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EDITORIAL – SPRING 2004 – VOL. 2 NO. 10

A Beautiful Thing

 

What a difference a day makes! It seems that only yesterday (actually, it was last issue) that we bemoaned the state of gaming and how new releases did not seem to reach the mark that we’ve come to expect. And that was just the latest in a series of disappointments.

European style games were slow in making an appearance on this side of the Atlantic. We’ve always argued that there was a vast, untapped, market here in the States for European style games. We’ve always campaigned to get European style games over to America faster and with English rules but it simply wasn’t happening. We’ve had to do with German language editions and make-shift translations. Some companies (Queen being a notable example) wouldn’t put out an English language edition at all! If we were really lucky, we’d get an English language edition only after waiting for months on end. For years, our words had fallen on deaf ears. But change, ladies and gentlemen, is here and change can be a beautiful thing.

There has been a palpable shift in attitude – and game production. Many European games are SIMULTANEOUSLY being printed in ENGLISH and released in America at virtually the same time! Leading the way is a host of new (and not so new) companies who are maintaining the same high production quality of the European games but now WITH English rules! Joining the ranks of Rio Grande Games and Mayfair Games, who pioneered European releases into the American market, are such up and coming companies (and this is only a partial list) as Days of Wonder, Face 2 Face Games (who are also making a home for re-releases and NEW designs from American game designer Sid Sackson whose classic creations found such great popularity both here and in Europe), Fantasy Flight Games, GMT Games (who are experimenting with Euro-style releases including Winds of Plunder by Al Newman, currently on their P500 list), Out of the Box Games, Playroom Entertainment (including releases from English designer Maureen Hiron), Plenary Games and Überplay (who are bringing Queen releases to our shores).

To make matters even better, we’re optimistic about the QUALITY of design of these upcoming releases as, from what we’ve seen so far, they seem to rise to the high levels we’ve come to expect. (This issue is super-sized with outstanding games – and we’ll have more on the upcoming releases coming down the pike.)

Where 2003 seemed to be a weak link in the chain of gaming, 2004 seems to be a very welcome change. And change can be a beautiful thing.

In this issue, we grab a ticket to ride the rails, do some development work in greater Greece, visit “abstract heaven”, go to war over ideas, trade in 14th century Europe, do some code-breaking and visit sunny San Juan. Greg Schloesser goes island-hopping while Larry Levy sits comfortably on a throne. And, of course, much more. Until next time, Good Gaming!

Herb Levy, President


 

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Spring 2004 GA Report Articles

 

Reviewed by Larry Levy (Fantasy Flight Games, 3-5 players, 2-3 hours; $49.95) There are two basic approaches to game design. The American school emphasizes theme and believes in tying the mechanics tightly to that theme, even if the gameplay suffers. The German school, on the other hand, centers around mechanics and gameplay and will often paste the theme on at the last minute. (Obviously, these ...
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ABSTRACT HEAVEN by Herb Levy Some gamers like everything. But for some, certain genres of play hold a special place in their hearts. For those gamers partial to pure strategy devoid of theme, abstract games are IT. Filling that niche nicely are some recent releases of above average quality, creating an abstract heaven for abstract lovers. Four of them well worth your attention are Cathedral ...
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A Beautiful Thing What a difference a day makes! It seems that only yesterday (actually, it was last issue) that we bemoaned the state of gaming and how new releases did not seem to reach the mark that we've come to expect. And that was just the latest in a series of disappointments. European style games were slow in making an appearance on this side ...
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(In the booming 1980s, Donald Trump became a celebrity due to his high profile real estate success. It seemed that "The Donald" could do no wrong. It was not a surprise to see Milton Bradley try to capitalize on his fame and fortune with a high quality financial game. The game was, surprisingly, quite good! But, even more surprising, it failed! Why? A backlash against ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Überplay, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 60 minutes; $29.95) In 14th century Europe, the Hanseatic League was a center of trade. To become Master of the Hanseatic city-states during this time is the goal of players in Hansa, the new creation by Michael Schacht. The components of Hansa are basic: a mapboard showing the Baltic Sea area highlighting 9 Hanseatic ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Z-Man Games, 2 to 5 players, 1-2 hours, ages 12 and up; $24.95) Armed forces clashing to control territory is a familiar theme used as the basis for many games. But the twist in Ideology, the new game designed by Andrew Parks, is that IDEAS are at war as powerful political philosophies of the 20th century compete for control and global ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 60-75 minutes; $37.95) It's 2500 years ago, the time when Greek traders traveled to southern Italy to settle and develop the area. You, as a Greek trader, are intimately involved as you seek to colonize, develop markets and capture the attention of the oracles. This is the world of Magna Grecia, the ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Überplay Games, 3-5 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; $34.95) The Great Mongolian Desert is the setting as players, acting as heads of rival families, vie to become the most powerful by claiming various lands and raising camel caravans in Oasis, the newest Alan Moon/Aaron Weissblum release. Oasis comes with 100 wooden camels (20 each in red, blue, green, yellow ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Überplay, 3-5 players, ages 8 and up, 30 minutes; $19.95) Although many gamers adore games that are pure, totally stripped of theme (check out Abstract Heaven in this issue, for examples), there is no question that sometimes a theme can rescue a game from oblivion and grant it new life. The most recent example that proves the rule is Relationship Tightrope ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Rio Grande Games/Alea, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; $24.95) Unlike other game authors, Andreas Seyfarth has not designed a truckload of games. But what he has created is impressive. He won German Game of the Year honors with Manhattan (Winter 1997 GA REPORT) and created the stellar "gamer's game", Puerto Rico (Spring 2002 GA REPORT). Now, he's revisited ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Days of Wonder, 2-5 players, ages 8 and up, 30-60 minutes; $39.95) Alan Moon has earned lots of recognition for his game designs. His Elfenland, for example, won German Game of the Year honors back in 1998. But Moon really shines at game development, in taking game ideas, mixing them together and adding that "something extra" to create a game greater ...
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Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser (Überplay, 3-6 players, ages 10 and up, 45 minutes; $24.95) This is another of the multitude of new Überplay releases that have hit the shores of the United States this year. The designer is Thomas Rauscher and from all appearances, this is his first published game. The game is set in 300 A.D., with the Polynesians setting sail to explore ...
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