by Mike Clifford
Your occasionally estimable editor Senor Sigfuentes should desist from reviewing games when in the grip of a excruciating toothache. After reading the diatribe laid on Final Score and Campaign Trail in Sumo 8, I can empathise with Kurt Waldheim's surprise at the negative press afforded him when assuming the Austrian Presidency.
I concede that Final Score is the not the finest of projects from Lambourne, but to accuse Terry Goodchild of conspiracy during the Normandy landings is a tad dramatic. When the Corinthian Casuals made a special case for rescue from France's northern beaches, they were perfectly entitled to enlist the help of Terry, handily employed as lifeguard for the area. The fact that he went AWOL (after personally rowing the entire side back to Blighty) is understandable. After all, who better to test a new soccer simulation? Okay, so you could construct a lifesize model of the Graf Spee with the charts from Final Score, but this doesn't make Herr Goodchild a war criminal.
I assume that the Campaign Trail MS played (and savaged) is not the game of the same name that I have in my possession. The latter allows players the opportunity to campaign through the length and breadth of the USA, returning, as necessary, to those areas which may need an additional pep talk (and further funding).
Unlike other American election games, Campaign Trail has a cheery luck factor which does seem an accurate reflection of the largest circus in the world. The chances of moving from state to state and finding your schedule in good shape are as likely as a succinct observation from Neil Kinnock.
Additionally, I don't know what a Brownian Motion experiment is, unless it pertains to the physical activity experienced after eating a chicken vindaloo.
Depending on your interpretation, attrition is the factor which causes F1 cars to pack up, or this writer's reaction to the stultifying comments about Grand Prix Manager. I pass no further comment on those who don't (and who continue to criticise those that do) other than to say that, usually, 50% of a Grand Prix field will fail to finish. And please don't write to tell me that it is actually 47.37622%.
Incidentally, John Harrington's review of said game (Sumo 8) was fair, but I think it would be complacent of me not to mention the full colour components which do make for an attractive package nothwithstanding the DIY element.
And talking of game kits. Aren't the Fresno Gaming Association offerings attractive?
Reflection time, I think, for those games reviewed/sledged/crucified in the past few months within Sumo. I am at once confused and intrigued by the change in opinion of boardgames, which seem to suffer the same fickle finger of fate (second digit, pointing skywards) as American politicians.
Koalition is still the flavour of the quarter. This has all the attributes of a boardgame, but without the board. Possibly a little oblique, but a certain stayer. I understand the game's designer Hartmut Witt has been around for some years, but without any previous notable success. Time, I think, to exhume his previous efforts, whatever they are.
Silverton receives excellent support from designer Phil Smith, and is probably the best trading game of the past 12 months. Combining elements of the 18xx's and Rail Baron, this game has been labelled a 'compromise'. Wrong. It is entitled to a place of eminence on its own merits.
Candidate plays well with two, but better with three, when the 'groundwork' segment of the game can be utilised. The uncanny parallel with March Madness (same designer) is a positive element, and the composition of the card sets from both these games are seemingly perfect (good playtesting?).
Minos and Flying Dutchman are both worth another look. I enjoyed my initial forays, but they have not made a further appearance at our game sessions. Formule De is the perfect 'closer'. Fun, with a smidgeon of skill, and superbly presented. Minden Quad. Is there anyone out there not yet in possession of this excellent quartet of games? Needless to say a 10+. Final Score. Given Terry Goodchild's almost perfect track record, a major disappointment but hardly a disaster. It needs diligance to learn the mechanisms, and I think familiarity would be better rewarded. Extrablatt. Easy to learn, but with a myriad of tactical possibilities (all of which have escaped me). In my opinion outstanding, but I understand why it has detractors. Unquestionably 'Teutonic'. History Of The World. Now a member of the 5+ club, HOW must not be played by more than four, otherwise there will be much thumb twiddling. Nonetheless, a credit to Mick and Montmerency Ragnar. Hacker. Both the Steve Jackson and Fantasy Forest games (similar theme, different designs) are clever and deserve further perusal. They both seem to have been ignored by the Sumo readership. Automania. Christ, not this again! Yes, and would all you pedantic sods out there giving Livvo a hard time chuck out the silly cards and get on with it. Incidentally, Pete Birks suggestion that all cards are graded and then dealt has much merit.
Given the complete apathy towards gaming by the population of these islands, I am hardly surprised when game companies abandon all hope. For example, toy shops account for 80% of their year's business in the month leading up to Christmas. And when did you last see an advertisement from Waddingtons or Gibsons in an obvious source?
The amateur gaming oasis (newsletters/grapevine) is generally ignored, leaving the major players wallowing in TV spin-offs and superfluous trivia diversions.
Despite this diffidence, the Sumo readership continues to show enterprise in searching out the latest exports from Germany, France and the USA (and soon Sweden, I predict). And when Sam and Dave Ragnar, Frankie Tresham and 'Livvo' Livingstone whisper sweet nothings, there is a quiver of anticipation. And now, the point. Why do certain quality games, from whatever source, remain largely ignored?
The most obvious recluse is Spanish Main (which makes little sense given the pedigree - Hartland Trefoil), which raised not an eyebrow when re-issued about 18 months ago. Apart from a clumsy rule book, this is an excellent game of trade and exploration. At approximately £25, it is reasonable value for money, with a heft factor reading 8 on the Sigter Scale. What many of you may not know is that Spanish Main is best for two players. Yes, a genuine two player board (actually, sponge) game. When did you last read that (excluding wargames)?
Players contest the high seas and Spanish main, having selected a notable captain (Drake and Frobisher are included) to control. Ships and cannon are then purchased, and your quest is to accumlate wealth whilst protecting your ship and its hardware.
The Spanish main is constructed from large hexagons (placed on a foam cushion), which are laid randomly in sections comprising lowland, hills and mountains. As your galleon or landing party delves further into uncharted territory, you may be rewarded with the discovery of treasure chests and silver/gold mines. The booty can then be shipped back to your home port via the high seas, where you will run the risk of confrontation with your opponent. Both movement (variable cards) and battle (hidden cannon) are treated with flair, and the game is particularly flavoursome. Unusually (for Tresh), expect to spend no more than an hour and a half at the table.
I suspect that Spanish Main was given short shrift because of its earlier, generally unhappy, release. This subtle revision invites investigation.
Dinosaurs Of The Lost World (Avalon Hill) is another worthy game but which suffered the same fate as its subject matter. I suspect that the 'comic' presentation put a few potential punters off. Combining elements of adventure/exploration gaming, Dinosaurs also includes a deserving solitaire scenario. Production quality is high (as we have come to expect), although you may now find difficulty in locating a copy.
On to the Inside Pitch or back to the review of Razzia.
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