Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Before They Come For You...

Tomorrow night is Halloween. You don't want to get your brains eaten by zombies do you? Of course you don't!

So before they come for you, make sure to read the ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE (http://tinyurl.com/28gy3).

And remember, aim for the head!!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Rebirth of Boardgaming

Life goes in cycles. Fashions come and go. Music that was long forgotten is exposed to a new generation and these classics return to popularity. Oftentimes, people rediscover the joys of something that they loved to do many years ago, but which has fallen off their radar for awhile.

I'm a firm believer that if you really, really love something, it never goes away completely. There's always a part of it that stays with you forever. Those of you who have lost a close loved one know just what I'm saying. Those people stick with you... always. But not all losses are permanent. Some "lost loves" eventually return to you and rekindle a passion that has been hibernating inside of you for many years, possibly even decades. And so it is with boardgames and me. After years of sporadic contact with boardgames, I've experienced an honest-to-goodness "board game rebirth".

During the mid 1970's through the mid 1980's, I played a lot of boardgames and role-playing games. The only RPG that I got deeply absorbed in was Dungeons & Dragons. I was the Dungeon Master for our group. Many a summer day or late winter night was spent crafting maps, designing scenarios, creating non-player characters and special house-rules, and brainstorming plot lines that tied into the fictional world of Severnia that I had created. D&D was a real blast and my friends and I played it endlessly.

But the majority of the tabletop games that I played during my youth were board games. Between Risk, Stratego, Pit, Acquire, Feudal, Breakthru, Pro Draft, Slapshot, Talisman, Warhammer, Win-Place-&-Show, Sports Illustrated Football, NHL Strategy, Thinking Man's Golf, Executive Decision, Othello, Facts In Five, Pinochle, and countless games of Statis-Pro Baseball and Strat-O-Matic Hockey, my early board gaming life was chock full of creamy goodness.

But post-college, my gaming life diverged into computer games and fantasy sports, with rotisserie baseball and fantasy football taking up huge chunks of my free time. That has been the case for the past 20+ years. In fact, I got so enamored by rotisserie baseball that I built a software business around it. During that period, I also delved deeper into miniature wargaming, especially as a minis collector and wargames rules buff. I've been attending HMGS East conventions and dabbling in tabletop wargame design for 20+ years as well. While I still played the occasional board game when the opportunity arose, I readily admit that my immersion in the boardgaming hobby was not anywhere close to what it had been many years before. After all, there's only so much time to squeeze in all the fun things that I like to do!

From my perspective, I also looked at that time period (the late 80's and 1990's) as a "down period" for board games in general. The demise of Avalon Hill and the fading of Games Workshop's excellent board game division was very discouraging, as sports games, wargames, and fantasy/sci-fi adventure games really appealed to me. Here were two past stalwarts who produced games in my favorite genres seemingly being phased out of the board game market. Plus, a simple lack-of-time made playing in or running a D&D campaign a no-go, and made it quite hard to start up a Strat-O-Matic league with my adult friends.

So with all of that going on, what got me excited about board games again? If I were to put my pinkie finger on just what re-lit my fuse of boardgaming passion, I would point to these five factors:

#1 = Longing for Social Interaction

Well over a dozen years ago, I moved out of my safe & secure job as a software systems analysts in corporate America and ventured into the unknown and wacky world of entrepreneurship as a self-employed software application developer. Working solo has many advantages, but one of the major disadvantages is that you lose the day-to-day contact with your co-workers, many of whom I fondly considered as dear friends. I did my best to keep in touch with my closest friends, and many of them have played in the fantasy sports leagues that I've founded and managed over the years. But aside from occasional get-togethers, regular interaction with my old circle of friends has been on the wane for several years.

Rather than sit around and feel sad and alone, I figured that I must be able to do something to change that. That's when the idea of forming a board game club popped into my head. There's no better form of face-to-face fun than playing board games with your buddies. The competition & challenge is great, but the social interaction is just as important (perhaps even more critical for someone like me who works alone 8-10 hours each day).

#2 = BoardGameGeek.com

I can't pinpoint the exact date when BoardGameGeek (BGG) caught my eye. All I know is that roughly 4 years ago, I stumbled upon this gem of a web site while surfing the net, probably looking for information about wargames. When I found the site, I couldn't believe it's sheer depth. BGG is like an onion, you keep peeling away layer upon layer, delving deeper into its core, and crying all the time (this time with tears of joy and wonder).

The Geek is undoubtedly the mother lode of tabletop gaming. If you want to learn about tabletop games, read other people's opinions about them, or find out where to buy them, there's simply no better place to go. The excitement of uncovering this treasure-trove of gaming info spurred me to dive down deeper into a hobby that had obviously evolved a great deal since I had last been a die-hard member of it.

#3 = The Dice Tower podcast

I've never met Tom Vasel, Joe Steadman, or Sam Healey in person, but those guys are as responsible for the resurgence in my fondness of board games as anyone else that I can think of. If you've never listened to an episode of the Dice Tower, a podcast whose focus is squarely on board games, do yourself a favor and download a show and listen to it. You don't even need an actual iPod to listen to the show; you can play it right on your PC using WinAmp or a similar media-player.

The whole field of podcasting is relatively new. About 3 years ago, you were very hard-pressed to find any interesting shows about hobby games. The Dice Tower was one of the very first shows that I discovered, and although there are dozens of podcasts about games now available, Tom Vasel's show remains one of the most polished, informative, and wide-ranging shows out there.

#4 = Game Conventions

I've been going to the three miniature wargames conventions sponsored by HMGS East (Cold Wars, Historicon, and Fall In!) for a very long time. While the hobby of miniatures gaming is separate from board gaming in a technical sense, the two of them are definitely closely related cousins. Over the past several years, I've seen more and more convention vendors carrying board games (usually war-themed or adventure-themed) in the dealer hall. That certainly exposed me to a few board games and game companies that I had never previously heard of.

Researching these games on the internet was the proverbial "trip down the rabbit hole"; I kept uncovering more and more games that piqued my interest. In 2005, my wife and I made the 6-hour drive to Columbus, Ohio to go to Origins. I hadn't been to Origins for eons; I think the last one I had attended was back when it was held in downtown Baltimore. Anyway, I purchased a batch of new board games and from that point on, there's been no looking back.

#5 = DOW, FFG, and HASBRO

When I was growing up, companies such as Avalon Hill, SPI, 3M, TSR, Games Workshop, and of course Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley were all the rage. There were no "Euro games" designed in Germany available for us to play back then. Eventually, there was a palpable petering out of new and engaging board games to play, as cool computer games such as Castle Wolfenstein, Doom, and Diablo dominated the market and became the new primary focus of the gamers of my generation.

But something began to change in the games market in the mid-to-late 90's. Euro-games, with their simple and elegant mechanics, short play-times, and family friendly themes, began to make their way to tables across America. Combine that with a video game industry that continued to churn out the "same old, same old" stuff and was suffering from a major lack of innovation. But more than anything else, at least for me, was the arrival of two terrific hobby games companies on the scene and the revamping of an old stand-by.

It was just a few short years ago that I encountered Days of Wonder and Fantasy Flight Games. Both of these companies produce games that scratch my thematic itch, and do it with richly produced games chock full of fantastic components (boards, tokens, miniatures, and other pretty bits). Games like Shadows Over Camelot, Battlelore, Ticket to Ride, Arkham Horror, Descent, and War of the Ring became instant classics for these companies. And then there was Hasbro. It revived Avalon Hill, and some really nice games came out of that company (Nexus Ops, RoboRally, Risk 2210, and Monsters Menace America come to mind). But by far, the best thing to come out of Hasbro in recent years has been HeroScape. Yes, it's really more of a miniatures wargame than a true board game, but wow, what a fun game! Board gaming has suddenly become cool again.

In Conclusion...

Over the past 3 years, I've probably purchased 25 new board games and/or card games. That's a lot for me, especially since the lion's share of my gaming budget goes to buying nicely painted miniatures (toy soldiers), terrain, and other supplies for wargaming. I've only gotten the chance to play a few of these board games so far, but at least I'm trying to game on a much, more regular basis now. Once I can get a fire lit under the butts of the people in my fledgling board game club, I should be playing games at least once a week. Sweet!

I'm happy to see board games and miniatures games experiencing a golden Renaissance. A great deal of the credit, interestingly enough, needs to go to the Internet of all places. The web has made it a thousand times easier to learn about tabletop games, hear game enthusiasts talk about the games they love via podcasts, buy games from online vendors and via eBay, and share your views with a community of like-minded hobbyists.

And as us computer geek, 40-somethings grow older, we realize that there's an isolation and lack of variety in computer/video games. No, we won't be jettisoning our X-Box, Playstation, or Wii anytime soon, but the allure of tabletop games can no longer be ignored. Tabletop games offer us much greater mental challenges, a tactile feel that isn't present in digital games, and face-to-face social interaction that makes us feel human again. There's definitely room for both types of games in our lives.

My name is Steve, and I'm a born again board gamer. It sure feels good to be chucking the dice, drawing the cards, and exercising more than just my trigger-finger again. Maybe you should give it a try too. There's a whole bunch of great games out there just waiting to be played.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Zen Again: Foundry Miniatures Painting Guide

In this age of global data and information, you only need to hop on the Internet, type some keywords into Google, and you'll quickly find plenty of web sites that share helpful tips and techniques on one of my most loved hobbies: painting miniatures (toy soldiers). This post isn't about those free tips sites, although that might make an excellent blog post in the future.

While the web is truly a fabulous resource of knowledge, there's still something stimulating about sitting down with a good book. It's a hell of a lot easier on your eyes for one thing, and it's much more relaxing to curl up on the couch or in your bed with a book than a laptop. Anyway, I'm digressing. There aren't really that many outstanding painting and modelling books aimed at miniature wargamers that are both instructional and chock full of gooberlicious toy soldier eye candy. The Foundry Miniatures Painting and Modelling Guide, however, is one such book.

How do I know this? Well, I really don't confess to being intimately familiar with the Foundry Guide. My experience with it consists of briefly paging through it at the Historicon 2007 wargame convention, oogling the delicious photos, noting some interesting instructional passages, and then finally, noting the very expensive price tag of the book. It was priced at over $50. Yikes! That's a heckuva lot for a book that I'm not really in desperate need of.

I've been painting miniatures off and on for many years, and while I'm certainly no Kevin Dallimore, Matt Verzani, or Marike Reimer, I can give a mini a decent looking paint-job. Still, I'm always eager to brush up on helpful tips from the pros, as artistic mastery is a lifelong process for most folks. So without a doubt, I really wanted the Foundry book. It has that undeniable coolness factor that draws you in. Kevin Dallimore is a brilliant painter. But in July my thought was simply, "I guess I can wait until the book goes on sale." Good news to all your painter/wargamers out there: that time has finally arrived!

Instead of a $50 book, the Foundry Painting Guide is now available for $26 from Amazon.com. You can't beat half-price. So I think I'll be taking the plunge and picking up this baby soon, or at least putting it on my Christmas List at a bare minimum. For anyone else who wants to improve their painting skills and/or learn the 3-level painting technique that superstar painter Kevin Dallimore uses to produce those lovely figures you see splashed across the web pages at the Foundry Miniatures site, then this book is for you.

Kenaston Super Draft

Think you know NHL hockey? Prove it!

Time is running out for your chance to win $20,000 (Canadian) by entering the annual SuperDraft sponsored by the Kenaston Lions Club in Saskatchewan, Canada. Pick 32 NHL players who you think will score the most Points (Goals + Assists) during the 2007-08 NHL season. Your top 30 point-getters will be used to determine your overall Point Total. At the end of the regular season, the top 200 contestants with the highest overall point totals win prize money (from $20,000 down to $50 in Canadian dollars). That's basically the game in a nutshell.

Oh yeah, you need to mail in your entry forms by October 31, although you can also phone them into the SuperDraft hotline on 10/30 and 10/31 if necessary. Participation in the SuperDraft contest costs $40 per entry, or $100 for a 3-pack. You can get the necessary contest forms and complete rules here: http://www.superdraft.com

Have fun!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Zen Again: MKP Game Mats

Monday Knight Productions manufactures a series of game mats geared specifically towards tabletop wargamers. These heavy duty felt mats are available in both hex and square-grid patterns, and come in two basic sizes: 3 foot by 3 foot, and larger 4 foot by 6 foot mats.

The standard green game mats, which are airbrushed and flocked, run about $50 for the large 4x6 mats and half that price for the smaller 3x3 mats. They also sell mats with sea and sky colored backgrounds for naval and airplane games respectively.

I also discovered that MKP sells "plain mats" (not flocked) where the grid pattern is printed directly onto the felt. These mats sell for just $28 for the large 4x6 size, and only $14 for the smaller 3x3 mats. That seems like an awesome deal. I'm very tempted to buy one of the larger plain mats and will be seeking them out at the upcoming FALL IN! convention.

You may be wondering, what's the advantage of gridded game mats? Here's my perspective.

I own a 4x6 foot, grass flocked battlefield made out of a material similar to heavy duty foam board. I received this as a Christmas present about 2 years ago (pretty cool eh?). The battlefield comes in 3 separate sections, each 4x2 feet long. This provides a very nice looking battlefield, it's fairly lightweight, and I'm happy to own it. But like so many traditional tabletop wargame battlefields or coverings, it lacks a grid pattern. Some wargame purists abhor grid patterns, seeing them as something which corrupts the visual spectacle that is a beautiful wargames table. So they wouldn't see anything wrong with my grass flocked battlefield. I fully understand their viewpoint; aesthetics are an extremely important part of miniature wargaming.

But from the viewpoint of a "practical wargamer", gridded mats have one big advantage over plain, un-gridded terrain boards: they really speed up game play. Instead of measuring move, charge, and shooting distances with a ruler, you simply count X number of hexes or squares when manuevering your troops on a battlefield containing a hex or square-grid. The more measuring that you can eliminate, the faster the game plays.

Unfortunately, the majority of miniature wargames are not designed around the concept of hex-based movement, so you might have a very difficult time finding an enjoyable game system that can take advantage of a hex-gridded game mat. That's why I prefer the square-gridded mats.

With a square-grid of 1 inch or even 2 inches, horizontal and vertical movement of your troops is greatly simplified. You can count off squares or grid-points instead of measuring in most cases. The only time that you really need to break out the measuring stick/tape is when your units are positioned at weird angles. So while you won't really eliminate 100% of the measuring, you will reduce it drastically and help speed up the game. And the best part is that there are many wargames which are designed to measure movement in 1 inch or 2 inch segments, so you'll have plenty of game systems to choose from.

In my Sword of Severnia fantasy wargame, which is still under development, distances and ranges are measured in inches. Also, units aren't just a loose collection of models, but rather, all of the models in one unit share a common rectangular base or movement tray. This is similar in concept to the idea of "elements" in a game like Hordes of the Things or Vis Magica. So the 1 inch or 2 inch MKP square-grid mats would work quite well as an underlying battlefield in this game system.

I already own a hex-gridded felt game mat from Hotz Artworks, and I really like it a lot. The Hotz mats are definitely worth a look as well. The price for their 4x6 mat is in the same ballpark as the MKP mat, although they only offer 2-inch squares rather than both 1 and 2 inch varieties.

For more info on the MKP mats, check out these links:

Have fun!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Zombie Killing Time!

Every once in awhile, a simple, little online video game comes along that gets you really hooked into playing it to death.

Last year, I came across a lovely little "time waster" called DEANIMATOR. This H.P Lovecraft inspired zombie killing-fest is ultra-simple, yet very addicting. There's just something visceral and exciting about blasting the bejesus out of oncoming maniacs that are trying to eat your brains for supper! Mmm... brains are yummy!

Anyway, since it's the Halloween season, I thought it was appropriate to share the link to this free, little online gem with every blog visitor. Check it out here:

Oh and by the way, try to avoid getting your head & spinal cord ripped off!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


The next big miniatures wargaming convention is only 3 weeks away! FALL IN!, the wargaming convention run by the fine folks at HMGS East, is being held from November 9 thru November 11 at the Eisenhower Convention Center in historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

I'm one of those fortunate folks who lives in Central Pennsylvania, affording me the opportunity to easily travel to all 3 of the HMGS East cons, since they're each only a 40-45 minute drive from my house just outside Harrisburg, PA. I've gone to so many of these conventions over the past 25 years that I've lost count of them.

All three of the HMGS East conventions are similar in many ways, but there are a few key differences worth noting. For those of you who have never been to Fall In! but have attended Historicon in the past, here's my comparison of the two cons.

Historicon, one of the largest (if not THE largest) miniatures gaming conventions in the world, is 4 days of jam-packed wargaming goodness. There are always tons of vendors selling cool wargaming toys, scads of participation games covering every period imaginable, and a busy flea market area. If you've never been there, GO!! The only real downside of Historicon is that it takes place in mid-summer and is always very crowded. That combination of high temps and scores of hefty gamers who look like they've eaten the entire salad bar at Ruby Tuesday's means that you'll be sweating and bumping into guys covered in that slimy film of sweat that makes my skin crawl. Plus, the Lancaster Host's air conditioning system is prone to flutter in and out of commission at times. At this summer's Historicon 2007, the AC went out in the tennis barn (vendor's area) and it was like shopping in a sauna. Not one of my more pleasant convention experiences to say the least. Quibbles aside, Historicon is a must-go convention.

While smaller in size than Historicon, Fall In! still has a lot to offer miniatures gaming enthusiasts. For starters, it's only a 3-day convention rather than a 4-day affair, and it's held during the fall season (usually in November) meaning that kids have gone back to school by the time this convention rolls around. Those two factors help keep the crowds at more reasonable levels than the sometimes overflowing throngs at Historicon. The autumn temperatures outside are also much more pleasant. Walking from the main convention center to the All-Star building to shop is often refreshing -- although they have a shuttle bus for those folks who need to ride (usually because you've purchased too many toys!). In other words, you can stroll around Fall In without having to fight the crowds and get slimed by beefy gamers covered in "gamer funk". Hallelujah!

There's still a large variety of vendors at Fall In, although fewer than at Historicon. But all the regular biggies are there: Old Glory, Brigade Games, Age of Glory, On Military Matters, Crocodile Games, Gale Force Nine, The Last Square, Crusader Minis, Pictor's Studio, and Miniature Building Authority. A few of my lesser known faves are here too (Albright's, Evil Bob's, Eureka, Marx Man, Acheson's Creations, and Scale Creep). I'm also looking forward to checking out some new guys who have escaped my eye in the past (Splintered Light, Old Rivertowne, and The WarStore). So if you go to these conventions primarily to shop, which is really what I do, you'll be plenty satisfied with the selection at Fall In. You can get a complete list of vendors here: Fall In Exhibitors List.

Online pre-registration is available through October 25, so there's only a week left to sign-up. If you're an HMGS East member, like me, it's definitely worth registering online as a full weekend pass to Fall In is only 10 bucks!

One last thing... While looking through the convention newsletter, I noticed an ad for Fernando Enterprises Miniatures painting service in the back of the pamphlet. Lo and behold, there was the expertly painted giant Lizardman archer/hero that I bought from Fernando at Historicon 2007 gracing the page in all his reptilian glory! It's always cool to see one of your prized figures in the limelight. That was the first figure I ever bought from Fernando, but I'm planning on doing more business with these guys in the future. They are a mini-painting service based in Sri Lanka. Their prices are excellent, and based on what I've seen first-hand, their showcase quality minis are outstanding. I'm trying to convince some of the fellows from my wargame group to pool together a bunch of minis that we'd like painted, send them to Sri Lanka, and share the cost of the shipping. I'll probably do a separate post on Fernando Enterprises sometime down the road based on my experiences with them.

See you at the convention!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Big Game Hunter

I've been at it again on eBay. Previously, my buying focus was 90% miniatures-centric. That's because I'm a tabletop wargame enthusiast and collector of miniatures / toy soldiers. But lately, a new beast has crept into the sights of my Big Game Hunter's scope: board games.

Recently, I got an out-of-print board game that's been on my wargames wishlist for quite some time: Battle Cry. This is a classic 2-player wargame about the American Civil War by the very talented game designer, Richard Borg.

Battle Cry was the first game in Borg's command & colors wargame series, which also includes Memoir '44 (WWII battles), Command & Colors Ancients (ancient/medieval warfare), and Battlelore (fantasy battles).

I own Battlelore, which is really no big surprise since the fantasy genre is my favorite. But I also enjoy historical games as well, and since my ACW games consisted of the old American Heritage version of Battle Cry from the 1960's and Gettysburg from Avalon Hill (which I've never played -- anyone who wants to buy an unpunched edition, I've got one for sale!), I felt it was high time for a fresh look at the period. Plus, the new edition of Battle Cry is really a classic and a worthy addition to any gamer's collection. The trick was finding this game for a reasonable price. I've seen it sell for well over $100 on eBay, and more frequently fetch bids in the $65 to $80 price range as the norm.

So color me pink that I was able to buy it for only $42 plus nine bucks for shipping! I can't wait to try out Battle Cry, and will be adding it into the mix of 2-player games that I'm planning to play over the next 3-to-6 months.

The second board game that I recently acquired via eBay was Lionheart. Truth be told, I didn't really know much about this game until I saw it on eBay. The game's subject matter (medieval warfare) is a personal favorite of mine, but what really interested me was a combination of a chess-like game with cool looking miniatures. I'm a big fan of Feudal, an underrated 3M classic, so anything along those lines piques my interest.

Unfortunately, the reviews of Lionheart on BoardGameGeek were mediocre at best. But after reading several reviews, the game's mechanics seemed easy enough to tweak and the plastic minis were very enticing. I figured that if I could get this game for $10 or less, I would have some extra minis to use for other wargames, as well as a fun little game to tinker with and improve through the use of my own design variants & house-rules.

So I held out and was able to snag Lionheart for $5.50 plus nine bucks shipping. That was another satisfying purchase for me. There are definitely good deals to be had on eBay if you're willing to dig around. I'm still waiting to get this game in the mail, but it should come in within the next few days or so.

Until next time hunters, may you bag some big game!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Zen Again: Wargame Markers

Attention miniature wargamers: How do you track casualties, wounds, or loss of strength points in games where figures aren't removed from their units/bases when damage occurs?

There are lots of possible options for tracking damage, including the use of good old fashioned pencil & paper (i.e. recording casualties/wounds on an Army Roster Sheet). But for those players who like to visually track damage on the tabletop, another approach is needed. Here are a couple of good alternatives that I've recently come across for you toy soldier gamers out there.

Mini Dice:

I recently stumbled across a website called DealExtreme that is selling a pack of 100 mini dice for $1.90 a set. For less than $4 bucks plus shipping, you can snag all the dice you would ever need to track damage in the vast majority of tabletop wargames. How cool is that? And they come in an assortment of colors, which is always handy. I need to get me some of these babies!

You can find the dice here: http://tinyurl.com/3cqwgo

Litko Aerosystems:

If you've never heard of Litko Aerosystems, you owe it to yourself to check them out. Litko manufactures and sells as wide variety of miniature bases, movement trays, magnetic basing, templates, and status tokens & markers. Their Skull tokens are particularly cool looking and great for tracking casualties/wounds/damage-points.

Litko also sells some really awesome looking blast markers & smoke markers, and their other tokens are quite nice as well. I've been meaning to pick some of these up, but just haven't gotten around to it yet. With the holiday season approaching fast, perhaps there's no better time than now to make an online order?

You can check out Litko's product line of tokens/markers by going here: http://tinyurl.com/2ueelw

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A "Must Buy" Book if You Love Tabletop Games

A few months ago, I heard about the pending publication of a book that got me so excited, that I went right out and pre-ordered it from Amazon. The book is called Hobby Games: The 100 Best by Green Ronin Publishing.

The book, edited by James Lowder, contains numerous essays written by scores of the best and most famous game designers in the hobby games industry. These folks offer their views on what they feel are the 100 best and most fun to play board games, miniatures games, wargames, card games, and role-playing games of the past 50 years. Among some of the authors who contributed essays to this book are:
  • Gary Gygax (co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons)
  • Richard Garfield (creator of Magic: the Gathering)
  • Larry Harris (creator of Axis & Allies)
  • Alan Moon (creator of Ticket to Ride and Elfenland)
  • Reiner Knizia (creator of 100's of famous board games)
  • Bruno Faidutti (creator of Citadels, Mystery of the Abbey)
  • Ian Livingstone & Steve Jackson (Games Workshop founders)
  • Christian Petersen (CEO of Fantasy Flight Games)
  • Martin Wallace (creator of Age of Steam, Runebound, Perikles)
  • Jordan Weisman (WizKids creator of MageKnight & HeroClix)
  • R.A. Salvatore (author of Drizzt Do'Urden fantasy novels)
  • Tom Jolly (creator of Drakon, Cave Troll, Wiz-War, etc.)

And there are many, many more famous designers and authors in this All-Star lineup as well that I haven't listed. For those who are familiar with the hobby games industry, the list is truly impressive.

The really cool thing about this book is that the authors don't write specifically about the games that they designed, but rather, the games that inspired them, that they find most fun to play, and that they feel are shining lights of stellar & clever design in the industry. So in effect, this book is a celebration of the best that our hobby has to offer.

I'm sure there will be plenty of debate over games that were NOT included in this book. I can easily forsee dozens of rants on BoardGame Geek and The Miniatures Page cropping up over perceived injustices to some people's favorite games. Heck, it wouldn't surprise me to see a 2nd volume of this book be created (something like 100 More Hobby Game Classics) if this book is as well received as I expect it will be. There are LOTS of wonderful games out there in my humble opinion!

What's also terrific about this book is that it has the potential to expose many casual gamers to the wide variety of great & engrossing hobby games out there, as well as the designers who create them. It will also be a way for long-time gamers to rediscover classic games that they've overlooked. In this world of video-game mania, it's refreshing to see a book that covers the world of traditional, face-to-face, tabletop games. It's a world that has been around a long time and is currently enjoying a renaissance. Thank goodness for that; it's about time.

You can purchase Hobby Games: The 100 Best from these places:

I haven't gotten my copy yet. Once I get it and read it, I'll be sure to share some insights about the book on this blog. I strongly encourage anyone who loves games to go out and order a copy of this book immediately. It seems destined to be a classic.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Rhinos and Soldiers and Planes, Oh My!

My mind is racing with several different things right now. So rather than write one meaty, in-depth post about a specific subject, I'm going to swipe a couple of quick brush strokes across a variety of topics tonight. Call this one my Eclectic Moments post.

Why are rhinos on my mind? Or more specifically, what in the Hell do rhinos carrying baseball bats have to do with me? Well, I'll tell ya. Rotisserie baseball nuts across the world are likely experiencing a mixture of anguish, euphoria, and relief this week. Why? Because the Major League baseball regular season, the one that counts for roto geeks, just ended on Monday (October 1st). As it turned out, my rotisserie baseball team, the Sevy Rhinos, just won the coveted HARL Championship. Yesssss.... Wooohooo.... Who's the Man now Dog? So I'm squarely on the euphoria end of the spectrum.

The HARL league is one that I've been playing in and running for 21 years. Yes, you read that right, TWENTY ONE YEARS. It's a crazy love affair to be sure. And this year's HARL championship marks the 7th time that I've won the league. That's really, really hard to do, especially in a competitive and somewhat advanced league such as ours. So I'm basking in the afterglow of a great season. Thank you to those stud Rhinos who helped drive me to victory this season. Take a bow Jimmy Rollins, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Pat Burrell, Kaz Matsui, Todd Helton, Jeff Francis, Oliver Perez, Tom Gorzelanny, Kevin Gregg, and the rest of the cast who slugged and hurled their way into the fantasy promised land. We'll be handing out golden horns soon enough. Now if my beloved Philadelphia Phillies can just do the same thing!

Toy Soldiers
I just received the HMGS East newsletter in the mail a few days ago. It's hard to believe, but the final miniature wargaming convention of the year, FALL IN 2007, is just over 5 weeks away. Fall In is being held in Gettysburg PA, at the Eisenhower Convention Center from November 9 through 11.

I've gone to this convention for many years, although I missed it last Fall because I was away on a European cruise (Oh the pain! err... NOT!). I fully intend to go to the con this year. For those of you who have never been to Fall In, I highly recommend making the drive down to Gettysburg for at least 1 day and checking out the fun. Unlike Historicon in Lancaster PA, which is always super-crowded and often stifling hot, Fall In is a more laid-back convention with smaller crowds and the benefit of cooler temperatures. There are still plenty of games to play and watch, and a sizeable Dealer's Hall (which is the main reason I go to HMGS East cons to be honest).

Having just been forced to shell out beaucoup bucks on car repairs last week (needed to get my A/C compressor replaced), I need to find a way to scrounge up some spending cash for the con. Maybe I'll eBay some old board games that I don't play anymore. I've been wanting to unload the Russian Campaign, Gettysburg, Dark Emperor, Blue Line Hockey, Rogue Trooper, and some other titles for awhile now but have never gotten around to it. Maybe this will spur me on. Or maybe I'll sell my plasma. Yaneverknow.

I'm not talking about Physics 101 -- a ball rolling down a plane. And no D&D'ers, I'm not talking about the Ethereal Plane or the Nine Planes of Hell. I'm talking about airplanes. Up until this point in my life, I've never gotten involved in gaming with miniature airplanes. I've always thought that air combat games looked pretty cool when I've seen them played at conventions. And I even owned a few tiny, diecast planes when I was a kid. Heck I used to play the hell out of that oldtime classic Red Baron arcade game in the 1970's. It was before true video games came into existence. The more planes you shot down, the more Red Baron tokens the machine would spit out. Ah, the fondness of my youth!

Anyway, plane-based wargames were something that just never caught my eye long enough to really pay attention to. But my thoughts on this are changing. That's due in large part to two games centered around airplane combat that have been recently published.

The first game is a World War I air combat game called Wings of War, by Fantasy Flight Games. This is a card-driven wargame of tactical airplane combat where your goal is to shoot down enemy bi-planes such as Fokkers and Sopwith Camels. Kewl doobs! What's even better is that the game has a line of pre-painted miniature airplanes (in 1/144 scale) that are quite attractive.

You can buy these planes for roughly $9 bucks apiece from ThoughtHammer. Each plane comes with its own customized "maneuver deck", so getting game cards & model plane for under $10 bucks seems like a very fair deal to me. I'm very tempted to take the plunge.

The second game is a board game called Duel in the Dark, by Z-Man Games. This is a World War II era wargame that pits British bombers making bombing-runs over cities in Germany. I won't get into all the nitty gritty details of the game here, but the reviews that I've read of the game have been overhelmingly positive and the mechanics of the nighttime bombing raids are very slick and make for a tense game. Plus, it only takes about 45 minutes to play a game, so that's quite attractive for a wargame. Check it out.

That's all for now.... Expect more eclectic ramblings to come!