Archive for June, 2003

Origins 2003 aftermath: the dirty details

Monday, June 30th, 2003

Anthony Valterra showed me a 36-page-or-so preview of the upcoming 192-page Book of Erotic Fantasy. From that small sample, I can say that the book seems about 50% relatively lame fan service (a Command Orgasm/Masturbation spell, with color photo illustration. Did the world need that? I’m thinking not), and 50% fairly interesting, more sophisticated stuff. The prestige classes are where a lot of the interest is – Anthony told me that co-author Gwen Kestrel is very big on classes that interrelate (quite appropriate for a sex book). The Dominator and Submissive prestige classes have abilities that complement each other, for example. There’s some sort of mage that can burn actual ability stats to achieve some effects, and s/he does well paired with a “sacred prostitute” class that restores ability scores. I asked if the sacred prostitute gave you 50 hit points if you got her alone in a van, but he didn’t get it.

Price tag for WizKids: $29.5MM

Monday, June 30th, 2003

More details on the WizKids deal and the rest of Topps’ financial picture.

Live from Origins 2003: Samurai Communist Assault!

Sunday, June 29th, 2003

When I saw the Kanji and the black and red motif, I thought Tenjo had a booth again and got all excited, but instead, it’s another intriguing board game with a samurai theme. Senjutsu, from a startup publisher called Salvador Games, puts your samurai guys on little octagonal bases that stack up, and have different icons printed on the side that faces you. These are items: staves, bows and arrows, big boots representing martial arts… they determine how the piece moves as well as what attacks it can make. There’s also the piece with a scroll on it, which is what your opponent wants to steal. It’s Stratego gone so wrong it’s right. This is one of the more exciting “new little board games” I saw, but why do all the Japanese-themed games use the same colors on the box? Nothing wrong with the colors, I’m just saying, is there something historical that I’m not aware of? ‘Cause Zendo (the new boxed edition of which doesn’t quite have a web page I can find) looks kinda all Japanese, even though it’s just the most brilliant and innovative abstract game you’ll see this year, and it uses green and white. So hey.

Live from Origins 2003: we can make a game out of anything, even pickles

Sunday, June 29th, 2003

Couple of quick D20 bits:

OtherWorld Creations has Mercenaries: Born of Blood (I think that’s the title) new at the show; it includes rules for making a mercenary out of virtually any creature in the Monster Manual. I’m thinking shambling mound.

Mystic Eye has a new Foul Locales book, Behind the Gates, about rural villages and hamlets and stuff. If there ain’t no Starbucks, it’s a foul locale indeed. They also have Tarot Magic, an intriguing idea if you ask me; they have stuff like prestige classes for tarot mages and all the surrounding bits for a magic system. Whether they have rules that actually require use of a tarot deck, I didn’t ask. No stats for the major arcana.

Live from Origins 2003: the rock precedes the roll

Sunday, June 29th, 2003

Played Creepy Freaks. Some folks don’t know that John Kovalic did some of the better character designs for this game, as well as Bazooka Joe-like comics for the boosters. I was surprised – this game has real meat to it, while still being totally approachable for its target market. Wiseman did a smart thing: he used the new square base for notating what the figures can do, not just how well they can currently do it. The clicky base is still there, but you don’t turn the base, you turn the figure; fully healed is facing forwards, “dead” (actually “scared” and leaving the board) is facing backwards. The clicks along the way are still hit points, but little icons will show up in some of them, representing types of attacks that the monster has become more vulnerable to at that click. Those types of attacks are also things that the monsters have in the corner of the square base, notating something they can do to others. The arrows (sort of) on the base show which directions the figure can move or attack in; a die roll determines how far. Basically, it’s a chess variant. A chess variant they’ll sell tens of thousands of; James Ernest must be pissed. I enjoyed it a lot and will be picking up a starter, although boosters are a little rich for my blood. ($5 for two figs: day-amn. Did I mention I got a box of Gregory Horror Show boosters for 75% off? Those figs are badass.)

Live from Origins 2003: a spy in the house of Wa

Sunday, June 29th, 2003

Yes, I actually did go to the WotC booth and look at the D&D3.5 books. I’m not intimate enough with D&D to be able to say what’s changed – I can verify they still have lots of rules in them – but the new covers are nice. Also for sale at the show, and I don’t think it’s been in stores yet, is the Dragonlance campaign setting book. Purple cover: weird. Didn’t get a close look at that either, because I was too busy grilling a Wizards rep about D&D Miniatures. The “Entry Packs” – why do they have to come up with their own damn names for everything? – will have quick start rules that make use of the point values on the figure bases, and possibly do something interesting with the alignments thereon as well. Will the full rules be a separate book? Well, says the rep, there’s no “will be” about it – the full rules for D&D Miniatures are… D&D3.5. Whether this constitutes some kind of admission on WotC’s part that D&D3 is a skirmish miniatures game at heart is left as an open question for the more cynical among you. Would I ever think that, oh gosh, no. I believe the planned release date he told me was October.

Live from Origins 2003: see, there are these dots, and they hack enemies

Saturday, June 28th, 2003

Decipher announced this game what, a week ago? And they’re running demos here at the show. This newest salvo in the .hack multimedia assault (anime TV, anime features, PS2 games and now a CCG) has gameplay that will be familiar to players of, well, anything in the medium, but most explicitly the LotR game. For those unfamiliar with the .hack storyline, .hack//ENEMY is about a virtual reality experience gone horribly wrong. (I mean, come on, were you expecting it to do something else?) I was kinda intrigued by the fact that “mana” (it’s not called that) is basically whatever has that icon that you can see, anywhere on the board besides your discard pile. That introduces a lot of strategy, but not being a player of Decipher’s other stuff, I can’t say how new it is. The rest is extremely straightforward, without feeling dumb. Although I still think you could make a pretty quality game about all those power pills Pac-Man’s eaten over the years coming back from the grave to exact justice.

Live from Origins 2003: Turns out that Vanna-ing is a career with a future

Friday, June 27th, 2003

A little late-breaking news from the awards ceremony: Nicole Lindroos has been named the new chair of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design. Congratulations, Nic!

2003 Origins Awards winners

Friday, June 27th, 2003

I was going to be all smooth and post the Origins Awards results live as they happened from the ballroom, but you can’t get signal in the ballroom… I’d have to sit in the hallway to be online. Well, OK.

Game Aid/Accessory: Gamemastering Secrets, Gray Ghost Press
Play-By-Mail: Button Men Web Page, Cheapass Games
Periodical: Dork Tower
Game Fiction (Short): “Enemy Healer,” Mage Knight Collectors Guide
Game Fiction (Long): Ghost War (MW Dark Age)
Game Fiction (Graphic): Dork Tower #19, “Understanding Gamers”
Vanguard Award: Diceland, Cheapass Games
Historical Mini Series: Crusader Range, Griffin
Historical Mini: Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, Noble
Historical Mini Rules: Kampfgruppe Commander, Sovereign Games
SciFi/Fantasy Mini Series: MechWarrior: Dark Age, WizKids
SciFi/Fantasy Mini: Marvel HeroClix Sentinel, WizKids
SciFi/Fantasy Mini Rules: LotR The Two Towers, Games Workshop
Hall of Fame: Warhammer
Vanguard Award: Warchon, Z-Man Games
Card Game Supplement: Munchkin 2, SJG
CCG: Game of Thrones, Fantasy Flight
Traditional Card: Star Munchkin, SJG
Historical Board: Sid Meier’s Civilization, Eagle
SciFi/Fantasy Board: Marvel HeroClix, WizKids
Board Game Expansion: HeroClix Clobberin Time, WizKids
Abstract Board: Kingdoms, Fantasy Flight
Hall of Fame: John Kovalic
Graphic Presentation, Board: MK Dungeons, WizKids
Graphic Presentation, Book Format: Nobilis, 2nd Edition
Graphic Presentation, Card: Chez Greek
Illustration: MK Dark Age Starter Box Covers, WizKids
Hall of Fame: David “Zeb” Cook
Roleplaying Supplement: Celtic Age, Avalanche Press
Roleplaying Adventure: City of the Spider Queen, WotC
Roleplaying Game: Lord of the Rings, Decipher
Game of the Year: MechWarrior Dark Age, WizKids

For further details on presenters, acceptance speeches, and outfits, click Read More.
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OgreCave Review: Highthrone

Friday, June 27th, 2003

Cedric’s survived his finals, and now that he can concentrate on more important matters, has sent in his review of Highthrone by Mongoose Publishing. What grade did he bestow upon the intriguing city supplement? I ain’t tellin’. Find out for yourself.

Live from Origins 2003: speaking of mad kung fu skills…

Friday, June 27th, 2003

Here at the show: Munchkin Fu. Day-amn. The money train keeps a-rollin’ for the Munchkin franchise. This one looks especially sweet to combine with the other two.

Live from Origins 2003: You can change the ending!

Friday, June 27th, 2003

Testament: Roleplaying in the Biblical Era is the big new deal from Green Ronin. It’s the first book in their Mythic Vistas line, which is all d20 settings in a not-typical-D&D-at-all-but-still-fantasy vein. The next book in the line, Skull & Bones, is in layout hell right now, but Mindshadows, about southeast-Asian psionicists with mad kung fu skills, ships in July. Also pretty new at the Green Ronin booth is Fang & Fury, the Interlock book for vampires and people who love them. They say they’ll have the traditional card game Torches & Pitchforks ready in, appropriately, October.

Live from Origins 2003: stock update

Friday, June 27th, 2003

Diet Evil Games is doing this thing kind of like Flying Buffalo’s Origins Metagame last year, wherein one buys some play-stock in various participating game companies, and participating in those companies’ events will get them more stock, et cetera. People are only allowed to make one trade a day, because the Diet Evil booth wouldn’t be operational if they were always on Excel doing the math. So, here is the one price update so far at the show: Steve Jackson Games was Thursday’s biggest gainer, up $5 to $44 a share, and the highest valuation at $66 is Darcsyde Productions, which does Elric and Stormbringer supplements. Er, the starting valuations were determined randomly. That explains it.

Live from Origins 2003: No playing volleyball with Hamtaro!

Friday, June 27th, 2003

A couple of quick bits:

If anyone at the show is reading this, you might want to go to the booth that’s selling all the old booster boxes? With the pink tags on them? Yeah. They have Z-G figures for $5 each. Buy all three and check out an ass-kicking game.

Kenzer and Company have the first D&D3.5 supplement, except that they don’t have it. They do expect it to be out a couple weeks before Gen Con, as well as a week or so before the actual D&D3.5 books.

Live from Origins 2003: When dark twilight creations go to hell

Friday, June 27th, 2003

Twilight Creations have yet another When Darkness Comes set at the show, as well as Dante’s Inferno, a boardgame about scraping sinners out of the ninth circle of hell and heading in to fight Lucifer. Each tile on the board has a color that corresponds to a resource, which you can use to do stuff like move to the next circle of hell, place new minions (I think), or move your opponent’s minions(!!!). Overall it sounds like Zombies-style fun in a Zombies! kind of timeframe. They also showed me a party card game – but wait, it gets interesting – called Say What, designed to be played during ordinary party conversation. This is a major survival characteristic for games for non-gamers, and will be selected towards pretty strongly, I think. It’s one to watch when it lands in September.

Live From Origins 2003: Simpsons CCG rears its bucktoothed yellow head

Friday, June 27th, 2003

Saw a Simpsons TCG demo. The cards are simple, have non-lame quotes on them (not hugely exciting ones either from what I saw), and seem to be aiming for the middle-ground fan, rather than for Simpsons otaku. There is a vague similarity to the Looney Tunes design, but don’t be frightened. They’ve fixed it, from what I can tell. Scenes have attributes, like “Brainy, Idiot, Oddball” for “The Android’s Dungeon,” and a minimum number of characters it needs to be completed. Play characters on the scene that have at least one attribute that matches one on the scene, and you can complete the scene, but everyone who played characters that match might get points for it. There’s also a number of characters needed to trash the scene – characters who have no matching attributes. The core is simple enough that a lot of your strategy is in the exception cards – but the ones I’ve seen are bigger and dumber than I’d like. You have cards that prevent someone from trashing a scene, for example, but I didn’t see a lot that might give you finer-grained control, like removing or adding an attribute to a character, or switching characters between scenes. I dunno, that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Again, the cards and rulesheets look plenty final but the game is out this fall.

Live from Origins 2003: why is it hotter in Oakland than here?

Friday, June 27th, 2003

Upper Deck is showing the SpongeBob SquarePants CCG, which looks about like you’d expect for a game where you’re trying to convince the most people to eat Krabby Pattys. A casual look (all I’ve had time for) didn’t reveal any interesting game mechanics, but nothing egregiously stupid, either. However, in the thin-line-between-stupid-and-genius department at Upper Deck is BreaKeys. As the website fails to reveal, they are plastic key-like things, which you insert into one another and twist to see which one breaks. Yes, breaks. Why hasn’t anyone done this with a collectible game before? The guys at the booth said there will eventually be characters and stuff printed on the fobs. If they stay away from making it too genre-y, they could have a great bar game, for cocktail waitresses to sell right off of their belts; if they don’t, they might have the next POGs. You can even build stuff with the pieces, after they break.

Also at Upper Deck, unconfirmed rumors paint an entertaining picture of booth-setup day. It seems that when they inflated the big inflatable Hulk that stands there to promote the upcoming Marvel and Hulk games (they aren’t showing either at the show), they forgot to put its papery purple pants on first. “The guy was standing there trying to wiggle the purple pants onto the Incredible Hulk. And people were just standing there, thinking, ‘That’s not something you see every day.’ “

Live From Origins 2003: A free gift from the Department of Homeland Security, just for being you

Friday, June 27th, 2003

Played Initial D and HumAliens at the AEG booth. Both card sets look pretty final, although the games don’t come out until September or so. D is definitely the better game of the two from what I saw – the street racing mechanic is very pretty without sacrificing speed. Lots of numbers are flying around – all the maneuvers have three kinds of maneuvers they have different skills at responding to, one number your car has to live up to, and three different numbers your opponent might have to deal with depending on the race course. In the thick of it, you only have to deal with two numbers at a time – I got very fast at dealing with this and I expect others will too. My only real worry is that this will be a bonanza for whoever has the most cards, but that’s almost thematic; the guy whose car is cheaper goes first, there’s a “Ridiculous Spoiler” card… the Asian street racing culture is pretty thick here.

HumAliens doesn’t fare as well from what I saw – basically a slightly more mature Pokemon. Some of the art is decent, so it has that advantage over the clean but boring car stuff in D. Next stop, Creepy Freaks. Or lunch, or a haircut. Who knows.

Live From Origins 2003: the eternal struggle continues

Thursday, June 26th, 2003

That’s all I’ll say about that. But the good news is I’m comfortably ensconced in an ideal location and have all the net I want for no extra cash. Also, this year I plan to actually sign up for actual events actually. We’ll see how that goes.

I only had a few minutes in the dealers room tonight, so here’s what I was able to visually confirm: the Simpsons TCG is being demoed, as are Creepy Freaks and AEG‘s two new card games, HumAliens and Initial D. I will play as many of those as I can tomorrow. Fantasy Flight is selling a new Game of Thrones expansion, titled A Flight of Dragons.

In the d20 department, AEG has a new-at-the-show book called Wilds, about wilderness and stuff. I didn’t find Arcana Unearthed actually physically here… not sure if it’s supposed to be or not.

Board games: FFG has a new Knizia game called Atlanteon and a couple other new board games I’ll have to look up. Mayfair is showing Lunar Rails, an appealingly wraparound take on the crayon-rails concept, and Eagle Games is selling these funny little $5 “sneak preview box sets” full of a handful of Age of Mythology figs. Eagle doesn’t have AoM at the show, but something new called Attack! instead, which looks like a cross between Risk and a more Eagle-ish thing. Attack! certainly sounds a little more… imperative than Risk does, but whether it has other advantages remains to be seen. The Zendo box set is quite lovely, and the Looney Labs folks are quite proud of it.

More funny little sneaky bits as I get them. Now, though, back to the event.

Make an Elder God, Win a Kewpie Doll

Tuesday, June 24th, 2003

Yog-Sothoth.com has announced a joint contest with Toy Vault, the folks who made all those stuffed Cthulhu toys. The challenge? Create your very own plush Cthulhu. Yep, Toy Vault wants to pick your brain for variant ideas on Cthulhu and company, and is offering up one of each Cthulhu plush made for a year, among other prizes. If your idea is given stuffed life, your name will be on the product tag. Head over to the Yog-Sothoth site to enter your insanity-producing beast ideas by August 20 (H.P. Lovecraft’s birthday) for a chance at eternal damnation — er, fame.

Topps buys WizKids

Monday, June 23rd, 2003

No joke. Read the press release. “The acquisition of WizKids represents an important step in our strategy for growing the Entertainment segment of the business as it provides efficient entry to the growing collectible games market.” Anyone else got a feeling we’ll see two or three new licensed games from WizKids in ’04?

Oh dear God, not again

Monday, June 23rd, 2003

Naughty and Dice: An Adult Gamer’s Guide to Sexual Situations

Your organism is important to me

Monday, June 23rd, 2003

As Mr. Ernest mentioned in our interview, Cheapass is publishing a third computer game from the Digital Eel folks. What we didn’t know is that the demo’s available now, which I noticed over at Slashdot. Anyway, Dr. Blob’s Organism is like a cross between Tempest and those Life screensavers that look like a bunch of pixelly bacteria. The demo runs chunky as hell on my machine, so if you figure something out about what it needs, post a comment, ‘k?

Drop the little blockies and make ‘em go down

Sunday, June 22nd, 2003

When something reminds me of Icehouse, I post it: Triptych is a puzzle game for Windows, Mac, and Linux in which you drop groups of three colored blocks, and when three of the same color touch each other they disappear. The trick is that this happens with real physics – blocks bounce off each other with all the Newtonian might your CPU can muster, and things get non-Cartesian pretty quickly. Check out the screenshots if you don’t believe me. This is all coming from the people who made that game where you build a bridge, then drive a big train over it and see if it breaks. Yes, folks, Calvin and Hobbes is slowly becoming reality. Both games are inexpensive and recommended.

Cosmic Encounter is online for reals this time

Friday, June 20th, 2003

Hey, did you know that Cosmic Encounter Online has relaunched, with a much snazzier tool for online play, a much busier pool of players, and a wider selection of alien powers? Of course you didn’t! The new Flash-based engine supports new aliens like “The Dork,” whose “power to annoy” causes a John Kovalic graphic to float around in front of what you’re trying to do. CE is scary.