Sunday, November 29, 2009

Turkey Day fun and miscellaneous rambling

Here's what was going on when I arrived at my in-laws' for Thanksgiving this year:

That my two bro-in-laws and two nephews playing a game of the Avalon Hill classic Britannia. It's a holiday favorite with this crew. Before the weekend was up the whole family also ended up playing the fun party-type game Time's Up! (the Title Recall! edition) and Rock Band. One of the nephews also whomped me on some Xbox-360 soccer game he liked. My wife and I were partners for Time's Up!, always a perilous predicament for any couple, but we did sufficiently well to keep me out of the doghouse. I'm still patting myself on the back that we scored 'The Iliad' during the pantomine round by me swinging an imaginary baseball bat. (It was a Homer, you see.)

Here's an extra counter from the Britannia set. The die cut in the wrong place or something like that, resulting in an extra piece with no function. I've been playing Britannia with this particular set on and off for a decade now and this extra counter has always fascinated me. It looks kinda like the insignia of an alien space navy. Maybe I'll use this counter as the jumping off point for an article on the military insignia and national symbols of the Gateway Quadrant.

Jim (the guy in the upper right of the first photo above) and his wife recently moved to Knoxville, Tennessee and this weekend was our first visit. In addition to playing games and eating turkey, on Friday we made a quick stop at McKay's, one of the best used book stores I've ever visited. If you ever get to the Knoxville area, do yourself a favor and check it out. The gaming section is very respectable in size. They had multiple corebooks for every edition of AD&D from from first through fourth and plenty of other stuff to check out. I had just enough time to flip through a stack of magazines and pulled out two issues of White Wolf magazine, an issue of Shadis and some of the issues of Heroes I'm missing.

Before Vampire: the whatever and all that stuff, White Wolf was a very respectable gaming magazine. By which I mean it talked about the kind of games that I like and not the World of Darkness. As far as I can tell, early on it was highly focused on AD&D content, but later issues include all kinds of stuff. Shadis seems underrated in some circles. I always thought it was a great generalist RPG mag that unfortunately suffered the same basic flaw as all generalist RPG magazines: I didn't give a crap about half the systems covered in any particular issue. Still Shadis is the only gaming magazine I ever subscribed to that wasn't put out by TSR Periodicals.

Heroes was a weird one. It came out in 1984 as the house organ for Avalon Hill's rpg division. At some point the brain trust at the Hill figured out that they perhaps made a mistake when they passed on that manuscript Mr. Gygax was shopping around in the early seventies. When Avalon Hill entered the rpg scene they did it in a big way: four RPGs and a new magazine all released in the same year. The magazine supported only the four AH games and occasionally talked about an Avalon Hill wargame with crossover appeal (like Amoeba Wars, my all-time favorite game about giant space amoeba attacking the galaxy).

The four games were James Bond 007 (still an excellent espionage RPG and available in retroclone form on this Uncle Bear page as Double Zero), Powers & Peril (an overly complex fantasy system), a new edition RuneQuest (sold by AH instead of Chaosium as part of some licensing deal I don't really know anything about) and Tom Moldvay's gonzo multiverse-hopping Lords of Creation. One of these days I hope to find an explanation why AH thought it was a good idea to release two and a half fantasy systems at the same time.

Since Lords of Creation is one of my favorite RPGs written by one of my favorite RPG authors, I've been trying for years to put together a full run of Heroes. The RuneQuest connection keeps the eBay prices a little higher than my inner cheapskate likes, as RQ fans are some of the most canon-crazy in the hobby. But at McKay's two days ago the prices for all the magazines were a buck or two a pop, so I bought even the ones I suspected I already owned, just in case I was wrong. By the way if you're one of those canon-crazy RQ fans, McKay's had some issues of Wyrm's Footnotes going for a buck or two.