Who owns the rights to Twixt?

A fascinating conversation on boardgamegeek has inspired me to write this post. Most of what I’m writing here is covered in the 6+ pages on BGG. However, I would like the story to be read more generally than on the Twixt “news” forum on BGG.

Who owns the rights to Twixt?

 

What is Twixt?

The fences and posts of Twixt
The fences and posts of Twixt

Twixt is an abstract game where players place posts and fences in an effort to connect their pieces from one side of the board to the other. The board is a 24×24 grid of peg holes. You place one post in the grid on your turn. If you have posts on the opposite ends of a 6 peg rectangle (a 2×3 rectangle) then you may connect your posts with a fence. Fences may not cross over other fences–they must go around,. You are free to rearrange your fences on your turn so long as you follow the rules above. If you connect your pieces across the game board, you are the winner.

Twixt holds a solid 6.6 game rating on BGG. Considering it’s an abstract from the 1960’s, this is high praise. I find copies at thrift stores and I always pick them up. I haven’t played Twixt yet but by all accounts I am doing myself a disservice by not giving it a whirl.

 

Background with 3M

3M logo
3M logo

In 1961, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) added a board game division to their line of consumer products. In addition to making Scotch™ tape, 3M would make Mr. President, Stocks & Bonds and Acquire. The decision to add a board game division to their company required them to find game design talent. They added Sid Sackson and Alex Randolph to their line up.

Sid Sackson has a plethora of games under his belt. The aforementioned Acquire but also Sleuth and Can’t Stop. When you think of Sackson you should think of him as the 1960’s version of Reiner Knizia.

Enchanted Forest from Ravensburger
Enchanted Forest from Ravensburger

Czech born Alex Randolph was also a notable game designer. While not as prolific as Sackson, Randolph has some nice credits under his belt. Enchanted Forest comes to mind.

And so does Twixt.

Copyright entry
Copyright entry

Randolph created a pencil and paper version of his posts and fences game and brought it to Minnesota. 3M bought the rights to it and made it into a mass market game in 1962. 3M made a few changes to the rules but overall the game was what Randolph had intended. The 1962 Copyright Catalog shows 3M as the copyright owner. This would cover all the printed material such as the wording of the rules and the artwork. This would  not cover the mechanics or the name.

 

Avalon Hill

Avalon Hill logo
Avalon Hill logo

Avalon Hill was a publisher of high-end strategy games. In 1976 AH acquired the rights to 3M’s board game division. Avalon Hill got the rights to Twixt along with a host of other classics.

It’s long been believed that Randolph made a deal with Avalon Hill buy his designs back. Randolph’s estate has always believed the rights to his games were passed on to his heirs after his death.

No such record in the U.S. record has been found however. A failure to reapply for a copyright is quite common. It’s also a bit unfortunate in this case for the estate of Alex Randolph.

 

Hasbro

Hasbro
Hasbro

Hasbro bought Avalon Hill lock, stock and barrel in the 1990’s. I remember this dark day because I knew I would never see a reprint of any AH games. I was mostly right.

Hasbro had a trademark on Twixt, part of their agreement with Avalon Hill. This mark was cancelled in 2003 because Hasbro did not renew. The trademark only allowed Hasbro to the name Twixt, not necessarily the wording or the artwork (which would be protected by copyright law) or the game mechanics (which would be protected by patent law).

 

So where are we at now?

3M's Twixt version
3M’s Twixt version

The copyright has expired on Twixt. This hardly matters since if anyone who wants to publish the game would rewrite the rules in their own words and modify the artwork along with it.

Any patentable mechanics are long expired. The game was published by 3M in 1962 and designed in large part in 1957. Patent protection does not extend that far back.

Trademarks, however, can offer protection. Trademarks are for commercial names like “Coca-Cola” or “Vaseline”. You can make a soda pop. But you cannot call it “Coca-Cola” because there would be public confusion with your product and Coca-Cola’s flagship product. You can make a petroleum jelly but Vaseline is a name brand.

The name “Twixt” does not have anyone who owns it. At least not until this past summer. One Wayne Dolezal bought the trademark. After studious researching the game, Dolezal found that Randolph and his estate had made the common mistake of not renewing their trademark. Dolezal filed an application in July to secure the rights to the name.

What does this mean?

The mechanics of Twixt are more or less in the public domain. So anyone could publish a game of “fences and posts” just like anyone could publish a chutes and ladders aka snakes and ladders et. al. But the eponymous name of Twixt would only be allowed to be published under the authorization of Dolezal.

Twixt and Schlitz
Twixt and Schlitz

Mr. Dolezal mentioned this long winded but fascinating history recently on BGG. Many in the BGG community were not pleased with him or his tactics. I do not share the community’s contempt–mostly because Dolezal has been very congenial in his discussions. The link I provided shows an outstanding example of an internet argument that is actually constructive.

Dolezal says he plans to republish the game. He will put Randolph’s name on the cover. But he is reluctant to share royalties with the Randolph estate at this point.

The story is ongoing. I will blog again about this as new developments break.

 

Until then, follow us here…

 

 

RPG or Board Game? Who’s to decide?

[Editor’s note: long time contributor Nick Sima has become rather enamored by the world of Terrinoth. With Fantasy Flight’s recent announcements about Runewars Miniatures Game and the new Legacy of Dragonholt, Nick’s become inspired to write about it. This will be the first in an ongoing column about Terrinoth…]

 

RPG or Board Game? Who’s to decide?

Legacy of Dragonholt
Legacy of Dragonholt

Just before Gen Con (yes, that Gen Con) there were a few announcements made by Fantasy Flight. I was all excited for what they’d drop on us and checked a couple days prior to find a little game called Legacy of Dragonholt. It’s set in the ever expanding Runebound universe and features the brand new Oracle system.

Oracle System
Oracle System

The Oracle system appears to be very much like a choose your adventure book. I’m thinking it’s akin to Tales of the Arabian Nights, but who knows? Fantasy Flight has given it no press since the initial release. As of this posting, it still reads as ‘At the Printer’ on FFG’s site. Maybe they don’t want to reveal too much of their Oracle system before the product launches.

Muskegon loves Runewars
Runewars Miniatures Game from Fantasy Flight Games

I am still quite excited at the prospect of this new game. I find the Runebound universe extremely exciting and want to see more things created in that space. My plan is to write a series of blog posts about the history of Runebound and how we got to this new and exciting game, and I’ve been doing a bit of research to get that off the ground.

Legacy of Dragonholt box
Legacy of Dragonholt box

In that research, I found that BGG put Legacy of Dragonholt in the RPGGeek side. There’s currently a back and forth (as BGG users are so wont to do) about the precedent of it being a Board game or RPG. As you’d expect there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence and conjecture, so if you’re interested in that sort of thing, check it out.

Legacy of Dragonholt is on the pending approval page for board game listings a few times now, so hopefully BGG gets its act together and puts it where it (probably) belongs.

 

If you’d like to play Battlelore or Runewars with Nick Sima or any other member of the Muskegon Area Gamers, visit us here…

 

 

Around the World of Board Gaming

Welcome to the another installment of Around the World of Board Gaming. This is a quasi-monthly column where we look not at board game news but rather board games in the news. We will look at a horrible story of a stabbing that took place over a Magic: The Gathering game, the advent of 3D printer technology and how it affects our hobby and we will wrap up with some news that is close to home. But we will lead off with a story about the publisher-we-love-to-hate: Games Workshop.

Around the World of Board Gaming August 2017

 

Game Store Sues Games Workshop

Games Workshop
Games Workshop

Long time readers know my proclivity to denounce Games Workshop. It hasn’t been all negative press for the UK based game company. I did mention in a previous iteration of this column how GW was making tons money on a weak GB pound. But the news today is not favorable for beleaguered Games Workshop.

A store owner named David Moore is suing GW for $62.5 million. Moore, who also is a lawyer, is representing himself in an anti-trust suit. Moore alleges that Games Workshop’s practices are destroying the retailer and amount to theft.

H.R. Giger's alien concept
H.R. Giger’s alien concept

But Moore dredges up some of the other anti-GW talking points people have historically made. Moore alleges that the idea for the tyranids in general and the genestealers specifically were lifted by Games Workshop from the artwork of Swiss painter H. R. Giger.

Genestealer from Space Hulk 3rd Edition
Genestealer from Space Hulk 3rd Edition

I admit there is more than a passing similarity between the bug in Ridley Scott’s classic and the vanguard of the tyranid army.

Mr. Moore goes on to allege that GW also took the name “space marine” from Robert Heinlein. The term first appeared in Heinlein’s 1939 work, “The Misfits”. Games Workshop has worked tirelessly to claim the trademark of the term for over a decade now.

Imperial Space Marine 2016
Imperial Space Marine 2016

Moore also found some records about the manufacturing cost of some of Games Workshop’s merchandise. The Imperial Space Marine 2016 retailed for $30 USD. But according to Moore’s sources, the figure cost $.06 to make. This comes to a mere 50,000% mark up.

Martin Shkreli
Martin Shkreli
(photo credit: New York Times)

Recall in September 2015 when one Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of the HIV/AIDS medicine Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a pill. This was all over the news. And it was only a 5,000% mark up.

The lawsuit is still underway. It’s too soon to tell how it will pan out. I’ll be sure to keep an eye on this story. And I’ll keep you updated with any news.

 

Man gets stabbed seven times over a Magic: the Gathering Game

Magic: the Gathering
Magic: the Gathering

There are people who take their Magic: the Gathering very seriously. And then there is Elija Creech of St. Cloud, Minnesota. Creech was playing Magic on Friday, July 28th in the early morning when he got into a rules argument with his opponent.

According to reports, the argument escalated to the point where Creech smacked his opponent with a mallet and then stabbed the victim seven times for good measure. Creech made the 911 call and turned himself in. He is in Benton County Jail as of this writing.

This is the second time in this column that I’ve blogged about violence breaking out in a tabletop game. The vast majority of our hobby enthusiasts are able to find a peaceful way to settle rules disputes*. It is unfortunate when incidents like this happen and cast shade on our hobby.

*Dusty has gotten a lot better.

 

Game Theory and Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey and Houston
Hurricane Harvey and Houston
(photo credit NY Mag)

The amount of damage Hurricane Harvey has inflicted has not yet been tallied. There have been a few dozens deaths and billions of dollars lost. The final figures will not be firmed up for some time.

The relief efforts will be continuing for several weeks if not the rest of 2017. There are numerous logistical issues in performing a relief effort. And game theory has been underused in improving this. Several recent articles have discussed this.

One of the key takeaways from these articles is that 60% of all donations to relief efforts are non-priority items. A deluge of non-priority items congests the ports. Using game theory can predict the “players'” motives and help optimize relief efforts.

This article on The Conversation is fount of information on game theory as it relates to natural disasters.

 

The Impact of 3D Printers on Tabletop Gaming

Port for Merchants & Marauders
Port for Merchants & Marauders
(photo credit: Shapeways)

The use of 3D printers has greatly enhanced the ability of industry to create prototypes and meet short term demands. But 3D printers are also being used in board game piece crafting as well. And it’s having a impact.

According to Machine Design, making game pieces is $135 million industry yearly. And low-cost machines coupled with high detailed miniatures are natural fit for gamers. Coupled with the fact that many gamers have a penchant for engineering or CAD, 3D printers will continue to rise in game piece manufacturing.

3D printing typically gives a cost advantage over buying replacement pieces (or worse: buying an entire game!) 3D printing has also been used to pimp out games. Shapeways is a notable manufacturer that exists only to make game pieces for tabletop gamers.

The analysis of Machine Design concluded that the rise of 3D printers will not eclipse the board game market; it will augment it. People who use 3D printers would not have bought the game pieces otherwise. Thus, the publishers are not losing money.

 

Close to Home

Nerd Chapel is interviewed by Contact 29.18

Eric, a local gamer, has founded an organization called Nerd Chapel. He mixes his fandom with his Christian fellowship. He was interviewed by Contact 29.18 last month. He gave an impassioned case for what he does.

The Gaming Annex

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

Brandi has agreed to be our Special Events Coordinator. Brandi has been with the group for over a year. She has grown to be a valuable gamer in that time. She also is passionate about our hobby and making it better. Brandi will be the point person for all our Saturday events and any non-standard game event. She was honored to take on this new role. And we are honored to have her as a member of our group.

Muskegon loves Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition from Fantasy Flight Games

Kudos to Dr. Steve. He stood in line at GenCon to buy Twilight Imperium for us. Not just one copy but two! And we played both copies simultaneous when Ben was AWOL last weekend. The differences between TI4 and TI3 are still too fresh to explain here. But you can be sure the Muskegon Area Gamers will be publishing tons of blogs about this game.

 

Until next month, follow us here…

 

 

SeaFall Session 4

SeaFall - Game 04

WARNING: SPOILERS!!! BOX 3 REVILED

We got another game played yesterday (1/19/2017). Took us around 2:40 to get the game fully played, a few mistakes were made (mainly on my behalf but were caught and fixed), and I lost big time. The game wasn’t nearly as close as it was on Game #3, this one had a clear winner, and a clear loser (me).

I tried to get two milestones, and a colony, due to a mistake I wasn’t able to get the first and Chris in that very same round snagged it from me, and that made it so I wouldn’t be able to get the second (Chris took it the next round), so I tried to go for a colony to set myself up for the next game, only to have Chris once again screw up my plans by ‘accidentally’ finding the Tomb of the Ancients (still a Cthulhu theme!) and ending the game. He deserves it, being last in most of the games, and overall, until that point.


Outcome

Brian – 26

  • Buildings
    • Trading Port
  • Upgrades
    • Stalwart
  • Raids = 0
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 0
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 0
    • Total Damage taken = 0
  • Island Searches = 0
    • Failed = 0
  • Uncharted Water Cards = 0
  • Treasures = 0
  • Research = 0
  • Advisors = 0
  • Colonies = 0
  • Milestones

Tasha – 46

  • Buildings
    • Gun Tower
  • Upgrades
    • Hale
    • Nimble
  • Raids = 4
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 1
  • Ships Sunk = 1
    • Total Damage taken = 5
  • Island Searches = 0
    • Failed = 0
  • Uncharted Water Cards = 3
  • Treasures = 6
  • Research = 0
  • Advisors = 3
  • Colonies – 0
  • Milestones
Chris – 35

  • Buildings
    • Gun Tower
  • Upgrades
    • Intrepid
  • Raids = 0
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 0
    • Total Damage taken = 3
  • Island Searches = 0
    • Failed = 0
  • Uncharted Water Cards = 0
  • Treasures = 1
  • Research = 0
  • Research = 0
  • Advisors = 3
  • Colonies = 0
  • Milestones
    • The Markets Tremble
    • Gold Beyond Measure
    • Ancient Secrets Unearthed
Brandi – 38

  • Buildings
  • Upgrades
    • Intrepid
    • Enduring
  • Raids = 0
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 0
    • Total Damage taken = 2
  • Island Searches = 1
    • Failed = 0
  • Uncharted Water Cards = 3
  • Treasures = 0
  • Research = 3
  • Advisors = 2
  • Colonies = 0
  • Milestones

Game Notes

SeaFall - Game 04This was an interesting game. I picked up the Trading Port allowing you to sell goods at +4, so 10 each, and had two people take me up on the offer to use it for one of their reputation tokens. Selling goods at 10 each is very handy, and helped Chris take ‘The Markets Tremble’ milestone (sell goods worth 30+ in one turn), then take the ‘Gold Beyond Measure’ milestone (Have 60+ gold in your vault).

That, however, made Tasha raid Chris’ vault later on and getting 19 of his gold.

Pirates attacked twice this time, attacking Tasha (person with the most gold), then attacking Chris (person with the most in their warehouse).

SeaFall - Game 04I was attacked by the ‘Sunken Ship’. In Game 3 (I think) Tasha sunk Brandi’s ship after Brandi attacked Tasha’s port. That put an X on the map where her ship sank, and with it being right at the port, it causes some issues.

I was the closest to the X (by 1 space, but farthest away by a ruler). They all incorrectly ruled that it was by space, (it was by distance, not space), so it attacked me (secretly I do agree that it should be by space, but don’t tell them). Thankfully I didn’t take any damage.

Brandi discovered another island, I think that makes 3 for her now, and 0 for everyone else.

SeaFall - Game 04 SeaFall - Game 04 SeaFall - Game 04
SeaFall - Game 04 SeaFall - Game 04

New Box

SeaFall - Game 04Look at all the goodies in the new box! We have a nice thick deck of new cards (including curses), new event cards, new rules, upgrades, buildings, and tombs!

The only things we didn’t get in this box are more treasures and advisors (thankfully not more advisors). I could have done without more rules.

The next game should be interesting with tombs and curse cards (with both of those, I am leaning more and more to thinking that Chis is correct and it is going to be a Cthulhu game).

Till next time!

 

Originally published at Iggy Games. You can follow Iggy on facebook here. Iggy is a partner of the Muskegon Area Gamers. We are glad to have his enthusiasm and his commentary.

 


 

Origins of Ameritrash: Milton Bradley’s Gamemaster Series

We will conclude our look at Milton Bradley’s contribution to the Ameritrash genre. As we have discussed, Milton Bradley was at the cutting edge in the 1960 with their American Heritage games. Milton Bradley published a large repertoire of Ameritrash games in the 1970’s. All of this leads us to the 1980’s Gamemaster series. This will bookend our current study. Why? The very name “Ameritrash” can be seen to be etymologically linked to the series. Fortress Ameritrash, a movement that celebrates American board game design, took its name from one of the Gamemaster series: Fortress America. While this may conclude our current study of Milton Bradley’s contributions, we will look at Parker Brothers and Hasbro’s contributions in future blog posts.

Origins of Ameritrash: Milton Bradley’s Gamemaster Series

Axis and Allies 1984

Most Muskegon gamers have played Axis and Allies
Milton Bradley’s Axis and Allies

In 1981, game designer Larry Harris wad struck deal with Nova Game Designs. He had been working on his World War II board game for some time. He settled on the name Axis and Allies. The game would allow players to prosecute WWII from a strategic level: you must finance the war and then send forces into battle.

Axis and Allies pieces NGD
Axis and Allies pieces NGD

Nova Games published the first edition of Axis and Allies. The game was a light wargame. Had the game remained under NGD, Axis and Allies would not be considered Ameritrash. Nova Games did not publish games with awesome plastic pieces. They published traditional cardboard counters.

Larry would freelance for Nova Games for the next few years until taking employment at Milton Bradley. Milton Bradley’s marketing team was interested in adding some game design talent to their roster. They offered Harris a job. He accepted. Milton Bradley’s marketing team also was interested in publishing specialty games. They were intrigued by three recent publications from Nova Games–all the design of Larry Harris.

Harris worked on a deal to move his titles from Nova Games to Milton Bradley. In 1984, the deal was struck and Milton Bradley published the first of the Gamemaster Series: Axis and Allies.

Axis and Allies components
Axis and Allies components

Milton Bradley did what they did best: add a heavy toy factor to their specialty games. The game came with a complement of 5 armies. Each army had battleships, bombers, infantry, tanks and other units. Each unit had its own combat abilities, special abilities and a financial cost to buy. This blew Risk right out of the water.

Japanese units head towards China
Japanese units head towards China

Players take on the role of one of the main five belligerents of WWII. The game has a rigid game round structure. A player will purchase new units, research new technologies, make combat moves, the resolve combat, make non-combat moves and then collect income. Then the next player takes his turn. This rigid turn structure was old hat to wargamers but was fairly new to Milton Bradley’s typical consumers.

Axis and Allies is asymmetrical. There are three Allies fighting two Axis. But the Axis has two ways to win whereas the Allies but one. The geography of the board makes each nation fight the war a bit differently also. For example, Russia will be on the defensive all game. Japan has to take as much of Asia as possible while keeping the USA at bay.

Axis and Allies has been the most popular game of the Gamemaster Series. It has spawned several editions, a revised edition, an anniversary edition, a newbie-friendly edition, along with several other iterations. There are also CD-ROM games and miniatures games with the moniker Axis and Allies.

And it shows no sign of slowing down.

 

Broadsides and Boarding Parties 1984

Muskegon loves classics like Broadsides & Boarding Parties
Broadsides & Boarding Parties

Another design from Harris, Broadsides and Boarding Parties is as different from Axis and Allies as it is fun, a testament to Harris’ design abilities.

Broadsides and Boarding Parties was originally published by Citadel Game Systems. Their edition, much like Nova Game Designs’ edition of Axis and Allies, would constitute a light wargame. The game came with an unmounted board and cardboard counters.

Painted copy of Broadsides & Boarding Parties
Painted copy of Broadsides & Boarding Parties

Milton Bradley turned this into an Ameritrash game. It comes with two 3-D ships. You place your sailors and cannons on them along with your masts. This gives it the best visual flair of any of the Gamemaster Series.

The goal of B&B is to destroy your opponent’s ship. You will use your guns to destroy your opponent’s crew and masts. And then you will board his ship to finish him off. The game ends when a player has lost all three of his masts or his captain is dead.

Broadsides & Boarding Parties cards
Broadsides & Boarding Parties cards

This is a game of programmed movement. You place three movement cards down. Then you and your opponent flip over the first one and move your ships. Depending on the position of the ships, you can shoot none, some or all your cannons. Ideally you would like a broadside: when the long side of your ship is facing the narrow side of your opponent’s ship. This would give you more cannon shots than your opponent.

When you roll for damage, the damage could miss, hit crew and/or cannons, or damage a mast. If one or two masts are damaged, you lose one or two of your three movements. You lose if your last mast is damaged. If you are lucky enough to kill your opponent’s captain, you also win.

Boarding in B&B Parties
Boarding in B&B Parties

If your ships are in base contact, you can start boarding. Your crews will be locked in deadly hand-to-hand combat.

Broadsides & Boarding Parties got the least amount of love from the publishers. It didn’t get any additional editions or revisions from Milton Bradley or its successors. But it left an indelible mark in the history of Ameritrash games.

Conquest of the Empire 1984

Conquest of the Empire
Conquest of the Empire

The last of the Gamemaster Series to be designed by Larry Harris was 1984’s Conquest of the Empire. Conquest of the Empire takes place during a time of civil war. Each player controls a faction with a rival caesar. Your goal is to eliminate all the other caesars and become emperor.

Conquest of the Empire was much more like Risk than Axis and Allies. It was a free-for-all game, there were temporary alliances and there was player elimination. Despite this, Conquest of the Empire is considerably deeper (and better) than Risk.

Conquest of the Empire (1984) in progress
Conquest of the Empire (1984) in progress

There are several different units in Conquest. Each has its own cost and combat abilities. Players finance their war effort by deciding which units to buy. Players can also buy fortresses and roads. Fortresses give defensive bonuses while roads give movement bonuses.

Conquest had many good ideas. It had an inflation mechanic. Units would keep getting more and more expensive as the game went on, draining the coffers of all the would-be emperors. The wheelin’ and dealin’ was a nice touch that Axis and Allies could not add.

Gamemaster Series Advertisement
Gamemaster Series Advertisement

But the game did have a few flaws. The most notable was the power of the catapults. Catapults would give you a +1 to your dice rolls. And they are cumulative. And they are limited in supply. So if you bought them, you would have an unstoppable army.

The player elimination aspect is, of course, a vestige of yesteryear’s games.

This is not to say Conquest was without merit. Eagle Games picked up the game several years ago and republished it. They included the classic game along with some updated rules. The updated rules are very good and worthy of an occasional play. And the plasticky goodness along with the war/combat theme means that Conquest of the Empire is Ameritrash through and through.

Shogun 1986

Muskegon loves the Gamemaster Series
Shogun

The last Gamemaster Series games were the design work of Michael Gray. Gray, like Larry Harris, is a prolific game designer. He designed games like Dungeon and The Omega Virus. Milton Bradley added Gray to their team during the same time period they added Larry Harris.

Island fortress in Shogun
Island fortress in Shogun

Shogun was the next game in the series. Shogun takes players to feudal Japan where internecine fighting has consumed the islands. Players have a daimayo that they are trying to raise to emperor.

Planning board
Planning board

Shogun is really a revamped version of Conquest of the Empire. Gray seemed to take the ideas of Harris’ game that worked well and then fixed the ideas that didn’t. Shogun has a secret bidding round. Players will plan their allocations to in one of several different areas. Then players simultaneously reveal their plans. The player who bids most in “swords” gets to pick his turn order. The player who bids highest on the ninja gets the use of the ninja for the round.

Experience track for Shogun
Experience track for Shogun

There are several different units, all with different combat abilities. (Just like Axis and Allies and Conquest of the Empire). However, Shogun had an experience track for your generals. Each time your general won a battle, he went up in experience. This allowed him to make more moves and/or attacks. But watch out! The ninja could be used to assassinate him, reducing him back to his starting stats.

Shogun is a solid game, even by today’s standards. It was rereleased as Samurai Swords and then as Ikusa. With its wonderful complement of miniatures and light wargame theme, how else could we categorize this other than Ameritrash?

Fortress America 1987

Fortress America box
Fortress America box

And this brings us to the last game in the Gamemaster Series. And it’s the game that gave birth to the moniker “Ameritrash”. We are talking about Fortress America, of course. This was also a Michael Gray design.

Gamemaster Series ad (II)
Gamemaster Series ad (II)

In the near future, the US has perfected its star wars weaponry. The USA is now impervious to any nuclear attack. The rest of the world has decided it does not want to be held ransom by American weapons and has decided to attack. Three invaders, all on one team, move into and sack American cities. US troops desperately try to oust them long enough for attrition and partisan activity to be felt. The game ends when all the invaders are destroyed or when 18 US cities are captured by the invaders.

The Southern Invader arrives at San Antonio
The Southern Invader arrives at San Antonio

The invaders outnumber the US by 3 to 1. But they have only their starting complement of units. Once they run out, they don’t get any more. The US, however, draws two reinforcement cards each round and gets one laser tower each round. Plus the US gets lots of defensive bonuses. If they can hold out, they can defeat the invaders.

Milton Bradley's Gamemaster Series
Desperate fighting in New England

Fortress America is truly asymmetrical. This is a departure from Shogun, Broadsides and Boarding Parties and Conquest of the Empire which were all very symmetrical. It’s also a one versus many game, the only one in the Gamemaster Series.

Despite this, Fortress America is fatally flawed. The game, if played right, should end with an American victory every time. The invaders must take 18 cities. But American cities are not uniformly found throughout the country. The Eastern Invader has many more than the other invaders. If the US concentrates all of its laser fire and reinforcements here, the invaders will never get to 18.

The game did get a reprint. Fantasy Flight redid this game, fixing these issues. Buffalo was removed and Colorado Springs was added. A few other tweaks were added as well. Now the game is at least balanced.

The game comes with plenty of different units, lots of plastic cities and laser towers. All of this wrapped in a light wargame. And that means we are dealing with Ameritrash.

Epilogue

Milton Bradley Logo (1980's)
Milton Bradley Logo (1980’s)

This concludes our look at Milton Bradley and its impact on the origins of Ameritrash games. I will spend some time soon looking at Parker Brothers’ contributions to this genre as well. I will wrap up the topic with Hasbro’s contributions.

And as always, drop by The Gaming Annex to play any of these or any other Ameritrash game.

Links

Larry Harris’s site

Information about Michael Gray

Gamemaster Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twilight Imperum 4th Edition is real

Twilight Imperium isn’t just my favorite game. It’s the game that really launched the Muskegon Area Gamers. The 3rd edition was published in 2005. In 2007 we got the first expansion, Shattered Empire. In 2011 we got the second expansion, Shards of the Throne. It’s been so long we thought Fantasy Flight would simply keep the 3rd Edition in print into perpetuity. Then last Friday they officially announced the upcoming release of Twilight Imperium 4th Edition. This is slated for release in Q4 of 2017. I’d like to take this time to go over the press release and pictures from FFG.

Twilight Imperium 4th Edition is real

The initial news hits the tabletop community

Muskegon loves Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition from Fantasy Flight Games

On Friday, August 11th, Fantasy Flight Games confirmed the rumors that they are indeed publishing a new edition of their flagship game. This caused a ripple throughout boardgamegeek and the tabletop community at large. The 3rd Edition has been out of print for several months. FFG has been promising to republish the expansions. Normally they sell for $60; when out of print they sell for $200+. To the chagrin of some players, this news meant their 3rd Edition purchases were no longer going to be supported.

But to the delight of almost everyone else this news was very welcome.

 

What you get for your money

Twilight Imperium 4th Edition is real
Twilight Imperium 4th edition components

The 4th Edition will come with a staggering $150 MSRP price tag. This is almost double the original cost of TI3 which was $80. Obviously things are more expensive than they were in 2005. But the game comes with largely the same amount of components as the base edition. It comes with player sheets, the same allotment of plastic pieces, tons of cards and cardboard counters.

The Brotherhood of Yin (4th edition)
The Brotherhood of Yin (4th edition)

Much of the expense is in the artwork. FFG did not skimp on the graphic design. This may not be FFG’s best selling game but it will be their prettiest game. The artwork on the race sheets is great. The graphics on the system hexes is immaculate.

But what about the material changes?

 

What else comes in the box?

Plastic components for TI4
Plastic components for TI4

TI4 will have the same plastic components as the base game of TI3. You will get, for example, 8 destroyers, 3 space docks, 4 carriers, etc. The game will also come with flagships, an item previously available only in Shards of the Throne. The warsuns will also have two halves. Gone are the days of the space boob!

The new edition does NOT include mech units. Perhaps this will be an expansion item? It’s difficult to tell but it appears that there will be no shock troops or space mines either. Again, this could be expansion material.

Some faction sheets for TI4
Some faction sheets for TI4

The game will come with a full set of 17 races. All the races including the races from Shattered Empire and Shards of the Throne are included. The artwork that has been previewed makes some of the details clear. The Sardakk N’orr will still get their single race advantage of +1 to all combat. The Mentak Coalition’s race sheet has been reworded. They still have their two racial abilities (pre-combat with cruisers and stealing trade goods), but the rules have been reworded to meet the new mechanical changes to TI4.

But what about the mechanical differences?

 

Differences from Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition

Strategy cards from TI4
Strategy cards from TI4

The 4th Edition is actually a lot like the 3rd Edition. This is a departure from the previous revamps of Twilight Imperium where 2nd Edition was considerably different than 3rd. The 4th Edition is so much like 3rd Edition that if you despised the 3rd Edition there is little chance you like the newest iteration.

The 4th Edition is played largely like the 3rd. There is a strategy phase where you select a Strategy Card. This gives you a primary ability and gives everyone else a secondary ability. This also gives your turn order.

There is command counters for fleet supply, strategy allocation and command pool. There are action cards, ships, combat and diplomacy. The ships are identical in combat abilities (with the exception of the flagships).

So what’s different?

Imperial Strategy card is new. It is an amalgam of Bureaucracy and Imperial II. It allows you to score an objective mid-turn. It allows you to score 1VP if you control Mecatol Rex. But it has another ability. It allows you to draw another secret objectives.

Objectives from TI4
Objectives from TI4

Which brings us to another difference: players will have several secret objectives. You can still only score one per round. But you over the course of the game you could score many.

Trade works differently. The Trade Strategy Card gives you three trade goods. Then you refresh all commodities. Then you have the ability to allow anyone to use the secondary for free. Then everyone has the ability to pay to use the secondary. The secondary refreshes all commodities.

Commodities are like the total of a race’s trade agreements. The Hacan, for example, had a pair of 3 trade agreements. Now the Hacan would have 6 commodities instead of two 3 agreements. These commodities can be traded to any player who has ships adjacent to your ships. You can wheel and deal!

Political has been changed. There is no political step when the Political Strategy Card is played. Instead, there is a political step during the Status Phase when Mecatol Rex is conquered. From then on, there is a political step. Players refresh their planets. The top agenda is flipped over (for real!). Then players vote on it by spending planets. Then the next agenda is flipped over (also for real!). Then players spend planets to vote on that agenda. Then all planets are refreshed.

Tech example in TI4
Tech example in TI4

Technology has been overhauled. There is no more tech tree with specific technologies. Players can use any technology as a prerequisite so long as it’s the right color. Light/wave deflectors requires 3 blue techs. It doesn’t matter which three.

The technologies that upgrade ships are now called, “Dreadnaught II” or “Dreadnaught III” for example. These techs are overlays for your player sheet so you can see at a glance the new abilities. All ship upgrades require diversity in your technology colors while going deep in a single field requires you to focus on one color.

Promissory notes from TI4
Promissory notes from TI4

They kept promissory notes (an addition from Shards of the Throne). However, they are not related to Political Strategy Card, unlike Shards of the Throne’s rules. It is unclear how players will be able to dole out these.

They modified how PDS’s and space docks are produced. There is a separate Strategy Card, Construction, that builds them. Thus, there is no more Production Strategy Card. Instead Warfare Strategy Card’s secondary seems to do what Production’s secondary did.

There are no more leaders, no more distant suns and no more mercenaries. They seem to be eliminating some of the components that were either unbalanced or were patches to the game. They must have fixed these problems so they don’t need these components.

 

Final Thoughts

Bound rule book and prints
Bound rule book and prints

I love the new tech tree. I love the new Imperial Strategy Card. I’m intrigued by the new Trade system. I think it might adjust for some of the issues with Trade in TI3.

I’m not sure if they fixed the political system, though. The new political step is intriguing. But the real problem with the political game in TI was the arbitrary agendas. Did Fantasy Flight fix the stupid weak and stupid powerful agendas?

I really like the fact that there are numerous Secret Objectives. And you can score several during a game. And they have various VP values. This will make the game very lively.

The artwork is immaculate. The plastic components look amazing. And the other components will undoubtedly be as good as any FFG game.

I’m looking forward to playing this as soon as it’s available! It will be bittersweet if it fires Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition.

 

Until then, you can play Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition here:

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
188 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Dictator Joe

Tuesday, Aug 15, 2017, 6:00 PM
6 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

 

 

 

 

 

SeaFall Session 3

SeaFall - Game 03

WARNING: SPOILERS!!! ANOTHER BOX

We got our 3rd game of SeaFall in the other night, and what a game it was!

First, it took longer to play than it probably should have, just over 3 hours, but the score!

SeaFall - Game 03In Game 3 you play till someone gets 13 points, last game it was 12. In our last game, Tasha got 12, Brandi got 9, I got 6, and Chris got 3. This game? Brandi got 13, everyone else got 12! It was a super close game! Not for all of it. Tasha and I were the last out of the gate, I moved out before her with a ship upgrade, then lost it when I sunk, then she moved out, and I was the last out of the gate and trailing most of the game, but it really comes down to the last few rounds. If it would have lasted 1 more round, I probably would have won.

Now in the game, we have a tie for overall points, it should make the next game very interesting.


Outcome

Brian – 25

  • Buildings
    • Heavy Guns
  • Upgrades
    • Deadly (lost)
    • Deadly
    • Intrepid
  • Raids = 4
    • Failed Raids = 1
  • Explorations = 0
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 1
    • Total Damage taken = 3
  • Treasures = 2
  • Research = 0
  • Milestones

Tasha – 33

  • Buildings
  • Upgrades
    • Enduring
  • Raids = 4
    • Failed Raids = 1
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 1
    • Total Damage taken = 4
  • Uncharted Water Cards = 2
  • Treasures = 3
  • Research = 1
  • Milestones
    • The Seas Embrace
Chris – 19

  • Buildings
    • Gun Tower
    • Market
  • Upgrades
    • Bold
    • Nimble
    • Deadly
    • Intrepid
  • Raids = 4
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 4
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 0
    • Total Damage taken = 1
  • Treasures = 0
  • Research = 1
  • Milestones
Brandi – 33

  • Buildings
  • Upgrades
    • Terrible
  • Raids = 5
    • Failed Raids = 0
  • Explorations = 1
    • Failed Explorations = 0
  • Ships Sunk = 1
    • Total Damage taken = 10
  • Island Search = 2
    • Failed = 0
  • Uncharted Water Cards = 2
  • Treasures = 0
  • Research = 1
  • Milestones
    • Trade Flurishes

Game Notes

SeaFall - Game 03We had a lot of pirate attacks this game, well, 3 actually and they seemed to like Brandi the most. They attacked her vault at one point, getting 1/2 of her gold rounded up for 19 gold total.

Brandi and Tasha also had a bit of a falling out in the game. At the start of the game we had to give out enmity tokens to some of the other people in the game, and on of the milestones was to sink another players ships. Brandi struck first, attacking Tasha in her home port, then Tasha struck, sinking one of Brandi’s ships in Tasha’s home port getting her the milestone. It didn’t end there, Tasha raided Brandi’s port again later on, but failed in her attempt. Chris and I didn’t attack the other players, just saying.

SeaFall - Game 03We added two new islands to the map, thanks to Brandi, and had a few issues with some of the new rules. The ‘Dangerous Waters’ vs ‘Uncharted Waters’ messed up a bit, but Brandi figured it out, and the ‘Research’ in the game gave us issues too. Nothing we had said research cards! It would really have been helpful if things had labels on them as to what cards were what, it would have solved all the problems. Just for your reference, the cards on the right are the research cards.

SeaFall - Game 03 SeaFall - Game 03 SeaFall - Game 03

New Box

SeaFall - Game 03Thanks to Brandi, we were able to open a new box this game.

The box was nice and heavy, and contained a lot of new goodies! Everything from new and more upgrades and buildings, to new player reference cards, advisors, retired advisor cards, treasures, and more! Some of the new treasure cards are worth 4 pts each but are very expensive to pick up.

The next game should be a good one, looking forward to playing it.

SeaFall - Game 03 SeaFall - Game 03

 


Be sure to visit Iggy’s Games where you can see this and many other gaming articles.


 

Thrift Store Finds July 2017

It’s been some time since I posted my thrift store finds. Don’t let this hiatus lull you into thinking I’ve abandoned my post at every Goodwill in the tri-county area. There have been several good finds along with a couple of amazing finds. And, as always, these games are available for our members or readers of this blog at The Gaming Annex.

Thrift Store Finds July 2017

Bermuda Triangle

Bermuda Triangle (1976)
Bermuda Triangle (1976)

I first learned about the Bermuda Triangle in 1977. Charles Berlitz, a renowned writer of the paranormal, authored a popular book about the infamous area of the Atlantic. His work spawned a creepy episode of  In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy.

In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy
In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy

Berlitz’s book did more than spawn a TV episode though. Milton Bradley released a pick-up and deliver game called Bermuda Triangle the year after Berlitz’s book. I’ve blogged about the game in my essay about the origins of Ameritrash. It’s been a game that I’ve wanted since my childhood.

And the Goodwill in Grandville delivered! (Figuratively. I mean, they didn’t drive the game to my house).

Players must move about the eastern Caribbean, picking up goods an delivering them. Players get paid for making deliveries (total cash determines the winner). However, there are clouds forming. The area bound by Miami, San Juan and Nassau is haunted by an amorphous black fog. It’s magnetic properties screw up your navigation and cause your ships to be lost.

There's a storm abrewin'
There’s a storm abrewin’

Each player has a complement of ships. These plastic ships have a magnet on them. When the storm passes near them, the ship can be picked up. This means the ship is lost and you will have to buy a new one.

The game is beautiful for a 1970’s game. And the components are fun. I like the idea that the magnetic storm simulates the magnetic anomalies that sailors have noted in the real Bermuda Triangle. Ultimately, the roll-and-move aspect sinks this game by today’s standards. Still, I’m glad I found a copy!

A Cache of Dungeons & Dragons Books

Someone's collection of D&D books
Someone’s collection of D&D books

Several weeks ago, a follower of ours on Facebook was looking to sell some D&D books. She asked if I would post her wares on our page. I obliged. The post drew a tremendous amount of interest from the Muskegon area. Seems everyone and their brother wants some D&D books.

Joann, one of our members, really wanted those books. Unfortunately, the books sold before she could make arrangements.

I was perusing the Goodwill on Harvey Street about two weeks later. I hadn’t found any noteworthy games in some time. The shelves were filled with dreck. I walked past one of the new merchandise bins. I found six, count ’em six, D&D books! And by some serendipity, the six books matched the titles I was asked to post on Facebook a couple of weeks earlier.

The clerk rang up the books at 80 cents a pop. $5.09 later, I had a budding collection of 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons books. I was only too happy to give them to Joann who missed out on the ones being sold on our Facebook page (which were $20 each).

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest from Ravensburger
Enchanted Forest from Ravensburger

I keep finding copies of Enchanted Forest. I’m not complaining. People in our group who have kids clamor over it.

I believe I’ve found 4 copies in 2017. Two members, Holly and Jonathan, got copies to play with their families. I now have an additional copy available.

Snorta!

Snorta! from Out of the Box Games
Snorta! from Out of the Box Games

Snorta! is another great family game. The components are cute plastic animals and barns. The game play revolves around being the first to make an animal sound when a card is flipped.

I’ve found a couple copies of this in 2017 that were incomplete. To my dismay, I was not able to cobble together a complete copy with them either.

But I did recently find a bona fide complete copy. Keeping with tradition, I gave it to Holly. Her kids are going to be inundated with games if this pattern keeps up.

You’re Bluffing

You're Bluffing from Ravensburger
You’re Bluffing from Ravensburger

IfSnorta! is a good farm animal game for children then You’re Bluffing is the same for adults. You’re bluffing is farm animal auction game. You either auction off an animal and collect money or you make a blind bid against an opponent’s animal. The goal is to collect entire sets of animal so they are worth points.

I was first introduced to this game by long time member Bruce. I found a copy for myself at a thrift store copy several years ago. I loaned it to former member Charles who ended up moving to Maryland–taking You’re Bluffing with him.

Some of the cards
Some of the cards

I made a local trade to get another copy for my library. But a recent trip to one of the thrift stores on 29th Street yield some thrift store gold: a complete copy of this prized game!

Now I have an extra copy available. I believe it’s earmarked for Tasha. But if she passes on it, I’ll make it available to the general public.

Arab Israeli War

Arab-Israeli Wars from Avalon Hill
Arab-Israeli Wars from Avalon Hill

Finding Avalon Hill games at thrift stores is like grabbing the brass ring. There are two reasons for this. The first is AH games are generally good games that stand the test of time. The second is owners of AH games take care of their games so most thrift store finds will be complete.

I found a copy of Avalon Hill’s The Arab-Israeli Wars, complete and mostly unplayed. Some of the counters were unpunched. Some gamer must have bought a copy of this game hoping to find a game group with which to play it only to have it sit idle for years on his shelf. If this is the case, I have a local game group that you will want to join!

Dinosaurs of the Lost World

Dinosaurs of the Lost World from Avalon Hill
Dinosaurs of the Lost World from Avalon Hill

I’ve been wanting a copy of Dinosaurs of the Lost World from Avalon Hill for a while now. The game has two modes: family and strategy. The game has better components than most Avalon Hill games (AH was known for the quality of game play, not quality of components). And I’m a huge fan of Jurassic Park so the theme works for me.

But the price doesn’t.

Modular board of Dinosaurs of the Lost World
Modular board of Dinosaurs of the Lost World

The game goes for $70+ when you can even find a copy. I put it low on my priority list.

While making my rounds one afternoon, I saw a game with this familiar title on it. I thought, “No way! This is some similarly named game.”

But to my pleasant surprise, it was a complete copy of the Avalon Hill classic. The game is now a permanent edition to our library.

Other thrift store finds

Elude the dungeon keepers of Muskegon!
Parker Brothers’ Dungeon Dice

 

 

 

 

 

Ultimate Werewolf
Ultimate Werewolf

 

 

 

 

 

Stratego 4
Stratego 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where the thrifting never stops…

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
188 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Epic Games: Dune

Sunday, Aug 6, 2017, 11:00 AM
6 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

Around the world of board gaming July 2017

Lots of news to cover around the world of board gaming. We will talk about GenCon, game theory, the market outlook for Hasbro and, of course, The (New) Gaming Annex. Hope you enjoy it!

Around the World of Board Gaming July 2017

GenCon 4 day badges are sold out

GenCon logo
GenCon logo

What happens when 60,000 of your closest gaming buddies all sign up for GenCon? If you said, “GenCon sells out for the first time in its history”, you’d be correct. There are no more 4 day passes for 2017. The badges, which sell for $90, sold out this month.

This is the 50th anniversary of GenCon. To commemorate this, the officials at GenCon wanted to top all their previous attendance goals. They pulled out all the stops.

They Might Be Giants
They Might Be Giants

They even have a concert.

They Might Be Giants is playing at the stadium adjacent to GenCon. And GenCon goers have access to ticketing.

We should conclude that 4 day passes for next year’s GenCon will sell quickly; everyone who missed out this year will want to buy their badge early in 2018.

 

Hasbro is not a good buy

Hasbro
Hasbro

I rough up Hasbro a lot on this blog. But there is no denying that they make lots of money publishing toys and games. This is due to Hasbro’s strong performance in the market place and Mattel’s missteps.

But Hasbro reported their smallest sales in 1.5 years. This past quarter was not kind to the publisher-we-love-to-hate. Hasbro had to rely on Transformers: The Last Knight toys and Spider-Man: Homecoming action figures. And these two franchises were not up to the task. Hasbro gets 50% of its revenue from overseas. Sales in Brazil and the UK were lower than expected this quarter.

But there is no cause for long term concern. Hasbro has the rights to the new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. Hasbro is the publisher of choice for many Disney IP toys. Hasbro is also launching a board game delivery service this fall. So don’t panic. We will be able to use Hasbro as a punching bag for many years to come.

Game Theory in Geopolitics

North Korean military prowess
North Korean military prowess

The situation in the Korean peninsula is heating up. It’s not bad enough that the Korean War ended in 1953 with a stalemate. But 64 years later the situation is deteriorating.

The regime is run by the grandson of the dictator who precipitated the first conflict there. This new dictator, Kim Jong Un, seems insistent on demonstrating his ability to launch rockets against the US.

While this is a topic of importance, what we focus on here is gaming. And the strategists working for the defense of the USA are using game theory to flesh out a course of action. Game theory is about playing the player along with playing the game. The game here is geopolitics in the Korean peninsula. The players are North Korea, South Korea, China and the USA. And game theory assumes rational actors.

Along with NPR’s article on the subject, Project Syndicate has a good background on the subject here. The use of game theory in geopolitics is not new. The Kennedy’s used it to game out a scenario to “win” the Cuban Missile Crisis. Our current administration is doing the same with North Korea.

 

Close to Home

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

So we moved.

Our new location is at 851 W. Laketon Avenue Suite A. This is near Henry Street in the city of Muskegon. The building is an office/retail site along with some industrial warehousing in the rear.

We moved from 1976 W. Sherman Boulevard due to a change in ownership in the strip mall we were renting. We were there just under five years. After a tearful goodbye, we have moved to some new digs. We had over 10 people in our group helping out moving, loading and even renting trucks to aid the move. I was overwhelmed. I’m very grateful for this gaming community.

Our new place is about 50% bigger than the old place. We now have 1,300 square feet, compared to about 800 before. We have three separate rooms which helps keep noise and distractions down. There are a two annoying things about the new place. The first is the air conditioning. The A/C is a work in process. I’m hoping that the climate will be under more control this Tuesday. The second is parking. Just ask Brandi.

Muskegon Watch Us Go
Muskegon Watch Us Go

I’m confident we can work out these bugs. I’m hopeful this new location will work out long term. The location should be conducive to recruiting too. Lots of foot traffic. And Rick Jima, one of our misanthropes, is working on getting a new $20 awning. Expect big things!

 

Byte Club Gaming of North Muskegon
Byte Club Gaming of North Muskegon

Speaking of new locations, our former partners, Byte Club Gaming, moved. Abruptly. Like, no fanfare or anything.

Byte Club Gaming of North Muskegon is now Byte Club Gaming of Pentwater. Per their facebook and website, they are offering the same services as before, just in northern Oceana County.

We wish them the best of luck in their new location. Their new location will put them outside the scope of the Muskegon Area Gamers. But with little luck and a lot of hard work, they turn that resort town into a thriving gaming community.

Extra Life logo
Extra Life logo

I guess that makes more room for Griffin’s Rest. Speaking of which, I had the pleasure of meeting with Kiel and his partner, Dan, this month. We discussed our plans for this November’s Extra Life event. Griffin’s Rest will be having an event at their two story retail outlet on 3rd Street.

Kiel said final preparations for his store are under way. He should be open in August.

And we will be there to support!

 

To follow local news, check us out here:

 

Runewars Minis versus A Song of Ice and Fire Minis

When Fantasy Flight announced their intentions to publish a fantasy miniatures game supported by ongoing expansions, I was a bit skeptical. The hobby already has Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Can the hobby seriously support a second such game? Then Cool Minis or Not got the rights to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. They too announced they would be mining this fantasy setting in order to publish an ongoing, expandable game. Can the hobby support three such games? Let’s take a closer look and see…

 

Runewars Minis versus A Song of Ice and Fire Minis

 

In this corner: Runewars Miniatures Game

Fantasy Flight announced the release of Runewars Miniatures Game about a year ago. I hypothesized that it was one of the reasons for Games Workshop’s decision to split with its former North American partner. Runewars Miniatures Game represents a direct competition between the Minnesota based Fantasy Flight and the Nottingham, UK based Games Workshop. Very specifically, direct competition against Games Workshop’s primary IP: the Warhammer universe.

Muskegon loves Runewars
Runewars Miniatures Game from Fantasy Flight Games

The base game for Runewars is now available along with several expansion packs. We can take a critical look at the game.

The base set of Runewars comes with 48 unpainted miniatures. The miniatures, unlike Games Workshop’s Citadel minis, are preassembled. The miniatures are molded plastic in light to dark greys.

The game also comes with the several tokens, dials and other necessary accoutrements. As is standard operating procedure at Fantasy Flight, the game comes with two rule books: a learning to play book and a rules reference.

Runewars Miniatures
Runewars Miniatures

Runewars takes place in a setting created and owned entirely by Fantasy Flight. The universe is called Terrinoth. It is the setting for several FFG games including Runewars the board game, Battlelore 2nd Edition, Descent and Runebound. It is your standard issue fantasy setting with elves, undead and humans struggling for supremacy. The base set comes with a smattering of humans (called the Daquan Lords) and undead (called Waiqar).

Runewars contents
Runewars contents

The game comes with a staggering price tag: $100 MSRP. This price point is comparable to other lifestyle games from FFG like Star Wars Armada and Twilight Imperium. And Runewars Miniatures Game does bear several similarities to the former. Both Armada and Runewars are miniatures games and not board games. Both use custom 8 sided dice. And both use a very similar measuring system instead of a tape measure.

Custom dice are awesome. Muskegon Area Gamers
Custom dice from Runewars

I love custom dice. I prefer them to normal dice which normally require a spreadsheet to add/subtract all your modifiers. Custom dice such as Runewars let you intuitively add or subtract your modifiers. Also, I prefer 8 sided dice to 6 sided dice. You get more results and can more easily tweak your modifiers with 8 siders than 6. Don’t believe me? Play X-wing or Star Wars Armada; then play any miniatures war game from the 80’s or 90’s; then report back to me which you prefer.

A game of Runewars is based around building a 200 point army. Each figure or unit has a point value. The stronger the figure or unit, the more points it costs. Your opponent will do the same with a different army. Each unit (a unit is a group of figures), sits in a tray. These trays are made to be easy to move. You can move an entire unit quickly. Gone are the days where you had to move individual 15mm Grande Army figures.

Unit dial from Runewars Miniatures Game
Unit dial from Runewars Miniatures Game

The game comes with dials for each unit. This is the true innovation of Runewars. These dials are free-standing so you can place them facing you and not your opponent. You select an action from the left side and a bonus modifier from the right side. The actions are all icons so you will need to familiarize yourself with the rules reference. When you select an action, you can select a bonus modifier. The modifier must match the color of the action. White is a wild modifier so it can be used with any action.

See the white number above the action icons? That is the initiative number. When selecting an action you also must select your initiative. The red crossed swords icon is a melee attack. It is slower (initiative 7) than the orange crossed swords (3). But the slower attack has a damage modifier on the right dial–the orange attack does not. Pretty innovative. But you would expect nothing less from Fantasy Flight.

And in this corner: A Song of Ice and Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game

Muskegon loves A Game of Thrones
A Song of Ice and Fire Tabletop Miniatures Game from CMON

Cool Minis or Not uses Kickstarter to fund all its games. They announced recently the launch of a new project: a miniatures game in the Game of Thrones universe. The project is already full funded with a couple of weeks to spare. It’s now just a matter of the game going to the printers.

Cool Minis or Not has made many cool games with awesome minis. Blood Rage is a perennial favorite. Its sequel, Rising Sun, broke Kickstarter with the amount of internet traffic clamoring to back it.

The Hand of the King pledge is the highest backing level for this project. Its cost is an exorbitant $150. It comes with 103 assembled but unpainted miniatures, several tokens and decks of cards and special rulers for measuring.

A tray of Umbar berzerkers
A tray of Umbar berzerkers

Like Runewars, ASOIAF also has trays that the minis sit in. Again, this is a nice improvement over the games of yesteryear. Figures can be placed into a slot to make your armies. Casualties can easily be removed.

ASOIAF comes with standard 6 sided dice. Players will be doing mental arithmetic all game long as they add or subtract various modifiers. The lack of innovation here will have to be compensated for in other areas of game play.

Political board in ASOIAF
Political board in ASOIAF

There are three innovations in ASOIAF worthy of discussion. The first is: the game is ready to be played immediately after opening. Each army is uniquely colored. Lannister is red and Stark is light grey. This allows you to play the game weeks or months before your army is painted.

The next innovation is the political board. The combat in the fields are often subject to intrigues in the backrooms. And ASOIAF takes care of this with a political action system. You will have a non-combat related character (Tyrion, Cersei, or Catelyn for example). Your action can be to activate these characters instead of activating a military unit. In so doing, you will get some advantage such as drawing tactics cards or healing units. Each space on the political track will hold only one figure so if you choose a political action first, you will get to pick whichever one you want.

Tactics cards from ASOIAF
Tactics cards from ASOIAF

The last innovation is the tactics cards. Players have a hand of three. Each round you will fill your hand back up. These are surprises you can keep from your opponent. This allows for some fog of war since you don’t know what your opponent is packing. You develop your deck along with your army ahead of time so you will tweak your army and strategy to match the cards in your deck.

A Song of Ice of Fire the Miniatures Game is really a streamlining of Warhammer Fantasy Battles 8th edition with some gotcha cards.

 

Outcome

Runewars Miniatures
Runewars Miniatures (courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games)

ASOIAF hasn’t been released yet. Also, I have not played either game. I’ve watched some play videos and studied some reviews about these games. So we will have to do some conjecture here.

As far as cost goes, Runewars gets a slight advantage. However, ASOIAF gets the advantage for value. You get much more with your $150 spent on ASOIAF than you do for $100 on Runewars.

The quality of the components will probably be comparable. Runewars looks awesome. And CMON has a good track record for quality.

The real question will come down to two aspects: game play and theme. And here is where the two games diverge completely.

As far as game play goes, Runewars looks like the winner hands down. The unit dials offers enough fog of war so you can outplay your opponent. The dice are innovative so you don’t get brain burn from all the modifier computations. Fantasy Flight has already made two similar games (X-Wing and Armada) so we should expect Runewars to be mechanically as sound as its two predecessors. The tactics cards in ASOIAF look like they add zaniness to the game instead of tactical surprise. For all the tactical maneuvering you do on the field can be undone by your opponents hand of cards. This would make me feel very unsatisfied.

As far as theme goes, A Song of Ice and Fire is the winner all day long. Who in the heck hasn’t heard of A Game of Thrones? Who in the heck has heard of Terrinoth? For fans of the books or the show, this game is a no-brainer. The game will attract collectors as well since the components will be beautiful.

 

Epilogue

ASOIAF Lannister unit
ASOIAF Lannister unit

So can the hobby support both of these games and Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy Battles? Probably not. WHFB isn’t going anywhere, despite me loathing  it. So these two games will be competing for customers who don’t want to play WHFB. It’s possibly that some game groups or communities will play both games of these games; my prediction below is based upon this being highly unlikely.

My prediction: Runewars will last longer than ASOIAF. I believe the superior mechanics along with a massive parent company (Asmodee) will help Runewars Miniatures Game survive longer. I do reserve the right to revisit this topic after ASOIAF is released. I’ll post another blog about this if I’m proven right or wrong. Stay tuned.

 

In the meantime, you can go here to argue with me…

 

The Gaming Annex in Muskegon