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EDITORIAL – SUMMER 2005 – VOL. 2. NO. 15

We Are NOT Alone

In the vast reaches of the universe, we humans have always wondered if we are the only form of life in the cosmos. Outside of books and films and our imaginations, do aliens exist? Is there intelligent life out there? The definitive answer to that question has yet to be found. But when it comes to gaming, the answer has been confirmed. We are NOT alone!

I’ve always been pretty fortunate in being able to find gaming partners and, with the Gamers Alliance playtesting group, gaming has become a regular part of my life. But sometimes you can’t help feeling isolated as if you (and your immediate circle) are the only ones in the universe who share this passion for games. Fortunately, we’re not.

Through a serendipitous turn of events, not the least of which is managing to get an invitation, I managed to attend an event I’ve always wanted to attend but never was able to: The Gathering of Friends.

Although it sounds suspiciously like a Quaker convention, The Gathering of Friends (in this case, the 16th annual edition) is actually an invitation-only annual event hosted by Alan Moon, one of the leading contemporary game designers and developers. Its purpose is to meet and mingle with game-oriented people from around the globe and play games. The event is one of the few that actually lives up to its reputation.

Unless I was eating or sleeping, I was playing games – some new, some old, some prototypes. Some good, some bad, some somewhere in between. It was a sensory explosion. But the highlights included more than just the games; the highlights centered on the people! Here I was, a New Yorker now in midland America (Columbus, Ohio, to be exact) but I was struck by the international flavor of the proceedings.

One day, for example, I shared a breakfast table with Mik Svellov from Denmark (whose Brett and Board web site is one of the great gaming sites), Martin Leathwood from England (who writes for Counter magazine) and Ray Mulford from Oregon (one of the people behind Funagain Games). The four of us travelled a combined several thousand miles to meet at this gaming nexus. I taught Alan Moon’s Ticket to Ride Europe to Stefan Bruek, the well respected game developer from Alea in Germany. (That was one of the games I won!) And I played and conversed with people from all across Europe and the United States, all of whom shared a love and passion for games, as art, as design, as fun. We truly are not alone.

In this issue of GA REPORT, we range over the country/continent of Australia, build great wonders, fight a monster menace and go a little nutty! Greg Schloesser explores the Amazon jungle and is spellbound, Larry Levy exerts some influence and lets the worm turn and Frank Branham is be-knighted! And, of course, much more. Until next time, Good Gaming!

Herb Levy, President


 

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Summer 2005 GA Report Articles

 

Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser (Kosmos/Mayfair Games, 3-4 players, ages 10 and up, about 60 minutes; $49.99) I’ve had the great fortune to have traveled quite extensively throughout Europe and the United States. However, I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting South America, and I’ve always been fascinated by pictures of the rain forest and surrounding Amazon region. One day, I hope to visit the ...
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Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser (Hangman Games, 3-5 players, 2 hours, ages 12 and up; $40) Last year, the major game highlight for me at the Gathering was Alan Ernstein’s Tahuantinsuyu (Summer 2004 GA REPORT). The game is excellent, and was one of my Top 3 games of 2004. I also thoroughly enjoyed Junkyard, his novel trick-taking game using tiles. So, I was eagerly anticipating ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Ravensburger/Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, ages 10 and up, 60-90 minutes; $39.95) The Australian continent serves as the setting for the aptly named Australia, the latest offering from the design team of Wolfgang Kramer & Michael Kiesling whose formidable credits include Tikal (Spring 1999 GA REPORT) and Torres (Fall 1999 GA REPORT). The premise of the game is straightforward. With ecology ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Word Salt, Inc., 2 to 4 players, ages 8 to 108, less than an hour; $29.95) In today's world, writing seems to be a dying art. Baffle Gab seeks to restore that aspect of human communication in a game allowing parents AND children to sharpen their pencils and writing skills and still have a good time. Baffle Gab comes in a ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (James Miller, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 45 minutes; $9.99) What? Another trick-taking game? With all the trick-taking games out there, you'd think you'd have to be a nut to bring a new one to the market. Except James M. Miller, who definitely shows sign of sanity, is not a nut but a "control nut". He has created and self-published ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Schmidt Spiele, 3-8 players, ages 8 and up, about 20 minutes; about $40) Jewels buried deep within the earth lure players to the table with Diamant, the first collaborative design by Alan R. Moon and Bruno Faidutti. In this light and fast-paced game, players seek to remove jewels from mines all the while knowing that disaster may strike at any time! ...
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We Are NOT Alone In the vast reaches of the universe, we humans have always wondered if we are the only form of life in the cosmos. Outside of books and films and our imaginations, do aliens exist? Is there intelligent life out there? The definitive answer to that question has yet to be found. But when it comes to gaming, the answer has been ...
Read More
(Back in the Fall 1997 issue of GA REPORT, Steve Kurzban took a look at a little game called For Sale. With the new version of this game hitting the marketplace, we thought we'd flashback to see what Kban said about this great little game 8 years ago! ) FOR SALE (Ravensburger; out of print) For Sale is a card game for 3-5 players (best ...
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(The Fall 1997 issue of GA REPORT featured a then new Reiner Knizia game we liked a great deal but, somehow, flew below the radar of many gamers. That game was Palmyra. Today, Überplay has revamped this release under the title Buy Low/Sell High, featured this issue. But here's what we thought of the original way back when.) PALMYRA (Editrice Giochi; out of print) Caravans ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Überplay, 3-6 players, ages 8 and up, 10-15 players; $19.99) Two awkward circumstances often arise during a typical game night with friends: 1) what to do before the rest of the crew arrives AND 2) what to do when the night draws to a close and your brain is too fried to deal with the heavy lifting required by some of ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Buffalo Games, 2-8 players, ages 8 and up, 75-100 minutes; about $30) Some people always like to get in the last word. In Buffalo Games' new adult party game, Last Word, that's the trait that can make you a winner! Last Word comes in a bookshelf style box which includes a playing board, 230 subject cards, 56 letter cards, 8 pawns, ...
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Reviewed by Larry Levy (Alea/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 75-100 minutes; $29.95) Last issue, I reviewed Jambo and I mentioned that when it came out, I had really been looking forward to a game from one of my favorite new designers, Rüdiger Dorn, in one of my favorite game series, Kosmos’ Spiele für Zwei. Well, I really like that series, but ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 90 minutes; $45) I love those old B-movies and I'm especially fond of those that feature strange monsters threatening mankind. Well, now these scary monsters have returned. But this time, the return is not on celluloid but on the gaming table - with the new release of Monsters Menace America ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Überplay, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; $29.99) Reiner Knizia's Palmyra is a terrific game that vanished from the gaming scene, swept under the surface in the flood of other Knizia releases. We featured it and liked it way back when. (The original review is reprinted in this issue.) The game deserved a better fate. Fortunately, Überplay has come ...
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Reviewed by Larry Levy (Zoch Verlag/Rio Grande Games, 2-6 players, ages 8 and up, 20 minutes; $24.95) Dice don’t have a very good reputation in gaming these days, primarily because a lot of us grew mighty sick of them due to our childhood exposure to designs like Monopoly and Risk. But I think that true dice games, where the gameplay revolves around judging probabilities and ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Columbia Games, 2 players, ages 12 and up, 3-8 hours; $59.99) About 20 years ago, Craig Besinque came up with an interesting and challenging design that zeroed in on the North African campaign of World War II. Long out of print, the game has now returned in a new edition, destined to warm the hearts of wargamers everywhere (just as the ...
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Reviewed by Frank Branham (Days of Wonder, 3-7 players, ages 10 and up, 60-80 minutes; $49.95) It has taken two weeks to try and figure out how to start this review decently WITHOUT using a reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Perhaps I shouldn't bother, as Days of Wonder includes at least two references to the legendary movie inside the game itself. What ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Hans im Glück/Rio Grande Games, 3-5 players, ages 10 and up, about 45 minutes; $34.95) The seven wonders of the ancient world - and why the eighth wonder was never built - is the puzzle posed in yet another new design from the prolific Reiner Knizia: Tower of Babel. Tower of Babel comes bookshelf boxed with a mounted game board, 28 ...
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