Introducing Lexicon: an RPG for n players, 26 letters, and a Wiki. (Two example games are online, one run by the Paranoia XP developers and one based on the NOBILIS game world. This looks like a great way to generate source material for more formalized RPGs.)
Archive for March, 2004
Most of our readers are going, “Who dat,” but the Warhammer hardcore have been whispering about this online for at least a week. Internal sources confirmed today on message boards that longtime Warhammer 40,000 lead designer and very nice chap Andy Chambers is leaving the Games Workshop nest. He oversaw the recently completed and about-to-ship new edition of the 40K core rules, and while the packaging of the new edition has changed interestingly, by and large it doesn’t look like a radical departure from Chambers’ distinguished career. The interesting question is what he might do next, but that will be answered in time. [Update: "about-to-ship" means October, apparently. My bad.]
Wayne Densley, author of the Chronicles of Arborell free online gamebook series, wrote in to report some new developments. While the second book in the series still hasn’t been released yet, work is proceeding, and in the meantime, he has released both a compilation of Blood and Iron web serial episodes (available here) and an Atlas of Arborell. Keep an eye on this stuff; it seems to have a promising future.
There were a number of unexpected products lurking in the exhibit hall at GTS last week, which is always refreshing to see. When a product I’ve never heard of appears at a major industry show, it gives me a touch of the wonder I had when I discovered my first CCG, first boardgame, or when I first roleplayed. It’s not often I feel that way anymore, so I enjoy it when a new game blows into view and kicks up dusty memories.
The good folks at Columbia Games, home of Wizard Kings, Hammer of the Scots and other games involving scads and scads of little wooden blocks, are floating the idea of Block Parties, wherein you (for a hypothetical value of “you”) host a game night in your home focused on Columbia’s block games, they help you promote the event, and you get a cut of any orders generated. I’m excited to see a marketing idea this good happen in an industry notoriously deaf to good marketing ideas, but it isn’t quite perfect, is it? I mean, with games like this, there’s kind of a PlayStation-in-the-ghetto factor: if your friend has one, you effectively have one. However, for CCGs and other games that benefit from each individual making an investment, this idea could be en fuego. These games already have in-store demo support programs, but in-home events seem meaningfully different to me, better able to get through people’s resistance by showing them what their real play environment can be like – tournaments don’t bring out the best in CCGs, in my opinion. Social Games, are you listening? And what say our readers?
The GAMA Trade Show was always at least partly about the free swag retailers could load up on. For many game store owners, those products, brought back and plopped on the store shelves, paid for the trip. But with the big giveaway figures WizKids is using as a draw at the show, like the HeroClix Galactus and last year’s MechWarrior Dropship, many retailers are only showing up for the day the figure is given out, then splitting town. Inflated preregistration numbers are relayed to potential exhibitors, numbers that don’t fully convert to buyers on the exhibit hall floor.
I was fortunate enough to finally track down Mike Selinker and James Ernest at GTS last week, lead designers of the new WizKids “contructible” game, Pirates of the Spanish Main, announced at the Galactus banquet. After walking with the two of them to the WizKids booth, I watched the two examine the polystyrene punchout ships carefully. Selinker explained that the ships have movement and weapon ranges measured by the long and/or short sides of the game’s cards. When a ship is damaged, one of the multiple masts is removed from the freestanding, slotted-together ocean vessel. Each mast also represents a cannon, and has a die face showing both the target number needed and the range of the cannon (shown by the die’s color somehow). Tiny dice accompany the booster pack style game packages, though I couldn’t tell if they were a particular color themselves.
We’re still mopping up the mess from last week’s technical failure, so we’re a bit slow in getting this to you: our interview with Mike Selinker, formerly of Wizards of the Coast and Avalon Hill. The interview should have gone up right after the WizKids banquet presentation, but our website glitches had other plans. Such are the plans of ogres and men. In any case, dive in and see what Mike has to say about recent Avalon Hill games, among other topics.
Invisible City‘s March game of the month is here. In Pitter Pattern, two to four players take turns rolling a die and placing tokens on a board composed of dominoes, hoping to establish high-scoring patterns as a result. It’s a fast and variable abstract strategy game that’s more than worth the free price tag. And, as always, stay tuned, since there should be more free goodness next month; if the game list is to be believed, the next offering will be Tabletop Freeze Tag. Hmmmm.
Yes, folks: they took on Warcraft, and now it’s Doom time. This title will feature graphics from the upcoming Doom III, as well as sculpted plastic stuff and what appears to be a modular board similar to the Warcraft board. Presumably FFG is wise enough not to make this play anything like Frag (don’t misunderstand me, Frag became a fine game; it would be a mistake to be seen by the customer as too near it, however). This Slashdot discussion has some of the predictable reactions from the PC crowd, and a funny joke from me. This will allegedly hit in October; it’ll be funny if Doom III gets delayed again and this comes out first.
Games were not only the topic of Wednesday evening’s banquet presentation, they were the activity. Amidst the clusters of green balloons, and accompanied by the sometimes deafening sound of party horns and maracas, retailers were kept on their toes with a word search contest, a guess-the-number of jellybeans contest, and other games. After all, they were sitting through a presentation on St Patrick’s Day. Best to keep them entertained.
Though they seemed a bit frantic, WizKids managed the horde of retailer registrations for Galactus HeroClix figures with only an hour delay. While the majority of retailers lined up outside the banquet hall to complete their check-in process, a handfull of WizKids employees carted massive pallets of Galactus figures into the room and unpacked them in preparation for distributing. When Jordan Weisman, President and CEO of WizKids, finally took the podium, Galactus was standing atop the podium next to him, as if to say “Thanks for coming to my show. Now the guy behind me’s going to say a few words.”
I only link to this to point out that I was right. Also, I didn’t mention it before but I had vague wishes/suspicions that the name Chop Shop might be some kind of obscure shoutout to RoboRally, and now that I’ve heard it involves robots, well dammit, ¡viva la Twonky!
We will be hitting you with plenty of Pirates of the Spanish Main info when we finalize our Mike Selinker interview, probably tomorrow, as well as in our full report on this morning’s WizKids foofaraw. You know, as long as we’re in the vague suspicions department, back when we playtested MK2 and saw the weird little plasticard things, I think we might have wondered to ourselves if they’d ever do a whole game with the cardstuff, kind of like those Z-Cards things. That’s a big 10-4 there, matey. Anyway, stay tuned to this channel for some deeper excitement about PotSM.
We had a bad roll on the Technical Difficulties Table today – naturally, the very best time this could have happened – and it took a while to get straightened out. If you find anything irregular, let us know.
Alien Menace is back in the swing of things with a revised version of Sucking Vacuum, which the company announced last week. The new boxed version is a gorgeous full-color product, with 18 tiles that are played to make the doomed International Space Station each player must escape from. Sci-fi fans will be thrilled by the upgraded version, as nearly every tile hides so many “Easter eggs” from popular TV shows and movies, gamers will spend the first hour examining the game boards and laughing at all the goodies they find. The Alien Incursion variant rules included in the box seem like they’ll turn an already solid, frantic, and entertaining game into a mad scramble for survival, and that’s for a game that was already about avoiding death by suffocation. With a compact, high-quality box, full-color components (and nifty plastic missiles to track oxygen with), and a price of $19.99, the new Sucking Vacuum is a sure winner. If this game doesn’t end up on Origins’ short list for Best Graphic Design of a Board Game, I’ll be extremely surprised.
Staggering out bleary-eyed for the retailer breakfast presentation, I walked toward the banquet hall through the Orleans casino and was suddenly joined by a well-dressed, middle-aged man who seemed to appear out of nowhere. He immediately caught me off guard by calmly, matter-of-factly stating “Yeah, the works of Satan are all around us, my brother.”
I just staggered back from Peter Adkison’s party (thanks, Peter!), and find Mike has one-upped me. Curses! I’ll get you, evil brother of mine. Anyway…
To kick off the banquet presentations here at the GAMA Trade Show, Wizards of the Coast gave a recap of a successful 2003, and previewed the year in progress, as one would expect from the industry leader. Wizards CEO Chuck Huebner welcomed the massive hall of retailers and distributors, then thanked retailers at length for all they’ve done to sell WotC products.
Looks like Duel Masters will be giving MtG’s Darksteel some competition in the new Origins Awards category, “Stupidest Name for a CCG Expansion.” Elsewhere in the WotC press dinner for non-D&D properties, a release date is announced for the GI JOE TCG (should be ready for Gen Con), and you sort of get to see the RISK Godstorm cover. Thanks to GR’s squad for taking all those possibly-illegal photos. We’d have taken some ourselves, but you people are too cheap to buy us nice things like digital cameras via that PayPal link. Ha!
Also, it appears that the much-hyped news about Origins is that there isn’t any. News, I mean; they’re still having the show. In fact, they say they are going “narrow but deep” (ewwww) and refocusing on gaming, and if that means that woman isn’t going to sing, then I say pop the champagne!