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What source gets quoted most frequently during your game sessions?
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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
(11/7/08)
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)
(10/22/04)
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Archive highlights
GAMA Trade Show 2008 report, part 2
(4/28/08)
GAMA Trade Show 2008 report, part 1
(4/24/08)
Frag Beta Capsule Review (4/14/01)
Battle Cattle Minis Preview (2/28/01)

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Unplugged Gaming News And Views
 
Friday, August 31, 2001
10:57 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Give Your Characters A Dancing Lesson
Atlas Games announced the next product in their Penumbra line of D20 adventures, The Last Dance by Chris Aylott. In this scenario, adventurers get pulled into a ghostly dance from the past, and must change history or become permanent members of the performance. Boasting an artifact that amplifies magic, a creature that feeds on it, and sorcerous music as well, characters are sure to get their hit point's worth. Arriving in November, the 40 page adventure will be for levels 4-6, and retail for $9.95.

The Game In The Brown Paper Wrapper
What kind of RPG is so over the edge, pushing the boundaries so far, that it wasn't announced ahead of time and won't be in stores? It's described as a "16-page book ... in a brown wrapper that's covered with warnings." Vigilante, aimed at liberal-minded adult gamers, isn't even trying to get onto store shelves. Instead, Steve Jackson Games is selling it exclusively through their online store, though you may be able to get one at DragonCon or WorldCon this weekend. If you dare! (**cue spooky music**)

Thursday, August 30, 2001
11:03 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Hasbro Rearranging Things Again
Hasbro, not content to stop fiddling with things, is making some minor changes in Wizards of the Coast's upper management. Here's a quote from the press release:

Dave Wilson, currently the President of Hasbro Games, now takes on added responsibility overseeing the Games segment made up of Hasbro Games and Wizards of the Coast. Vince Caluori, Wizards of the Coast's President and Chief Operating Officer, will report directly to Mr. Wilson... Wizards of the Coast and Tiger Electronics will continue to operate out of their Seattle and Chicago offices, respectively.
So Hasbro has officially established a chain of command that starts with them. Will this have any significant effect? We shall see. In the meantime, WotC's Ryan Dancey has offered his thoughts on the D20 OGL discussion group:
...Hasbro for its part has treated Wizards with great respect. It has asked Wizards' opinion on a variety of topics, and has listened more often than you might expect. It has also required Wizards to conform to a level of fiscal discipline that Wizards sought but never achieved as a private company, and that has been hard on everyone involved. Hasbro has given Wizards more than adequate room to demonstrate that it can and should remain an independent, autonomous entity. Wizards' success or failure in achieving that goal is almost completely due to its own efforts and decisions, rather than some top-down meddling by suits from Rhode Island.

In fact, if there was ever a person who was a better fit for the gaming industry as CEO of the "biggest company" than Peter Adkison, that person might just be Alan Hassenfeld [CEO of Hasbro], who is very much a big geek just like the rest of us who delights in play, imagination and creativity.

Wizards of the coast has more employees than it did before Pokemon. It has more revenue than it did before Pokemon. It has more resources than it did before Pokemon. Being bought by Hasbro has had less effect on Wizards than the first seven digit purchase order from Wal*Mart did. Pokemon's decline is having more of an effect on Wizards than any request or demand on the part of Hasbro corporate ever has. And Wizards trajectory forward is being determined primarily by decisions made by Wizards, by Wizards managers, than by Hasbro.

Cautious concern seems to be the prevalent feeling in the gaming community right now, with everyone waiting for the other shoe to drop. Stay tuned.

Precedence Builds Sack Armies Into Website
Precedence has revamped their website, adding a brand new Sack Armies section. Aside from complete rules, a kids version, battlemats, and other goodies, there's a searchable gallery of tokens and rulings database, an extremely handy tool that's already surprised me with a ruling I wasn't aware of.

Wednesday, August 29, 2001
11:07 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
More Conventions Looming
It's been pointed out to me that I failed to mention a game convention so close to my home, it could've pounced and used my intestines as a bow tie. ConQuest is taking place in Palo Alto, CA this weekend, and numerous companies are scheduled to be in attendance, including Steve Jackson Games, Wingnut Games, and the Wizard's Attic guys. I just might make it out there, depending on how the cursed house painting goes.

9:36 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Conventions Looming on Horizon
Just when you thought the cons were done and you could settle into your normal routine, a new swarm of 'em arrives to lure you out into the light once again.

  • DragonCon strikes this weekend, August 31 - September 3 in beautiful downtown Atlanta. Wish I were going again this year, but alas, I cannot.
  • Troll Lord Games is holding Troll Kon LVII at the Family Games Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, on October 5 - 7. Though a smaller event, Troll Kon boasts a $1,000 Magic tournament, RPGA games of D&D 3, and "a First Edition AD&D game run by Ernie Gygax."
  • FlatCon, happening September 22 - 23 in Bloomington, IL, already has some impressive guests: Gary Gygax, Lee Bansen (of Pinnacle), Rob Stone (of Citizen Games), and... uh... Chainmail Girl. So that's what her name is.
  • If you can't (or won't) leave the house, try CyberCon 2, the second occurance of the entirely online game convention, taking place October 19 - 21. CyberCon is now a quarterly event, so more than ever, you can get your gaming on without getting your clothes on.

Movie Diversion
We interrupt your regularly scheduled gaming to bring you this tidbit: if any of you were considering renting that recent Heath Ledger movie A Knight's Tale, read this review first. It may be more entertaining than the movie itself. The review title alone is worth the look.

9:00 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Early Preview of Victorian Age Vampire
White Wolf has set the release date for Victorian Age Vampire as October 2002. Can't wait for a look? Tough, the book doesn't exist yet. However, Justin Achilli's outline for authors is up for everyone to look at, and should stir up some excitement. Looks like it will be another winner.

Green Ronin Website Improvements
Green Ronin announced some impending improvements to the company's website: "Currently in development are an online store, an improved gallery, and a review tracking system so you can read what everybody has to say about our products before you buy them." In the meantime, Green Ronin is keeping busy by going to GenCon UK and continuing to roll out the D20 hits.

Map Tile Download
SkeletonKey Games, who specialize in magnetic map tiles, has a new map download you can grab. You can expect a new map each week, so keep checking back. These tile sets are great -- write on 'em with dry erase markers, adding pools of blood and dismembered limbs everywhere, then wipe 'em off. Gotta love it.

Monday, August 27, 2001
3:20 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
The Trouble With Harry
Two weeks ago I was all set to write this snarky post about how Richard Garfield had, in record time, become the Paul McCartney of gaming - alternating between Wings-esque abominations of pablum like What Were You Thinking? and Beatles Anthologies of retreaded former glories, like the Harry Potter CCG. Well, it turns out that Garfield's name doesn't appear anywhere in the credits of Harry Potter, despite the interview he did about it in an interior design magazine, of all places, and the fact that it is basically Magic Lite.

I thought there would be no game there at all, with the creatures game missing. Technically, there are creatures in Harry Potter, but all they really are is direct damage that recurs every turn until you kill them with a spell. The Items are enchantments, the Adventures are enchantments that say "your opponent suffers this until s/he does this, at which point this happens," and there are Wizard (character) cards that give you a special ability for the whole game. As far as the cards themselves, nearly all of the interest (for people familiar with Magic) is in the one-shot spells in your hand, and their special abilities. Truly an exception-based game. Given that the starter sets are static, small, and devoid of Items or Adventures - and that boosters cost $3.29 for just 11 cards - you could be forgiven for thinking the HP CCG was designed from the ground up to drive card sales, rather than create an interesting game framework. No more pretenses of being able to beat Mister Suitcase with a properly tuned starter.

But something is going on in Harry Potter. On one level, I say that because too many people, particularly women aged 18 to 25, are going gaga over it, but I have also found - yes, firsthand - that there is a there there, as far as game design. Firstly, lapsed Magic players should have a look at it to see how it simplifies some of the basic mechanics we take for granted. And it simplifies them in elegant and ingenious ways, not in Portal ways. You'll be breathing sighs of relief over some of them. Secondly, where are my NetRunner peeps at? Represent. Um, yeah, this game takes the quasi-resource-management in NR - namely, the management of your time in the form of turn actions - and ties it in nicely with the new life-points mechanic, which is your deck. Yes, decking is the only way to kill and die - therefore, the decision over whether to draw cards late in the game can be a matter of life and death as well as a matter of finally drawing that combo.

Then again, I actually thought there might have been an interesting game hiding somewhere in Pokemon, back when it was new. Fortunately, I had the wisdom not to buy any expansion cards, and therefore I was never disappointed. We'll have to see how Harry fares.

Thursday, August 23, 2001
9:15 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Fools' Paradise Coming Next Month
Principia Malefex, the RPG of gothic horror in modern Britain, has announced their next product to scare the wits out of your players:

The Fools' Paradise scenario supplement for Principia Malefex has gone to print and will be released at the start of September 2001, marking the first
release for the game since the line was relaunched in December 2000. Based loosely around the surburbs, it focuses on what goes on behind closed doors, and the culture of silence and non-interference that lets it continue.
The supplement includes six scenarios and new fiction, with a full-color cover by Jon Spelling.

12:20 AM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Munchkin Playtest Report
Munchkin is long. Or very, very random. Maybe the latter always leads to the former, I don't know. We played with four players, and although you should always factor in some inflation for a first game, it took in excess of two hours for someone to get their "character" from level 1 to level 10. Munchkin's design is similar to that of Chez Geek in that there isn't any designed-in gravity - the combined forces of randomness and players conspiring against the current leader can theoretically keep things going forever, especially if you have lots of players.

I was just down at Endgame chatting with folks, and John Wick's old article about reviews (now lost to the mists of paid-subscription-land) came up in conversation. Heads at Endgame agreed with Wick that opinion should be kept out of game reviews entirely, or at least cordonned off into a single paragraph at the end. I don't think I agree, but I will say that I came away from Munchkin wanting to write a bad review, despite the fact that I never got bored during those two hours, and actually laughed a lot. So now I just have no damned clue what my opinion is worth anyway.

But if it helps you make an informed purchasing decision any, I'll say this: two avowed fans of Chez Geek dropped out of our Munchkin game early, because the level of randomness made them feel powerless. This despite the fact that one of them had the "Chicken On Your Head" curse in his hand. Funny cards only go so far, I guess. So, this (Munchkin) is a more extreme version of that (CG). If you loved the concept when you heard it, and screw-your-neighbor games like Chez Geek don't piss you off, I'd recommend you go ahead and pick up Munchkin - on the person-hours-of-fun-per-dollar principle, it beats most of the movies you've seen lately. Just don't tell me you didn't know what you were getting into.

Wednesday, August 22, 2001
4:29 AM: Demian Katz says...
Rio Grande Announces Fall Releases
In a recent newsletter, Rio Grande Games laid out their plans for Fall releases. In addition to several titles which have been discussed before (Dvonn, Lord of the Rings: The Search, Shark and Where's Bob's Hat), the schedule includes a number of interesting new games that will see simultaneous U.S. and German releases. These include two $10 card games (Gnumies, David Parlett's game of partying aliens, and Gargon, in which players steal amulets from flying fantasy beasts), an environmentally-aware business game (Waste), a racing game which puts snowboarders under attack from Abominable Snowmen (The Yeti Cup) and Spies, Incorporated, a somewhat familiar yet interesting-sounding game of strategy and deduction designed by Wolfgang Kramer. Most of these titles should be out by October or November.

Tuesday, August 21, 2001
11:52 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Collectible Miniatures, True Believers!
Wiz Kids' kung fu is superior. Having just recently gained the license to make a CMG similar to Mage Knight that's based on DC Comics properties, they have now gained the license to do the same for Marvel Comics. The rules to the Marvel CMG will be written by the lead designer of D&D 3's Dungeon Master's Guide,Monte Cook. While the two games will be separate, and won't be compatible with Mage Knight or the upcoming Battletech CMG, the super-powered characters willbe able to take on each other. My god... it's like the Secret Warscombined with Crisis on Infinite Earths,only more expensive and painted in China.

While you wait for the Battletech CMG, DC CMG, and Marvel CMG, you can check out the beta rules for large scale Mage Knight battles (at the bottom of their downloads page). That's what I'm talkin' about. Massive warfronts of figures. Two hundred... and forty dollars... worth of Mage Knight. Awww yeaaah.

Adkison Buys Back Primal Order
Ryan Dancey posted this interesting tidbit to the OGL-D20 email list:

Peter [Adkison] recently signed a deal to take back the Primal Order from WotC. If he gets time in the next few years, I suspect he'll probably re-write parts of it and release it again.
In case you missed it, Primal Orderwas conceived as a "cap system" that would fit on top of (nearly) any RPG, fleshing out the rules for deities. With Primal Order,gods don't just think they're badasses, they are. No, really.

Games Unplugged Unchanged
The Games Unplugged website is still in a holding pattern, not showing anything more than the latest magazine cover. Oh, and a message saying "Come back in 5 days" that's been posted for going on 7 days now.

Monday, August 20, 2001
11:37 AM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Houston, We Have Denial
ICv2 brings the world an official statement from mega-distributor Diamond that they aren't interested in buying TSR. Of course, rumors have been flying at least since Origins about TSR getting sold, and any number of potential buyers have been discussed, so maybe Diamond just lost a bidding war. (Doing my part to keep the mill running... don't mind me...)

They're Baaaaaack
Marvel is getting back into CCGs. I also saw a headline somewhere that said they were profitable again. I guess this will take care of that.

Is That A Heat Dial Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?
I'm pretty sure this hasn't been all over the news already, anyway... WizKids just put up a page with a picture of the new Mage Knight-style BattleTech minis, and a whole lot of text, most of which seems to describe how much stuff is going to stay the same in the New Mech Order. [okay, so allan technically posted the link already - dammit] They've also posted an online-exclusive BattleTech short story.

Friday, August 17, 2001
11:02 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Eric Noah's D&D 3 Site Shutting Down
This just in: the biggest, and arguably best, site for D&D 3 and D20, Eric Noah's Unofficial D&D 3 News, is shutting down in the next few days. The invaluable resource and news site has lead the charge in all things related to D&D 3, and is thought by some industry insiders to wield more power than Wizards of the Coast's website. Here's a bit of the sad announcement posted on the site:

I will be closing down the site within the next few days. Several factors led me to this decision, and it's one that I make with some regret. I have enjoyed the past two years immensely, and I thank you for your patronage and support.

I'm sure some of you have questions ... I will say that it's NOT a) some tragedy or other big life change in my life, nor b) some WotC/D20/OGL conspiracy.

As to the future of the site, that's still up in the air. I believe parts of the site will move to another site at some point. Other than that, there are details to work out and when I know more I'll be sure to share.

OgreCave will be sure to keep you posted on how this resolves, and where the site's resources end up when the dust clears. We wish Eric Noah all the best, and salute him for an outstanding tour of duty.

10:34 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Ronin Runs Rampant
Green Ronin has posted some art from their upcoming Spaceship Zero RPG,and has let the world at large know about their revised plans for the Freeport: The City of Adventuresourcebook. "It's now going to be a 160 page hardback sourcebook ... it features a beautiful poster-sized map of the city." The book is being written by the combined efforts of Matt Forbeck, Hal Mangold, and Chris Pramas, and is on schedule for a November release.

9:40 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Notes on Necromancy
Over at Mongoose Publishing, they've posted a preview of the upcoming Necromancy book in the form of designer's notes. Matthew Sprange reveals a bit about the process of making mages of death fun to play again without unbalancing them.

White Wolf on the Prowl
White Wolf made so many announcements about upcoming product plans, it's hard to keep track of it all.

  • Adventure,"the Storytelling game of Pulp Action," will hit stores on Monday.
  • Early next year, Dark Ages: Vampirewill launch a series of Dark Ages products, including clan novels.
  • The Exaltedline will continue with more Castebooks, and a hardcover book in April, Exalted: The Dragon-Blooded.
  • Vampire: The Masqueradewon't be left out of the fun, getting Guide to the Anarchsnext February, and Vampire By Gaslight,the Victorian version you've all been waiting for, later in 2002.

Thursday, August 16, 2001
4:07 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Fading Suns Goes D20
In a press release, Holistic Design let the world know that their stylish Fading Suns RPG setting will make the leap to the D20 System this November. Not only that, but "Fading Suns: D20 will include Open Gaming rules for high-tech devices and artifacts, ranging from blasters and energy shields to cybernetics." Fading Suns already has elements of science fiction, fantasy and horror. As Bill Bridges, Fading Sun's line developer, put it, "What better way to grow the Open Gaming community than a game that includes both swords and blasters, theurgy and cybertech, starships and divine artifacts?" The six-year-old, highly detailed setting will reach D20 in the form of a softcover sourcebook, and retail for $25.

White Wolf's Ravenloft Cover Posted
The cover art and catalog listing for White Wolf's new Ravenloft D20 book is posted, and it looks great. Streamlined, creepy look. Go take a look if you're interested.

2:53 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Stuper Quickstart
Wingnut Games has posted the Quickstart rules to StuperPowers Deluxe. The humorous RPG of superheroes with silly or useless powers will be arriving in October, and weigh in at 112 pages.

Pro-Am Adventures Surface
The first round of results from Citizen Games' D20 adventure writing contest has been posted on the company's site for downloading. Check out how the pros and amateurs worked together, and try their adventures out for yourself.

2:28 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
New Look for Cheapass Website
If you haven't been by the Cheapass site in a while, go take a look at the site and see what you think. Personally, as much as I like the company's products, I can't say anything good about the main page. It's entirely unintuitive, serving only to drastically slow you down as you find your way around the site. The rest of the site is fine and useful, but the main page has got to go. However, your mileage may vary.

Monday, August 13, 2001
11:30 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Download Nastiness
Viking Games has posted an 11-page preview of their D20 book, Monster Menagerie.Check out the stats and descriptions for several beasts, including the Banshee, and the Mantoid, which sounds suspiciously similar to a Tri-Kreen from Dark Sun.

10:49 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Master Tools Gets New Master
Due to a number of developments, not the least of which being Hasbro lobotomizing the electronics division of Wizards of the Coast and feeding the properties to Infogrames, the Master Tools D&D 3 software has been delayed until the first quarter of 2002. Considering how far the product vision had strayed, it's probably a good thing. How far afield did Master Tools range, you ask? Well, the mapping utility was useless for tabletop gaming, serving more as a primer for a non-existant online game.

Ryan Dancey, the man behind the D20 and Open Gaming Licences, is now the man in charge of getting Master Tools back on course. And he's not gonna take any crap, either, as you can tell from a glance at the WotC message boards:

For better or worse, you're stuck with me, and I'm an old-fashioned roll-the-dice kind of guy who would rather eat pizza and make Monty Python jokes with my wife and friends than sit all alone in a dark room and click a mouse to kill an endless stream of binary monsters.
Here, here! I suspect Master Tools' powerdive toward oblivion is about turn into a climb back to the gaming stratosphere.

Saturday, August 11, 2001
9:15 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
You've Loved The Carrot - Now, Meet The Stick
This ICv2 report has a (precious) few more details about the WotC d20 crackdown we reported on early in the week. They say: "Is this a laudable attempt to standardize procedures and enforce a necessary discipline on sloppy publishers, or is it the stunned reaction of an organization that has created a runaway train?" I say it's nothing so glamorous in either direction - WotC is simply acting with the automaticity of a corporation bound by rules.

What they're trying to do is avoid the Yo-Yo effect - that is, the means by which a company loses control of a brand by failing to protect it. The word "Yo-Yo" wasn't always a generic term for that toy that comes on a string; it was once a corporate brand name. Long ago in the hazy mists of the 50's, courts ruled that, when the Duncan toy company failed to assert its dominance adequately over the term "yo-yo," they forfeited their copyright on the term. (They got the domain, though.) This is why a number of entertainment companies have sent cease-and-desist letters to Internet fan sites and such - whether or not they recognise the value of fans who do their promotional work for them, they leave themselves open to a legal attack on their copyright unless they guard against every little offense. The OGL is WotC's attempt to let third parties publish D&D material without running afoul of this trick in copyright law, so it's no surprise that they're staying on their toes when it comes to enforcement of the license.

The d20 System Trademark License, on the other hand, is a diabolically shrewd play that keeps other publishers from being able to benefit too much from the OGL's largesse. Under the OGL, you can use all of D&D3's rules, but to use that precious d20 logo - and to otherwise take the all-important step of telling people you're D&D-compatible - you've got to leave certain things out. When I first wrote my analysis of the OGL and d20 for Gamers.com, I noted this little piece of brand warfare somewhere amid my general fog of confusion. What we've seen since reveals a possible counter-strategy: companies like Atlas Games and Sword and Sorcery/White Wolf have established their own, easily recognizable brands (Penumbra and Scarred Lands, respectively). There may come a point at which those brands will be as strong as the d20 logo, making it possible to produce, say, a Scarred Lands core rulebook, with all those nice OGLed rules and no d20 restrictions. Whether a smaller company would risk WotC's wrath like that, I don't know. Maybe we'll find out someday.

9:13 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Desperado Preview
Citizen Games has a preview up of the Desperado RPG, which uses the D20 System. This looks like a pure western game, with none of that horror or fantasy stuff. Still, I'll be interested to compare this to Pinnacle's Deadlands D20.

Friday, August 10, 2001
11:38 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Green Ronin Gets Arcane
In October, Green Ronin will present Arcana: Societies of Magic, a D20 sourcebook on mystic organizations, secret or otherwise. Written by Kevin Brennan and James Maliszewski, this promises to be a good one. Here's the details:

Arcana: Societies of Magic details six different organizations that employ unique styles of magic to achieve their ends. The description of each society includes information of the group's history, goals, hierarchy, and leaders, as well as a map of its headquarters. New skills, feats, spells and prestige classes make it a complete package.
The supplement will sell for $14.95.

Gaming Outpost Joins Fiction Fantasy Network
The Fiction Fantasy Network announced today that the game news site Gaming Outpost will join its ranks. As GO recently changed to a subscription based service for articles and some other features, it will be interesting to see how this development affects the site.

8:48 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Episode II Named
The official Star Wars website has announced some preliminary details about Episode II. Specifically, the name of the movie has been announced as Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Uhh... oh-kay. Certainly inspires confidence, don't it? :-/

Thursday, August 09, 2001
6:35 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Friends and Foes Takes Flight Soon
I checked with Fantasy Flight at GenCon about their expansion to the Lord of the Rings boardgame (formerly a WotC game). There was a single, unopened copy of the expansion, Friends and Foes,at a booth dedicated to nothing but the boardgame. From looking at the back, the game will have added feature cards and a single, double-sided board (Bree and Isengard are the two locations on the board). Also, enemy cards will be introduced, which I couldn't determine much about. In fact, according to the guys at the booth, there's a chance the expansion will be out a bit early, arriving in stores late September rather than October. The next expansion is targeted for a Fall 2002 release, with the ominous title of Sauron.

I spent Friday night at GenCon teaching the guys from Realm of Imagination to play LotR. Todd's efforts as Frodo made this cooperative game more cutthroat and competitive than I thought possible. And they still came close to destroying the One Ring. "Frodo, get away from the tiki statue. Dammit, Frodo, stop trying to get Pippin killed!"

Warhamster Rally On The Way
Jim Dietz of Jolly Roger Games found himself telling a lot of GenCon goers that Orcs at the Gates, last year's Origins Award winning Sci-Fi or Fantasy Boardgame, was out of print. "But don't worry," he said, "We'll be putting out Warhamster Rally soon, and in my opinion, it's twice the game Orcs was." Big talk, but if it's based on the work of John Kovalic (and it is), I'll be checking it out for sure.

4:50 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Cards Springing Up Like Weeds
New card games were everywhere at GenCon this year. Let me see what I can remember...

  • The Ebay card game from Journeyman Press looked promising, though uncomplicated.
  • WotC's Harry Potter CCG had major displays inside the castle, and seemed well designed from a cursory glance at the game. However, $3.29 for an 11-card booster was a bit steep.
  • Decipher's upcoming Lord of the Rings CCG was shown to a select few. I wasn't one of them, so I had to settle for the movie trailers and booth babes. Wheee.
  • Third World Games had a large booth to display and demo Firestorm, a sci-fi CCG with four different factions to play. A few packages sold at GenCon had damaged cards in them, and Third World has already instituted a replacement program to keep their customers happy.
  • Jolly Roger Games was selling Dia de los Muertos, a trick-taking game with a lot of skeleton artwork.
  • Our buddies at Looney Labs were giving away promo Fluxx cards that added a new goal to the game: time travel (in reference to Chrononauts,of course).
  • The Dragonball Z CCG had a Humm-Vee with their logos all over it, which was amusing to watch as it drove out of the hall at convention's end (I'm reminded of a quote from The Tick:"Hey cool -- they've got a blimp!"). A couple of the cartoon's voice actors were in attendance.
  • A game called Geeks: The Convention had a huge booth with piles and piles of their single game, about... uh... geeks at a convention.
  • R3 Games was showing off their CTG (Collectable Token Game :-) Obsidian Lords,which has a cool name but is rather light on artwork.

4:17 AM: Demian Katz says...
Spit, Bailing Wire and Infernal Locomotives
Galloglass Games has made two recent announcements. First of all, their twisted rail game HellRail has returned to print courtesy of Mayfair Games and is now available for sale. Secondly, a new mailing list aimed at discussing the issues involved in publishing cheap card and board games has just been formed. Check out Spit and Bailing Wire at Yahoo! Groups.

Rio Grande Catches Up
After a long silence on their web site, Rio Grande Games has suddenly caught up with things, posting three newsletters in one go! Check out the latest of these newsletters for more information on the new Lord of the Rings game along with Dvonn (an abstract strategy stacking game that's part of the GIPF series), Shark (a stock market game) and Where's Bob's Hat? (a trick-taking card game which would look nice on your shelf next to Eight Foot Llama's Who Stole Ed's Pants?).

Wednesday, August 08, 2001
11:02 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Going Native
One of the more entertaining single-space booths was the tribal tent of Outside the Asylum Productions, who were at GenCon promoting their boardgame, Nomad. In the game, which is packaged in a strange tent-like box, are several cloth gameboards and a number of game pieces. Each player uses a small circular cloth for his tribe board, and places it near the larger central map cloth. This central map is a beautiful full-color cloth map the tribes roam around on, going where the resources take them. The game concept, the game components, and the game packaging all intrigued me, and I might have bought one if it weren't for the game price -- $49.95. [As I reported at Origins - hah! -misuba]

Grab Their Sack. They Like It
Tyranny Games' Sack Armies was doing quite well at GenCon, as the booth ran out of one type of starter partway through the con (the ones with green sacks). Demos were also going strong, catching interested gamers and increasing the number of SA Generals out there. Much to my surprise, a copy of my recent review was displayed at the booth as well, and I saw folks flipping through it on a few occasions. Though Precedence's booth also had a Sack Armies display, their main attention seemed focused on their RiftsCCG, and on selling what they had left of Babylon 5. Though Precedence lost the B5 licence, there are rumors that Warner Brothers might let them have the licence back in a few months after unsuccessfully shopping around. Either way, as a fan of B5, I'm grabbing what I can now.

Oh, and I met a D20 publisher that traded some of his stock for a copy of D&D 3's Manual of the Planes. I didn't see the book for myself, so I can't tell you anything about it, but at least one copy is floating around out there already. It will be interesting to see Jeff Grubb returning to his old haunts.

10:54 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
GOO's Tekumel Tested
One of my roommates ran a scheduled playtest game of the new Tekumel RPG being developed by Guardians of Order. The new game uses the Tri-Stat system, used throughout most of the GOO product line. Though I didn't have a chance to join in, my roommate said the players thought the combat was fast, while as GM, he thought it was slow. Nothing conclusive there, I guess. I've already resolved to check it out for myself when it comes out in a couple months.

1:17 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Apparently, yesterday's posts didn't show up. They should now be displaying just fine, so check out my preliminary report on GenCon 2001. I'll be adding more later today.

Tuesday, August 07, 2001
11:56 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Sovereign Stone D20
Over at booth #347, Sovereign Press had the entire line of last year's Sovereign Stone RPG, now converted to the D20 System. There always seemed to be activity there, partly because Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman were at the booth, signing everything from Dragonlance to their Sovereign Stone novel. Don Perrin was also hanging out, and he showed me the three new Sovereign Stone miniatures, sculpted by famed artist Julie Guthrie, that were now available from Don's other company, Perrin Miniatures. A handout on the Codex Mysteriumwas available for perusal, so I read about the massive spell listing (over 200), prestige classes, magic items, and some guilds/special oranizations. The Codex should be available in October, followed in November by an adventure called Escape into Darkness.

Restless Dead and Nazis at the Pagan Booth
Across the way from Sovereign Press, Pagan Publishing was showing off the cover to an expansion for The Hills Rise Wild! called The Reanimated. Yes, undead are involved (how'd you guess?), brought to life by a mad scientist. This new set will bring nine graveyard boards to the game, which the lab assistant must scavenge for bodies to animate -- including those of fallen enemies. According to one of Pagan's staff, "The zombies tend to either get wiped out or overwhelm everything," which is as it should be with a zombie outbreak.

Godlike, expected to be at GenCon, will be heading to press in a week or two. The superhero RPG is set during World War II, and will include complete D20 conversion rules. With Dennis Detwiller and Greg Stolze (of Delta Green and Unknown Armies,respectively) involved, this is one of the few superhero games I plan to check out. Other than Godlike not making it to the show, Pagan seemed to be doing very well this year. If only the guys at Wizard's Attic had known about Pagan's secret stash of plaid and patterned Cthulhu dolls, more cultists could've adopted an evil friend. My two year old calls ours "Tulu." Hey, the kid's gotta learn to respect her elder gods.

11:45 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Okay, I'm back. Getting *to* GenCon was a minor nightmare that took 28 hours, but getting back went quite smoothly. Plenty of thunderstorms in both directions. And since my trip to GenCon was on non-OgreCave business (I'm working for Wizard's Attic and Skotos Tech on a project to expand RPGnet. Check out the press release if you have a minute), I didn't have enough time to track down a web connection while I was there.

Anyway, for those of you who couldn't make it to GenCon this year, or those who already want to start reliving this past weekend, let us begin...

GenCon 2001: A Space Odyssey
The dealers' hall was packed this year. Traditionally, Thursdays have good sales but lower attendance, sales slow a bit on Fridays, and Saturdays see the families arriving. Sundays have good sales and attendance, both from panicked last minute purchasing and gamers who previously ignored the exhibit hall. This year, Thursday was more crowded than veteran attendees had seen in a long time, and impulse buying reigned. Wizard's Attic sold out of their more than 100 stuffed Cthulhu dolls, and in one day, Guardians of Order surpassed their sales for all of Origins. Sales and attendance stayed high for the con's duration.

This was the year of D20/Open Game Licence fallout. My Homebrewed RPG Shields got quite a workout as anyone with a campaign and access to Kinkos showed up with their D20 products. Some of those new D20 companies may be in trouble already, though, as Ryan Dancey posted a warning today to everyone on the OGL mailing list:

...even a cursorial review of the products in the exhibit hall demonstrated a shocking lack of ability to comply with the Open Gaming License or the d20 System Trademark License. As a result, Wizards is going to take some official actions in the next few weeks to attempt to rectify the situation before it gets further out of hand.
In my talking with exhibitors at the con, I heard of companies having to glue in pages with the legal stuff they failed to include while printing. One D20 publisher mentioned how surprised he was that other products were mentioning the Dungeon Master's Guide, as even mentioning DMs by name was forbidden by WotC. Perhaps the ignorant and incompetant will be trimmed away from the D20 industry, unclogging the current log-jam of products. Time will tell.

Some computer game companies were at GenCon as well, getting in on the action. In fact, the block party this year was sponsored by Microsoft, not WotC. Bioware ran many demos of the next big thing in D&D on PCs, Neverwinter Nights, which was the only computer game that really caught my attention. The game was gorgeous, well designed, and very smooth -- at least while it was on their souped-up machines.

Two different PA announcers assaulted those walking the exhibit hall, including a woman who was truly pathetic at publicly addressing anyone. Her habitual name mix-ups, long pauses, and general crappiness earned her the title "silly bint" from a respected game designer visiting from the UK, and less polite names from nearly everyone else.

Let's get into the game specific news:

WizKid's Battletech Plans Revealed
As I warned you a few days back, WizKids has plans for Battletech which lead down the same road of their mega-hit, Mage Knight. Yep, Battletech is becoming a Collectible Miniatures Game, or CMG, an abbreviation I heard thrown around in conversation for the first time at the con. Plans are to have starter sets available for $24.95 in a few months. Each starter will have a mech, some vehicles and some infantry. Some of the larger mech figures will be piloted by mech warrior figures, which sounds like they'll actually put one figure inside or atop another. More info has been posted online following the GenCon announcement.

Decipher's New Star Trek RPG Won't Disappoint
Fans of Last Unicorn's Star Trek game will be pleased to hear that they need not worry. The demo of Decipher's new Star Trek RPG, their first venture into the RPG market, shows the development team is on the right track. Players can now play as nearly any race, on any ship, in any occupation, rather than just being limited to the Federation. The extra D6 that could roll forever is gone, replaced by rolls of 2D6 that gain extra rolls on a 12, continuing until you stop rolling sixes. Skills are grouped with their parent skills on the character sheets, speeding up gameplay a bit. Also, individual skills just to use tricorders and phasers are replaced by more generalized skills and highly detailed equipment listings. Health and the process of suffering injuries remains nearly unchanged, with the health status category of Stunned getting a name change (being Stunned is now a special effect caused by phasers and such). And of course, since much of the Decipher RPG team used to be Last Unicorn Games, conversion rules to the Icon System will be included. After stunning four Cardassians and finding a way to beam up through the ionic dust, I continued wandering the exhibit hall.

Monday, August 06, 2001
6:20 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Well, I'm on layover in the Denver airport, but I'll be movin' on home soon. I'll have some GenCon posts for you tomorrow, and an image gallery shortly thereafter. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 04, 2001
7:45 AM: Demian Katz says...
Gamebook Authors Interviewed Online
Since appearing more or less out of nowhere a few weeks ago, AdvancedFightingFantasy.com has grown into a remarkable resource for fans of the classic Fighting Fantasy gamebook series. In addition to the usual reviews and solutions, it has some exclusive looks at books that never made it into print along with lots of interviews with the artists and authors behind the series. The latest interview, conducted in three parts, may be of particular interest to OgreCave followers since its subject is Andrew Chapman, author of the freely downloadable Invaders gamebook that we reported on a couple months back.

Friday, August 03, 2001
3:30 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
For all I know, Allan's still stuck in Oakland Airport, cell phone dead and out of quarters, reduced to trying to sneak some stale breakfast bacon out of the dumpsters. Or he's at Gen Con, either unable to get online or too busy with his special top secret work to actually post. So here's what I have to tell you:

Risk 2210 A.D. First Look
I played a partial game - this baby's even slower than the original, although it does now have a hard limit of five rounds of play - with a couple of friends on Wednesday. There is not as much special, complicated crap going on as I once thought, with the moon and the underwater cities and all that. Basically, you get energy points as well as armies at the beginning of your turn, and you spend the energy points on Commanders, Space Stations, or Command cards. There are five different Commanders, and which ones you currently have in play governs which types of territories you can invade, as well as which kinds of Command cards you can play. Some of the cards are wicked cool. Space Stations get you to the moon, as well as conferring a defense bonus on your armies that share a territory with it. That bonus, as well as others, means rolling a d8 instead of a d6 for those armies. (That's what the rules say, anyway: the box comes with no d8s, just d10s. Oops.) This seems both too weak and too strong - I would have made the bonuses a straight +1 or +2. Basically, there's a lot of extra stuff going on in this game, but most of it is mitigated by the fact that the combat resolution is still totally damned random, and the d6 owns your soul. However, our game didn't see a lot of early investment in Command cards, and I think that could change everything. We definitely had fun, and we'll be playing again.

Frag Ships, Munchkin Tags Along
Our review of the beta of Frag seems still to apply - I don't see any major changes to the game fundamentals or cards, although I haven't read the rule sheet yet. The new cardboard figures are larger and more theme-appropriate, but I would rather bust out the Doom leads than cut these guys up. I dunno, that's just me. A double-sided color map, one of its sides similar to the beta map but the other much more open, is also included. Compared to the Frag hype threshold, Munchkin is practically stealth, but it makes perfect sense after the success of the Origins Award-winning Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming. It's an actual Steve Jackson design, with Kovalic art (of course), and while I haven't checked it out overmuch, early reports say it plays kinda silly and random like Chez Geek - which means long games if you have lots of players. It also comes in a big box, so SJG won't get so many complaints about having to pay $20 for something so tiny like they did with Chez. So anyway.

I also got my copy of Morton's List today. Be afraid, be very afraid.

4:07 AM: Demian Katz says...
Tri-Stat System Dons Spandex
Guardians of Order, makers of the popular anime RPG Big Eyes, Small Mouth and its many spin-offs, has just announced that their Tri-Stat System will reach yet another popular genre next summer. With the release of Silver Age Sentinels, players will be able to adventure in the many potential worlds of "four-color-style" comic books. Of course, a lot of people are already doing this with their own homegrown rules, but presumably the new book will still be a useful resource; GOO tends to be thorough.

Thursday, August 02, 2001
4:59 AM: Demian Katz says...
Where's Sven?
If things seem a little bit ominously quiet around here, that's probably because Sven has left for GenCon. If you can't make it to the convention yourself, you might enjoy visiting Wizards of the Coast's Virtual GenCon from time to time over the next few days. If you have a keen eye, perhaps you'll spot our resident ogre's looming presence. Of course, don't forget to come back here -- we should have some live reports from the convention if Sven can only track down an Internet-ready terminal.

Wednesday, August 01, 2001
5:20 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Troll Lord Games: The OgreCave Interview
Ever wonder what it's like to be Gary Gygax's publisher, or what the guys who put those CD-ROM d20 modules on your game store's shelves were thinking? Read all about it in the first of what are sure to be many OgreCave interviews. (Peep Colin's fly new corner graphic while you're at it! And let me know if it looks strange, would you?)

4:58 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Fantasy Flight Lifts Veil On Dragonstar
Just as surely as that dead wrestler has a posse, Brave New World author Matt Forbeck's upcoming hybrid fantasy/sci-fi world for d20 now has a web site. There's also a new page for Reiner Knisia's Lord of the Rings board game, now that FFG is its new publisher. More Vortex info is up as well.

2:07 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Sack Armies: Expeditionary Force Review
Just in time for Gen Con, for Allan to get on the plane and not be able to post about it, and for hell to freeze over, it's Sven's review of Sack Armies - technically, of the first set, Expeditionary Forces, which is now available in a store near you and downloadable in preview-trainer form, hurrah!

4:24 AM: Demian Katz says...
Go Directly to R'lyeh, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200
Just in case you weren't satisfied with the Cthulhoid hybridizing found in games like Pokéthulhu, John Wick will soon bring a new unspeakable horror to light. He's just announced that Necronomonopoly, "The Satirical Sanity-Blasting Game of Real Estate Acquisition and Bibliophilia," will be available from Wicked Press during the first quarter of 2002. Details are scarce at the moment, but my hopes are high that this will prove most entertaining.


 

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