Game-O-Gami’s David Sanhueza Talks Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! and Digital Games

Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule!

Green goblin drawn by Mike Maihack stirs his pot of Earwax Stew for rhyming card game Goblins Drool Fairies Rule!

One of Sanhueza’s Favorite Cards

CG: First: Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! How much thought went into fairy vs. faery or faerie?
DS: A bit, actually. Originally, being the fantasy nerd that I am, I spelled it “Faery / Faeries”. But a friend of mine suggested that “Fairy/Fairies” would be more familiar to a broader audience. He’s a smart guy, and I agreed, so there you have it.
 
CG: Please tell me that I’m not the only one that inverts the name and messes it up, Fairies Rule, Goblins Drool, Goblins Rule, Fairies Drool, etc.
DS: Yeah… it’s a mouthful. I knew it would be rough because even I have a hard time saying it sometimes, haha. So yes, you’re not the only one who gets the name mixed up. I tried coming up with some other names, but “Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule!” just felt right for the game. And it’s good branding too, because even when people screw the name up, you still know what they’re talking about.
 
CG: How did you decide on the number of cards in the pack?
DS: It came about mathematically. The whole game is based on a matrix of stats: Side (fairy or goblin), Rhyme Group, and Symbol. 2 Sides x 5 Rhyme Groups x 4 Symbols = 40 characters. 2 characters per side, so 20 cards. 4 cards per player made for a quick, fun game. And this worked out well for a game up to 4 players (with the last 4 cards going into the Fairy Ring.)

I think at one point it might have been 30 cards (by having 6 symbols instead of 4) and been up to 5 players, with each player getting 5 cards (and 5 in the middle.) But with so many symbols, the game was too easy and more unpredictable at the same time.
 
CG: What’s your personal favorite goblin or fairy?
DS: Concept wise, I love Earwax Stew and Goblin Soup. They’re silly and delightfully gross, and I’m glad the illustrations turned out so well for those two. Also, Kokopelli, who has quickly become a fan-favorite. The line art for Cringe and Cower and Poppy Smock are just awesome. And the colors of Pixie Power and Salamander Snoop came out beautifully. Mike really did a tremendous job on all of the characters for the game, but to me, these ones stand out.
 
CG: Were there any goblin names you had to eliminate? I forget if there is a Poop in there.
DS: Haha, nothing gross… just some incorrect rhymes. For example, “Hiccup Howler” used to be part of the same group as “Dusty Dour” and “Cringe and Cower”. That kind of rhymes, but isn’t a true rhyme, so it got changed to “Needs a Shower”.
 
CG: When you watch gamers play your game, how easy is it to read their strategy or see whether they even have one?
DS: Pretty easy, since many players tend to strategize out-loud. It’s not just with GDFR!, either. Often when I play other board and card games, I observe that people like to talk about their strategies. Sometimes gloating, sometimes complaining, or sometimes just trying to reason things out to themselves. It’s part of what makes tabletop gaming so social. 
 
CG: How did you connect with Game Salute and when will Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! be available in stores?
DS: I contacted Game Salute directly with a phone call back in January. I had seen their stamp on a few other game company websites, and later listened to a podcast interview with their CEO, Dan Yarrington. After a couple of conversations over the next few months, and sending them an early demo copy of GDFR!, we signed a support agreement and got to work on getting the game ready for Kickstarter.

Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! will arrive in stores by December of this year.
 
CG: With the successful Kickstarter-funding of Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule!, is there anything you would have done differently? 
DS: One of the things we owe the success on Kickstarter to, is all of the very positive reviews that the game received. Each time a review was posted on a site like Geek Dad or The Dice Tower, our pledges spiked for the next 2-3 days. Unfortunately, we had very few copies of the game ready when the project launched. More copies were printed, but not until mid-way through the campaign which gave us very little time to get them out to reviewers. I believe we could have done even better if we had printed many more copies and mailed them out a week or two before the campaign even started.
 
[The Game Whisperer has an informative podcast interview with David Sanhueza that further details his successful Kickstarter campaign, including details on shipping, the goal of $5000, and more on the game’s scratch-n-sniff inspiration.]
 

David Sanhueza’s Gaming Background

Game developer David Sanhueza photographed reading

Game-O-Gami Founder David Sanhueza

CG: Backing up, what’s your background as a gamer?
DS: I’ve been playing all sorts of games for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I really got into video games around age 6. I spent countless hours playing games at arcades, on my Atari 2600, and my Commodore 64. When I got a little older, I started playing lots of board games with my family, like Battleship, Risk, and Chess. I went through an RPG phase, and then a CCG phase. They weren’t just fun, they really inspired my imagination.
CG: What games did you play during those phases?
DS: For RPGs, it was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness, Champions, and the Amber Diceless Role-Playing Game that I loved and played the most. Also some World of Darkness games. I used to spend hours and hours simply reading other RPG books, like AD&D, even without ever actually playing them. Great for the imagination.

For CCGs, Magic: the Gathering, of course. Also Jyhad (Vampire), Star Wars, Middle Earth, and Rage. Loved the visceral style of Rage. And that feel of quick and brutal combat is the inspiration for another card game that I’ve been working on for a while now.

More recently, I got back into playing board and card games like Dominion, Carcassonne, Stone Age, and Samurai. And of course, I still love video games.
CG: Is this Konstantin Krivenko and Richard Borg’s Samurai Battles from Zvezda?
DS: No, it’s the Reiner Knizia board game Samurai. Very elegant game. 
 
CG: How did you get into the computer game industry in 1998 and where did you study animation/art?
DS: I studied animation at Northeastern University, in Boston. One of the great things about NU is their co-op program, which requires students to work paid internships with companies in their field of study. On one of these co-op assignments found me working at Turbine Entertainment as a playtester on Asheron’s Call, an MMO game they were developing at the time. It was a great job, and I learned so much about game development and the industry from my time there, even though I didn’t get to do any animation.

The first job where I really got to apply the skills I had been studying came after college. In 2003, I landed a position as a 3D artist at Stainless Steel Studios. I got to work on some pretty awesome games, like Empires and Rise & Fall. Also made some of the best friends I’ve ever had there.
 
CG: What specifically did you do as an 3D artist, character designs? Backgrounds? 
DS: As a 3D artist in a small-to-medium-sized game dev studio, you often end up juggling a variety of roles depending on the needs of the project you’re working on. I created model and textures for environment objects as well as characters. I did a lot of character animation, which I love, including doing the technical setup. I even scripted  and animated full 3D cinematic sequences. Later, I moved into management roles directing and mentoring other artists.
 

Game Design and Game-O-Gami

Fairy in blue dress named Baby Blue totes some Teddy Bears for Game-O-Gami's Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule!CG: What goes on at the Game Developers Conference?
DS: The GDC is the biggest annual conference where computer/video game developers meet up to talk shop. There are seminars and round-tables where industry professionals talk about development techniques and business practices related to making games. There are floor-shows where companies promote their services and new games get played. A lot of networking and publishing deals go down as well.
 
CG: What new game did I see you playtesting the other night at the Vegas Board Games Meetup? Was this Deck Tactics?
DS: It’s a deck-building strategy game based around mythology. In the game, you and your opponents build your own dream-teams of gods, heroes, and monsters. Clever placement of your characters allows you to turn your opponent’s forces against them, and use them to build up your deck in successive rounds. And of course, your opponents are trying to do the same to you.

The working title was “Deck Tactics”, yes. Virtually everyone I’ve talked to has agreed that this is a horrible name, haha. So the working title has changed to, “Legends At War”, as you can see on the GAME-O-GAMI website. Whether that will or will not be the final name for the game, I’m going to leave up to our followers. On BoardGameGeek.com, and on our own website, the community will be given the chance to suggest names and then vote on which title finally gets used.


CG: How does being an artist yourself help you in your game design? Would you have ever drawn the cards for GDFR! yourself rather than having Mike Maihack do them? 
DS: It helps immensely. I’m able to do the art direction and graphic design on my games, which are important aspects to a good game that sometimes go overlooked. My experience also allows me to communicate clearly with other artists, which is incredibly important when it comes to developing a cohesive vision and making sure illustrations get done without needing a lot of revisions.

For a long time, I considered drawing the characters for GDFR! myself. I would have loved doing that. But in the end, I had to embrace my limitations. GAME-O-GAMI is a brand new company, and I am the founder. That means I am the full-time designer, producer, chief financial officer, webmaster, art director, and marketing guy. So getting someone as talented as Mike Maihack, whose natural art style fit so perfectly with the soul of this game, to take on those illustrations was a godsend. The quality of the artwork in my games is so important to me. Choosing the right artists for each project allows me to proceed with confidence and focus on the many, many other tasks that need to get done. That said, I would love to sneak some of my own art in here and there if I found the time, and Legends At War might give me the opportunity to do that.
  
CG: What platform are your digital games going to be on? Is this playing Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule on Facebook or would this be an app for smart phones and pad devices? Console games?
DS: Initially, we’ll be creating games for smart phones and tablets: namely the iPhone, iPad, and Android platforms. There’s a good chance that those games will be released on PC shortly afterwards, through platforms like Steam. I have a lot of fun ideas for console games that I am excited about, but that’s at least a few years away. Baby steps.
CG: Will GDFR necessarily be the first digital release or is that still up in the air? 
DS: Probably not. Although I can’t talk about it yet, there are other things in the works.
 
CG: Will your electronic games be developed in-house? 
DS: They will be developed partly in-house, and partly with outside contractors. This allows me to focus on what I’m good at, and find the right people to take care of the rest.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview! I look forward to bringing more fun games to light in the future.

All images copyright Game-O-Gami or David Sanhueza, used with permission.

Monopoly: The World’s Most Famous Game & How It Got That Way by Philip E. Orbanes

Book cover to Philip Orbanes Monopoly book with Monopoly-patterned backgroundMonopoly: The World’s Most Famous Game & How it Got That Way is aptly named. Author and Monopolyphile Philip E. Orbanes traces the roots of Monopoly from Elizabeth Magie Phillips’ Landlord Game in 1903, following its course up to 2006 when the book was published by Da Capo Press. Like most middle-class Americans, I’ve played dozens of games of Monopoly in my life and have even won a few. I have to confess that once I became aware of role-playing games and board games like Axis & Allies and Heroquest, I mostly put Monopoly aside and scorned it, but Orbanes’ writing makes me rethink my anti-Monopoly stance and I now want to try playing a few games of it competitively. Other than knowing its playing spaces and basic rules which have become engrained in Western culture (Get Out of Jail Free Card, Do Not Pass Go, Community Chest), I only knew that Parker Brothers was Monopoly’s manufacturer. The last time I “played” Monopoly involved McDonald’s playing pieces for the fast food giant’s annual promotion, so even learning that Monopoly’s playing spaces are named after real streets and neighborhoods in Atlantic City was quite a revelation for me.

Besides learning that basic Monopoly fact, I was also pleasantly surprised to find so much American and world history in the history of a single board game. Orbanes explores the presidential policies and the underlying economies of the years during Monopoly’s development, mostly glossing over the Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon administrations, but otherwise framing Monopoly’s growth with changes in our nation’s leaders. He also ties interest in Monopoly to the real world spread of monopolistic businesses, as well as the resulting antitrust actions, bankruptcies, and the move towards business conglomerates including Parker Brothers’ absorption by General Mills. IBM and AT&T also figure into Orbanes’ narrative. Monopoly’s role in WWII is particularly engrossing. British license-holder John Waddington Ltd., the publisher of card games, theater bills, and Monopoly, mastered the art of silk printing, with silk maps being useful to supply British pilots and ground forces with a stronger, more tear-resistant, lighter-weight map that didn’t rustle when unfolded. But Monopoly had a more direct link to the war effort according to Orbanes.The British intelligence service M19 had copies of the game distributed to Allies serving in Axis P.O.W. camps by the Red Cross. John Waddington Ltd. concealed escape tools like abrasive files and compasses embedded into the boards. Real world currency was hidden in the game’s playing money. Orbanes cites 35,000 Allied POWs who managed to escape Axis camps, but so highly classified was the secret operation that the actual number of POWs aided specifically by Monopoly is unknown.

While much of the book is a well-written history of the game, Orbanes also tackles the U.S., Canadian, and World Monopoly Championships, which he played a large part in organizing and judging himself. Orbanes joined Parker Brothers in 1979. At this point in Monopoly: The World’s Most Famous Game & How It Got That Way, his account of Parker Brothers’ practices becomes somewhat weaker rather than stronger. Orbanes provides little in the way of an insider’s insight into Parker Brother’s operations, much less any criticism of his employer. The entire book is similarly free of any criticism or negativity despite Monopoly’s involvement in lawsuits and disputes over who its actual creator was. The most critical reception that Monopoly gets in this history is a banning from the Nazis and other fascist governments and from the Communists during the Cold War. I have to imagine that some grognards or game critics might have taken issue with the company’s publication of Monopoly: The Mega Edition in 2006, in which the game’s spaces are expanded from 40 to 52 and a new movement mechanic is introduced, but Orbanes is silent on such a point. However one of the developments during his tenure that really stood out was the Franklin Mint’s $600 version of the game with over 100,000 copies sold! Do the math.

As for who actually created Monopoly, Orbanes attributes it to Elizabeth Magie Phillips, but the game went through many changes and iterations in between Phillips’ 1903 patent for the Landlord’s Game and its eventual publication in 1935 by Parker Brothers. From Phillips the basics of the game had spread among socialists, academics, and other fellow proponents of the single tax, which had originally been championed by Henry George in his 1879 book Progress and Poverty. As Orbanes narrates the spread of Monopoly through college campuses via handmade versions of Phillips’ game, he notes changes introduced. These are well-illustrated with graphical examples of the design changes over the years, early advertisements, and photo inserts of the game’s contributors, as well as an appendix of rules changes. These changes reached their culmination in the form of the unemployed Charles Darrow who first played the game in 1932 and who had 500 games produced in 1934, eventually selling his “rights” to Monopoly to Parker Brothers in 1935. The rules were then further distilled and formalized and the game of Monopoly was truly born, selling two million copies within two years during the height of the Great Depression.

If you’re looking for an answer on why Monopoly’s play money has its characteristic hues or why particular playing tokens were chosen, you’ll have to find them elsewhere. Orbanes does provide an excellent list of sources to find those answers though and I found his coverage of Monopoly collectors fascinating. Some collectors have over 400 different editions of the game or of the affinity editions, which are the Star Wars or NFL-themed versions replacing the familiar Board Walk and Park Place with each setting’s exclusive property. These collectors trawl eBay regularly looking for rare versions of the game. Orbanes is also no stranger to publishing previous works on Monopoly, having authored The Monopoly Companion (1999) and The Game Makers (2003). He lists the following among resources for fans of the game: World of Monopoly, Hasbro’s own Monopoly site, Tim Walsh’s The Playmakers, and Albert Veldhuis’s research.

I doubt I need to suggest that an existing fan of Monopoly should read Orbanes’ book, but whether you’re a board gamer or a role-player, I do suggest Monopoly: The World’s Most Famous Game & How it Got that Way. For any student who finds 20th century American history dull, especially its economic history, Orbanes’ take on Monopoly may be just the right enlightening avenue of approach.

Book cover copyright Da Capo Press, used with permission.

Playing with Trains: A Passion Beyond Scale by Sam Posey

Hand holding HO-scale figure and locomotive on cover of Playing with Trains by Sam PoseySeveral years before my first D&D character ever cast his first Magic Missile, I had become enchanted with the world of miniatures and model railroads in particular. For a Christmas or a birthday when I was nine or so, I picked out an HO-scale model railroad set from a Michael’s in Texas and then would occasionally purchase a new boxcar, a horrible styrofoam mountain with a tunnel, or some miniature townsfolk in anticipation of the great layout my father and I were building together. A figure eight or a simple loop would never do for him. Instead, the layout he began building himself on a huge sheet of plywood stored under my parents’ bed had multiple inclines and an elaborate, intricate track layout, a Byzantine affair that was never completed. Aside from a few test runs, my locomotive never made any sort of journey and I believe it was probably thrown away or sold at a garage sale.

Sam Posey fared a bit better with his first train layout. His mother wired his layout for him, after purchasing his first Lionel train for him, and is thus responsible for helping to inspire the charming memoir that is Playing with Trains: A Passion Beyond Scale. Even though the book only touches upon gaming tangentially, Posey writes so eloquently that I would suggest Playing with Trains to any gamers who enjoy reading about others’ passions and broadening their horizons a bit, but especially to modelers and scenery guys. Posey quotes model railroader Malcolm Furlow, in a sentiment I wholly endorse “Scenery – that’s what attracts people, gets them excited.” There is something almost magical about a good model railroad layout, just as there is with most of the game boards that Games Workshop or Privateer Press feature in their magazines. Whatever the quality of a miniature’s sculpt, unpainted miniatures don’t sell wargames and painted miniatures on top of stacked books as hills. fighting amidst soda cans just don’t do it for me either, nor for Sam Posey when it comes to model railroading. Playing with Trains is a chronicle of the 6,000 hours he spent on his Colorado Midland layout spanning 16 years, from the time when his son was around four until his son was in college.

I had never heard of Sam Posey before and was therefore ignorant of his racing and subsequent TV broadcasting career, but these play a tiny role in Playing with Trains, only relating occasionally, such as Posey’s parody of fellow driver Paul Newman’s Newman’s Own line of salad dressing on Posey’s layout, which Posey included in the form of a Newman’s Own factory polluting a river. Most of the book is instead filled with references to model railroading pioneers like Joshua Lionel Cowen, John Allen, and Dave Frary. Posey’s layout was photographed by Dave Frary for Model Railroader magazine, with Frary being the author of How to Build Realistic Model Railroad Scenery, which I also have been reading. Posey gives overviews of the contributions of these men and others like them and yes, they are always men. As he writes, “Trains are a guy thing.” This is an area where model railroads and miniature gaming diverge slightly. Posey does acknowledge a female or two involved involved in his hobby, including his mother and he waxes poetic about the primal draw of men and boys to trains. He is just as poetic with his captivating account of the storied and brief life of the real-life Colorado Midland he drew upon for inspiration. He also visits Kalmbach Publishing, the model railroad wholesale distributor W.K. Walthers Company, and gives an account of a recent trip on a passenger line, the Silver Meteor, from New York City down to Orlando, Florida. Posey manages to keep Playing with Trains playful and light, hitting upon some schisms in the hobby, without getting bogged down in arguments about gauges or scale rivalries, though over and over again it would seem that most of his fellow railroaders got into model railroading because of Lionel and all seem to share a hatred of its dreaded, unrealistic third rail.

What I Took Away from Playing with Trains

There aren’t really any technical lessons in scenery-making to be gleaned from Posey’s book. However, there are a number of thought-provoking possibilities it illustrates. Posey attends a Model Railroad Skills Institute four-day workshop, the sixth of its kind with instructors like Dave Frary, Tony Koester, and George Sellios, all big names in model railroading and ponies up $1700 for the privilege. What if there were a terrain-making class from Mike from Terranscapes, Jason Buyaki, or Pat Ohta? I think part of the appeal for Posey’s six fellow students was a bit of fanboy awe and the security of knowing that they were doing it the “right” way. Even though Playing with Trains was published in 2006, when there already were plenty of tutorials online, for the Institute’s seven students the $1700 price was right for such individualized instruction. I can imagine some Games Workshop fans willing to pay for their chance at private instruction with the “pros” despite the wealth of free tutorials on Youtube and other websites. This concept doesn’t have to be exclusively about terrain. How much would some fans pay to play in a D&D game with R.A. Salvatore or to playa Game of Thrones RPG with George R.R. Martin? I am used to thinking of miniature wargaming as an expensive hobby, but the model railroad guys take it to a different scale. Locomotives with sound can cost $280 and a private layout from Dave Frary and Bob Hayden can “require up to eight sessions, at $10,000 apiece.” $80,000 layouts could really pay the bills for gamers who enjoy modeling, though part of that cost is surely the value of Frary’s and Hayden’s name attached to the owner’s layout.

Aside from the interesting financial opportunities present in the model railroad hobby, Posey presents evidence of model railroaders who play with their trains in a game-like fashion, though I hesitate to say that they are playing games when they go down to their basement layouts. Posey has it right: they are “playing with trains”. At many of the fancier layouts with multiple trains running on the tracks the owner will invite or allow other railroaders to control a particular train. Posey describes an evening with eight other operators on John Pryke’s New Haven Railroad. Pryke directs the eight operators via headsets and they follow a timetable strictly for two hours of such play. These evenings are repeated with minor variations on Jim Hediger’s and Tony Koester’s layouts when Posey visits them. Running a layout solo must be like a war gamer posing his troops in a diorama or for a picture, this would seem to be the heady time that they get to be the masters of their little microcosm. Having friends over to help must then be equivalent to a large multiplayer battle with the layout owner serving as commander-in-chief.

I also found Posey’s and his subject’s concerns with realism fascinating. Posey writes about a second possible layout: “We thought of creating a hillside, with real dirt, that would fill Ellen’s [his wife’s] whole studio, then having it professionally surveyed and engineering a route for a single track that would take a train from the bottom to the top, a climb of fourteen feet.” What captivates Posey the most at a train show in Springfield, Massachusetts at the end of the book is a working model of the Erie Canal’s Lock 17 utilizing real water which Posey writes, “was surprisingly convincing.” I have wanted to do some garden wargaming (despite the absence of a garden or lawn in front of my house) a la H.G. Wells’ Little Wars for some time. The temptation of using actual nature and real scenery is obviously strong across the gaming-model railroad divide.

According to Posey, actual water was already being used in toy forts as early as when he was in first grade: “The forts were based on medieval castles. The most elaborate had drawbridges, portcullises, battlements, operating catapults, and moats that held real water. Lead soldiers could be arranged as attackers and defenders.” However Posey was not a fort guy; he was a train guy. In his youth, “you were a train guy or a fort guy – no one had both trains and a fort.” Now we are free, of course, to have both and Sam Posey has provided an excellent introduction into the world of model railroading with Playing with Trains that I will refer back to when going about building an N-scale layout for my Heavy Gear figures to battle over or a larger scale track for use in Warmachine.

Cover art courtesy Random House.

The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons, and Growing Up Strange

Book cover for Elfish Gene depicting red cartoon dragon and character sheet for Dungeons and DragonsThe Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons, and Growing Up Strange by Mark Barrowcliffe is just as much about growing up in Britain in the 1970s as it is about early Dungeons and Dragons and a few other select RPGs. It is also a very quick and entertaining read. Barrowcliffe lays out the premise of his book on the second page, explaining that he lived and breathed RPGs (and fantasy) from the age of eleven to sixteen, followed by twice-a-week sessions until he was twenty. The Elfish Gene captures this impressionable time in his life, as well as how he transitioned out of role-playing. If you are expecting an old timer’s feelings on World of Warcraft or the move from 3.5 to 4th Edition, look elsewhere, but if you enjoy reading about the Arduin Grimoire, the Empire of the Petal Throne, and numerous juvenile D&D arguments, The Elfish Gene is a must-read. The book is also exceptional if you like occasionally poignant films and books about adolescence and an author’s reflections on his youth. If the characters in Stand By Me were D&D players of the 1970s I think you would have something close to Barrowcliffe’s book.

Barrocliffe’s Style

Barrowcliffe’s writing in The Elfish Gene lends itself to the reader imagining and predicting where a particular chapter is headed. When a chapter has a title like “The Gathering of the Clouds”, the reader can imagine what problems might befall the young Barrowcliffe and rain on his life. This is usually a good trait in writing. In most chapters though, Barrowcliffe writes a few paragraphs or pages about a development in his role-playing life, but then meanders off on some side quest explaining a facet of British society in the 70s before the main quest is rejoined. While such delays build anticipation, they can get quite frustrating. Aside from minor issues with him getting to the point though, his style in The Elfish Gene is quite strong with ample explanations of RPG terms when needed and layered references to preceding portions of the memoir. The Elfish Gene is thoroughly engaging, even if the author’s eventual move away from role-playing in university had me shaking my head and left a bitter taste in my mouth. I am grateful though that Barrowcliffe’s departure from RPGs allowed him to pursue a course in journalism and to take up writing, eventually producing this memoir that I have enjoyed so much.

Barrowcliffe’s Humor Gene

Perhaps more importantly than his ability to tell his own tale, Barrowcliffe’s writing is full of humor. No, I didn’t laugh uproariously as I read The Elfish Gene, but I was generally entertained and chuckled through a good portion of it. While he was getting into D&D in 1977 and I first played it in 1989, I immediately recognized a number of his gamers as familiar from my own junior high friends. The personalities of gamers have not really changed in the intervening twelve years – or even thirty – and Barrowcliffe brings these personalities across with humor, even if a character only persists for a few paragraphs. There’s the overly-literal, argumentative characters who make such perceptive statements as “Football is for morons and thugs … Superior people play Dungeons and Dragons.” There is the loquacious DM Steve who introduces a Strider-like character, “His cloak is of motley, and his breeks are spattered with the mud of a hundred journeys. Tall if he, and imposing of stature, though he sits unassumingly. Perhaps you might not remark him on first glance until your gaze lingers a little longer and you see the burning coals that are his eyes!“. Then there is the frustratingly brief Dave who is always “A man in a cloak.” Barrowcliffe doesn’t spare himself though. In fact, he’s the main source of humor. His pride in obtaining the nickname of Spaz is just the start of his social obliviousness that pops up again and again throughout The Elfish Gene.

This ignorance and boorishness make for some of the best moments of his memoir, which I was dying to share with my wife. Almost every role-playing layman he meets is subjected to interrogations on Dungeons & Dragons and Barrowcliffe’s evangelism for the gaming hobby that consumed his life. When he writes that “I knew far more about the wants and needs of a golden dragon than I ever did a girl,” Barrowcliffe goes on to demonstrate that with example after embarrassing example. When presented with the chance to go to second base with an older girl at the age of 11, Barrowcliffe instead expands on D&D’s appeal, “Look. It’s the best and most sophisticated wargame ever devised”. Incredibly, he doesn’t drive her away and a humorous exchange about her Charisma score of 6 ensues. This sets the stage for later encounters. When first visiting a proper game store, Barrowcliffe introduces himself to the proprietor thusly:

‘I’m Spaz Barrowcliffe,’ I said, ‘I called you earlier on. D&D magic-user level 25, EPT priest level 4,’ (Billy was a bit of a martinet when it came to seeing the rules were followed) Traveller marine with a pretty good platform of skills, if I say so myself.’

‘I know what you’re thinking,’ I said. ‘Elves can’t go beyond ninth level as magic-users, so why have I got one of twenty-fifth level? In one word, “Wish spells.”‘

The owner is understandably non-plussed and a bit confused and the boys later speculate that the shop owner plays a “Fiftieth-level human cleric, no races… probably with the Mace of Cuthbert and some other one-off magical items. I wouldn’t have thought he’d be overly laden down with potions. Invisibility maybe, but he’d have CLW and CSW as spells so he’d more than likely trade them in for something more magic usery.” The book abounds with such humorous encounters and I found most of them to be on the light-hearted end of the spectrum. Barrowcliffe reserves most of any negativity or venom for himself, but again, he is also the most comical character in the memoir.

Further Thoughts on the Elfish Gene

The Elfish Gene is quite meaty and also surprisingly thought-provoking for a book about RPGs in the 1970s. I know that I will be returning to it for his insights on RPGs, gamers, and gaming, but the following immediately stuck out to me about the book.

The Pursuit of the Supernatural and the Occult

By the time I got into D&D, there were still murmurs of charges alleging ties from RPGs to Satanism and the occult in Dragon Magazine’s Forum section and in letters to its editors, but I had missed most of the furor of the 1980s. Barrowcliffe ironically was one of those players who actually was trying to cast spells and summon demons. As he writes, “When I say I thought I could be a wizard, that’s exactly true. I really did believe I had latent magical powers, and, with enough concentration and fiddling my fingers into strange patterns, I might suddenly find how to unlock the magic inside me.” Barrowcliffe was inspired by Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea and his own desire for untold untapped power hiding within him. While I have to confess to still trying to move things telekinetically from time to time, Barrowcliffe really went a lot further with humorous results as he tries to perform a magic ritual in an English graveyard with his aptly-named friend Rat, who once tried to summon Cthulhu. As Barrowcliffe surmises, “Summoning Cthulhu is roughly the same as trying to summon Peter Pan.” Instead, Barrowcliffe attempts a Golden Dawn ceremony after studying Aleister Crowley’s teachings and having experimented with magic mushrooms. As he demonstrates though (and Rat too), there are a number of role-players who try to tap into the supernatural. Whether they really proportionately exceed other children or adolescents trying to do the same, is a matter for further research. In Barrowcliffe’s view on his obsessive interest, “D&D didn’t encourage my leanings towards trying magic of my own at all. In fact, it frustrated them.” He argues that instead D&D gave him a more stimulating outlet for his interests, but this doesn’t quite explain why he persisted in trying to cast spells as he got older.

British Politics and Class System

I think students of classism and domestic British socio-politics of the 1970s would benefit from a read of The Elfish Gene due to Barrowcliffe’s anecdotes and observations. Aside from the role-playing and coming of age aspects, class and politics really make up the rest of the book and were a huge part of Barrowcliffe’s teenage reality. Soccer or football might get a line or two, but there are pages and pages on socialism, communism, and fascism. Barrowcliffe grew up working class and later flaunts it when he arrives at university and his classmates long for any sort of street cred. Earlier though, his Nazi-admiring gamer friends who are pretentious and think of themselves as upper class get a firm reminder that they are instead very much working class and are merely being pretentious twats. I do think this third element of the book might turn off other American readers or be a bit incomprehensible, but in saying that I might be the pretentious twat.

Further Readings and Games to Explore

While I do plan on rereading The Elfish Gene again, it has also opened up other books to explore, starting with Barrowcliffe’s other novels. I did read through the first several chapters of Girlfriend 44 before abandoning it and didn’t even make it that far into Infidelity for First-Time Fathers before quitting it too. Deprived of references to RPGs and fantasy, his characters are just too nasty, mundane, and British for my tastes, but I will be trying Lucky Dog as well as his M.D. Lachan books. As he explained in his April interview on this site, M.D. Lachan is Barrowcliffe’s fantasy pen name for a historical fantasy series involving werewolf Vikings. He also has a similarly historical fantasy series forthcoming under the pen name Mark Alder about the Hundred Years’ War.

Elric looms so huge in The Elfish Gene and was such a massive inspiration for Barrowcliffe’s RPG characters, campaigns, and world settings that I will have to read Michael Moorcock. Similarly I now want to read Le Guin’s Earthsea series to see what the fuss is all about too. Then there is Empire of the Petal Throne (EPT). While the vast, vast majority of The Elfish Gene is about D&D, maybe ten to fifteen percent is about EPT, created by linguistics professor M.A.R. Barker. In one very entertaining chapter of the book, Barrowcliffe and GM friend Billy play through a session of EPT while Barrowcliffe’s parents watch a quiz show. As Barrowcliffe characteristically explains EPT to a London shopkeeper as an adult, it’s “The original role–playing game,’ I said, ‘published just after D&D in 1975, though after Chainmail. You have heard of Chainmail? First available through the Owl and Weasel fanzine, precursor of White Dwarf?'” Barrowcliffe celebrates EPT for its novelty and linguistic and economical detail, including its own language and the chlen pack animal whose hide forms the basis of game’s economy.

Barrowcliffe’s Supportive Friends and Family

Earlier I mentioned that the book could be the Stand by Me of 1970s English D&D players. While there is no dead boy by the train tracks, The Elfish Gene has its share of emotional moments and friendships being strained and reaffirmed. Barrowcliffe’s parents appear from time to time and when he is exiled from his D&D group by the older boys, it is Mrs. Barrowcliffe that makes her son a Kermit the Frog stuffed animal which he later uses as a lizardman which he names Krrrllkccr and it is Mrs. Barrowcliffe who finds her son a new wargames club to join. They rather tolerantly allow their son to host 20+ gamers for Saturday gaming with an evening’s notice, which has his mom baking 60 scones and making sandwiches to host them. Other tolerant parents also appear including Billy’s father, an avowed fascist and gun collector with a live hand grenade in his collection. Billy himself is a larger than life character, both literally and figuratively and the loss of his friendship is keenly felt both by Barrowcliffe and the reader. For all the gamers in Barrowcliffe’s life, RPGs were an outlet to be something other than what they were at the time (just as RPGs are now), but the gamers’ friends and family also allowed their obnoxious loved ones to have some respite from the real world to even be able to explore their imaginations. Like some of my friends in junior high (and perhaps myself), Barrowcliffe was particularly obnoxious. It says a lot that his family and friends were supportive and nurturing enough to see him through to less obnoxious times.

Las Vegas Board Games Meetup – June 6, 2012

I got a taste on June 6 for what happens at the Las Vegas Board Games Group when founder Stephan Brissaud is in attendance. He circulated with name tags printed out using Meetup users’ icons, dispensed them, and then also sold raffle tickets for the drawing for Carcassone or one of four Kosmos Games on offer. Tickets were $1, but by buying them ahead of time on-line, attendees could obtain a re-roll of one of the dice. The winner won with a roll of 18 on 3d6.

Lemming Mafia

I had played through Lemming Mafia from Mayfair Games twice before learning that the game was actually called Lemming Mafia and not just Lemmings. Somehow, even though the spaces you land on have a mafia motif of bricking up the lemmings’ feet in concrete and gambling on the outcome of the race, I had missed how important Italian crime families are in the game. Basically you have a race between 6 lemmings. Each turn 2d6 are rolled and on the faces of each die are the six lemming colors. If you get two different lemmings, you can choose which one advances past the next hurdle. While the Juke Joint has dimmer lights than most play environments, I had a hard time associating the red lemming on the dice with the Maroonish Lemming that was supposed to be Red. The Grey and the Purple also confused me just a little, but it could have been the effects of the Guiness I was drinking.

We played it a second time after stumbling through a first game marked by a lot of confusion as there were very few experienced players. One player wisely abandoned ship for the second go-round. I thought the game would be easier and quicker the second time, but increased understanding of what we were trying to do possibly lengthened the game from players taking the time to think about the outcomes of each move.

Lemming figurines start a race on the Mafia Lemmings game board at a bar

Pink Takes the Lead: The Start of a Lemming Mafia Race

While points can be gained from completing random mission objectives, up to 6 points can be won by correctly betting on which lemming will end up in first place. In our games, the “correct” bet seemed to play a large roll in determining the winner, but it also seemed more coincidental than intentional. Only certain spaces on the board allow the bets to be made and the more bets you have beneath your winning lemming color, the more points you gain. The missions have variable points. You might get 2 points if Purple places higher than Pink and then 2 points if either Purple or Green get “concreted” out. At the same time, since they’re random, it’s possible for one player to just get lucky and have a good hand with high values that get fulfilled. For each mission you don’t complete, you lose 2 points. There is also the opportunity for all players to ditch a mission card at several of the spaces on the board, if a lemming happens to land on one.

Even if the subject matter of Mafioso lemmings is questionable, its cartoonish style does seem geared towards children, as well as its basic play mechanics of how to move a lemming and the few choices of actions available each turn. On the other hand, scoring and actually winning at Lemming Mafia will be harder for a child to grasp. I will probably give Lemming Mafia/em> a pass in the future for the same reasons.

Colonia

Besides having never played it before and wanting to try it out, I was also taken in by Colonia’s large playing surface. Made by the German publisher Queen Games and designed by Dirk Henn, the game also features German and English text on the cards. Essentially Colonia is a mercantile resource management game. It also is a strong exercise in odds, predictions, gambling, and variables. The game has a ton of variables. In each of the game’s 6 weeks, someone flips a card which determines how many goods are distributed to the market stalls, how many artisans are willing to turn your raw goods into finished products, and how many ships leave the harbor. The roll of a die further randomizes what the crafters are willing to make for you on Market Day.

The variables go on though. At the beginning of each week, new Edicts are revealed to be voted upon by the players. Each of the four ships in the harbor can have very different cargo orders they want to fill and each ship is owned by a separate country or city, paying the player with their own currency. The game is won by relic purchasing in the market on the seventh day. The cost and victory points awarded from the relics, again, are random with each of the relics only purchasable in a particular currency. What I would have given for a money lender in Colonia! Our game actually did provide us with the opportunity to exchange currency twice through the successful passage of an Edict granting currency conversion.

Game board for Colonia showing Meeple playing pieces and random cards

Colonia Game In Progress: Meeples Gathering on the Streets

The game is further complicated by the changing play order among the players, which happens on the second day each week at the alderhouse or town hall with the election of a new mayor. Players bid a hidden number of Meeples to send to the town hall, varying from 3 to 8. Woe betide the player who bids a higher number of Meeples than he has in reserve! Yeah, woe betide me. I think I was the only person who failed to correctly foresee my neccessary number of Meeples. I did this three times. The penalty is that you don’t get to vote on the Edicts and you go dead last throughout the week. This penalty is actually fairly large, since the game is shifting each week and going last you may not be able to rush your Meeples to a particular locale and wind up sitting on a mass of raw goods as I did one week.

When not electing a new mayor, the Meeples are trotting out to buy things at market for you or to go get your orders fulfilled. One of the things that I really liked about Colonia was that your raw goods and finished goods were represented with markers and they are persistent until they are used. On the other hand, I spent a good portion of the game frustrated because I didn’t have the right raw goods to bring to a crafter or the right finished goods to load aboard a ship. I really would have liked a Cataan-style allowance for trading with the other players. Instead in Colonia you kind of have to sit there and take it. The game isn’t quick either. Ours lasted 2-2.5 hours with three experienced players and two newbies. In the end, the scores seemed fairly close. The winner boasted 21, while second had 17. I had 15 along with a veteran and last place had 11.

Mathematically the game probably has 10-15 variables going on at the same time; it’s complex. Queen Games could easily say that no two games will ever be the same. I am slightly interested in playing Colonia again and this time really slowing any play decisions down to try to understand what effect my action will likely have. However with such an investment of play time, I would like to feel a greater sense of accomplishment at the end of the game. Having a few relics worth 10 points or getting 2 points for having the most of a country’s currency is just not the same as having constructed buildings and wonders in 7 Wonders, expanding your galactic colonies and spaceship in Starfarers of Cataan, or completing quests and constructing buildings in Lords of Waterdeep, as I discovered next.

Lords of Waterdeep

I nearly leapt out of my seat when the chance to play Lords of Waterdeep presented itself and soon was embroiled into its Quests, Intrigues, and making my mark on its game board. Wizards of the Coast have really come up with a great board game that was engaging from start to finish. My actual opponents during the game, much like the ones I had discussed Waterdeep with two weeks before, had no role-playing knowledge of the city of Waterdeep, but enjoy playing the board game. Amidst my enjoyment of the game, I was a little disappointed that having the Forgotten Realms City System and having read Waterdeep in the Avatar Trilogy didn’t give me any advantage in the game. Aside from being able to recognize some of the cards’ references, the game requires zero knowledge of the Forgotten Realms or D&D to play and enjoy.

Completed quests and active quests for Harpers for Lord of Waterdeep Board GameHaving wound up with Mirt the Moneylender as my secret Lord of Waterdeep, I started trying to get and finish as many Commerce quests as I could. I also could receive bonus victory points by completing Piety quests, but I seldom had many clerics, which are represented by white cubes. Fighters are orange cubes, wizards are purple, and rogues are black. After learning that there are no green range cubes I mostly gave up trying to make inferences about the game from my D&D knowledge. Early on I completed the Bribe the Shipwrights Commerce quest allowing me to get a free Thief/Rogue every time an action gave me gold, which proved to be very useful.

Much like Munchkin, when Lords of Waterdeep finished, I was still wrapped up in all the possibilities of play. It was only a third of the way into the game before I grasped the special place that Waterdeep Harbor holds. By visiting it, a player can play an Intrigue card. That is half of it. At the end of the round after all of the pieces have deployed, any piece on one of the three Waterdeep Harbor spots can move again. Playing with three opponents though, there was usually a rush to get onto that location. Also while not as intrinsic to the game or as prevalent as in Munchkin, there are offensive actions you can take in Lords of Waterdeep such as stealing away 2 gold and an adventurer from an opponent via an Intrigue card or forcing them to lose pieces or gold. Without having seen all of the cards in play, it seemed that there are many more cards or buildings though which provide some benefit to your opponent(s) as well as whatever boon they provide to the player using them.

A Lords of Waterdeep game in progress with most of the pieces on the board

The Bustling City of Waterdeep in the 7th Round of the Lords of Waterdeep Game

I jostled for the lead throughout the game with the game’s eventual winner, Robert. He scored 134 playing Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun, while I scored 129. Now I regret not having really tried to finish any of the remaining quests I had in the game’s last turn, despite clear notice that the game was ending. I got caught up in the possibilities of what cool new ability I would have to play with, even though at the end of the game there was no more play time, of course. I wish the game went on longer past eight turns, but I will just have to sate my curiosity and appetite for it by playing it again and again in the future. Personally I would never purchase an abstract Euro game for over $30-$40 and Lords of Waterdeep has an MSRP of $49.99. That said, Lords of Waterdeep provides such a good play experience that I will add it to my Christmas wish list and hope to see it under the tree.

Interview with PK Torretto on P.O.W.E.R.

I interviewed P.O.W.E.R. creator PK Torretto on May 24 and will be reviewing the modern military card game soon. It should be on shelves in stores as early as late June.

PK Torretto’s Background in Gaming

Steel box for POWER sits on playing matt with P.O.W.E.R. cards deployed to playCG: So you came up with the idea for P.O.W.E.R. in 2009 on a car drive from LA to San Francisco, what had you been doing prior to that in terms of gaming?
PKT: In short? Nothing official or professional, but I give myself my own personal trophy for logging in over 465 hours in Oblivion IV. I am, and always have been, an avid gamer. Specifically PC, not console. People have the Commodore 64, Atari or Apple IIe memories, but I can one-up those with this: my family had a TV gaming system that would move a pong-like white dot on the screen and the way you would change games is to apply a different see-thru sheet of a map that would stay onto the TV by the static! Each game would have a different color and maze, but I digress.
CG: But this wasn’t the actual Pong?
PKT: No, no. The white dot was like that of Pong and we had several games, Haunted House, Treasure Finder, which were different themes on a see-thru plastic sheet that would stick the TV and stay because of the static. Then you would play with the pong-like dot through these stick-on maps/games. That must have been 1975? I have no idea on the name of the manufacturer. [The Magnavox Odyssey from 1973.] Genius for the time. Of course I played Magic when it first came out 1994ish and revisited it around 2008. I played all the popular board games throughout my youth, like Life and Monopoly, and pen-and-paper D&D big time. Our DM wrote a thesis at Cal Berkeley about the learning/teaching opportunities of D&D!
CG: Do you remember his name?
PK: Dennis O’Flaherty from Ancient Dragon Comics in San Rafael, CA. Clerics had to cast spells in German, Mages in Latin, to name some examples. Man do I miss those days!

The Development of P.O.W.E.R.

Playing grid on a board game surface with military-themed POWER cards in play

P.O.W.E.R. in Development: As a Board Game

CG: Wow. I’ll have to look him and the thesis up then. You played Magic in the 90s, but you went with a non-collectible format. Was that inspired by your Magic-playing days?
PKT: The booster pack-buying, luckier guy gets the better card? I just didn’t like it. When I would play with the Magic professionals they would get a circular combo and just win, period. I didn’t have access to these cards as a casual player and that’s why I made certain the U.S. Core Pack’s game ranks Private to Master Sergeant must be played using only the Core Packs. Thus? “The richer player doesn’t win” as in Magic (assuming one buys enough boosterpacks that money spent supercedes luck). The Air/Sea expansion and Officer Game Ranks lifts this restriction and you can play with any card you own when deck-building.
CG: What has the retailer reaction been to that idea? Magic: TG arguably puts a lot of money into their registers because of its collectible nature.
PKT: They love it. Apparently the thought of buying boosters over and over again to get the cards you want just leaves a “bad taste in their mouth” and for a new game? They just will opt not to buy-in and play it from the get-go. Hence the LCG market was born. And I developed this game prior to FFG’s trademark of that term, widely used nowadays. Moreover, the online selling and purchasing of individual cards really upsets the business model in my eyes. The richest player truly wins at that point. Remember, P.O.W.E.R. is a deck-building tactical card game “where the cards are pieces with movement and range.”
CG: You came up with the game in 2009, some of your copyrights are listed as early as 2010, so what’s been happening in the interim, if you could give us an overview of P.O.W.E.R.’s development.
PKT: In the first half of 2009 – competitive research on wargames. How many? What type? What era? No board game was modern warfare… and all the video games were! Even by namesake. So first, there was nothing like it. There was a niche. After the I-5 drive? I laid out all the pieces in Excel. They looked like Monopoly cards.

Since the cards have movement and range and take up space, I experimented with different sizes to shorten the field of play, but the amount of info and legibility became an issue. Pricing too at the end of it all, actually. Then playtests started in the last half of 2009. Once the name was decided? I started the trademark process to protect it. Both word mark and design mark with help from a college buddy, Sho Higuchi.

Then 2010 was all patent. The crazy thing is if you know about it because you look it up? That’s “willful infringement” and three times damages. Talk about ignorance is bliss! [That] led to a complete redesign and the birth of the Build Queue, which I may patent if possible. I also set up my LLC this year and all that company stuff, like taxes.

I started finalizing the design in 2011 and looking for printers/manufacturers and the like. I decided to go with less information on the card and more icons and logos which led to the major info redesign of having buzz words or traits not a paragraph explaining what each card does over and over. So Immobile Fire is when a card can’t move and shoot the same turn. instead of writing that on every card, I can just list it, in hopes that in the future I can just say “Immobile Fire” and not define it.

P.O.W.E.R.’s Build Queue and Future Mechanics

A vinyl map with a verdant green hill background is the playing grounds for PK Torretto's P.O.W.E.R.

The Vinyl Playing Matts are an Accessory

CG: You mention the Build Queue. I know that it was, in part, inspired by Real Time Strategy games, what are some of your favorite RTS games?
PKT: Here’s the thing, I don’t like them. I think they are broken (or I can break them) mathematically (my major at UCLA). Starcraft, Dawn of War II, you name it. There is a sweet spot of either wait and pounce, or steadily chop down the tree, that is always there. Always. Maps/terrain restrictions can change this, but there is an exploit somewhere in the video games, not in P.O.W.E.R. however.
CG: So it’s really just the mechanic of the BQ that you take away from RTS?
PKT: I love, love, love Homeworld by Relic Entertainment and Alex Gardener. Best game ever in my humble opinion, but I don’t know if that’s strictly an RTS. I’d have to say that my favorites are Company of Heroes and World in Conflict, but yes, the wait for the bigger/stronger pieces, or immediate smaller/weaker forces is the foundation of RTS and their Build Queues. The math has to be right and to do this? I used a 6-way rock/paper/scissors mechanic – which RTS games don’t.
CG: Speaking of mechanics, will we see more cards like Body Armor that affect the entire army or units in the army? Improved Munitions? Environmental Battlefield Conditions?
PKT: In short, yes. I have a whole matrix of buffs to be made as an expansion pack to include in your deck. Many say those are the enchantments, sorceries, and equipment cards, and yes, well, sure they are.

The Direction of P.O.W.E.R. Expansions

CG: You had our American military helping you out with images for the game, I think. Have you started looking into where you’ll get your other images for any other nations’ militaries and so on?
PKT: I have one buddy to help with the Chinese. I forgot to add that in my timeline by the way. I spent over six months and many IP lawyers to get rights to all of the images. But that’s why I don’t have multiple nationalities… yet. The different laws overseas. And the nostalgic packs like the “British Schooner Navy” must be graphically rendered. So, when big enough, I hope to hire. Not to mention the puppy dog packs for the anti-military. That was a joke sort of. We joke that our next expansion is going to be stickers that you would just place on the cards! Tanks would be werewolves and helicopters would be vampires. Infantry? Zombies, et cetera. Makes the wargamers chuckle and the fantasy players snarl. But? Then again, what tank can match an Abrams? And do you know how hard it is to find an in-service land-based SAM? All of the US’s are on ships now. All of my units are in service by the way.
CG: I think you’ve mentioned Chinese Infantry, animals, now the British Schooner Navy, what will most likely be the first non-US pack of cards we’ll see?
PKT: Technology Development (Tech Dev, the grey ones) and Politics & Population (P&P the purple one) – but that’s not your question is it…
CG: No, because those would go along with the US military. Or is it still up in the air whether it’ll be Canadians, Russians, Chinese, or Terrorists?
PKT: See, you are bringing up a good debate. As the developer, I don’t want the reenactment so much and I don’t want the “bad guys”. A military board game is a hard enough sell as it is. Flames of War is fantastic and I hope they play POWER in their off-time or a 30 minute skirmish, but it’s about the area of influence and control – and math – less about the theme to me. In fact? I can go ahead at this very moment and say after the A/S Expansion? I would like to make the Pacifist Packs – think Tiananmen Square. Captures more market. And could lead to good trash-talking banter either way, if the math is right. Though we are in talks about going alien invasion/cyberpunk/futuristic versus the US now.

CG: I know the Air/Sea Lane Expansion has been in the works for a while, what all will that give players, besides lifting the restriction on Core cards. Does that cover it?
PKT: The gameplay changes immensely with your Submarines ducking under Aircraft Carriers and Jet Bombers refueling in the air. And remember the Air/Sea Lane Ranges are in rows across the entire Battlefield.
CG: Is it hard to adjust to going back down to the Core set after you’ve been playtesting and working on Air/Sea?
PKT: No, that’s where the game is played and won and I wanted it to be that way. Though at times you wish you didn’t flip over that card, because it must enter the battlefield, you know? The Air and Sea doesn’t inhibit or take over the game, much to playtesters’ surprise. Much to my surprise is that the increased number of cards per side, up to 20 each in Admiral instead of the 8 cards now, does not increase gameplay duration because of the strength of those units. Having said that, there is a lot of balance in the Air and Sea units.

P.O.W.E.R.: In Stores Soon

Small light Cayuse helicopter displayed on orange-backed card for P.O.W.E.R. game

Torretto’s Favorite Card: the Cayuse

CG: What are your personal favorite cards in the game?
PKT: Of the ones in the U.S. Core Packs? The Cayuse – a BQ1 C.A.S. that can do 1 dmg in the current square. People don’t see it now, but when you have to take out the Seabees that are building the naval or air base that will launch Destroyer Class ships or F16’s? Better believe they are stacking Cayuses in their BQ. Take out the Construction Battalion? No bases, no sea, no air: lots of cards turn into sore thumbs.
CG: Duly noted. How well do you tend to do at playing P.O.W.E.R. yourself?
PKT: Actually, not that great. I make little mistakes that seem to add up against the expert gamers that play games more than design them. But? There are times I see the end quicker than they do, so I win decisively, just not all the time. And that to me is a sign of a good game, come to think of it

CG: Where can gamers find P.O.W.E.R.?
PKT: At Origins next week…. and SoCal Smackdown at Disneyland Sept 21-23… check http://www.powerthegame.com/news/ and http://www.facebook.com/powerthegame and http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/113456/power for upcoming details.
CG: What’s this Disneyland one?
PKT: socalsmackdown.com
CG: When will P.O.W.E.R. be in stores? Do you have a date yet?
PKT: Alliance Distribution is taking pre-orders now… and I have found sites on the net already taking orders. End of June, methinks
CG: Awesome. Thanks, PK.
PKT: Thank you!

P.O.W.E.R. card art and board game picture copyright PK Torretto, used with permission.