglish Roadkill: We are playing with the upgrades. At first I liked the 'Dalek' combination of turret (for laying down fire in the paddock) and Run Flat tires (fully tracked?), but now I feel that armour is absolutely necessary. In the last game only my wheels were attacked and a couple of ram attempts ended so badly for the rammer that no-one else tried it. This is a clever game that can be played light heartedly or seriously with equal ease. I've had a couple of lucky games where the right cards came along. Some others seemed to be practising being milkmen ie stopping every other card. I feel the box canyon card has too big an effect on the game, especially because it inhibits the use of Road 3/4 cards on the next section. Otherwise, suspect graphics all round whereas Mustangs has great graphics all round.

MS: But not enough planes, and no Brits. Who do they think won the Battle of Britain rant blather (cont p94). I agree on the Roadkill graphics, though some of the cards are okay (Submachinegun Sam is good). The cover, logo apart, is dire. George Parrish is going to be sadly missed (although this could easily have been another Merchant of Venus fiasco). As for the game, it seems to split gamers down the middle. I am largely unimpressed but carry a small torch as I feel there is something there. I just feel a lot of gamers (myself included) might not make it through the slow learning curve. I accept that I may have had a bum group of games (2, 3 and 5 player) but I have yet to see anything beyond a processional, overlong game that really doesn't convey racing, combat or movement (which is a shame because that is what it is about). A duff run of movement cards really ties it up and we spent a good forty minutes trying to get out of one section - it looked more like a motorway service station than a Mad Max race. The rules are nearly as opaque as Up Front and the system seems to be a lot about very little. I do of course like the Up Front inspired card resolution but why the dice and why doesn't it even come close in card play? A poor fit with the subject matter or the subject matter itself may be the problem. If this game were a vegetable, it would be a potato ( Jeremy Clarkson).

Steve Owen Here are a few Roadkill questions for Don Greenwood: 1. can you have more than one flat tyre? 2. are all attack effects simultaneous e.g., flat tyre and ditched? 3. if the attack effect result moves beyond 1 or 5, are these numbers still used?

John Neeve Banana Republic: An interesting game that I felt could be improved by not letting anyone look at the voter cards after the two free looks. This would lead to more scope for bluffing and a lot more fun revealing at the end.

MS: If I understand you correctly, surely that would reduce it to a lottery? If you were lucky enough to choose two 24 point voters you could pile up on them and throw in a few random ones elsewhere and have a real chance of winning. I think I prefer it as it is.

Paul Jefferies Banana Republic: Enjoyed by all who've played it. Lovely little number to play as a filler or while waiting for latecomers. Great fun.

Steve Owen Banana Republic: short, interesting and quite appealing but not more than once per games session.

John Webley Banana Republic is light but fun, then comes Hacker. I did the translation about 18 months ago and I haven't looked at it since until now. I quite liked the game but never enough to get it out to play. Quite why it should have been savaged I don't know. Re Mike's confusion over passwords and codes, I too had trouble with this, and maybe I should have clarified it a bit. It is not specified in the German rules, but the password is what gets you to the centre square, and the code is what you find there. Once you have the code then you may place a marker stone. Normally when you sit at the terminal, once you have found the password, by hacking into the centre of the square, then you get the code automatically. In this case the two are synonymous. The difference comes with some of the cards. Some spy cards enable you to steal a password, others the code. If you learn a password, you still have to get to that terminal to get the code, although once there you don't need to hack into the system to get the code, you access it directly. If however you steal a code, then you may place the marker stone immediately, without visiting that terminal. Perhaps you could pass on the word to Mike or anyone else interested.

Alan How Everybody who has played Modern Art has shared your impressions - it is a really clever game which tends to produce different style games, even amongst the same people playing several games in a row. It has rapidly joined the ranks of the 10+ club (although we don't mention this any more).

John Neeve I found Modern Art an excellent game, simple enough to learn, plenty to think about, too much for me apparently as I finished a good third of three. My views are much the same as yours on this one. Knowing when to sell each artist is important but I think the crux of the game is using the right type of auction at the right time.

Alfonzo Smith You don't have to twist my arm to get me into a game of Modern Art. Although I have yet to win a game I have had a fine time playing. It doesn't bother me, as it does some people, that it possible to win without ever collecting one single painting. I like to think of that as just another possible strategy. However, until the price comes down a bit I won't be owning a copy anytime soon.

John Webley Modern Art hasn't been played so much as Elfenroads here, very much a game for gamers as you say, and I am not as sure about the Spiel des Jahres as I was. A superb system but maybe too many possibilities for the mass market. Knizia has a mere six new games out this year, he must be risking burn out, or at least the possibility of flooding the market.

Steve Kingsbury Modern Art is fun but I also agree that a passive strategy appears to do unreasonably well. Perhaps with more experienced players this isn't the case. I wondered whether all the money from a sale should go to a player or a percentage... or a variable percentage that changes.... according to the round or the stage in the round... or how many of that artist has been sold that round.... (I must stop creating variants).

Dave Farquhar I played Modern Art for the first time last night and really enjoyed it. I have your review to thank for stopping me buying it. That is a true vote of thanks as although I thoroughly enjoyed it, there is no way my group of casual gamers would have got anything out of it. I can't get over the effort and expense that must have gone into producing the 'paintings' for this and Vernissage. Having said my game group wouldn't go for it, it would probably be picked up fairly easily by my lunch time group of assorted accountants. Although professing no memory of my accountancy training, I think it probably helped me last night to twig the profit margin element in the game, particularly when given the opportunity to buy one's own painting or accept another's offer. I won the first game convincingly as mainly a buyer, but came in a reasonable second in the next game by buying only about three paintings the whole game. There are interesting strategy options on this one.

Ken Tidwell I got inspired during the presidential elections over here and created a new election card game. I'm eager to see the rules to Election to make sure that they are really different from my game. Mine does a pretty good job of simulating the American process and can be quite tense right down to the end. If I ever get my act together and make some more sets I'll send you one but hand making them takes a while so no promises.

MS: I'd like to see that Ken.

Ken: Still haven't done anything with it - added 3/16/97.

Malcolm Smith Elfenroads was simply magnificent. I think that despite it being a multi-player game I shall buy it for my collection (most of which are in their original shrinkwraps). What I like most about the game is that it is so well balanced - no-one can get a clear lead and it's great to see a player jump through six villages in one turn. Also the possibility of bluffing is superb; once I managed to get myself caught in a corner and two hazards were placed on the roads that I had placed counters on so I promptly jumped onto a raft thus making the whole of my journey and using up the other people's hazards. A great game.

Alan How Elfenroads: we were well impressed with this latest effort from the Moon camp (no, not over the Moon, we've had that one). Good game mechanics again, it has the feel of a Francis Tresham game, where system A interacts with system B, which interacts with C, which interacts back with A. In this case the systems are cards, movement, other player goals, your goals and resource control over gold. (Which is more than three systems, but you understand what I'm on about). This of course means lots of tricky decision each turn and my (limited) experience suggests that there won't be any obvious perfect plans.

Ed Austin Elfenroads: I have to say this is an excellent game, now among my top three all time, though I can't put my finger on exactly why. If anything it is a little long at a couple of hours, so we occasionally decide to play five or six rounds and determine a winner that way. Fantastic artwork, by the way.

Chris Payne I've played Elfenroads once and I'm ready for more, and like it so much that will probably buy my own copy. Games buying is not so much on a tight budget as a strict budget - the criterion being value for money. In this context I entirely agree with Nigel King that a better judgement of a game might be those you have played recently and will play again. I know gamers in two groups - the committed who will play 1830, Civilization etc, and the others who will play Shark, Homas Tour, (even) Silverton and who I feel will play Elfenroads. There is little point in me buying a copy of 1830 as the people who I are likely to play it with have already three or four copies between them, whereas Elfenroads can be played across the whole spectrum, and therefore becomes for me personally a good game. Costing £30, the 'price per game' is going to drop until it becomes little more than buying a couple of rounds of beer. From that viewpoint the games reviews are very welcome.

Nigel King Elfenroads is still popular though I can't convince players that the road between W2 and W3 is open road and not mountain. I've given up on it now - it looks like a mountain so it is a mountain [MS: Same here]. We have played a couple of games using an optional rule where you can place a transport marker anywhere. This leads to lots of nasty play with the Hogroast move (giant pigs blocking movement in the desert) proving very popular. This all adds to your options but can lead to very negative play (I then read the rules and we now play it properly). [MS: Good to see I'm not alone in the occasional slip!]

Steve Kingsbury Elfenroads is so good, well balanced and challenging. In our group we like essentially non-violent games so we removed the trouble chits which seemed like an unnecessary addition as their effects could be so damaging yet such a small part of the game mechanics.

John Webley Elfenroads, well, you know my opinion, a superb game, good for gamers and non gamers alike, it is just a pity that it is a limited edition, the game deserves a wider audience. Adam inform me though that they can still order it, so maybe it isn't as limited as Alan says.

Alfonzo Smith On the subject of Alan Moon, I do agree with the accolades poured onto Elfenroads. It is a fascinating little diversion that is high in skill level and player interaction. Presentation is marred by that one path up north that is the wrong colour and the artist's drawing style that I don't care for. I have Elfengold but I have yet to play it.

Dave Farquhar I have to say that Elfenroads was not only my best Christmas game but the best I have acquired for a long time. I have thoroughly enjoyed my four games, finding it to have atmosphere, excitement and strategy - long and short term, and both a high satisfaction level when things go right, and an equally high 'I've been well and truly stuffed' level when they don't. The game also appears to be extremely well balanced and a poor turn can be followed by an outstanding one. Many congratulations to Alan Moon on this one, I can't think of anything to better it.

Andy Daglish I had a subconscious aversion to Elfenroads which my internal diagnostics suggest might be to do with transportation linked to a fantasy theme. Embarrassing to feel this way since it is very good, unlike Mr Trucker to which addition of orcs would have surely been a mistake.

Paul Jefferies Elfenroads: have to say that for me this was the best new release at Essen, if not my favourite release from Mr Moon to date. One rule change that seems to make more sense is rather than start the game with each player having a marker in each of the towns, you place your markers as you visit them. Curious why it should be the other way round. Excellent stuff.

Trevor Deadman-Spall Elfenroads has been a great success with all who have played it and I am delighted with it. It seems time consuming, perhaps because every game so far has included teaching new players the rules, but the good thing is that it doesn't drag. One frightening thing is that you will run an article on 'How to win at Elfenroads' or a statistical analysis of the best or worst modes of transport. All I ask is that you warn me in big letters because I Don't Want To Know!!! The fun of playing any game is trying different strategies over a period of time. Is a game more fun if/when you know how to win it? I think not. As you would expect, I did not read the Britannia article in issue 9. Lovely to read Martin Leathwood's last comment on HotW: 'Did I win? Can't remember...' Always a good recommendation for a game.

MS: I do have sympathy with your views, and much prefer to play and explore my games in the same way. Probably because there are very few good strategy articles, I rarely read the things myself, much preferring a well written review and several sessions to get to grips with it. However, there is a sizeable minority who do like this sort of thing so I don't mind publishing them to maintain balance. Perhaps if I head them up Strategy or Stats, you can skip them?

Trevor... By the way, in case Alan Moon is at all interested, I'd rather he didn't take the Elfen series down the fantasy conflict route. Gosh, I bet he's worried by the widespread economic repercussions of my playing preferences. The only comments on Elfenroads, beautifully drawn gameboard but why not more placenames? I'm talking atmosphere here. Forget the dragon turn marker and give the dragon and the unicorns names which can spark off ideas for future games. On the other hand, it could be argued that it's better to leave everything blank rather than use names half the players think are stupid. Oh well, never mind, I'll do it myself.

MS: Well, yes. 'Stupid' names are a problem (you may have noticed my distaste when they appear) and it is best avoided in this way. ElfenWars is currently on the back burner and I strongly doubt it was a real wargame anyway (knowing Alan's preferences (Half Inch Counters and Hexes? Just say No!) and the German market). White Wind will release just one game at Essen 93, Freight Train, a card based game. There will be no elves on board but the grapevine is already buzzing on this one. Next year will probably see the latest ElfenXXXX game, at this stage shaping up as ElfenWizards.

Andy Daglish Santa Fe was wonderful, with potential for expansion or sequels. Rather too abstract for much historicity.

Neil Walters Someone told me that Santa Fe was like Airlines. Undeterred, I played it anyway. Happily I wasn't disappointed and found this a very enjoyable game. Without going overboard for this type of game, there were enough tactical options and freedom of action to ensure you have to keep your wits about you for 75 minutes. The games I've played recently have also been close run affairs. The only thing I feel might need looking into is the x2 cards. This seemed overly powerful to me. This was viewed as a soft option and not surprisingly used a lot early in the game. I think this probably needs moderating just a little, perhaps forced use of different coloured tracks or maybe a choice of two track builds, double points etc. This doesn't represent a problem to what is essentially a well thought out lightweight game; I also think the system is sound enough to allow optional extras if desired without losing the flavour of the original design.

John Neeve Santa Fe: As we found, picking out a x2 card too often doesn't do you much good because while you are laying copious amounts of track, other players are picking up cards for the destinations you have just built to.

Alfonzo Smith A six player session of Sante Fe was most unsatisfying but I was later told that it a better game for three or four. Speaking of rail games, I've played Silverton three times and I find the game uninvolving. The biggest objection to the game is how unbalanced the starting cities are. My friends who run All-Star Games in suburban Los Angeles now carry a Silverton expansion kit for those who disagree with my opinion of the game.

John Webley Santa Fe, I stick by my opinion, the game falls for me on the negative builds, like Wind and Wetter it seems to me to be a game where you don't play for a good position yourself but negatively against your opponents.

Keith Shapley I was very impressed with Elfenroads and had an enjoyable evening playing it. The standard of the cards etc was impressive which is just as well because I spilt a glass of water over the board. The auction was great for player interaction which cannot be said for Santa Fe which I found to be disappointing. It was not easy to know who was winning, but there was little feeling of excitement during the game either.

Dan Glimne Santa Fe: In my personal view, the game system as such works very well indeed but what I lack is that visual signal telling who is on his way to victory. I have been having a chat with Alan on this in our letters but he does not agree that this 'signal' is absent in the game. I prefer it to be rather clear cut, like in Adel. There you can easily see whose piece has advanced the furthest. In Monopoly, you can likewise see who has the most property and the largest bunch of cash. However, none of us in the test group had any real feeling (only vague suspicions at most) of who was in the lead, or who would in all likelihood emerge as the winner in Santa Fe. Somehow, we kept on building those railroads and afterwards adding up the points in a sort of less-than-climax. I have a feeling that maybe you could modify things so that somehow you would be continually aware of, or at least have a very strong appreciation of who was in the lead. Knowing who is in the lead means you can go after him. I dislike surprise victories when they stem from muddiness rather than brilliant end of game play. Any suggestions or preferences from other readers?

MS: This is an interesting topic. I very much go with the view that it is of no real consequence that there is no leader signal in games, but then I am usually along for the ride and not out for the kill. For instance, a game like Modern Art would be a far weaker system if you knew who was leading, easily allowing that player to be closed out by everyone else. That tactic is often dodgy of course as it skews the game in favour of other players and it can be rather Pyrrhic for the aggressor. Also, estimating how much cash players have is part of the skill. There are of course some games where it is essential or a key part of the game, such as Adel, but then it seems to be less noticeable.

John Webley Andy Key has a point about Britannia, but his comments could also be stated as saying that the aim of Britannia is to get as close to the published 'best play' as possible, and that is true of any game. There is no reason to have a temper tantrum when the Romans go into Wales, merely pointing out how many points the purple player has lost by doing so, and repeating the observation at five minute intervals for as long as the game lasts, is quite sufficient.

Harald Senk Most interesting to me was the article on Britannia, which is one of my favourite games. Although most figures in my personal statistics (14 games) roughly agree, there is one remarkable difference. The deviation lies in the score of the purple colour, and especially the Roman total. It was only in three games that they managed to score more than the 45.85 points given as an average in the article, my average score being around 38.00. As a result of this, Purple is normally the weakest colour by far, and even if purple is doing well, others will do better. Therefore I would be interested to know which strategies can lead to that level of Roman scoring, especially what distribution of armies is recommended for the two movement phases the first turn.

Roger Heyworth Britannia: Andy Key's comment as to 'mindless garbage' seems a bit over the top. Yes, players are rewarded for achieving historical objectives, or more accurately, objectives which they perhaps ought to have achieved. The Victory Points awarded to the Romans are a good case in point. There is a lot at stake if they get to Scotland but it's a high risk strategy and rather than going out for glory in the Highlands I personally feel it's better to keep a presence in England. I don't see any reason why the Romans shouldn't turn left into Wales but I just wonder what strategy Andy was following. Again I think it is essential to do enough to seriously weaken the Welsh and if this is why he went to Wales, then jolly good luck!

I would imagine Gordon Sweeney is the person to give Neil Walters some tips on how to win with the blue and purple factions. All I can remember is that we test played the game for nearly two years in the md 80's and my wife proved conclusively that it was possible to win with every faction and my best friend proved it was possible to come last with every faction.

Neil also quotes Avalon Hill rules as 'Overpopulation limits apply at the end of both movement phases of a major invasion'. This is in fact incorrect. It is capacity limits that apply at the end of the movement phase (whether part of a major invasion or not). Nowhere is the Avalon Hill 'gloss' stated in either the original rules from Lewis Pulsipher or in our own rules. It only goes to show that not everything in an Avalon Hill rule book is gospel!

Marcus Watney Splendid! The first thing I saw on opening Sumo 9 were the statistics on Britannia. Can we have more of this sort of thing, please? Their immediate effect has been to reawaken my interest in a game I shelved after the publication of New World and History of the World. I had come to the conclusion that the game was unbalanced in favour of Red: the Brigantes seemed to have a good chance of surviving the Roman blitz while the Saxons have often been unstoppable. Now I know different. The point, of course, is that provided a multi-player game is roughly balanced at the design stage it will become finely balanced during repeated play, simply because skilled players will take perceived imbalance into consideration when choosing who to attack next, and thus swing the balance back again. I particularly remember how weak Germany appeared when Diplomacy was first published, but amongst skilled players the statistics show that Germany is one of the top winners, simply because it can trade on its initial weakness to its ultimate advantage.

Andy Daglish Andy Key: Twice it has happened to me, people who didn't know the games involved (Britannia, Rise & Fall) got pleasure making dumb moves that benefitted no one, apart from those whose pieces were far away. And an effing pain it was too. One has a duty to try to win, or gain victory points or whatever, except in Formule De where concentration is required only for your last three die rolls.

MS: Had you been standing in the Spa stands behind the back straight when my Benetton set a new mark for length of overshoot and promptly went airborne, you may not be in agreement with the latter statement. I went for sixth gear, relying on an average roll, and got the dreaded 20. Goodnight Schumacher. Do we really have a duty to win or do we have a duty to stuff the win-at-all- cost players? Either way, I agree that deliberately silly moves will annoy committed players no end.

Alan How Quo Vadis has been out and about though and I tend to like it, although I've been stuffed badly on 2 games, both of which I was the last player of 5. (Maybe this is a significant disadvantage in a 5 player game and I may try a reverse sequence for the second turn to minimise the advantage of the initial 2 turns, so player 5 would play 5th and 6th, rather than 5th and 10th). Clever game, but it is possible to be isolated if everyone else has had enough of you.

Andy Daglish Quo Vadis: A long review whose length suggests uncertainty? Again any historicity is out of place here. The main problem is slight over-simplicity.

MS: Not really uncertainty (beyond that explained in the review) but more a concern at how much I was enjoying the game because there was little scheming going on, compared to playing same with the sad little boys that taint Dipdom. We have been playing it quite a bit which would suggest that it is as good as I thought. I like the staggered start idea Alan.

John Webley Trumpet we like. The big drawback is that someone almost always gets left behind and plays no real part in the game. But the good Skat/Doppelkopf players always do well, so skill is rewarded. We had an even better finish to a game. I was on the last square, Tricia two behind, she played a Mega Trump card, I languidly tossed a second onto it and started to move my piece forward when the third megatrump came flying on from my left and Tricia leapfrogged me to victory two turns later. It has been repackaged as Arthus here this year.

John Neeve Trumpet. I didn't like this at all. Once all the trumps have been designated the pip value of the cards became almost irrelevant, and the suits take over. With six suits and a trumpet cards it is a bit like whist for kids where red beats blue etc. The last section where you can send a player back a space instead of changing the order of trumps would appear to be superfluous; who would want to prolong this game?

MS: I have to say I go along with John (N) in the main as I found this rather disappointing. That said, we also had trouble initially with Sticheln, another game with a big fan club, but that has now emerged as an interesting if confusing card game. The game has vociferous support (Merfyn Lewis rings weekly to tell me how good it is) and I am looking forward to my next try.

Steve Owen We tried a session of Road to the White House a few weeks ago. Quite hard work but everyone seemed to enjoy it and hopefully familiarity will breed greater confidence with the system (mountains of modifiers though).

Phil Eklund Yes, I think the money supply in Lords is historical, but no, I do not think it is tight. It requires experience, restraint and years to build an empire, even in one of the greatest booms in US history. I consider the money supply, representing the lavish investor's capital showered upon the players, to be adequate to start from nothing and become a millionaire in six years. But those must be six year's of dealing, planning, luck, etc., Rome wasn't built in a day. Just try the Manifest Destiny or wait for a first year Stock Crash if you want to see how tight money really is.

The arrival of the railroads, the depressed development of the area due to Indian troubles, the approval of a (seemingly) stable Mexican dictator benevolent to British, German, and US development, and good times in America all fuelled this boom. The Apache threat was removed in the US in the 80's and in Mexico by the 90's, but the Yaqui rebels were on the verge of being crushed by 1910 when suddenly the Revolution gave them new hope to end their slavery. The land was just crying out for exploitation. And while its true that a developer with nothing but a dream and a mule could make millions, only a few of the most clever and lucky did, with time, become Lords of the Sierra Madre.

Many players complain about not starting with any capital, but I resist this. After all, historically Col Greene went from zero to millionaire in the 1898 to 1906 timeframe on the strength of his personality and business acumen alone. Also, I dislike the 'winter 1898 thin card feeding frenzy' this would create. Finally, I think its good to start slow and zip through a couple of years before contemplating grand campaigns and the like. Glad to see that you are one of the few who dare to attempt a game of Trilobite. Currently playtesting an expansion module that adds little people who can ride the sea creatures. A little too cute for my taste, but I am told it will improve the unspectacular sales.

Brian Hughes What surprised me was seeing you award a 'Sumo' to Flying Dutchman after a good but certainly not ecstatic review in Sumo 8. Could you tell us what has changed your mind in the interim?

MS: This links to the comments elsewhere on the problems of reviewing after one or two plays. Sometimes the games get better, sometimes they get worse. Rather than changing my mind (I thought it was a positive review), Flying Dutchman has just grown on me. The Sumos are, for those who asked, purely subjective based on my thoughts at Christmas on the games of the previous year. They are not based on votes (though we could try that) so I wouldn't take them too seriously.

Ken Tidwell In the general news category, Milton Bradley has released its version of Zoch's Bausack over here. They've renamed it Bandu (for no apparent reason - why not leave the original name?). It's a lot of fun and the wooden pieces are nice. They did manage to throw in three American twists: It only comes with a big clunky box as a carrying case - no sack, there are tacky little Bandu stickers to stick on the base blocks, and the beans are made of plastic (oh, they look just like beans, though, no mistake - why not just put in some beans? God and some regulatory agency only know).

Chris Payne Two player games - I recently bought Thataway at Baycon because I liked the design and playability, and feel Othello has much to recommend it. What about 'bigger' games that play fairly well with two players and which can be brought out for larger sessions - such as Shark, Homas Tour?

Andrew Johnson In replay to Carol Benney's request, my nominations are Armchair Cricket, Awful Green Things, Scotland Yard and Mystic Wood - best with each player using each knight in turn, with the extension kit, a spare room and knee pads.

Martin Burroughs In answer to Carol Benney's request, I'm sure there are loads of good two player games. In brief, off the top of my head: Chase (TSR). The best two player traditional game since Othello. Out of print, as TSR didn't seem interested in boardgames. A really addictive hexboard game with dice as pieces. Star Trek: The Adventure Game (West End). Same rules as Tales of the Arabian Nights except two player. Nuff said? Awful Green Things from Outer Space (TSR). Funny, well balanced, available. And I don't care what Tom Wham says, this is Aliens! Also recommended: Abalone, Save the President (only joking), Dark Cults, Thataway.

MS: Having had time to think about it, I would add the abstract games reviewed this issue, Manchester, En Garde, Cathedral, Carrom and Football Strategy. There have been several votes for Spanish Main and Blackbeard.

Andy Daglish Time Agent: Buy and play, more than once. They have succeeded fourth time out. The idea is almost better than the design incorporating it. I'm not surprised it took two firms to do it. I feel the Fioli are the strong side. I guess the rules will be translated into German as high tech futuristic stuff is liked there.

MS: Concise and on the money. Who needs a review?

Malcolm Smith One of the recent games we've played was the excellent story telling game Once Upon A Time, where one has a bunch of cards and tries to tell a fairy story using the cards. Each card has a keyword such as 'witch' or 'wicked' and one is supposed to tell a tale with these words without pausing or using a word that another player holds. Brilliant stuff.

MS: This game is meant to be out, published by Atlas Games, but I can't find it anywhere, so someone is leaking pre-release copies. Can anyone supply? It sounds related to Dark Cults, but from the buzz around the hobby, this must be far better and more accessible. Not sure whether I could play it with my lot though.

Andy Daglish Tal der Koenige: What graphics? It's a building site. [MS: The box cover, the board, block colours, the three sides theme.] Perhaps the design is clever, one less side than usual. The game is a beautifully presented half-design. Waldesfrust and Hacker do have a certain indefinable quality that I feel aroused dislike in the German critics. Like Tal der Koenige there is no cleverness present, just obviousness and wooden pieces.

MS: I would agree entirely on Waldesfrust, much less so on Hacker and hardly at all on Tal der Koenige. The latter is a game that while 'obvious' in theme, is cleverly constructed, well balanced and highly playable. It also manages all this in a short space of time. Okay, it doesn't have the cleverness of an Elfenroads, Modern Art or a Vernissage, but it is getting there. A strong 7 out of 10 effort I would have thought.

Paul Jefferies Confessing to playing games: Never had any hang- ups about telling people I play games. It's not the first thing I bring up, when I do the response is normally one of mild interest since most people don't realise that such games exist. I'm not consciously trying to convert them, rather to arouse an interest, but I make an effort to invite new people over to play games now and then if they give a positive response. So far no- one has gone home saying I'm a dipstick and what a waste of time that was. More often than not they are keen to try again. After all, as you commented in Sumo 9, most people's hobby is watching crap TV and playing games has to be a step up from that. The fact that people will play games is demonstrated by Trivial Pursuit. If a game manages to break into the 'general public', as that did, there seem to be a whole load of people who will turn off the TV (and record the crap for later) and play a game. Maybe that is why the Germans are such avid games players, enough games broke into the market that the hobby worked its way into people's homes, the TV went off and now it is a national pastime. German TV cannot be that much worse than ours surely?

MS: When you are next over I will show you a typical sitcom. It's bad. Very bad. It makes So Haunt Me worth rushing home for. Probably explains the GNP as well.

Bob Scherer-Hoock I have a couple of reasons for writing this time. One is to respond to your thoughts in Sumo 9 about explaining the gaming hobby to non-gamers. I haven't had much problem conversing about it, but it occurs to me that I tend to twist the issue into a matter of such snob appeal that it becomes acceptable. That is, early in a conversation about gaming as a hobby, I mention that many games I collect come from other countries such as Germany and England. Immediately this takes the hobby out of the category of a childish pursuit and makes it more like collecting imported wine. Here in the U.S. there is a cultural snobbery about all things European that I can exploit and you in England probably cannot. People are impressed at the effort it takes to find a game from overseas, not to mention to struggle with the rules in a foreign language.

And if someone doesn't buy the snob appeal approach, I take the educational and family values approach. I mention how many different subjects are covered by board games, and how much you can learn from even the simplest simulation (having two young children doesn't hurt in this approach either). I also mention my family's tradition playing games. When I was growing up, my mother, father, brother and I usually spent Friday evenings playing games together. We all enjoyed it and continued to do it well into my college years whenever we all were home together. Sadly this is something that is no longer very possible with U.S. games, since what few there seem to be designed either strictly for kids, or for specialty markets such as train buffs, war gamers and fantasy freaks. I don't see many attempts over here at marketing family games anymore, certainly not by what remains of the major companies (which I guess is now just Hasbro).

If people turn off to any of the above, then we just don't talk about games. But I find many people who know me at all at least tolerate my occasional monologues on the subject. Some even come over and try a game or two at times, particularly if it's linked to an area they like, or if it provides some humor and interaction with friends (something lacking from the electronic games that are taking over the market here).

John Neeve Telling people about games playing: something I try to steer clear of, probably due to laziness, because I tire of trying to explain to people how I play baseball or whatever on my kitchen table. Being involved in postal sports leagues and in general games in zines is even harder to explain. Well how do you tell someone who thinks Monopoly difficult that there is enjoyment to be had from WP&S, Adel or Railway Rivals by post? I must agree with Mark Buckley though. If you tell people, they are convertable. It takes a little perseverance to get them going sometimes, because even some of the simpler games are difficult to explain. By the time you have finished you can see their eyes glazing over, but in the end they are usually pleasantly surprised. I have one friend who I regularly play games with, but he wouldn't dream of going out and buying one, either for himself or for his children, except for Cluedo etc. It seems that even though he has been converted himself (even to the extent of joining in three games of 1830) he doesn't feel as if he should spread the gospel. Is he in turn worried about other people's reactions?

Nigel King The question was asked in Sumo whether or not if asked about hobbies, one should admit to playing boardgames. I would like to ask the question how do you conduct yourself when confronted with a 'one off' games designer. I found myself in the situation where I gave the chap a bit of a grilling explaining the downfalls of his game and all the other race games that were better than his. I asked him why two games [MS: the game is Slik (great band), which comes in both car and bike racing formats] and not two in one? Why wasn't the board an actual race circuit? Why was he trying to sell games at a motor bike rally? Yes, there will be race fans there, but who wants to carry a boardgame home on a bike? The skill in the game, I was assured by the designer, came from working out the shortest route moving diagonally, along staggered squares using 2d6 which had the 1 and 2 replaced with 3 and 4. Basically roll the dice and move. I wisely gave the game a wide berth. Before I left the stand I told him I was impressed with the plastic motorcycles and wished him luck with sales. As I walked away I realised I must have come across as a patronising pompous nutcase (albeit unintentionally). Next time I shall stay quiet as it is too late for constructive criticism when the game is in production. It is also easy to forget that this type of game is not targeted at people who play games.

MS: I think you have probably got the right approach in remaining quiet. Listening keeps them happy; if it looks good you can always sit down and try it. I actually feel great sympathy for these guys as their chances of making a success of it are pretty slim, even if the game is outstanding and as we know, most of them most definitely aren't. There are often common themes, to generalise horribly. First is that they have sunk their life savings into the venture which makes them just a shade desperate and way too keen to show you every last nuance of play. Secondly, they think they have got the next Triv just waiting to hurl them into luxurious retirement, and the wife agrees. Thirdly, and we shall call it Walker's Inverse Law, which is the worse the game, the more enthusiastic and intractable the designer. Slik looks nicely done, but there is no game play to speak of so don't fall for the bits.

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Sumo - Mike Siggins - Legal Notices and Other Information