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Tag: giveaways (page 2 of 6)

Fightin’ Figures

You may have gathered from the articles I’ve posted up until now that I’m not a huge fan of what are called ‘Euro’ games. Sorry about that. I’ve nothing against spending several hours hunched over a worker placement game, or a bit of area control or resource management, but to be frank, throw a few zombies with chainsaws in there or power-suited alternative-history WWII marines and I’m really a lot happier. It all depends on your personal definition of gaming fun. For me, games are all about immersion into imaginative worlds, and the laughter and groans that come with lucky dice rolls and last-minute reprieves. Many others prefer their careful long-term strategies to not be undermined by the draw of a card, and I can certainly understand that. But if you’re looking for in-depth examination of the many Euro games out there, I’m not the ideal author—even though I’ll be looking at some of these types of games in future articles.

One genre of games that does have a dominant place in my collection is the skirmish game. This kind of game is usually a two-player battle, either over tabletop terrain or on a board, between small bands of warriors. Sure, there’s a bit of strategy involved, but in general these games are about vicious combat, using your imagination, and playing out combats between figures that can sometimes turn into hilarious little stories that you remember for years. Let’s have a look at some of these games!

Again, the genre begins in a big way with Games Workshop. After the success of games like Heroquest and Space Crusade, the combats expanded onto the tabletop, and one of my personal all-time favourite combat games, Necromunda, was born. Set in the worlds of the Warhammer 40,000 sci-fi universe, Necromunda is a skirmish level tabletop combat game. Rival gangs fight it out for domination amongst the ruined buildings of the crowded ‘underhives’, vast cities in the far future. It’s a classic sci-fi bash—great figures, excellent cardboard terrain with the opportunity to scratch-build and buy more terrain setups, and even a campaign system if you want to see your gang grow and prosper over a series of battles.

Not a big sci-fi fan? Well then perhaps you’d prefer Mordheim, a very similar game in the fantasy genre of Warhammer. Gangs of humans, skaven ratmen, undead—you name it— battle in the ruins of the Empire city of Mordheim, destroyed by a warpstone meteor from the heavens.

Of course, setting up tabletop battles can require a big commitment in time and money. But fear not, there are plenty of other options for setting your little men at odds. We’ve already discussed the many combat games in the dungeon crawling genre in a previous article, but for non-dungeon skirmish gaming, some excellent games are Heroscape,  IncursionOkko: Era of the Asagiri, Mutant Chronicles, and Tannhäuser.

No overview of fun skirmish-level combat would be complete without Heroscape, the system that hit gaming in 2004 with HeroScape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie and since then has expanded in all directions with innumerable expansion packs, a Dungeons and Dragons variant and even a Marvel Heroes version. The great advantage of Heroscape is that it’s quick and easy to play. The figures are all pre-painted plastic, and the terrain is made of interlocking plastic hexagons—you can get castles and vegetation too—that allow for an infinite variety of scenarios and setups. Of course, all the units have special abilities, but quick reference cards and a simple basic rules system make play fast and furious. Some might call it a ‘toy’; some might think pitting samurai against giant robots is weird—but who cares what they think!

Incursion is a recent release from Grindhouse Games, a small company making a splash. In fact I helped out a bit by designing the reference sheet that comes with the game. It’s set in the currently very popular ‘weird war’ genre; an alternative-history World War II that includes sci-fi and occult elements. Incursion is set in an underground laboratory complex, where power-suited US marines battle it out against Nazi zombies, experiments-gone-wrong, and of course—good ol’ zombies. It uses an action point system similar to the classic Space Hulk, is beautifully produced, and is a lot of fun. The game uses cardboard standups, but for an extra outlay you can buy stunningly-detailed metal miniatures which improve the visual aspect of the game immeasurably.

Okko: Era of the Asagiri is another game that you can buy metal miniatures for separately. This medieval fantasy Japan combat game by Asmodee is played out on square tiles with lovely artwork on them, and the system is quite original. You roll a number of ‘inspiration dice’ each turn which have symbols on them that correspond to your different characteristics. By assigning these dice to your combatants, you can receive bonuses to your movement, attack, defense or willpower rolls; or can activate particular skills that make your characters unique. You can also place dice results in reserve on your characters, so they can activate powers or improve their defense abilities during your opponent’s turn. I highly recommend the figures; they are top-notch quality and very detailed, though probably more suitable for the experienced modellers and painters out there. And it’s good to see a theme that’s a little bit different. There’s already one expansion available and more to come.

Unfortunately it was short-lived and has since been discontinued, but FFG’s Mutant Chronicles Collectible Miniatures Game is a surprisingly good skirmish game. Set in the strange sci-fi/apocalyptic/gothic universe of the Mutant Chronicles, the game system itself works smoothly, using the core mechanic of specially marked dice. Gang recruitment is easy with a bronze-silver-gold scale of combatant power. Many people weren’t happy about the large 54mm scale of the figures and the quality of the pre-paints, but it’s still definitely worth picking up a copy of the core set and some of the figures if you’re a fan of the skirmish combat genre—and if you can find them.

Finally, Tannhäuser has recently been given a whole new lease of life since its purchase by FFG and the recent release of a brand new rulesbook. This game is also set in a ‘weird war’ universe, and one of its distinguishing features is the Pathfinder system. This a series of coloured circles printed on the large format boards that regulate combat and line of sight, speeding up play greatly. The game (and its expansion Operation Novgorod) comes with very nice pre-painted miniatures and top-quality components, and now that the new rules, which are available as a book or as a PDF download, have ironed out a few earlier issues and added an ‘overwatch’ system so players can fire in an opponent’s turn, look forward to this game getting more and more popular. Of course, there are more expansions in the works.

So if you’re like me and your game collection tends to lean on the site of colourful, thematic and imaginative games—to the possible detriment of worker placement, economics, area control and auctions—then be sure to check out some of the skirmish combat games mentioned in this article.

For more information about the games mentioned in this article, visit BoardgameGeek (www.boardgamegeek.com). Necromunda and Mordheim are still available as Games Workshop ‘specialist’ games. You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for all of these games at Headless Hollow (www.headlesshollow.com/freebies_games.html).

by Universal Head

Universal Head (www.universalhead.com), has been designing graphics from the most corporate to the most creative for more than twenty years. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, most notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent a year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for the computer game ‘The Omega Stone’. In between he’s designed everything from large corporate identities and websites, to packaging, to interactive educational modules. His personal site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.

Boardgame Weekly Giveaway. Closed 11/06/10

Searching for a new board games in 2010? Would winning  $200 worth of FREE board games help?!?!

Simply enter your response (Right side of the Games Paradise Blog), and the weekly winner receives Games worth over $200 as pictured below!

This week we have  two Cinema Classics Jigsaw puzzles, Casino Ace Dealers set and a Killer Bunnies Blue Starter pack and an Exclusve Magic Hat!

Competition Question

This week, tell us in 100 words or less.  If you had a ‘Real’ Magic Hat, name five things you would pull pull out of it? Let your imagination go wild kids!

The winner will be chosen by Games Paradise Australia on relevance, use of humour, style and content on June 12th 2010 and contacted by email by a Games Paradise Australia representative. This is a game of skill. Chance plays no part in determining the winner.

Entries close 11th June, 11:59pm 2010!

Winner Announced 12th June 2010

This Weeks Giveaway!

Prizes may vary from actual picture

This weeks Winner

Congratulations Kristine!

1. An elephant

2. A cage to keep it in

3. Someone to look after it

4.An elephant saddle

5. Peanuts

Some very sensible wishing Kristine…

Who Will Win in Spiel Des Jahres 2010

Excitement is mounting in anticipation of which game will win Spiel Des Jahres (Game of the Year) in 2010. Considered the Oscars of the gaming industry, this prestigious award has been running for over 30 years. Founded in 1978 by a group of leading games reviewers from German speaking countries, the award was designed to reward excellence in game design and promote board games as a fun, friendly and family oriented activity. A selection of previous winners include Dominion (2009), Zooloretto (2007), Alhambra (2003), Carcassonne (2001) and Settlers of Catan (1995). The winner will be selected and announced on June 28th 2010, from a pool of five nominees.

Spiel Des Jahres – what’s it all about?

Although the award is purely meritorious, a mere nomination can increase sales by up to 300% and winning can translate into sales of up to 500,000 units. One of the important aims of the award was to ensure German games proliferated and flourished and it has definitely succeeded. In the process, the Spiel des Jahres award has set high standards for game production around the world. Jurors are selected from a pool of independent and highly regarded games critics and reporters, with proven reviewing track records in a variety of media. There is also a special Children’s Game Committee, that’s responsible for choosing the Kinderspiel Des Jahres (Children’s Game of the Year), which is announced shortly after the main award.

Spiel Des Jahres – special awards.

Each year, there’s also the chance that one or two special awards may be granted. Previous awards include Best Party Game for GiftTRAP in 2009, Best Complex Game for Agricola in 2008 and Best Fantasy Game for Shadows Over Camelot in 2006 to name just a few. Other special award categories have included Dexterity, Historical, Literary and even Beautiful!

Spiel Des Jahres – who wins and why?

So who wins and why? To be eligible for this sought after award, a game must have been released in Germany during the preceding 12 months and must satisfy a range of stringent criteria. Games must be:

•    Original in concept and good value.
•    Easy to understand and well structured with clear rules.
•    Outstanding in presentation and layout, with superior design of game board, box and rules.
•    Exceptional in functionality design and workmanship.

Spiel Des Jahres – send us your nominations predictions.

The names of the five finalists will be announced in less than a week. I have my own thoughts about which games might be on the nominations list, but I’d like to hear your ideas. Let me know who you think will make the cut for 2010!

Dungeoncrawling

This week I’m going to be having a look at a time-honoured genre in the world of boardgaming—dungeon crawling (or, if you prefer, dungeon bashing)! Since the first parties of adventurers descended stone steps into the darkness in games of Dungeons and Dragons back in the early 1970s, gamers have loved to take stereotypical Tolkeinesque fantasy characters ‘down into the dungeon’ to test their prowess against the horrific denizens of the deep. And hot on the heels of D&D and other roleplaying games came boardgame equivalents. Let’s have a look at the huge range of dungeoncrawling boardgames out there, and examine a bit of the history of the genre.

Dungeon crawling in boardgame form pretty much started back in 1975 with a game called Dungeon! Heavily based on D&D, this simple boardgame was quite revolutionary for its time; allowing players to pick character classes and descend into a dungeon of six levels. You kill monsters, you get treasure … the basic template for dungeonbashing had been established.

Every geek of a certain generation will remember playing Heroquest as a kid; it is still the classic dungeoncrawl game. In a smart business move, Games Workshop partnered with mainstream games giant Milton Bradley to release this hugely successful game in 1989. Several expansion sets followed which all command high prices on Ebay (and there are different versions depending on where the game was published), and people still play, enjoy and collect this classic game. It certainly helped that it came with a spectacular range of plastic figures (even pieces of model furniture) and fantastic artwork for the time, but the game system itself is simple enough to be enjoyed by all ages. It also brought a bit of a roleplaying element back into the mix by having one player act as ‘Morcar’, the evil wizard who controls the dungeon and its monsters—in effect, he is the D&D ‘Dungeon Master’. Heroquest brought a lot of D&D players their first taste of the boardgame hobby—and it’s still a fantastic game to get young players into boardgaming.

It could be said that Advanced Heroquest (1989) was Games Workshop’s attempt to bring Heroquest players further into their hobby, and eventually to their tabletop wargames. It was a more complex version of Heroquest and came with a bunch of hero and Skaven (ratmen) figures; but along with the later Warhammer Quest (1995), these games were less self-contained and suffered from a heavy focus on getting players to buy more Citadel figures (Citadel was GW’s miniature company) and get more involved in the Warhammer world. They still very much have their fans and Warhammer Quest commands very high prices on Ebay.

It’s a fortuitous time to talk about GW’s next classic dungeoncrawl game Dungeonquest, because it’s the latest game to be ‘re-imagined’ by Fantasy Flight Games. This notoriously difficult game—it was easy to get into the dungeon, but getting out alive was another thing entirely—was originally Swedish and went by the name Drakborgen. GW released their own version in 1985 and a lot of people are very excited about the upcoming re-release. Dungeonquest put a twist on the genre by not only instigating a time limit to the adventuring, but a push-your-luck element where you can try to steal more and more treasure from the sleeping dragon at the heart of the dungeon—at the increasing risk of it waking up and killing you, that is! FFG have now set the game in their own fantasy melieu of Terrinoth and updated some of the mechanics, and it should be great to get this classic back on the table again.

So where was the original D&D brand while all this was happening? In an attempt to cash in on the gap left by the departure of Heroquest, Dungeons & Dragons The Fantasy Boardgame was released by Parker Bros in 2003. It had two expansions—Forbidden Forest and Eternal Winter. The game is quite similar to Heroquest, though the figures are not as good quality; and while it’s a good game for dungeoncrawl completists, it probably never quite recaptured the magic of the more popular game.

Now for something a bit different—it’s dungeoncrawling, but not as we know it, Jim! Hybrid was released by Rackham, a French company, in 2003 (an expansion called Nemesis followed the next year). At the time Rackham was known for its spectacular metal miniatures, and the game comes with an impressive collection of them. Despite its flaws—a terrible rules translation, ridiculously tiny type on the cards, confusing artwork on the ‘dungeon’ tiles—the game brought new complexity and richness to the genre, and the fantasy background is unique. If you can hack your way through the rules it is actually a very satisfying and original system, and the game certainly looks absolutely spectacular when set up, especially with painted figures.

Of course, if we expand our definition a little, dungeoncrawling needn’t be restricted to a fantasy setting. Heroquest was followed up in 1990 by another GW/Milton Bradley collaboration: a sci-fi version set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe called Space Crusade (and GW released Advanced Space Crusade, a completely different game, the same year). The Pressmen game Mutant Chronicles (1993) is also considered a bit of a classic of the sci-fi dungeoncrawl genre.

The videogame crossover hit Doom (2004) definitely deserves a mention. It’s one of my favourite games and has a wonderfully dark and creepy sci-fi gothic atmosphere. It comes with a large collection of beautifully-sculpted plastic figures and a set of stunning interlocking room and corridor tiles. The game also introduced an innovative dice-rolling system—one roll with a number of multi-coloured dice tells you the range of the shot, the damage, and even if you run out of ammo—and it features various scenarios that increase the story-telling aspect of the game. And don’t forget to pick up the essential expansion set!

Doom set the stage for the current grand-daddy of dungeonbashers, Descent (2005). This FFG behemoth has already spawned five expansion sets (including two special campaign sets) and shows no signs of slowing down. Featuring development of many of the mechanics from Doom—especially the special coloured dice—Descent is the gaming experience par excellence for those who want to go down into the dungeon and kill things and, with the expansion sets, run ‘roleplaying-light’ fantasy campaigns as well. There’s a vast selection of fantastic plastic miniatures to paint, hundreds of interlocking terrain tiles, cards by the thousand (or so it seems), and enough scenarios to keep even the most dedicated dungeoncrawling team busy killing things for years.

All the games I’ve talked about so far use a board or tiles and plastic figures, but for something completely different, try Cutthroat Caverns (2007). This clever card game turns the genre on its head; while you and your friends still head together into the dungeon to kill monsters—co-operating to do so—you’re also in it for yourself, trying to gain the all-important final blow so you can collect enough treasure to win the game. This can result in some hilarious last minute backstabbing. A plethora of special monster abilities add to the fun, and several expansion sets are available. The game also has the advantage of working especially well with a larger number of players (up to 6).

The most recent entrant into the dungeonbashing world is the beautiful Asmodee game Claustrophobia, released last year. In keeping with the high expectations of gamers these days, the plastic figures that come with the game are pre-painted, so you can dive into a stunning game experience right away. Claustrophobia is set in the alternative fantasy world of the miniatures game Hell Dorado, and features 17th century warriors delving under the city of New Jerusalem to battle demons from the depths of Hell. The game comes with several scenarios and more are being released online as we speak, and it has some interesting new mechanics that freshen up the genre. It’s certainly a worthy entrant into the rich genre of dungeoncrawling, and shows that this particular style of boardgame is showing no signs of becoming less popular any time soon!

Well, there you have it, a short look at the rich history of dungeon delving in boardgames. If you ever feeling like donning the mantle of mighty hero and clearing out the local dungeon of nasty inhabitants, give one of these games a go. Here’s hoping you make it out alive …

For more information about the games mentioned in this article, visit BoardgameGeek (www.boardgamegeek.com). Many of these games are now out of print unfortunately, but can be found on sites such as Ebay. You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for some of these games at Headless Hollow.

by Universal Head

Universal Head (www.universalhead.com), has been designing graphics from the most corporate to the most creative for more than twenty years. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, most notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent a year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for the computer game ‘The Omega Stone’. In between he’s designed everything from large corporate identities and websites, to packaging, to interactive educational modules. His personal site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.

Boardgame Weekly Giveaway. 26/05/10 Closed

Searching for a new board games in 2010? Would winning  $200 worth of FREE board games help?!?!

Simply enter your response (Right side of the Games Paradise Blog), and the weekly winner receives Games worth over $200 as pictured below!

This week we have  two Cinema Classics Jigsaw puzzles, Casino Ace Dealers set and a Killer Bunnies Blue Starter pack.

Competition Question

This week, tell us in 100 words or less.  We all know that politics is much like a game. If you were to explain the current “Rudd” government as a game, How would you blurb this?

The winner will be chosen by Games Paradise Australia on relevance, use of humour, style and content on May 26th 2010 and contacted by email by a Games Paradise Australia representative. This is a game of skill. Chance plays no part in determining the winner.

Entries close 26th May, 11:59pm 2010!

Winner Announced 27th May 2010

This Weeks Giveaway!

Prizes may vary from actual picture

Congratulations Adam Hennessy

Come join a world of fantasy and fun where every day is a struggle, build and destroy economies, manipulate the media, unify alliances with China. Race against enemies and allies alike. An action packed game of propaganda, politics and people.

Portable Games

When you’re planning a holiday or a weekend break, what’s the first thing you think to pack? A spare change of clothes perhaps or a toothbrush? While these are very practical considerations, there’s one thing I never forget: some portable games. No matter how action or event packed a holiday itinerary may be, when away from home, there will always be times when a little light entertainment is needed. Portable games are an integral part of any travel experience, to cover the likelihood of coping with the inevitable rainy day or two or to enhance time spent as a passenger getting to your destination.

Good things come in small packages.

The beauty of most portable games is that they’re small and light, so they won’t take up much space or weigh down your luggage. Some will even fit comfortably in the average sized handbag (and these seem to be getting bigger and bigger each year)! Plus, portable games are brilliant for entertaining the kids on long or short trips.

Here are some of the essential criteria needed to make a portable game experience great

Ditch the board.

Board games are wonderful, but not really practical while traveling, so bulky games are best left at home.

Deal the cards.

Card based games are perfect, as they take up minimal space but provide maximum fun. Some great examples are Uno, Settlers of Catan Card Game, Set and more traditional playing cards including Canasta.

Compact and built for travel.

Bananagrams and Pairs in Pears come in washable zip-fastening cloth bags shaped like a banana and pear respectively. They’re pretty hardwearing while on the go and are loads of fun to play. While on the subject of fruit, Apples to Apples: Travel To Go Edition is also a great compact card game for four or more players that only takes about 30 minutes to play. Pass the Pigs, a popular and addictive “beer & pretzels” game, comes in a handy pocket travel case and features cute piglet dice, 2 pencils and a scoring pad.

If you must have bells and whistles.

For those that can’t play games without flashing lights and mind-altering sound effects, electronic versions of games such as Battleship or Boggle, can keep players entertained for many hours. They make the perfect travelling companion.

Downsize it yourself.

Keep in mind that if you discard portions of some games’ packaging, they can become remarkably small and portable, like the very famous dice game, Yahtzee. As there are a wide variety of portable games on the market, why not research if your favourite game has a “mini-me” portable version you can take away with you?
Whatever game you choose to take away, you’ll be grateful you did and so will your family and friends. They’ll also be grateful if you don’t forget to pack your toothbrush! Happy travelling!

Boardgame Weekly Giveaway 14/05/2010 Closed

Searching for a new board games in 2010? Would winning  $200 worth of FREE board games help?!?!

Simply enter your response (Right side of the Games Paradise Blog), and the weekly winner receives Games worth over $200 as pictured below!

This week we have  a Cinema Classics King Kong & Gone with the wind Jigsaw puzzles, Casino Ace Dealers set and a Killer Bunnies Blue Starter pack.

Competition Question

This week tell us in 100 words or less.  If your office or work place was a board game, which one would it be and why?

The winner will be chosen by Games Paradise Australia on relevance, use of humour, style and content on May 15th 2010 and contacted by email by a Games Paradise Australia representative. This is a game of skill. Chance plays no part in determining the winner.

Entries close14th May, 11:59pm 2010!

Winner Announced 15th May 2010

This Weeks Giveaway!

This Weeks Winner

Congratulations Matt Stosic

My work place would be like absolute balderdash because management always make up their own answers!



Getting Your Partner Gaming

Many gamers will recognise the story—a lifelong interest in games that one day just took off (probably after discovering BoardgameGeek on the internet), and a partner suddenly inundated with endless talk about games and gaming. Boardgaming is an inherently sociable activity, and since you can’t always find a gaming partner, what better thing to do that get your partner interested in gaming?

Well, it’s not always that simple.

We all have different interests, and to someone not hooked on the joys of boardgaming, it can seem a strange and complex pastime. Not to mention unremittingly geeky. So here are a few suggestions for shrugging off the stereotypes and slowly inveigling your partner into a shared love of boardgames.

Start Off Simple

There’s nothing more doomed to failure than setting up a game of War of the Ring and expecting your partner to sit down and listen to you explain the rules for forty-five minutes. You have to start small and simple. Let’s face it, like most people, he or she’s entire experience of boardgames has been the occasional game of scrabble, a few childhood unfinished games of Monopoly, and a hand of poker or two. So you need a game on the same level of complexity, but one that also sneaks in a little bit of theme, thus opening them up to the possibility that games can be about more than property development or word puzzles. A classic starter game is Reiner Knizia’s Lost Cities. This simple, fun card game is well known as a girlfriend/boyfriend ‘gateway’ game. It’s an easy card game, the Indiana Jones-like theme is pasted on, but it’s fun, not too competitive, and if your partner doesn’t want to play another game, you might as well thrown in the towel now.

If your partner shows some interest, you can move on to slightly more complex games. Ticket to Ride is a classic gateway game and brings a board into the mix, along with quietly introducing the concepts of turn sequences, plastic bits and no dice rolling. From here you can move onto to just about any Days of Wonder game, or the old classic Settlers of Catan (the game probably responsible for hooking the most new gamers into the hobby). But as you’re slowly ramping up the difficulty level, keep the following points in mind …

Keep the Competition to a Minimum

It’s a generalisation, but this rule tends to be more applicable to guys trying to get their girlfriends into gaming. Many female players are not fond of games with a heavy “take that!” factor, especially in the tricky early days of their gaming introduction. Once you’re playing slightly more complex games, it’s better to try Settlers of Catan or Puerto Rico than expect her to take a sudden interest in Conquest of the EmpireDoom, or Chaos in the Old World.

Another type of game in your introductory arsenal is the co-operative game, which makes the game itself the bad guy and avoids any possible danger of hurt feelings and after-game conflict: try Pandemic or Shadows Over Camelot.

Some would say that the best way to get a partner into games is to let them win a few times—but surely no self respecting gamer would do such a thing?

Pick Your Themes Carefully

In the early days of adjustment, it’s best to avoid particularly geeky themes that you may know inside and out but, frankly, are going to appear pretty weird to your average person. So Ticket to Ride—perfect for that first couples dinner party (see ‘Keep It Sociable’, next), is not really offending anyone with its friendly, real-world theme of building railways across the United States. The battle between the Space Marine legions of the Traitor Horus and the Emperor of Mankind in Horus Heresy is probably not going to go down quite so well to those not brought up on Warhammer and Games Workshop.

As another example, if your partner is not interested in historical conflicts, stay away from Memoir ’44 and Tide of Iron and stick with the more friendly themes of games like Thebes (archaeology again) and Agricola (farming; can’t get much safer than that). Later on you can sneak in a bit of conflict with a friendly-looking game like Small World, a fun family game which is actually all about wiping out entire nations.

No Modifiers

In my experience, there’s no faster way to turn off a potential gaming convert than to hit them with a game full of modifers. You know the type—those “add +2 to your hit roll if you’re in the forest and -1 if you’re attacking the blue monster with the red weapon” type games.  These games are for further down the track, trust me. I almost undid all my good work when I tried to get my girlfriend to play Arkham Horror back in the early days; she still refers to any game with ‘modifiers’ with derision. Don’t chance it!

Recognise the Irrational Dislikes and Avoid Them

My girlfriend still refers to Cave Troll as the archetypical “I’ll never play it again” game. I still have no idea why.

Never Miss An Opportunity

Going to sit in the park? Pop JamboSan JuanGuillotine or some other small card game in your bag.

Keep it Sociable

The best way to present the joy of gaming is to downplay the geeky factor and emphasise the sociable factor. So get another couple together over for a nice dinner and try the after-dinner boardgame approach. There’s nothing like a successful evening with friends, a few bottles of wine, and a good laugh around a boardgame to shake up the stereotypical image of sweaty, overweight, beardy gaming types in black T-shirts hanging out at game conventions. If you’re lucky, you might even have friends calling you up, looking forward to your next boardgaming night. Games by the publisher Days of Wonder—for example Mystery of the AbbeyColosseumCleopatra and the Society of Architects—are perfect for this kind of night.

Know When To Give Up

You might be one of those lucky few whose partner is always begging you for a game. However, your partner may, despite all your efforts, never take to gaming as the central obsession of your life the way you have. It might be that after carefully following the sage advice in this column and slowly introducing your partner to a series of ever more complex and rewarding gaming experiences, they still fight you every step of the way and refuse to see gaming as a fun way to spend time together. Never mind, you tried. I suggest taking a great interest in one of their activities with the purpose of trading in the resulting brownie points for an occasional game … or having an affair.

Just kidding about the affair.

by Universal Head

Universal Head (www.universalhead.com), has been designing graphics from the most corporate to the most creative for more than twenty years. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, most notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent a year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for the computer game ‘The Omega Stone’. In between he’s designed everything from large corporate websites, to postage stamps, to a mobile phone interface. His personal site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.

Gaming in Middle-Earth

Any gamer even remotely interested in atmospheric themes in their boardgames is probably a fan of J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, and luckily there are plenty of excellent games set in his world of Middle-Earth that allow you to play out the events of this iconic fantasy work. Whether your tastes run to controlling the vast armies of the Elves, Men and Dwarves against the Shadow, or trekking with Frodo and Sam and the rest of the Fellowship as they make their epic journey to Mordor to destroy the One Ring, there’s a game out there for you.

The most well-known of Lord of the Rings games also ushered in a revolutionary new way of playing games—co-operatively. Reiner Knizia’s Lord of the Rings game, first released in 2000, and the various expansions that have followed, were quite revolutionary for their time. On stunning boards illustrated by the well-known artist John Howe, players had to work together to ‘defeat the game’; each playing a hobbit who moves through important scenes from The Lord of the Rings, to eventually reach Mordor and destroy the Ring. As in many games of this type, ‘bad’ events are usually triggered by card play, and Sauron moves ever closer to the hobbits on the Corruption track as the game progresses. It’s an atmospheric, tense and exciting game that has stood the test of time and really immerses you in the world of the books.

The expansion Friends & Foes brings two new scenarios to the game—Bree and Isengard—and new rule options. It’s considered a must for fans of the base game. The next expansion, Sauron, shook things up a bit—and made the game harder—by allowing a player to be Sauron and play against the other players. Finally, Battlefields brought even more changes by adding battles to the base game, expanding and extending the scope of the game and its tactical choices and challenges.

There was an old SPI board-and-counters wargame of the same name back in 1977, but probably the holder of the crown for most stunning Tolkein-themed game—and one of my favourite games of all time—is the Nexus Games/Fantasy Flight Games classic, War of the Ring. If you enjoy a challenging, moderately complex wargame absolutely dripping with Lord of the Rings theme, this game is a must-buy.

Everything about this game is big—the huge board, the roughly 200 plastic figures, over 100 cards—not to mention the huge scope of the game. Not only does WotR cover sweeping, epic armies battling over Middle-Earth, but at the same time it tracks Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mordor, and somehow manages to balance these two very different game mechanics into a harmonious whole. One of the innovative ways this is done is through the use of custom dice that display icons instead of numbers. The players roll these dice and can move, attack and trigger events according to the various icons that come up.

The WotR expansion Battles of the Third Age is an interesting supplement that not only expands the base game, but adds two more ‘mini-games’ that focus on the battles of Isengard and Minas Tirith, using modified mechanics. If you’re a fan of WotR this is another must-buy.

It’s an indication of the popularity and classic nature of WotR that Fantasy Flight Games have created a Collector’s Edition, that truly is an over-the-top gamer’s dream. Not only are all the figures in the game hand-painted and resting in velvet-lined compartments, but the redesigned board is 25% larger, the rulebook is gold embossed, and the game comes in a huge painted wood and resin box decorated in suitably Elvish fashion. It certainly doesn’t come cheap, but it’s probably one of the greatest expressions of the boardgame art form available!

Of course, you tabletop gamers out there are also spoilt for choice when it comes to gaming in Middle-Earth: Games Workshop’s Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, and the epic battles supplement War of the Ring. This system is one of Games Workshop’s core games (along with Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000) and features an incredible amount of support and product; a huge line of plastic and metal miniatures cover just about every character and troop type that has ever been featured in the books and films. Whether you want to replay the hobbits running for the Buckland ferry ahead of the Nazgul, or the world-shaking conflict at the walls of Minas Tirith, this is the tabletop game of choice for Lord of the Rings fans.

But what if you just want to play a relatively short strategic game set in Tolkein’s world? Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation is the game for you. Created by Reiner Knizia, who also designed the co-operative game discussed above, and most recently released in a deluxe edition by Fantasy Flight Games, The Confrontation is an ingenious and very strategic game that uses plastic stands, into which slot various characters from the books that remain hidden from your opponent as you move them on the board. Each of the characters have different powers, and since you only discover who’s who once you get into conflict, the result is a very entertaining and devious game that manages to successfully combine chess-like strategy with the rich Lord of the Rings theme.

Okay… huge armies: check, tabletop battles: check, strategy games: check—what about adventuring in Middle-Earth? Middle-Earth Quest by Fantasy Flight Games is for you. This stunning game was released just last year and is a bit different in that it explores the period between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Instead of following the events of the books, you control new characters like a hobbit, a captain of Gondor, a hardy dwarf, or an elf. The core of the game is perilous questing, but of course one player is Sauron and has numerous minions and monsters at his command with which to foil the characters’ plans. In a way, it is a bit like two different games in one; but the ‘good’ and ‘evil’ game mechanics work beautifully together to create a memorable experience. Combat is card-driven and atmospheric, and the game brings an entirely new perspective on the events of the books and widens the focus out into a world of adventuring and one-on-one combat.

Of course, I don’t have to stop here because there are still plenty of other games set in Tolkein’s world—even when you have people around who don’t play games very often, you could break out the Lord of the Rings Trivia Game, the Monopoly edition, the Stratego edition, the Trivial Pursuit edition. There’s something for everyone.

The fate of Middle-Earth hangs in the balance, the Ring must be destroyed, and the Shadow armies of Sauron must be banished from the land—good gaming!

For more information about the games mentioned in this article, visit BoardgameGeek (www.boardgamegeek.com). You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for some of these games at Headless Hollow (www.headlesshollow.com/freebies_games.html).

by Universal Head

Universal Head (www.universalhead.com), has been designing graphics from the most corporate to the most creative for more than twenty years. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, most notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent a year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for the computer game ‘The Omega Stone’. In between he’s designed everything from large corporate identities and websites, to packaging, to interactive educational modules. His personal site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.

Jigsaw puzzles make life fall into place

I know the odds are miniscule, but I have an irrational fear that photos taken of me, or people I know, may have been used in jigsaw puzzles. Think about it. You’re outdoors enjoying yourself, minding your own business, when someone takes a snapshot of you without your knowledge.  Suddenly, you’re part of the background in someone else’s puzzle! Luckily, this irrational fear hasn’t stopped me enjoying jigsaw puzzles.

Jigsaws: a salve for the modern world.

Rather than being a source of anxiety, for most people jigsaw puzzles have quite the opposite effect. They are literally a salve for the modern world. Doing a jigsaw helps us learn to enjoy the journey, as well as the destination. The more busy and stressed we become, the more we need to find ways to take the edge off our nerves. The jigsaw experience is stimulating and challenging but also mindful, peaceful, therapeutic and relaxing. It comes minus flashing epileptic-inducing lights, loud noises or jarring special effects. Jigsaws simply promise the quiet satisfaction of making all the pieces fit together – something that can be much harder to achieve in other areas of our lives.

Jigsaws are on a roll.

Many people complain that there just isn’t enough time in their lives to do jigsaws, so they don’t even attempt it. But having a defeatist attitude can rob you of a very rewarding pastime. Jigsaws can vary enormously in size, from simple single-digit wooden ones for children right though to puzzles with thousands of pieces. There‘s also a whole range of accessories available to help make the jigsaw experience even more enjoyable. If you have a table that can remain undisturbed for a while, then you can take your time to finish. If not, you can do your puzzle on a jigsaw roll, store and finish at a later time. And if you’re worried about jigsaw mess, JigSort storage management system can ensure your playing area stays shipshape.

The family that jigsaws together, stays together.

Jigsaw puzzles don’t have to be a lone pastime. Large puzzles cry out for extra hands and minds to complete them and it’s just as relaxing with help – especially if you make the activity a regular social event.  There’s always the chance that your playing partners’ techniques might not match yours. Some people insist on starting from the edges while others are happy with an anything-goes attitude. No matter what the technique, the result is the same: a sense of pride and achievement when the job is finally done.

To frame or not to frame a jigsaw?

Most people enjoy redoing their puzzles over and over many times over the course of their lifetime, but if you want to save and admire your image for all time, why not use glue to stick the pieces to a board, then frame it?  Jigsaw puzzles cater for all tastes. Puzzle balls and 3D jigsaws are variations that will broaden your love of jigsaws, and the themes are endless. Some examples include famous artworks from major European galleries, historical scenes and photomosaics.

Depending on how much free time you have available and what your interests may be, you’ll be sure to find comfort and enjoyment from this absorbing activity. Choose a theme that will keep you interested while you work, but look carefully in the backgrounds. You may recognise people you know!

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