Nazi Zombies

Comments Off on Nazi Zombies

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.

So How Was The Trip?

No comments yet


Attentive readers who come back to this blog to enjoy the posts I make about once every two months—it’s a disgrace, I know—may be wondering, “so how was the trip?”

Well, in between paying off the bills, I’ve been slowly transcribing my travel diary, so if you can bear with me a little longer (probably a few months longer) I’ll have it and some photos and video online at my site.

Until then, I took the above shot in the same place as the image I chose for my pre-travel post was taken—at the 16th century Portugese cistern in El Jadida, Morocco.

Grab ’em while you can!


Sometimes you just have to shake your head in disbelief at the stupidity and short-sightedness of some companies. Case in point: Games Workshop. Multi-million dollar exchange-listed behemoth tabletop games company.
They must have hired a new law firm or something, because gamers all over the world are receiving cease-and-desist letters from the suits to pull down from the net anything and everything that mentions their games. This morning, all the rules summaries and reference sheets I’ve done for their games were removed from BoardGameGeek, and I fully expect to get the email any day now that forces me to remove them from this site as well.

So I suggest, if you play any of these games, grab the sheets now while you still can.

Anyone with half a brain can’t help but be amazed by this kind of treatment. How can any company be so stupid as to penalise their own fans; people who are putting countless hours of their own effort into advertising their product for free? I mean, really, how can having online rules summaries for twenty-year-old games like Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb and Rogue Trooper hurt the company? Even if the game is still in print, it is common practice for companies to make their game rules available online. These games can’t be played by rules alone.

I could go on from here into how this kind of customer-bashing has become de rigeur for companies all over the world, and how the knee-jerk response of companies to the internet is completely missing the obvious fact that they will actually end up selling more product if they allow the fans to promote and support it online. But we’d be here all day.

Suffice it to say that gamers know which way the wind is blowing, and are deserting Games Workshop in droves. Eventually the twelve-year-olds that these days make up their core customers will wake up to the facts as well, stop supporting this aging corporate beast of a company, and go elsewhere to game companies that actually care about their customers.

In the meantime, let’s all watch Games Workshop dig its own grave.

The Games Workshop Files Purge of ’09 (BoardgameGeek GeekList).

Get Me Outta Here!

Comments Off on Get Me Outta Here!


I’ve been lucky enough to have done a bit of travelling over the years, but buying a house has been the focus of our finances for a few years now, and it’s been seven years since my last decent overseas trip (not including brief holidays to New Zealand, Fiji, and a couple of islands off the Great Barrier Reef).

In a couple of days my girl and I are off to Morocco for five weeks, and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to getting away from all the usual ‘stuff’. Years of working at home have begun to take their toll, and I really need a long break from sitting in front of a computer—for both physical and mental reasons. Five weeks without computers, deadlines, clients, barking dogs, cooking dinner, television, the internet, Western culture etc, etc…

Instead, I want to wipe clean my clogged brain and fill it up anew with fresh sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Remember what being creative without a computer was like. Practice meeting new people and struggling with a new language, and yet communicating with smiles and gestures; see places I’ve never seen before, experience a different culture, clear out the negativity and old habits and enjoy the forgotten pleasure of not knowing what we’ll be doing or where we’ll be in two days hence.

You can find the travel diaries I’ve written about previous trips at If you find this kind of thing interesting, look out for a diary about Morocco soon after I return.

In the meantime, in the time-honoured words of everyone who has ever gone on a long overseas journey to those who are left behind: “Nyah na na-na naaa!”

More in five weeks.

Photo from

Vintage Boardgames


Vintage Games

Back in the 50s to the 80s, when mainstream toy companies actually made games and didn’t just churn out re-licenced versions of Monopoly, it was a wonderful time when games had fantastic themes, lots of ‘bits’, and dripped with originality and invention. Well, those days are unfortunately long gone. Luckily, there are two ways to recapture those halcyon days of youth–you can explore the world of specialist boardgames, and you can turn to Ebay to get back some of those wonderful games that still hover on the edge of your childhood memories.

A great place to start is the ebay seller ‘space.dust’ and his UK-based Vintage Board Game Emporium. I’ve bought two games from Nick now–Thunder Road and Escape from Colditz–and not only is he a nice guy, but he has a wide range of old games, describes them in detail, and packs them with great care.

There’s nothing like re-discovering some old game that you owned as a child, or maybe just played when you visited a friend, or coveted through a shop window. Sure, you lose a bit of the magic when you discover that it wasn’t quite as great a game as you remember. But for enthusiasts like me, it’s still a great pleasure to snatch back these tangible slivers of childhood, and even break them out occasionally to play with friends of a similar vintage!

So go flip through the Vintage Board Game Emporium and see what memories come flooding back. Tell Nick that Universal Head sent you!

Tales of the Arabian Nights


Over a year has passed since I began work on it, and a couple of hundred hours, several hundred dollars worth of book research, and over 400 emails later, I finally have a copy of Tales of the Arabian Nights in my hands, direct from the printers. It should be in the shops early to mid-July.

So my readers can experience the joy of opening one of these big heavy boxes (about 3 and a half kilos!) for themselves, I made this little sequence of photos documenting the process. Sorry I can’t hook up the ‘fresh from the printers’ smell for you as well.

Opening the box
[click image to enlarge]

I’ve been designing for a couple of decades, and there are only a few jobs in that time that have demanded as much hard work, creativity and dedication as this one. The printers did a great job; the matt-finished cover with gloss UV-varnished logo and illustrations looks wonderful, and René Bull’s stunning 1912 illustrations look better than they have in print for many years, which I hope is a tribute to the man’s talent. It was with a great sense of relief that I opened the box to find all the game components as high quality as I’d hoped. Best of all, the whole design hangs together beautifully and gives the game a distinctive ‘feel’, that I hope is something quite different from the usual run of games being published these days.

[click image to enlarge]

Sure, there’s a few little things I’d like to tweak, and I’ll hopefully get a chance to do so in future print runs. But now, it’s finally time to let this baby go out into the world! Tales of the Arabian Nights is published by Z-Man Games, and I’m really hoping it’s a big success for them. Quite apart from the work I put into it, it’s a very fun and thematic game. There’s a 300-page book in there, chock-full of adventures in the old ‘Choose-Your-Own-Adventure’ style. For gamers who love a story, this is a real treat.

[click image to enlarge]

Thankyou to Dan Harding for his excellent illustrations, Eric Goldberg and the other writers for creating such an amazing game, and Zev Shlasinger of Z-Man Games for the opportunity to redesign it. I hope people all over the world enjoy playing this game, and for at least a little while forget all their cares and worries and disappear with their friends into the glamourous, fun, exciting world of the Arabian Nights …

The Legend of Robin Hood


Robin Hood

Much like everyone I know, my workload is a little light at the moment. That probably means I should take the time to update my business website, do a bit of ringing around, work on new business strategies, right?

Wrong! I think I’ll recreate an old Avalon Hill game from the ’70s from scratch!

I became aware of The Legend of Robin Hood when I saw a review of this little-known 1979 gem on Gameshark and thought it sounded just like the kind of game I like. I was about to buy a copy on Ebay when it struck me that the game was pretty simple—board and counters—and that it really could do with a graphic revamp anyway. As if I haven’t got enough in the way of personal projects on my plate …

So, after a couple of weeks work in my spare time, here it is—a complete remake of the game with a new large board, large counters, a double-sided rules summary and double-sided play reference sheets.

As Barnes pointed out, this is a game that really relies heavily on theme, so I hope you’ll agree this revamp makes the whole game experience just that bit more immersive and enjoyable.

I have no idea of the current copyright status of the game—possibly it has reverted to the designer Joe Bisio. Of course this is a completely not-for-profit project, done without permission. The illustrations I used on the board and counters were originally by Stanley Herbert and taken from England: Book 1 The Medieval Scene by R.J Unstead (A&C Black, 1963), again without permission. They have that ‘Boy’s Own Adventure’ feel that I felt worked really well for the Robin Hood theme. Oh, and the logo is a shamelessly modified version of the title screen from Errol Flynn’s 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood.

You can download the new version here. Enjoy!

100 Game Reference Sheets … and Counting …


Cosmic Encounter

Way back in 1981, on my sixteenth birthday, a schoolfriend gave me a copy of a game called Cosmic Encounter. While I’d been playing role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons for a few years, I’d only recently been enjoying boardgames. Cosmic Encounter is a bit of a classic in the small world of boardgames; it’s been through editions by Eon (the 1977 original, and the one my friend gave me), Mayfair Games, West End Games, Games Workshop, and the toy giant Hasbro among others—sixteen different editions apparently.

So it’s a nice coincidence that the one hundredth entry on my Games Sheets page should happen to be for the new Fantasy Flight edition of Cosmic Encounter, which I just bought. One hundred entries! That’s countless hours of unpaid writing and design work—summarising rulesets, designing reference sheets, deep-etching scanned logos and making backgrounds. Why the hell do I do it?

I have no idea. I suppose it’s the same reason I can’t imagine being anything but a graphic designer. I love to make something that is well designed and has a useful purpose, and I love boardgames, and if there’s one thing that improves the experience of playing a boardgame it’s a) not having to trudge through the rulebook for a refresher course everytime you play one and b) having something next to you during the game that saves you from pausing the action while you look something up in a rulebook.

The great thing about boardgames is that you can get completely immersed in the experience. And it’s a very social experience: a group of friends gather around a table and play out some form of shared story, whether co-operatively or competitively. A good reference sheet stops you from being wrenched out of the flow of that story and back into the nitpicking world of the rules that hold it all together.

Basically, it just makes the game more fun.

Also, I get a great deal out of satisfaction from the fact that they seem to make games more fun for a lot of other people all over the world too. I’ve even had people gather together online to buy me a game so they could get reference sheets for it. These are just a few of the scores of comments I’ve had from people who have downloaded my sheets:

“I love your rules summaries, they are the first thing I look for on Boardgamegeek when I have bought a new game.”

“I wanted to drop a note to say thank you for all of the game summaries you’ve made, I find any game that you’ve made a sheet for to be that much more enjoyable when I play it.”

“I just felt you should know that you have fans out there (as if you didn’t know already). I’m one of them. It is only right that you be told! I really appreciate all of the work you’ve done for the gaming community. I know I’ve used and abused your good will and fine work for months, now! Thanks again for all the great work you’ve done!”

Hey, so I’m not changing the world. But I’ve made a few people out there a bit happier.

So, here we are at one hundred entries, with the rules summary and reference sheet for Cosmic Encounter. As usual, print out in colour on card, laminate and trim for best results! Enjoy!

Toy Soldiers



“Hello, my name is Universal Head and I play with toy soldiers.”

When I was a kid I dabbled briefly with the usual toy soldier thing—you know, fighting battles in the sandpit, and later, making little flamethrowers out of tin foil and matches, that kind of thing—but I really wasn’t into it in a big way. The little men thing started, as so many things did, when I was about thirteen and discovered Dungeons & Dragons. Some ingenious person out there started making little 25mm high fantasy fighters and ’orrible creatures out of pewter and tin, and I was hooked on the little buggers. I think from the moment I first saw them lined up on the shelves of the game shop they captured my imagination. Not only could you create little battles with them, but you could express your artistic urges and paint them, learning all kinds of tricky techniques to make those tiny antagonists look as real as possible.

A little English company called Games Workshop started making figures for their Warhammer game, and the rest is history. I wasn’t really that much into big armies facing across each other across a tabletop. Being a very meticulous painter, I never got enough figures painted, so I tended to prefer small-scale ‘skirmish’ level games like Necromunda and Advanced Space Crusade.

But for people like me, who still have the eyes of a twelve-year-old when it comes to these things, the sight of a 6’x4′ table covered with little armies running about through beautifully modelled terrain still fires the imagination. And finally, after all these years, this kind of hobby is possible without sacrificing all of my free time upon the altar of wargaming.

Thanks to a game called AT-43.

Purists will shudder at this point. Prepainted miniatures?! Surely not! Well yeah, it took me a while to get used to the idea. But the fact is, with my schoolboy days long, long behind me, I have no time these days to paint the scores of little figures that a tabletop wargame requires. Pre-painted miniatures can go straight onto the tabletop, ready for battle; they still look great from the distance you usually see them, and gone are the days of figures cluttering the dining room table in a half-painted state.

AT-43 is a sci-fi miniatures game by a French company called Rackham, and I’ve recently bought into it in a big way. The miniatures look great and are painted to a good standard (no doubt by assembly lines of Chinese workers; though I have discussed this subject with game publishers who tell me that this kind of thing is actually considered a good job and just a first step on the ladder for young workers). The game system is quick, fun and doesn’t involve remembering the equivalent of trigonometry tables to play. A good example: if you have a Medic in your unit, you can save a hit soldier by shouting out Medic!—possibly one of the greatest rules ever invented for a wargame.

But these days, there are more things available that make tabletop gaming quick and easy to get into. Games Workshop recently released a modular 6’x4′ plastic battleboard that, while outrageously priced, solves all the old problems of making and storing a gaming surface. It packs away into a 2’x2′ carry bag, and once it’s painted, looks fantastic. Add a few of their plastic woods and hills and you have all the terrain you’ll ever need. In the bad old days you either had to make modular wood and polystyrene sections, or string a ping-pong table to the roof with a pulley system (don’t laugh, a friend of mine did this).

So, after you’ve spent all this money—no doubt justifying it to your partner by pointing out that your hobby could be collecting vintage cars, and she should be grateful—your old school buddy who you’ve known for almost thirty years (gulp!) comes around one evening and you set up a game. You’re both on the wrong side of forty and playing with toy soldiers.

So what? You have a fantastic time. A few beers and a few game turns later and you’re laughing your head off, embellishing the tiny dramas that happen on the table in front of you, making whooshing and dakka-dakka noises as another unit of soldiers lets fire with their assault rifles, cheering as the battle robot is blasted into smithereens by a lucky laser shot, chucking handfuls of dice like high rollers in Vegas, both leaning over the table to see if your opponent pulled off the lucky numbers to blow your favourite unit away.

You may laugh, but it’s a damn sight better way to spend an evening than sitting in front of the television or plugging your cash into a one-armed bandit.

With luck, I’ll be playing games like this until I shuffle off this mortal coil. Quite probably, in full command of my mental facilities because I’ve kept my brain so active learning game rules, and certainly happier because I’ve held on to my childlike imagination and sense of wonder. Playing with toy soldiers is a wonderful thing. I highly recommend it.

Image from the Rackham website, used without permission.

PS: Obsessive graphic designer that I am, I spent ages redesigning all the unit cards from AT-43 into a more readable and easier-to-use format. You can download them here.

PPS: You get to exercise other creative modelling and painting muscles too. See this thread on the AT-43 forums, where I’m detailing the process I’m going though making terrain tiles for the game.

At long last, eloquence and intelligence


To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West—know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

From Barack Obama’s inauguration speech.

(Now, cast your mind back …)

« Older Entries Newer Entries »