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Jeff's Gameblog
Wednesday, 21 April 2004

They haven't posted it yet, but ChessVariants.com has acknowledged receipt of the email containing my contest entry. I always get a little anxious in the time between submitting to another site and the appearance of my submission. Did they get it? Is my email on the fritz again? Did I send it to the wrong address? Just me being neurotic I guess.

Posted by jrients at 10:37 AM CDT
Speaking of Horus...
There's some minor drama going on over at ChessVariants.com due to one of the entries in the 44 squares contest, a little variant by the name of Horus. Seems the inventor of a game called Falcon Chess or somesuch has taken umbrage at the use of the name Horus and the fact that the game Horus uses his Falcon piece. The perturbed fellow has been bandying about terms like "expropriation", mentioning the details of his patent on Falcon chess, and citing his ownership of the term Horus (with regards to chess variants at least) because Horus figures in his chess poetry.

You got that right. Chess poetry.

Of course it is totally hypocritical of me to take the "geekier than thou" stick to this guy, but come on. Chess poetry. I'm being totally unfair in condemning his work just because it buries the needle on my geekometer. But chess poetry? And this is coming from a guy who maintains a blog about his Dungeons & Dragons hobby. Ah heck, but what do I know? Maybe his chess poetry is good. I can't bring myself to find out, having long ago written off game fiction as wasteland I am too timid to explore.

My main objection to this guy though is his attitude towards ownership of the Falcon piece. He may be dead to rights in that his little patent precludes others from using the Falcon in another variant. Set aside for a moment the fact that the US Patent office will award a patent for damn near anything. (In fact I once read online an IP lawyer's speculation that the US Patent office is trying to demonstrate to Congress how broken the current system is by approving everything that meets the outdated standards.) Even if he's right, he's still being a dick. This other fellow's new variant only brings attention to the Falcon piece and the game Falcon Chess. For God's sake Horus is basically a fan homage to Falcon Chess. Discouraging this sort of activity is exactly the same sort of shoot-yourself-in-the-foot idiocy one expects from Metallica. Or, to take an even closer example, I am reminded of all the fansites TSR shut down in the years leading up to the company being bought out. Way to alienate your hardcore fans, morons. Even I'd stop playing D&D if TSR had put the kibosh on my site.

This guy should be flattered, not pissed off. No one is making any money off of either variant. No one stands to lose money if one of them succeeds and the other one fails. Horus is just a variant in a little chess contest. Nothing more, nothing less. Heck, if someone used the Crook (my homegrown chesspiece) in a new variant I would be happy as a clam. This Falcon Chess guy has taken a complement as an insult, all because his concern over ownership of his chess variant seems more real to him than his membership in the chess variantist family. It's kinda sad, really. When someone picks up their toys and goes home in a pique it hurts the entire community.

Posted by jrients at 9:16 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 21 April 2004 9:38 AM CDT
Tuesday, 20 April 2004

Today I happened to check for updates at the Star Trek Star Ship Tactical Combat Simulator Millennium Update & Archive and it turns out that Brad (the guy who runs the site) rolled out a bunch of new Romulan entries on Sunday. I was a bit taken aback to discover that the two vessels I sent Brad last month were not on the update list. I sent him a quick email asking if he got my submission or not, fearing I had used the wrong address or somesuch. Turns out he got them and will be including them in next month's update. He also mentioned that he just emailed me this morning to let me know. Go figure.

Posted by jrients at 2:32 PM CDT
SpaceWarp44, final draft











SpaceWarp44


by Jeff Rients

SpaceWarp44 plays as orthodox chess, with the following differences:

Pieces



The front rank of each array is composed of five Berolina Pawns.

Instead of Bishops, two Dragon Horse pieces sit next to each King. A Dragon Horse moves as a Bishop or it is allowed a single orthogonal step.

Next to the Dragon Horses sit Crooks. These pieces combine the abilities of Rook and Knight, but once a Crook has made a single Knight's-move it is demoted to a normal Rook. Castling also demotes a Crook to an orthodox Rook.

Kings may castle by moving the Rook to the space between the King and Crook, demoting the Crook to Rook, and then moving the King to occupy the Crook's starting position.

Promotion of the Berolina Pawns may be to any of the following pieces: Queen, Dragon Horse, Crook, or Knight. Each player may only have one Queen in play at a time. Also no more than two of any other piece type (other than the Berolina Pawns) may be in play. Thus if a player has both starting Crooks in play, he may not promote to a Crook. If one of these Crooks had been captured or demoted to a Rook, then promotion to a Crook is legal. Pawns must promote immediately upon reaching the far rank unless there is no piece to which they can legally promote. In such a case a Pawn must be promoted at the next available opportunity. This delayed promotion counts as a move, expending the player's turn.

Board


SpaeWarp44 is played on a special 5 x 9 board with a hole in the center and 8 special colored spaces.

Location c5, the black square, is not a space. No piece may move through or occupy that location. Pieces are not threatened across it. Exception: A Knight's vault, such as that made by the Crook, is allowed and threatens "across" the black void of c5.

The 8 other colored squares are warpsquares, divided into 2 subsets, the purple inner warpsquares (b4, b6, d4, d6) and the green outer warpsquares (a5, c3, c7, e5). A piece on a warpsquare gains further powers in addition to their normal movement and capture abilities. A piece on an inner warpsquare may forego their normal movement and instead move to any outer warpsquare, capturing any occupying enemy piece in the process. Similarly, a piece on an outer warpsquare may move to an inner warpsquare. Pieces may only use this ability to move to a warpsquare of the other type, e.g. a move from an inner warpsquare to another inner warpsquare must utilize a piece's normal movement. A King sitting on a warpsquare is checked if an enemy piece sit on a warpsquare of the opposite type.

Additional Notes


The inspiration for SpaceWarp44 was the realization that a 5 x 9 board minus the center square could represent a black whole in space. The warp squares are meant to represent the strange things that might happen near black holes. Please note that no actual science lesson is implied. The source of inspiration was more along the lines of Star Trek rather than Stephen Hawking.
This variant may be played with a set of orthodox chess pieces. Simply use the Bishops to represent Dragon Horses, orthodox Pawns for Berolina Pawns, and inverted Rooks for Crooks. Demotion from Crook to Rook is accomplished by flipping over the piece.
Many thanks to David Howe for making available the great images used above.


I just submitted this draft to ChessVariants.com Yippee!

Posted by jrients at 10:28 AM CDT
Monday, 19 April 2004

Uploaded a new Erol Otus Shrine section: the Legion of Gold!

Posted by jrients at 9:26 AM CDT
Sunday, 18 April 2004
Horus is a crappy game designer
My firend Pat came over for a bit today. We stuffed ourselves with perogies, flipped through some comic books (among other books in hand he had Hellboy Weird Tales #8, which includes a nifty Evan Dworkin story), shot the breeze in general and about gaming in particular, and actually played some games. The first game we played was Safari Jack by the nice people at Cheapass Games. In this nifty little card game the players are big game hunters looking to blast exotic animals while vacationing in Africa. We had a lot of fun. The cards themselves are so flimsy I doubt they'll last too many hands, but I'm not too concerned since they're so cheaply replaced. Safari Jack is the third Cheapass game I own that involves Victorian gentlemen on dubious adventures, the first two being Chief Hermann's Holiday Fun Pack and Captain Park's Imaginary Polar Expedition. I enjoy all three, though I think the Imaginary Polar Expedition is clearly the best of the lot.

After two hands of Safari Jack we decided to play something different, so I pulled out my copy of Ancient Board Games by Irving Finkel (Welcome Rain press, 1997). This is a board book that contains rules, pieces, and boards for the earliest known boardgames. Last time Pat and I had this out we played the Royal Game of Ur, the first game in the book. This time we tried Mehen, also known as "the Snake Game" because the board takes the form of a coiled snake. The snake is subdivided into spaces, resulting in a standard track game. Mehen proved to be too slow moving a game for Pat and I. Too many turns we would throw the sticks (plastic replicas of the precursors to dice) and come up with a turn in which absolutely nothing happened. We gave up after a quarter of the way through the game. Mehen is a poorly designed game, even by the loose standards of Mr. Bradley and the brothers Parker. The title of this blog entry harshes on Horus because of the prominent Horus-hawk on the reproduction board we played on. That's the closest thing to a credits page that I have to work with, so ol' Horus gets the blame.

Posted by jrients at 8:38 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, 18 April 2004 8:57 PM CDT
Saturday, 17 April 2004

I recently acquired a copy of Gamma World adventure module GW1 Legion of Gold, by E. Gary Gygax with Luke Gygax and Paul Reiche III. This little gem was the first adventure released for Gamma World and one of only 3 for the first edition of the game. The Gygaxian spirit really shines through in this little beauty. I would even go so far as to call GW1 a lost treasure of an earlier age of gaming. The design parallels but in many ways improves upon the basic structure established in the class D&D Basic adventure B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. Uncle Gary and crew basically outline a mini-setting (not quite as small as the overland areas in B2) with a partially fleshed-out home base and four nifty mini-adventures. Like many modules of the era it could stand some expansion and alteration, but EGG clearly notes in the first edition Dungeon Masters Guide that all modules need to be tailored to your own specific game. Still, I can see 4 good solid sessions of adventuring fun coming out of this module.

For an added bonus about half of the interior illustrations are by Erol Otus!

Posted by jrients at 8:08 AM CDT
Friday, 16 April 2004



Yesterday I got out my handmade copy of Lou Coatney's free introductory wargame 1st Alamein. It's a nifty little Allies vs. Rommel number that's operational/strategic but small enough to be manageable. In the grand grognard style I set up the game tonight and did part of a turn solo before putting it away. I'm not sure I'm doing a good job digesting and understanding the rules. Mr. Coatney was at Winter War this year, running demos of his games including 1st Alamein. Now I regret not availing myself of the opportunity to learn the game firsthand from the author. Maybe I'll go back to trying to play a game of Tactics II. The rulebook for that is so easy to understand it almost insults my intelligence.

While I was looking for my copy of 1st Al I found my partially assembled copy of King of the TableTop. Written by Tom Wham and Rob Kuntz with counter art by Tramp, KotTT appeared in Dragon magazine issue #77, September 1983. It's worth tracking down a copy if you get a chance. My sister and I played the crap out of my now lost first set of this game. Neither my sister nor my wife are gamers. If one of them likes a game I know it's a good game. (If both of them like a game it's gaming gold. Come to think of it, I really ought to put together a list of games they enjoy and post it either here or on my main website or maybe over at BoardGameGeek.com.) A redone/upgraded/whatever version of TableTop was published as a box set under the title Kings & Things, by of all companies West End Games. I can't speak to the value of any of the improvements made to the game in K&T, never having seen a copy up close. I do know that it's tough to find nowadays. There's a German language edition to K&T that seems to be easier to locate, even on this side of the pond. The original version is much easier to find, as eBay sees lotsa back issue of Dragon change hands every day.

With my cow-orker Laurie on vacation this week I got real busy at the office and failed to plan for a game this weekend. Unless Pat's available (maybe for the aforementioned Tactics II or other wargamery) this will probably be a game-free weekend. As such, I'll probably do some work on game-related web projects. I really need to get my stuff together if I want to enter the ChessVariants.com 44-squares contest. The deadline to enter is Wednesday of next week. I think my rules for SpaceWarp44 are good to go, I just need to code the page. I wouldn't mind getting a Call of Cthulhu page up. I've got three tiny little gameaids that could all fit on a single webpage. And I haven't updated the Otus Shrine in a month. I ought to be able to get at least one of those three project done over the next two days.

Posted by jrients at 9:14 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, 17 April 2004 8:11 AM CDT
Now we're talking Old School.
The weird green color is a side-effect of converting a bitmap into a gif. I printed a block & white copy and the green came out as a very useable grey.



Chainmail is trademarked/copywrighted/patented by those swell folks at Wizards of the Coast.

Posted by jrients at 2:38 PM CDT
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

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