Friday, August 31, 2007

A Short Rules Preview of Asia Engulfed

This week I am taking a cursory look at the rules for Asia Engulfed, the upcoming Pacific theater wargame from GMT games that was designed by Roger MacGowan. I play a lot more euro-games than wargames, and I can’t compare it with the large number of pacific theater games that have been created over the years. But I own Europe Engulfed, and I can spot a few obvious things of interest.

The first thing I noticed is that the rules aren’t any longer than the rules for Europe Engulfed, the sister game of Asia Engulfed. In fact, EE--with all its complicated nation-specific rules—may be the more complicated game. This surprised me because the combined naval/land war in the Pacific theater has a habit of causing designers to generate complicated game systems (just skimming the rules of Empire of the Sun was a daunting experience for me). Asia Engulfed looks big enough for me to consider it a monster game (anything that takes more than a day to play is a monster game to me), but its rules may be manageable.

One of the first things that fans of Europe Engulfed will notice about Asia Engulfed is that Special Actions have changed. Special Actions are tokens that players can purchase to do extra special activities on their turn. The Asia Engulfed Special Action rules no longer support breakthrough movement, retreat before combat, special reinforcements, or counterattacks. Instead, players need Special Actions for essential amphibious invasions. The American player can also use Special Actions once a game-year for code-breaking. This gives the American player intelligence about the composition of a Japanese naval force in one area, and a bonus die roll modifier for intercepting this Japanese fleet.

Asia Engulfed has special new rules, especially for the Japanese player. The Japanese player must use transports points each turn to create a supply network across the Pacific. The Japanese may also need transport points for moving troops, although it may substitute oil points for transport points when moving Japanese marines.

The Japanese player is the only player who can increase his production capacity by capturing resource and oil hexes. Of course, this also makes the Japanese economy vulnerable to Allied advances.

The game has special rules for Kamikaze attacks, Banzai attacks, and for special Japanese elite units that begin on the board and that cannot be replaced. There are also rules for the faulty torpedoes that limited the effectiveness of the American submarine force in the early months of the war. The American submarines may eventually strangle the Japanese economy, but first they must work the bugs out of their torpedoes.

I found it interesting that there are no rules for the atomic bomb. The Japanese win a decisive victory if they capture Hawaii. The Allies win a decisive victory if they capture the Japanese island of Honshu before the end of the game. All other levels of victory are based on the numbers of victory point areas controlled by the Japanese at the end of the game, and the number of strategic air bases controlled by the Allies.

It’s hard for me to play monster wargames in a house filled with kids and cats. But
Asia Engulfed looks like it may join then list of monster games that I hope to try someday.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Arthur, Arthur!

Recently the folks over at Green Ronin Publishing published Hobby Games: The 100 Best, a book of essays about 100 top hobby games, be they RPGs, board games, card games, or wargames.

I was very pleased to have the editor, James Lowder, ask me to participate. I mean, any day when you get to write an essay for a book introduced by Reiner Knizia is a pretty good one. We talked a bit about what I'd write an essay on and we agreed upon King Arthur Pendragon, an Arthurian roleplaying game that's one of my favorites because of the veracity with which it represents the Malorian legends.

I highly encourage you all to check out the book via the link above. In the meantime, in honor of its publication, I've decided to dedicate this column to its publication by looking at the board game side of what I covered there: the Matter of Britain.

Generally the Arthurian legends were a big obsession for me throughout the 1990s. I gathered up whatever modern books I could find, from Jack Whyte to Bernard Cornwell. I struggled through the classics such as Mallory and The Vulgate. And, of course, I sought out board and card games about the legends.

Herein I'm going to talk about a handful of my favorites, a few of them classics that you haven't heard of. And then I'll list all the rest I've played.

A Few Top Arthurian Games

Excalibur (Wotan Games). This is an old game, long out of print. I think that the odds are high that I'll never play it again because it's a lengthy 1980s era wargame, but nonetheless if I did play this sort of thing, Excalibur would be one of my top choices.

The reason I like it is because the wargame system is overlaid with a serious economic system. Beehives, foresters, river reeves, and water mills can all increase income, which is further modified by who's at a manor and who collects taxes. There's also a written order system, a relatively rarity.

The Arthurian theming of the game is actually very poor. There are no real Arthurian elements here, except in the rules which say you're one of Arthur's knights. However the game offers up a great model of Middle Ages England, which is definitely an element of the Arthurian stories. (Wotan did at least one other Arthurian game which wasn't very good, but this one was a gem.)

Grade: B+.

King Arthur's Knights (Chaosium). This is a game truly from the dawn of the era of hobbyist games. You wander Britain on a beautiful full color map and have various encounters shown through a number of decks of cards. There's a lot of randomness in the game, but nonetheless it was colorful and felt Arthurian.

(The author, Greg Stafford, was also the author of the aforementioned King Arthur Pendragon RPG.)

On the modern market the components are terrible since most of them are hand-cut cardstock cards, so this is a game that I dearly wish someone would revise, redevelop, and reprint.

Grade: B-, but could be a B+ with modern components.

Shadows of Camelot (Days of Wonder). This is my favorite of the Arthurian games. It combines great components, great mechanics, and great theming. The game's all about collaborative play, and that creates a generally interesting gameplay element, even absent the possibility that one member of the Round Table is a traitor.

However, beyond that Shadows Over Camelot really feels like questing to me, as players sally forth from Camelot to defeat their foes, win prizes, and generally do knightly things.

Grade: A. Review.

Other Games in Brief

Other Arthurian games that I've played include:

Camelot Legends (Z-Man Games). Has the best color of any of these games, with tons of elements from Arthurian legends all printed with beautiful art. However I found some of the gameplay slow and/or methodical. Grade: B-. Review.

Im Auftrag des Konigs (Adlung Spiele). Another questing game, but this one with choices and variability minimized by a small deck. Overall, pretty successful, even if the theming is weaker than some others. Grade: B. Review.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (Wotan Games). First you quest, then you fight. It seems to have the right elements, but the game was tedious. Grade: C-.

Quest for the Grail (Stone Ring Games). An Arthurian CCG that made no lasting impression on me, other than the fact that I vaguely recall the cards being nice. Grade: C.

Quests of the Round Table (Gamewright). Tedious, interminable, and almost unplayable card game. I even hated it before I discovered the quick elegance of Eurogames. I think that this is the only Arthurian board or card game that I've actively expunged from my collection. Grade: F.

Tom Jolly's Camelot (Wingnut Games). Very lightly themed, since you have 4 Arthurs trying to recover Excalibur. Its main notable element is that its a speed game, with players moving as fast as they can, and here it succeeds very well. Grade: B-.

Final Thoughts

In writing this up, I came to think about what makes a good Arthurian game. I think the two biggest elements are a system of quests that you conquer and great color from the legends. A number of these game qualify on one or both of these elements, but still don't totally win me over because they miss a third criteria: great, deep mechanics.

Thus far Shadows Over Camelot is the closest, but I still hope that something more will someday arrive, combining the good points of a game like Shadows with a deeper and more meaningful look at the legends.

But hey, we've already waited 1500 years since Arthur pulled that sword out of that stone. What are a few more?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Investment in gaming...

It's been awhile since I managed a post. A short five-day vacation blossomed into illness and the requisite scrambling to catch up at work. It is often easy to ramble on, but I find the starting to be the hard part, and my posts just haven't been started recently.

I've had a gaming meta-question in my head for most of this year. I've come to no conclusions on it, but I'll take the time to ramble on the topic for awhile. Essentially -
"Are we (as gamers, specifically boardgamers) getting too passive in regards to our games?"

In a more wordy fashion - Are we too quick to discard games based on initial opinions? Are we playing too many different games? Have we lost the feeling of investment that seems to have been a hallmark of the early years of hobby boardgames? If lost, is that a bad thing, a thing to be expected, or what?

This ties into many other questions that pop up frequently, such as "Are there too many games coming out this year?" and in some ways ties into the American/European design differences.

Modern Hobby boardgames (as compared to Mass Boardgames1) have borrowed liberally from the boom of Mass board games in the first half of the 20th century, but have mostly grown out of 3M/Avalon Hill/SPI and the later boom of role-playing. As such, board games have a number of different inclinations depending where they draw their primariy historical inspiration. The Role-playing and Wargame ancestors required serious investment of time. The Mass ancestors don't. In general, a best of breed game draws from both lines of development.

The generally accepted "Best of Breed" traits seem to have become brevity2, ease of learning3, strategic4, and component quality. These characteristics encourage owning and regularly playing multiple titles. Early in the history of Hobby games many designs (especially on the wargame/roleplaying side) required extensive rules review and games lasted two+ times as long as the average game does today. As such, gamers owned fewer games (and yes, there were fewer titles produced), and individual titles received more plays.

I'm placing the label investment onto the amount of time and attention that a game requires. Roleplaying games require a maximum of investment. A packaged party game like Taboo requires a minimum of investment.

As the past few years of game design have been pursuing the above "Best of Breed" traits in board games, I think we've seen a secondary effect of reducing investment in individual titles. Truly special titles (PR, Ticket to Ride) have managed to gain investment5, but they are exceptions to the general trend. This reduction of investment in individual titles has aided the adoption of a gaming culture of 'newest'.

In counterpoint, there's been a recent swelling of interest in games that do require investment. Much of the successful Fantasy Flight lineup requires significantly more investment than other games, with Descent being the poster child of a game that rewards players who choose to play it repeatedly. Interest in longer wargames has also risen, with bridge-games (Twilight Struggle, Command and Colors, A Victory Lost) gaining traction with a wider audience. So while I think overall investment is decreasing throughout hobby boardgames, the growing knowledge of this change is causing a backlash of players who search out games that deliberately break the style molds that have developed over the past several years.

Finally: Is this decrease in investment a bad thing? While investment in individual titles has declined, investment in the hobby of boardgames as a genre of entertainment has risen. No longer compromised of ASL players, or Cosmic Encounter Players, boardgamers have gelled into a hobby genre that is larger than individual titles. This is in contrast to other forms of hobby gaming. Miniatures, Roleplayers, and Collectible gamers are still fastened together by individual games, with much less investment in the overall type of game than the specifics.

So. That's about where I am right now on this subject. I mourn the gradual loss of investment in titles while I enjoy the greater choice of game style, theme, and mechanic. And I enjoy a larger pool of players to draw from - players who weren't gamers when the only choices of titles required much more investment.

In the early years of this decade (and the prior decades) I would play the same game many times, while now I struggle to play more than several games multiple times (2007 = 390+ games played, 222 titles) And the more frequent titles represent casual fast games - not titles that require more investment to appreciate.

So it's my own little crusade to force clunky odd games onto our game table. Games that break the current "Best of Breed" stereotype. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But always different.


1 If it needs to be clarified: Mass boardgames are generally published by Hasbro/Milton Bradley, but also by Pressman, Cranium, Cardinal, etc. Think the game section at Target and Toys'rus.

2 Defined as: Playable by a group of new players in under 90 minutes.

3 Defined as: Playable by new players while reading rules for the first time, or with only one player having prior exposure to the rules. Rules should not be over 10 pages.

4 Defined as: Progress within the game is determined primarily by choices that are entirely within control of the player and are not blazingly obvious. i.e. Having meaningful choices.

5But most of this investment has come from services like BSW or the DOW Ticket to Ride website. I'd wager that the majority of the super high playcounts on Puerto Rico and Caylus has come out of BSW. Has anyone really played any single game in-person over 100 times in a year?

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Rules Preview of Galactic Emperor

Last week I wrote a preview of 1960: The Making of the President based on the rules that are now available for download. This week I saw that the rules for Galactic Emperor were available for download, and I saw the opportunity to do a series.

I like empire-building games, and within the past month I tried my first game of Twilight Imperium 3rd edition which seems to be the reigning monarch of galactic conquest games. But based on the rules, I’d say that Galactic Emperor has a shot at getting into the galactic throne room, if not actually deposing the king.

Like Twilight Imperium, Galactic Emperor uses a choose-a-role mechanic that seems borrowed from Puerto Rico or Citadels. Unlike Twilight Imperium, Galactic Emperor streamlines every aspect of the game so that most of the eleven pages of rules are taken up by descriptions of the roles players can choose. Everything in the game that players do is related to these roles.

The basics of Galactic Emperor will be familiar to anyone who has played an exploration-based space game. Players start with a home planet and a single space ship. Ships move out into the galaxy to find new worlds (when the explorer role is chosen) and to claim them (when the Marine role is chosen). These new worlds yield food, metal, and energy resources (when the industrialist role is chosen) which can be converted into new technologies (when the scientist role is chosen) and new space fleets (when the engineer role is chosen). Resources can also be bought and sold (when the merchant role is chosen). Eventually, players will come into conflict when they use their political influence to claim worlds (when the politician role is chosen) or when opposing space fleets meet (the Marine role once again). Roles that are unclaimed during a turn get a spacebuck placed on them to make them more appealing in future turns (another steal from Puerto Rico).

There is nothing particularly innovative here, but designer Adam West makes the details of some of these roles interesting. For example, at the beginning of the game, a number of space tiles are turned face-up. These tiles fit in the gameboard hexes and feature suns, planets, or empty space on them. When someone chooses the explorer role, each player can choose one of these tiles and place it on the board in a location where he has a spaceship. After the other players have each chosen a tile, the player who picked the explorer role gets to place all the remaining tiles, and he has the ability to place them on top of empty space tiles that are already on the board. Because one tile is turned up every turn and added to the supply, the number of tiles that will be controlled by the player who next chooses the explorer role will grow.

The player who chooses the merchant role gets to roll four dice. He then discards one die of his choice, and assigns the lowest remaining number to food, the next highest number to metal, and the highest number to energy. Players then can buy or sell these resources based on the dice-price. This mechanism gives some control over prices to the merchant player, but players will always know that energy will the highest priced commodity in the game.

There is some goofiness and ambiguity in the rules. When a black hole tile appears, the scientist role is eliminated from the game. I assume this means that players must grab technologies early in the game or risk not getting them at all. But I could not tell from the rules if technology cards give players an on-going special ability or are a one-time shot. Perhaps this information is on the technology cards themselves.

The biggest virtues of Galactic Emperor seem to be simplicity and a short-playing time. Presumably, the price of the game will also be less than that of Twilight Imperium or other orgies of plastic.

I get the impression from reading the BGG postings that Galactic Emperor is getting close to the end of its playtesting cycle. But I have no idea if that means anyone will be publishing it anytime soon.

I certainly am not going to proclaim that Galactic Emperor is a success just from reading the rules. But it does look promising, and it will probably have a playing time considerably shorter than a lot of empire-building games. I hope it is eventually published. You can download the rules yourself from Boardgamegeek.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gaming events, big and small

I was thinking recently of games events that I go to now as well as games events that I used to go to and games events that I either will or would like to go to in the future.

One significant impact on my attendance at these events has been, what can best be described as, which phase of life I am in. For me there have been three main phases that have been relevant.

a) Single
b) In a couple (for some people this would be in a couple with a gamer or with a non-gamer), but I have never really spent time in a relationship with a non-gamer so that's not an issue for me
c) Married with small children

Future intended stages include
d) Married with older children
e) Empty Nesters

As some readers may remember, my background in gaming can be summarised boardgames, then wargames, then roleplaying games and now mostly boardgames.

The types of gaming events are:
1) Home or group based games night
2) Club based games night (club being a formal group, i.e. not just a bunch of friends)
3) Home or group based games day
4) Club based games day
5) Home of group based games weekend
6) Club or convention based games weekend
7) 3-4 day group based
8) 3-4 day club or convention
9) Longer events

As a single I attended all of the above. Particularly when I has heavily involved in roleplaying. A group of us used to travel from Melbourne to Sydney and Canberra for three and four day roleplaying game conventions as well as run one of our own in Melbourne. On top of this there were regular games nights either board gaming, roleplaying campaigns. There were also the day long events, either roleplaying sessions or tournaments, or games of Diplomacy or Civilization. Amongst the group of friends from Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney we also had what could best be described as a mini gathering of friends. A place would be booked roughly halfway between Melbourne and Sydney and thirty or forty gamers would meet for around three or four days of socialising and gaming. We also had some regular Christmas holiday sessions down at a beach house and this involved ten or more people for anywhere up to a week or more of gaming interspersed with visits down to the beach.

I remember discussing this with one of the Canberra based gamers who said that meeting up three or four times a year for three of four days of gaming each time was a good way to run a friendship and it was a regular occurrence for around a decade.

When I became part of a couple, nothing really changed. Melissa has a similar gaming pedigree as I do, just without the wargames. We had both attended the same events and done the roleplaying games convention circuit before we started going out, so we continued to do it.

During those days most of the games conventions were primarily roleplaying games conventions, other games were more of a sideline. Canberra's CanCon was the only real exception to this, it had a large non-roleplaying component as well, although we only went for the roleplaying. To my knowledge boardgame only conventions, especially if you exclude Diplomacy and wargames, are a relatively recent concept in Australia. Ditto with trade fairs, i.e. conventions were there is a significant presence of vendors and/or publishers. Usually the most we would have was a retail outlet with a stall, it was all about the playing of games not so much the purchasing. The Australian Games Expo is the only event in Australia that I know that has a significant vendor or publisher presence.

The arrival of mortgage and children has curtailed both the amount of disposable income and free time that we can devote to gaming. I used to often travel interstate to a games convention and crash on the floor or a spare bed at a friend's place. When you are travelling with a family of four this is rarely a viable option, paid accommodation is required and suddenly everything has got much more expensive. Otherwise the options are leave the children behind (not something we are willing to do at their age), take them with us to the convention (also something we are not willing to at their current age) or arrange activities or babysitting. This makes travelling to a convention logistically challenging and we have only started doing this again last year. Locally based conventions are much more viable, but I don't think we are ready to go back to the solid three or four days of gaming that was the normal occurrence at roleplaying conventions. With the Australian Games Expo we travel with the children and bring along babysitting with us.

When the girls are older they may either be interested in attending such a convention or, more likely, could go off and stay at a friends house for the weekend. A roleplaying convention is still something I would prefer to be able to commit a large amount of time to. This is because there are normally up to ten or so three hour playing sessions that you can book for different games. A boardgame event is much different in that you are really only committed for a game at a time, unless you pre-arrange something. It is possible to drop in and play something, leave and come back later.

I find that, even if you are playing regular rolepaying sessions at home or at a friends or even a club, that a roleplaying convention still gives you an opportunity to play, or be exposed to, different games and styles of games that is difficult, if not impossible, to come by in other settings. With a boardgame convention this much less the case. With regular games at home and club based games night there are very, very few games that I would not be able to play if I wanted to play them. The other possibility is different opponents to play against, but again with home and club based evenings I have quite a large body of people to play with already. Thus, to me, they are not as necessary an event to be able to scratch that gaming itch as compared to a roleplaying convention is to scratch the roleplaying itch.

It used to be that everyone I gamed with was at some stage a roleplayer, however there are people I now play games with who have never roleplayed at all. I must ask them about the concept of two or three day conventions and if they have a different concept due to a different back ground.

Then there are also the fantasy conventions. Being in Australia it is hideously expensive to get to Europe or the United States (and in the case of the former it requires a whole day sitting in an aircraft). We would love to go to Essen and BGG.con to name but two. I wouldn't even say no to Origins or GenCon if I happened to be in the neighbourhood at the appropriate time. I hope you people with relatively easy access to these conventions realise just how lucky you are, for some of thus they are really nothing much more than pipe dreams. Especially since we are raising gamer children and it is not like they are going to let us go to an overseas convention without them :-)

So what is my current gaming fix?

1) Home or group based games night - Once per fortnight (every second week)
2) Club based games night (runs once a week, I usually try to make it every second or third week)
3) Home or group based games day (up to once or twice a year we would organise one of these)
4) Club based games day (there is a once a month regular event in Melbourne, we drop in when we can)
5) Home of group based games weekend (a thing of the past)
6) Club or convention based games weekend (there's a couple of these each year, depending on commitments we try at make it to at least one day)
7) 3-4 day group based (a thing of the past)
8) 3-4 day club or convention (restricted to the Australian Games Expo these days)
9) Longer events (a thing of the past or for the future)

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Rules Preview of 1960: The Making of the President

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about games that the Appalachian Gamers were looking forward to. I don’t remember who put 1960: The Making of the President on the list, but I don’t think it was me. I had other priorities.

But Z-Man Games just posted the rules for 1960 (designed by Jason Matthews and Christian Leonhard), and I’ve become much more intrigued. The game seems to be fine combination of Twilight Struggle and Die Macher without being quite as complicated as either.

In spite of its presidential election theme, 1960 is derived from the card-driven wargame model that has been made very popular by GMT games. In this kind of game, players spend their turns playing cards either to activate an event on the card, or to use operations points (also listed on the card) to do various activities. Twilight Struggle (designed by Mr. Matthews and Ananda Gupta) was one of the first games to use this model in a game about a non-military struggle, and 1960 further demonstrates the adaptability of the card-driven game system.

In 1960, each player represents one of the two presidential candidates: John F. Kennedy or Richard M. Nixon. Players campaign by placing cubes in the various states; these cubes represent political support. Opposing cubes eliminate each other on a one-for-one basis, so that when a player adds cubes to a state, his cubes are first used to eliminate opposing cubes. Because of this system, only one player can have cubes in a state at a given time, and it will be very easy to see who controls each state’s votes.

The most basic decision built into the card-driven game model is whether to play a card for its event, or to use its point value. 1960 complicates this model by adding momentum points that can be used to trigger an event on a card played by an opponent, or to stop opposing players from triggering events on your own cards.

But I suspect what will really make the game shine are game systems that seem to have been inspired by Die Macher. Players can try to place their influence cubes on media spaces for the four regions of the game map. Control of the media in a given region gives candidates special abilities in that region.

Candidates can also place cubes on one of the three issues in the campaign: defense, the economy, or civil rights. Controlling these issues can earn players extra momentum points or important endorsements.

Another part of every turn is selecting a card to be saved for the televised debates. Late in the game, players will face off on TV and then use their saved cards to try to take control of the three issues once again. Cubes earned during the debates can be placed anywhere on the map.

Are we getting a sense of the multitude of decisions players face each turn?

Die Macher may be the best election game invented so far, and it will certainly remain one of the best election games to play with more than two players. But Die Macher is also a long game, and simply doesn’t hit the table very often. 1960 promises some of the smart design that made Die Macher great while cutting down on complexity and playing time.

Based on the game rules, I think 1960 could become one of the most popular two-player election games around. If you don’t believe me, download the rules and check them out for yourself.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Roleplaying Interlude

As I've written before in this column, my first love was always roleplaying games. Though I'm sure I played games like Stratego and Twixt before I ever touched an RPG, it's the roleplaying games that I really remember playing throughout my youth.

Dungeons & Dragons was the first, but there are many games beyond that, and even before I moved to Berkeley for college I played a decent share of them including the science-fiction game Traveller; Stormbringer and Hawkmoon, both based on the works of Michael Moorcock; and RuneQuest, a fantasy game that I found odd at the time, and that I've grown much more enamored of since.

In the last couple of years I've grown closer to roleplaying games again. My best friend and long-time gamemaster left the country, and so I stepped up to run a regular game, something I hadn't done in several years, and that rekindled an interest in me. Board and card games are still my largest recreation today, but RPGs are there every week, and they get an increasing amount of my enthusiasm.

So, with all those things said, I'm going to take a bit of time today and talk about RPGs--from the perspective of board gaming.

It's Not Just About Role-Playing

First I'd like to correct a misconception and say that roleplaying games don't entirely have to be about roleplaying(1). There can be as much chance for tactical and strategic depth in an RPG as in a board game. It all depends on what you play and in what style.

Roleplaying games, after all, did grow out of more strategic venues. Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax were both miniature wargamers when they designed Dungeons & Dragons; after playing with ideas of man-to-man battles they chanced upon the concept of each player playing an individual character. Thus their earliest dungeon delves were pure strategy that probably wasn't that different in feel from Fantasy Flight's modern Descent, with players moving their miniatures through dungeon maps.

After the release of D&D it was a while before companies could really define what was a roleplaying game and what wasn't. TSR, the publishers of D&D shortly thereafter released two more games of note: Boot Hill, a game of man-to-man Western combat, and Warriors of Mars, a miniatures war game set on Barsoom with some individual heroes. The first one is usually considered an RPG and the second not, but the difference is tenuous.

Admittedly, the roleplaying industry has changed a lot since the 1970s, and much of that growth centers on individualizing characters further and changing RPG adventures from dungeon delves into stories. In the 1980s these trends amped up even further with the advent of the "storytelling" branch of RPGs which really pushed ideas of collaborative storytelling over individual glory. But there are still strategic elements in many RPGs, while a few play them up notably.

Battletech is one such example. It's another game that I played quite a bit up through college. It was created by FASA, an early publisher in the RPG field, but it was a hybrid game. The core of the play was giant mecha combat on a hex grid, but there was also opportunity for pilots to improve from battle-to-battle and there was even an add-on RPG called Mechwarrior where you could have adventures outside of your mecha cockpit.

The modern edition of Dungeons & Dragons, which was published in 2000 then refined in 2003(2) is perhaps an even better example. I kicked off a new D&D campaign called The Savage Tide a few weekends ago and I'm playing it pretty precisely by the rules. That means all combat is done on a square grid with plenty of different maneuvers possible. It's a pure strategy game in the middle of a roleplaying game and I've been enjoying it quite a bit.

The Modern Market

Another interesting element of RPGs, when viewed from the board game side of things, is how different the market is.

With a board game you buy a game and you play it, and to experience something new you have to buy a new one. With a roleplaying game you can buy a game and play it pretty much forever if you're willing to come up with new ideas for stories or grids for combats (based on what sort of game you're playing). Granted there have been board games sold as "kits" like this, such as Icehouse, but I'm not aware of any that are large financial successes. Board gamers like to have their games handed them complete, which on the one hand makes sense in a more competitive environment, but also suggests a somewhat different clientèle.

Another interesting difference in the RPG market is the existence of virtual publishers. Since the turn of the century an increasing number of roleplaying publishers have put out professional products as PDFs, to the point where there are now a few different high-profile PDF e-stores in competition. Though I'm unconvinced that PDFs really grow the market because of their very small sales footprints, nonetheless it does seem that they've generated some new creative enthusiasm in the market. At the present this sort of thing is all but infeasible in the board game market, but it suggests that a virtual board tabletop, a concept that comes up every year or two, might provide some rapid growth in the industry.

Final Notes

There is, of course, a bridge between board games and RPGs: adventure games, of which I've written before, and which I'm going to touch upon again now that Talisman is back in print. Descent in particular is a pretty fine transition that's not too far removed from the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons. If you like that, don't be afraid to take the next step; ask if your local game store hosts roleplaying games too.

And if you're interested in learning more, check out RPGnet, which is the largest roleplaying site on the Internet other than industry leader Wizards of the Coast. It's full of forums, columns, reviews, and everything else you could want to read about RPGs, with a 10+ year history under its belt.

1. Since I first drafted this entry, this weekend, Ryan Dancy wrote a blog entry about how we should change the name from "roleplaying" games to "storytelling" games, which misses the point even more. There are storytellers in the industry and roleplayers and strategists and tacticians too. It's a big tent.

2. As they say, the times, they are a'changing, and thus another update since I drafted this article. Last night rumors started leaking that Wizards of the Coast was planning on announcing a new, fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, for release starting next May. RPGnet's d20 forum is currently full of discussions on the topic.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

When the goal is to participate ...

There's an interesting thread on the Geek this week about playing games with children, questioning whether the "my two year old can beat me at World in Europe" claims are quite what they are cracked up to be.

Earlier this year, I posted about playing Cluedo (Clue) with both the kids. We dealt cards to me, Fraser and Biggie, and played what was really a 3-player game, except that Otto rolled dice and moved her person, occasionally sucked one of us over into whatever room she was in, and was shown cards when she did. As I said at the time, by no stretch of the imagination was she playing Cluedo, but she was engaging in a family gaming activity (and loving it).

Over the past year and a half, I have been asked several times about games that a much younger child (or a disabled child) can join in and play with the family - even if they are playing by different rules.

Here are some that I can think of.

Carcassonne - this one stands out as obvious. The younger child can enjoy the 'co-operative jigsaw' aspects of the game, while the rest of the family plays. Add a random element by giving the smallest player Meeples to play with and making the rest of the family comply with the 'one meeple per area' placement rules, or just ignore their Meeples and keep going.

The Bucket King - we actually tried this yesterday, by request. "I want to play the Buckets game." Build your bucket pyramids, then each play cards in turn. But only the cards you play on your turn count. We played with hands of 7 cards and allowed play of 2 cards together to beat an 8. All stacking (and especially collapsing) rules applied. (This is a little different to the other games on the list, in that we weren't playing by the "real" rules either)

Make 'n' Break - children are surprisingly adept at building things with blocks. Don't worry about the time limit, of give your youngest one a little longer - depending on the child, they may just be happy to build and knock down structures of their own devising until the timer rings.

Ingenious - more pattern matching - don't bother keeping score, just take turns matching the patterns. Again, in a multi-player game, a very young child represents a random element but that can add attraction.

What other games can you think of? Remember, participation is the goal here.


Friday, August 10, 2007

What Makes A Long Game Good

Last weekend some of the Appalachian Gamers tried our first game of Twilight Imperium 3rd edition. We finally abandoned the game after five hours when it seemed that Travis was certain to win. But although the game flirts with being intolerably long, some of us were eager to try it again.

During the week, I rediscovered Civilization, the Sid Meier computer game that is now in its fourth edition. Civ is another game that can last many hours, and yet it is extremely addictive.

And so I started thinking about what makes a long game good. None of my observations here are particularly origina--I think Jonathan Degann may have made some of these observations in his Journal of Boardgame Design--but I write about what I’m pondering at the moment, and long games are this week’s concern.

So what makes a long game good?

1) A variety of activities. You can get away with doing the same thing over and over in a short game, but you need variety of things to do in a long game. In his recent review of Before the Wind, Larry Levy mentioned that the game seems a little too long considering that players do the same thing over and over. In games like Twilight Imperium and Civilization, players often do a variety of things within each turn. They may produce military units, fight battles, improve their nation’s capacities, grab new technologies, or engage in diplomatic activity. It is choosing from the wide variety of possibilities that makes these games fun.

2) Improvement of capacities. In many long games, players grow their abilities throughout the game. In Struggle of Empires and Age of Empires III, players buy tiles that give them special abilities. In Twilight Imperium, players can snag technologies that are the equivalent of special ability tiles. In the computer game Civilization, players can research ordinary technological developments that are available to all, or build World Wonders that can be created only once. In Arkham Horror, players can acquire spells that can give them a variety of special abilities. Things that improve player capacities are among my favorite game mechanisms.

3) An endgame. Many of these games have mechanisms that focus or increase competition at the end of the game. At the end of Twilight Imperium, players are likely to be fighting for control of Mercatol Rex, the most important planet. In Age of Empires III, the struggle to grab the final special tiles that give bonus victory points can make the endgame more intense. In Arkham Horror, players often end the game with a final battle with the Great Old One. And you know you’re in the endgame of Civilization when other nations start building a starship. Having some special mechanism for the end of the game creates story arcs that make games more fun.

Long games are not for everyone. But the traits mentioned above can make long games more palatable, and make the required investment of time seem worthwhile.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The News in Reviews / Really Old Puzzler Answer / Old Puzzler Answer / New Fortnightly Puzzler

A Negative Review of Gemlok

I usually don't write negative reviews. I like to encourage game playing through positive reviews. That is, I play several games until I find one I enjoy; then I write about it. Today, I'll break this pattern somewhat with a review of the game Gemlok.

A current Mensa Select winner of 2007, Gemlok is a dice game played with pawns and a game board. Produced by the folks from Pywacket Games (nice folks, by the way), Gemlok is the second product of PG to get the Mensa Select seal of approval. Their first game Keesdrow ('wordseek' backwards) is their first (and infinitely more interesting) game to win the award.

The object of Gemlok is to get the most points. The game board is covered with squares of varying values (1 to 9); each of the squares also corresponds to a gem picture (9 is a diamond, for example), though like any theme just slapped on, it doesn't ever feel like you're doing anything but look at the numbers. Land on the high numbers, and stay on them till the end of the game; that's about it.

Each player gets 8 pawns. With the dice, players move their pawns around the board, aiming to land on the high numbers. Players bump other pawns as well in an effort to be on the best spots. After 10 rounds, the player with the highest score wins.

The movement is the most interesting in Gemlok, and sadly, it gets old pretty quick. The two dice are six-sided and have various strange-looking arrows. On five sides of each die, you'll find arrows that go straight ahead and arrows that bend diagonally and combinations of both. On the sixth side of each die, you'll find the title of the game "Gemlok." When you roll an arrow, you must move one of your pawns in the precise pattern on the die. If you bump someone at the end of your movement, you may send it three spots away in any direction. When a you roll a Gemlok, you must flip one pawn over; this pawn is locked down wherever it is; it cannot move any longer but it cannot get bumped either.

Basically, players roll the dice to get a set of flexible instructions. If two arrows come up, a player must move either two pawns once or one pawn twice. If an arrow and a Gemlok come up, a player must do both in any order. If two Gemloks come up, two pawns must be locked, even if the only options are locking down pawns on worthless spots (the exception to this is the first turn in which case you get to roll over).

First of all, Gemlok only really works with four players. Playing two players isn't at all compelling, and playing three players seems too unbalanced. Second and most important, I didn't feel any connection with the game turns, including my own. Roll, move, bump, get bumped, Gemlok. There's just not a whole lot there.

If I have to play a dice game where I roll and bump, I'd rather play Sorry! or Wahoo (to name games along the same simplicity) than play Gemlok. To it's credit, there's a certain amount of fun in bumping people, but this is an old pleasure, hardly attributable to Gemlok. Yet in this latest iteration, the bumping is way too volatile. That is to say, I know what my chances are when trying to bump in Sorry! or Wahoo, and the game can get exciting. In Gemlok, you just take what you get and pass the dice.

I understand Keesdrow getting the Mensa Select award last year. While it uses old Boggle-style mechanics to make words, it's fresh enough to warrant closer study. But Gemlok? How in the world did this game get placed next to Gheos? Even the simple but elegant Quirkle is tarnished by being in the same listing.

Personal feelings aside, my bet is that even if you liked this game that you would probably like so many other games more that your money is best spent elsewhere.


Really Old Puzzler Answer

The answer to the 20 Questions from last month was none other than Gemlok. I was curious if anyone knew enough about it to guess it, but I guess it just wasn't a compelling enough exercise to go forward.


Old Puzzler Q & A

Q: Name a famous chessplayer whose name (three-letters long) is also the abbreviation of a famous radio program and a board game.

A: (given by Thomas Fulda) Mikhail Tal, This American Life, Take a Letter (although I had come up with The Amazeing Labyrinth)


New Fortnightly Puzzler

I'm thinking of a word using the letters E, L, S, and V. One letter is used 4 times, another 3 times, another 2 times, and the last 1 time to make a ten-letter word. The letters may be arranged in any order. What's the word?*

* I appreciate all responses to the puzzle, but please don't post an answer. If you feel the need to respond and would like to get your name posted, be the first to get the answer and write to Thanks!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pirates and Culling

On Friday night we played a five player game of Pirate's Cove . Three players were new to the game and one of them was relatively new to gaming in general.

The rules explanation went reasonably quickly, although as Melissa and I were dredging particular rules out of our collective memories, I figured that it had been quite a while since the last time either of us had played it.

On the first turn I went to cannon island and all four of the other players went to sail island where a length and destructive battle ensued. Amongst my trouble free loot was quite a bit of gold and Billy Bones' Parrot. This parrot allows you to always fire your total number of cannons, regardless of crew number. Needless to say, since I was already at cannon island I spent all my gold to raise my cannon to five.

Over the next two turns I was involved in battles with other players, but with the help of Billy Bones' Parrot I was able to quickly dispatch them to Pirate's Cove for repairs.

That was actually the last time that I was involved in a battle with another player. Through skill, luck or good fortune I managed to pick islands where other people did not go or were too scared to go. This meant that I had a steady stream of loot flowing into The Black Betsy's hold. I did have the Royal Navy sent after me twice, but on both occasions I was able to send them packing all the way back to Blighty.

Thanks to my five gun volleys, the few combats that I was involved in were relatively quick, all in my favour and relatively painless. Admittedly the two combats with the Royal Navy did damage my hull and I did have to throw some treasure overboard to stay afloat, after looting the island of course! The fact that I almost never had to make any repairs to The Black Betsy meant I was accumulating a lot of gold. In fact the gold was accumulating so much that on my second visit to treasure island in addition to burying nine chests I buried fifteen gold (which is an unprecedented amount in my history of playing the game).

The other unusual aspect of this game was that we actually exhausted the tavern card deck, which I don't remember doing before although some of our previous games were only four player. The tavern cards certainly weren't going through my hand though, I only had five or six card for the entire game.

We had two cases of people forgetting that the Legendary Pirate was visiting an island (even though his boat was there before destinations were chosen), although in one case the player in question did manage to defeat the Legendary Pirate.

On the last turn of the game it looked highly likely that Captain Melissa was intending to deliberately take on the Flying Dutchman at Treasure Island so, after consulting my Evil Play Techniques handbook, I played the Consort card to grab half her loot should she succeed. To my joy, she played some battle and volley cards and quickly dispatched the Flying Dutchman and I then grabbed half of what she buried to boost my final score a little bit more.

With the combination of three new players including one who is a little prone to analysis paralysis, the game actually took about two hours which is longer than normal. Every turn bar one had at least one combat and the judicious use of smoke screens did mean some quite lengthy battles which also helped extend the game length.

After the game I decided to check my theory that it had been quite a while since we had played by looking at the "When Did I Last Play?" statistic in John Farrell's excellent Extended BGG stats. Sure enough my gut feel was correct and it was actually a little over two years since I had last played Pirate's Cove. This is quite a while for a game that we like playing, although admittedly we usually go for slightly heavier games and Daughter the Elder obviously hasn't expressed an interest in playing it for a little over two years :-) (she was involved in that last play back when she was six).

I remember reading on BGG a while back of someone who used to cull (trade or sell) any games in their collection that had not been played for two years. I thought at the time that this was quite ruthless and I assumed that they either a) only played certain types of games regularly, b) only had a small amount of storage space, c) only wanted to keep a small collection or d) didn't want to revisit old games that weren't getting regular plays.

There are a number of reasons why I would not cull games based on how long it was since I had last played them
a) With a collection approaching four hundred games, even if it was assumed that we could play a game a day (to quote This is not Frank's Planet, "That's a mighty big if") then it would be over a year before any game would be due to hit the table for a repeat play.
b) I have found that there are certain stages of life where it is difficult to play long games. Having young children is one such stage. In the past I have played Civilization, Diplomacy, World in Flames and even War in Europe. I have not played any of these games in quite some years now. However, I do fully expect to play both Diplomacy and Civilization again in the next few years. I will admit that the chances of getting World in Flames or War in Europe to the table are slim and I will probably be looking at the five to ten year time frame at least, but I am still not willing to part with them.
c) I am a bit of a hoarder.
d) There are games in our collection that we have owned for ten, twenty or more years. They may not get played often, but they are still good games and are still enjoyed. Many of these older games would be particularly difficult to replace (think EON Cosmic Encounter). Quite a few of them are games that we had and played as children and are now getting to play with our children, and possibly in another twenty or so years may get to play with our grandchildren.
e) Unlike computer games, which can be sometime be dependent on a particular hardware platform, operating system or slower chip set than is still available, board games just need a table to play them. It doesn't matter how old they are, if you want to play them you still can. The physical game doesn't become obsolete, granted sometimes the game itself may become outdated in terms of mechanics or game play.
f) I try not to buy many games without doing any research, so generally if I have bought it there's a fairly good chance that I will like it. Therefore there's not a lot of dead wood in our collection.
g) The words "sell my game" have no meaning to me.

If our collection gets too much bigger we will have to do some serious reorganisation of space and shelves or possibly revisit some of the above, but for now there will be no culling of games in our house.

Mmm meeples taste like...

Friday, August 03, 2007

What We Are Looking Forward To

Just out of curiosity, this week I submitted a list of soon-to-be-published games to the Appalachian Gamers, and asked them to check off which games interested them most. The list was mostly middle-weight Euro-games, although I included a few of the lighter wargames that I thought might appeal to our group. I let each person (including myself) only choose three games--which means that the list of games we came up with is smaller than it could have been. For example, if I had allowed myself to choose four games, I might have added Martin Wallace’s Brass, but with a limit of three games, Brass got left out.

Now, this is a ridiculously small statistical sample, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about the interests of the gaming community at large. But here is what we are looking forward to:

Great Interest

Tribune: This game of political competition in ancient Rome is due from Fantasy Flight Games in November. It is designed by Karl-Heinz Schmiel, and all you have to do is say “From the guy who designed Die Macher” to see the lights come on in the eyes of an Appalachian Gamer.

Tannhauser: Another game from Fantasy Flight which is due this fall (Pro Ludo seems to be publishing the game in Europe). This one is designed by William Grosselin and Didier Poli. As best as I can tell, this is a tactical combat game set in an alternate universe in which the nations that fought in World War I have gained alien technology and magic from a downed flying saucer. Okay…

El Capitan: We’ve been seeing the Mike Doyle preview art work for this on his website, and it sure looks good. It’s a redesign of Tycoon, a game from Wolfgang Kramer and Horst-Rainer Rosner. The American version will be published by Z-Man Games.

Race for the Galaxy: This card game about Galactic civ-building is designed by Thomas Lehmann and will be published by Rio Grande. Lots of good buzz on this game. Due to be published in September.

Good Interest

Starcraft: the Board Game: Another Fantasy Flight plastic-figure binge. Designed by Corey Konieczka from the popular series of computer games.

Great American Railroad Game: Rio Grande’s American-themed version of Reiner Knizia’s Stephenson’s Rocket. About time a version of this game showed up.

1960: The Making of the President: Another game from Z-Man, this one designed by Jason Matthews and Christian Leonard. Mr. Matthews was one of the designers of Twilight Struggle, and this game promises to be another card-driven political contest. The designers claim the game has a shorter playing time than Twilight Struggle.

War of the Roses: Another strategic block game about medieval warfare from Columbia Games and designer Jerry Taylor, the guy who gave us Hammer of the Scots. That says it all.

The Price of Freedom: Another card-driven wargame about the American Civil War from Compass Games, and designer Renaud Verlaque, the guy who gave us Age of Napoleon. That also says it all.

Commands & Colors expansions: More ancient combat from Richard Borg and GMT games. That says…well, you get the idea.

Rails of Europe: A Railroad Tycoon expansion from Glenn Drover and Fred Distribution. I don’t really know what Fred Distribution is, but they had me at “Railroad Tycoon.”

What are you looking forward to?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wiz-War Expansion Cards

This week I'm going to do something I haven't done before. I'm publishing an expansion for an existing game, Tom Jolly's Wiz-War.

As I've written elsewhere Wiz-War was a much beloved game of my 'tweens. I suspect it was the most played board game for my group throughout the later 1990s. As we played it more and more we also developed a rule: we added one new card every time we played a game. This was made possible thanks to Chessex putting out blank card packs.

So I offer you up all the bonus cards from my set, with no (or rather, few) comments on whether they're good or bad. I'll also offer the caveat that if you're going to add cards, you should put in more numbers too, to keep things balanced. Just follow the normal distribution from the base game. We also put in duplicates of some of the more common spells (which I hopefully didn't copy any of below).

Amnesia. (Trap!) Lose a random card. PLAY IMMEDIATELY.

Beavis. (Neutral) Play this card out of turn when a fire attack is cast. Attack does damage to all wizards in game. Must chant, "Fire, fire, hehe, hehe." OR: you may discard this card to retrieve Butt-Head from the discard pile.

Brave New World. (Neutral) Adds a new sector to the playing boards, if any is available. This sector may be placed in any legal location.

Cone of Cold. (Attack/LOS) Does 3 points of magical damage to everything in a straight line within line of site. User cannot exclude any targets in path.

Create River. (Neutral/LOS) This spell creates a straight river between two points, both within the caster's LOS. The caster must declare the direction of the river's flow when it is created. Movement upstream costs 2/space, downstream costs .5/space.

Eye of God. (Neutral/LOS) Gives caster LOS to any square on the board for the purpose of casting 1 LOS spell during this round.

Fill Square with Glass. (Neutral/LOS) Fills one square with impenetrable glass. Can only be used on empty squares. Can't be cast on home bases. Does not block line of sight. Some schools of magic call it "ethereal poodle".

Fire Alarm. (Neutral) Player must make fire alarm noises, forcing other players to leave the room. The player can then move one token anywhere one space. The other players may now return to the room.

Fist of God. (Attack/LOS) Player strikes table with fist. Objects moved are placed as in Thumb of God. 1 point of damage per wizard that falls taken by player of card.

(We used to regularly play on a card table.)

Flame Burst. (Attack) Area affect flame spell does magical damage equal to NUMBER CARD played except to walls and doors. Each square away reduces damage by 1. Walls/doors stop, but it can go around corners.

Fog of War. (Neutral/LOS) No line of sight on the board on which this is cast. Duration equal to NUMBER CARD played.

Gelatinous Cube. (Attack/LOS) Creates a gelatinous cube with a move of 1. Always heads towards nearest item on floor. Destroys item if not chest, which it carries. Takes 4 physical damage to destroy. Blocks LOS and movement.

God Help Me. (Neutral) You may take as many "God" cards from the discard pile as you want. Must say "God Help Me."

Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. (Attack/LOS) Throw this grenade to a square within LOS. At the beginning of your next turn it explodes doing NUMBER CARD physical damage to everything in the sector except walls and doors.

Hot Potato. (Trap!/LOS) Player with potato takes 1 point of physical damage at end of round. Card may not be discarded or dropped. Can be used as an attack to pass to another player. They must catch it unless counteracted. If needed, they must discard other card. DISPLAY IMMEDIATELY.

Illusionary Treasure. (Neutral) When a player picks up one of your treasures you may play at that time (out of turn) this card on him. The treasure teleports to one of your treasure spaces.

Intermittent Door. (Neutral/LOS) Must say, "When is a door not a door." Door appears and then at the start of player's next turn it disappears for one turn. Each time it alternates.

(This sounds pretty annoying to keep track of.)

Last Ditch. (Attack/LOS) When played the caster does magical damage equal to his remaining life points to all wizard in his LOS (including himself).

Lead Chest. (Neutral/LOS) This spell transforms your wooden chest into a lead chest. When carrying this chest, movement is reduced by 2. The player must say, "All this gold is weighing me down!"

Lever of God. (Neutral/Counteraction/LOS) Players lifts one side of a board. Gravity pulls everything to the other side until a wall stops it, or it exits the board.

(The lifting can be figurative, not necessarily literal. The main point is that everything slides.)

Magic Armor. Reduces all damage by 2, except curses. Reduces movement by 1. DISPLAY IMMEDIATELY.

The Marvelous Merry-Go-Round. (Neutral) Each player moves his wizard to the position now taken by the player on his left. This card can be used 1D4 times. Hand the card to the player on your right for its next use. Counts as a card in your hand.

Meta-Phasic Shield Stone. (Stone) Stops all fire/heat damage. Protects all carried stones from destruction due to fireball.

Mistaken Identity. (Neutral/Counteraction) Next spell attack on you is redirected to a random wizard other than yourself.

Patch of Darkness. (Neutral/Counteraction/LOS) Fills a square with inky darkness which blocks line of sight, unless a 1 is rolled on a d4. Duration equals NUMBER CARD played.

Pet Goat. (Attack/LOS) This friendly goat can bite for 1 damage. It always stays in the same square as controller. It takes 3 points of damage to kill the goat. The pet goat likes to eat stones. Permanently add +1 HP and +1 damage per stone you feed the goat (from your hand).

Plague of God. (Attack/LOS) A dread disease descends upon all living things. All living things in play take damage equal to NUMBER CARD played, including caster.

Rightful King of the Island Marnon. (Attack) Randomly take as homage 1 card from each player.

Stone to Flesh. (Neutral/LOS) Turns a wall or solid square into bleeding flesh. Wall now has 5 hit points, solid flesh square has 15. Must say, "Eeewww, it's bleeding!" to work.

The TARDIS (Neutral/LOS) Your home sector is warped by time and space to become the TARDIS. Move home sector aside and it can only be entered and exited from the TARDIS.

(Probably too annoying to use.)

There's No Place Like Home. (Neutral/Counteraction) You teleport to your home base. If you have a treasure it remains in your previous square. May not move after playing.

Tommy Gun. (Attack/LOS) A magic wand that does 1d4 physical damage to all targets within 1 square. Number of bursts equals number card played.

Twister of God (Neutral/LOS) All boards rotate 90 degrees clockwise.

Ventriloquism. (Counteraction) Caster may replace opponent's spell with an attack from the caster's hand. Both attack cards are discarded. You are then affected by the card you gave away.

Wrath of God. (Play Now!!!) Every player must play or discard his entire hand on their next turn. He may draw up to seven cards when he is done. PLAY IMMEDIATELY. No counteractions.

Wrest Control. (Attack/LOS) This spell can only be cast on monsters. Control of that monster immediately turns over to the caster. The monster now moves and attacks on the caster's turn, starting this turn.

We also made changes to a few existing cards:

Butt-Head. (addendum) This card was amended with the text: "OR you may discard this card to retrieve Beavis from the discard pile."

Fire Imp. (addendum) It's noted that a river also destroys the imp.

So those were the additions of my Berkeley gaming crew. I know Eric R., Dave S., Donald K., and Dave W. contributed to those, as I'm certain did other members of the group over the years.