Archive for August, 2005

He’s played Tactics II? SEIZE HIM!

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

In the Summer 2005 issue of Games Quarterly, Hasbro’s former CEO and still Chairman of the Board, Alan Hassenfeld, namechecked several old Avalon Hill titles (including his claim to have had a Tactics II “phase”) and described himself as a current player of contemporary titles like Duel Masters and Heroscape as well as Acquire. Less than two months later, it is announced that he will step down as a Hasbro employee (while retaining his seat on the board) at the turn of the year. “It is dismissed… as coincidence.”

Seriously, though, if he had lots to do with the AH acquisition, I think he’s left the hobby in a better condition than when he started. Good luck out there, sir.

Invisible City Offers Full Scholarship to Magic School

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

I’m a little late in posting about the latest free game of the month from Invisible City, but it’s just as well — I’d hate for it to get lost in the sea of GenCon posts. Magic Spell casts players as students of magic attempting to learn spells as quickly as possible. Spells are represented by cards with words on them, and letter tiles are drawn to construct the spells. Once spells have been constructed, they can be cast to cause special effects in the game. This one pulls together elements from a lot of different games, and it looks like it should have something to please several different kinds of gamer; as usual with this series of games, you have little to lose by giving it a shot — the price is right, as always.

Audio Report: slowly driving a stake into the heart of GenCon

Tuesday, August 30th, 2005

Yup. 45 minutes of action. We put plenty of links in the show summary this time, and you can have at the discussion here.

GenCon 05 aftermath: return of the Audio Report

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

Back on the stick! Back in the seat! Back on maybe some metaphor that doesn’t sound as dirty! Here’s 28 minutes of good stuff from the GenCon show floor. We might paste some more into the regular on-mic podcast, which should get back on track for next week into the foreseeable future. Enjoy!

I am a rocker, I rock out

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005

Witness the all-out free RPG onslaught that is Metal Öpera!!!

GenCon 05 aftermath: the smallest game at the show

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005

I didn’t find many little tiny small-press surprises at Gen Con… not the kind that I always find at Origins, anyway. Maybe the really tiny companies are priced out of Gen Con’s booth space, or maybe the smaller games are just always gonna be of the roleplaying persuasion (and hence either located at the Forge booth or probably forgettable). But by sheer chance I found I Win – it was sharing a booth with the Wench guy, and I sure wouldn’t have touched that booth with a ten-foot pole if I hadn’t been directed there by the woman who clued me into I Win. It’s 16 black and white cards, it directs you to the website for instructions, and it’s so beautiful it’s like a little poem. It’s like a very charming, baroque elaboration of rock-paper-scissors or something. It does, in fact, hinge on your playing one of the cards that says “I Win.” My only complaint is that when I tried to pull up the rules on my cell phone browser, I couldn’t because they’re a PDF for no damned reason. But it’s a tiny PDF so you can check it out with impunity. Go!

Halo movie plans confirmed

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005

According to Variety, Microsoft’s hit X-box game Halo will see a movie adaptation in 2007. The rights to the film were up for grabs for some time, and Fox and Universal finally took the bait jointly. Now, while I’m a big Bungie fan, I’m still a bit gunshy after the Dungeons & Dragons movie. Here’s to hoping the movie studios put someone at the helm that has at least half a clue.

GenCon ’05 aftermath: WotC & Upper Deck pre-game shows

Monday, August 22nd, 2005

By request, Steve has uploaded video of the missing press announcements foreshadowed by Peter Adkison in his “State of GenCon” press conference. Here’s the (very) short press announcements on Indy’s first day, from Claire Vail of Wizards of the Coast and Claudine Ricanor of Upper Deck.

WotC and Upper Deck press announcements (Quicktime required)

GenCon ’05 aftermath: Travel the world to meet NPCs and kill them

Monday, August 22nd, 2005

All the roleplaying cognoscenti at the show were talking about this: Otherworld Excursions is an “adventure tour agency,” only instead of adventuring off to some real place in this world, you go someplace in America and have some kind of location-appropriate tabletop RPG experience with a legendary GM and industry luminary. Ken Hite, John Tynes (!!!) and Dwarven Forge’s Stefan Pokorny are the starting lineup, offering events in Chicago, Port Townsend WA, and New York respectively. It feels like this idea has been waiting to happen for a while – maybe it’s been waiting for a good tabletop session to truly become a luxury item. In any event I think it’s a stellar example of how the RPG industry will likely adapt to market change over the next ten years. (Hint: services, not products.)

GenCon ’05 aftermath: oh em gee, a playtest

Monday, August 22nd, 2005

Steve and I did finally get to play Clout Fantasy. It’s good. I would even venture to say that it is a better Diceland than Diceland. Thing with Diceland is that it’s both very random and very chaotic, which are not the same thing. The chaos in Diceland is made of the unrandom parts, the parts that are kind of knowable, in theory, but you’re never going to know them, without being some kind of savant or putting in way too much work ahead of time. The random factors in CF have been stripped to the bare minimum – there’s no directionality and one side – so all the cognitive load you have is the inherent qualities of the chip, and of course remembering what all the damn special abilities do. The set of abilities is pretty diverse up front, so that’s not inconsiderable, and I can see this game bogging down for some players as a result… but not as much as they would if you analyzed all the knowables in Diceland.

Anyway, it turns out that the price point is not a disaster – $15 gets you 30 chips in the form of two fixed, well-matched stacks that have very decent replay value. That price might have been a GenCon special but I don’t think so. I know that the boosters will be $2.50 for two chips. The boosters could have one more chip in them and I’d be happy, but having each player add four chips every week would not be an unreasonable way to grow the game.

Finally, playing on the carpet is fine as long as you are not anal about allowing rethrows for things that roll away to someplace inconvenient. Mind any furniture that you cannot reach under without injury or paralyzing fear. Clout safely, everyone!

Live at GenCon ’05: Dungeons and Dragons Online Demo

Saturday, August 20th, 2005

We stopped by the Turbine booth to check out their upcoming massively multiplayer online roleplaying game: Dungeons and Dragons Online. Check out the video.

Turbine Presents: Dungeons and Dragons Online (Quicktime required)

2005 ENnies winners announced

Saturday, August 20th, 2005

Amidst all the excitement of GenCon Indy, the 2005 Gen Con EN World RPG Award winners were announced. The winners are copied below, though all of the nominees are worth checking out.

Live at GenCon ’05: Jason Mical of WizKids

Saturday, August 20th, 2005

Steve’s prepping more video footage, so he asked me to point out Mike’s interview with Jason Mical, WizKids Marketing Director. Watch the video and learn more about WizKids’ current plans, including some tidbits on NASCAR Race Day and the Battlestar Galactica CCG.

Jason Mical of WizKids (Quicktime required)

D&D Minis news trickling out of Indy

Saturday, August 20th, 2005

According to numerous websites, there’s a fair amount of D&D Miniatures information coming out of GenCon. Here’s what I’ve been able to round up:

Live and mostly conscious from Gen Con Indy 05

Saturday, August 20th, 2005

Troll Lord claims to be doing really well with their OGL-adaptation Castles and Crusades. They mentioned how they let online fans in on the development of the game – Daniel Chenault specifically talked about how, no matter how smart a designer is, he’s never going to be as smart as the whole Internet. Good man – I wish more design processes would let fans in. C&C looks simple and sharp – a basic old-school fantasy RPG romp. Good times for those who seek good times in such.

Shifting Forest does what they call “Parlor LARPs” – live game books designed for four to eight players, which I can imagine would materially change the LARP experience by a lot. And they’re doing a lot of the darn things. They handed me The Queen of Hearts, a murder mystery with intriguing atmosphere, and an adultified, dark take on Snow White. They still look a little systems-heavy to me, but Steve says they’re the LARPs for people who hate LARPs. Because apparently Steve hates LARPs. I’d link to their site but they told me it was broken and to try in a couple days. Google is your friend.

Forge-a-mania! The great thing about the Forge booth is that whatever you pick up from that little stand full of books, some game designer standing nearby will point to it and go, “Dude! I love that game. I stole a mechanic from it for my game! Plus if you like that you should really check out this other guy’s game over here! And yip yip yip yip arooooo!” (Note: small-dog barking and howling added for emphasis) Thing about the Forge books is that each is small (good) and more expensive than you’d think (also good and sensible in my opinion), but so many of them look worth owning that you actually end up spending a hell of a lot. I picked up Emily Care Boss’ Breaking the Ice (“A Game About Love, For Two” – I was too scared of it to not buy it), Under the Bed by Joshua Newman (the spare, tiny visual design got me to buy it, and it looks similar to Puppetland), and the No Press RPG Anthology (eight standalone games in one big ol’ green book I’ve never seen in a store). Tomorrow I might go back for The Mountain Witch (phenomenal buzz on this), Dogs in the Vineyard, or, God help me, something else. It seems like half the RPG energy at the show is focused on the Forge (and stuff like it, such as Wicked Dead), with the other half split between the Serenity RPG and Green Ronin.

The Torg Revised-and-Expanded “1.5″ edition is indeed in print at the show. Not so much energy there, but hey, yay for products on time.

Demoed the City of Heroes CCG. There is a tremendous amount going on in this game, even in slim 25-card demo decks, but the design still feels really elegant – probably as elegant as a make-your-own-super card game could be. I know I’ve said this kind of thing before, notably about the luckfest that was Initial D, but I was impressed and I think it might have legs (by depressed CCG standards anyway). Have not yet demoed WizKids’ High Stakes Drifter nor, I’m very sad to say, Clout Fantasy. I hope to at least fix the latter situation later tonight.

My legs hurt.

Live at GenCon ’05: Privateer Press Announcement

Saturday, August 20th, 2005

Matt Wilson of Privateer Press announced the upcoming release of their new miniatures game called Hordes. Check out the video of the announcement and the figures.

Privateer Press Hordes announcement (Quicktime required)

Live at GenCon ’05: Ryan Miller on Hecatomb

Saturday, August 20th, 2005

We dragged lead Hecatomb R&D guy, Ryan Miller, to the back recesses of the press room to find out more about Hecatomb. Check out this video clip of the full interview.

Ryan Miller on Hecatomb (Quicktime required)

Live at GenCon ’05: Things I saw today that I didn’t wave a microphone at

Friday, August 19th, 2005

So I spoke with Avalon Hill brand manager Linda Cox at length today – she didn’t want to be on the podcast, citing excessive self-consciousness, and since she’s not on the podcast, I actually had to remember what she said. We mostly talked very generally, though. Axis & Allies Miniatures has of course become one of the monster hits of the con, selling out its daily allocation in about an hour each day. I tried to get her to spill about the Seekrit Projekt alluded to in that Robo Rally article a while back; no go. Mostly we talked about the perceived “lightness” of AH’s current offerings compared to its history. I came away from the conversation a little dubious about the claims that hardcore wargamers welcomed this game as a good introduction to historical gaming for beginners (probably a few did, but come on), but confident that AH is doing the right things right now. Avalon Hill’s market is at a point where it needs to be grown aggressively, and you aren’t going to bring in new people by, say, reprinting Kingmaker. (My out-of-nowhere example, not Ms. Cox’s.) Games like A&A Minis and Nexus Ops stand a chance to do that.

Uhh… what else. Laughing Pan‘s Plunder card game looks awfully good, and it’s always telling when you see random people playing it in random places, which I have. Same for FFG‘s totally freaking enormo Descent. I still need to poke through the Forge offerings some more, such as the new edition of Primetime Adventures. FanPro has that new edition of Shadowrun and it’s selling quickly, as is (yes, folks, it’s) the Serenity RPG by Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd. And uhhh, Star Wars Universe, which, like Rocketmen, is not technically a show release. I will think of more when I am more well slept okay. More video coming shortly.

Live at GenCon ’05: Peter Adkison Speaks

Friday, August 19th, 2005

On Thursday, we members of the press were treated to an informal press conference and QA with Peter Adkison: Owner and CEO of GenCon. For the first time, we have video footage of his short presentation.

Peter Adkison speaks (Quicktime required)

Live at GenCon ’05: A Tour of the Forge, and other things

Friday, August 19th, 2005

I must say I feel a little bad. I completely missed the guys at The Forge at GenCon SoCal last year, and they had some new items. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, I stopped in to take a look at what they had for GenCon Indy.

WizKids to publish Battlestar Galactica CCG

Friday, August 19th, 2005

WizKids announced its plan today to develop a Battlestar Galactica CCG based on the Sci Fi Channel TV series. The game should be ready for release in early 2006, and will be supported by the WizKids Approved Play program, but aside from that, details are sparse. The press release is below, and Steve and Mike will hit up the WK guys for more info. We’ll see if any other licenses spill out of the rest of GenCon.

Delta Green on the distributed-patronage tip

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

Delta Green and GODLIKE author Dennis Detwiller has created a fundraiser with a goal of $500, with the project released upon achievement of the goal set to be a… uh… that part isn’t clear actually. Yeah, I think this kind of thing might work better if the page where you ask for money tells people what they might conceivably get. It is probably Insylum, which is all over his front page as of this writing (confidential to D.D.: not having permalinks on your blog is very very bad and kills kittens, please fix okthxbye) and looks very cool indeed.

World of Warcraft CCG rights go to Upper Deck

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

The fine people who brought you Yu-Gi-Oh! will now be bringing you the CCG – sorry, that’s TCG – based on the most popular MMPORPG in America. I think of Blizzard’s work generally as video gaming’s epitome of both class and mass appeal; I am not convinced that Upper Deck is a great match on that score, but then again, they are the first not to make a total mess of superheroes in CCG-land, so it’s probably time for me to reevaluate them. This comes out in spring. And hey, if any of you play WoW and see a gnome named Oompal anywhere, kick him in the nuts for me. [EDIT: Upper Deck's site is slow right now, so we've copied the press release below]

Live from GenCon ’05: Jesper Myrfors and Peter Adkison on Clout Fantasy

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

I had a chance to sit down with Jesper Myrfors and Peter Adkison of Hidden City Games about Clout Fantasy – a game of dexterity and strategy for two or more players. This game is unique in that it uses a collectible poker chip that features high quality artwork.

I started out asking Jesper and Peter to describe Clout Fantasy for those of us who had never heard of the game. Jesper described it as a strategy game that uses poker chips… that are thrown. Twenty five points are spent on fifteen chips – like building an army. All the chips are used in the course of playing a game. Unlike Magic where there’s an element of “luck of the draw,” any one of the chips can be played at a time. A chip could be played in response to a chip played by an opponent, or it could be played as part of a longer term strategy.

I asked Peter what attracted him to this project. He said that he is always looking for games that take various themes in totally new and interesting directions. Clout Fantasy took the fantasy and collectible idea in a completely different direction.

I asked them why they chose the fantasy theme. Jesper said that the short answer was the fantasy theme is familiar and easily grasped by the gaming community. He said that the Clout system could work with any theme, but he chose to start with the fantasy theme because it would make the game more accessible. I asked where they envisioned this game in the future, wondering if there were plans for different themes. Peter said there were indeed plans for different themes for Clout. Jesper added that they would all be compatible with Clout Fantasy. Peter mentioned that they were looking into purchasing licenses and that some of these themes might target a younger audience.

I had to ask about organized play. Peter was quick to say that he really liked the competitive aspect of Clout Fantasy, but saw it as more of a game that one would play with a bunch of buddies over beer and pretzels. He didn’t rule out organized play, but said that it wasn’t going to be a focus.

So what do you get for your hard earned dollar? Well, for about fifteen smackers you can buy the starter kit which includes two sets of fifteen chips (enough for two players), a measuring tape, and a rule book. Boosters will retail for a couple bucks and contain two chips (a much better price point than previously feared).

As a side note, Mike can’t get audio uploads to work from his laptop, so the podcast from the show floor will likely come in one big piece sometime next week. He would have posted about this himself, but from his position face down on the bed, I think he is saying, “Too bitter to post.” So we might hear from him later tonight. It’s sad when a computer defeats a man.

Live at GenCon ’05: Welcome to Indy

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

I was sent ahead to check things out on the day before opening day. After getting my hotel situation straightened out, I wandered around the Indianapolis Convention Center, getting myself reacquainted and reoriented. Overall it looks like it’s going to be a pretty good convention. The attendance looks good and the registration line seems to be moving a lot faster than in previous years.