Andy Key, Swindon Rules translations: Some of the English 'translations' circulating with German games are, to be honest, rubbish. A number I've seen seem to have been written by people who couldn't read German but relied on writing down what they remembered from someone else who told them what they'd heard from....etc.
The worst example I've come across is the translation for Ravensburger's Cash - take a bow Mark Green. His translation includes the rule, 'If one colour of key cards is exhausted, the next player must break a safe to discard a key card of that colour.' We started playing this rule and found it not only awkward but highly ambiguous. Referring to the original German for clarification gave a totally different rule. Using the original rule improves the game play considerably (and Cash is, for those who haven't tried it, an excellent little card game).
Now, either 1) Mark never read the original rules or 2) he decided they weren't good enough and changed them himself. In either case, his rules are not a translation and should not be marked as such. It's unfair to the game's designer and to the players to tinker with the rules without warning the buyer of the game, especially if (as in this case) the tinkering detracts from game play. (Sorry to pick on Mark Green - he does an excellent job importing otherwise unobtainable games - but I feel he should find someone else to translate them.)
[MS: I will interrupt at this point. Firstly, I have cleared the printing of this letter with Mark as I feel involving him (and Brian below) at all was unnecessary - an anonymous example would have carried similar weight for discussion purposes. Secondly, Cash is actually a better example than you might imagine. There are in fact at least two official sets of German rules in circulation, plus a French set that are all different. You will remember my comments on Essen where the British gamers found an odd rule sprung on them? That was because the rules were apparently changed in a later printing that was, by all accounts, caused by a massive number of Cash sales to East Germany! Additionally, given the choice of languages Mark translated from the French which, again, will differ from your set. This translation, at least, was not tinkered with.]
Andy continues... Brian Walker's translation of Der Ausriesser isn't much better, and his Hols Der Geier translation omits one minor rule for no apparent reason. And yes, I will try and provide my own translations (dodgy though my German is) for the rule bank.
[MS: And in a nutshell, that it your answer. Most of us have dodgy or non-existent second languages even if we are being modest. To an extent, this complaint is what we have been stuck with since the German games appeared. Agreed, the bulk of the rules bank and those rules circulating elsewhere will have errors, bits or even chunks missing (I'm sure Maestro should have more to it) and, yes, people playing games developer as they go. This is what makes reviewing and playing the things so prone to error; you never know what version you've been playing and whether it was as designed. I have no doubt that in some cases the German rules are ropey to start with.]
[What we rely on as a hobby is people like Mark translating in their spare time, and I will stress that in case it doesn't sink home. These translations take many hours to do with the majority of words needing to be looked up. Mark is a very good translator of French and actually went to evening classes to improve his German which counts for a lot with me. My overall view is that he and others do sterling work in this field. We are even more fortunate to have bi-lingual talents such as John Webley, Peter Gehrmann, Stephan Valkyser and Bert Fridlund. BUT, aside from these volunteers, there is no-one else doing anything positive and these rules aren't going to materialise from anywhere else.]
[On balance, I tend to agree with you about the standard of certain rulesets and I am open to suggestions on where we turn for an improvement. With professional translation totally out of the question, I can't think of any other way than asking for volunteers and if you do that you accept what is produced, lumps and all. I am certainly not in a position to check them word for word as they come into the rules bank (running this is enough work in itself) but I know Mark does at the very least give them the once over before they get packaged with the games. Either way, I'm grateful to you for bringing this up and I'll throw it open to the readers to discuss the topic and suggest any feasible changes.]
Andy concludes... One other thing. Anybody out there know where I can get some statistics on the size of the board/card games market in Germany - turnover of the main companies, unit sales of the bestsellers, etc? I'd be grateful for any info.
[MS: I should think Peter Gehrmann is your man, but I guess he will be busy as ever. If any one else can help, comments to Andy Key, 70 William Street, Kingshill, Swindon SN1 5LE. Thanks.]
Hironori Takahashi, Tokyo I am a Japanese games fan. I operate a game club called 'Boardwalk Community' in Tokyo and hold meetings once a month from 5 years ago. In Japan, there are very few games for adults. So we are always troubled with that there are so few games to play so often order from Just Games. And we have much trouble to translate German rules into Japanese. I hope I can use your Rules Bank.
[MS: And we thought we had rules problems! Yes, of course the Rules Bank is available, please let me know which rules you need. Good to hear that you are enjoying the European games, hopefully Sumo will direct you to a few more.]
Mark Green, London I am collecting game results from Britannia in order to obtain a statistical analysis of the nations and colours. So far I have about 45 game results but would welcome a lot more from your readers. All I need is the game score for each nation (Roman/Belgae/Welsh etc) and the game score for each colour. These should be from 4 player games. In due course I will offer this august journal the results of this survey. Mark Green, 309 West Green Road, London N15 3PA.
Don Greenwood, Baltimore I especially enjoy the lengthy comments section by your readers in which they sound off both pro and con about various games. I, for one, disagree with your opinions on Wrasslin' which I feel is a fine little game - from both strategy and fun points of view. Different strokes for different folks - and I think your letter page shows this quite well.
The comments on the length of New World are on target from my point of view. This was always one of my major concerns with the game. Derek I'm sure became quite tired of my constant attempts to reduce the playing time. I guess I'm not without guilt though as I see my rules style has been drawing constant criticism. people want a 'light' read - but gamers also appreciate complete rules - which is what I try to give them with as little verbiage as possible.
As to Showbiz, I really don't see what all the fuss is about components-wise. I thought we did an enviable job of ridding the game of its abstract nature and tying into a theme. The gameboard is one of our most attractive in my opinion - if a bit crowded for six players. the resource tokens have a lousy feel to them but I figured players would rather substitute pennies than play a much higher price for plastic. The game itself has quite a classic feel to it... I compare it to Acquire in its appeal. Hard to believe people are dismissing these games as dogs... I thought them quite well done... but different strokes.
[MS: Unless I misread the comments last time, aside from Wrasslin that seems to be 'love it or hate it', the gist was that both games were good but each failed in one area: the excess gamelength of New World and the card graphics in Showbiz. Otherwise, I think we are in agreement which is pretty much what a forum is all about. Thesis antithesis synthesis, as my old crypto-Marxist Sociology teacher was too fond of saying.]
Paul Jefferies, Petts Wood Boomtown. Our group were suitably unimpressed. it seemed to be a matter of follow my leader as soon as one area looked like it was going to be of any value. We decided it would be better to number each of the six areas and secretly write down the area in which you wish to place a house....all revealed simultaneously. Haven't tried it this way, but something needs to be done for sure.
Stephan Valkyser, Aachen On Boomtown, I do agree with your comments in all respects. Nice looking, good components, fun to play, not much value for repeated play and too expensive.
Mike Clifford, Upper Norwood I like Boomtown! Simple, some strategy and all done in under an hour. But at £25, it is a tenner too much.
Paul Jefferies, Petts Wood You mention in Sumo that you've had little response to 'Airlines' from the last issue. This could be because copies seem almost impossible to find and not many people have them! It might be worth mentioning that there was a cock-up in the stock cards - not enough of some, too many of others. I wrote to Abacus asking for the ones that were missing and they got them to me within a fortnight... so if people do have a faulty set they can fix it for the cost of a stamp.
Stephan Valkyser, Aachen Airlines is not a bad game. But for my taste the outcome is too dependent on luck. Not so much the moments when the dividend cards are turned up, but the availability of certain shares. What can you do if you and another player are contesting majority in one stock and the other player seems to be always getting the chance to draw the next share? Not to mention the problems with getting playable route cards (especially in the beginning of the game)! Once again, Airlines is not a bad business game but likewise no winner! I don't think I will play it much often again.
John Evans, Edinburgh Airlines is a good game. Not a favourite, but a good game for our group. Whilst it may appear that the two player version may not hold as much as the others, it is very much worth a go and I believe it requires a lot of thought to beat 'dummy'.
Merfyn Lewis, Anglesey I've played a lot of Airlines lately and find it a very challenging and intriguing game. The group I play with look forward to another game every time. It's also very frustrating as you remarked in your review when you don't have the cards to build your routes. I would rate it better than Acquire because I find it to be smoother in play due to the omission of play money. It's definitely a game which is different each time and that's good in my opinion, to have a good replay value.
[MS: It's good to get this level of reaction on these games, especially considering how long ago the reviews appeared. It is also gratifying to see that most of the comments are in broad agreement with the reviews. Perhaps I'm not so controversial as I'd thought.]
Paul Jefferies, Petts Wood As to me having a lot of time on my hands so I can doctor games! Yes and no.... the fact is that I only manage to get together to play games with the group I play with once every couple of weeks or so... Consequently I put some of my spare time in between fixing things up. Believe me, I'd much rather be playing! Still, give me another ten years my three boys will be old enough to play and I'll have it made. PS Play Supergang. PPS Don't forget to play Supergang.
John Kingsbury, Brookwood Who Gives a Tinker was a revelation. Novel, refreshing and suitably enthusiastic. A Blue Peter badge to that man!
Ellis Simpson, Glasgow Who Gives A Tinker - Now this is a new angle. A very fresh look at our particular addiction. More, please.
Bruce Wilson, Green Street Green 'Who Gives a Tinker' has got to be a send up, yes?
[MS: Er, no actually. I may be a bit mad, but three pages of April Fool it was definitely not. The idea was to give a different angle on the games hobby and I for one enjoyed it a lot I find Paul's enthusiasm and talent quite infectious. The article got a generally good reaction (though you weren't alone in finding it a bit left- field), in fact better than all my stuff in last issue (!). Stuart Dagger has written up an interesting review/project for this issue to continue the trend. If nothing else, for those with the time and skills to complete these projects, they represent an ideal way of presenting a new game design or recreating a difficult to find game such as Homas Tour or Al Parlamento.]
[Sumo will hardly be changing its name to Game Modeller's Monthly, but just as a piece on game books or whatever has merit, so does this. It isn't going to appeal to everyone, but then not everyone has to read it. Since the piece, Paul has sent me some pictures of his other designs, which are very impressive, and he has presented me with a superb bookcase box version of Dail Eirann with re-drawn map, wooden components and, er, square vote charts! So now I'm totally unbiased on the subject!]
Andy Daglish, Cheadle Francis Tresham says Revolution is coming along nicely. We continue to order from Adam Spiel. American Goldrush is just a party game for ten people and Conquest by Hexagames was disappointing. Everyone liked Car Wars - the Card Game, Wrasslin' I thought OK but it is in the 'play once a year' box. Boomtown is good with three and two vetoes each, but with little repeat play value. With hard core collectors like Steve Owen one gets the chance to play everything - but only once. Perhaps he should do you an article, 'The games Dr Owen played Twice'!
[MS: Now now Andy, I have it on good authority that the good doctor has played Republic of Rome no less than twenty-three times with the complete advanced rules. If he is anything like me, there are indeed a lot of games played once and stuck on the shelf. They either then get sold if I know I'm unlikely to play them again or kept for all eternity if they make any sort of impact on me. I often think if it wasn't for the likes of Steve and I buying and trying these new games, the non-buyers (and there are a lot of them) would still be playing Monopoly. As for the new game from Mr Tresham, I believe based on the Dutch Revolt, I have to say that I'm both wary and interested. Wary because I suspect it will be an eight hour job to play but interested because of the subject matter. Either way, it will probably be another five years in development.]
William Whyte, Dublin Dail Eirann Proposed Rule Change. The problem with Dail Eirann has always been the preference lists system. The version as published has the drawback of being crap. The original version just write down the preference lists has the drawback of being crap. The obvious thing to do, therefore, was to reach a compromise between the two of them, which is this. (You'll need to make a few more pieces I'm afraid, but it should be worth it.) [MS: Paul, get on this would you?] Each turn, during the placement phase, each player can place three pieces on the preference lists. Placements of pieces on the preference lists are not exchangeable for placements on the main board, or for taking a card. A placement means putting one of pieces on the preference list of any party other than your own. In the event of a more than two way election, 2/3 of the votes of an elimintaed party go to the party with most pieces on the eliminated party's preference list (well, obviously they don't if the party with the most pieces on this list isn't represented in the election. Use your common sense.) If two or more eligible parties have the same amount of of pieces on the eliminated party's list, the eliminated party decides which of them the votes go to. If this happens, the party to whom the votes are transferred must take one of her pieces from the preference list of any other party and place it on the preference list of the party that's eliminated. (I'm toying with the idea that the eliminated party should, in this case, get to place a piece on the preference list of the party they transfer to). Please try this out, folks, I'll love you for it.
It's almost the stage now where I'm seriously thinking about marketing Dail Eirann. However, I need to invent a one hour family game with roughly the same equipment if it's going to be saleable and then sell them as a package. Hartland Trefoil expressed very strong interest in it at one point - Francis Tresham was very complimentary about the design - but eventually decided against it as, 'Irish politics is too touchy a subject'. I pointed out that politics doesn't enter into it, but Francis said that it would take only one lunatic reviewer to sink it. Oh well.
[MS: Oooooh, he's making it all up. I find the idea of a game reviewer being able to sink a game laughable, unless it happens to be reviewed in a national paper in which case the Pass the Pigs infamy factor could take over. What game reviewer carries that sort of weight? How many game reviewers are there? As for the odd keen/doubtful/dropped cycle, Alan Parr got exactly the same reaction to his whippet racing game (which is equally marketable). Is Francis perhaps talking himself into awkward positions or is the recession curbing his new found insatiable desire to publish outside designs?]
Mike Hopcroft, Portland, Oregon Rick Matthews is a guy at my club. He is a minister who also designs games. He self published the game Star Empires, and decided that was a mistake. Rick has another game called Cosmic Contracts that he isn't even going to try and get published. I think that's a shame because it's a fine game. It's a money game in which the player is an interstellar corporation. The Imperium sells contracts for mining, exploration and trade to the highest bidder. Contracts are what generate money for the players. Players can challenge each other for contracts; to keep the contract, you need the right kind of expert in your hand. If you don't, the other guy takes the contract away from you. Contracts can also be destroyed by foul means such as sabotage, terrorism or assassination. To stave them off, you need other experts. One consequence is that the expert cards gin a money value. it is permissible to buy and sell these cards during a crisis. Sometimes the attacker can make a profit by selling his target the needed defense; that is usually called extortion.
David Wright, Coulsdon Kiddie's Korner: I bought ELC's Magnetic Fish Pond for Christmas but had dreadful trouble assembling the fishing lines - be warned.
[MS: Ah yes, but I'll bet you didn't buy the special fly-covered silly hat did you? No chance without that.]
John Evans, Edinburgh I do like the Kiddie's Korner and my wee one is now enjoying 'Magnetic Fish Pond'. Who needs to paint figures when Playmobil and Lego do it so well for you? Keep the reviews coming, so's I can be a dad and gamer at the same time. Does Charles Vasey have a review of the Nature Trail Game (ELC)? Is 'How does your Garden Grow' (ELC £2.99) a junior Dicke Kartoffeln?
[MS: No Kiddie's Korner this time, but anyone should feel free to contribute. Ed Caylor meanwhile has moved on technologically from Lego...]
Ed Caylor, Hampton, New Hampshire Computer Games: Our 4 year old was just given a copy of Sierra's new release of Mixed-Up Mother Goose and absolutely loves it. The only other games/education software she uses often are The Manhole by Activision and the Playroom by Broderbund. Everything else on her level is boring in the extreme by comparison.
I still love Populous but by level 250 or so, it is impossible to compete on the IBM 286, the computer player reacts far faster than a human ever can... and this game supposedly goes on to level 500! I just finished Elvira and despite the marketing decision to put her on the cover the game is superb, although quite bloody. Some of the scenes when you lose a fight would make any movie x-rated for violence. Beneath the gore, there is a game that I found second only to FTL's Dungeon Master in this genre. Links, as pointed out in numerous reviews, is a graphic masterpice. However, I am not one of the rich elite with a 45mhz 386 and a spare 3meg Ram floating around and found it took a good two hours to play eighteen holes. I also think it is too hard by far to putt. With the current interface, I have a hard time figuring if I am stroking a 4 foot or 20 foot putt. Of course, I find out after I hit the ball. I am just now trying to figure out SimEarth. I have just 30 minutes or so on the game and an equal amount of time in the manual. The game looks promising, but also quite complex and in need of a lot of hours for me to master.
[MS: Lots of points here, thanks Ed. We had a long chat with Ellis Simpson recently who was asking for recommendations in the PC format. Good games are occasionally a matter of taste but there are thankfully some solid packages out there and more coming I hope. I suspect the best way to work recommendations is, as with books, to find a reviewer or friend with similar tastes and go with that.]
[Links sounds great and looks better, but I can't understand how they decided to to release it in that condition. Two hours for a round of simulated golf is a bit rich. Anyway, I happen to know that one of the first games appearing on the CD-Rom format will be a golf game with real TV images of various courses and a computer graphics player. I may be stating the obvious, but I can think of no better system for playing the shots than Leaderboard and its spinoffs.]
[My personal feeling is that Sim Earth was a step too far too quickly. I don't think the reaction has been as great aas for Sim City, though it has been good. I would have thought a game smaller in scope would have been the way to do it, but who am I to carp? Ted Kelly has the game and commented that it was more an educational tool than a game. It is impressive, and in a geography class it would be invaluable, I just wonder if it is really what the market wanted.]
Stephan Valkyser, Aachen I'm afraid you've mixed up two games with your answer to Alan Parr's letter. "The game with the musician counters" seems to be Maestro (Hans im Gluck), which has some key elements in common with Cafe International, whereas Big Band (ASS) demands logical deduction. In the latter you to found a combo where certain instruments require to be manned. You draw face down musician cards which state the value and the peculiarities of this individual, For example one trumptere doesn't play in a band with women or one drummer stays only as long as there at least two guitars in his band. You have to reconcile these conflicting minds in order to get the biggest and most valuable big band in the game.
Wolfgang Ludtke, Duisberg Big Band (ASS) you asked for, is a game of bargaining and double dealing. Each player (best with 4 to 6) wants to form a jazz band. Therefore he walks around the clubs of New Orleans looking for good musicians. This is done by taking cards from the board. After some playing rounds it is permiited to trade with other players. This is the heart of the game. It is a bit like the trading phase in Civilization. To complete your band you need musicians in different categories. All bandsmen have some limits, or, let's say, they have a spleen. There is one who won't play when a woman is in the band, another plays only when his brother is in the band. A high ranked artist (worth many points) wants to support newcomers which means the other cards may not exceed a point value. So, all the players have to coordinate their cards to get the optimum value at the end of the game. Lots of counting is required. I like this game very much but I think it would have been better to make it a real card game. In my opinion the board is not just superfluous but embarrassing. Eamon Bloomfield, Ovington I think New Orleans Big Band is by Schmidt, but I,m told that it is totally unplayable in any language other than German. In other words, you must wait to see if an edition is made in your language.
[MS: Hope that clears it up for you Mr Parr. If the latter point is the same game, I must say I'm quite disappointed - it was sounding quite good!]
Wolfgang Ludtke, Duisberg Here is my tip for one of the best games from Nuremburg: Donnerwetter by Peter Lewe (Haba) is about weather forecasting. Players place bets on their predictions and can influence and change the conditions with memory and tactical skills.
Do you know Timberland (Haba) by Klaus Teuber? You should know it. Players (2-4) place seedcorns and grow forests which is not as easy as it sounds. A wild boar and a woodcutter controlled by the other players make this a difficult job.
Stephan Valkyser, Aachen Of the German games of 1991 which I have seen so far, only the already mentioned Drunter & Druber and Bauernschlau are worth a look. Tutti Frutti (Amigo) is great fun too.
Stuart Dagger, Aberdeen I know that collectors such as yourself aren't happy unless they have quarry to pursue, and so here is a book to add to your list: Twelve Tarot Games by Michael Dummett (Duckworth 1980). In this country the Tarot pack is thought of as the exclusive property of fortune tellers, but in central Europe it gets used for card games. This book is about some of the best of them. They are well worth trying, the sort of games that would appeal to anyone who enjoys games such as Alan Moon's Wer Hat Mehr?. Waddingtons make, or did the last time I looked, a Tarot pack for use by card players.
[MS: Thanks Stuart. When I met Mark Humphries (a half-French Californian gamer) last year, he told me about an excellent French game based on the Tarot pack I hope this one is in the book, and I will indeed be seeking it out!]
Michele Montagni, Varese, Italy on the subject of books on games, here are some titles that may interest you:
Wargame Design, Hippocrene Books, SPI Staff 1982.
Game Design Vol 1, Theory and Practice, Steve Jackson Games 1981
The Complete Books of Wargames, Simon & Schuster, Editors of Consumer Guide 1980
Table Action, Statis Pro Publications 1978, James Barnes
Alan Parr, Tring Books on Games: Hubert Phillips was just about the first author I ever came across who wrote about original games as well as established ones, so I'm biased in his favour. I wouldn't receommend 'Winning Ways' to anyone except professional mathematicians it's horribly expensive and the maths is far beyond me; in any case the Conway definition of games is so restricted as to be of little interest to any of us. Quite the best book about Life I know of is 'The Recursive Universe', I'd strongly recommend it to you. You don't mention (though you must know) that Eric Solomon is the inventor of many excellent games Alaska, Balloon Race, Black Box but is also a champion croquet player; a pity his book isn't more relevant to your interests and mine.
A few other books you might like to look out for. 'Games and Puzzles for Addicts' by Roger Millington contains some obscure and long-forgotten games. 'Your Move' by David Silverman is full of games and puzzles in the Martin Gardner vein. 'Five Minute Games' by David Pritchard was published for WH SMith about 5-10 years ago an excellent collection of mostly original pencil and paper games (including one of my own). 'Board Games Round the World' by Bell and Cornelius is a decent collection of traditional games, written for the innovative maths teachers; I mention this because Mike Cornelius and I have written a sequel, 'What's your Game?' about to be published by CUP later this year. And two more: ANdrew Pennycock's 'The Indoor Games Book' is the best guide to general games and includes several modern games as well. And one of the books which most influenced me as teacher and games designer is Rex Walford's 'Games in Geography'. [MS: Thanks a lot for these tips, gentlemen.]
Ed Caylor, Hampton, New Hampshire I have spent a lot of time recently with a six player game of Empires in Arms. The best player in the game took France, but he came out of the gate so aggressively that every other player united against him and by the end of 1805 his capital had been occupied and he is in serious trouble. That now means almost every other player has a real shot at winning (or at least thinks he does) so the game looks to have some real interest for all involved.
[MS: This is a game I really must get round to playing. Now I've got the loft converted to take the strain of my games room it should be possible to set it up and leave it.]
Stuart Dagger, Aberdeen We have also been trying Tyranno Ex. I am not that keen on memory games, finding them too much like hard work to be fun. Whay play what should be a Beer & Pretzels game if the level of concentration required obliges you to stick with the pretzels? So, for the second game we tried a rule change: [MS: Big shock from Stuart, this] markers played into the potential environment slots are still played face down, but once they have been turned face up as the result of an environmental change they stay face up. This means that the potential environment slots will contain a mixture of face up and face down markers, leaving you faced with the sort of partial information calculations that you get in card games such as bridge. Not everyone will think this is an improvement, but it works and we prefereed it.
[MS: Sounds good. We haven't yet got round to playing this one but this sounds like a good change as I too don't go for memory games. Anyone care to comment on this change when you've tried it?]
Stephan Valkyser, Aachen I do not think professional PBM has a promising future. At the moment most games aren't much more than filling numbers in empty boxes on an order sheet. The German professional PBMs get most of their participants from 'previously non-gamers', especially by advertising in computer magazines and the like. Once these newcomers have found a foothold in gaming they are likely to abandon PBM and switch over to FTF. Furthermore, according to my experience as editor of a non-professional PBM-zine, I can prove that there are many players coming from the pros who join the amateur scene. On the other hand there are only very few gamers who have gone the other way.
Mark Green, London PBM. There is a large and growing sector of 'professionally run' designer PBM games. These games range from those run by one guy in his spare time to those run by a serious company. The largest UK company is probably KJC Games who must process several hundred thousand turns per year!
Designed games can achieve a lot of goals that a normal FTF game cannot conceive. It can handle 50, 100 or more players with a corresponding leap in player interaction. They can be a lot more complex, though often they are not. It can allow the player a lot more leeway in what he/she can do, with the gamesmaster adjudicating actions in a more free form role playing approach.
A good PBM game is great fun, as alliances are made and broken, Empires rise and fall, fortunes are made and lost. You can never dominate the game so far that a coalition of other players couldn't pull you down. But most of all, it is a very social form of gaming. You meet a new player, you do a deal or two, you form an alliance, and you soon discover you have a new buddy in real life. I would say that four or five of my closer friends were met through PBM.
Cost is the only downside. Buy a good boardgame and that £20 purchase is there for life. PBM can cost from 50p to £5 per turn, so a big game played for a year could cost you £150. On top of that you must add the increase in phone bills, stamps and stationery..... But a good game is worth twice that in entertainment, so I would urge every gamer to give one a try. The only question is, which game?
[MS: Indeed. Thanks for the replies to this topic I remain quietly sceptical!]
Stephan Valkyser, Aachen Finally, on your thoughts about the miss rate of Avalon Hill, what about: Dark Emperor, Baseball Strategy, Frederick the Great, Panzerkrieg, Pro Golf, Wizard's Quest, Samurai, Flight Leader, B-17, Raid on St Nazaire, Outdoor Survival, TV Wars.
[MS: Stephan, I am at a loss for words. This list only goes to show how widely tastes differ in this hobby! While there are no great games in that list, I would consider at least half of them good. I am more than surprised by Baseball Strategy which I've always rated highly. Pro Golf, Nazaire, B-17, Flight Leader and TV Wars I would have said were well above average. But, Different Strokes as Mr Greenwood said earlier.]
Michele Montagni, Varese, Italy Sherco Baseball is still sold in a slightly revised and improved format called Grand Slam. Giorgio Salvadego and I are in a league using fictional players and have devised several modifications to the game. If John Madge wants some more info, you know where he can find me.
Giorgio Salvadego, Marghera Pro Football Fantasm department. Well, I have it and I have to thank Eamon for my copy. I like the game, but in the solitaire version it took me nearly four and a half hours to play a game and that was without making too many moves on the team's alignment. But if you want a real tight description of the game, think of it as a huge expansion of AH's Football Strategy. You cross the strategies, roll the dice, correct it on the match-up and that's it. But FtF, with a lot of time to lose, it may well be the tabletop sport answer to a chess game.
[MS: John Harrington reported in after an umpired FtF game that took seven hours or more, so you did well to complete it in under five. I guess the decision making in the FtF version slows it down. Whatever, the verdict from John was a qualified thumbs up and it seems its main asset is that it actually simulates the strengths and weaknesses of all the players. Not quite Pro Football Orgasm then, but it may be close. Further comments welcome.]
Ellis Simpson, Glasgow Trump - I shall look out for this now. Perhaps there should be a name for this type of review. One that got away? Trainspotter? International Rescue?
Bert Fridlund, Uppsala, Sweden I enclose some game catalogues from Alga, Karnan, Aventyrsspel and Casper. The catalogue from Aventyrsspel contains only role plying material, though they also have two boardgames: Fantasy Warriors (which, title and all, seems to be a Swedish design) and Empire which seems to be identical to Imperium (GDW). Out of print but sometimes still to be found are Napoleon, Lutzen and Okand Planet which is about finding a lost expedition on an unknown planet.
[MS: Sorry about the complete lack of accents in there. Unlauts are tough, those Swedish ringy-things are hopeless! While not exactly wishing to open up another country for game imports, some of these Swedish games look rather nice. Lots of them are in the HABA mould with lovely components but, thankfully, most are simple family games or conversions of games from other countries so I believe I'm safe with Rail and Hatunaleken.]
Eamon Bloomfield, Ovington Some observations on your rules bank list: Is Heisse Heithabu an advanced version of Heithabu? What is Internationales 6 Tage Rennen? I assume it is totally different to the famous 6 Tage Rennen? I think Masco is actually called Wer ist Masco? If Nil is the same game as Nile in this country, a tile laying game, then I have the English version and can supply the rules.
[MS: Thanks Eamon, it shows someone goes right through the list anyway! Apart from the 6TR query, which is by a company called VDO and is a completely different game, I have no idea about the above. Would those people who asked for the rules let me know if these comments are helpful. ]
Wolfgang Ludtke, Duisberg In one issue of Sumo you mentioned some new rules for Rally (IT). Are they now translated?
[MS: Unfortunately not, they remain in the original Italian but we can only hope that someone will do them for us soon. Any offers?]
Alan Parr, Tring Unlike one or two of your readers I enjoyed the British Museum board games exhibition. I was in London and allowed for half an hour which not only meant that I didn't make a special journey but that I also spent about twice as long there as at Mindgames. Agreed, the exhibition was not very big, but who would expect otherwise? The feature that did fascinate me was the display of different kinds of dice, particularly the ones of human figures the Romans were effectively playing Pass the Pigs two thousand years ago!
[MS: I think I got the impression that it would be big because of the ad poster coverage around London. The same was true of the recent Bookbinding exhibit that I went along to having seen over a dozen professionally done posters all over the place. The result? Three glass cabinets with less than fifty books, tucked away in a very dark section of the Library.]
Mike Clifford, Upper Norwood I have to say I find Lambourne Games' rulebooks fairly straightforward. I'm sure Terry Goodchild would be the first to acknowledge that his production values cannot compete with the international companies. Nonetheless, his percentage of success must be far higher than any other game manufacturer.
For John Madge and anyone else looking: If you are still after Ring Showdown, try writing to H.I.T. Games Co, 429 E. Durham Street, Philadelphia, PA 10119 USA. In my experience, these amateur designers usually have copies of their games left. Good luck, it's a superb simulation.
[MS: Thanks Mike. On the same subject of garages full of unsold games, I am told by Eamon that the inventor of Try! (APT Games), Hadyn Evans, still has lots left and will probably sell you one for a fiver. Even better is that he may have the plastic counters embossed with the logos of the main rugby playing countries. Hadyn is on . Another company that didn't even surface once to my knowledge is Poster Games who sell a very nice looking sailing game/simulation called Regatta. It comes tubed and has great components including a laminated map and moulded yachts. Definitely one for the collectors, but I haven't played the game yet. Poster Games are at Paul Williams, 45a Daventry Street, London NW1 6TD and they are asking £14. Finally, I am sure Mickey Games still have some copies of Fast Break left, but I would hurry if you haven't already got one.]
Ed Caylor, Hampton, New Hampshire I'm glad you got to see some senior league baseball. Unfortunately, the league folded around Christmas, the red ink was flowing pretty freely, and with the state of the banks and savings and loans in this country, it should come as no surprise that there was no-one willing to lend the league any more $$$ in an effort to keep things going.
[MS: Oh. Well there goes that particular recommendation! I still consider myself lucky to have caught at least some action, it struck me as an excellent mix of decent play and the right attitude to competition.]
Ed... I do like to read The National as well as the Sporting News which I have subscribed to since 1968 and still have every issue except for five or six that never got to me in the mid-70s when I was flying all over the Pacific for the navy. If you want baseball information, especially year round info, TSN is the publication of choice, hands down. For football, I think it is a toss-up, but for basketball and hockey, The National is the clear leader. The National is not doing as well financially as it would like and recently raised the cover price to 75 cents daily. I hope it is able to make it through our recession, it is a fine complement to TSN.
[MS: Ted Kelly told me recently that The Sporting News had changed so much in its recent re-design that he now throws it straight in the bin! This is serious comment indeed from a previous fan.]
David Wright, Coulsdon Crime Books: Glad you liked the Thomas Harris books. I would strongly recommend you try James Ellroy as well, especially those set in Hollywood of the 40s and 50s. The Black Dahlia in particular is a masterpiece, but be warned it's strong stuff so be prepared for a rough, but ultimately worthwhile ride. Murder One is the best place to find a good selection of his books.
Mike Clifford, Upper Norwood My thanks to Giorgio and Michele for suggesting the novels of Thomas Harris as a gentle diversion. The thought that the 'real' Hannibal Lecter is locked away somewhere is a sobering thought. The casting of Jodie Foster as the young FBI rookie and Anthony Hopkins as Lecter in the movie adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs may prove inspired. By the way Mike, you can have the books back now.
[MS: Well, we certainly just beat the rush on this one! On one train journey last week I counted six copies of the books being read in my carriage alone. I should think Mr Harris will enjoy the royalties let's hope he spends them on a decent WP so he gets the new books out a bit quicker.]
Ellis Simpson, Glasgow Republic of Rome was a very much appreciated review. It looks like a clever, but long design and the rules seem to be not up to Victory standards. Shame. The trouble is that my multi-player crowd are very much novices so playing this is just not on. I shall pass it by until I find myself in Virgin Games in a weak willed moment.
John Evans, Edinburgh The Republic of Rome is a current favourite, though I feel it rewards repeated readings of the rules. I'm hoping an analysis will appear in The General with charts showing influence gains and losses, popularity gains and so on. Sumo 4 got it right: no easy task, but very well worth the time and money. I love the thick layers of history the game gives you.
[MS: Well the General has never failed us yet so I expect the full treatment, though with the current pace of publication it may be sometime next year. Meanwhile, see Steve Owen's timely comments elsewhere this issue. Stephan Valkyser has been burning the midnight oil as well...]
I have played Republic of Rome eleven times (!): six times the multi-player game, once the two player version and four solitaire. Of the multi-player games we lost one each to bankruptcy, four active wars and a people's revolt. Twice one player was voted consul for life and the last game was won by means of most influence when the card deck ran out. I've played the early scenario six times and the middle Republic five with the late Republic still to come.
First of all Rome is a very fascinating game, to me the most impressive since 1830. I like the excellent mix of Junta, Kremlin and Illuminati together with the co-operative element and the historical flair. I dislike the very bad quality of the components (in comparison to the usual AH standard) and the overloaded rulebook, which isn't organised well and conatins too few examples, although it is nearly complete. Why can't they at TAHGC look at their sister company Victory and take over their style of rules?
Rome is really a game with high complexity and Berthold's statement is true that 'this game unlike your average user-friendly game is a killer!'. As in 1830, there are many opportunities to make not so apparent mistakes which you may not be able to correct later in the game, and novices will be crushed by inexperienced players more often than not. Evidently the rome Consul is the best office, but don't underestimate the Pontifex who will control the critical votes during the appointment of army commander or the strength of his force. Secondly his free veto will come in handy if the censor plans any prosecutions against your faction. Perhaps I will give you more results of my strategy considerations next time (if you are still interested).
[MS: Yes please Stephan. Perhaps an article? Rome seems to be getting a lot of play around the country and obviously in Germany as well. I think, after five full games, I am starting to wonder if the time taken might be better allocated elsewhere, but I would certainly not refuse to play it if asked. It certainly is a game that matures with play and I have to agree entirely with your point on novices. I looked in on a game at Beer & Pretzels that was being controlled by two unashamed 'experts' and the four novices were just along for the ride. This isn't a problem with the game, it is true of many systems. Ever tried playing Civilization for the first time with experienced players? Now that's the least fun I've had in six hours in my life.]
Mike Hopcroft, Portland How does the group react when losing in Republic of Rome?
[MS: Well, in the games I've played they take it very well. The main emotion is enjoyment and satisfaction in having done as well as you did (unless it went completely wrong!). You don't feel as though you've lost as such, the game is very tough at times and so it is a bit like how the Monarchs might feel after playing the 49ers defeated, unbowed and ready for more.]
John Evans, Edinburgh I spoke to you recently about McMulti and my gaming group's experience with it bears repetition. The game has nice components though the rules could be a lot better. We only played it once. After about an hour's play, people couldn't believe how horribly and stupidly simplistic it was - a game turn is little more than the roll of two dice - the others in the group laughed at it and then asked for a shortening of the game. then one player announced he would like to stop it there and then. He further said it was the third worst game he had ever played. As oil exploration games go, it is by far the worst I've encountered and I don't think I'll get the group to play it again. With this in mind, what are the staple German games that can be recommended wholeheartedly? A list in Sumo would be handy.
[MS: To deal with your game comments first, as I said I was more than surprised by the reaction. I have heard nothing bad about the game and although I haven't played it for a year or so, I always found it pretty good. As far as the random element goes, yes there is a lot of luck but the idea is to optimize the number and location of your drills and strike a balance between drills, pumps and refineries. Essentially you are playing the odds on getting a strike but always with reference to the underlying oil and petrol markets. There is a lot of scope for opportunity cost analysis and, in most game situations, you can play the markets to some effect by buying and selling on the spot markets. Anyway, I can understand your comments to a degree because the game does tend to play itself at times. Does anyone else find it unplayable? I'd be keen to know.]
[As for a list of games, it could be done as 'what Siggins likes' or 'what Siggins thinks people like'. I think only the former would have any integrity but not much value, but here is something anyway.]
[Having checked through those European games I've played and kept, this fifty-odd get the Seal of Approval as being the better ones of the bunch. I have added only a couple in square brackets that I either haven't yet played or are generally accepted as totally marvellous but not by me. If you have similar tastes to me (pretty unlikely), you won't go far wrong with these:
Abstract Games: Abalone (Abalone), Babuschka (Rav.), Can't Stop (Parker), Orion (Parker), Vector (Fx Schmid).
Card Games: Cash (Rav.), Gespenster (Hex.), Hols Der Geier (Rav.), Indiscretion (Piatnik), Karriere Poker (Hex.), Kuhhandel (Rav.), New York, New York (Fx Schmid), Ogallala/Muros (Pelikan), Rettet die Umwelt (Piatnik), Shock/Action Test (Piatnik), Wer Hat Mehr? (Piatnik)
Family Games: Alaska (Rav.), Auf Fotosafari Im Ombagassa (Perlhuhn), Ausbrecher AG (Rav.), Ballon Rennen (Rav.), Bausack (Klaus Zoch), Caramba (Fx Schmid), Dampfross/RR (Schmidt), Drunter & Druber (H.I.G.), Elefantenparade (Rav.), Flieg Dumbo Flieg (Schmidt), Fliegende Teppich (Rav.), Heimlich & Co (Rav./Perlhuhn), Scotland Yard (Rav.), Wildlife Adventure (Rav.).
'Adult'/Game Group Games: Adel Verpflichtet (Fx Schmid), Airlines (Abacus), [Auf Achse (Fx Schmid)], Dail Eirann (Nertz), Das Borsenspiel (Rav.), Die Macher (H.I.G.), Energie Poker (A.S.S.), Full Metal Planete (Ludodelire), Hecht (S.B.V.), Holiday AG/Coup (Fx Schmid), McMulti (Hex.), Metropolis (Rav.), [Schoko & Co. (Fx Schmidt)], Super Gang (Ludodelire), [Tyranno-Ex (Moskito)].
Race Games: Favoriten (Muller), Formel Eins/Daytona 500 (A.S.S./MB), Grand Prix (Rav.), Greyhounds (H.I.G.), Homas Tour (Homas Spelen), Jockey (Rav.) and Sechs Tage Rennen (Holtmann).]
[and to prove these games are being played, we have yet more 5&10s....]
Mark Green 5+ 1830, 1835, Die Macher, Schoko & Co, Six Day Race, Shogun, Airlines, Adel, Liftoff, Russian Campaign, War at Sea, Awful Green Things, Illuminati. 10+ AD&D (200+), Bushido, Cthulhu, Civilisation, Britannia, Machiavelli, Decline & Fall, Mille Bornes, Hols der Geier, Family Business, Third Reich, Panzergruppe Guderian, VITP.
Mike Fairweather 5+ Warrior Knights, Suppenkasper, Schoko & Co, Merchant of Venus, Trump, Enchanted Forest, Topple, Mine a Million. 10+ International Cricket, Championship Boxing, 3 card brag, (all 100s of times), Die Macher, Wildlife Adventure, Railway Rivals, Kremlin, Talisman, Win, Place & Show, Gunslinger, Auf Achse, Broadway.
Mike Oakes 5+ Colditz, Rail Baron, North Sea Oil, Poleconomy, Quest, Regatta, Enchnated Forest, Win, Place & Show, Shark 10+ Formula One, Air Charter, Risk, Cabbie, Stockbroker, Election, hare & Tortoise, Lose Your Shirt, Business Game, Speculate, Empire Builder, Scotland Yard, Metric Mile, Family Business.
[MS: If there are any more coming, can I have them for next issue?]
Anon with a London Postcode Gossip: J*ck J*ff* is charging £100 per hour for advice on marketing games from Britain's leading authority on boardgames. Gibsons are considering a six player version of Mafioso for 1992.
Alan Parr, Tring Mike Clifford is correct, you can indeed conjugate sumo (to take): sumo, sumere, sumpsi, sumptum. Of course, many of you youngsters won't have had the entertainment and enjoyment of studying Latin, and I must admit I'm a little rusty so I did check up in my copy of Kennedy's Latin Primer just to make sure.
[MS: I bet you can't conjugate my other nicknames.]
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