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Jeff's Gameblog
Thursday, 15 April 2004

Sometimes I need to run something just once to get it out of my system. Nobilis was like that. My QAGS: Superfriends game too. I had a itch that needed to be scratched, now that it is scratched I don't think about it much any more.

I'm sure my desire to run an apocalyptic zombie game is one of these one-shot urges. That's the main reason I have refrained from shelling out the money to buy All Flesh Must Be Eaten*. At one point I considered using Sean Wipfli's rules-light indie zombie game Dead Meat, but ironically the rules were not meaty enough for me. Now the folks behind Savage Worlds have put out "Zombie Run", a new number in their "Savage Tales" series that just might fit the bill. And it's a only a seven buck download at rpg.now. Even better, I feel like I could scare up some players from the bunch over at the pancake joint.

*AFMBE probably has the most evocative name for an RPG I've seen in years. You just about need to go back to Traveller or Dungeons & Dragons to find a more spot-on RPG title.

Posted by jrients at 6:45 PM CDT
Post-Apocalypse Now!
Reading my newly acquired 1st edition Gamma World not long after going through Palladium's After the Bomb and Mutants Down Under has kinda put me in a mood to combine these settings into a single gonzo incoherent post-apocalyptic milieu. One of the nice things about post-apoc style games is that you can whip up location-based adventures with mutational nonsense and techno-artifacts, allowing one to rely on the formulary of D&D but hiding it under different window dressing. That and you can have exotic mutant chicks instead of exotic elf chicks.

Posted by jrients at 6:43 PM CDT
Wednesday, 14 April 2004

I whipped up a rough draft for my Origins of World War I board today. I'm going to take it home and see if I guessed the cell size close enough that a poker chip fits in the right places.

I'm hoping to get some Call of Cthulhu stuff posted to my website in the next couple of days. Nothing fancy, just a couple of quick play aids and the stats and history of an old monster of mine.

Posted by jrients at 4:37 PM CDT
You know what I hate...
about some of the old TSR rpgs? Programmed adventures. These were the adventures that were built like the solitaire "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. I liked the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I still have at least one of them, the original Star Trek one in which you played a cadet on Captain Kirk's Enterprise. But TSR didn't seem to do a good job implementing the format. Maybe the fact that I never liked the solo adventures that called for dice-rolling has something to do with it. By all accounts I should have loved the Marvel Super Heroes module Thunder Over Jotunheim. It had Thor fighting trolls and giants, for Frigga's sake. But the "crystal viewer" was a drag and the writing for the adventure was subpar. The intro adventure for the Gangbusters boxed set is one of these "if you eat the cheese, go to paragraph 2A" jobbies. The Boot Hill module Mad Mesa is supposedly more of the same. I want to use this material in a regular GM & party style game, but wandering paragraphs do not make it easy to follow.

Posted by jrients at 1:42 PM CDT
Tuesday, 13 April 2004

Got my copy of the first edition Gamma World rulebook in the mail today. Not only is the game intact, but the seller threw in the poster-sized campaign map! This earliest version of Gamma World is certainly crude, but I love the wide-open approach. Repeatedly the details of the game are explicitly remanded into the authority and imagination of the referee. A lot of games say things like that, but somedays I don't always believe them, especially when the publishers are trying to sell me a bunch of metaplotty supplements. Gamma World, like many early games, hands you a few sparse rules and pushes you into the water. You sink or swim on your own merits.

I started to scour the web for images I can use on my Origins of World War I board. Basically all I should need are flags and/or border silhouettes for each country and silhouettes for Asia and Africa. Finding graphics of World War I era flags for the minor countries is not looking easy. I may have to *gasp* go to a library and find some pictures to scan in. I need to get to the library anyway. If I'm going to do some Serious Wargaming then I have to do my homework.

Posted by jrients at 8:59 PM CDT
Monday, 12 April 2004

Reading the rules for James Dunnigan's Origins of World War I led me to go reread my copy of his Complete Wargames Handbook. This book is one of three or four that I own that are fairly comprehensive guides to the wargaming hobby. They're all good books and collectively seem to do a good job presenting a snapshot of board wargaming circa 1980. I find myself wondering if any such reference volumes have been published since. A history of the fall of Avalon Hill, SPI, and GDW would prove instructional, as would an overview of recent developments in the hobby.

The nice thing about old reference material like this is that I might get clued in to old games that are still worth playing. I have little doubt that some fun could still be eked out of Panzerblitz, Napoleon at Waterloo, Jutland or Blitzkrieg (especially with the Blitzkrieg Module System floating around online). Some of these games have to be going for a song on eBay, its just a matter of figuring out which wargames are still considered collectible and which are merely out of print.

But the most interesting data from my re-perusal of Mr. Dunnigan's tome was the discovery of some competition for my 'TSR fever' games. In particular, two Avalon Hill games published in the early eighties seem to cover the exact some material as Dawn Patrol and Boot Hill. I'm talking about Richthofen's War and Gunslinger respectively. I can already sense myself poised at the precipice, ready to plunge into the same old trap sprung upon nearly every wargamer before me. I want these AH games, if for no other reason than to compare and contrast them to the TSR counterparts. For that matter, I want a copy of Phil Hall's Blue Max. Because we all know that a casual wargamer like myself needs three frickin' biplane games.

This is the same sort of thinking that leads men to own 42 different Bulge games. Sure, I'd love to own a copy of Steve Jackson's One Page Bulge, if only as a historical curiosity. But I'm afraid that if I get it I will end up selling my platelettes to buy more little chit games. And that reminds me of the most ridiculouys dimension of these wargaming urges: I don't like little chits and little hexes! The main medium for 99% of wargames I have seen is anathema to me. I'm too hamfisted to carefully maeuver half-inch counters across half-inch hexes. Maybe I just need to buy some foreceps and maginfying lenses like the ASL people.

Posted by jrients at 2:55 PM CDT
Sunday, 11 April 2004

As I had hoped I got a chance today to play a game with my brother-in-law Jim and his sons Ian and Alex. I was expecting we'd play Carcassonne or another German game, or maybe a Cheapass game. Instead we ended up playing MarioKart DoubleDash on the boys' Gamecube. I had played the original MarioKart with Sue MecKinney when it first came out for the SuperNintendo. I sucked at the original and I haven't gotten any better since, let me tell you. Still, it was a fun game to play. The character and vehicle choices are fun and the tracks are well designed. Maybe some tracks have a little too much water and/or lava for my skill level, but I still enjoyed the gameplay. Playing MarioKart further solidified my opinion that if I were to ever get a new(er) console it would have to be a Nintendo product. I just love the little Italian plumber and his madcap adventures too much.

Posted by jrients at 6:54 PM CDT

I heard a radio report on WILL (our local NPR station) about the Mah Jong subculture. I don't know anything about the game, but apparently Mah Jong (I hope I'm spelling that right) has a large enough following among older Jewish women in America to warrant their own tournaments and conventions. They interviewed sveral players who had been into Mah Jong for 50 or more years. One player recounted how she and her sister were playing Mah Jong and listeneing to the radio when they heard a newsflash about the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Posted by jrients at 10:07 AM CDT
Saturday, 10 April 2004

This weekend I was hoping to get together with my sister Jenny and maybe play Carcassonne or my new chess variant SpaceWarp44. But alas, it was not meant to be. Our schedules this weekend only overlap sufficiently to get together for lunch tomorrow. It will be nice to see her even if we don't get to play a game together and hopefully I will be able to play something tomorrow night with my brother-in-law and his boys.

Unfortunately, this turn of events means we probably won't be able to play SpaceWarp44 prior to the deadline for the chessvariants.com contest. I found playtesting my last variant with her really helped me. Jenny's not a gamer as such and I feel like she can provide a fresh point of view from outside the milieu of the hobby.

Posted by jrients at 10:15 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, 10 April 2004 10:25 PM CDT
Friday, 9 April 2004

Today I dinked around a bit with a book about Enochian Chess, a weird occult chess variant played by members of the original Golden Dawn. Even stripped of its occult trappings I think the game merits an entry at chessvariants.com, if only as a historical curiosity. Since Enochian Chess was a divination method as well as a game, I'm not sure how high a priority the designer placed upon gameplay. The setup is weird and the pawn promotion rules are different from any chess variant I've ever seen. Still, I think the game is almost certainly playable, even if it isn't a particularly good game.

I also looked at a couple of entries in my copy of Sid Sackson's A Gamut of Games. Two items in that volume interest me in particular. First is a little chess variant called Knight Chase, devised by Alex Randolph. Knight Chase also merits a chessvariants.com entry in my opnion. Mr. Randolph is also author of two or three 3M bookcase games and a chess variant called chessgi or Mad Mate in its commercial incarnation. Chessgi is basically FIDE chess with shogi-like drop rules.

The other game in Sackson's tome that I find intriguing is a little political simulation called Origins of World War I. This game was written by a young Jim Dunnigan back in the sixties. I think I may have to put together a playable set of Origins of World War I. It doesn't look hard. You basically need a large chart, some poker chips, and a few index cards. The game is designed for exactly five players, with four or three being doable. I think my brother-in-law Jim would give it a try. His boys could be drafted. Maybe Don McKinney or Bruce Gletty could also get in on the action.

Posted by jrients at 8:23 PM CDT

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