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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Games Reincarnate

Today’s game market, driven in the US by the realities of printing a minimum of 3000 copies for an audience that will purchase a number less than that, is constantly seeing the more successful titles dry up in the pipeline. This is more common for wargames and smaller euro publishers, but it is still something that I take into account when I see something on the shelf that I suspect I’ll want at some point. I purchased the Ursuppe expansion kit when I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t be around much longer, even though I didn’t expect to have it see a lot of table time. I sure wish I’d sprung for the last couple of Cosmic Encounter expansions back around 1980, even though the title has seen repeated reprints (some better than others).

As such, I’ll try to group reprint games into two categories: classics and contemporaries. For my purposes, classics are pre-Euro era, roughly before 1998. These are mostly sentimental favorites rather than games I actually like. Contemporaries are those printed since 1998, games that friends have that I’d like to get copies of because I think they are good games.
First, the classics. Cosmic Encounter, mentioned above, has been done enough for me. I own most of the Eon edition game (missing the last two expansions), and I have the Mayfair editions, so I’m not really missing anything - I could always throw in the moons from the original, although at this point in my life that would require some sort of personal chemical enhancement for at least me.

GW’s 2nd edition of Talisman was a game I “collected” into the very early 90’s that would be nice to see reprinted. I’m sure that GW, a company that never turns down an opportunity to milk it’s customer’s for cash, is considering yet another edition. The same goes for Blood Bowl, which I have a 2nd edition copy of (the one with the mounted board rather than styrofoam). GW’s problem is that they appear to consider playtesting to be something best done using the aforementioned personal chemical enhancement, so I don’t hold out much hope of either game addressing the problems of the originals. Talisman became a race to see who could run through the dungeon and get a lucky roll at the end first, although I loved having fifty thousand different characters.

To reprint Talisman, the main difference would be in simply a better game. I liked being able to buy expansions at a reasonable rate, much as is being done with Runebound (although I refuse to purchase the 2nd ed for reasons I’ve stated on this blog previously), and I don’t need the wacky 3D board they used in 3rd ed. However, I suspect that this would end up being Runebound/World of Warcraft/Descent with expansions, so perhaps we’re best off just leaving this one in the dustbin of eBay.

Blood Bowl would be much more fun if they provided plastic painted figures, a la Hero Quest, rather than expecting you to paint your own. Moving little grey or metal figures around the board is not so cool. And, of course, playtest the thing and package it with the good rules, not the wacky ones that 12 year olds like (although this is almost certainly their target demographic). You could always add flavor with special rules for different teams. Plus, make the board interesting and use decent quality cardboard instead of the standard cereal box on steroids in 2nd ed. However, this is GW we’re talking about.
I’m sure there are a ton of good SPI wargames that would be very cool to see reprinted, although those that have been (Empire of the Middle Ages comes to mind) are hopeless rules messes. Plus, very expensive. I’m just not that likely to spend more than $50-$60 on a wargame, over $100 is simply not going to happen.

I definitely want to see a reworking of AH’s Successors, although that technically falls right on the classic/contemporary border. A less florid map that is easier to read (there are connecting lines that fade right into the background or physical border art), clean up some of the events, clean up the rules, and you’ve got a good game.

And I guess that last bit sums up the real problem with most of the “classics,” they need well done rules. Anything more complex than World of Warcraft and you’re talking crazy talk, that just doesn’t happen much. Rules are exceptionally hard work to do well, and we don’t emphasize writing as a craft enough in an era when ROTFLMAO will almost certainly end up in the OED in our lifetimes.

As far as contemporary stuff, there are always a few titles that I wish I’d gotten but didn’t because of (guess what) cost. Roads and Boats I’d like to have solely for solitaire. In this case, I’d like to see the tech tree pared down a bit, have a way to place roads that doesn’t involve plexiglass and a Sharpie, shorten the game by about an hour, and make it a bit less painful to blow a resource cycle. Improve the components as well, all of those little cardboard chits with all of the wooden transport pieces look like an earthquake hit my games closet and the wargames started mixing it up with the euros.

This title in particular would be awesome as a basic game and expansions, although I know Splotter did just that (albeit one game and one expansion). I would pare the tech tree down and limit the size of the maps to start with, perhaps up to four players (this game would be hellish with six). You could sell extra hexes and pieces to add players, plus an expansion to increase the tech tree, perhaps another to create different terrain types as well. Even better, port it to the DS or PSP so you can play without all of the expensive components. OK, expensive hardware that everyone needs to have, but you can also play Advance Wars on your DS.

I am ten times more likely to spend $200 on a game if I can buy it in playable pieces, although I do understand that an expansion is by it’s very nature going to have fewer buyers than the original, and thus be somewhat more expensive. An excellent example is Settlers/Seafarers/Das Buch/Cities&Knights/5&6 Player expansions, which is certainly at that magic $200 number at retail. I’d never have bought the whole thing in one go, even if they made everything 3D. Oh, they did...
Otherwise, I’ve been enough of a packrat/collector that I already have many of the out of print titles that I want from the modern era, even all of the old Avalon Hill chestnuts that I played as a teen. Heck, I’ve even got Magic Realm which I got for a steal at $31 on eBay. Of course, I also have Princess Ryan’s Star Marines, perhaps the most overproduced title ever. In general, if I missed out on it and want it, it typically gets reprinted.

So there's my take on reprints.


  • At 10:32 AM, Blogger Wes M said…

    $31??? Complete? I think "steal" is quite possibly too mild a verb. MR is another of those games that I should have mentioned, again primarily for nostalgic reasons, even though I've only played it once! (And I don't think we completed that one game of the first 'programmed lesson.')

    Harkening back to my post (in the initial thread,) another EON game to consider would be Borderlands / Ascalion.

  • At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Greg Aleknevicus said…

    The version of Blood Bowl with a mounted board is third edition, not second. (The second edition is the one with the styrofoam board.)

    While I too would like to see the game with pre-painted miniatures, it's ridiculous to expect it from Games Workshop. Their entire product line/network of stores is based around the idea of painting figures as much as it is about the games themselves. It's like suggesting that Magic: The Gathering would have been better if it wasn't collectible. (Which may also be true .)

  • At 7:40 PM, Blogger Matthew Gagan said…

    I got Magic Realm when it came out. It's not a game I ever really cared for, even after I got to the point where I think I knew it well enough to play it. I think I got it on my tenth birthday... Have to see if I can find it and check out those e-bay prices...

  • At 10:08 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    Yes, I'm aware that $31 was a good deal. This was in 1998, though, and I'm not sure if the soon-to-be-defunct AH titles were at the same level of nostalgia. That's exactly why I bought it. BTW, I picked up Arab-Israeli Wars for $7. I thought *that* was a steal.

    Thanks for the correction on Blood Bowl, Greg. And yeah, I'm fully aware that GW has no intent of ever putting out painted minis, but this was about what *I* wanted to see, not what would actually *happen*...


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