A Trip to Berlin

The origins of the eurogame movement are usually traced to two German innovations. The first is the Spiel des Jahres, a gaming award that began offering awards in 1979, and which honored its first homebrew German game, Scotland Yard (1983), just a few years later. The second is Essen Game Fair, which debuted that same year and quickly became the second major gear in the engine that would soon be propelling German games to success.

Of course it’s wrong to say that those early Euros were German games, because they were in truth West German games. At the time the country was still split, with East Germany then being a satellite of the USSR. So if you look at the maps you’ll find Essen, Prien am Chiemsee (the home of F.X. Schmid), Munich (the home of Schmidt Spiele), Ravensburg (the home of Ravensburger), and Stuttgart (the home of Kosmos) were all in West Germany. The Special K of early German designers — Reiner Knizia, Wolfgang Kramer, and Klaus Teuber — similarly all originated in West Germany.

Which all goes to say that if you want to make a pilgrimage to the German Game homeland, the western part of Germany is the place to go. Essen is the high holy spot, of course, but Munich would probably be a great alternative for really seeing German game culture in its native environment.

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Designers & Dragons

Designers & Dragons: The '70sSadly, I missed publishing a new Mechanics & Meeples article again this last Monday, but there’s been a good reason for it. I’ve got a live Kickstarter going for Designers & Dragons, my 4-book history of the roleplaying industry, and it’s been eating up my free time like you’d expect a hungry dragon to do.

If you enjoyed the short historical tidbits I’ve written on the board game industry, I encourage you to take a look, as Designers & Dragons was a model for those articles. More generally, if you’re curious why small hobby companies rise and fall, and how roleplaying publication intertwinces with wargame publication, eurogame publication, and miniatures gaming, Designers & Dragons is a rich source.

The first book, Designers & Dragons: The ’70s is particularly good in this area. It talks about the rise of fantasy and science-fiction board games and of the minigames (with a focus on Metagaming Concepts), and it also talks about how miniatures led to roleplaying games (in the TSR article). Continue reading

RIP, Gary Gygax

On Tuesday, March 4, 2008 Ernest Gary Gygax passed away. He was the designer of Dungeons & Dragons as well as several older miniature games and several newer RPGs. After some problems in the 1980s when he was forced out of TSR — the company he created — Gary Gygax was able to rediscover his place in the roleplaying world. In the last twenty years of his life he was widely recognized and lauded as the old gentleman of gaming. In the last decade he participated on the Internet in many forums and well knew how much he was loved and appreciated by his fans. That’s more than most of us can ask for in life.

Today I mourn Gary Gygax, because he’s quite simply, the reason I game.

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Greatest Hits

Following the initial run of the Gone Gaming group blog from 2005-2007, the remaining members of the blog moved over to news site BoardGameNews to contribute columns and reviews starting in January 2008. This was the first of my gaming articles for BGN, which was a reminder of who I was and a listing of some of my top articles to that date.
—SA, 3/14/15

Hello to Boardgame News! I’ve been writing about board and card games for a few years now, over at Gone Gaming, with those articles all soon to be available on BGN itself. However, since there are doubtless people here who haven’t seen the GG articles, I thought I’d use this first entry of 2008 to introduce myself and my work.

First, about myself. I’m a writer and a computer programmer. Professionally I run the Skotos Online Game site as well as entertainment site RPGnet. Game design has always been one of my interests. I have a long running column about computer game design, and when I started writing board & card game reviews, game design and analysis were my focuses there too. Not surprisingly, game design has been a focus in my Gone Gaming articles, but you’ll also find reviews, rants, and looks at the industry.

What follows are three of my favorite articles (or series) from the last two hand a half years.
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To Every Thing, There is a Season …

When I got started with board game writing, it was as part of a group blog called Gone Gaming, which lasted from 2005-2007. As 2007 came to an end, we decided to close up the blog. This was my final article for Gone Gaming, which was largely an ode to the blog.

After the days of Gone Gaming, I moved on, first to Board Game News (RIP), then to Board Game Info (RIP). At that point, I decided it was best to have my own blog, which I could control. I’ve since been transferring all my old gaming posts to this singular location … including this one, even if it’s a bit less gaming relevant than most. But, read on for some of my notes about writing and gaming in 2007. —SA, 12/29/14

It’s two and a half years now since Coldfoot sent me an email asking if I’d like to contribute to a new group boardgaming blog that he was putting together. I’ll admit to being a bit passive aggressive about that initial invite, because I was feeling very busy at the time.

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My (Secret) Life in Gaming

About 14 months ago I wrote an article called My Life in Gaming. It was a simple piece talking about the many different sorts of gaming that I’ve been involved in over the last twenty-five years, from D&D to board games to computer games and back to board games again. Much to my surprise the folks over at the British ‘zine Flagship liked the piece, and reprinted it in issues #120 and #121.

Since I wrote that article, life has continued changing, as it ever does, and I’ve been surprised to see the gaming pendulum shift once more. It’s ultimately one of the reasons that I’m writing here less than I used to. (I’ll get to that shortly, but as you’ll see, it’s more lack of time than lack of interest).

I should say that I still am playing board games. Almost every Wednesday I go over to EndGame for four hours or so of play, and almost every Thursday I have folks over to my house for my “review nights” — though I’ve actually been reviewing less too, and as a result we sometimes play something random on Thursday instead.

However, in balance with that, my interest in roleplaying games has increased quite a bit, to almost the levels it enjoyed when it was my prime gaming entertainment back in the 1990s. The reason has ultimately been my job — which is nice, given that working in the industry was part of what burned me out on RPGs about a decade ago.

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The Golden Age of Board Games

“The Golden Age of Science Fiction is twelve.”

It’s a well-known quote popularized by David Hartwell in his essay of the same name. But, Hartwell never meant to say that we experience an age of wonder in our adolescence that cannot be replicated in adulthood. Instead, he claimed that the greatest wonder in science fiction comes when an individual is first introduced to it. The 1940s was not the true golden age of science-fiction, nor the 1960s, nor the 1980s; instead it was when each fan became a member of that culture.

When a reader is first introduced to science fiction, he enters a world of legends. He hears stories of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, rumors of a Rendezvous with Rama, perhaps even whisperings of Gene Wolfe’s multilayered Book of the New Sun. They become larger than life, and so they take on mythic proportions. When a reader finally consumes Asimov, Clarke, or Wolfe he is not just consuming the actual tales — those words that they wrote — but he also is consuming every thing he has ever been told about them, and every image he has ever conjured up in his mind to tell those tales that he had not yet read.

So it is with board games as well.
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