Last month I started a discussion of co-op games with an article I called “Gaming Evolution: Co-Op Games, Part One: Honored Ancestors”. It talks about some of the primordial co-op games which helped to create the genre in the 1980s and 1990s. Before I move on to more recent games, I’m going to be publishing a couple of interviews with some of the designers of those co-op originators, to further document the games that the modern co-op boom ultimately looks back to as its foundation.
This month I’m talking to Richard Launius. He’s best known for his design of Arkham Horror. He was thus perhaps the first entrant in the “American co-op” subgenre of games which is best represented in the modern day by Fantasy Flight Games … who not by chance counts Arkham Horror among its stable of American co-op games. Continue reading →
Over the last decade, we’ve seen the evolution of a new genre of gaming: the co-op game. Because we’re still here in the early days of the genre, we’ve had the good fortune over the last decade (and to a smaller extent, since 1987) to really see the genre evolve. It’s something that I find really fascinating, as I see new games show up and introduce new mechanics to the melting pot.
As a result, I’ve decided to talk about that evolution over the course of two or three articles, wherein I’ll be approaching the topic chronologically, looking at the major games which have appeared in a variety of time periods and what they added.
I’m not necessarily saying that each game introduced the element in question, but rather it was the one that was important enough to imprint it on the gaming psyche. I’d love to hear your thoughts, about the games that I missed (though I went through several lists as I wrote this, so if I snubbed something, it was probably purposeful) and the gaming elements that I might not have considered. Continue reading →
Once more Halloween is upon us. It’s a time of year that always gets me thinking about ghosts, goblins, and other things that go bump in the night. However, as I wrote last year in The Problem with Horror Games, the horror genre hasn’t transferred very well to board games.
Despite that, there’s one horror subgenre where publishers — mostly American publishers — have been very active in for many years. That’s the subgenre of Cthulhu games (or Lovecraft Games or Mythos Games, as you prefer). This Halloween I’m going to spotlight them by taking a creepy tour through about twenty-five years’ worth of Cthulhoid ludographics.
As will probably become obvious by the breadth of this article, I’m a big fan of the Old Gentleman from Providence. It’s not necessarily because of his writing, but rather because of the huge mythology that’s sprung out of it, with hundreds of authors all adding their own element — each of which might be picked up by other authors, creating a massive web of interrelated stories. I’ve even offered my own contribution, a comic book called Return to Arkham that you can find over at Skotos. It ties in to our own Lovecraftian computer game.
But even introduction, let’s get those blasphemous games.
In my real life I work for Skotos Tech, an online gaming company that’s increasingly becoming an online entertainment company. Our newest site, which I launched last week, is Xenagia, a community site all about fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Thus far we’ve got a forum and a book index, with plans to add reviews in a couple of weeks.
(And, if you’re interested in the topics, please stop on by, as we’re working hard to create a community, particularly on the forums.)
Because of my work on Xenagia, I’ve been largely immersed in these three genres over the last couple of weeks, and that’s what led to this article, talking about science-fiction and fantasy (and to a lesser extent, horror) in gaming.
There are any number of ways to review games and say which are best. I regularly write gameplay reviews at RPGnet. Here on Gone Gaming, I’ve written previews, yearly lists, and more.
However ultimately I think one of the best guides of “what’s good” (or, at least, “what’s good for me”) is what gets played. No matter how beautiful and elegant a game is, if it never gets played because it’s ten hours long, it’s hard to count it as a good game. Hence the yearly “nickel and dime” lists where people talk about what games they’ve played at least five or ten times.
In past years my nickel and dime lists have been somewhat uninteresting. They tended to focus on the 2-player games that I played with my wife. Alas, my wife has largely stopped playing games this year, but on the upside my 5&10 list is a more accurate reflection of my gaming tastes (with perhaps too much emphasis on fillers).
Gaming expansions. They’re a way of life — particularly if your game has just won the SdJ, or alternatively is published by Fantasy Flight Games. (If both happen some day, we can only assume that the expansions will have expansions.)
Frankly, I like expansions, or at least I like the basic theory thereof. If a game is well-designed or otherwise enjoyable, I want to be able to play it more, but on the other hand my constant need for novelty requires me to go out and find new games to play. Expansions for games that I already like meet both needs.
However last weekend while playing The Dunwich Horror, the second and newest expansion for Arkham Horror, I increasingly realized that in my mind some expansions work, and others are, to put it topically, turkeys. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed The Dunwich Horror, and it’s going to get played again, but I also think that FFG is advancing right down the path that makes me most leary of gaming expansion.
Generally, I categorize gaming expansions into four types: permanent expansions; one-time expansions; replacements; and alternative games. As we’ll see, The Dunwich Horror falls into the first category, and the one I like least.
In 1974 Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson published the first ever roleplaying game,Dungeons & Dragons. It grew naturally out of the wargaming industry — where in 1972′s second edition of the Chainmail miniatures game Gary Gygax had introduced all sorts of fantasy critters, including wizards, heroes, hobbits, dwarves, balrogs, and ents, to the world of medieval wargaming. Dungeons & Dragons was just the next step. It gave players the opportunity to take the individual roles of some of those heroes in smaller-scale skirmishes.
I use the word “skirmish” purposefully because that’s what the earliest Dungeons & Dragons games really were. A look at the earliest D&D supplements reveals that they were little more than tactical exercises, where players moved from one room to the next in a dungeon, cavern, or other carefully keyed location — and fought whatever they found within.
Roleplaying games matured slowly. There were a few village adventures early on, which offered some ability to interact with people other than at the tip of a sword, but they were scattered and far between. It was at least 1984, and the release of TSR’s Dragonlance, before people started to realize that roleplaying adventures could tell stories too.
Which is all to say that it’s an entirely modern bias.