Origins and Spiel de Jahres

Well Origins was last weekend so it’s time to find out the winners and the losers.

Ogre Cave has the full list, some highlights: Dresden takes out best RPG, over and above the popular (DC Adventures) and the truly interesting (Fiasco, Dragon Age) and also picks up best supplement for its GM book. Clearly, I have misunderestimated this Dresden Files rpg.  Castle Ravenloft got best board game so clearly the rpg-board game hybrid is getting a lot of attention these days. Best card game goes to the rebranding of Chrononauts, because Looney Labs always sells well!

I was on the jury determining the short list for Best Family or Party Game and I’m disappointed that Zombie Dice won. I guess its because Origins is more for non-families, and also, gamers will vote for anything with zombies in it. Hamlet’s Hit Points – also dissed. Origins, you are a crazy mixed-up bitch.

Meanwhile, the Germermans know games and the Spiel de Jahres (game of the year) is always worth sitting up and staring at with gibbering intensity. This year it went to the family-friendly and brightly coloured Qwirkle – you have my attention, pretty coloured shapes! They also finally added a Best Game For Gamer Nerds category – the Kennerspiel de Jahres, or Connoisseurs’ Game of the Year, which went to 7 Wonders.  Wonders has been on my “must save up and buy” list all year, this tips it over the line.

Interestingly though, while Qwirkle looks all family friendly and you might suspect is of more general appeal, it’s actually a strategy game, whereas most of the BoardGameGeek crowd have dismissed 7 Wonders as being mostly about luck. One wonders if the Kennerspiel is not so much for connoisseurs, but for Eurogeeks who would be outraged that the American-made non-historical Qwirkle won the day?

Not to be bitchy, but surely the game of the year is going to be a game for connoisseurs already? Or are we still dividing the world into Regular People and Gamers? Wasn’t the whole point of Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride to get rid of that divide?

Food for thought. Or possibly games for thought.


Games for educating


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: games – especially games where you adopt some kind of role, whether you do that on a computer, or around a table, with or without dice – are the best way to experience another point of view. Which makes them fantastic for educating people about issues. Here’s another fantastic example – a computer simulation about what it’s like to be a refugee.

2011 Diana Jones Nominees

It’s not up on the DJ website yet but the nominees are:

* Catacombs, a board-game by Ryan Amos, Marc Kelsey and Aron West, published by Sands of Time Games
* The Dresden Files RPG by the Dresden Files RPG Team, published by Evil Hat Productions
* Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, a board-game by Mario Porpora, Pietro Righi Riva, Luca Francesco Rossi and Nicolò Tedeschi, published by Cranio Creations
* Fiasco, an RPG by Jason Morningstar, published by Bully Pulpit Games
* Freemarket, an RPG by Luke Crane and Jared A. Sorensen, published by Sorencrane MRCZ


Freemarket is no surprise; it’s not just a clever marrying of roleplaying principles and post-scarcity principles (since the two overlap) but it sells as a box full of wacky cards and chips, trying to smash apart what people think of as RPGs, and without drowning in thousands of bits like other games.

Fiasco is also no surprise. It’s a lovely working of the random-plot-generator idea from the 80s (made cool again in games like In A Wicked Age), combined with a theatre-sports like mechanic of offers and acceptances. And by cleverly branding itself as the game of “shit hits the fan” films, it’s carved a totally separate media niche – and so successfully I’ve seen it being advertised in mainstream catalogues. Smallville was the indie game that looked like a regular RPG, but Fiasco is the indie game that looks like a board game.

Dresden Files over Smallville? That one I don’t get. But I’ve never been a fan of FATE, it’s just another generic system with a fun tagging mechanic. And nothing I see in the Dresden RPG makes it feel very noir. Smallville is arguably a show with a much greater and deeper fan base too.

I know nothing of the other two board games. So I’m off to Board Game Geek (winner of last year’s DJ) to find out more.


Monster of Toowong Cemetery

I work as a tour guide in a cemetery, a cemetery known for many strange hauntings and as a home to many homeless people. As often happens, tonight we met one such person who was telling us that all our stuff was crap because he’d seen the real things that live in the place (not uncommon, a lot of our stories come from or involve homeless people). He described something new though, to wit:

At least nine foot tall, maybe nine six nine seven….a wing-span of about twelve feet (six foot a side) …all covered in long thick hair, no face or anything, but protruding fangs, curved almost into a circle … its feet are six feet long, as long as a grave, and it stands on grave stones and watches for prey … it needs doorways to enter this world, like tunnels into the ground or cracked grave stones …. it can turn into a crow or a dog or indeed look like any normal human … it eats birds and stray dogs and cats but hungers for human blood … when it takes to flight it tips backwards on those long feet, as if falling, its wings flapping it upwards at the last moment … it will not eat humans who are sick because their blood tastes foul

Our witness has “blood cancer” so has been able to safely watch the beast many a night. A friend of his has video of the beast on his mobile phone but went mad from filming it and is now in a local asylum.

From his lips to your games; I leave it up to you to stat it.