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EDITORIAL – WINTER 2007 (VOL. 2 NO. 21)

Mind Expansion

 

Back in the psychedelic sixties, all sorts of new philosophies of life flowered on the popular landscape. Some good, some bad, some just, well, strange. One of these came from Dr. Timothy Leary who suggested a “Tune in, Turn On, Drop Out” approach to life that focused on mind expansion fueled by the use of a drug known as lysergic acid diethylamide. The philosophy enjoyed a vogue as did its drug of choice, more commonly known as LSD. (The Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was only one of several popular songs that made reference to the drug.) Dr. Leary’s particular push for mind expansion came and went, and while I don’t agree with Dr. Leary’s approach, I do believe that expansions to challenge the mind are a good thing; they have certainly found a home in the realm of game design. The mantra of keeping a good thing going is no more evident than in the proliferation of expansions and modifications to successful games to inject new life into a game before it starts to get old. (And, not to be minimized, to keep the money generating aspects of these games well oiled and very, very productive.)

You don’t have to think very hard to come up with some examples. The Settlers of Catan (originally featured way back in the Fall 1996 GA REPORT), Carcassonne (Summer 2001 GA REPORT) and Alhambra (Summer 2003 GA REPORT) have spawned many expansions for the aficionados of these titles to enjoy, creating a virtual cottage industry in and of themselves, to encourage gamers to dig a little deeper into their pockets and come away with a new slant to an old favorite thereby increasing the life span of these games, a span far exceeding the typical life expectancy of most of our gaming diversions that often last merely a season or two.

Now lest you think I’m criticizing this trend, I’m not. I look at it like this: if an expansion or variation on a theme results in a successful permutation adding a certain freshness and vitality to a favored title, then I’m all for it! It’s very true that not all expansion attempts at injecting life into a title are successful. But this issue highlights a few examples of expansions and variations that do the trick quite well.

In this issue, for example, Bruno Faidutti expands on a key mechanic from his well-received Citadels game and blasts off! Alan Moon devises a new ticket and expands our railroad ride! You get the idea? The bottom line: when it comes to expanding a game or game system into a new and different mind expanding experience, I don’t mind expansion at all.

In this issue of GA REPORT, we expand our sights as we embark on a mission to Mars, grab another ticket for a ride and find a great way to invest in Great Powers! Joe Huber discovers what it’s like to be an “elephant” in a china shop, Chris Kovac finds all roads lead to Rome while it’s all Greek to Pevans. Meanwhile, Frank Hamrick becomes inventive while Ben Baldanza just monkeys around! And, of course, much more!

Until next time, Good Gaming!

Herb Levy, President


 

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Winter 2007 GA Report Articles

 

Reviewed by Ben Baldanza (Braun-Kohl Verlag, 2 players, ages 8 and up, 30-40 minutes; about $50) Affentennis, or "Monkey Tennis", was a curiosity game at Essen 2006. How on earth could a game with that name and funny little monkey characters holding racquets actually be a good game? It may not help the case to know that the game was originally designed as "Smurf Tennis", ...
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Reviewed by Joe Huber (Amigo, 3-5 players, ages 8 and up, 30 minutes; about $9) One of the most interesting challenges for a game designer is to design compelling "filler" - a game lasting less than 30 minutes for a typical group. Given a short duration, it can be very difficult to convey theme or other truly interesting decisions - what good is long term ...
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Mind Expansion Back in the psychedelic sixties, all sorts of new philosophies of life flowered on the popular landscape. Some good, some bad, some just, well, strange. One of these came from Dr. Timothy Leary who suggested a "Tune in, Turn On, Drop Out" approach to life that focused on mind expansion fueled by the use of a drug known as lysergic acid diethylamide. The ...
Read More
Reviewed by Chris Kovac (Ravensburger/Rio Grande Games, 2-6 players, ages 10 and up, 60 minutes; $44.95) When the Goths started coming, the Romans starting fleeing to the safety of Africa. This is the basic theme for the game Gloria Mundi by James Ernest and Mike Selinker, essentially a racing game with lots of resource/card management. The goal of the game is to be the first ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Uberplay, 2-5 players, ages 10 and up, 45 minutes; $39.99) Of all the games created by Reiner Knizia, perhaps the one that most piqued the interest of gamers here in the United States was Traumfabrik. In this Knizia creation, players vicariously enjoyed the role of film producers as they strove to obtain actors and directors and other essential personnel to put ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Asmodee, 2-6 players, ages 10 and up, about 45 minutes; $21.99) The ancient battle between the Greeks and the Trojans over the city of Troy is the setting for Iliad, the new card game designed by Dominique Erhard, where players attempt to amass the most powerful army and win sieges against their opponents. Iliad comes with three victory tiles and 110 ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Eggertspiele/Rio Grande Games, 2-6 players, ages 12 and up, about 2-3 hours; $59.99) As the saying goes: "Borrow a dollar and the bank owns you, borrow a million dollars and you own the bank!" If you change "bank" to "nation", you'll have a pretty good idea of what is going on in Imperial, the newest design from Mac Gerdts. Imperial charts ...
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Reviewed by Frank Hamrick (Da Vinci Games/Mayfair Games, 2-5 players, ages 8 and up, 60-90 minutes; $45) Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the most anticipated games at the 2006 Essen Toy Fair and, in this reviewers opinion, it lived up to the hype – mostly! The idea of the game, as designed by Flaminia Brasini, Virginio Gigli, Stefano Luperto and Antonio Tinto (Acchittocca), is ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Abacus/Rio Grande Games, 2 players, ages 10 and up, 30-45 minutes; $22.95) If you created a matrix crisscrossing the long list of games designed by Reiner Knizia with the long list of games using auctions as a central part of their design, you can make a serious argument that the cream rising to the top would be Knizia's Medici (featured in ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Asmodee, 3-5 players, ages 10 and up, 60 minutes; $44.99) HG Wells wrote about it and Orson Welles took it to the air and terrified us. Still others followed and took it to the screen: an invasion from Mars! But now, the proverbial shoe is on the other foot. Rather than Martians appearing on Earth, Earthlings get a chance to rocket ...
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Reviewed by Ben Baldanza (JKLM/Rio Grande Games, 3-5 players, ages 7 and up, 90 minutes; $39.95) JKLM is a British company that has produced a nice lineup of games for each of the last few Essen fairs. Highlighting their output is the fact that they use varying themes and their games vary in depth. There is a decided transport bent to a subset of their ...
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Reviewed by Pevans (Warfrog/Fantasy Flight Games/Esvedium, 3-5 players, ages 12 and up, 3-5 hours; $49.99) Perikles is the 2006 production from the brain of Martin Wallace. The game is about warring city states in Ancient Greece specifically, the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Over three turns, the players command the forces of half a dozen cities in a series of battles. However, players first ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Z-Man Games, 3-6 players, ages 12 and up, about 90 minutes; $49.99) The "pick up and deliver" genre of gaming is nothing new, whether it's railroads across the country or trucks barreling down lanes of highway. In Silk Road, the new game by Ted Cheatham and Bruno Faidutti, the venue shifts to the exotic world of camels and caravans as players ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Days of Wonder, 2-5 players, ages 8 and up, 40 minutes; $15) With the success of the Ticket to Ride series of games which include Ticket to Ride (Spring 2004 GA REPORT), Ticket to Ride: Europe (Spring 2005 GA REPORT) and Ticket to Ride: Marklin Edition (Spring 2006 GA REPORT), you have to wonder how many times designer Alan Moon can ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Ystari Games/Rio Grande Games, 3-4 players, ages 8 and up, 45-60 minutes; $49.95) Every game company believes in their line. On some level, the powers that be within the company need to believe that every game is a winner. Unfortunately, as we all know, while hope may spring eternal, hope does not always translate into reality and far too often, companies ...
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