Archive for June, 2003

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 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 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.

OgreCave Interview: James Ernest

Wednesday, June 18th, 2003

Though a bit laid up with the latest tropical disease, I can still manage to post a new interview. This time we’ve put a few questions to James Ernest, founder and President of , and prolific game designer. Which of his numerous game designs gave him the most trouble? Read the interview and find out.

FFG gets WarCraft board game license

Wednesday, June 18th, 2003

Well, WotC sure as hell wasn’t doing anything good with it: Fantasy Flight Games will be doing a WarCraft board game for this Christmas, the design of which will “make time itself a resource.” That’s not the way I’d handle the problem of translating RTS gameplay to a board game – isn’t it enough to do the unit- and building-producing thing? Can’t some of the basics of WarCraft be improved upon in this medium? – but certainly sounds like it’ll be entertaining. The full press release is, for no reason, a PDF.

Also, FFG has put their video homage/home movie/elaborate series of in-jokes Lord of the Games up on d20 Magazine Rack’s download section. Worth a look if you’ve got the bandwidth.

Free Adventure Posted for M&M

Monday, June 16th, 2003

To start your superheroics off right this week, Green Ronin has decided to provide a free Mutants & Masterminds adventure. Steve Kenson’s “The Heist” introduces new characters to the world of crime fighting while saving the GM some work. The 6.4 MB PDF can be downloaded from this part of the Mutants & Masterminds website.

That Averages to About Five Cents Each

Thursday, June 12th, 2003

Philip Reed has done it again: released a damn useful PDF for d20 gamers. This time, it’s 101 Divine Spell Components, a 33-page resource of all the nifty spellcasting ingredients GMs normally have to improvise, for a mere $4.95. This follows the example set by Phil’s earlier PDF product, 101 Arcane Spell Components, which has seen much praise since its October 2002 release. While these are fine and helpful topics to cover, I’d like to see Phil strike out into uncharted territory with subjects like 101 Undead Stir Fry Recipes or 101 Ways to Insult a Centaur. Not as useful, perhaps, but entertaining.

Crocodile Crawling to GenCon Indy

Thursday, June 12th, 2003

Crocodile Games, the company behind those excellent WarGods of Aegyptus miniatures, has announced their plans for GenCon Indy. There are sure to be previews of Crocodile’s upcoming WarGods of Olympus, as well as a party on Saturday night (I picture a really drunk guy screaming “Minis! WOOOOO!!”), matched only by the painting contest with a real Khopesh-sword as the prize. More details can be found here. As long as none of the standard issue Klingon-costumed guys gets the sword, everything should be fine.