Chris Dorrell: I have been generally keeping pace with the games market with purchases and games sessions including: Elfenroads, Santa Fe, Tal der König, Modern Art, etc. etc. All excellent with lots more mileage yet. However comments on Merchant of Venus by Mark Bassett and yourself in SUMO 19 caused me to reread the GI Issue 2 review (by Mike Siggins!) and then to spend yet more money at Just Games.
MoV is a real find. The quick start rules work fine with the full version there for reference. I actually enjoyed the meatier rule book as a change from the concise ``teutonic'' style we are becoming used to. The game has good atmosphere, is extremely easy to teach but has sufficient depth to interest serious gamers. The solitaire version works exceptionally well -- I have yet to win however!
One production problem was that the plastic playing pieces supplied did not match the colour coded cards:- Plastic pieces -- Blue/White/Grey/Pink/Purple/BrownCards etc. -- Blue/White/Black/Red/Green/Yellow
As the pieces were only ``pawn'' shaped I bought 6 Games Workshop lead space ships and painted them to the correct colours. The models actually come with small plastic stands which look great and fit onto the board very well.
SWD: I am glad that you enjoyed it, Chris. The colour mismatch doesn't occur in my copy and so yours is probably a case of carelessness on the assembly line. I like the idea of using proper model spaceships though. Perhaps I should borrow a child, go into the Aberdeen branch and see if it has them. On the question of the theme, I agree with Mike: I'd much sooner Richard Hamblen had kept the original concept of a game about the spice trade.
John Lyne: Thanks for the recommendation of Manhattan. I've now played three games and thoroughly recommend it. One of the games was played with a few people at work who are tough to please and would rather play Rummikub or Uno than play a boardgame -- it went down extremely well and caused great amusement as people were repeatedly stitched up. I agree with most of the comments made by Dave Farquahar but I've not been aware of anyone deliberately working out scores as each round progressed. I particularly agree with his comment about not getting involved with trying to outplay an opponent in one city. I did this in my second game. I ended up third and my antagonist fourth! The problem of the last player in a round being Kingmaker is overcome to some extent by ensuring all players are aware of the potential power of the last player in any one round. A real plus point for the game is that it is easy for players to gang up on the leader thus ensuring a close finish.
Tutanchamun: In reponse to Kris Gould's letter in Sumo 19, one theoretical use for the `wild tile' at the end of the path, in addition to its use as a potential tie breaker, is when only one player scores for a set. In this instance, the `wild tile' could be used to claim the `second majority'.
I also have a question which is not answered in the rules for Tutanchamun. How do you score for a set of, for example, value 8 when three players have two tiles each and the other two tiles have been removed as a result of all pieces passing them. Do all three players score 4 points?
SWD: My reaction to this sort of anomaly/oversight is that the group comes up with a house rule that seems to be consistent with the spirit of the other rules and which they are happy with. In this case, I would suggest that the spirit of the rules says that all three players score zero. When there is a 2-way tie for first, the points are not split; instead both players score for second. Likewise, with a 2-way tie for second both score as though they had finished third. In both cases the score is determined by the `bottom' of the tie, not by its middle. So, in your example, I reckon that all three score as though they were in third place. However, if you think that that is too harsh, do it your way instead! As you know, I am not one who thinks that rules are sacrosanct and that the original designer always knows best.
Paul Jefferies: Manhattan: Quite brilliant. Short, easy to learn, cut throat, entertaining and, apart from the most appalling board graphics, simply an outstanding buy. What else can I say?
Mike Siggins: I for one have noticed the turn order problem in Manhattan and mention as much in the Essen report. It isn't the end of the world, but it is a medium sized flaw in an otherwise excellent system. The advantage of going last on the last turn (and disadvantage of going first) can almost pass unnoticed, but in a tight game (and they seem to be getting tighter) it can be crucial. It also allows the last player to sit and perform a benefit analysis on where he can obtain the most points from his lay, whereas everyone else makes the play with knowledge that they might be `capped'. I don't know what the answer is. A chit system would spoil the classicity but may work on a crude level -- it still doesn't stop someone being last. A clever turn order? Or perhaps a randomly determined end such that you wouldn't know if you'd get to play the last piece, or even the last three? Or perhaps we should leave well enough alone? Thoughts welcome.
Steve Campbell: One bad thing about playing tournament games is that if the game has a winning tactic, then it quickly becomes apparent and ruins the game. For example, Manhattan. Loved this game to start with. However, when playing against statisticians, the game just breaks down into a mathematical exercise of calculating who to hit -- which is a flaw in any game where the points are open and everyone can attack anyone else. When playing against non-statisticians, then there is a proven winning tactic which makes for a very boring game. I now only like this game when not playing to win, which is a sin in itself!
Die Erbraffer: I like the tournament rules in principle -- they split up the heirlooms more and reduce the luck. However, they make it almost pointless going for the heirlooms! The heirlooms are worth a total of 42, and with scores of 70+ being scored from benefactors alone, the heirlooms are reduced to becoming tie breakers. Possibly the tournament version of the game would benefit if the heirlooms were increased in value by 50-100%.
Rheingold: I really like this game. The `winning tactic' only gives you a slight advantage and doesn't ruin the game if used by everyone. Lots of variation during the course of play, but not so much that you can't use long term strategies. Some people don't like this game on the grounds that it can end with no conflict. However, in the games I've played, the winner has always taken at least two castles off someone else.
Kohle,Kies & Knete: An interesting game but I won't buy it! Being `nice' to people in this games pays dividends.
SWD: I note that a Steve Campbell came joint first in the individual section of this year's Essen championship, where I think that they played these four games. Almost certainly a coincidence, but still enough to stop me launching into a long argument about strategy and tactics. So all I'll say in answer to Steve's point about Manhattan is that in the games I have played it is usually obvious to me who and where I should be attacking, but all too frequently I lack the cards needed to make the attack. Without the cards the charge would certainly be correct, but with them I am not yet convinced. On the other matter, of the advantage of being last to play, my feeling is that you should leave things as they are. This is not, after all, the sort of game where egos are likely to be riding on the result and the advantage, though undoubtedly present, is not so strong as to spoil the fun.
Andrew Fischer: Re Guerilla: I feel any comparison with Up Front is unwarranted, and I have played the latter game more than 1200 times over a period of ten years. In UF, play revolves around a relatively long-term goal (e.g. attaining flanking fire on an enemy group) and short-term goals (e.g. acquiring the terrain, Concealment and Fire cards to go with that FF card, or maintaining a good combination of cards in one's hand, or drawing a Rally card when one's men are pinned, etc.). Hence, in UF there is a high ``excitement level'' as players, sometimes frantically, search through the draw pile in search of needed cards. There are few game mechanics, just spontaneous shifts in strategy and tactics requiring only quick, almost subconscious analysis and planning, making UF a lot of F-U-N.
In contrast, Guerilla requires constant monitoring of the players' holdings, current scores, how many points will I get/lose if I do this, etc. It is more like a hex-based boardgame than a card game. It demands constant thought and analysis, lacking both the fluidity and excitement of UF. In short, Guerilla is too much work, not enough fun.
SWD: My jaw always drops when I read numbers like that in relation to the playing of a commercially produced board game. There are traditional games -- Bridge, Chess and Go being three -- that have enough depth to be hobbies in themselves, but for me one of the attractions of our type of boardgame is the variety and the constant opportunity to try something new. There is nothing in my collection that will have hit three figures, let alone four. However, it is obviously great if you do find a game that delivers so much sustained entertainment and I agree that it is difficult to imagine Guerilla pulling off the trick for anyone in the way that Up Front has for you. Nonetheless, even though Guerilla is unlikely to challenge for a position on my list of all-time favourites, I did enjoy our one game to date and believe that it is a game from which I shall end up having had value for my money.
Paul Jefferies: Guerilla: As a non-wargamer I was a little hesitant to play at first, but I have to say I enjoyed it, even though I got blown out of the water (metaphorically). I don't think I'll go and buy it, but I'd certainly play it again.
Auf Heller und Pfennig: More of a logic problem than a game. Not that there's anything wrong with it as such, it just didn't seem much fun.
Olympia 2000 BC: I'd go along with your ``different strokes'' on this one. It struck me as light, heavily luck oriented and not a lot of replay value. But that's just me.
Mike Siggins: What is it with the positive comments about Olympia 2000? Where is the game? What am I missing? As far as I can see, the game consists of playing good cards when you can, saving any good athlete you get for a biggish prize and ducking the odd trick. If you pick up rubbish you tend to retain it and the luck element is scary while play decisions are almost negligible. I can't see anything that would make you want to play it twice (but then you could say that about Favoriten and many other games!)
David Kuznick: Played RoboRally last night. An absolute blast! Though it can be frustrating to not get good cards, overall it's LOTS of fun. And the bits are REAL nice, especially for the price (retail US35$).
Richard Breese: Among the British contingent at Essen were Oliver Games, Millenium 2 Games, Warfrog and Image Games. Oliver Cockell has repackaged his game Pin Point and has simplified the rules concerning jokers. Also available from Oliver are some `rules for little children', games which have been devised for the over threes. (SWD: Not much use to me, I am afraid. Has he got any that would enable a couple of laid-back Chows to join in?) Richard Morgan has similarly tweaked the rules for La Trel. The tweak is that when capturing a piece in the corner it is possible to substitute the captured piece with the attacking piece chess style, whereas on any other square a capture continues to be made draughts style. This is a significant improvement which gives the players a reasonable chance of finishing a game. Both Warfrog, with their boxed version of Lords of Creation, and Image Games, with the excellent Ko-An, appeared to be doing good business.
The successes of the show were 6 Nimmt and Manhattan. The first time I played 6 Nimmt was with three players. However, instead of playing the game with all the cards, only the lowest thirty four cards were used, i.e. ten for each player plus four extras. This proved to be a much more satisfying game than the standard game described in Sumo 19, as a large part of the luck was removed from the game. Manhattan was an instant hit with most people. As I have a requirement for 6-player games, I intend now to get a second copy, to spray two sets of pieces and experiment with a six player version.
I played Hans in Glück's Waldmeister on the stand. The production was impressive, but the game was fairly uninspiring and a slog at well over two hours for four players. The only bit of excitement came when a storm descended on one player which the stand assistant declared would destroy most of his `same type' deciduous forest. Subsequent clarification -- too late for the player -- corrected `same type' to the same type of tree, e.g. Oak, as opposed to all deciduous trees. Be warned. I was amused to learn from another group who played on the stand that they had run out of red pollution `dots'. As a result they were all, correctly according to the rules, declared losers for mismanaging their forest.
Peter Kretschmar: Waldmeister (Hans im Glück) -- I really liked this one, though I've just played it once yet and can't comment on the long term interest. Very good looking, except probably for the cover, where the manager at the centre looks as though he has been taken from some other picture. Though I wouldn't necessarily push it on the die-hardened crowd, I'll take it out any time, we play with friends in the next months. The rules should mention more clearly though, that the number of possible trees is very unevenly distributed and a lot of people will learn about the effect of storms on monocultures the hard way.
Zankapfel (VSK) -- A game from 1993 that has been surprisingly popular with quite a lot of different people among our friends and acquaintances. I've played it with ``18xx/Titan''-gamers as well as with pure ``family-game'' friends. The luck element is quite high, but mysteriously some people always seem to fare better than others
An den Ufern des Nils (Abacus) -- Interesting game, though it might be a little dry for some tastes. Again, I've only played a full session once yet, but this was quite engrossing and left me with the feeling that a little more thinking would have brought a better position at the end. Strangely the counters are just a little too large compared with the game board, it's not a serious problem, but one wonders about rushed production. The rules are not completely clear on some problems that came up through our session and could, in my opinion, be a little better organized.
Das Regeln wir schon (Moskito) -- Compared by many to ``Nomic'' I found it quite different in `feeling' to the play-by-mail Nomics, I've taken part in. Due to the fixed selection of possible rules you feel much less like a lawyer and concentrate more on the game-play. The really ugly design tipped the scale against buying it. Apart from the look of the game I think many people will feel strange with the `meta-game' theme.
Was sticht? (Moskito) -- Last year's offer is much more popular with our crowd. The mixture of a standard trick game played nearly in your sleep (at least for Germans who are used to ``Skat'' and the like) and tactical decision works out fine for us.
Mush (White Wind) -- ``Nice family game'' was our overall impression. You have to work carefully with your resources to win, but the roll of the dice will invalidate many a plan. If this is a hit for White Wind I won't get a copy as I spent my money on other games, even after winning the demo game we played in Essen. We advised our local game shop owner to get some copies though, as we think a lot of people will enjoy it.
Phantoms of the Ice (White Wind) -- The remade ``Team'', which I knew as ``Slapshot'' (AH). For DM 20 I just had to take a box, but was a little surprised by the differences in player distribution: less even, more of the high-numbered guys. How about some comments from Alan on the creation process of this one?
6 Nimmt -- sold at least 100,000 in Germany. My sister-in-law couldn't get it immediately when she wanted to buy a copy. We recently had a roaring crowd of eight or so playing it at the end of our weekly gaming session. It's not among the world's greatest games, but at the prices asked here (7-10 DM) it's nearly a must. The design of the cards is somewhat of a drawback though.
Mike Oakes: 6 Nimmt has ``gone down a storm''. Even my daughter and son-in-law have bought a copy and they are not regular gamers.
Alfonzo Smith: Manhattan: Excellent game. It plays quickly. It's well made. Every turn results in an offensive and defensive move in one play. This one is a lot of fun.
6 nimmt: I liked this one so much that I bought two sets. The only problem with this game is its name. The title sounds like ``sex nymph'' to my American ears. ``6 nimmt'' translates into ``take 6'' in English, I'm told. You don't want to take six during the game! Isn't that like naming chess ``Quickly, Lose Your King''?
Tutanchamun: This is another fine game. However, I think this one is overpackaged. Nothing would be lost by losing the pyramid and replacing the path tiles with a deck of specially designed playing cards.
SWD: Yes, I was told that ``6 nimmt'' meant ``take 6'', believed it and, like you, thought that it was a slightly silly name. However, I recently saw it translated instead as ``6 takes'' and when I checked with my German Grammar book found that this seemed to be correct. ``Nimmt'' is not the imperative of ``Nehmen''; it is the third person singular of the present tense. Certainly this makes a lot more sense: the sixth card takes the row.
Steve Kingsbury: Aristo: I remember playing this at Manorcon some years ago and thinking it was fun if a little long. The possible of marrying different sex characters owned by same sex players produced some interesting conversations! Manhattan is pretty good but I think it has one problem. In all the games I have played in the most passive player has won. This can be a matter of luck in that you start out with a quiet strategy, but someone attacks ``your'' city and this then escalates into a territorial war that is hard to back out of without losing. Of course, fighting on also involves losing. I wonder if this is a function of the number of cities and players? What would happen if the number of cities is one more than the number of players? 6-Nimmt is brilliant and a must purchase. Even granny at Xmas should be able to manage.
Chris Geggus: Dare I proffer a note of caution regarding Maharaja. The last issue of Sumo threw out a few favourable comments, although a full review is still obviously in the pipeline.
I admit to impulse buying on only very rare occasions, but as soon as I heard that a Britannia clone was out I grabbed it at once. I consider Britannia probably the best 4-player game around and I had no hesitation in picking up one of the first copies in the U.K. I now no longer have the game, so what went wrong?
From the physical viewpoint the game looked good, but I don't feel it was entirely user-friendly. Italics may look attractive but are hell when you are trying to read unknown Indian names upside down in a bad light. At one stage I believed that I had 4 victory points, but better eyes than mine pointed out that I was on a slightly differently spelt area. Whoops (but not our only error). All the players had developed headaches within two hours and it wasn't all from drink.
However, the biggest problem was in the play. The yellow faction had probably the most boring game imaginable. Early points lead à la Romans, but after that virtually nothing. I don't mean nothing in respect of points, but just an almost total inactivity on the nation front. The other major problem is the shuttle service most of the nations seem to be engaged in. With numerous arrivals, particularly from the north, the general gameplan seems (and needs) to be to spend most of the time running away and looking for victory point areas. I agree that this is not dissimilar to Britannia, but in Maharaja it just doesn't seem to ring true. Perhaps it is easier to relate to areas in Britain that we know, rather than areas in India, a lot of which we may not know.
These are my personal feelings and observations, but all our players were very experienced and I have to say that all of them felt very much the same. I may well be in the minority amongst your readership, but I can only call it as I see it.
SWD: As you see, your opinions on this one are similar to those of Tony Hetherington and the `yellow might as well go home at halftime' point was also made by Andy Daglish. I do find it difficult to understand how an experienced bunch of playtesters, such as Avalon Hill have at their disposal, can fail to notice that one of the players had nothing to do for two hours. Avalon Hill have been getting a lot of stick on the Net over this one, but, as I said earlier, there is a significant body of opinion that says that, although the 4-player scenario is bad, the 3-player one works fine. It is interesting to speculate what the reception for the game would have been had the counter colours been chosen so as to make this the main scenario. They could well now have had a success on their hands.
Steve Kingsbury: I enjoyed the five and ten list but would like to add one wrinkle: how many of those on the list survive past the first burst of enthusiastic playing and reappear on the table in the months and years to come? A very dense first bout of playing can get a game past ten, only for it never to reappear again on a regular basis. For example, BoomTown, Freight Train, Airlines, Rette Sich Ver Kahn, Kremlin are all good games, and I'm sure other groups still have them appearing, but for me they now feel a little stale and lacking in excitement. Here are those that our gaming group continue to play. Modern Art has to be the top game of the last few years, perhaps ever. It still seems fresh and interesting and every time I play it my urge to laugh at how tricky it is remains the same. Other games that we bring out on a regular basis well past their honeymoon are Adel Verplichtet, ElfenRoads, Acquire, Railway Rivals and Liars Dice. Nothing else has survived and returned to regular play. I think it's odd as there doesn't seem much linking these games except perhaps a fair amount of player interaction and chaos/randomness. Adel isn't even a great game but it has a repeatability.
Tony Valvona: I feel that your comments regarding a possible series of articles on older games are valid and that such items would satisfy a good portion of the readership. Whilst newly issued games may produce a really worthwhile item every couple of months or so, there must already exist a whole stock of comparable games just waiting to be rediscovered. My own view of the series R.I.P in Games International was that this feature was the best in the magazine and the page I always turned to first. Naturally, this did lead to the problem of tracking the games down once the articles had sparked off the enthusiasm and desire to play them, but they can be found through several sources -- Eamon Bloomfield in particular. Whilst you may not envisage articles quite on the same lines as R.I.P. , the idea certainly gets my vote.
SWD: OK, shortage of space meant that I didn't do anything about this myself this issue, but I shall try to do something next time. Meanwhile, Mike Oakes has got the ball rolling nicely with his piece on Dallas, a game that, coincidentally, I learnt about from an R.I.P. article in Games International and bought second-hand from Eamon.
Walter Cook: On Rette Sich Wer Kann, I've sold my copy on. It was lacking in depth or replay value. Very ``samey''. This is the first time that Sumo has disappointed me in recommending a game (although I note that Mike did say he had only played it once). I predict it will be gathering dust on many shelves in a few months time. I think it was Sumo's ``game of the year'' (or equivalent). It doesn't compare with Elfenroads, the previous year's choice (excellent).
I called at Portugal on holiday recently and bought a game called Petroleiros (Ravensburger). It looks like a game I had from about 1960 called Oil -- The Great Adventure. Do you know of this game? Is it a reissue? Any chance of English rules? Any Portugese readers?
SWD: I think that the game is one of those that has its greatest appeal the first time you play it, particularly if you are with the right crowd and in the right mood. Mike was far from the only one who came away from Essen `93 making very enthusiastic noises. However, I agree with you, and with Alfonzo Smith's comments last time: it is a very lightweight game and doesn't have much staying power.
On the other matter, no, don't know, probably not and no -- in that order! However, if it is a Ravensburger game, it presumably exists in a German edition and so you might have said enough for someone to recognise it.
John Lyne: Scotland Yard - Thanks to Paul Jefferies for the tip on playing this game with 2 players. I've often shied away from playing this game with my group because of the tendency for 1 or 2 players to dominate the decision making as to where the detective pieces should be moved. Playing with 2 players would solve this problem.
Mike Oakes: If space allows can you pass on a note of thanks to those contributors who responded on the topic of Pony Express. I have tried out your suggestions and found the game more enjoyable because of it. Still not a classic but at least it now stands a chance of being played again!
We have recently been playing Caramba by Amigo and anyone seeking a lightweight game of 45 minutes could find this fits the bill. It is very much luck-orientated, being based upon a series of races using dice, but there are enough modifiers and decision points to make it interesting. Colourful presentation and some of the best plastic components I've seen add to the `feel good' factor about this game, which was punctuate by several outbursts of laughter when we played it. I am prepared to give a fuller review of Caramba for future editions. (SWD: I'll take you up on that. Next time?) I dug out Railway Rivals and Winchester for my second group recently and they were most impressed by them, so much in fact that they all wanted their own copies of the games, and I was pleased to be able to place a substantial order with David Watts.
Mike Siggins: Bus Boss: Played it once, found it an interesting cousin of RR, but little more. RR is better because it leaves the routes largely free-form, has a greater empathy with the terrain, `feels' better and more flavoursome and is about trains. I really can't get excited about long distance, or short distance, bus routes (video screens and luxury toilets or not).
SWD: Your points about free-form routes and the terrain are indisputable, but I still prefer Bus Boss. I am not sure whether it is laziness -- being able to buy your routes `off the peg' -- or whether it is because there is less Geography in it. Of all the subjects we did at school, Geography was the one I held in lowest esteem, and anything that reminds me of sketch maps brings back just why. (Alert readers will have noticed that this issue it is Geography's turn for the sniffy comments. Last issue it was fantasy art that got it in the neck; next time it will be Arsenal supporters!)
Mike Oakes: I bought Sindbad after reading Ken Tidwell's review and found it a bit messy at first, but once we had re-read the rules and debated things a bit we quite enjoyed it. Plenty of player choice over actions taken, routes used, purchases made etc and one thing we liked was that a player who was ``killed'' was able to rejoin and almost won the game. Nice looking board too.
I used Ken's tip of providing each player with a container to hold their cargo in, as they are really fiddly to handle. Thanks, Ken.
I can see that strategists won't like it much, as the play is so random, but it is not a bad game for about 2 hours containing elements of piracy, gambling, poker and trading.
Speculate: As Mike Clifford pointed out I'm a ``lucky sod'' to have 2 games groups going and with my second group now consisting of 5 regulars I thought I'd introduce them to an old classic. What a disappointment it turned out to be as the game stagnated with shares at low values. We declared an early end to the game after just over an hour. Is this just an unfortunate deal of cards or is it a case of `holding the game on a pedestal' before comparing it with more ingenious systems in use today?
Oskar (Amigo): This was better and was well received by my group in 2 games, each of 4 players. I should imagine there is even more scope for careful decision making over which tricks to take and which to duck with 5 or 6 players. Nice little game for either opening or closing sessions.
SWD: I don't remember Speculate as being rated very highly among the gamers I associated with at the time it came out in the early seventies. Certainly, it was not one that I was ever tempted to buy. It is true that it used to get favourable mentions in the old Games and Puzzles, but that wasn't too surprising, as it was designed by the magazines's owner.
Richard Breese: I had owned the Tower of London game known as Outrage for some time but had never found time to play it. However, after Chris Dollin's favourable comments in Sumo 16-18 I took it to Essen to play with my German hosts. The game was a disaster. The rules had more holes than a string vest and with any player being able to attack any other from anywhere on the board, any attempt to win the game by leaving the board attracted an attack by every other player, each in turn. Our desperate attempts to try and finish the game, which included the surreptitious passing of cards to our opponents under the table, brought tears of desperation to everyone's eyes. Alan Moon mentioned to me that he had had a similar problem in trying to finish this game. I had to come down to 10DM before anyone would take it off my hands, despite the great crown jewel playing pieces. Be warned, a complete turkey.
Martin Wallace: Essen was totally overwhelming. As a first time attendee I found myself drowning in games and bodies. The demands of running the Warfrog stall, with considerable help from Tim Cockitt and Simon Bracegirdle, meant that I had no time for actually playing games. The show has been the making of Warfrog. We sold over 100 games to the public plus orders of 100 from the German, Dutch and American shops. Follow-up orders have reached the 60 mark, plus a substantial number taken by Esdevium. This does not mean that any game at Essen will sell well. There were plenty of examples of one-game companies, like ours, which were not doing good business. What helped with Lords of Creation was having a good review in Die Poppel-Revue, which meant some people had already heard of us, and there was a good guide to the game, in German, for anybody interested. I'm definitely going next year, and the following.
Thoughts on starting your own games company: Up to now starting Warfrog has been hard work, but definitely worth it. One thing that worked in our favour was starting with a game kit, seeing the response, both from games magazines and the public, and then bringing out a proper boxed edition of the game. It helps to have a good game. This means making sure a design is fully play-tested. If a design is only 90% on the way to being good then don't do it. I spent over a year on a WWII fighter card game. It went through over 10 versions, many of which were almost there -- but not quite. It was hard binning a year's hard work, but worth it in terms of experience. It taught me not to be too possessive with a design and to recognise when to quit and think about something else. Try to make sure that you know what your follow-up games will be. Warfrog now has two more designs in the pipeline, which we hope will build on the minor success of Lords of Creation. I seem to have been lucky in finding a local printer who is willing to tackle the various processes involved in producing a board game. Most importantly he is very cheap, although the quality suffers slightly. If you want to have a game published, the only sure way of achieving this is to publish it yourself. This is costly and time consuming but potentially very rewarding.
Future Games: I am working on two designs for release in May 1995. The first is a simple card game with the theme of stock car racing. The working title is `Stockers!'. Players move a car marker around the track using cards. Without going into too much detail the game involves simultaneous laying of cards, which means some difficult decisions have to be made. The second game is a fairly simple design which covers the 30 Years War. Players decide the fate of nine European powers, including Denmark and Poland, by voting on which faction they will side with and who they will declare war against. The heart of the game is the Influence Cards which give votes in the various countries, empires and states. What I like about the game is that it only takes about 2-3 hours to play, depending on the number of players (3-6). Both designs are at the advanced playtest stage and artwork is currently in the pipeline.
If anybody out there has what they think is a good design but don't know what to do with it, they can always contact me. At some point Warfrog will have to take on games from other designers and it would be interesting to see what design work is going on in the country at the moment. (SWD: Warfrog's address is 91 Broadoak Lane, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 5GA.)
Games played recently: I purchased a copy of Ko-An while at Essen and really like it. It is a nice simple concept, is quick to play and has various strategies to be uncovered. I found it interesting that children in my class (I'm a junior school teacher) really enjoyed it, even those who could hardly read or write. I recently started a chess club at the school but found that although the children were enthusiastic they found it difficult to remember the various moves and had absolutely no idea of strategy. Ko-An is an excellent alternative which still makes the children think. Another game I tried with the class was Phantoms of the Ice (or Slapshot when I used to play it years ago). The only part that requires careful checking is who's played whom. After that they can easily understand the premise of the game, which is to stuff the other player's teams. On the last day of term I sometimes try a simplified version of Formule Dé. This always starts well but is too long to hold their interest. Personally I'm quite excited about the idea of exposing young children to European games. It's nice to see children having to think rather than trust to luck.
Tried Big Boss at the club one weekend. A very good game. I'm aware that comments have been mixed about this design and I can see the argument that luck plays a large part in the game. I'm always worried when as a new player, playing against intelligent and experienced players, I can still do well, even though I have no idea what the best strategies are. Despite this I look forward to playing it again. I was also introduced to Sticheln afterwards. Another good game, as souped up versions of Hearts go.
SWD: The new games sound interesting and I look forward to playing them. It is good too to see that Warfrog intends to be more than just a one game company. It is not that long since that, Hartland and Rostherne apart, British Independants were a rather sad bunch of dreamers who had put too much of their money into too large a pile of Monopoly derivatives and over-hyped, `better than chess' abstracts, but of late there has been a big improvement, with a clutch of genuinely interesting abstracts and some excellent multi-player stuff. At last we are getting games produced by hard-to-please gamers rather than by people who think that because their family is impressed the world is going to be likewise.
Mike Siggins: Some further thoughts on Falsche Fuffziger, having played it again twice recently. It still leaves me with a worrying sense of being a series of good mechanisms strung together but without an overall mesh for strength and theme. The main problems as I see them are time and repetition. The game is way too long, ignoring my peccadilloes for once, and should come in at under the hour. The main reason for this complaint is linked to the second which is that the game just cycles round in a horribly processional fashion. The only interest is whether a printer will die that turn. Otherwise, they are all the same and I could care less 90 minutes in. It feels like an like an endurance test towards the end game as neither the systems nor the suspense are strong enough to keep one's interest. Another minor complaint arose having found out we played incorrectly the first time. The bidding system, rather than being a cash based auction, is in fact a form of poker in which you can use real or funny money. The following players must `stay in' by matching your bid and then have the chance to raise you. By watching (or guessing) what the others have in the way of funds it is possible to buy bullion very cheaply, or even if you pay a lot, you can be sure of getting it. It's Career Poker without the big hand size, if you like. The real drawback is that having the lead bid in this round is extremely powerful (in the same, false, way it is in 18xx) as you know that cornering a market in, say, 50 notes will leave you in charge. There is an upside in that this links back to your printer strategy, but given that I managed a win with a series of `stupid' plays, I have to worry about this aspect. Now on this occasion I set out to stuff the system (because it sits up and begs to be `experimented' with) but it indicates that the mechanics are a little too contrived. Nevertheless, there are some excellent ideas and systems here and Mr Friese is one to be watched.