Inside Pitch

One of the reasons for lack of content this time is that I was fortunate to spend much of the latter part of 1990 on holiday, initially in Florida and then onto Paris for some Christmas shopping, returning just in time for the Christmas social whirl courtesy of the banks I works with. This is to be recommended apart from the requirement to work right through the dog days of July, August and September to get the holiday saved up!

As far as I am concerned, Florida in November has an almost perfect climate and, if it had some decent scenery, would be just about the ideal holiday location. We stayed in Orlando for a few days just to check out EPCOT (which was well worth a repeat visit) and see what the new Universal Studios is like (it's very good, far better than the earlier, Californian edition). Sadly, Boardwalk and Baseball, that mecca for fans of the game, went under recently though the Baseball City pitches are still active. After a drive down to Key West which was a trifle disappointing, we settled in Clearwater for the rest of the break. Excellent stuff and highly recommended for a late booker.

Hopeful of seeing an Orlando Magic game or two, I was disappointed to find that each and every game is fully sold out and I couldn't even find a scalper to sell me a ticket. The police are very tight on this practice. If they can sell out every game, no wonder they are willing to pay so much for a franchise! Partly making up for this was a sunny Saturday afternoon spent at a Senior Baseball League game at Al Lang stadium in St Pete. I had known about the league through newspaper boxscores but was pleasantly surprised by the standard and range of retired stars on show. If I mentioned that Ron Leflore, George Foster, Jim Rice, Ozzie Virgil, Len Barker (a hero of mine as my first Statis Pro no-hitter!) and Bill 'Spaceman' Lee were in the game I saw, you can assess how popular these games are with the local fans. The atmosphere is very informal, with players trading insults with the respectably large crowd, and the games are played in a light-hearted but competitive spirit. It is obvious that the pressure is off and I guess few are playing for the money. Some of the players are a bit creaky (Leflore, once a speedster, has dodgy knees) and the pitchers no longer have the overpowering speed, but the resulting mix is high scoring, fun and exciting. See a game if you can.

Quite a bit of stuff was bought in the States, most of which will surface as mentions or reviews in Sumo over the next couple of issues. The best part was the almost $2 exchange rate which made everything extremely good value. So good in fact that it was quite obvious that £/$ purchasing parity had been left way behind. The price of new cars and property (as just two major examples) is now embarrassingly low. Whatever, if I had been stopped in customs I would have gone directly to jail.

Almost immediately after Florida I went over to Paris on one of these Citybreak deals that really was good value. We stayed in the very acceptable Holiday Inn on Republique for two nights and it cost £150 each including flights. Can't be bad. Paris was great, but expensive for Christmas shopping and very cold (though we missed the snow that hit Britain). As ever, I came away with sore feet and knowing that I need at least a week to do it justice. I did get to see the Musee D'Orsay this time which was spectacularly good and the Musee de l'Armee was also well worth a visit. I found enough bookshops to track down most of the books I was after so the trip was well worth it, if a little heavier on the way back. I checked out a couple of game shops, but the French continue to have a smaller and more expensive range than the UK, so nothing to get excited about there. There were few games to speak of, the only new item that might appeal to Sumo readers was a revised edition of Jeux Descartes' Armada game at FF300. I didn't bother as the first edition was rather average.

There was a good response to my metal cars syndication request last issue and I can now let you know the current situation. The idea is to obtain up to 1,000 1" Formula One cars for use with The World of Motor Racing, Speed Circuit and Grand Prix. I have written to the production manager at Skytrex to see if we can get a special run of their various models but so far I have only the usual non-response to a sales opportunity that I find typical of British industry. Plan B is to get in touch with Galoob/Micro Machines and try to buy a bulk order at reduced price - anyone have any idea of their address? Alternatively, MB or other companies may be able to help with a bulk order of plastic cars from Turbo or similar. Plan C is to take a mould from either a Skytrex or a Micro Machine and get a batch produced by a Glasgow moulding company but this will mean one generic shape for all the cars. Shrewd painting will camouflage this, but only to a degree. Currently interested parties are: Clifford, Goodchild, Morris, King, Salvadego, Siggins and Simpson? No commitment at this stage gentlemen, but I will circulate you and seek firm support when I have a firm deal ready to go. Anyone else interested in buying 25/50 cars is welcome to get in touch.

There is some news on the endangered game front. The firmest rumour is that Hartland's 1829 is no longer being supplied to shops and numbers remaining are very limited. Sounds like time to snap up that copy if 1829 is one you've been considering for the collection. I find it rather strange that Games International 2 is no longer available from Foxray, surely they couldn't have sold all of them? I have several people looking for them if anyone has any spare copies. There are also several people after the final issue (Bottled Demon) of GRiM if anyone has one they don't want. Having tried with great difficulty recently, I know that Victory's deleted Panzer Command is effectively gone from the UK. Second Chance may be able to help. Finally, for those few interested, it seems that the basic rules for the James Bond RPG are no longer available which explains why all those add-on modules are so cheap!

I have recently discovered a small company in Aberdeen called ADP Systems who are putting out a range of gamekits at prices between £2 and £7. I have a sampler in the shape of their Bannockburn game which is knocked out on a Mac and is, er, very basic. This is no real problem at £1.50 as the real meat of the package is in their list of other games either currently available or in production. There are some interesting titles on both military and general game topics. Charles Vasey has a couple which seem to have at least some merit so I will be purchasing a couple of suitable games for comment in Sumo and hopefully there will be more news next time. For those who can't wait, ADP Systems can be contacted at 37 Powis Place, Aberdeen AB2 3TS.

The Earl's Court Toyfair occupied just fifty minutes of my valuable time recently, partly because I missed MB's Steve Baker and couldn't get into the Waddingtons or Spears stands due Sumo's lack of credibility as a newsletter. And rightly so! The whole fair was in fact almost exactly the same as the previous two years, even down to stand placement, though I have to say the bimbos and the Hornby trains were of a higher standard. Ninja Turtle products of every size and quality were the most memorable feature, but will they be as big next Christmas I wonder? Overall, I was so unimpressed by what was on show I completely forgot to look at Death Row and the Tamiya stand which was a shame. On balance, I doubt I'll bother to go next year.

Matthew Harvey and HobbyGames flew the RPG/boardgames flag in the absence of Chart, but neither would hand over a trade price list this year. TSR had an impressive stand; they have bought out Elixir and Web of Gold from 3 Wishes and will be selling them re-badged. They also promise WWII: Pacific Theatre for 1991. The Buck Rogers RPG gets the hard sell this year and plenty of AD&D stuff was in evidence (including a trivia game!). Nothing new in the Red October/Red Storm stand-up counter series was mentioned. The Paul Lamond Games stand was manned by Hugo Boss-suited hunks and a PR lady who was causing all sorts of collisions amongst head-turning males. They are obviously doing very nicely thankyou. Aside from schlock like Home & Away and Orgy, they were most excited by their forthcoming Twin Peaks game. Can one make a decent game about doughnuts and murder? But then when have Lamond ever done a decent game? One on which to reserve judgement I suspect. Gibsons offered the only other items of interest with the Adel and Paternoster licences. These will be respectively called By Fair Means or Foul and Comings and Goings. Snappy eh? Talk about choosing two duff games - will they really sell over here? They also had a mock-up of Sherlock Holmes: The Card Game that looks very nice indeed. The play is a type of story telling theme but with linked card locations, an idea I have been toying with and have again been beaten to the punch. It looks lovely, the graphics are great and the cases should be at least passable. But it's from Gibsons, so there must be a catch.

We played Kingdom recently, a new game in the shops and in the Past Times catalogue. It's from a go-it-alone Englishman who resides in Scotland and the theme is Arthurian factions battling for the crown with a side order of Grailquesting. Essentially it is multi-player, straightforward combat and subsequent elimination for the players unfortunate enough to be in the sandwich or disliked socially. You will need to see the production values to believe them - it's quite beautifully done, but there is a downside. The game costs between £25 and £30 depending on where you buy it and the colours of the factions are very hard to differentiate on both counters and map. This must have been a bummer having sunk a lot of cash into production.

Each player has knights and infantry based armies which he must finance from taxation eaned from the toiling peasants. The armies trundle off to stomp on other players villages (to earn more tax) and castles. You also have the option to visit nine mystical locations where the grail might be hidden. This is the old 'flip a counter, meet the guardian, answer a riddle' situation and it is well handled. Trouble is, you can't be off seeing images of the Monty Python version.

The combat system is quite interesting, though Knights are no better at fighting than the grunts, they simply move faster. It works on a simple odds table but the battle can run for several rounds and, depending on the dice, can escalate into a counter attack, withdrawal or bloodier charts. Unusual, but at the end of the day it is a 'clash of the big stacks' elimination game and we all know how they work. Overall it was pretty unspectacular but, as usual, I was more mystified by what drives someone to finance such a venture. Aside from the graphics, I was not greatly impressed but then I rarely get much from these ahistorical multi-player jobs. That said, all the others enjoyed it greatly. Perhaps I'm getting cynical.

Did I mention I've been interviewed for radio's Woman's Hour recently? Truly fame at last. Mark Green at Just Games was approached to find someone who knew something about collecting games so he thought of me. Natural choice of course, being a national authority is damned hard work. Several people of greater streetwise level told me to have nothing to do with it, and with hindsight they were right, but I had to have my Warhol minutes. In the end, it was distinctly shabby. I was interviewed, at my office, by a typically tweedy BBC lady (Libby, would you believe) who was nice as pie and then, as soon as the tape was running, hit me with several dodgy questions. It quickly became apparent that she was trying to set me up as a social incompetent so that all those afternoon listeners could have a good giggle at my expense. Wise to this, I parried her attack and hopefully gave a fairly reasonable account of the hobby, collecting and anal retentive behaviour worldwide.

Among her questions were 'Do you keep them all in pristine condition?','Do you find it hard to part with games?' and, best of all, 'If it was your birthday and you had the chance to go out with friends or stay in and play games, what would you do?'. Jeez, talk about an obvious line of questioning. Two of my less scrupulous friends suggested that I should have said something along the lines of 'Neither, I'd probably be with these Siamese twins I know' which means Auntie Beeb can't use it on air. Wish I'd had the quick thinking and the guts to do that. I of course responded as any normal person would, but she was clearly looking for an anoracus nerdicus type who stays in and polishes his game components. Not me madam, try someone more spotty. On balance, there is a lot to be said for these people who won't speak to the media at all and that is now my policy - it's also about the only way I'm ever going to emulate Steve Carlton. There endeth Siggins' flirtation with the media high life.

Lots of films and TV worth seeing over the Christmas holidays. BBC really went for broke and creamed ITV on the Siggins ratings chart. I counted over twenty films that were worth watching or taping. Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources alone would have made for a good crop, but 84 Charing Cross Road, Powaqqatsi, Inner Space, Zulu, Witches of Eastwick, Outrageous Fortune, Lawrence of Arabia, Lost Boys and Spinal Tap is quite a haul to Siggins' taste. And that ignores the kiddie's stuff that I am rather partial to! Return to Oz and The Dark Crystal were good even the second time around.

Grand Prix 500 was potentially the best programme on TV over the holidays. An hour of footage showing the history of the Grand Prix and thus the cars as well had been too much to hope for. Reminiscences of the excellent Horizon Supercharged and the standard of previous BBC motor racing coverage left me drooling. What we got was a major let down. OK, the film wasn't too bad, but it could easily have been twice as long and the presenter (who also wrote it) sounded as if he was at Churchill's funeral. This killed it for me and although the dull droning was appropriate for the infamous crashes, Fangio, Hill, Stewart, Prost and the other greats deserved a slightly more upbeat approach when taking the flag. Disappointing.

Twin Peaks continues to appeal. There is nothing there in total, the shock of 'to be continued' after the first series was inexcusable and whole swathes of plot are clearly padding. But, as Brian Dolton rightly said, we are really along for the ride. The recent episodes have been full of brilliant scenes and thus make for compulsive viewing in case you miss something. The Merzy Doats sequence was priceless, the giant is a great idea, virtually everything Cooper does is addictive and the end of the second series pilot featured the most powerful horror scene I've watched for some while.

Late News from Nuremburg in brief. A good range of games apparently if no actual stars; Alan Moon tells me that there were no outstanding games and Amigo, despite big billing, went off very quietly, making a big thing about a Snap variant! Mark Green, our roving reporter, tells me that around fifteen games will appeal to the typical German gamer (whatever that may be). Mark has stocks of the following 'on the way' or coming when they are ready, no doubt other shops and Eamon will have them soon as well: FX Schmid - Bauernschlau (a game about farms and sheep), Hydra, Millionen Poker and Die Bosse (card games). Hans Im Gluck - Drunter & Druber (hot designer Klaus Teuber's promising new game which sounds a bit like Pipemania, for those who know the computer game; coming in March). Hexagames - Musketiere, Res Publica (card games) and Manager (a Trade lookalike). Ravensburger - Playboss (a reissue of the old game), Shark (a re-do of the Flying Turtle game), Hunt the Vampire, Columbus and Master Labyrinth (a mega version of the old Labyrinth game).

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