You’re Not From Around Here Are You?


Talking about Games Workshop … my girlfriend was is in town today and rang me to ask if I needed anything; I asked her to get me a tub of basing sand from the Games Workshop store (I very rarely darken the door of a GW store as I don’t play their miniatures games, but I do paint miniatures for boardgames).

She squared her shoulders against the sensory onslaught of heavy metal music and smelly pubescent boys, walked in and asked for a tub of sand. The guy behind the counter looked at her and said:

“He sent you on a mission didn’t he?”

Games Workshop Announce Dreadfleet

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Back in my day (he says, putting his feet up by the fire and drawing back on his pipe), Games Workshop made fantastic, over-the top, ‘big box’ games in addition to their core tabletop miniatures systems. Games like Necromunda, Space Hulk, Blood Bowl, Dark Future and my personal favourite, a fantasy naval combat game called Man O’ War. These games are long, long gone, and if, for example, you want to get a few fleets of Man O’War miniatures together these days it will cost you a pretty penny on Ebay. Luckily, I bought these games when they were first released, and have built up a nice collection of miniatures for them over the years.

Although these games did have expansions and decent ranges of miniatures, they weren’t big money spinners like Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000, so they were dropped from the GW product line. Gamers like me waited in vain for them to return until suddenly, in 2009, a impressive new ‘limited edition’ of Space Hulk was released. Chock full of components and unique miniatures of incredibly high quality, and folding in some of the rules from expansions to make a stand-alone game, it showed that GW really could still pull out the stops and make an amazing miniatures-based boardgame if it wanted to. Space Hulk sold out of its print run pretty quickly, and it seemed thereafter that GW were content to leave Fantasy Flight Games to make money from their licences.

But to everyone’s surprise, it seems they aren’t done mining their old glory days yet. Dreadfleet has just been quietly announced, a truly excessive and wonderfully extravagant-looking production with a huge gaming mat, 10 fantastically detailed ship models, over 130 cards, and numerous other bits. And all I can say, frankly, despite the crazy price (AUD$190) is … gimme!

I don’t see any sign of ship template cards, so it’s possible this is a completely different system than the original Man O’ War, or at least a simplified version; and certainly that game has entire fleets for each of the races and offers much more in the way of variety and large naval battle action than this new incarnation. It does seem a little strange for there to be only ten ships, each from a different race. But in any case, this really does look spectacular, and will probably be another short-run sellout for the company. It’s just a shame these revamped re-releases are one-offs—but then that’s probably a good thing for gamer bank accounts.

Man O’War will always be a firm favourite of my game collection (and Uncharted Seas from Spartan Games also gets good reviews) but Dreadfleet still looks to be an impressive indulgence—and perhaps a reminder that there’s still a bit of life in the old GW yet.

Click here to watch a video overview of Dreadfleet (and reflect on how much more professional the Fantasy Flight preview videos are).

Also check out this preview, which talks about the artwork and development of Dreadfleet. It’s great to see John Blanche’s eclectic art style—which I personally think has much more character than a lot of contemporary fantasy art—dominate this new game.

The Fate of This Post is in Your Hands!


The old games I featured in my last post are great fun, but no one is about to pretend that the themes are very deep and original (with the possible exception of Escape From Atlantis). When it comes to fantasy, game companies have been warming over the same tired old tropes since Tolkein; and Games Workshop’s huge influence on the gaming world has meant that gothic scifi is pretty much par for the course these days. Here’s a few classic back-of-box blurbs from games of yesteryear—and one from just a few months ago that proves my point. Another thing that certainly hasn’t changed are the terrible names. Morcar? Karkoth? Someone is getting paid for this stuff …

Especially note the excessive use of adjectives, the personalising calls to action, and of course, the exclamation marks!

Dare you take up the challenge of Hero Quest, and enter the underground realm of Morcar, the Evil Wizard? There are great treasures to be won, if you overcome their fell guardians. The dark caverns hold many dangers—terrible monsters, deadly traps, and worse. Heroquest, 1989

Enlist with the Space Marines and enter the fiercest conflict mankind has ever faced! Forgotten starships, infested with Chaos, drift from the Warp. Lost for thousands of years, they have now returned, corrupted with Chaos. Aboard these silent, alien hulks, the Space Marines battle to save humanity. Assault squads search the darkened corridors seeking their deadly foe. Only the bravest return from fighting the hordes of Chaos. Will you be one of them? Space Crusade, 1990.

Welcome to the world of Battle Masters—the epic game where you command mighty armies locked in a legendary conflict of good versus evil! Will your army be victorious, or will your opponent destroy you? Who will survive the battle and win the game? The fate of the empire is decided by you, the Battle Masters! Battle Masters, 1992.

From the snowy expanses of the north to the sun-warmed coasts of the south, four great realms struggle for survival and conquest. The undead legions of the Dark Empire of Karkoth march against the fragile League of Nerath, determined to sweep away the human kingdoms forever. Elsewhere, the infernal Iron Circle launches goblin hordes against the elves and corsairs of the Vailin Alliance. The fate of empires is on your hands! Conquest of Nerath, 2011.

I Wanna Be on the Back of the Box


There was a golden age of boardgames, before they all got so serious and geared towards old guys who grew up on Dungeons & Dragons and Squad Leader, when they were for kids—and proud of it! And despite the exciting new fantasy and sci-fi themes, the strategic pretentions, the colourful illustration, and the bags of plastic bits, they were still old-school enough to feature the classic ‘kids and/or family playing the game and having fun’ shot on the bottom of the box. There’s a rich and hilarious history of these shots on vintage game boxes, but here are a few of my favourites from the late 80s/early 90s, for your enjoyment.

Space Crusade


Space Crusade, 1990, and Heroquest, 1989. Both these games went for the under-lit studio shot to ratchet up the drama, and it’s just a shame the kids don’t have more serious and intense expressions to match. Mostly they just look overwhelmed by the sheer amount of cool plastic bits on display. I do like the look on the kid on the left in the Heroquest shot though—he’s a sneaky little bastard isn’t he? He’s already got some evil plan hatching in his head to humiliate the kid on the right during the next school assembly. And the guy behind the screen is in on it.

Thunder Road

Thunder Road, 1986. Believe it or not this game was inspired by post-apocalyptic car battles a la Mad Max. Couldn’t really get less post-apocalyptic than this cheery shag-pile scene though, could it? Before you think that kid in the blue is just being a little shit by upending the board, that’s actually part of the game—if you get left behind on the rear board you get dumped off when the board moves forward to the front, hence an ‘endless highway’ effect. Not that he isn’t reveling in his moment of power of course, the little shit.

Escape From Atlantis

Escape From Atlantis, 1996. Wife: “He promised me Paris this year, and instead we’re in this cheap rental bungalow on the coast again, it’s raining, I think he’s having an affair with his secretary, and I’m stuck here playing this stupid boardgame.” Husband: “I wonder if my son is gay?” Son: “My new haircut is so cool, so eighties.” Daughter: “…”

Battle Masters

Battle Masters, 1992. And finally, one of all my all-time favourite shots. Yes, the game really is this big—it’s played on a huge vinyl mat more suited to the floor than any dining room table. Yes, you do get that many plastic figures. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore. But check out those two kids. The kid on the right is just having a good time; innocently enjoying himself, over at his mate’s place to play the new game he got for Christmas. But what about that kid on the left? This isn’t just a game, this is war! He’s the kid who bent your fingers back when he came over to play! The one who got all the cool new games and then broke them within a week! He doesn’t play for fun, he plays to win!

Headless Hollow Boardgame Reference Sheets Update

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The years pass, the seasons come and go, the sun god travels in his blazing chariot across the sky, and Universal Head keeps making boardgame summary sheets:

Merchants & MaraudersThis finally looks like the pirate game we’ve all been waiting for—lots of options, variety, plastic pirate ships, combat, trade, naval vessels; even 3D cardboard chests in which to stash your gold. Arrrrrrr!

Road Kill RallyA game that reminds me of many wasted hours playing Carmageddon on my Mac, Road Kill Rally sees players mowing down little old ladies and kids while blasting each other with machine guns and—oh yes—racing to the finish line. What’s not to like?

RattusRats spreading the Black Death throughout Europe in the 14th century—what a fantastic theme! The illustrations and graphic design style are just right for this compact and attractive game of role selection and ravaging plague. This rules summary includes the Pied Piper expansion.

AgricolaRunning a farm in the 17th century: not the most exciting subject for a boardgame, one would think. But this clever Euro-style game is a firm favourite among gamers who like wooden pieces, very little luck, and a complete lack of fancy plastic. I’ve only played it once so far, but for those times when Puerto Rico-style gaming is the thing, it may be time to get to work down on the farm.

Dust TacticsAfter the sad demise of Rackham and AT-43, the field is wide open for Dust Tactics, a miniatures ‘boardgame’ whose alternative-reality WWII was the original melieu for AT-43 before it went sci-fi. I forked out for the ‘premium’ painted edition and the miniatures are very well done. I expected it to be too simple but it surprised me by being a fast and fun game.

Plus, there’s the usual crop of updates as I obsessively creep closer and closer to the ever-moving target of game summary perfection! Enjoy.

Dust Tactics Review

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Dust Tactics

Oh, no, not another miniatures game?! Well, it’s kind of a boardgame with miniatures really. And I couldn’t resist the pre-painted premium edition. My little review of Dust Tactics over at the Games Paradise blog. Grab my rules summary here.

You know you’re a game geek when …


War of the Ring CE… you get the War of the Ring Collector’s Edition.

Yes, I’m now the proud owner of the Holy Grail of board games: number 600 in the 2,000 worldwide print run of the Collector’s Edition of my favourite game of all time. And what a monstrous beast it is! A big, heavy wooden box measuring 480 x 550 x 130mm. I’m still trying to work out where I’m actually going to put the thing.

I put off buying this edition when it was first released, thinking it was really too much, and that one day I would get around to painting all the miniatures myself one day, but after playing the game again the other night I realised just how wonderful a game it is; and how much better it would be with a larger map, larger cards, and fully painted armies. So the next day I started hunting for a copy, not really believing that I could get one for anywhere near a realistic price. Luckily, I found a fellow gamer who was willing to part with his set.

The quality of the paint jobs on the 200+ miniatures is much better than I expected, and the perfect bound, hardcover, high quality rulebook is a beautiful thing.

Sure, it’s a crazy, self-indulgent purchase. But the time is long past for me to pretend that I’m not a boardgamer through and through, and in a way this is the ultimate expression of my enjoyment of that hobby—not to mention my lifelong love of The Lord of the Rings.

Update: New War of the Ring rules summary and reference sheets on the Game Sheets page.

Little Metal Dog Show Interview


Little Metal DogI was recently interviewed by Michael Fox, who runs an up-and-coming games podcast called The Little Metal Dog Show, about my boardgame rules summaries.

This is the first time I’ve done something like this, and I’m a tad horrified at how I sound in the interview. The low quality audio through my MacBook mic doesn’t help either—the lack of detail makes me sound like I have a much broader Australian drawl than I do in person. I also seem to have a rude habit of not letting other people finish their sentenc—!

—anyway, vanity aside, check it out if you wish to hear my incoherent ramblings. I’m off to get some elocution lessons.

PS Sorry Blackbeard: you’re not that bad, really, I was on the spot.

Headless Hollow Boardgame Reference Sheets Update

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New additions to my Boardgame Reference Sheets page might sometimes go unnoticed, so I’ll be announcing updates occasionally here on the front page for you gamers out there:

AT43After a year’s break, finally a big update to my AT-43 cards with the addition of the COG and ONI armies. Those of you who play this great miniatures game, be sure to check out these files. I also took the opportunity to add cards for support teams, and updated the token sets, so the AT-43 set should now be complete.

Arkham HorrorThe Arkham Horror summary and reference set has also been updated—Fantasy Flight Games keeps releasing the expansions, I kept updating my reference sheets. Until the new Lurker at the Threshold expansion comes out, this is now completely up to date.

Memoir44Another big update completed recently was for good ol’ Memoir ’44. I finally redesigned these sheets from scratch with a new layout and the latest expansions.

WFRP3The new version of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is out, and we’ve been having a lot of fun with it. My comprehensive rules summary and reference sheet ‘pack’ should help you keep track of all those strange new rules with ease, and let you concentrate on the storytelling.

RunewarsRunewars is a brand new ‘big box’ game from Fantasy Flight Games, and I have the rules summary and reference sheets ready, hot on the heels of the release. Enjoy!

Good gaming!

Nazi Zombies

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IncursionMany a gamer has nurtured the dream of creating his or her own game and getting it published, but it’s very few who actually follow through. Why? Because it takes years, is bloody hard, and is horrendously expensive, that’s why.

However one crazy and committed soul who has gone all the way is Jim Bailey of Grindhouse Games. His boardgame Incursion is an incredibly fun combat game set in the kind of alternative WWII-with-zombies familiar to readers of Hellboy, with a bit of a grungy Tarantino feel thrown in for good measure. The game has often been compared to Space Hulk because they both use an action point system, but it really is a very different game with a different feel. In Incursion the power-armour US grunts go toe-to-toe with Nazi zombies, the vicious Blitzhund, and the bizarre results of secret experiments gone wrong. Throw in a deck of Battle cards and you have a fast-moving, tactical, thematic gaming experience.

Jim has been making his game available as ‘print-and-play’ for a while now, and selling a range of absolutely gorgeous metal miniatures that really make the game look spectacular. But his real dream has been to have the game published, and after months of work the game is just about to be released. From the outset Jim has been determined to make the best quality product possible, and it’s probably because of this that he’s gathered around him a group of like-minded designers and developers. Go have a look at the final game here.

I’m proud to have contributed in a small way to the game by creating the reference sheet you can see there in the photo.

There’s only about 300 left of this first print run, so what are you waiting for? Not only will you be getting a fantastic game, but you’ll be supporting a dedicated self-publisher of a quality game—and I for one am eager to see what he comes up with next. Head off to the Incursion website and order a copy now.

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