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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Monday, February 06, 2006

The One About Reprints

“What are some games that you think should be reprinted?”

That is one deliciously vague question. Who died and made me Jay Tummelson? On the one hand, there are certainly many games that I feel deserve to be reprinted based on reputation alone. On the other hand, with the leaked confession of his love for Atlas Shrugged on BGG last week, I fully expect Chris to answer “the games that should be reprinted are those games that will sell big the second time around.” I chose an arbitrary list of five games, approaching this question from different angles.

A related question is how quickly a company should release a new edition which incorporates significant changes. If it is released too soon, then we consumers might get into the mode of trying something out a bit right after it is released, and, if it is not deemed to be a keeper, quickly dumping it before the resell value vanishes. An example of a fair upgrade is Ticket to Ride. Here, Days of Wonder expanded the VP track from 80 to 100 spaces and tweaked the graphics on the train cards; clearly, this was not so much change as to devalue the original edition. As for dubious upgrades, of course I must mention Fantasy Flight Games. Although I have stopped purchasing most of their games out of principle, I think FFG should continue to reprint and upgrade their releases from the past 5 years until my entire FFG collection is worthless. However, I think there are a couple of old games they probably won’t touch. The big-board Fantasy genre is clogged right now – especially from FFG – so there is no room for Battlemist and its convoluted ruleset. However, I think that Thunder’s Edge, the other release from the trilogy of early FFG big-board games (which also included Twilight Imperium, the only one to be truly successful), deserves another shot. While I would want most things to remain the same (especially the combat system, which is still my favorite in any game), the cardboard counters should be replaced with plastic minis for the various units.

Speaking of “Update & Upgrade”, several of my old Avalon Hill games could use a nice update. In fact, if you asked me this question a couple of years ago, my #1 answer would have been Monsters Ravage America, not because the game design was that great, but because of the bizarre components (e.g., some military units were plastic minis, others were cardboard counters) and the potential for overproduced goodness given the theme. Now that that has been taken care of, my next choice from this line is Dinosaurs of the Lost World. Give me a big board, plastic minis for the dinosaurs, full-color adventure sheets, large cardboard replicas for the key escape items (rope, map, tarpaulin) and maybe tweak the design a bit in light of modern concepts. Also, please wrap this up within the next five years, so that it will be ready in time for me to play with my daughter in her prime age for this type of game.

Not everything needs to be modified. With slight hesitation, I choose another old Avalon Hill game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. It is one of my very favorite games, and resale prices and internet buzz indicate high demand. However, when fans of the game talk about reprinting it, there is too much talk about removing the combat card subsystem and replacing it with a more conventional combat resolution table (CRT), similar to what later card-driven wargames employ. I would not want to see it reprinted if they messed with the cards; to me, this subsystem is what puts the game over-the-top in the fun category. If anything, I would like to see more games - both wargame and Euros - include extended "mini-games" in their design. The two largest of my own multi-player designs both feature mini-games to a large extent. The best example I can think of in a Euro is the party system in Traumfabrik. This is a common element in CCGs, which is probably why I enjoy them so much. But I digress...

To prove to you that I am not completely against tinkering with a good thing, I will select one of the “Modern Classics” that are in the queue to be reprinted by Rio Grande Games. Among elite company which includes El Grande and Tikal is the grandest game of all: Taj Mahal. Although perfection was achieved in the game design, the production could use some work. For instance, the board is serviceable, although under dim lighting it is very difficult to distinguish the regions, which is very important to do at a glance in order to assess opportunities for high connectivity scores. However, the real offender here is the card design. The icons are printed on both sides of the card to enable fanning to the left or right, but they are so large that it is easy to be confused about just how many symbols are really on a given card. Additionally, the special cards have the same large icons on them, even though the icons on these cards are not used for bidding. Getting through the first few turns with a group of new players is always a painful experience. Just as there are a handful of CDs I do/would repurchase when they are remastered (I’m still waiting for them to cut …And Justice For All with that fuzzy bass sound removed), I would plunk down money to own a top-notch Taj.

All of my choices so far are games that, due to having a large quantity and variety of components, could not easily be reproduced. For my next selection, I choose a game of which several folks have made homemade copies: Code 777. Doing do usually involves swiping tiles/racks or blocks from another game and painting the numbers onto them. I suppose I could find a cheap Rummikub set and just colorize the number tiles, but, in truth, I am far too lazy to do this. In truth, I want it to be reprinted so I can stop feeling guilty about being so lazy. Speaking of, it is now time for me to start procrastinating working on next week’s article…


  • At 10:02 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    Re: Hannibal:

    "when fans of the game talk about reprinting it, there is too much talk about removing the combat card subsystem and replacing it with a more conventional combat resolution table (CRT), similar to what later card-driven wargames employ."

    I'm in complete agreement here. With so few battles, the card system adds a huge amount of tension. Sure, you could come up with a probability table that would effectively meet the same curve, but it is oh so much more fun to sweat over whether your opponent is going to play that Frontal Assault that you can't respond to. Plus, the initiative system that determines who gets to play the first card throws another wrench in the system.

    For a game like Paths of Glory where combat happens all of the time, cards don't work. For Hannibal, it is the acme of this particular mechanism.


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