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Randy Angle - Gruesome Ghoulies (9/28/20)
James Wallis - Alas Vegas (2/13/13)
Gareth Hanrahan - The Laundry RPG (5/17/10)
Jamie Chambers - Signal Fire Studios (7/21/09)
Darren Watts - Hero Games (5/4/09)
Stan! (11/7/08)
Brendan LaSalle - Pandahead Productions (audio; 9/28/07)
Richard Garfield (10/12/04)

What source gets quoted most frequently during your game sessions?
Monty Python (Holy Grail or otherwise)
Star Wars/Star Trek
That Dr. Demento D&D thing ("I cast Magic Missile at the darkness!")
Comic book sources
South Park
Aliens ("Game over, man!")

View Results

Christmas Gift Guide 2010 (11/26/10)
PAX East 2010 report (4/9/10)
Christmas Gift Guide 2009 (12/4/09)
Games of the Ninja 2008 (12/5/08)
Christmas Gift Guide 2008 (11/27/08)
Screams from the Cave 2008
Ogres' Choice Awards 2008 (9/12/08)
Christmas Gift Guide 2007 (11/30/07)
Ogres' Choice Awards 2007 (8/17/07)
GAMA Trade Show 2007 report (4/27/07)
Christmas Gift Guide 2006 (11/30/06)
Ogres' Choice Awards 2006 (7/28/06)
Christmas Gift Guide 2005 (11/29/05)
Christmas Gift Guide 2004 (12/10/04)
Night of the Living Gamer
(Halloween RPGs)

Archive highlights
GAMA Trade Show 2008 report, part 2
GAMA Trade Show 2008 report, part 1
Frag Beta Capsule Review (4/14/01)
Battle Cattle Minis Preview (2/28/01)

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Unplugged Gaming News And Views
Tuesday, July 31, 2001
4:01 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Games Unplugged Reloading?
The Games Unplugged website is just displaying an image of the GenCon issue, along with a cryptic message saying "Come Back AUGUST 15th and Experience a new way of Looking at Gaming!" Hmmm... I'm hoping for virtual reality, but we shall see.

Monday, July 30, 2001
12:05 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Overheard on AIM:
u___: did i bump into the ogrecave editorial meeting? and who the heck is WizKids?
m_____: wizkids = mage knight
m_____: it's like, whoever has the most money in the industry gets gen con as a booby prize
u___: "most money in the gaming industry" is already a booby prize

7:47 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
New GenCon Sponsors in 2002?
Most convention-goers know that Wizards of the Coast is getting out of the convention business -- at least, they're stepping out of their role as sponsors of Origins and GenCon. GAMA already has "custody" of Origins, but after this year's GenCon (which starts Thursday), who will take over? According to a post at Gaming Report, the most likely candidate is WizKids. Could this rumor be true? I'll ask around at GenCon, and let you know if I hear anything.

Traps & Treachery Just Around the Corner
Fantasy Flight Games announced that their next D20 book, Traps & Treachery, should be out next week, which means it willl be at GenCon.

Friday, July 27, 2001
2:06 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
The Haps at Cheapass
Fresh from their Origins Award wins a few weeks ago, Cheapass Games is headed into GenCon at full steam. U.S. Patent Number One,a time machine game, will be released in August, and a new six-button expansion called Button Men: Samurai will reach stores in early September. Can't wait that long for your button fix? Then grab a copy of the GenCon program book, which will contain a rare Samurai (Tsusuko) plus a character from Girl Genius: The Works (Jorgi). You should have already grabbed buttons of all three Brawl: Catfight girls from the Origins book.

On the legal front, Cheapass has been asked by MGM to stop selling Before I Kill You, Mister Bond because it "capitalizes too much on [MGM's] trademarked character." Say it ain't so! ;-) Pick up your copy while you still can, as Cheapass will stop selling the game after August 31.

And of course the Cheapass crew will engage in their usual chaotic behavior. According to the website, Cheapass "will be doing all kinds of neat stuff like Live Action Devil Bunny and Live Action Witch Trial. If you're lucky we'll be running some Live Action Unexploded Cow too." Sounds messy. If you're attending that game, wear a poncho.

10:17 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
The Future of BattleTech Revealed at GenCon
According to a new press release from WizKids, "The enduring, popular science-fiction setting has found great success as a miniatures war game, a pc computer game, site-based interactive entertainment and as a ground-breaking animated series. Now WizKids will take the Battletech Universe in an exciting, new direction." What direction is it? Be at GenCon, specifically the Hyatt hotel Executive rooms C and D, on Friday, August 3rd at 11 am, to find out.

8:29 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
No Dice, No Board, No Mercy, No More Waiting
Tyranny Games and Precedence Studios are pleased to announce the release of Sack
Armies: Expeditionary Force,
now available from all major distributors. Sack Armies had an extremely successful debut at Origins, and is sure to do well at GenCon. To celebrate the game's release, two new downloads are available for free at each company's website: a Battlemat Trainer, a simple-yet-useful tool to learn the game with, and the full Sack Armies Rules. Take it from us Cave Dwellers, this is a cool game. Our review should be ready to go up soon.

8:19 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
A Green GenCon
Green Ronin has a pair of releases that will be showing up at GenCon (though you could always order them through Wizard's Attic). Both Hell in Freeport and the D20 System Character Record Folio will storm GenCon like angry samurai. For those who won't be attending the convention, Green Ronin has posted a web enhancement for Legions of Hell that features four new prestige classes. If those classes aren't enough, the new issue of Focus on Freeport converts the Devil Slayer, Diabolist, Inquisitor, and Hellblade into 3rd Edition from the AD&D Guide to Hell.Lastly, for the September release of Jade Dragons and Hungry Ghosts, "the last of the art is rolling in and everything is looking great." One of the guys in my gaming group will be happy to hear his favorite CCG artist, Heather Hudson, has joined in on the supplement.

Thursday, July 26, 2001
6:24 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Terrors of the Dead Lands
No, it has nothing to do with the Weird West. The official Dark Sun website, Athas.org, has posted a 70 page free PDF called Terrors of the Dead Lands. The supplement describes the undead of Athas, old and new, in preparation for the upcoming supplement Secrets of the Dead Lands. We'll let you know when the next supplement is posted. In the meantime, I'll reassert my opinion that undead + psionics = really scary.

2:30 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Mystic Warriors Previewed
The new D20 supplement from Mystic Eye Games is previewed on their site. The cover art, plus the back cover text, are available for you viewing pleasure here. The 128 page sourcebook will retail for $14.95, and arrives next month.

Frag the Munchkins!
Ah, what a combo that would make. (**he dreams of Quake players running amok along the yellow brick road, fragged munchkins exploding with a sweet-smelling, wet "pop"...**)

Oh, sorry. Umm, anyway, Steve Jackson Games has shipped both Frag and Munchkin, and both games should be appearing in stores shortly. While we haven't seen much of Munchkin yet, you can read Mike's review of the Frag beta version, and see if it lends any insight.

Wednesday, July 25, 2001
11:46 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Help Zorro Get His Star
Gold Rush Games, having formed a relationship with the Guy Williams family while writing the Zorro RPG, is helping raise money for Mr Williams' star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star of the Disney Zorro TV series and the original Lost in Space series has been selected to posthumously receive the star. However, it costs $15,000 to complete the process, and Disney ain't coughing it up, leaving the Williams family holding the bag. GRG is making a big push to get gamers to contribute (expect to see donation boxes at GenCon next week), and I for one plan to drop a few bucks in for Guy. For more details, head over to fundraiser page.

Tuesday, July 24, 2001
3:49 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Cover of Jade Dragons & Hungry Ghosts Asian Antagonists From Green Ronin
Just in time to compliment the new Oriental Adventures, a creature book from Green Ronin is planned that will provide all the beasts an Asian campaign could need. Called Jade Dragons and Hungry Ghosts, the book is a grand collaborative effort, boasting artists like Quinton Hoover and Tony DiTerlizzi, and the writing talents of Wolfgang Baur, Chris Pramas, Erik Mona, Steven E. Schend, and an introduction and featured monster by David "Zeb" Cook. Listen to what lurks inside:

Forest demons, heavenly dragons, shapeshifting foxes, and hungry ghosts thirsty for revenge -- all stalk forth from the legends of Asia! Surprise players with bell spirits, bat-ninjas, demonic oni, the Chinese Phoenix, and the legendary Monkey King! These all-new monsters thrive in every environment from bamboo forests to samurai castles, from raging oceans to mist-enshrouded mountains, and from the depths of Hell to the harmony of Heaven.
The 64 page book will arrive this September, and retail for $14.95.

Rune Encounters Appearing in Magazines This Summer
Atlas Games recently announced that two Rune "cushion" encounters will be published in magazines this summer. Game Trade Monthly (the Alliance distributor catalog) will have an introductory encounter, Goblin Goodies Galore, and Games Unplugged will present A Test of Viking Virtue. Both should be available in time for GenCon, and are written by Rune line editor Michelle Nephew.

11:56 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Roleplaying Tips Weekly #84
This week's issue presents ten tips from a first-time gamemaster, many of which really took me back. There's also an excellent guide to naming magical weapons, and some thoughts on fleshing out the gods of your world's pantheon.

Monday, July 23, 2001
3:56 AM: Demian Katz says...
Car Accidents on the Rise in Invisible City
Invisible City Productions has just released their latest downloadable monthly game, and it comes at a good time to relieve the tension of all the frustrated drivers who had to survive the long road trip home from some vacation or other. The game, called Yield, takes place in the future and can be played by two to three players. The object is to crash into other people's cars without dying in the process, and the whole thing is played with the help of a checkerboard and a bunch of tiles (which are provided on the site). If you want a quick, simple dose of Car Wars-style death and destruction, be sure to check this one out. It is free, after all.

Sunday, July 22, 2001
4:08 AM: Demian Katz says...
Jungle of Horrors Released by Project Aon
The eighth Lone Wolf gamebook, Jungle of Horrors, has just been released by Project Aon. This is something of a milestone release for the organization, as it is the first to feature Gary Chalk's original illustrations in addition to Joe Dever's text. The announcement of the new release (posted on the kai-wisdom mailing list) suggests that "more exciting things [are] coming soon." I certainly wouldn't be too surprised if this means that the books currently offered as "public previews" will soon be upgraded to fully illustrated releases. Once that happens, it will be even more exciting to relive the series online. OgreCave will, of course, keep you posted.

Friday, July 20, 2001
11:24 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
StuperPowers Deluxe! On The Way
Where can you play a superhero with a completely useless power... and enjoy it? Why, StuperPowers, of course. The new deluxe game from Wingnut will include "100 fully playable powers, the all-new character advancement rules, a full-length, four-adventure campaign, Live-Action rules, and the kid-tested, mother-approved INSTAVENTURES! Random Scenario Generation system." Sweet. I'll dust off Pollen Boy (literally) and be ready for the October release. I'm sure I've got $16.95 around here somewhere...

Thursday, July 19, 2001
11:29 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Complete Origins 2001 Coverage Feature
We've created a special archive of all our coverage of Origins 2001, plus some brand new photos. Check 'em out!

Wednesday, July 18, 2001
11:57 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Vortex Site Up
At long last, FFG has a web page for Vortex, the new effort from the team that gave you DiskWars. Check out some disk im- sorry, tile images, download sample tiles and rules, and generally sit back and admire.

Tuesday, July 17, 2001
2:14 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Cavemen Available Once Again
Wingnut Games wants everyone to know that the second printing of Land of Og is back in stock. So if you couldn't find it before, try again -- it's worth the effort.

Freeport Enters Arcanis: the World of Shattered Empires
As we mentioned a while back, Paradigm Concepts and Green Ronin have come to an agreement that will allow GR's City of Freeport to be featured in Paradigm's setting, Arcanis: the World of Shattered Empires campaign setting. It was more recently decided that Freeport, which earned GR an Origins Award for Death in Freeport, would be more seamlessly adapted into Arcanis by having William Simoni write the section regarding the archipelago where Freeport is located. Simoni was the author of Madness in Freeport, and as such, is highly qualified for this task. In a press release, Chris Pramas, founder of Green Ronin and creator of Freeport, said "I think this sort of alliance is really what the Open Gaming License is all about. If some of our fans discover Arcanis and some of Paradigm's fans discover Freeport, everyone wins in the end." Arcanis: the World of Shattered Empires will be decribed in the Codex Arcanis, 192 pages of D20 pleasure scheduled for an August release.

First Look at Bluffside
Thunderhead Games has a preview of the excellent cover art for their impending release of Bluffside: City on the Edge. Apparently, this city is nestled on the edge of a massive crater formed by an asteroid's impact. So, my question is: how many dice would you roll for that kind of damage? ;-)

4:14 AM: Demian Katz says...
Rangers of Taradoin Reach Barnes & Noble
Sean Robert-Shaw, an active member of the Lone Wolf community and the author of several interesting online gamebooks, has just announced that Barnes & Noble is now offering his new role-playing game, Rangers of Taradoin, for sale. The book will offer gamebook-style solitaire play as well as traditional multiplayer adventuring, so it should appeal to almost any fantasy gamer. If this release is a success, more will follow, so if you're a gamebook fan, you'd be wise to support the effort by picking up a copy. If you don't like Barnes & Noble, just wait a little while -- the book should soon be available practically everywhere.

Monday, July 16, 2001
11:54 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Dogs of War Set Loose
Earlier today, Troll Lord Games announced its newest D20 adventure, Felsentheim: Dogs of War, is available to the gaming public. The adventure is part three of the Death on the Treklant trilogy. This time, the characters are "fleeing the goblin war parties on their trail, hoping to reach the safety of the borderland town of Felsentheim. For if they do not, no alarm will sound to harken the coming of the Dogs of War!" The adventure is for 4-8 characters of levels 3-5. Us Cave Dwellers will check it out, and let you know what we think.

3:28 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
"You got GURPS in my Blue Planet!" "You got Blue Planet in my GURPS!"
Continuing the quest to bring their Generic Universal Role-Playing System to as many players as possible, Steve Jackson Games announced their agreement with Fantasy Flight Games to produce GURPS Blue Planet. As the sourcebook is just getting underway, no release date was given, but you can bet the world of Poseidon will be getting the full treatment.

3:11 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Rate Those Minis!
You've seen Hot or Not, right? The site where you judge everyone by their looks? Well, now there's Cool Mini or Not, which asks you to do the same for painted miniatures. You can even send in a picture of your own artistic endeavors to be rated by the masses. So, what's next? Nifty Dicebag or Not? Charming Character or Not? I'll hold out for Gruesome Death Story or Not. Some of my players would get high ratings. :-)

2:48 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
The Latest Tips from Roleplaying Tips Weekly
Has real life been taking too much of your time lately? Me too. Consequently, I've fallen a bit behind in my issues of Roleplaying Tips. Let's play some catch-up:

  • Issue #81explores ways to liven up your cities, and also gives some great ideas on Planning A Group's Combat Tactics.
  • Issue #82 has more tips for fleshing out your cities.
  • The latest edition, Issue #83, explores how Play By Email (PBeMs) compares to other RPGs.

Saturday, July 14, 2001
7:57 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Mid-July D20 Roundup
With the excitement of Origins all wrapped up, and GenCon just around the corner, a lot has been happening in D20. Let's get to it.

  • Pinnacle released Deadlands D20 at Origins, and are so on top of things, they've already posted some errata.
  • Mystic Eye has been busy posting freebies for Pit of Loch-Durnan and a high level mini-adventure called A Lost Art which was in the premier issue of Gaming Frontiers Magazine.
  • Not to be left out, Wizards has posted web enhancements for both Tome & Blood, including a revised spell sheet, and one for Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, which details 20+ new encounter areas.
  • Sovereign Stone, created by Larry Elmore, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and coming soon to a D20 system near you, has posted an 11 page preview of next month's campaign book release.
  • Green Ronin's upcoming Hell in Freeport is, according to them, "even more of an epic than we expected." The book has been expanded by 24 pages, including an eight page full-color map insert, all for the slight price increase from $14.95 to $18.95. Hell should be unleashed at the end of this month.
  • Living Imagination announced plans to produce the D20 sourcebook Broadsides!, which will detail naval adventuring. An assortment of new skills, prestige classes, feats, and monsters will accompany ship design rules and sample advenutres.

Friday, July 13, 2001
1:37 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
This Could Be Your New Religion
So I found this flyer at Origins for something called Morton's List. The web site loads slower than ass, so I'll quote you some of the flyer first: "There is no board to play on, unless you consider the Earth beneath your feet to be one. Morton's List is not a role-playing, card, or computer game, so put all that bulls___ off to the side. [...] Play begins when a crew comes together and agrees to let Morton's List give them a randomly determined Quest to do together for an hour. Anything and everything you could ever think of to do for fun (and MORE) is covered by one of these Quests. Some Quests are chaotic, some social, others physical, spiritual, good, or evil... [...] you and your crew could find yourselves wearing costumes while sneaking into a community pool after hours, playing a board game at a strip club, or creating a highly volatile chemical mixture." The only scary thing here is an apparent connection with the Insane Clown Posse, but this should at least be fun to read. The game should be releasing today.

Wednesday, July 11, 2001
1:02 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Origins 2001: The Final Mopup
Let's hope so, anyway. I caught a wicked cold halfway through the con and it's still messing with me. Don't sleep with your head too close to the AC, kids.

Series Archer Delayed
I don't know if any of the rest of you remember back when AEG put up this enigmatic web teaser for a spies-and-conspiracies game called Series Archer... anyway, I talked briefly with John Zinser at the con and he says the Warlord CCG is doing so well that they're putting off Series Archer until November or March 2002, so it can get the attention it deserves. He also disabused me of my notion, and God only knows where I got the idea, that Series Archer is a card game - it's actually a fast-playing RPG.

SnarfQuest: The Card Game First Look
The Agents of Gaming folks have done quite a job packaging this game. Every $10 deck comes with a Snarf lead, or one of the other characters - a different lead to match each different card-border color. The deck is the same in every color, but each player can own a different color deck for when you collaboratively construct the play deck. That's right, it's a one-big-deck game, but everybody can have their own say as to what goes in. The stone soup theory. The basic rules reminded Allan a little of the Tomb Raider CCG, which I haven't seen. The leads are part of the game, as the cards form a storyline and Snarf moves around on it. Cards never go into your hand, but instead go into the storyline, and you control Snarf on your turn, trying to claim the good cards for yourself and send clunkers to your enemy. Cards can block your movement in the storyline until someone activates them, some of them have global effects... ultimately, you're trying to score the most Treasure cards. We definitely look forward to playing this one, although our Elmore-signed cards may be going into cold storage with Allan's old issues of Dragon if he has anything to say about it.

Lemmings: The Migration Playtest
Before leaving the con, I actually managed to play one of the umpteen little card games I picked up, and it was this Cheapass-style joint from d20ers Vengeance Games that got the treatment. We played with the full allotment of six players, trying to be the last one in the game with any surviving lemmings. Some of the cards are very, very funny, but on the whole it felt a little bit soulless and random. To begin, I just kind of picked somebody to poke first, and then it was poke-poke-poke-poke-poke until somebody won. If you don't have the cards in your hand to deal with a given problem, you're pretty much screwed. So, lots and lots of luck in the game and not much skill. "Deep" is definitely not the word I'd use to describe this game, but when all is said and done, I'd probably play it again. It's only five bucks, so if the thought of rescuing a few stampeding lemmings with an overzealous crossing guard appeals to you, this is your kind of cheap thrill.

Tuesday, July 10, 2001
9:17 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Musical Chairs at Wizards
There's been some job switching at Wizards of the Coast. Chris Perkins, former Star Wars Gamer and Star Wars Insider Editor-in-Chief moved into the Creative Director position for Wizards of the Coast. Dave Gross left his spot as Editor-in-Chief of Dragon Magazine after a five year stint to take Chris' place. Moving into Dave's place at the Dragon's head is Jesse Decker, after working at Topdeck Magazine and the WotC website.

4:00 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Torg Blow-Out
The High Lords lost their lease! Every alternate reality must go! At least that's what I envision as a good sales pitch for West End Games' big summer Torg sale. The main set is on sale for $10, Drama Decks are a mere $3, and anything else from the game is $2. Torg is a great system, breaking new ground when first released in 1990, and I still maintain my Torg campaign between D&D 3 sessions. Head over to the sale, and get 'em while they're extremely old and discontinued.

Monday, July 09, 2001
2:22 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Catching Up With Origins 2001
First, a correction: it's Risk 2210 A.D., not 2101 A.D. But what's 109 years between friends, eh? Still no page about this one on the AH web site.

Deadlands D20 Surfaces
Yes, it's printed, it was at the show. The cover doesn't look like your conventional Deadlands stuff - it's brown, it has a portrait of a boy gunslinger and a girl huckster, and the huckster's cards look like they're stuck together with bubblegum (magic, I imagine). I didn't inspect this one closely, but looks like it should be in stores soon, with the very intriguing occult-meets-WWII Weird Wars D20 sourcebook debuting at Gen Con.

Just Tell Mom You're Collecting Books Now
The good folks at Anoch Game Systems came out of nowhere at last year's Origins with Mystick: Domination, a fine card game with Tarot-inspired mechanics and beautiful artwork culled from actual classic paintings of the Rennaissance and after. Back then, they said they were working on a Mystick RPG built around competition. This year, they showed prototypes of the "trading book game" that evolved out of that concept. It's called Avatar: The Chosen (their website is still calling it the Mystick Pocket RPG as of now), and it will ship next April or something, according to Anoch's booth reps. It's a combat game in which your character is a stack of books, each book representing an aspect of your character, and when you get smacked, you turn the page. If the base book for your character class closes, you're dead. They said they're taking lots of inspiration from computer and console RPGs, which are of course very different from the paper variety. It sounds to me like they're crossing it with Lost Worlds or something. This will be one to check out, as is the current Mystick Companion standalone expansion set for Mystick. (By the way, they say they will still eventually do a conventional RPG on the Mystick theme.)

Later, I'll give you my first impressions of the SnarfQuest Card Game, a playtest report on Lemmings: The Migration, and some more rambling. Cheerio!

10:44 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Third Edition Ravenloft Products Emerge from the Mists
The Kargatane, official website of D20 Ravenloft, has recently whispered of other product plans by White Wolf's Arthaus team. After the initial hardcover Ravenloft book in October, Arthaus will reveal Secrets of the Dread Realms, 72 pages of DM-only information, including magic, NPCs, and other info. That will be followed by Denizens of Darkness, a 150 page creature compendium exclusively for Ravenloft. In fact, many of the creatures will be from the Ravenloft Monstrous Compendiums of second edition. Thus, the Mists are returning to D&D. I know my players will be hiding come October.

Saturday, July 07, 2001
1:42 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
*****Live from Origins 2001:*****
The Year of the Hex

It started when Eric got all excited about designing an Icehouse game on hex paper at our game night. Then people on my favorite BBS started asking around about where they could get hex paper. Now we've got Fantasy Flight, a company as apparently committed to round things as a company could be, doing the Tom Jolly-designed Vortex, and Precedence publishing Sack Armies. They both have units and terrain made of hexagonal tiles. They both have units with a bunch of numbers in their corners, and special rules. They both have a rule that says you can't move hexes so they'll split off from the group. They are actually fairly different when you get down to the combat mechanic - Sack Armies has lots of luck in theirs, Vortex has none - and I'm not sure about the win condition. But they'll both be hitting stores this month. There's still Setllers, of course, and the new English edition of Starfarers of Catan has plenty of hex action. And then I found this little game called Chobolo, which has - get ready - hex board pieces which are themselves made of hexes. What does it all mean??

Actually, Chobolo has been on the market for a while now, so it doesn't really contribute to the Year of the Hex. It does, however, remind me somewhat of the online CCG Sanctum, with its interplay between board events and spell cards, and aspects of it reminded me of Talisman (not in a bad way, really), Dark Tower, and this weird old computer game Waving Hands (a story in itself: your wizard has two hands, and certain sequences of gestures cast spells on your opponents. Sequences can overlap and even nest inside of each other, so if you're not careful, you'll end up doing a lot of things accidentally. Chobolo echoes this in its mana-gathering for casting spells - sort of a push-and-pop system, for you coders). Mostly, though, it reminded me of something that's pretty fun and pretty cheap, so check it. He also apparently has a game called The Slums, born of the comment "When we play Monopoly, how come I can't build a crackhouse next to your Park Place hotel and drive down the value?" Worth a look.

Z-G First Look
Well, my first look, anyway. I was worried that there would be essentially no strategy in this game, when I learned that combats get resolved by comparing the colors on card edges. However, there seems to be something smart buried in the way your "deck" is all the parts of your robot, and you hand-pick a few of those parts to take actions with (and be vulnerable) each turn. The bots themselves are decent, but not nearly as nice as the Virtua On action figure I got last week for just a few dollars more. And I have observed first hand that the game tends to attract nine-year-old boys who like to screech. So, who knows which way this one'll go. Click here, yay.

I'm Saving Up For The Jet Fighter
A guy at the Precedence booth, where they're showing the new Rifts CCG as well as lots of Sack Armies and a Wheel of Time CCG expansion, talked to me very excitedly about Precedence Points, a system that turns your CCG boosters into Kool-Aid packages. Maybe that's not the most precise way to put it. Here: Save the Precedence Points on your boosters and such, and get stuff. Save enough of them, and you'll be able to do things like trade them in for a place in the World Championships for your game. He seemed to be very into the fact that all the games use the same points: you can buy a little Rifts and put the points toward Sack Armies. Maybe none of this is a new idea, but I haven't heard of it being done before. Precedence also seems to be serious about providing prize support to tournaments and retailers, in an age where CCG prize-package price tags have been steadily rising.

Decorating Tips For The Tron-Damaged
When we get our Origins photos up, you'll see what I'm on about here. These folks at Aldebaran Imports have made a nice little positional strategy game called Vandorian Phlanx. From what I was told about gameplay, it could be played on a six-cent printed piece of paper with some cheap glass stones... but it isn't. Instead, it's played with custom plastic pieces on a raised plastic board that sells for $49. They can hook together, and there are rules for transporting between boards. Oh, and by the way, the $50 ones are the ones that don't light up. But they'll sell you a circuit board with the LEDs for you to pop in. The LEDs tell you when a piece is surrounded... which you can kinda tell by looking... but, uh, it's nice to have the lights too. Isn't it? Yehhhhhhsss. Time will tell, but this looks like another company that has failed to learn the Lesson of Cheapass.

Hungry Hunters
Also appearing in the these-guys-have-a-bright-future-if-they-don't-go-bankrupt department is OSTA Productions and their lavish board game Nomad. (Oh, hey, I forgot, this one has hexes too. Stop the madness!) In your green-pyramid-with-cutouts box, you get a big fake-leather board that wraps up to contain everything, a bunch of cloth player mats that also have little ties to wrap stuff up, color counters, laser-etched wood pieces (swank!), and some cards (which aren't full color... I don't think). This all adds up to what looks like a fun 2- to 3-hour board game about nomadic Paleolithic tribes in search of food. You can be Hunters or Gatherers, which each work differently, or you can be Raiders and try your luck at living off the others. Looks like fun, and they're picking up distribution from Atlas Games and others, but gosh, I hope their credit cards have iron stomachs.

More Quick Hits

  • Rolled Bones. How do they print full-color art on the sides of those dice? What does the stacking mean? And why did the guy actually admit to me that playing time is "five minutes to three hours"?

  • Tenjo is a beautiful, Samurai-themed historical war board game that actually looks like something the Emperor would have on his wall. Fans of Axis and Allies, or that kind of thing, will get into the game's mix of intense intra-provincial jockeying between tokens representing thousands of samurai, and inter-province travel by the daimyo. This makes for a nice game-and-metagame mix. I suggested that each clash between tokens could be played out in a game of Shogun: Total War on the PC - that's the kind of scale we're talking about - but, er, maybe that would take too long.

  • I'm not sure what to make of this story: Cutters Guild is showing Deathstalkers, a 600-page (tiny type, too!) fantasy RPG that ships in a binder. "This has everything you could possibly want," they told me. Except a quickly compelling game world, or anything that distinguishes it from a million other fantasy games, but hey. They're already selling a 60-or-so page expansion that slips right into the 3-ring binder (pages are mylar-reinforced so they won't tear out!). I started to think that these guys were headed down the same let's-print-ourselves-into-the-poorhouse road that so many other companies have limped down before... and I wondered at how they had gotten all the way to Origins with their everything-plus-the-neighbor's-kitchen-sink design philosophy (I mean, didn't we all go through that phase? These guys at the booth were pretty young, too)... and then I noticed that the binder they were selling, in a corrugated white box, for $50 (show special!) was also on sale on CD-ROM for $9. That gave me a little hope - you all know how I feel about the prospects of publishing electronically. Hopefully, these kids will figure out how best to spend their remaining money before it's too late...

Friday, July 06, 2001
8:23 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
*****Live from Origins 2001:*****
Origins Awards Winners

We probably won't be first online with this, but I sat there and wrote them all down in my Palm, in Graffiti, and now I'm going to type them all AGAIN so you'd all better appreciate it or I'll turn this thing around and go home.

And the Origins Award winners for the year 2000 are...

  • Best Game Accessory: Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming
  • Best Game-related short fiction: "Matt & Gilly's Big Date," Dork Tower
  • Best Game-Related Novel: Dragons of a Fallen Sun
  • Best Historical board game: Axis and Allies: Europe
  • Best Abstract board game: Icehouse: the Martian Chess Set (yaaaay! oops, sorry, back to editorial impartiality now)
  • Best Historical Miniatures Rules: Fields of Honor
  • Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Miniatures Rules: Mage Knight: Rebellion
  • Best Historical Figure Miniatures Series: Hammer's Hellhounds (US Paratroopers)
  • Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Figure Miniature: Beholder
  • Best Vehicular Miniature: Shadowsword Titan Hunter
  • Best Amateur Game Periodical: Alarums & Excursions
  • Best Professional Game Periodical: Pyramid
  • Best Play-by-Mail Game: Starweb
  • Best Fantasy/sci-fi board game: The Great Brain Robbery
  • Best Traditional Card Game: Chrononauts
  • Best Card game expansion/supplement: Brawl Club Foglio
  • Best Trading Card Game: Sailor Moon CCG
  • Best Graphics for Board game: The Hills Rise Wild!
  • Best Graphics for Card game: Brawl Club Foglio
  • Best Graphics for RPGs: D&D3 Monster Manual
  • Best RPG Adventure: Death in Freeport
  • Best RPG Supplement: GURPS Steampunk
  • Best RPG: D&D3

Tomorrow, some of my favorite small-press finds. Oh, and about Bionicle: a couple days before I came out here, I actually saw a big ol' 4x4 truck with a camper shell driving around Berkeley, that was all painted up with Bionicle promo graphics. Lego is targeting... the college crowd with these things?

Oh, and I sat three rows behind Origins special guest Julie Caitlin Brown on the plane. She was in first class. She has nice shoulders.

3:16 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
*****Live from Origins 2001:*****
Journeyman Stops Suckin' The Collectibility Bong

Journeyman Press, publishers of last year's Scooby Doo and Age of Empires CCGs, is showing three standalone games here at Origins, and at least two of them look funny and compelling. The first, Zombies!, looks like a cross between Space Hulk and Wiz-War, in which players compete to kill the most zombies in a Hollywood-action-movie-esque downtown, or just get to the helipad and get the hell out. And then, there is the fabled eBay card game. It's real, it looks pretty simple and amusing, and it has art from the Nodwick guy. Another, more family-market-oriented game, titled Peasantry and apparently loosely based on Canasta, I didn't get a look at. It's great to see more companies moving back to self-contained games that are fast and fun for multiple players.

New Avalon Hill Titles Have Eerie Unpresence
I've spotted two boxes, both with little blue Hasbro stamps on the sides and big AH insignia on the covers. One said History of the World on it, and looks to be a straight redesign of the old AH standby. The other, Risk 2101 A.D., is in fact an update of good old Risk, that's playable either as straight Risk or as a futuristic world with underwater cities, multiple unit types, and even resource management(!). At least, that's how the WotC guy described it, and he said he wasn't fully sure. Both games seem to have sold out from all dealers at the show before I got here...

Troll Lord Is Doggin' You
Felsentheim, Dogs of War! Sure sounds exciting; can't say I've gotten a close look yet. But they have it here at the show, and it's a D20 adventure that apparently concludes a trilogy that began back before D20 even existed. The whole trilogy will be D20 soon, they told me. Also on deck from Troll Lord are more of their controversial modules on CD-ROM, but they'll be in nice boxes now, which may mollify reluctant retailers. Finally, they have a thirty-dollar hardback sourcebook coming out in December called Codex Germania that's all about... yes... the Norse (we told you about it a while back). If you haven't got enough Viking roleplaying now, then by Valhalla-or-whatever, you will soon.

Quick D20 Bits

  • Mongoose Publishing has their Slayer's Guides out at the Wizard's Attic booth, for Hobgoblins and for Gnolls. Both are slim and affordable, and have considerable details about the cultures of these species, which your players can ignore as they move in for the senseless kill.
  • Vengeance Games has two of their Friday Night Six-Pack packs out now, for a grand total of 36 premade characters, if you count each of the three levels they come in. I have no idea if these are new. Also, they have some neat color map-mats called Paper Passages. Yay.
  • Green Ronin is showing the first of their Legions of Hell creature books, which has something in it called a Knocker. Nobody have a pair of these in an encounter, please; too obvious. Hell in Freeport should be out for Gen Con, with the Monster Slayer's Handbook classbook thingy possibly as early as October, then the Secrets of Freeport sourcebook in November.

The Origins Awards ceremony is in a couple hours, I'll try to make it in. Do you need a ticket? Damn I hate tickets.

9:37 AM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
*****Live from Origins 2001:*****
Big Ups To The Columbus Chamber Of Commerce
Or whoever's responsible for making this convention center suck so much less. Last year's site for cheap chinese food and expensive sodas is now a nice Internet cafe from which I can not only post to OgreCave but, since I forgot my cell phone charger again, actually communicate with the outside world. And there is much to tell from here at Origins 2001 already, including but not limited to a multi-level late-night Giant Icehouse game that gave new meaning to the term "throwdown." But anyway:

Avalanche Press Brings First of 3 Viking Sourcebooks for D20
The one that's actually here on the show floor is Greenland Saga: The Lost Norse Colony, and the one that might be out for Gen Con is Ragnarok: Tales of the Norse Gods. A third sourcebook (all three of these, by the by, are thinnish guys like AP's earlier Last Days of Constantinople, one of the more interesting d20 books so far in my opinion) will be out, um, sometime, and then maybe a bound collection of the trilogy? (That last is speculation on my part.)

Why Did I Not Even Notice This?
White Wolf has a huge new game out on the floor, and this time, it looks like it might actually not suck. At all. It's called Exalted, for those of you who are like me and are blind to the apparently massive amounts of hype WW did for this game... in the backs of their own books, that is. Its lead designer Greg Grabowski, a personable man who thinks monkeys are always funny and therefore clearly has his finger on the pulse of the American psyche, describes it as "fantasy for people who hate fantasy ... no dwarves or elves or throwing the ring in the mountain again, or any of that crap." It's all about epic ancient myths of the anime-influenced kickass variety, rather than the namby-pamby Joseph Campbell-esque stuff that's swept the Western world. The surprising number of you who voted "Mayan-Incan" in our old neglected-RPG-genres poll would do well to look at this one.
(Note from Sven: The Exalted website has posted new fiction today from the game's prologue. And Mike, you didn't notice Exalted because you rarely role-play, buddy. :-)

Early Candidates For Scariest New CCG
Upper Deck Entertainment, the fine folks who brought us the Survivor CCG (*shudder*), have teamed up with Lego on a property that was already plenty weird enough, but whatever - Bionicle: Quest For The Masks has a bunch of stat numbers that are all multiples of 100 for no apparent reason, and robots that are trying to collect masks, um, so that they will have something to stick to their heads. I don't know. Those Lego people are Danish or something, and therefore inscrutable. I admit I haven't looked at my free sample booster (which feels like it has about 6 cards in it), so maybe it's decent. It's just sad to be reminded of how the mighty Lego has fallen...

More later... I'm paying 15 cents a minute here...

Thursday, July 05, 2001
10:18 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Fast Forward Entertainment Announces D20 Products
Fast Forward Entertainment, fronted by TSR alums Timothy Brown, Lester Smith, and James Ward, is diving into the D20 market with three upcoming adventures. Fortress of the Ogre Chieftain(3-5 characters, 4th-6th level) is set in a haunted fortress packed with -- you guessed it -- ogres. Sven approves. Temple of the Troll God(4-7 characters, 4th-6th level) begins with an omnious gathering of troll forces. Slave Pits of the Goblin King(5-9 characters, 4th-6th level) places the goblins in a heap of trouble, as they've kidnapped a noble maiden that "sets wheels of empire into motion." Each of the adventures focuses on one of the Green Races, the unsavory humanoids that we humans fear so much.

1:27 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Hope you had a good Fourth. Let's see, what's going on...

Sack Armies Headed to Stores
Tyranny Games announced that Sack Armies is ready to ship to retailers. The final, high-quality color printing should be quite a sight. We'll have more on Sack Armies soon.

Warhammer 40K Preview Decks Available for Download
Sabertooth Games has posted preview decks for the Warhammer 40,000 CCG. Decks for the Orcs and the Space Marines can be downloaded from the company's site. The cards aren't finalized, but this early preview should give us a sense of how the game works.

Tuesday, July 03, 2001
1:36 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Mongoose Linked to Demonology. Platypus Also Suspected.
This September, Mongoose Publishing will unveil Demonology - The Dark Road,the first of their Encyclopaedia Arcane series of D20 sourcebooks. Mongoose deserves some applause for delving into territory that has traditionally been avoided. The company's site has already posted the cover art and a preview chapter to give readers a small taste. The sourcebook series will continue in November with Necromancy - Beyond the Grave.Looks like they've got the usually-forbidden bases covered.

Cover of LotR board game Lord of the Rings Moves to FFG
There was considerable concern in the gaming community when Wizards of the Coast decided they would no longer be the U.S. publisher of Reiner Knizia's outstanding Lord of the Rings board game. Today, Fantasy Flight Games announced they would take over publication of the game, much to the relief of Tolkien fans. Additionally, FFG will publish the board game's first expansion this October, Friends and Foes.In the same month, FFG will release The Hobbit board game, designed by former WotC employees Micheal Stern and Keith Meyers and illustrated by acclaimed Tolkien artist Ted Nasmith. With these new game products, it should be a very Tolkien Halloween.

Monday, July 02, 2001
11:48 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Steve Perrin to Work with Green Ronin
Green Ronin has brought in Steve Perrin (of Runequest fame) to take on the Monster Slayer's Handbook, set for an early '02 release. Green Ronin also had this to say about the project:

The Monster Slayerís Handbook will be the first of Green Roninís Classbooks. It will introduce a new core class to the d20 System, plus a bevy of new equipment, prestige classes, and organizations.
New core class? Hmmmm...

11:14 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
No Time to Blink
At Mystic Eye Games, things look rather busy. While another web enhancement has gone up for those who already own Pit of Loch-Durnan, the company plans to post two enhancements for owners of their Nightmares & Dreams creature book: a printable sheet of full color monster counters, and a mini-adventure using one of the N&D beasts. As if that weren't enough, MEG announced their product schedule through February 2002. We'll bring you more details on each product as it grows nearer, but here's a quick look at the plan:

  • Mystic Warriors (08/01) - New feats, cults, techniques, and 20+ prestige classes for warriors.
  • The Hunt: Rise of Evil: Core Book 1: Land of Dreams & Nightmares (08/01) - "Welcome to the world of Gothos. ...a strange, gothic land that is greatly effected by the nightmares and dreams of earthly sleepers."
  • Of Places Most Foul: Adventure Collection (09/01) - Ten short adventures based in the world of Gothos.
  • Nightmares & Dreams II: Don't Fall Asleep (10/01) - MEG's second creature collection. "This one gets even darker."
  • The Hunt: Rise of Evil: Core Book 2: Guilds and Adventurers (11/01) - Looks into the guilds and cults of Gothos, with plenty of prestige classes for all.
  • The Witch of Loch-Durnan (12/01) - Return to the hamlet of Loch-Durnan in a mid to high level adventure.
  • The Hunt: Rise of Evil Core Book: The Pantheon and Pagan Faiths (01/02) - The gods and pagan cults of Gothos.
  • Dire Port: City of Dark Dreams (02/02) - A fully-detailed city in the forested kingdom of Dunreth. "You can always use another city." Ain't that the truth.

New Race Described at Misguided Games
The latest race to join the Children of the Sun RPG are the Hu Lenkra, barbaric warriors who may remind you of the bear-people from The Thirteenth Warrior. There's some interesting ideas regarding their society.


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