Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Talisman... Holy Cow!

One of the "Great Games of the Golden Age" that I never got a chance to play back in the day was Talisman. Originally produced by Games Worskhop back in 1983, I never moved in the circles that played Games Workshop games, and so missed out on it, though I had heard much good about it.

One of the few benefits I get by being in the game industry, and in the position I am in particularly, is that I sometimes get early previews of new products for review (not nearly as many as once upon a time, as budgets continue to get tighter and tighter, but that is neither here nor there). And so, yesterday morning, even as I was trying to decide which board game to bring for the Monday Night Game (as one player in both Rifts and C&C games was out for the night and both games were at important points), a largish box was dropped on my desk with a heavy thud. It was from Black Industries, a subsidiary of Games Workshop. I'd gotten novels from them in the past, but nothing this big...

Incredulous (after all, it's not supposed to be out until October!), hoping against hope, I opened the box slowly... and sure enough, there it was. Talisman Fourth Edition! That answered the question of what would be played that night... (though I still halfheartedly held out for a Gamma World 1E one-shot, just because I've had the itch to play it again since reading Asteroid 1618).

So last night the four of us from the regular group, and two others that were at the shop hanging around, played Talisman. Whoo boy, it is a FUN game; everything I'd expected and more. Makes most fantasy board games pale by comparison. The board and cards and pieces are gorgeous, the system is smooth and simple, and the weasel factor is high... for the group last night, too high, as everyone kept attacking each other from the get go, and it took a long time for anyone to actually go on adventures and build up enough treasure and power to go from the outer to the middle region. Because of the high PvP ratio, we never finished the game (it is certainly not a 90 minute game with six players, anyway), so we ended up calling it with the Wizard being the only character remaining in the middle region, and with the highest combined Craft and Strength score.

After we got kicked out of the shop, we stood around in the parking lot briefly, discussing playing more sometime soon. I was unwilling to give up my RPG time on Mondays (that being the only time everyone can RPG), but most of the players were also able to play on Tuesdays. So it looks like Tuesdays will be Talisman night...

My review should be in Scrye #113 or maybe #114... #112 is going to press tomorrow, and was already chock full. So look for the review in late August or (to coincide better with the release) maybe in #114 in late September. By then I should have plenty of Talisman play for a quite thorough review...

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Field Guide to Encounters: A Wee History

Jeff Rients has an excellent post about the classic Field Guide to Encounters from Judges Guild.

It inspired me to pick up the phone and give Bob Bledsaw a call about the history of the product. It's been a while, but Bob was able to come up with a few things... unfortunately, no names as to who the folks at Dragon's Byte were, and but a single clue as to their point of origin...

The Dragon's Byte people, a group from Detroit (not related to anything with Kevin Siembieda, also from Detroit, who did some line art for me in ’77 and ‘78), contacted me and told me they had around 600 neat monsters that they had developed, based on history, and novels, and their own campaign. They wanted to know if I’d be willing to publish it. I always figured if a Judge wants to include more historical oriented stuff, or odd surprises in his campaign, more power to him.

They also had some high-level rules called the “God Game,” and other system stuff that came with the monsters. The monsters rules were meant to be added to any system, like Dungeons & Dragons, or Chivalry & Sorcery, and so forth. It was a universal system, though it wasn’t related to the Judges Guild Universal System that was being developed otherwise at the time.

Dragon’s Byte had secured permission from the authors such as Lin Carter to use the monsters from the various books used in the Field Guide. When they told me how many monsters they had I knew I could only have a small description and a single picture each. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication with my art director (I think he was on vacation when it was scheduled for production) and none of the artists realized that the pictures were supposed to fit exact descriptions from Dragon’s Byte, especially the monsters from the novels. I didn’t see it before it left for printing, and when the Dragon’s Byte guys got it they were quite unhappy.

To make a long story short, the choice came down to whether I should let things stand or eat the costs, redo it and pay for another run, and have to lay somebody off. I just let things stand, apologized the best I could, and told them if it came up for re-print I’d have the art redone.

I printed 5,000 units. Our pre-order auto-ships were usually ~3,000 for fantasy-based items and ~1,500 for science-fiction items, so I was confident in publishing 5,000 the first round. If you sold 3,000 on pre-order, you might sell 500 in the following year, and a few more in subsequent years.

The Field Guide sold well enough, but not enough to do a second printing. I sold about 3,000 on the auto-ship and got some returns, but not too many, and eventually I sold some more. In the end I stored ~1,600 in the warehouse, so that’s probably why it is still available in the shrink wrap.

I always liked the cover for that book, with the gorilla in the bed and the giant woman’s hand coming through the window. Didn’t like the coloring on that, but it was a fun cover.

— Bob Bledsaw, from an interview with James Mishler on July 6, 2007

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Gen Con Events

Well, I'll be going to Gen Con after all this year!

I'll be covering the exhibit hall and tournaments and other events from the floor for my day job, Gaming Report, and gaming at night. I plan on running games on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

One game will be for Cyclopedia D&D — Rumble in the Ruins of Old Rymskigrad. It is a mid-Expert level module of my own design, set in the world of Mystara, in the ruins of the old lair of Morphail Gorevitch-Woszlany, the Black Kniaz of Traladara. Bring your own character, level 7 to 9; if you don't have a character, I can provide one.

The other two nights will be Castles & Crusades free-for-alls, set in and around Tell Qa. Bring your own Castles & Crusades character of any level, or make one up on site.

At this time I'm planning on going with C&C on Thursday, then D&D on Friday, and then C&C again on Saturday. That plan may change if I get more people wanting to play D&D on Saturday. If I don't get at least four poeople to play D&D, then all three sessions will be C&C.

Oh, and while I can't promise anything, Judges Guild founder Bob Bledsaw might be playing in one or more of the sessions...

There will be sign-up sheets and directions to where we will be playing at the Troll Lord Games booth (#515). The games will run from 7:00ish to whenever we are done, or get kicked out (open gaming last year was 24/7 if I recall, so it might be late...)

Drop me a note here if you want to play, which session you want to play, and if you are bringing a character to the table, let me know the class/race/level. I'll make sure your name is down on the sign-up sheet before it even gets printed!