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March 2005 Archive

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March 31, 2005

06:27 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...

That'll be my last TLA joke for a while, I think. Anyway, not sure how I missed this one: Dragonshard is a real-time strategy game set in Eberron, with three playable factions and a story written by Keith Baker himself. I've never been able to warm up to RTS myself - it's too much like work for me to enjoy it as play - but it's good to get Eberron out there in more media, methinks. Release set for June.


06:11 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
GOTHIKA: Invisible Expansion Set - no, I didn't typo that

The adventure-gaming wing of Human Head Studios has announced (here's a more permanent link, for those of you living in the future) a PDF-only expansion for its GOTHIKA board game line, called GOTHIKA: Invisible Man. Yup. The obvious jokes here would be funnier if WizKids hadn't preempted them with the Sue Storm/Invisible Girl "figure" they did as a promo for HeroClix. But I try, dear reader, I try. For those of you who hate links that are styled just like regular text as much as I do, here's the download link.

March 25, 2005

11:12 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Deathknell heard, loud & clear

Today marks the release of the latest D&D Miniatures expansion, Deathknell. Chock full of unholy walking dead (as seen in the numerous preview articles on the WotC site), the boosters for this set changed the rarity distribution of the figures. Now in each new salvo of minis gamers buy, there's one less uncommon figure, replaced by a common. Time will tell if players get annoyed by the change, or if they appreciate the larger horde of For those who want to drool before purchasing, be sure to stop by the Deathknell gallery WotC put up.

March 23, 2005

04:46 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Privateer on business, book pricing, time, and money

Besides being a stellar example of what real professionalism looks like, this discussion at Privateer Press about the new products they announced last week calls out a serious problem in the game industry - and it's even worse in RPGs.

Unfortunately, this has not traditionally been an industry that was willing to pay for quality - a message driven home every time we hear a gasp at the price of a book. Go to a Barnes & Nobles and find a book that took a year to make, is printed in full color, and caters to a specialty niche (in other words, they're not printing hundreds of thousands of them), and you'll see a much higher price point than anything the game industry currently supports. Basically, the consumers in our industry have dictated a pricing structure that they are willing to spend within. But printing works like this: the more you print, the better price you get and the less you can charge for a book to make it worth the while. However, in the game industry, we make products for tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands, so the pricing is not as good.

Steve Long of Hero Games made this same observation at DunDraCon about niche-press books... to the general derision of the room. But I think he's right, and I hope he breaks rank and experiments with the pricing on some of his books. Meantime, ask yourself: how much are you willing to pay for quality? Did you howl at the price of the Farscape book? Because that's what it costs, people. You want to halt the decline of the indie RPG market? You might have to pony up. Are you ready?


11:15 AM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
A word of advice for PDF publishers

I suspect sometimes that the average consumer of PDF gaming material is more technically savvy than the average producer of same. Confirming my suspicion is Ginger Stampley's post against Digital Rights Management in PDFs. It's not the most scathing, detailed, fiery condemnation of DRM available online or anything, but PDF publishers should notice: your consumers have strong tastes, so strong that they border on moral codes, and they will not put up with your product if it bosses them around. I think that attitude goes with being comfortable on a computer and knowing what you can do. As for less savvy users, well, they aren't the ones who go online and post all about how great - or frustrating, or sucky - your product is. So be careful out there.

March 21, 2005

04:20 PM: Demian Katz says...
Freebie Update

The Internet is a great source of freebies for gamers, and two reliable producers of cost-free goodness have both struck again at nearly the same time. First, Project Aon went and released another free Lone Wolf adventure, The Legacy of Vashna. Soon thereafter, Invisible City did their thing, providing two free creations, the all-new family card game I Want Candy, and a revision of their Easter candy-themed Peep War. Whether you prefer to adventure in Magnamund, relax with the kids or command legions of marshmallow fluff, you should be able to find something entertaining to do today without spending a penny!

11:46 AM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Hecatomb card art and gameplay photos... um... that will chill you to your very soul. Yeah.

So here's some more Hecatombage for ya, including lots of card art and a number of actual cards, some of which are stacked in such a way as to give one vague ideas about the rules. The art's well done, and now that it's been explained to me that the idea is to "take black from M:tG and make it the whole game," I am less bothered by the theming. The "ooh, scary" stuff is not to my taste, but then, I'm not 15. I'm a little let down that the transparency of the cards isn't being used in a very wide-ranging way, but I guess there's no other way to do a tournament-ready game. The kids, they like their nice consistent card backs.

In case you can't tell, I'm warming up to Hecatomb pretty quickly. I hope they explore some of the possibilities of the other Magic colors, and what would happen to them if they were exploded out into games of their own. I'd be interested to see a hardcore strategic battle of arcane knowledge and control based on blue, or a slam-bang flamefest based on red. Good old red. Nothing beats red.

March 20, 2005

02:41 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Toys 'R' Us sold to investment group, likely to be dismantled

Those who fret that hobby gaming companies' only mainstreaming option will soon be Walmart have new reason to worry: the Toys 'R' Us chain has been sold for $6 billion to a consortium that includes major real estate investors. "[A]nalysts estimated that TRU's real estate value is five times greater than the value of its toy business." D'oh. Sorry, Eagle/Uberplay and Days of Wonder - looks like those inroads you made at TRU in the last couple years are about to be writeoffs. WotC and WizKids already have relationships with Walmart and the like, but such large deals have been known to leave smaller companies as smoldering husks on the business landscape. All the more reason to support your local hobby-gaming retailer (and, um, support their efforts to draw in new customers).

March 18, 2005

12:46 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Gygax to brave northern wilds. Blame Canada

Has Toronto become a major gaming mecca without my noticing? Or maybe it always has been, and I'm clueless? Either way, I've just received word of good 'ole Mr G himself, Gary Gygax, making an appearance at the Canadian National Gaming Expo on August 26-28. If you can get there late August, a week after Gen Con Indy, it might make a good show to add to your yearly route. See the press release below.


12:28 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
More GTS '05 tidbits: rumors, supplements, and prototypes

Our sources continue to be many and varied, as OgreCave staff member Justin Mohareb has sent in a few GTS '05 tidbits after visiting the show. Here's what Justin wanted to mention:

  • As if there was any doubt, Margaret Weis has confirmed they're releasing the Serenity RPG at GenCon for the Firefly movie.
  • Two games caught my eye from independant game producers: Dawning Star from Blue Devil Games is a d20 Modern/Future supplement, and the first one I've seen so far. It's got a bit of a Blue Planet feel about it (SF setting with mysteries to solve, etc) and is a great read so far. Expect a review shortly.
  • In the prototype stage is a card/board game from Seaborn Games. Combining elements from Clue and Cosmic Encounter, you play an adventurer building a Hunting Party [the game's title] to pursue the Shadow by fulfilling a prophecy, discovering its weaknesses and combatting its minions to earn gold.

    It's loads of fun, with a few dozen disparate characters (and plans for more) and it works for all skill levels of players; there are even cards to benefit weaker players and handicap stronger ones. Due for release in October, once art is completed. Great family game produced by Patrick & Ben Christenson, two brothers from Texas.

March 17, 2005

08:28 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
WARMACHINE builds in new outlet for emissions

When a miniatures game company has no regular release schedule of "codexes" or other such expensive modular books, the resulting buildup of fiction and photographs (what minis fans call "fluff") can toxify and explode, resulting in a dangerous calamity of molten lead and resin. To avoid such an outcome, Privateer Press has announced a new bi-monthly magazine called No Quarter to go with their second expansion book Apotheosis. The magazine will launch for Origins (-ish). Reportedly they'll be doing some quite large resin models as yet unannounced on the site, too.

March 16, 2005

11:26 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Paizo readies meals in a box for GMs

That's right, Doritos and Pepsi shipped to your door every month. No. No, that's not what they're doing at all. The GameMastery line "offers GameMasters everything they need to run a complete short encounter - including unique high-quality metal miniatures, four double-sided map cards that join together to form a gridded encounter map, and a complete encounter utilizing the Open Gaming License - all in one package." I happen to think this is a pretty good idea, and man, Paizo's sure working hard to repurpose Dungeon content (I don't know for sure that that's what the GameMastery adventures are, but it seems reasonable).


05:46 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
GTS 05 press wrapup, in which I remember to start putting the year in the post title

  • Scroll your way to the bottom game report on this here page for the skinny on a new cooperative Days of Wonder game called Shadows Over Camelot. That's right, I said cooperative, so all you Lord of the Rings board game haters can start jerking your knees now. There's a lot of untapped thematic juice in the whole Camelot thing in my opinion (Tom Jolly aside).
  • Okay: we are long overdue in talking about Clout Fantasy, the first news of which came out a couple weeks ago. We didn't report it at the time, I think because we were too busy boggling at it. I mean, I figured Adkison would get back into publishing at some point, but with a collectible... poker-chip game? Whatever, Pete, it's your money. But now actual gameplay has been demoed at the show, and... we are still kind of saying whatever, because it's apparently Diceland with d2's. I mean, maybe there are more significant differences in the details, and yeah, maybe it's fun, but... maybe just playing quarters is fun too, and $2.50 gets you more than two of those.
  • Kenzer announces two card games, neither of which has the Knights of the Dinner Table in them, so that's progress.

12:23 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
GTS press wrapup, in which WizKids does not piss me off (much)

  • WizKids announces a new CSG, Rocketmen, for this summer. Good news: Buck-Rogers-meets-Rocketeer stylee is hawtt, plus they're doing a dynamic-army-building resource-management thing, which has needed to happen in minis gaming for a while in my opinion. Let's make tabletop minis a better way to RTS than RTS! Bad news: "Rocketmen will be accompanied by both Web- and DVD-based cartoons." All right! Way to focus.
  • Green Ronin is showing Human Head's line of Gothica board games, which is actually a line now as of Frankenstein's Children and Mummy's Wrath. There is also, of course, Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing, which is looking sharp and hits at the end of the month. Our spies tell us that, besides Green Ronin, indy RPG companies tend to have a very low profile at the show...
  • I can tell you there are some inaccuracies in this GR summary of Looney Labs' plans for the year. It's not true that they aren't visiting conventions - they'll have their usual large "experiment" space at Origins, they just won't have a booth. Also, don't expect all three of those Icehouse boxed games "soon" - I think they want to get Volcano out soonest, but my money is on Martian Chess or (my favorite) Homeworlds.
March 15, 2005

09:29 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Um... Origins Awards nominees?

Whatever, I've lost track of what they think their process is. Here they are.


07:12 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Before you die, you see the pentagon

If only it were true. I mean, if I knew I only had seven days to live, you can be damn sure I'd give ol' Rumsfeld a little sump'in sump'in when I saw him. But, um, my actual point: I typed in on a whim, and look what I got. Adorable. Every spooky graphic design cliche of the last ten years in one convenient bookmark.

You know, a lot about this game looks dumb so far, but show attendees are actually saying this could be what Wizards needs right now - namely, a fantasy-themed card game that people interested in Magic can get into on the ground floor, without having to study obsessively and/or draft for twelve months before they catch on. So, I'm willing to believe it might be okay. But damn, I'm not optimistic about the graphics so far.


06:54 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
GTS press wrapup, part deux

  • Piles of news on smaller companies here - Face2Face is continuing their Sid Sackson revival line with an edition of Can't Stop that goes back to the classic stop-sign board. Plus, Eagle has a new original(?) big-box combat game called Conquest of the Empire, and we see just how very full indeed is Fantasy Flight's schedule. It turns out that a couple of those games are old OOP Games Workshop titles (Warrior Knights and Fury of Dracula, specifically).
  • The Magic: the Gathering team has plans for customer outreach this year - bad plans. I mean, seriously, Magic Road Show? Thanks for completely missing the point, guys. The heart of your game right now is drafting, like it or not, and learning to draft in the current environment is too damn hard. Maybe your Road Show should be a traveling school - or maybe you should tweak the DCI to emphasize sealed-deck or Arena-style league play instead of anything Type II.
  • Mongoose announces Paranoia standalone card game, with new B&W art. This could go either way, given the Mongoose "kwality-with-a-K" design department. Or maybe it's just their RPGs that have that problem. At any rate I have long dreamed of the card-gaming possibilities in the Paranoia universe so I'll watch this one's career with great interest, as it were.

03:21 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
FFG at GTS: perfecting the art of breeding larger and larger boxes

Fantasy Flight is showing boatloads of stuff, including an English edition of Reiner Knizia's excellent abstract Einfach Genial (under the new title Ingenious), a World of WarCraft boardgame in a mammoth Twilight Imperium-sized box (multiple win conditions: sell gold on eBay without getting caught and banned by Blizzard, or actually find something to do after you hit 45th level), and evidence of their highly questionable decision to work with Marvel Comics. Plenty of original titles too. Oddly, no Arkham Horror box.

12:45 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
WotC maybe sort of announces Narnia tie-in CCG

Brace yourselves for some actual reporting: a random source at GAMA tells us WotC will be doing a CCG in the second half of the year to tie in with the Chronicles of Narnia movies. According to the same source, this brings WotC's total for new CCGs coming out this year to a staggering six. This right after WotC told retailers that, out of 157 CCGs made in the history of the hobby, only twelve have lasted longer than four years. (Way to toss more bodies on the pile, Wizards!)

12:02 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
GTS press wrap-up, part the first

Since we haven't got a correspondent at GAMA this year, our coverage comes to you live from the Worldwide Network GTS-CENTERPLEX Coverage Center (which looks suspiciously like the cubicles at our day jobs), where we tap into every GTS news source available to our high technology (which looks suspiciously like reading the same news sites you do) and bring you the highlights. To wit:

  • Wizards' complete schedule for 2005 features a few surprises, including four Star Sisterz books, all of which have titles that make them sound vaguely like softcore pornography.
  • WotC kills GI JOE TCG effective immediately. Everybody now, along with me: COOOHHHHH-BRRRAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!!!!
  • Despite our increasingly frequent claim that WotC understands and uses market research better than almost anyone else in the industry, market research does indeed have a dark side. You know, 41% of 15-year-olds in focus groups think it's "edgy" to say "hecka."
  • The first photograph here (scroll down) suggests that AEG will also be announcing a City of Heroes product. My first guess would be a CCG. [Update: Yup.]
  • Full D&D schedule reveals there will actually be a book called "D&D for Dummies" coming out. Hits in April. That sound you just heard was a thousand asinine morning radio DJs and comedy writers licking their chops in anticipation.
March 14, 2005

11:22 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Eden announces tabletop RPG based on City of Heroes

Eden enters the crowded supers market, but with the considerable force of this license behind them, might they actually prevail? Find out next issue! (Okay, Eden, after a joke that lame on my part, nobody else will be reading the rest of this post, so here: start putting your press releases out as HTML, not PDF. Seriously. PDF is for products, not news that you want people to read and make use of. HTML's been around a long time and it won't bite you. Just use it next time and I promise not to tell anyone that you're calling your CoH core book the Registration Manual, okay? Oh, my bad.)

Press release text, and we mean text, is below.

March 11, 2005

08:43 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Marvel's case against City of Heroes falling apart

It looks as though City of Heroes has an excellent chance of emerging from Marvel's copyright infringement lawsuit unscathed, due to today's announcement of several charges against NCSoft and Cryptic Studios being dismissed. Agreeing with the defendants' assertion that many of Marvel's exhibits were "false and sham," the judge pulled the plug on more than half of Marvel's claims. NCSoft and Cryptic have ten days to respond to the rest of the case's claims, and file any counterclaims. Not quite a resounding "Bad Spidey! No biscuit!" But the comic book giant may soon see the rest of its frivolous case go down in flames.

March 08, 2005

10:32 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
It's not the size, it's how you delve it

The uberdungeon of the '90s, TSR's Ruins of Undermountain, is getting the floors redone and a new coat of paint in a series of web articles on the WotC site. Now this is the way to bring a mind-numbingly large, sprawling dungeon to the the gamer masses: in bite-sized chunks, for free. Don't go for the world record and cram every single beast with an experience point value into a boxed set or kobold-crushing tome. AEG's already tried that, and spent too much time on shoehorning the SRD's beasts into the World's Largest Dungeon, while not spending enough time editing.


07:44 AM: Demian Katz says...
Rio Grande Sells Smallest Continent

It is once again Rio Grande Games newsletter time. Most of the featured games this issue were already shown last time around, but there is one new entry -- Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling's Australia, a board game giving players control of the continent's destiny starting in the twenties, a time of simultaneous industrial growth and environmental conservation. The land down under isn't the subject of nearly as many games as, say, Europe, so this should at least fill a little gap in the hobby....

March 07, 2005

11:59 AM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
There's a monster in the Flash, and it does a modern dance

Dan Davis, co-creator of the visually luscious free online campaign book Agyris, has started blogging over at Monster Machine. Those interested in blingin' illustrations and the future of online RPG distribution might want to add it to their inventory. If you need some room, chuck out that old dagger +1. Seriously, dude, you're a magic user; you're not gonna convince any chicks that you fight close-range in taverns. And that beard is just tacky.

09:42 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
DragonMech: Second Age preview online

Giant mechs of dwarven design will continue to dent and blast the mechs of other races, in DragonMech: Second Age of Walkers. Fresh today, Goodman Games has a 15-page preview download on the autocratic Stenian Confederacy, providing the first detailed look at the DragonMech world. Though I haven't taken the plunge into fantasy mechs just yet, I've heard good things about the DragonMech setting. Second Age of Walkers should be in your local stores now.

March 04, 2005

11:07 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Equip your GM for GM's Day

Or grab stuff for yourself, take your pick. Lots of folks are offering savings today in celebration of GM's Day: the RPGnet Store, as well as (who have their sale through the whole weekend), and RPGnow, among others. Purchase your GM bribes now, and ensure your survival in the next game session.

March 01, 2005

09:54 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
From the "abandonware isn't just for PCs anymore" desk

So in 1981 or so, this company Dwarfstar Games came out with some 2-player hexes-and-counters wargames, along fantasy and sci-fi thematic lines, and allegedly made a big splash. Over the years, Dwarfstar went as wargaming companies were going in those days (hint: opposite of north), and after a while the rights to the games ended up in the hands of Reaper. I would now like to formally pronounce that Reaper is cool, because all eight Dwarfstar games are now available as free downloads. It's fantastic to see this kind of preservation work being done for gaming's heritage, and I look forward to more of it.

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