Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bring Back the Classics

Most wargamers have a special place in their hearts for old Avalon Hill titles. Many folks cut their gaming teeth on such classics as Afrika Korps, Stalingrad, Luftwaffe, Hannibal: Rome Vs. Carthage, We the People, etc. The sorrow is that these old games wear out. They also get damaged in floods, fires, or idiot gamer friends who spill ULTRA GULP sized drinks on them. Good luck finding a decent copy on ebay, boardgamegeek, or the Consimworld marketplace. Sadly, the copyright license to a lot of these wonderful products is held, apparently in perpetuity, by greedy corporate morons employed by HASBRO. Avalon Hill, once known for its quality wargames, has become a repository for Euro style games that have little or no resemblance to an actual wargame. Instead of allowing another game company the privilige of printing the game, Hasbro would rather hold many of those titles hostage. Of course, there are a few exceptions, where designers were able to negotiate or otherwise wrestle the rights to their own games away from the corporate hacks. In other cases, designers were able to re-design original games into new incarnations that would not interfere with the rights of Hasbro. For example, "We the People" became "Washington's War", with some similarities to the original, but enough innovation to be a new game. Some products have returned to print. Valley Games managed to acquire the rights to what for many years was the Holy Grail of Ebay wargame purchases, "Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage." With updated graphics and rules clarifications, this title seems to have sold quite well for Valley Games. Mark Herman managed to get his card driven American Civil War epic, "For the People" printed over at GMT. Fantasy Flight Games published a really nice version of "Britannia" though the forum over on Consimworld indicates that the designer is shopping for a new publisher. Somehow, a new version of "Wooden Ships and Iron Men" is in the works. While some of us want to experience the nostalgia of playing an older title, some of us look forward to innovation. I'd love to see a new "Afrika Korps" printed maybe with some innovative rules. Or how about an update of the the old Avalon Hill "Gunslinger?" Wouldn't "Merchants of Venus" rock the Eurogamer world if it came it with some of the neat components that modern games feature? I'm certain others have their own ideas of what they would like to seed. With no disrespect intended to newer titles with the Avalon Hill brand name on them, "Battlecry" is no substitute for "Gettysberg." "Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit" is not a suitable replacement for "Starship Troopers." In the meantime, perhaps someone can explain to me the corporate mindset behind a company like Hasbro clinging to the rights to games they don't have any interest in publishing or setting such a high licensing price that the original designer can't shop around updated versions to other publishers. For that matter, why does Alderac Entertainment Group refuse to relinquish the license for Doomtown when it is obvious they lack the desire or economic ability to begin producing it once again? It is as if they fear that relinquising the rights, even for a small consideration will make them feel like the guy who trades his prizes on Let's Make a Deal only to find that behind his door is a donkey and a bale of hay. Has gaming become such a business that it is now run by people who not only do not undertand gamers, but they lack any real love for the games themselves? The obvious answer is, for some game publishers, absolutely yes!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Convention Envy

I think we all experience convention envy at some time or another. This is the emotion we feel when others start reporting back about attending PREZCON, WBC, ORIGINS, or GENCON and we know that, once again, we missed out. Why did we miss out? Work schedules, family priorities, lack of funds or lack of planning all play a part in missing some of our favorite events. So what can we do to deal with this envy? First, let's mock those who went. Try this on for size: "You spent HOW MUCH MONEY to go an play games?" Or maybe, "You didn't even PLACE in a single tournament?" Second, let's complain about how those who went failed to share the experience. For example, "You wrote down all of those details about all the games you played but you did not bother to take a single picture!" Or maybe, "How could you miss playing ________________________, its my favorite game and you didn't even know it existed?" Third, how about planning better for next year and making it happen for you? Choose the convention you want to go to. Check your calendar, start putting money in the bank (yes, sell some of those games you don't play), and start making every effort to set aside that time and go. Heck, if you can publish a magazine or create a podcast, or teach a class on game design at a prestigious educational institution, you might even find a way to write the entire trip off. So, I hope next year I don't have to suffer from Convention Envy. If I still do, I plan to give you guys who don't take pictures, etc. endless grief.. and You KNOW who you are! {grin}