MS: This should be another quite extensive letter column but sadly I seem to have got very little feedback on the games reviewed last issue. I guess this is because very few people have had time to play the very new releases, so comments are still sought on Airlines and Boomtown for next time.]
Giorgio Salvadego, Marghera, Italy Thank you for Sumo 3, but Mike, are you making some profit from the Royal Optometrists Society? OK, Sports Center is written in compressed characters but Inside Pitch is trying to set a record.... Denis Arnold, Felixstowe Re Sumo typestyles, personally I prefer that used on the first couple of pages of issue 3 or the 2-column style used for the Essen review. The 3-column layout of Inside Pitch I find a bit of a strain on the eyes, but I put that down to senile decay. Whichever you decide to adopt, I can put up with it, it's the content that matters most.
Pete Birks The text style in Sumo 3 was quite readable. Of course, one tends to not notice text styles unless they are either distinctly unreadable, or readable but irritating. 'Roman' in Locofont manages to be both.
Paul Jefferies, Petts Wood Enjoyed the mixed layout of Sumo. Rather than just going all one way, why not keep a mix! Sumo, for me, is worth reading and if you reduce the size down to O.E.D. size to save paper...I'd get my magnifying glass out. Nuff said.
[MS: Thanks for the comments. I too liked the editorial font last time but, believe it or not, there are several pieces of punctuation missing from the daisywheel. No '!' for a start. So, it's back to trusty Courier.]
Stephan Valkyser, Aachen Please do not succumb to these weirdos who demand a monthly, or even worse, a weekly publication of Sumo. I myself would like a well prepared issue quarterly much more than a rushed one that comes monthly.
[MS: It is getting harder and harder to do the quarterly ones Stephan, so rest assured on this one. Look for a much slimmer Sumo next time, publication for '91 is scheduled for late April, late July and mid November to allow for Essen. The April issue may be delayed till May if Mr Hussein lets me go on my round the world trip.]
Stephan continues.. Please do me, and the other German readers, one favour: If you have to type a German word with those strange 'o's and 'a's follow this proposal: Type 'a' as 'ae', 'o' as 'oe', 'u' as 'ue' and 'B' as 'ss'. This is a common practice over here for someone who only has a pre-deluge typewriter. It is certainly much better (and indeed more correct) than the standard English method of just omitting the points. [MS: I believe they are more properly called an 'Umlaut', Stephan.] Sometimes that makes no sense or even has a different meaning!
[MS: Well there you go. In keeping with the spirit of Europeanism embodied in Sumo (sometimes), I will make the effort. But I suspect, because English is all but accent free, I will forget more often than I remember. On a technical point, I honestly didn't think there was a difference between 'ss' and B so that was ignorance, not laziness! So much for my German teachers.]
'The Sophomore Jinx': Great Phrase! But then shouldn't you have been a 'Freshman' rather than a 'Rookie' last year?
[MS: Oh gosh, Siggins caught mixing his sports metaphors. Or perhaps not. Sophomore and Freshman would certainly apply to the college game, but might I suggest that Sumo is firmly in the pros where, I believe, Rookie and Sophomore Jinx are used in common parlance.]
Paul Oakes, Wandsworth Glad you liked Was (Not Was) so much. They remind me of Steely Dan - ace songs superbly performed in a variety of styles with an underlying element of being different lyrically and a jazz (soul) influence. My favourite song is 'Anything can Happen', and that's not just because of the bit about being seduced by a woman in a 'baby blue Ferrari'. Pity the new one ain't as good, but that's expecting a lot.
Nik Holliday, Welwyn I entirely agree with your comments on the Illearth books. I found them boring and depressing. Old Elric may have been a miserable bastard but the stories themselves don't have the overall air of doom and gloom that pervade the Illearth books, and they make much more entertaining reading.
Gareth Simon, Tonbridge Forget The Far Side, read Piraro's Bizarro collection (and Too Bizarro and Mondo Bizarro), available from Comic Showcase. I thought they were funnier than Larson but just as strange. More accessible.
[MS: Will do. I see they also have one called Sumo Bizarro!]
Paul Oakes Martin Amis; read Money! If you don't like that, forget it. Similarly, I hope you've read 'Espedair Street' by Ian Banks. As he's been so fashionable in the hobby, I assume you have. His other, non-SF books are...interesting too, but completely different. The connection between the two authors is that no two books are written in the same style - although I haven't read the last three Amises.
[MS: I tried Money and found it more accessible but still lacking in 'drive' for want of a better word. I couldn't care about the characters or the plot and the book therefore held little for me. I packed it up halfway in, so scrub that one. I am saving Mr Banks for a rainy day. He'd better be good.]
Paul again 'Liar's Poker' is a cracker, and makes no factual mistakes (cf the completely laughable Capital City).
Pete Birks I've read Liar's Poker and I'm afraid I couldn't share your enthusiasm. Presumably one needs some kind of identification with the people involved, but they all (the writer included) came across as anything between vaguely unpleasant and utterly repulsive individuals. I certainly felt that it came nowhere near The Soul of a New Machine, which was about a topic about which at the time I knew even less about, but which enthralled me.
[MS: Interesting pair of views there; Pete is a non-financial markets person and Oakes has played with the big boy's money. Make of it what you will. I guess, like Wall Street, it does different things for different people.]
Pete Birks I haven't read any Terry Pratchett novels. Am I unique?
[MS: No, but possibly missing out.]
What I do have are a large number of books. Since I am moving soon I had the bright idea of classifying my books according to somne logical system, I used to have my own little system - fiction in alphabetical order, sf separate from non-sf. However my non-fiction classifications kept getting into a horrible mess.
So, I thought to myself, why not get hold of a copy of the library classification system? I know that it's immensely complicated these days, but I wondered if anyone out there knew where I could peruse a copy. It's hardly the kind of thing which you could pick up in the local WH Smith's.
[MS: Yup, I've been there. The reason I had to classify (well list - classification followed as an obvious next step) my books was that I had got to the horrible stage of mistakenly buying books I already had tucked away somewhere. The problem I find with storing books is that you want, logically, to have all your cycling books, or whatever, together but there is always one that won't fit with the others. I classify mine on a fairly self-explanatory three letter code ('CYC','FIC','SFF','CKG' etc) rather than all this number fuss. Surely Steve Doubleday is your man?]
Andy Key, Swindon At last, someone else who will admit to thinking that Eraserhead is pretentious crap. Having seen it 2.5 times, I'm left with the conviction that the film is a prime example of The Emperor's New Clothes syndrome. It's eternally praised by arty film buffs who probably all know, deep down, that it is pointless drivel, but none of them likes to say so for fear of revealing they haven't 'understood' it. [MS: Yup.]
Paul Oakes Equally amazing was the selection of films you had seen. Given that we have broadly similar tastes, I am amazed by your preference for 'action' films. I recommend Mystic Pizza (sweet little film), Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (excellent, funny, original), Alien Nation (a whole new slant on 'buddy-buddy' cop movies - 'Fuck me, a monster from outer space') and Worth Watching (worth seeing - sexy and funny). Not as good is Sea of Love which is worth seeing for Ellen Barkin, the thinking man's crumpet, 1990.
[MS: Either I'm not a thinking man or our similar tastes obviously don't stretch to women! The reason you got a lot of action films mentioned last time was that I went to see them with people who liked those sort of films and I have no great dislike of a night's escapism after a hard, hot day at work. It was simply that I mentioned little else that probably gave the wrong impression of my viewing tastes. I will look out for some of those mentioned, though I thought Mystic Pizza a bit flat. Bill & Ted sounds like my sort of film. Ninja Turtles for grown ups isn't it? Awesome!]
Charles Vasey New Star Trek: Come, come I detect no unnecessary shouting or terminal overacting in Star Trek. Stagey yes, but then where else would you have an American series populated by people who can speak American English perfectly and can act without moving three or four limbs and head in sympathy (alright I'll tell you Murder She Wrote and Colombo, but they've been around a wee while). What you get is a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, and often a problem for you to solve. You can miss an episode and be no worse for it. Given time, I'm sure they will achieve the interaction that makes the old bunch so much fun.
[MS: Mmmm, its now seems that the shouting was confined to the first couple of episodes and it did get better towards the end of the series. I still don't like the captain though - definite child molester material. Can't wait for the later series which are very polished. Those I managed to catch in Florida were actually very good indeed.]
Charles Vasey As for Pop Gun, I found the acting so terminally crappy that I lit the afterburners and went off to play Jet Eagles. Tom Cruise's acting range in Pop Gun is pretty piss poor too. He is either being a smart-ass kid or pompous putative cocksman (sometimes together, difficult one to call that).
[MS: Yes, that seems to sum up the Tom Cruise we know and love. Still a stirring little film, apart from the duff acting, story and morals (and the aqueducts). Of course, now they're up there doing it for real, it doesn't seem quite so sexy.]
Andy Key As the possessor of several pairs of Lycra shorts (with and without padding), I feel obliged to take issue with John Harrington's comments (and yours!). The non-padded ones, by the way, are technically for running, which is what mine are generally used for. I do, however, wear them at other times in hot weather. [MS: The mind and other things boggle] For cycling and running, they are possibly the most practical piece of clothing invented. Those who object to the outline of my 'bag of radishes' should avert their gaze. Having said that, pictures of dopey-looking models posing for fashion pages in impractical 'cycling' shorts irritate me intensely. But lycra shorts existed long before they were trendy and we cyclists and runners will carry on wearing them long after the fuss has died down.
Don't worry about the humour in Sumo - I chortled over Kris Akabusi's wayward anaconda.
[MS: Oh no, more references to willies. What with Sumo's brown envelopes, I'll be getting a reputation.]
Nik Holliday I think you were a bit hard on the Mindgames event. I was quite impressed with the show, perhaps because I have never been to an event like this before. I had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. I liked the idea of just being able to sit down and join in with a game and I could have spent large sums of money on the many newish and second-hand games on offer.
[MS: Yes, I can see that it would appeal on this basis. I suspect my problem (by that time of the year) was over-exposure to gaming events. Jaded would sum it up.]
Charles Vasey Essen/Mindgames: Surely the problem for a UK Essen is that we have death row without any of the larger companies. To get a UK Essen going we need maybe a decade of Beer & Pretzels with us all getting off our duffs and producing something. Otherwise it is a lot of hat and no cattle.
Mike Clifford Poor old Mindgames! I thought I had enjoyed myself until I read old Sig's review. Given the deplorable lack of interest seemingly showed by the big three (Waddingtons, Gibsons, Spears), I thought the show typified a cross section of the games industry in the UK. Plus I played a few games, found the atmosphere excellent (although I concur with the guv's thoughts about the Traveller crew) and found the selection of new product acceptable. It will never be Essen, but should reach the level of the early Gamesdays at the Horticultural Hall.
[MS: I doubt that, and not for being controversial reasons but because I can't see that the wide spread of games is a good move. It may be the only way to survive, but the real gamers should go along to (or even organise) Beer & Pretzels style events which, I would suggest, have a better approach and a better shot at long term success.]
Andy Key I saw Flying Carpet in Woolworths months ago but ignored it on the basis that I'd read somewhere (GI?) it was trivial. Only at Midcon did I play it and discover it was quite fun. By then, of course, it had disappeared from every branch of Woolies.
[MS: If there are any gamers out there near a Woolies with stocks of Flying Carpet or Trump, please let me know which one as a few people, myself included, are interested in buying 'a few'.]
Denis Arnold On the subject of Essen, I enclose a copy of the team results for Interteam. As you'll see, Bloodstock came 7th, I don't consider this to be too lowly a position.
[MS: Crossed wire. I had intended to convey sympathy for the English teams after the other teams sprung the new rule on you at the last minute. My 'lowly' comment was a comparison to previous years where we have won or done very well, not a comment on performance as a whole. Sorry!]
Denis continues... We also heard that this year's runners-up had known since March which games were to be played. Although Essen is still the greatest, it did tend to leave a slightly sour taste in the mouth this year. Incidentally, did you know that Theo Clarke is organising an English qualifying competition this year?
[MS: Watch out boys, we're being organised. The whole flavour of the Essen Interteam event stemmed from its informal organisation by Peter Gehrmann and the fact that people just formed ad-hoc teams, turned up and played. It now seems we have gone bigtime in the last couple of years and the event has gone serious, as many competitive events tend to. But even so, quite why we need a preliminary tournament here baffles me. But then I'm just a gamer who doesn't need to compete or organise others to get my rocks off, so it is beyond my ken. As for the games to be played leak, perhaps Peter would care to comment?]
Charles Vasey Your Inside Pitch comments on dollar/pound prices is well made, of course if you get caught by customs with duty and VAT the result is another 26% but that is still #5 pure profit (and the dealer gets a huge discount).
[MS: Fortunately, and I hope this continues, I have only ever once been clobbered by customs and that was on a shipment of baseball gloves. I am sure they had nothing about them in their books! Just to catch me out, I see that Chart/Avalon Hill have now reduced prices by around 10-12% which helps matters.]
Terry Goodchild, Carlton Colville The card games [MS: Lambourne's Sporting Deals, see the speedway review] are selling well, mainly it must be said to the non-replaying general public, but that is rather what we expected. Hope you enjoy 'Speedway Challenge' that I think works very well.
Re The Big Fight. I now believe the game plays better with 5 or 6 cards (maximum) each, so 3 rounds - 3 cards, 6-8 rounds - 4 cards, 10-12 rounds - 5 cards and 15 rounds - 6 cards. The next card game will be Goals Galore (soccer).
Mike Clifford Doolittle & Waite is NOT a charades type spoof, but rather a superior card game which bears repeated play. An excellent 'after cheese sandwich and low alcohol beverage' choice.
Andy Daglish, Cheadle Computer games are excellent at some things, eg flight simulation, but I feel that exploiting their strengths and good game design are often mutually exclusive. Also, the 1 Meg program is so often faulty. Steve Owen is on his third Railroad Tycoon. The major problem is the visual spectacle. There is a very long way to go before a monitor can portray the same sight as a large gameboard - the abacus is much quicker than the calculator.
[MS: I would agree fully with the first comment and feel that this is why we have less than ten truly decent games since the dawn of personal computers. I see signs of some software houses (particularly Microprose) realising that they need to employ game designers as well as programmers if we are to see more Sim Cities and evolutionary progress in computer games. Bugs are something else and, to a degree, I have sympathy with the companies on this - 1 meg programs are damn complex beasts. I feel that if all reasonable steps are taken before release and this is backed with a good, free update service, then we might charitably regard bugs in the same way as boardgame errata. As for display, I can only point to VGA level graphics becoming standard whereas just two or three years ago, CGA/EGA was the norm. Technological standards will improve, but software and the users are always lagging behind.]
Mike Clifford And talking of sports games. I do not consider myself the leading authority on basketball simulations (top five almost certainly), but, yes, part II of March Madness is excellent. And did I see the estimable Don Greenwood write to Sumo to justify this fine game? Shouldn't have bothered. What he should be ashamed of, however, is Wrasslin'.
I do not profess to know a thing about wrestling, apart from the fact that it seems to entertain the middle classes. But I do know that Wrasslin' is a fraud. Would someone please explain what a parody of a parody of a parody is? Wrasslin' you say? The next time the creative people at Avalon Hill have three minutes to spare, perhaps they will put it to better use. The company that pays the WWF the megabucks they will probably demand, and comes up with a proper wrestling game featuring the likes of Hulk Hogan will, the use the London vernacular, 'have it off'.
Stephan Valkyser I am rather surprised by your valuation of Wrasslin'. Maybe this is because you expected too much from the game in advance? I expected something like Slapshot or (on a much lower level), Up Front and I got that! Meanwhile I've played Wrasslin' about one hundred times (yes! I even made a ranking of the wrasslers and 'Baby Face' Harpo is currently at the top with a 7- 1-1 record) and all of my friends were hooked too (even the non-wrestling fans). In addition to the game you sold me [MS: For it was he.], I had ordered one from the States and the instant it arrived it was 'stolen' by an attendant of the gaming session in progress. Wrasslin' definitely offers more room for good play than 'Enemy in Sight' [MS: What game doesn't?], therefore it can't be the worst from TAHGC.
[MS: (Muffled Screams). Next.]
Nik Holliday Avalon Hill have produced some real turkeys recently, three of which I've been unfortunate enough to buy (Wrasslin' [!], New World and Showbiz). Wrasslin' is an awful game, full stop. New World is OK, apart from some horrendous rules writing, but the game is far too long. I've never been a fan of 'monster' games (except 1830) and at 4-6 hours, this game is about 2-4 hours too long. Showbiz is a good game, but the quality and design of the components is dreadful. Try playing with six players and trying to reach their part of the board and you'll see what I mean. I eventually had to take a Stanley knife to the board and separate all the individual player boards. Also those little cardboard 'resource counters' are horrid. Considering that this company has produced some of my all-time favourite games (WP&S, Acquire, 1830 and Merchant of Venus), these three have been particularly disappointing.
[MS: I agree entirely with these comments, though a certain Derek Carver probably wouldn't. Showbiz is a good game and I was hoping AH might move it away from its abstract feel with a decent production job. What we got was worthy of Waddington's, though the star rule was neat. I haven't yet played the production version of New World but I did playtest it a couple of years ago. At the time, I could see the makings of a good system in there, but it was desperately in need of a shorter game. I think Derek might quite like designing long games with repetitive, mechanical systems (cf Blood Royale and Warrior Knights) but that isn't the way modern games are going.]
Andy Key Judging from Metric Mile, Terry Goodchild's priority really ought to be to find a competent graphic designer who's willing to work for little or nothing. A brilliant game it may be, but the presentation's awkward to use and the rules are hopelessly disorganised. One of these days I'll get around to my own re-write and send it to Lambourne as a suggestion. Incidentally, Mike Oakes has developed an ingenious spiral playing board for Metric Mile which removes the necessity for a playing surface twenty feet long.
[MS: I'd be keen to hear more about that Mike, care to write in and expand on this? I wouldn't say any of Terry's rules are hopelessly disorganised, but you do need to work at them a bit if you aren't familiar with sportsgames mechanisms. I point you back to my comments on rules writing last time and would be keen to see the re-write!]
Alan Parr, Tring In your review of Essen you somehow omitted to mention the game I was especially keen to get; New Orleans Big Band, if only because Simon and myself have long mused about how one could develop a game built around jazz. I'll optimistically request rules for this from the bank but I guess I'm more likely to translate them myself.
[MS: To be honest Alan, I'm sure I saw Big Band at Essen in 1989 so assumed it wasn't a new one. That said, I haven't heard anything about it all year so I guess it could have been a delayed release. Is this the game with the musician counters (in stripey suits?) that get laid out on a long board? I'd be keen to hear from anyone who has rules or has played it. As for a jazz game, the emphasis must surely be on improvisation and overlong, ego-tripping solos. No idea how to work that into a game system. I would have thought, based on my in-depth knowledge from the film Bird, as long as the other players whoop, clap and pump out lots of cigarette smoke, you could just play Maestro in a dark cellar instead.]
[But enough of culture....
Paul Oakes Your review of Boomtown is complete balls. The game I played with Harrington, Woody and Tringers [MS: and Biffo] was great fun - all the value of the game is in bluff (if I veto his -3, does he have a -5 to follow) and in the way alliances form (joint developments), sometimes with uninvited partners. Speculating on areas with few developments, or building in zones where the final values are nearly complete allows you to try to catch up or hold on. And it's fun to gang up on the leader. A great one hour game with no mechanical complexity but lots of tactical and strategic positioning.
[MS: Mr Oakes responds in his usual restrained style! There are just two simple points to my reply as I know from old that Paul tends to overstate his case. Firstly, I agreed in the review that game is fun the first time but I was trying to convey that it is a one or two shot proposition and at #25 or more that is not good enough. Secondly, I can't believe you make that much of the bluffing and placing decisions. Yes, they are clearly there but they don't exactly stretch the brain do they? Fun yes, but not taxing and therefore not very sustainable. And hardly worth stressing as features in the review.]
Charles Vasey Boomtown: I liked this review. You got over to me the idea of the game which is an obvious one (like all great ideas we miss them) and one can see the room for the 'take that you bastard' school of gaming. You also indicated the two problems which were that it might need development to get future play and that it was expensive. You gave me all the information I needed to make my judgement (no I would not buy it, yes I might play if offered).
Tim Cockitt, Manchester Boomtown is an entertaining little multi-player. Very simple rules, so only three minutes to explain the game, and you're finished in under an hour. The game is good fun, but doesn't bear up to repeated play. I particularly liked the components, especially the picture on the abbatoir counter - a cow wearing a blindfold.
[MS: Aha, my one page review summarised into a few lines. Why do I bother? Meanwhile, the Adel saga drags on for one final issue.....]
Mike Clifford And now to lever Mike Siggins from the quagmire of Adel Verpflichtet and Mindgames, among others.
Adel is a fun memory game. No more, no less. Well produced and good value. And it is on a par with other decent memory games like Enchanted Forest, Sleuth, 221b Baker Street, Cluedo and others whose titles I forget.
Stephan Valkyser How can Mike Gray claim that 'Adel' is too long? The average game lasts 30 minutes and I can remember only game which I've played this year which is shorter (Wrasslin'!). And, 'There is no safe way to stop a player who is far ahead' is also wrong. To get 'far ahead' you have to exhibit very often and therefore cannot enlarge your collection. The time will come where the leader has no chance with competing exhibitions and he won't be at the beginning of the home stretch at that stage. Believe me, the length of the track is well drafted!
Charles Vasey I know nothing of Adel but I would guess the difference from Football Strategy and it is that Football Strategy (if you know football) is immediately tense and involving, for you Adel was neither, yes?
[MS: Yes. This correspondence is now closed!]
Mike Clifford I liked Airlines and this will stand repeated play.
Charles Vasey [The] Airlines [review] I found hard to understand as I have never played Acquire and therefore lacked the base knowledge. Nothing you, as the reviewer, can do about that, although I imagine I got most of the ideas. The timing point argues strongly in its favour. With those times you can learn a game in a way denied to Korsun Pocket 'players'.
Nigel King, Leicester I have recently purchased Airlines after reading the review in Sumo. I certainly was not disappointed. I have actually been lucky enough to get to play this one and have enjoyed it everytime (well, twice!). The first game had all the scoring cards coming early with two cards turned consecutively (which made the paperwork even easier!). But this did not spoil the game for me and I personally prefer this random appearance of the cards and we will not be setting the timing of their appearance.
In some ways this reminds me of the sudden appearnce of a merger tile in Acquire played by an opponent at the worst time when I least want it. (Or vice versa picking a tile that will benefit your own position). Anyway, this is a good example of a classic game that I would have missed were it not for Sumo.
[MS: Good to hear that sort of talk young man, we aim to please.]
Alan Moon Don't know what to say about your review of Airlines. You made a little too much out of the comparison between Airlines and Acquire, but that's probably my own fault as I've been telling people it's a similar game. After playing it recently for the first time in several years, the similarity is actually quite slight at best. The two games are certainly in the same genre but have quite different strategic considerations. Glad to hear Airlines is doing well.
[MS: Well, yes it was indeed you who told me but there are some similarities and it helped me explain the system without going into too many details. I did conclude, independently, that the game was different enough to be considered separately. Either way, I have heard nothing but good comments about Airlines and, having passed my copy to Paul Jefferies, I now can't buy one anywhere. I will have to be patient till that nice Mr Green gets some in.]
John Evans We are psyching ourselves up to play Republic of Rome which looks really appealing, and promises to be different and challenging. So, we've got a preparatory session planned for Thursday night for going over the rules and sequences, with a full game organised for Sunday.
[MS: Hope you enjoy it. A preparatory session sounds a very good idea for this game. On this subject, I have made a big effort in the last few months to prepare properly for organised game sessions. I normally try and read the rules, pop the counters, and play through a turn or two which, I find, really helps play of the bigger games. It also seems to go down well with all the other players who get a more productive session rather than me sitting and reading the rules. I only wish I had time to do it more often.]
Denis Arnold One of the best games at Essen was Flusspiraten. Quite a simple one to learn, but plenty of alternate choices and decisions - and great opportunities to be a bastard! I also got Boomtown - not a bad game, alright for a bit of fun etc - but, as you say, twenty five quid! By the way, does anyone know the address of Livingstone Games? I've got a few houses missing.
[MS: You are not alone. Alan Moon has no red houses at all and I have heard of a couple of other people with problems. Others who have bought it would be wise to do a count up now as Mr Livingstone is well on the way to selling out (just 200 or 120 left, depending on who you speak to). I don't know the address as Ian advertises c/o Strategy Plus who I am no longer on good terms with, but I suspect he runs the game company from his sprawling mansion in Kew. Anyone have any ideas?]
[MS: I rated Flusspiraten as only average when we played it recently, but the rules we had are a bit unclear so we may have been playing it wrong. I also think it needs a lot of players to work at its best. Not really my sort of game either, the act of leaning over and throwing someone out of the boat is not a pleasant one in a 'fun' game.]
Nigel King Have you seen the new version of Pepys' Penalty (at least that's what it looks like) by MB Games? Not Kick Off but 'Gazza' the game. It comes in a larger box so they can put you know who all over it. I think I will stick to Penalty.
[MS: Is it really the same game? I must say it looks similar and there is nothing on the box to indicate that it is anything more than play a card, move the ball which does point to Penalty/Kick Off. Perhaps there is a Gazza joker card that lets you play three cards at once or something. At #10-12 I didn't fancy experimenting but I'd be grateful if anyone can shed some light on this one.]
Mike Clifford You ask about By Jove. Only fair as a game, but I assume that this is an educational tool, where it would have some merit.
Throw away the magic rules and enjoy Mighty Empires as a fun thrash of full- blooded war in the middle ages. I wonder if anyone has considered what state the games business would be in without Games Workshop?
For those of you who have avoided Trump because of the personality involved, please swallow your pride and invest in this outstanding business game. It's right up there with Acquire and Cartel (now Dallas). Both Trump and Dallas can be had from Eamon Bloomfield's list.
[MS: Comments before the review already. See elsewhere this issue for more details on this little cracker.]
Denis Arnold I was a bit concerned to read in the last issue, 'Magellan. What Game?' I brought this back from Essen on recommendation from a German friend and, although I'm without English rules and cards as yet, I thought it looked pretty good; now you've got me worried!
[MS: Such was the variety of typestyles last time, I fear you may have mistaken me for Mike Clifford. I have no knowledge of Magellan beyond seeing it probably twelve years ago at the Model Engineer Exhibition where a figure gamer (Dave Rotor?) was showing it off. I seem to recall the map having no squares or hexes which threw me a bit, but yes it did look alright in a Risk-like way. Perhaps Mike will enlighten us.]
Rudolf Ruhle, Bonn At Essen, Perlhuhn had another new, very good two player tactical game called Cordoba, the first edition is sold out already. The other one was a game with leaping frogs, as you presumed a simple but nice little game for normal families.
[MS: Which begs the question, just who is designing the games for abnormal families? Moon for one, but there must be others.]
Rudolf... Chamaeleon is a tactical 2-4 player game with the idea that the game board shrinks when the pieces go inward. The capability for movement varies with the colour of the square the piece is on. It's recommended.
[MS: Thanks Rudolf for that information. I'm now not too fussed that I missed it as Resolution 12b dictates that I shall buy no more two player abstract games.]
John Evans, Edinburgh Some new games here are worth some comment. I bought a card game called 'The Challenge' by the 'Ars Magica' people Lion Rampant. The cards are attractive and there are some good ideas, but we had to do some tweaking to make a sattisfactory game of it. Basically, we made it very interactive in that any member of the defending group could respond to an attack. This removes a lot of frustration with the game and I think it made thematic sense. The game plays in under an hour and our version is fun and there is scope for calculation. I prefer it to Modern Naval Battles, despite the latter's lovely ship silhouettes.
[MS: Sounds good. As you didn't mention the subject matter, knowing the company I am guessing at some sort of fantasy subject but not RPG like the same company's Whimsy cards. Right? Although this one sounds at least passable, and yes I have ordered one, the appearance of all these me-too's has simply shown me how clever Up Front is and more so considering when it was designed.]
Alan Moon The Spain Railway Rivals map may be the all-time best.
[MS: Never one to understate a case, our Alan. If it is better than France, Middle Earth or India, I'll be impressed enough.]
Jon Madge, Tamworth Have you played Sherco Baseball - any good?
[MS: Well, yes I have played it but it was years ago and I haven't seen a copy advertised for ages. As to whether it is any good, I would say it won't knock Pursue the Pennant, Statis Pro or your beloved Clubhouse off their perch but I did keep it as it has a lot of nice ideas. From what I remember, it is much like Tri-Valley's Baseball Challenge in that it has a lot going for it in specific areas but doesn't quite hang together overall. It was very well supported as I remember.]
Mike Clifford But what else of Avalon Hill? New World appears to be a decent game. And so it should. I do not expect a company with the outstanding tradition of AH to produce more than one stinker every ten years (the eighties had the abominable Pro Tennis).
And now a test. What percentage of AH games do you have in your collection? They account for at least 20% of mine, and I do not hoard wargames. Remember them in the recession, folks.
[MS: Ok, Ok. I've got a lot. I can see forty-odd from here and they are the ones that get replayed as well. I still think it is important to quickly identify the Wrasslin's and Pro Tennis's of this world. Sadly, I also fear the miss rate is slightly higher than one every ten years for AH, and worse still for others.
John Evans We have played a lot of New World which I find enjoyable and thoughtful. We've got through two full games, plus a leisurely meal, in a Sunday session (afternoon and evening) and I think it can be recommended to Sumo readers. Combat is very simple but isn't shallow (one should think of what one is doing, not just indulge in an orgy of dice rolling). There is a lot of dice in the game, but I think that it all evens out and hence is no detriment.
Mike Clifford I seem to have been credited with describing Strategy Plus as 'Travesty Plus'. To clarify: The lack of boardgame material is a travesty, the magazine is not bad at all. But the sooner they remove Stevie Wonder from the design team the better.
[MS: Oooh, bitchy. Sorry about quoting you out of context Mike, but I see we agree on the boardgame content which is what I was getting at. Apart from this quick mention, I think we can safely draw a veil over the GI/Strategy Plus episode. It only annoys me to think about it anyway.]
Stephan Valkyser What about a new list? [MS: Why not?] While looking at my shelves I came up with this one: The list of games I definitely should play more often (but don't have the time or the opponents):
Acquire (AH), Go (Ravensburger), Greyhounds (HiG), Operation Grenade (S&T), Operation Market-Garden (GDW), Pax Britannica (VG), Russian Front (AH), Source of the Nile (AH), Speed Circuit (AH), Statis Pro Football (AH), Twixt (Schmidt) and Up Front (AH).
[MS: My equivalent list would be something of an embarrassment and would fill the rest of Sumo. If I told you my 'Games I'm keen to play (or at least read and tinker with)' list numbers some 200 at present, would that make it any clearer?]
Mike Clifford Further to the 5&10 question. I have played the AH and Strat range of sports games a hundred times each or more. Face Off must have seen the light of day 500 times (!), but then I play in PBM leagues. Of the Lambourne range, Championship Boxing and International Cricket have taken a severe beating, with World of Motor Racing likely to join them. Incidentally, Terry Goodchild's new tennis game Centre Court is brilliant, and joins Metric Mile in the classic department, if something can be so termed after just a few weeks.
Of other recent sports games, Pressure Putt Pro Golf and Good ol' Boys Stock Car Racing, both from Valgames (Bob Valvano) are must haves for all replay sportsgamers and are often 'on the table.'
General games which have received more attention than most include Election, Acquire, Broadway, Scotland Yard, Labyrinth, Cosmic Encounter, Hare & Tortoise, Claim, Sigma File, Alaska and Heimlich & Co. This list does not, of course, include childhood favourites such as Monopoly, Totopoly, Risk, Formula One, Hancock's Half Hour and Cluedo.
Merfyn Lewis, Anglesey With regard to your 5&10 list, thinking back there were no 'great' games 25 years ago but I can remember playing a hell of a lot of Risk, Campaign, Mine a Million, Scoop, Cluedo and Subbuteo. So, here goes my 5&10 list for the last two years:
5: Breaking Away, Auf Achse, Stockmarket, Broker, McMulti, WP&S 10: Acquire, 6 Day Race, Wildlife Adventure, Indiscretion, Holiday AG
Charles Vasey The 5&10 test is really taking off. Can I have my royalties please?
[MS: Thanks chaps. I know this is going on a bit but I find it interesting that for all the hall of fame invective of recent months, there are quite solid trends forming here. It seems most people played a lot of Risk (I bet with different house rules in most cases) and the German invasion has had a big impact. Yes, I know I'm sampling from interested parties, but they seem to like the same games. Keep 'em coming.]
Michele Montagni As promised, here are a couple of addresses where...you shouldn't go if you want to save your financial situation!
|Gamesmanship||Sports Books Etc|
|South Coast Plaza||5224 Port Royal Rd|
|3333 Bristol Street||Springfield, VA 22151|
|Costa Mesa, CA|
|(714) 557 2447||(703) 321 8660|
[MS: I asked Michele to let me have a couple of addresses for two of the better shops in the States for games and sports books and I thought I'd pass them on. The latter issue a very good catalogue (when you can get it) and the former will be on my list for future visits.]
Rudolf Ruhle, Bonn Could you get me into the Swap Shop in the next Sumo? I want any Intellect Games, soccer, racing, card and other old games. Offer German and out of print games.
[MS: In the absence of a Swap Shop this time, I'm glad to oblige. I should stress that Rudolf has one of the largest game collections in the world and wants some pretty weird stuff as a result. I'm not sure you'll be able to swap English Monopoly for Homas Tour, but Rudolf will do you a good deal and he will trade with anyone. I should also stress though that if you are going to start finding Intellect Games in large numbers, there are lots of people looking and some of the games are becoming valuable. Drop me a line if you want an impartial view. Rudolf is at Burgweg 33, 5300 Bonn 1, Germany.]
Charles Vasey The British Museum is apparently pretty poor - Malcolm Watson's remains in an old Attactix box.
Gareth Simon The British Museum boardgame exhibition is not very spectacular. It takes up four small display cases in the Assyrian Basement. There is a contemporary sealskin chess set from Canada, lots of chess sets and similar and lots of 'abstract' African/Middle Eastern games displayed. There are a couple of placards giving the history and distribution of chess across the ancient and medieval world, and mention of a chap who wrote a book at the beginning of the century on the history of chess and 'serious' games.
Mike Clifford Games are Games. They can be intellectually stimulating, but they are still games. They can be fun. But they are still games. And they can be crap. But they are still games. Whatever facet of the hobby you support, remember one thing. They are games.
Nik Holliday I noticed a couple of references to the games playing intelligentsia; I have no idea who these people are, but it sounds as if they might be part of that insidious group of conspiritors, the Illuminati (GPI, Power 0/0, Income 0, Alignment Weird)
[MS: Best explanation yet given Mike's continued obfuscation. His biggest clue so far has been 'Those that think they are the gaming intelligentsia, are.' Alternatively, he could have a thing about people fiddling with games. Otherwise, I'm lost. Name names Clifford! Income 0? Surely not.]
Mike Clifford I just thought of something else. I think it's possible to conjugate the verb Sumo. Sumo, Sumas, Sumat, Sumamis, Sumatis, Sumant. No doubt the Latin scholars will correct me if I'm wrong. Farewell. [MS: Bye Mike.]
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