next up previous
Next: LETTERS Up: Sumo 20 index Previous: STAR TREK: THE NEXT



With the Essen report providing both a natural lead and most of the news, you have a shorter and displaced notebook this time, a state of affairs that I am sure you will find acceptable. More acceptable, certainly, than the long-running saga of the publication dates for the new 18xx games. With both Mayfair and Hartland taking orders back in the Summer and TimJim alleged to be not far behind in the race to publish, I had expected to be surrounded by the things by now. Instead of which I don't have any and the race has turned out to be like one of those bicycle sprints, where all the effort seems to go into making sure that you are behind the others. Hartland's plans for an Autumn publication were dashed when they hit a variety of problems with graphics software and a fancy printer, neither of which turned out to do the job that was required of them. Since then Francis Tresham has been refusing to commit himself to a date, reasoning, I am sure wisely, that one dollop of egg on one's face is enough. The latest rumour I have heard is early February, but then a month ago I was hearing about soon after Christmas and so it is not something I am putting too much reliance on. Equally unfortunate in their plans, but this time not caring if they end up looking like an omelette, are Mayfair who have been setting a series of dates, all following the pattern of `1856 in the middle of next month, with 1870 a month after that'. The only trouble is that `next month', like Lewis Carroll's `tomorrow' has been one of those things that never comes any closer and believers in whatever is the latest definite date are fast becoming an endangered species. TimJim have also come up with several dates for 2038 that are now safely in the past.

Later still: Alfonzo Smith spoke to Mayfair Boss, Darwin Bromley, just before Christmas and was told that 1856 would be out in January. Decide for yourself whether this is an imminent score or just another first down. Meanwhile, on the 1825 front, someone on the Net reports that Hartland are now sending out flyers inviting orders and making `any day now' noises. I didn't get one, but then I paid my money back in August.

One company that does seem to be hitting its targets is Steve Jackson Games who seem to have put the mortgage on the Illuminati card game, INWO, that Mark Bassett told us about last time. Trading card games, including INWO, have been syphoned off to their own discussion group on the Net, a group that I don't subscribe to, and so I lost track of what was happening in mid November, but at that point the cards were at the printers and everything was on target for the publication date of December 8th. So, they should be out by now. I shall not be getting involved in this one, because, while I like Illuminati as a game, and like the idea of a speeded up version of it even better, I am not happy with the trading card concept. It is not that I consider it wicked or immoral or anything like it; it is just that I don't consider it to be me. Some people are natural collectors; I am not and never have been. I shall wait for the boxed `factory edition', which is provisionally scheduled for April. As Steve Jackson said on the Net, it is no use hoping for anything before then, because all the cash they could muster has gone into the trading cards and until that starts to come back there is nothing to pay for the next project. However, though I shall not be buying any of the trading cards, I'd be very interested in hearing from any of you who do and it would be nice if one of you could do us a review for next time.

Ken Tidwell's WWW pages on the Net have acquired a French correspondent, Catherine Soubeyrand, and in November she sent him news of recent French releases. At that point Ludodélire had released another Formule Dé circuit, Canada. That has since been joined by Spain and both are now available in the UK. Tim! Where's he going? Stop him somebody, he's needed. Catherine also reported new games from Eurogames and from a company called AWE (Azure Wish Edition). The former have come up with Condottiere, a 2-6 player game set in Renaissance Italy. It is a mixed board and card game with a playing time of around one hour and a theme of capturing cities. It is a great title, an interesting setting and Eurogames are noted for producing very handsome looking games. However, at 320F it is going to be quite pricey by the time it gets over here and one of the designers is the same guy who did Droids and Montgolfière, both of which, in my opinion, were worthy targets for the old Tallulah Bankhead crack about there being less here than meets the eye. So, this is one gamble I shall not be taking without more information. AWE is a newish company that has been around for about a year and they are offering Europa Universalis (a Pax Britannica type game), La Foi et Le Glaive (wars and religious strife c 500 AD according to the report, but 1500 AD sounds more likely), Xhenor (a fantasy game) and Le Grand Siècle (wars and diplomacy in the reign of Louis XIV). According to Catherine these are long and complex games with low quality components but original and interesting mechanics. They sound as though they could easily be unplayable and as though they are certainly in need of a trip to Uncle Chuck's downsizing workshop, but the subject matter of the three historical ones makes them tempting anyway.

Also picked up from the Net is unofficial news of Avalon Hill's boardgame plans for the Spring. One of the regular posters has been talking to the wholesale distributers and they told him that scheduled for March are a a reissue of Starship Troopers, a new edition of Acquire, including ``variant cards'' -- presumably the ones from the Schmidt Spiele edition -- and something called Panzerblitz II. Whether the last of these is a new game, or just a spruced up edition of the one that a wargaming friend of mine rechristened Panzerbush, because diving from one bit of shrubbery to the next seemed to be at the heart of the tactics, the poster didn't know. Also apparently scheduled for then is the computer version of Avalon Hill's Advanced Civilization.

Neil Duncan suggested that it would be useful were I to give more details (addresses, subject matter, frequency and so on) about other publications likely to be of interest to Sumo readers. I am not in as good a position as Mike to do this, because I see nothing like as many as he does, but here is a short list of personal recommendations to set things off. If any of you know of titles that ought to be added, write to me and I'll print a further list next time.

The General: This is Avalon Hill's house magazine. I think that the idea is that it appears 6 times a year, but the practice seems to fall short of the regular schedule that suggests. Certainly, it is the case that in the UK the magazine is irregular and you expect it when you see it. That said, it is always welcome when it does arrive, for it is nearly always a good read. Because it is a house magazine, it restricts its attention to the company's own products and does not review games. What it does is print strategy, variant and background articles for the Avalon Hill/Victory range of strategy games. This means that wargames dominate, but the likes of 1830, Titan, Civilization and Merchant of Venus also get reasonable coverage. It can be got on subscription from the UK distributors (whose address I don't have), but the best way to check the magazine out is to go along to your nearest specialist games shop. They are bound to stock it. The standard format is for each issue to focus on one particular game but to have articles on others as well. The cost (according to the latest Leisure Games catalogue) is £3.75 per issue.

Perfidious Albion: I am not sure if Mike has ever said as much, but it always seemed to me that PA was the inspiration for Sumo, with Mike looking to do for general games what Charles had long been doing for historical ones. PA will not be of interest to many Sumo readers because its core interest -- games as a means of historical simulation -- is a long way from ours. However, if you do have an interest in military history and games as a means of learning about it, PA is for you. It has been around for about twenty years and so Charles has long since won the right to run things on his terms. This means that the magazine is irregular in both frequency and size, appearing when there is both enough material and enough time. It also means that Charles is to editors what Nico Landenis is to chef/restaurateurs: both know that they are good and anyone who thinks differently will be ejected from the premises. More specifically, readers with positive contributions to make are welcome, those who say nothing are tolerated but no more than that, and those contribute nothing but negative comments get to add the word defenestration to their vocabulary. The issue I have in front of me (May 1994) is a 44 page A5 booklet with a cover price of £1.80. Charles's address is 75 Richmond Park Rd, East Sheen, London SW14 8JY, England.

Games, Games, Games: This used to be called The Small Furry Creatures Press, the name being changed about three months ago. It covers similar ground to Sumo but so differently that there is no question of rivalry. G3 appears ten times a year and costs £1.35 plus postage for a standard 28 page issue. It reviews the same type of games as us, but in smaller numbers, and there is no letter column worth speaking of. Against that there is good coverage of role playing games, a regular puzzle page, a Call My Bluff type word game that anyone can join in and a draughts column. If you haven't already seen this one, it is well worth checking out, particularly if you are a FTF player who is short of opponents, as another regular feature is a long listing of conventions, clubs and FTF contact numbers. The address to write to is 42 Wynndale Rd, London E18 1DX, England.

From the Mana Born: I haven't seen this one -- the garlic over the door proving effective at keeping it away -- but it will be of interest to Magic fans. It comes from Eamon Bloomfield and friends and for more details you should contact Eamon (Games Corner, High St, Watton, Norfolk, IP25 6AH, England. tel 0953 883007). The magazine is bimonthly and since Eamon manages to combine being the country's biggest dealer in Magic cards with a real player's enthusiasm for the game, I would expect it to be good. Incidentally, I got a wigging from him about my comments on Magic cards last issue. Don't worry about it chaps. Put it down to my long-standing aversion to fantasy -- the books and the art. My comments are not going to affect the market. I also dislike Pre-Raphaelite paintings and one of those recently went for over 4 million (a `rare' admittedly, but no longer shrink-wrapped).

Despatch: This is also outside my areas of interest, being the newsletter of AHIKS Europe, but Chris Geggus asked me to give it a plug and it is good enough to deserve it. AHIKS is an international society for wargamers whose primary aim is to help players find suitable opponents for postal, email and face-to-face play. Despatch is their way of keeping in touch and contains articles, scenarios and convention reports. If you are a wargamer in need of opponents, this looks like the best way to set about finding some. Write to Chris at 10 Talbrook, Brentwood, Essex, CM14 4PY. The annual membership fee is £10 and there is a joining fee of £5.

This problem of finding opponents is one that Mike Clifford alluded to a couple of issues back when he told Mike Oakes about how lucky he was to have so many gamers close at hand. How common a problem is it? I own to having been slightly surprised by the remark, feeling that if Mike Oakes can muster 8 or so in Wiltshire and I can call on 10 here in Aberdeen, folks in and around big centres of population shouldn't be stuck on 3. The thing you have to accept is that you won't necessarily find them among your existing circle. Like the characters in NYPD Blue, you have to reach out. My group came together over a period of years as a result of me keeping an eye open for Aberdeen addresses in postal gaming magazines and writing whenever I spotted one to ask if they fancied the idea of the occasional FTF game. Mike tends to be chary of this, fearing that you could get stuck with someone you seriously disliked. So you could, but I never have and taking the risk has brought me a group of good friends and years of enjoyable gaming sessions. Three practical suggestions: Get hold of a copy of G3 and scan their diary section. Think about attending Baycon or Furrycon, details of which I have put on the notice board. These both focus on Sumo type games and if you are from the South or the Midlands of England, there will be a good chance that there are people there from your area. Put a small ad in Sumo. Sumo does not divulge addresses without permission, but I am quite happy to post small ads such as the one Iain Adams has put in this time. There are about a dozen Sumo subscribers in the Reading area. Iain only needs a third of them to be interested and he has the makings of a group.

Still on the magazine front, there is good news from Mike that he and Peter Sarrett have been putting their heads together to find a simpler and cheaper way for would-be subscribers from this side of the Atlantic to get The Game Report. What is going to happen is that Mike is going to print `European copies' for Peter over here. I, for one, am very pleased about this. I have wanted to see The Game Report ever since I first heard about it but never got round to doing anything about it, because of the considerable hassle of getting money from here to there. This gets round all that and will also mean a large saving in postage costs. My name is already down; anyone else interested should contact Mike.

The reverse operation, producing an American edition of Sumo, is the logical follow-up to this. It is a bigger problem, because, from what I gather, Sumo has a lot more pages and there is a limit to how long an individual wants to stand next to a photocopier. However, they are looking into it.

Other news from Mike concerns, of all people, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Waddingtons recently divested themselves of all their boardgame and related interests to one of the big American manufacturers of dolls and similar toys. What this will mean for boardgames has yet to be seen, but it is unlikely to be a shift in our direction. Not that that will matter much, as Waddingtons were never interested in `doing a Ravensburger' and extending their range to include games for adults and older children in any case. However, apparently Andrew Lloyd Webber has decided that the disappearance from the market place of Waddingtons leaves a space for a new boardgames company and he is looking to fill it with a company of his own called, as you might expect, `The Really Useful Boardgames Company'. Of course, this might turn out to be a straight Waddington replacement with games aimed solely at the 4-12's, but there is a good chance that it could be better than that, because in this case the owner is himself a gamer. Back in the early eighties, when Games Workshop was still in the hands of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston and producing some good games, they published one called Calamity which was designed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I didn't like it, but it was a proper game aimed at gamers and I have read interviews with the man where he gave boardgames as one of his recreations. So, I have my fingers crossed. The Lloyd Webbers are both keen on horse racing and so it is not surprising that the first game due for publication is a horse racing game to be called They're Off. Not a bad title, but it is a pity that the obvious better one has already been used: ``The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game'' from ``The Really Useful Boardgames Company'' would have had a definite ring to it.

David Pritchard, who was editor of Games and Puzzles Mark I for a large part of its run, has written a book called The Encyclopaedia of Chess Variants. It covers standard popular variants such as Kriegspiel, Losing Chess and Progressive Chess, Far Eastern forms of the game such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean, and a host of modern, proprietary forms, including bang up to date ones like La Trel. Everything you are likely to have heard of and a great deal that will be new. It is hardback and runs to 384 pages, with 540 diagrams and 350 game scores. The cost is £21.99 (DM 63, US $41) and for orders received before 1st March 1995 that includes postage. Write to Games and Puzzles Publications, PO Box 20, Godalming, Surrey, GU8 4YP, England. Mastercard, Visa and Amex are all acceptable as methods of payment.

Stuart Dagger

next up previous
Next: LETTERS Up: Sumo 20 index Previous: STAR TREK: THE NEXT
Stuart Dagger