Early this month I talked about Hasbro, the megagoliath that has eaten the gaming world, sucking up an amazing 80% of the tabletop game trade. As I said in that article, they have the ability to do a lot of damage to our industry. But, for now at least, there’s room for the smaller guys to get into the biz.
This week I want to turn that around, and talk about some of the up-and-coming game companies. These guys aren’t necessarily small (though none are huge), and they aren’t necessarily new (though some are). Instead, they’re companies that are working on publishing new sorts of games — either because they’re just getting into the biz or because they’re dramatically changing their focus.
Together these companies offer an insight into trends at the opposite side of the gaming industry from Hasbro: the companies who may be on the list of notable publishers in our niche in a few years.
Last month I chanced into a game of World of Warcraft: The Board Game. It’s really not the sort of thing I usually play with my various board game groups — if for no other reason, game length — but it’s the exact sort of game my roleplaying group likes to play if we’re not roleplaying on a particular day. We’ve actually played a number of Fantasy Flight games in that group. Besides World of Warcraft there’s also been Runebound and Arkham Horror.
On my first game of World of Warcraft I was struck not only by its similarities to the other two Fantasy Flight Games we’d recently played, but also its differences. At first I thought that FFG might just be retreading these same ideas, but then I realized that something different was going on … Fantasy Flight is actually creating a whole new subgenre of board games: adventure games. Granted, we’ve had these adventure games around for a while. Arkham Horror was originally published in 1984, and it shortly followed on the heels of another adventure game classic, Talisman (1983). The same era would later see Milton Bradley’s HeroQuest (1989). However, with one publisher now putting out so many games, there’s an opportunity for something new.
Over at RPGnet these last few months I’ve been writing a series of reviews of the Blue Moon expansions. Each review has also included some strategy notes on the deck. Since I know folks aren’t necessarily reading reviews for strategy, I’ve decided to collect those strategy notes here, at Gone Gaming, along with some additional card counts and other info. Each of these articles will cover two of the Blue Moon decks, and I expect you’ll see about one a month until I hit them all.
I’m starting off with two decks that I haven’t discussed before: the inhabitants of the original game, the Hoax and the Vulca.
You may also want to take a look at the general strategy notes I included in my article Anatomy of a Game : Blue Moon.
There’s an elephant in the room. No one talks about it, but it’s there. Its name is Hasbro, founded as Hassenfeld Brothers in 1923. (Someone later had the good sense to change the name.) They sold textile remnants, and soon moved on to producing pencil boxes and school supplies. Today they control 80% of the billion-dollar tabletop gaming industry.
The story of how they did so is a tale of corporate interest run amuck and of the death of anti-trust legislation in the United States. It’s summarized in a single word, monopoly, which is ironically both America’s best-known game and one that Hasbro now controls through its corporate buyout policy.
When looking for causes, we can ultimately blame My Little Pony. And G.I. Joe and The Transformers. In 1983 the FCC reversed a fourteen-year old ruling, which had prohibited cartoons based on toy lines. Late that year Hasbro debuted their G.I. Joe cartoon, followed by Transformers in 1984 and My Little Pony in 1986. By beaming these 30-minute commercials straight into the living rooms of impressionable children, Hasbro multiplied their already notable success; the same year that The Transformers debuted, Hasbro began their gaming industry roll-up with their purchase of Milton Bradley.
Eurogames have gotten a lot more Italian in the last few years, and that’s formed the basis of a spotlight on Italian game design this week and last.
Last week I started things off with an analysis, talking about style of design and the connectivity of the designers. This week I’ve put together a reference, listing Italian game awards and Italian game companies … plus a fun geographical listing of Italian-themed games, whether they’re Italian-designed or not.
Again, thanks to Andrea Ligabue for comments. He gave me the most help in this part of the article, in the section on Italian game companies. Also, thanks to everyone who offered comments on the first article, especially Andrea Angiolino, Frank Branham, Bruno Faidutti, Paolo Mori, and Angelo Porazzi. You all helped to make this second part better researched and more comprehensive.