Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Merchants of Venus

There was a bit of a stir last week at Essen, when two different publishers announced that they had secured the rights to the (out of print) Merchants of Venus game.

Stronghold Games has been working with the original designer, Richard Hamblen. Fantasy Flight Games has been working with the descendents of the original publisher, Avalon Hill (now a division of Hasbro).

So who legally holds the rights to produce the game?  That's the million dollar question.

Something that I haven't mentioned before, 

It's entirely possible that both publishers could do versions of the game, provided one of them doesn't use the original art and rules text.

Yes, really.
Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.
Of course, then one of them may claim the other has published a derivative work and another kettle of fish (which I freely admit to not understanding at all) is opened.

We could have another Scrabble vs Scrabulous situation, here - and there is some excellent analysis of that (now old and resolved) situation here. It may also turn into a Steam/Age of Steam debacle.

Personally, I'd like to see both versions hit the market - Stronghold has a history of doing an excellent job with their various reprints, and Fantasy Flight has done an excellent job of cleaning up and/or chroming their reprints.

But that's not likely to happen.

As one BGG user said:
So the situation on the rights of old Avalon Hill-games is as unclear as people always said, eh? Very bad for all involved parties and maybe no one really is to blame.
Here's hoping that it ends well for all - including the fans.

But you'll forgive me if I have my doubts of a positive outcome.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Claustrophobia: De Profundis

For those of you just joining us, it's the expansion to Claustrophobia which is due late this month (or early next month), if CROC manages to retrieve the copies from the South Pacific.

A few weeks back, I shared an unboxing video for Claustrophobia de Profundis.

A few days after that, Asmodee posted a video they shot at GenCon of me, talking briefly about the game.

So what's left to say?
A fair amount - the video doesn't show off just how well-put-together the pieces are. Seriously: Check these beauties out:

Claustrophobia 012
Now, because this is the internet and people on the internet seem to need to complain, allow me to complain about these figures for you. Or more accurately, allow me to list the complaints I've seen about these figures:

1) The Sicaria need eyes.
2) The clothing the Sicaria are wearing is too bright.
3) The Hellhounds don't seem to be as detailed as the Troglodytes from the base game were. 
Sounds like ... really minor complaints, honestly.  Would the Sicaria look better with eyes?  Probably. But I don't know that I'd have been satisfied with poorly-done eyes, either. My Redeemer has slightly crazy-looking eyes - it's appropriate, mind you. The Redeemer always comes across (to me, at least) as a bit unhinged.

The clothing for the Sicaria isn't actually bright.  They're armored. So the Sicaria (Angela and Ruth, according to CROC) are the only characters in the game (other than the Redeemer) wearing any sort of armor.  In fact, these are not cheesecake figures by any stretch of the imagination, which is nice.

So what's in the box?

Sphere covered this. What he didn't mention is that there are TWELVE scenarios in there - that's double what was in the base game.

I've played a few of the scenarios, too - it's good. Really good.

A few months ago, Asmodee posted something on their websitesite that caused my wife to comment. They basically said, "If you dislike Claustrophobia, you're going to hate the expansion." She thought it was bad marketing. But it's true.

What this set does is take the base game and turn it up a few notches. Everything I liked about the base game is enhanced with the expansion.  The Demon player has difficult decisions to make with their dice every turn - do they need to get more TP? What's a better choice: 2 TP to buy a Demon or an extra die next turn? Will a card help? What's more important in this situation: A Demon or a Troglodyte?

With the addition of the expansion, the Demon player has to keep track of their Hellhounds, too. They only cost 3 TP to summon, and get a free die in the turn in which they're summoned. But in later turns, they use of one of the Demon player's dice.

The Humans previously had to decide where to put their dice to do the most good during initiative - the Sicaria don't make that decision any easier, as their skills make them different both from one another and from the rest of the team.  Not only that, but the question of attacking the Demon or the Trogs is harder, because it's possible to attack Demons, Troglodytes, and Hellhounds.

All in all, it's a very strong expansion that doesn't detract from the base game at all. It maintains its strong theme and continues to be a joy and a delight.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Short Bits

I pre-ordered a Kindle Fire. I'll let you know what I think once it gets here - the appeal to me is the statement that it'll have a "desktop-quality" PDF reader.  While I love reading PDF's on my Kindle DX, it's inconvenient when gaming because it's not as easy to search for a specific rule if a question comes up. I will post a full review once it arrives. Well, a few weeks after it arrives. I need to test it thoroughly, first.

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple is a bit like Fiasco backwards. In Fiasco, things start out messed up and then continue to go bad.  In Do, the PCs are there to fix a problem and, more often than not, should succeed. And, as an added bonus, it's much more kid-friendly. Definitely worth picking up.

Jungle Speed is now available at Target, Toys-R-Us, and some Wal*Mart stores. I've personally seen it at Target at Toys-R-Us. I hope they sell a billion of them. There's even a commercial that is airing on Nickelodeon and Cartoon network. It's worth noting that the game no longer includes a wooden totem - it comes with a soft rubber totem. To my mind, this is a good thing - no more property damage from when the totem goes flying.

The Dungeon Twister video game has apparently been delayed. Again. The last word I'd had said "September 14."  Obviously that date came and went.  There's a fairly recent video on that shows Chris Boelinger talking about the game. If I spoke French, I'd love to translate it. Sadly, I only speak English, and I'm not even terribly good at that. I hear that it may be playable at Essen this year - it was playable at the recent Asmoday. When I get more news about its release, I'll share it with you. Believe me, I want this at least as much as most of you. Probably more, actually. After all, I've written more about Dungeon Twister  in all its forms than nearly anyone else out there, including Chris. Also? I've seen several teasers for the next set, Traps. I can't wait to see how the finished product plays.

The game I'm most excited about from Essen?  I'm not sure.  Takenoko looks amazing (and simple). Cyclades: Hades looks to be a lot of fun. Ghost Stories: Black Secret should be good. There's a standalone 51st State expansion coming, too. Of course Claustrophobia de Profundis is good, but I already have it. It's hard to get excited about the release of a game you already have ... there are just so many good games hitting all at once.

Speaking of Good Games, Tikal II won the Games Magazine Game of the Year. I don't always agree with their decisions, but I've been saying since I got it that Tikal II  isn't a bad game - it's just that people are too busy comparing it to the original. I honestly think the game has been hurt by its association with the original. The only thing they have in common is their theme and their designers.

I'm not sure if you noticed, but now has a favicon.  Those of you reading via RSS obviously haven't noticed.  Thanks for the change, Blogger team! It's small but (for me, at least) important.

I'm considering changing the name of the blog from "Talking Game" to "Gamethyme's Talking Game" or "Talking Game with Gamethyme."  Something like that.  I don't want to drop "Talking Game" because I get a LOT of Google Hits from it, and I want to more deeply incorporate "Gamethyme" to the title. Thoughts and suggestions are, of course, welcome - just leave me a comment.

I went back to that game store I mentioned a few months ago.  As soon as I was half-way through the door, I was greeted warmly and asked if I needed help finding anything. The guy knew right were it was, guided me there, and helped me find the exact one I needed.  It still had the obnoxious Yu-Gi-Oh duel machine thing and the signs warning people not to use their table or their chess sets, but the staffer was a huge improvement. When I asked him what was new and good this week, he pointed out that new Games Workshop naval game. "Just about everything else," he told me, "is in a holding pattern for Essen." It means that he was at least marginally aware of the industry, unlike the folks that had been there during my previous visit. I'm happy with Phoenix Games, so I won't ever spend a lot of money here, but it means I can use this place as an emergency backup for supplies like sleeves or occasional games that Phoenix can't get for whatever reason (and there aren't a lot of those).

... and that about wraps up what I have to say this week.  Next week, I'll be talking more about de Profundis. Unless something big drops in the meantime.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Ten Years of the Toyota Prius

I saw something on the news the other day about it being the tenth anniversary of the Toyota Prius. Has it really, I thought, been around for that long?  Yes. It has. Eleven years, actually.

When it first came out, it was exciting and different and new.  My friends would eagerly point them out whenever we were on the road and spotted one. "That's one," we'd say, "That's the future right there!"

But here's the thing: It's no longer an oddity on the roads. It's become just another car.

These days, it's the Tesla that draws our eyes and interest that way.

This year, Vampire: the Masquerade turns 20.  White Wolf has put out a 20th Anniversary version of the game. I remember when it came out - it was new and revolutionary and different - a system that supported storytelling more than combat.

And now it's just another game. When you look at its influence, dozens of other games have taken cues from it. Or have tweaked some of its ideas and then improved upon it.

In fact, I've grown to dislike their system a great deal - in large part because other people have taken their ideas and improved upon them to the point where the original looks dull by comparison. But that's beside the point.

The real point is this: What was new and revolutionary a decade ago is now just another _______. Newer games have taken ideas from older games - mechanical ideas, mostly - and refined them. Polished them. Made them something new. There are more electric cars on the road than there used to be.

So, even though The One Ring is new and a "compelling blend of indie and old school designs," it is still standing on the shoulders of giants. And, in another decade, someone will be standing on its shoulders, too.

But that doesn't mean I'm not going to look as it representative of what is yet to come.

With ideas as diverse and unique as we're starting to see these days, I really can't wait to see where we're going.