Archive for September, 2003

Sort of an Age of Mythology Playtest Report (but really more like bragging)

Monday, September 29th, 2003

I offered some more thoughts on AoM in the comments on this Slashdot Games link.

We shall bounce off each other and make a sport of it

Monday, September 29th, 2003

This is the perfect online multiplayer Flash game, of the sort that I would make if I had all the time in the world. Utterly simple to learn, a good amount of tactical depth, and more cute than you can handle. (Thanks to Eric for the tip.)

Artifacts of even more Ages

Monday, September 29th, 2003

Green Ronin has announced a special web enhancement for Artifacts of the Ages, the supplement from the Game Mechanics that brought us magic items which grow with your characters (“I’m just a tiny dagger now, but I’ve been drinking milk…”). In the free download, psionics are brought into the Artifacts equation, by way of the mind scion prestige class and two psionic legendary weapons.

Age of Mythology First Look: how to outsource game development to a small island nation

Friday, September 26th, 2003

No, not really. But it’s laughable how similar Eagle’s board game adaptation of Microsoft’s RTS hit is to the much-lauded German game Puerto Rico. It’s a very similar board, similar turn structure in which you choose a role from a (mostly) fixed set and all players (sometimes) then play that role, similar resource production, they even talk about “spoilage” the same way. Given how much people talked about Puerto Rico‘s similarity to real-time strategy games when it came out, it just seems a little… strange to me that it and its designer aren’t mentioned here. There aren’t patents or anything to worry about, but still.

That said, it looks like it’ll be a blast to play. I like a lot of the ways Eagle has souped up the Puerto template here. I wouldn’t call them improvements, exactly, just examples of what Puerto could have been like had its designers wanted something different from it. AoM looks like Puerto Rico with car chases, sex scenes and explosions. I happen to like the amount of luck in this game (some of your role cards are drawn from a larger deck instead of a small fixed set, and combat involves dice), and of course, you can make your guys go over and beat on the other guys, which is always a plus in my book.

One of the touches I really like here is that every few rounds of play, you effectively decide, along with your fellow players, how much certain goals will be worth in victory points. I have a feeling this will set up some very entertaining situations when I test it, hopefully this weekend.

(Eagle Games is also shipping a new PC version of War! Age of Imperialism, complete with single-player and online play.)

Classic H.G. Wells novel reprinted – with rules

Wednesday, September 24th, 2003

If you’re like me, and therefore have an unhealthy interest in the meta-game of how RPG publishers are licensing their rules and content, you might be tickled by this: Gold Rush Games is doing what has the markings of a series of Action! Classics, the first of which is H.G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds, in its entirety, with new illustrations, and rules material for the D20 and Action! systems. This is, of course, possible because TWotW was published in 1898 and has entered the public domain, which, incidentally, very few things are ever going to do again. (The irony of what that link asks of you is not lost on me, thanks.) This is not only a great extension of the notion of Open Game Content, but a great example of how reusing other people’s works enables innovation and creativity. Just ask Disney… but I don’t want to get all political on you. Gold Rush’s edition of TWotW will also include rules for using giant Martian robots in the Action!-enabled Monster Island combat game from Firefly. [Addendum: how cool would it be if Gold Rush also included as an appendix Wells' manuscript for Little Wars, in which he literally invented the modern wargame, which is of course the progenitor of RPGs?]

Other shoe falls: Book of Erotic Fantasy has D20 license revoked

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2003

That’s how they announced it – not that they’d decided to go OGL instead of D20, but that their D20 license has been revoked. The product will be published as OGL, in November rather than October. Full press release below.

Paranoia creator on My Life With Master

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2003

Tabletop RPG designer emeritus Greg Costikyan has posted a lengthy, incisive review of alterna-RPGers’ GenCon fave My Life With Master on his (essential) weblog. He notes that he can no longer be sure how innovative this game really is; I’m not that well qualified either but I do see things reminiscent of Sorceror and Puppetland. Costikyan is doing criticism here in the highest sense, and people who want to understand RPGs better should read this without delay. (And check out his commercial speculations!)

Underworld director reveals plans for future

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2003

In an interview at, Underworld director and co-author Len Wiseman mentions a sequel and prequel that may come to pass (or at least, they may have before the White Wolf lawsuit; the interview was completed before the suit was filed). Wiseman is quoted as saying “I’m obsessed with seeing this medieval battle between werewolves and vampires in black shiny armor.” So, time to file a suit about Vampire: Dark Ages, then? Wiseman also goes on to describe his next project, Black Chapter: “We pitched it as The Sixth Sense meets La Femme Nikita. We’ve never seen a ghost movie done as a high-energy action movie. We’ve seen ghost movies as suspense and horror and comedy. But imagine if in the Sixth Sense, you saw Bruce Willis pick up a gun and shoot a human being—and the CIA got wind of it.” So, the plan’s to go for Orpheus as well? Or maybe branching out into Delta Green territory?

When news is slow, buy something and start reporting on it: 1999 First Look

Monday, September 22nd, 2003

How does Cell Entertainment stay in business, despite having pushed all that plastic into the US market and watching it flop? Well, they’re evidently saving a little money on their web hosting. Anyway, their new (at least I’ve never seen it on shelves before) fantasy/sci-fi skirmish game, the perplexingly titled 1999, is interestingly packaged and seems to have fewer user-interface issues than their prior products. They’re standard scale metal figs this time – mine is from the Demonic faction and looks kinda like a Tuskan Raider with a two-handed table saw – packaged in Chainmail-ish boxes with color game cards showing an assembled and painted lead. The cards are pretty key, though; no more rulebooks filled with dense catalogs of tiny, almost-distinguishable pics of gear next to the relevant stats and special rules. Good for Cell!

Now, what about the game?

George Bush kicks Cthulhu’s ass

Friday, September 19th, 2003

” ‘This hypothesis is far from being proven,’ Gallard told Reuters from on board the Hesperides. ‘We use this technique because of its minimal environmental impact…the changes in pressure are very slight.’ ” And yet they are enough to drive men MAD!

Creepy News from Rio Grande

Friday, September 19th, 2003

Rio Grande Games is obviously preparing for Halloween, as their latest newsletter provides information on three new horror-themed games: Dracula, Vampire and Secret of the Tombs. Also forthcoming are Mü and More, a novel trick-taking game, Chicken Cha Cha Cha, a new children’s game, and a couple of additions to the Carcassonne line: Carcassone: The Castle and Carcassonne: King & Scout.

Daisho 1PG released by Deep7

Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

Deep7 has put out another title in the 1PG line of RPGs. This time it’s Daisho, bringing historical samurai epic films to gaming groups everywhere. The 13-page PDF provides the basic rules, a character sheet, six scenarios, and optional rules, all with bookmarks and hyperlinks. Between Daisho and the new, expanded print version of Shriek/Blood Island, Deep7 is keeping its fans busy.

White Wolf still hounding Underworld

Monday, September 15th, 2003

In case you missed it a few days back, White Wolf posted an update on their legal case against the makers of the movie Underworld (Sony Pictures, Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment). While it looks as though the movie won’t be stopped from reaching theaters, the press release states that “If the injunction is granted, defendants [Sony, etc] risk their ability to proliferate the Underworld brand in video, licenses and merchandising.” So, if you think Sony’s going to lose the case, you may want to catch the movie in theaters before it disappears for good.

New review: Den (& Rival Den) of Thieves

Monday, September 15th, 2003

Demian provides a look inside the two latest Rogue Publishing card games, Den of Thieves and Rival Den of Thieves. The backstabbing, fast-and-loose game and its sequel seem to have made a good impression on him.

D&D minis get a handbook after all

Monday, September 15th, 2003

Back at Origins I was told that there would be no book for D&D Miniatures apart from the starter booklet and the D&D core books. I guess that’s no longer true if it ever was. The Miniatures Handbook will apparently be a collection of monsters, feats and spells that goes nicely with the initial set of minis, along with mass battle and skirmish rules. But will kids be able to buy the minis Entry Pack and the Miniatures Handbook and believe that what they own is D&D? And would they really be wrong?

WotC’s spin control on D20 STL changes

Sunday, September 14th, 2003

WotC’s RPG category manager talks to ICv2 about the decency clause. He claims that Anthony Valterra was actually in on the beginnings of the decision, that the Book of Vile Darkness will remain in print, and that indie publishers have no more to fear from this version of the license than from previous versions.

German engineering finds allies in Washington

Wednesday, September 10th, 2003

Via slashdot again, The Washington Post on the resurgence of what they call “specialty board-games.” If anyone finds a permanent link to this article that doesn’t ask you to name your first born, post it in comments, ‘kay? (Some of the comments at the slashdot posting are interesting too.)

Avalanche Press goes OGL, makes big deal of it

Wednesday, September 10th, 2003

Avalanche Press is having a sale for a reason: they’ve decided to abandon use of the D20 logo. You know how CEOs always say when they get canned that they’re “pursuing other interests”? ” ‘The changes we are proposing are really things we have been discussing internally anyway,’ commented Mike Bennighof, Avalanche Press CEO.” To be fair, Avalanche has been moving towards complete campaign worlds for a while and it does make sense to make them complete games, but to leave out of your press release all mention of the potential conflict between cheesecake covers and a decency clause is a little disingenuous. So anyway, we have a first mover. I doubt, though, that AP is a strong candidate for poster child of the revolution – unless we want boobs on the poster. Complete press release below.

OgreCave P3 contest winner

Tuesday, September 9th, 2003

We’ve gathered up all the correct answers in our OgreCave P3 Contest, and have determined a winner. We’ll also tell you the answer to the simple question “What console system does Phil Reed use?” You could’ve learned it for yourself at Phil’s site, but you’d rather just see who won, right? No problem, have a look.

Virtual chits don’t blow away when someone opens the garage door

Tuesday, September 9th, 2003

Via Slashdot Games, an intriguing editorial on the state of independent, digital wargaming. Produced by small development shops and sold almost exclusively online, these games are near-duplicates of old-school SPI hex-map cardboard-counter throwdowns, sometimes souped up with online play or even (gasp!) 3D graphics. Party like it’s 1977. (For those unfamiliar, here’s some opinionated history on the hobby that gave rise to D&D, and its major players.)

New review: Twilight of Atlantis

Monday, September 8th, 2003

Matthew gives us a look at another cheesecake-wrapped d20 supplement from Avalanche Press, and doesn’t seem to have been impressed by this one. In fact, his review of Twilight of Atlantis points out everything the book should have included, but didn’t. Sad, really.

The Hasbro meltdown begins: content restrictions added to D20 license

Monday, September 8th, 2003

It took a while, but Wizards of the Coast’s corporate masters are finally setting about ruining a perfectly good product. The full scoop is available on that there GR page, featuring an eloquent anonymously-posted comment signed “Ryan Dancey.” The relevant chunk of the revised D20 STL is included below – basically, WotC may deny you the use of the D20 logo if your product doesn’t meet their standards of “decency.”

Anne Rice is pretty sexy for a big red marshmallow

Monday, September 8th, 2003

Penny Arcade weighs in on the White Wolf vs. Sony suit today. The comic distorts things a lot, but the news post is balanced and entertaining – that’s just how they do up in the P.A. They have also “secured” a copy of the legal filing as a PDF (from a publically-accessible federal website where you can find this kind of thing – we sat on a copy of it all weekend wondering if it would really shed any light on anything). Have fun!

The werewolves are like Spider-Man. There’s no infrin… um… oops

Friday, September 5th, 2003

I don’t actually know Gothic literature well enough to say whether the World of Darkness’ feud between vamps and werewolves is original. Nor have any of us seen the list that WW claims it has, the list of “60 points of unique similarity” between WoD material and the upcoming Kate Leatherpants film Underworld. In any case, the timing of this lawsuit’s announcement is a bit odd. Who is this supposed to be publicity for, anyway?

In other news, Orpheus, World of Darkness hardcover game number umpty-ump, actually looks kind of interesting: original, not overly tied to the rest of the world, still saddled with the misnamed Storyteller system but otherwise kinda Delta Green-ish and tasty-looking. I have every confidence that the next five books in the limited run of material to which Orpheus belongs will both A) be what brings about the announced end of the WoD, and B) hopelessly muddle what currently looks like a fun game. That doesn’t change that this book looks good, though.

It has ‘synergy’ in the title but it isn’t a business game – how refreshing

Thursday, September 4th, 2003

I saw Strange Synergy on the shelves last week and thought, that’s… uh… strange; why didn’t I see any hype about this? In case you’re in the same boat as I was, the idea is superhero combat, with teams of superheroes drawn from no fewer than 100 power cards. Sounds like a chaotic, exception-based game, but I have yet to investigate fully. I still think someone should design a card game wherein your goal is to create the character that kicks the most ass, and take up the entire RPG-playing time your GM had alloted, so you get to leave with all your snacks. The superhero genre seems well suited to the task, but I could be wrong. There could be a storytelling component, as in Nanofictionary or The Big Idea, perhaps. Or not.