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EDITORIAL – SUMMER 2003 – VOL. 2 NO. 7

A Little Bit of Redemption

 

In life, if you’re very very lucky, you sometimes get a second chance, a chance to make up for mistakes, a chance for redemption. It seems like our friends who comprise the jury deciding the Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year Award) have earned themselves a little bit of redemption.

Last year, in our Summer 2002 editorial, we sharply criticized the jury for picking a lesser game for the honor. (Not a bad game but certainly a lesser game in terms of craft and design). With the awarding of the SdJ to Alhambra (featured this issue), the jury has restored a little bit of credibility this time around. But, to be fair, they didn’t quite do it right again either.

Game of the Year generally means (at least to me and to many fellow gamers) a game of exceptional quality – both in design and playability. A certain “uniqueness” that makes a game stand out as something special. Alhambra, by the talented Dirk Henn, is an excellent game. It’s certainly a game that is not an embarrassment in winning the award. Still, criticizing the jury’s judgment isn’t so much about what they did. It’s about what they didn’t do!

Amun-Re, a Reiner Knizia design and one of his more substantial designs in the last few seasons, didn’t make the final 3 cut in considering for the Spiel des Jahres. New England, an excellent offering with some unique characteristics, from the successful team of Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum, didn’t even make the list! Perhaps you can make the argument that these games should not win. After all, taste is subjective. But a jury judging excellence in game design, should not have slighted the former and certainly should not have ignored the latter.

In past years, the award of the Spiel des Jahres caused a wave of excitement in gaming circles. This year, the response, at least on this side of the Atlantic, has been muted. The credibility of the award has been damaged with last year’s inexplicable decision. This year, the jury has taken a step back towards restoring the perceived value of the award. They’re not there yet but at least they’re pointed in the right direction. Let’s see what happens next year!

In this issue of GA REPORT, we immerse ourselves in the underworld of Al Capone, journey to ancient Egypt and colonial New England and go ballooning! Greg Schloesser finds that he’s master of his own “domaine” and enjoys a hearty breakfast while Craig Massey finds himself building and trading. And, of course, much more!

Until next time, Good Gaming!

Herb Levy, President


 

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Summer 2003 GA Report Articles

Reviewed by Herb Levy ALHAMBRA (Queen, 2-6 players, about 60 minutes; about $30) The designs of Dirk Henn are no strangers to the readers of GAMERS ALLIANCE REPORT. We did a feature on Showmanager (way back in the Winter 1999 issue) and, more recently, Wallenstein (Fall 2002 GA REPORT). Now, the designer returns to an older design, revamping it and elevating it to a higher ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy AMUN-RE (Hans im Glück/Rio Grande Games, 3-5 players, 60-90 minutes; $34.95) Ancient Egypt seems to have a strong hold on the imagination of Reiner Knizia. Among Knizia's creations are Tutanchamun (Spring 1997 GA REPORT) and Ra (Summer 1999 GA REPORT). This time, the banks of the Nile serve as the inspiration for his new release: Amun-Re. Amun-Re comes bookshelf boxed with ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy BALLOON CUP (Kosmos/Rio Grande Games, 2 players, about 30 minutes; $19.95) One of the hallmarks of European games is their use of unusual themes. When American game companies do sports, for example, you can generally expect a game based on the Big Four of American sports: baseball, football, basketball or hockey. Not so in Europe. It seems that the sport of ...
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Reviewed by Craig Massey CARCASSSONNE: TRADERS & BUILDERS (Hans Im Glück/Rio Grande Games, 2-6 players, 30-45 minutes; $12) Carcassonne: Traders & Builders is the latest expansion in what has turned out to be a very successful franchise for Hans Im Glück. The original game hit a sweet spot, appealing to the more serious game hobbyist as well as family and friends looking for a casual ...
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Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser DOMAINE (Mayfair Games/Kosmos; 3-4 players, 1 hour; $45) When I first heard about Domaine, this new reincarnation of Löwenherz, I was excited. Löwenherz is one of my favorite games and, for the most part, it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. My initial vision was of designer Klaus Teuber taking the game to another level, which sent a rush of ...
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A Little Bit of Redemption In life, if you're very very lucky, you sometimes get a second chance, a chance to make up for mistakes, a chance for redemption. It seems like our friends who comprise the jury deciding the Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year Award) have earned themselves a little bit of redemption. Last year, in our Summer 2002 editorial, we ...
Read More
(In this issue, we featured Carcassonne:Traders & Builders, the latest addition to the Carcassonne family of games, by Craig Massey. Craig is no stranger to this line as he was the one who gave the original the feature treatment back in the Summer 2001 issue of GA REPORT. So, we thought it might be interesting to "FLASHBACK" to Craig's original look at what turned out ...
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(In this issue, we featured Domaine, a new version of Löwenherz. So, we thought it might be interesting to "FLASHBACK" at the feature treatment we gave Löwenherz way back when - in the Spring 1998 issue of GA REPORT to be exact. So, here it is!) Reviewed by Steve Kurzban LÖWENHERZ (Goldsieber, 2-4 players, 60-90 minutes, 1997; out of print) After the tremendous success Klaus ...
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THE GAMES WE PLAYED: THE GOLDEN AGE OF BOARD & TABLE GAMES by Margaret K. Hofer (Princeton Architectural Press, 159 pages, $24.95) Reviewed by Herb Levy The New York Historical Society has hosted a wonderful array of antique games from the Arthur and Ellen Liman collection. If you are a GA member, you read about the exhibit in our Information Center. The exhibit was also ...
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THE TOY AND GAME INVENTOR'S HANDBOOK by Richard C. Levy and Ronald O. Weingartner (Alpha Books, 560 pages, $19.95) Reviewed by Herb Levy The world of toys and games is an odd one. It's a milieu where hard headed business decisions combine with almost whimsical creativity. In The Toy and Game Inventor's Handbook by Richard C. Levy and Ronald O. Weingartner, those of us interested ...
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Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser KING’S BREAKFAST (Abacus Spiele/ Rio Grande Games, 3 – 5 players, 20 – 30 minutes; $10) This is one of the gazillion games released this year by designers Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum. Although this is certainly WAY down on the complexity scale and so light it practically floats away, it is the one that I will likely play the ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy MYSTERY RUMMY #4: AL CAPONE AND THE CHICAGO UNDERWORLD (US Games Systems, 2-4 players, less than an hour: $12) Of all the card games out there (and there are plenty), the Mystery Rummy series is unique. First off, it's a series of games that combine the basic mechanics of rummy with a recurring theme of crime and mystery. It also has ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy NEW ENGLAND (Goldsieber, 3-4 players, 60-90 minutes; about $40) One of the better releases coming out of Germany this year is another concoction by the design team of Alan R. Moon and Aaron Weissblum. Here, players are transported back to 17th Century New England where they seek to settle and become the most prosperous. New England comes with a mounted board ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy PHOENIX (Eurogames; 2 players, less than 30 minutes; $19.95) There has been a surge in the amount of two player games released from a variety of European publishers. Surprisingly, many of them are quite good. Astonishingly, the curve of quality continues to rise. And that curve continues with Phoenix, the latest release from Eurogames. Phoenix is designed by Zach and Amanda ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy QUEEN'S NECKLACE (Days of Wonder, 2-4 players, 30-45 minutes; $24.95) Royalty has long been the source for game themes. But rarely have the jewelers of the royal court served as the main characters in a game. That "oversight" has been corrected in Queen's Necklace, designed by Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faidutti, as players become jewel merchants trying their best to be ...
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