Category Archives: Holy Grail Board Games

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

New additions to the gaming library

It’s been several months since I discussed my efforts to streamline the game library at the Gaming Annex. This effort has continued, maybe even escalated in recent weeks. I’m finding that our group’s tastes are changing so my collection has to change. There have also been several instances of me trading games, believing them to be bad, only to find out later they were actually good fits for the group. And finally, I’m getting better at predicting the success of a game. To reach my goal of having 500 relevant games in my library, I’ve added these items…

 

Games I predict will be a good fit

Matagot's Inis
Matagot’s Inis

There’s a new craze in town. It’s name is Inis. It’s a Euro-Ameritrash Hybrid that pits players against one another in a Celtic setting. The game draws inspiration if not game mechanics per se from Blood Rage and Cyclades.

The game has been a good fit for our group too. Indeed, everyone has loved it so far. Except me.

Because I haven’t played it yet :'(

I’ll try to rectify this before our next installment of Hits & Flops.

Game board for GMT's Cuba Libre
Game board for GMT’s Cuba Libre

The Muskegon Area Gamers are moving from Ameritrash games into Wargames. Here I Stand and Sword of Rome have been huge hits. All of us love those games. That makes GMT’s Cuba Libre a no-brainer.

Cuba Libre allows up to four players to take on the major forces that fought for supremacy in the age of Castro and Che. This card driven game has all the important figures from this time period: Castro, Frank Sinatra, Meyer Lansky. This game is a sequel to another game, Andean Abyss. If Cuba Libre is the hit I suspect it will be, look for Andean Abyss to be added to the library.

New game library Muskegon Area Gamers
Divided Republic from Numbskull Games

Last month I wrote an election day blog. I mentioned Numbskull Games’ Divided Republic. Given our love of 1960: the Making of the President (and we do love that game, don’t we, Brandi?!), I predict Divided Republic will be a hit. The game shares much with 1960 but allows four players to play. And the time frame is shifted from the tumultuous 1960’s to the upheaval of 1860. So many rules to read! I’ll have to pawn off this game on someone else so we can play it soon.

Lyssan by Thornhenge
Lyssan by Thornhenge

Lyssan is Euro-wargame hybrid. It’s a wargame but there’s so much abstraction it could be called a Euro. There are several different pieces at each player’s command.

  • Knights hold territory and fight masterfully.
  • Nobles hold territory, support priests, and fight poorly.
  • Castles hold territory, spawn new units, and protect knights and nobles.
  • Priests manipulate influence and support spies.
  • Spies assassinate priests and other spies, and have the devastating power to steal other players’ court cards.

The game play sounded interesting to me. I probably wouldn’t have traded for it, except I found a $2 copy of Escape: the Curse of the Temple that someone wanted in exchange for Lyssan. For $2 plus shipping, I get Lyssan? Sold!

Watson & Holmes from Space Cowboys
Watson & Holmes from Space Cowboys

Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective has been an unexpected hit. I thought the amount of in-game reading would be a put off. I was wrong. Then Brian brought over the Cthulhu version, Mythos Tales. That game was such a hit, that it rousted Kevin from his slumber at Prof. Mike’s house.

Taking these cues, I picked up Watson & Holmes: From the Diaries of 221B. There are several cases for players to solve. Players work independently to be the first to solve it. I’m looking forward to cracking these cases. Maybe after SeaFall is over.

 

Games that I once owned, lamented trading away and then reacquired

Eminent Domain from Tasty Minstrel Games
Eminent Domain from Tasty Minstrel Games

I like Eminent Domain. But it fell out of my good graces a couple of years ago. I’ve reflected on my decision to trade it away. Now that the newest expansion, Exotica, is available, I really took a hard look at Eminent Domain again.

Eminent Domain is a deck builder, akin to Dominion. But Eminent Domain does not have the huge set of cards Dominion has. By design. You build your deck with a very small cache of cards. This would be a strike against Eminent Domain. But Eminent Domain lifts one of the most interesting mechanics from Glory to Rome: to follow or dissent (in Glory to Rome, it’s called “follow or think”, but mechanically identical).

The fact that you have an impact and make decisions when it’s not your turn, makes Eminent Domain a better fit for me than Dominion. The space theme helps too. But the two expansions (Escalation and now Exotica) really take Eminent Domain to a new level. I’m looking forward to getting our Thursday night group up to speed on this game.

Rio Grande's Navegador
Rio Grande’s Navegador

I’m a fan of Mac Gerdts’ designs. He came up with the famous Imperial roundel. He’s used it in several of his games, reapplying it to several different themes. Antike was a pretty good find. I’m looking forward to our group giving it the same treatment as Imperial 2030.

And not the treatment we gave Navegador.

We played Navegador once and relegated it to the dung heap. I think our tastes have changed enough to necessitate reacquiring Gerdts’ classic (and out of print) game of exploration and and colonization.

And my copy just showed up in the mail today!

Virgin Queen from GMT
Virgin Queen from GMT

I mentioned earlier what a huge hit Here I Stand has been. Virgin Queen is the sequel in every sense of the word. It takes place in the immediate aftermath of the Protestant uprising seen in Here I Stand. Plus its rules are 70% identical to Here I Stand.

I picked up a copy a couple of years ago. Then we stopped playing wargames altogether. When someone in Seattle offered me a mint copy of Ogre the Designer’s Edition (a 35lb box) in exchange, I couldn’t refuse.

Kevin hasn’t let me live it down because he wants to try Virgin Queen so badly. And Debbie hasn’t let me live it down because the 35lb box was delivered to the breeze way and proved difficult to move. She also refused to believe me that Ogre the Designer’s Edition had been left in our house by the previous owner.

But I redeemed myself, at least in Kevin’s eyes. I found an uber cheap copy on eBay. I believe Kevin’s exact response was, “You da man, Santa”. I’m confident enough in my masculinity to take that compliment.

 

Games I picked up during Black Friday sales

Mexica from Iello
Mexica from Iello

Out of the Box Games always has amazing Black Friday sales. And I always make a point of braving the cold to buy games that I largely could live without. I recognized several of the people in line this year: Rocky, Jeremy Scott Pyne and Steve. We fell upon Out of the Box like a plague of locusts, consuming all the cardboard in our path.

I found Mexica for 50% off. I’m a fan of this series (Tikal, Java, etc). And the new Iello version has magnificent pieces. For 50% off, I said, “What the hey?”

Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers
Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers

I had been eyeing the two player stand-alone Eminent Domain knock-of Battlecruisers. I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Then Black Friday rolled around with its 70% off sticker. Suddenly the trigger was pulling itself.

Part of my return to Eminent Domain is the designer’s continued support for this universe. Seth Jaffee has even mentioned he was going to readjust the theme of Terra Prime so it was in the Eminent Domain universe. (Long time readers of this blog may recall my glowing endorsement of Jaffee’s Terra Prime.) And picking up a cheap copy of Battlecruisers also endears his universe to me.

We Come in Peace from Rather Dashing Games
We Come in Peace from Rather Dashing Games

We Come in Peace is a dice version of the classic arcade game “Space Invaders”. Such a game would generally interest me, but a good filler is hard to find. And Out of the Box made it hard to resist with a whopping 80% off sticker. I think I paid less than $5 for it. Jeff was practically giving it to me.

Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City
Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City

Target had a Black Friday sale too. Target has been making a play for the board gamer dollars. They carry a lot of high end games now. And they have been getting some exclusive games, most notably the recent Oregon Trail board game.

IDW and Target worked out a deal for a standalone Machi Koro game called Bright Lights, Big City. For 50%, I pulled the trigger. I also found Suspicion for 50% off at Target. This was also a Target exclusive. I’ll let you take a look at the 46 second trailer. It’s cute.

 

 

Classic Games and Holy Grails

Dark Tower from Milton Bradley
Dark Tower from Milton Bradley

It’s been several months since I last mentioned my Quest for the Grails. I finally added a key piece in that mosaic: a complete and functional copy of Milton Bradley’s Dark Tower.

The box has “$20” written in Sharpie on it. I might have to replace the box. But the tower and game is good. A Goodwill in Maine came across a copy and listed it on eBay. And I couldn’t resist. Orson Welles was so compelling in his 30 second TV spot.

 

Parker Brother's Der Fliegende Hollander
Parker Brother’s Der Fliegende Hollander

Parker Brothers dabbled briefly in Euro games. I know, it’s bizarre. No one in the Muskegon Area Gamers believed it existed until I added it to our shelves. Designed by Klaus Teuber of Setters of Catan fame, Der Fliegende Hollander (the Flying Dutchman) is a luck mitigation and negotiation game.

This game has been on my radar for a while. It’s a Grail to me because it’s hard to find in the States–despite being pedestrian in Europe.

Campaign Trail from GDW Games
Campaign Trail from GDW Games

After my election day post, I was enamored by the games I discussed. I looked high and low for copies of GDW’s Campaign Trail and 3M’s Mr. President. I settled on buying them on eBay.

There were several games that met the criteria of that election day blog post but Campaign Trail and Mr. President are special. I think our group, which has been very receptive to classic games, will greet these games with open arms.

 

Where our library is located

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
155 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

Twilgiht Imperium: The Scenario

Sunday, Dec 11, 2016, 9:00 AM
7 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Holy Grail List: Updated

I last blogged about my holy grails about a year ago. There has been considerable changes made to my list since then.  New grails added to the list. Previous grails successful acquired. Here is the updated list of games I need to turn The Gaming Annex into a board game museum.

 

1. Star Wars Queen’s Gambit

Jedi fight from Star Wars Queen's Gambit
Jedi fight from Star Wars Queen’s Gambit

I first saw Star Wars Queen’s Gambit at a game store in 2000. It was going for $75.

I balked.

I was not a particularly huge fan of The Phantom

Muskegon loves Star Wars: Queen's Gambit way more than the Phantom Menace
Grail Game: Star Wars Queen’s Gambit

Menace. And I have never been a particularly huge fan of Hasbro. So I decided their take on this license was probably mediocre.

Fast forward 16 years later. This is the Holy Grail. It is probably the game consistently on everyone’s holy grail list. And I found an unplayed copy. The price was several times higher than it was in 2000. A painful lesson. My student loans will have to wait.

I’ll be taking my copy of Star Wars Queen’s Gambit to CabinCon III. I’m pretty sure it will get played.

Holy Grail status: I own a copy!

 

2. King Oil

King Oil from Milton Bradley
King Oil from Milton Bradley

I’m always impressed with Milton Bradley the way I’m not impressed with Hasbro. Milton Bradley was way ahead of its time. And their 1974 game King Oil was a case in point.

Oil drilling in King Oil
Oil drilling in King Oil

During the height of the oil crisis of the 1970’s, Milton Bradley made a game about oil drilling that was fun and had unique mechanics.

You would speculate about where to drill. The deeper the well, the more expensive the endeavor. The 3D game board offered random levels of oil drilling. After pumping Texas tea out of the mine, you would cap it off and pipe it for distribution.

King Oil game board
King Oil game board

The game board is always different. There are three discs that can be spun into 12 different positions each. The shallow well from one game could be dry the next.

I’ve been wanting a copy of this game

Ad for King Oil and Prize Property offset by the Number of the Beast
Ad for King Oil and Prize Property offset by the Number of the Beast

since I first laid eyes on the game in the 70’s. We were too poor for a new $8.99 board game. I’d have to wait until 2015 and buy it used for $80.

Which is what I did.

The Gaming Annex now has a copy of King Oil!

Holy Grail status: I own a copy!

 

3. Dark Tower

Milton Bradley's Dark Tower is a Holy Grail game in Muskegon
Milton Bradley’s Dark Tower

Dark Tower was a feat of engineering prowess for 1981. Players punched in their movement into the built in computer. The computer would then handle all aspects  of the game that would normally be controlled by  the

Dark Tower from Milton Bradley
Dark Tower from Milton Bradley

players. Combat? Check. Items? Check.

The computer is a bit primitive by today’s standards. But it got the job done. And many copies still function flawless today.

Complete copies of Dark Tower cost a pretty penny. A prohibitively expensive pretty pennies. I do occasionally have to make a student loan payment.

By the next installment of “holy grails” on this blog, however, I plan on having a copy.

Holy Grail status: Not yet

 

4. Crossbows & Catapults

Lakeside's Crossbows & Catapults
Lakeside’s Crossbows & Catapults

Crossbows & Catapults is stupid fun. Stupid because you hurl plastic caroms at your opponent’s playing pieces with rubber band powered siege equipment. Fun because hurling plastic caroms at your opponent’s

Equipment in Crossbows & Catapults
Equipment in Crossbows & Catapults

playing pieces is the sidesplitting.

I was first exposed to Crossbows & Catapults in the early 80’s. It was a Christmas tradition for my sister Patty and I to look through the Witmark catalog for things that Santa could bring us. Evidently Santa shopped at Witmarks. Which is strange because Witmark went the way of the dodo.

I didn’t get a copy of C&C, unfortunately. Fast forward to the late 80’s. I was in high school. A friend of mine owned some C&C stuff. We would play it on his pool table. It was stupid fun.

I’ve longed for a copy ever since.

Holy Grail status: not yet 🙁

 

5. Voice of the Mummy

Voice of the Mummy from Milton Bradley
Voice of the Mummy from Milton Bradley

Voice of the Mummy was the 1970’s version of Dark Tower. Because it was made in the 70’s, the game is sans a computer. Instead it has a record player.

The record player controls the random elements of the game. At least to the best of a record player’s ability.

The record player tells you what happens when you land on certain spots. When the great jewel is taken, the record is flipped over to its B side. And the race to leave begins.

Like I said earlier: I’m forever amazed at what Milton Bradley did. And Voice of the Mummy is no exception. Copies of this game are few and far between. I would love a copy for our, ahem, museum. Until then…

Holy Grail status: not yet

 

6. Dune

Classics like Dune from Avalon Hill are favorites in Muskegon
Dune from Avalon Hill

Dune is a true gamer’s Holy Grail game. It’s value as a game in 2016 is fueled by its stellar mechanics rather than its nostalgia. Copies of the original game are quite pricey.

I’ve had the chance to play it twice in the past few months. [Name redacted] received a copy from his father. He taught Kevin, Prof. Mike and myself how to play. It went over very well. I can see why it’s still appealing to gamers today.

Since [Name redacted]  has a copy on permanent exhibit at The Gaming Annex, I don’t think I need a copy now.

Holy Grail  status: Removed indefinitely.

 

7. El Dorado from Parker Brothers

El Dorado from Parker Brothers
El Dorado from Parker Brothers

It’s not often that I want a Parker Brothers game. It’s almost never that I would want to play a game from 1941. And yet, Parker Brother’s “El Dorado: Game of the World’s Hidden Treasures” was published in 1941 and is on my Holy Grail list.

This game comes from the heyday of Parker Brothers. The pinnacle of their game design in both mechanics and

Lanterns from El Dorado
Lanterns from El Dorado

components. It was all down hill after 1941. Perhaps the war effo

BGG has little information about this game. It’s a roll and move game with some press your luck. Not much to go on. But I’m still drawn in. I’ve officially added this to my list.

Holy Grail status: Not yet.

 

8. Fireball Island

Fireball Island from Milton Bradley
Fireball Island from Milton Bradley

Fireball Island. The game is on almost as many Holy Grail lists as SW: Queen’s Gambit. It’s probably been crossed off more Holy Grail lists than Queen’s Gambit.

The toy factor is strong in this one. Toy explorers ascend a 3D board that spits red marbles at them. Plastic bridges crash under the heaving red marbles. Gaudy plastic gems lure our toy explorers ever on towards the center of the board.

It’s rating of 6.4 on BGG is not entirely due to nostalgia. There is genuine decision making in Fireball Island. Managing the risks of fireballs coming from the center of the island is critical.

I found an incomplete copy on eBay. It’s missing the orange explorer. Mongo said he has a copy. I’ve got my fingers crossed that he has an orange explorer for me.

Holy Grail status: incomplete

 

9. Where Holy Grails are available for weekly game plays…

 

 

 

Muskegon’s Holy Grail Board Games

There are some games that you really, really REALLY want to own. But due to it being hard to find, out of print and exorbitantly expensive, buying said games would prove tough on your wallet (and quite possibly on your marriage).

Yet…

These games call out to you, driving you more and more mad. Oh wait. That’s Cthulhu.

Muskegon Call of Cthulhu
When Cthulhu calls, will you answer?

 

Here is a rundown of some of my Holy Grail games. Games that I must own.

 

 

1. Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit

Muskegon loves Star Wars: Queen's Gambit way more than the Phantom Menace
Grail Game: Star Wars Queen’s Gambit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I saw this sitting on a game shelf at a store some time in 2000. The price was $60. I passed on it because it was Hasbro fluff about some drivel Lucas dared call Star Wars.

Yet, fourteen years later I wish I owned this game. The game intrigues me to no end. Hundreds of minis? Check. Several arenas of play? Check. Asymmetrical combat? Checkmate.

But the going price is $200+! I can’t justify that price.

Or can I?

 

2. War of the Ring: The Collector’s Edition

War of the Ring: Collector's Edition. At least one copy is in Muskegon
Great addition of a great game

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Fantasy Flight announced they were releasing a limited edition, painted copy of War of the Ring, I took one look at its $400 price tag and balked.

Now four years later, the game is going for $1,000 easily. And the game is still supported by Ares Games, amazingly enough.

I really REALLY cannot justify shelling out that much money.

 

3. Broadsides and Boarding Parties

First seen at Witmark on Sherman Blvd in Muskegon
Holy Grail Game: Broadsides & Boarding Parties 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first laid eyes on Broadsides & Boarding Parties at Witmark in Muskegon. It came with a hefty $29.99 price tag which put it WAY outside my price range for the mid 80’s.

Now the game goes for $150 used. Why couldn’t Santa bring me this in 8th grade? 🙁

 

4. Rio Grande’s Big City

Muskegon is a Big City
Holy Grail Game: Big City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Holy Grail game that I actually managed to pick up was Rio Grande Games’ Big City. The miniature buildings are awesome. I actually feel like I am building a little city–which is ironic because it’s actually called, “Big City”.

I picked it up used for $80 which I think is a bargain.

 

 

5. History of the World from Avalon Hill

History of the World from Avalon Hill is a favorite at the Gaming Annex
History of the World from Avalon Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hasbro/Avalon Hill edition of History of the World is by far the best edition of this game. It has tons of cool miniatures. The art work is fun and colorful. I knew I had to own it.

I found a reasonably priced copy on eBay. A week later the package arrived. I excitedly opened the box. I could see the Avalon Hill logo as I pulled open the box. Then I saw the game box: I was the proud new owner of Axis and Allies: Europe! I contacted the eBay seller to complain. After some correspondence, my game was on its way.

A week later, I was the proud new owner of History of the World. And I’ve been lovin’ it ever since!

McDonald's Restaurant on Sherman Blvd is often frequented by the Gaming Annex in Muskegon
McDonald’s Restaurant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 6. Tree Frog Games’ A Study in Emerald

Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald is loved by book (and game) enthusiasts in West Michigan
A Study in Emerald from Tree Frog Games

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martin Wallace’s take on Neil Gaiman’s book looks very intriguing. The artwork is phenomenal. The game play has a twist. Wallace is an exceptional game designer.

But $150 for a card game?!

Even I have limits!

 

-Chris, on behalf of the Muskegon Area Gamers