Edited by David Millians
Paideia School, 1509 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30307 USA
Spring / Summer 1998
Volume 5, Number 2
Welcome! I hope springtime and the coming summer find you well. This issue contains two longer articles. Brian David Phillips presents his classroom game design project on page four. Peter L. de Rosa reviews and organizes a number of sources, including several on the Internet, and games for teaching World War Two, beginning on page six. There is a full page of short reviews. Pages two and three contain some changes from earlier issues, so check there too.
In April in Miami I had the honor and pleasure to be the keynote speaker at this gathering of the Game Manufacturer's Association. I spoke concerning the many ways in which retailers in particular can form connections with their communities, especially with schools. I lead two workshops, "Talking with Parents and Teachers" and "Games as Educational Tools." I was able to attend the meetings of each division of the association - retailer, distributor, and manufacturer - and this has given me a much better sense of their different interests and needs. Having time to meet and speak with members of the industry was valuable. Games continue to grow and broaden. As I mentioned, I have reviews of some specific games later in this issue.
Everyone was kind and helpful, and, of course, Miami was great fun too! I owe special thanks to Deane Begeibing, David Gervais, Rick Loomis, and John Danovich for all of their help in making my participation possible and comfortable. If there is interest and room, I may print my presentation, "The Age of Discovery: Ancient Arts in Modern Times," in the next issue of this newsletter.
We are assembling a more organized, complete database of game reviews. This will probably have both a print and Internet form. If you have a review or a game to be reviewed, send it in!
There were all positive responses to the possibility of having an Internet form of this newsletter. It's already eventually posted to a number of newsgroups, and it is archived at www.rpg.net. There is also an email discussion mailing list, which you can join at the same site. Most people seemed to prefer to receive the newsletter as an email text. If this is the case for you, let me know, and we'll have more concerning this in the next issue of the newsletter too.
I have more than once received questions about how to introduce young children to games and how to help them grow as gamers. There is, of course, no simple, single answer to these questions, but I shall address some possibilities here.
Children are born curious, inventive, and imaginative. It's built into us all. Kids are already role playing, war gaming, and plotting live action games. Kids need time, room, and media with which to play and imagine. My advisor in college once said that the best toys for a growing child are sand and water, and she's still correct. Like the growing, open mind itself, sand and water are flexible and receptive. As we grow older and also select other toys, they are more confined in their seeming options. A doll does not usually become a rain storm, and a tank can fight dinosaurs, but it isn't one. There's nothing wrong with these more complex toys, and they stimulate discovery in other ways, but it's good to keep in mind that the brain is the best toy of all.
If you spend time with your children, you'll know what they like and need. Share stories, books, art, and imaginings. Game settings like Fuzzy Heroes from Inner City Games Designs, Middle Earth from I.C.E., Prince Valiant from Chaosium, various super hero games, Toon from Steve Jackson Games, and others you've noticed may be great fun before the rule systems are really accessible. Play them anyway! Use the rules you want.
Kids will learn the rules too. If they see a benefit in it, decent readers can work their way through a game manual as well as they can through a novel or manual for their computers. I've had ten year olds quoting chapter and verse from complex game systems like Harnmaster and Civilization. You and your children will know what you need.
As they grow, different kids will prefer different kinds of games. Their own issues and interests naturally surface during their play. You may see violence, sexuality, unusual roles, stereotypes, and this is normal. Kids test your limits and try out new possibilities for themselves. Let them know what works in the game and what you are willing to accept from them. Present the kinds of games you enjoy, and they will typically be delighted by your attention and follow where you lead.
Publishers are encouraged to provide and update the information in this listing.
Atlas Games demonstrated Once Upon A Time at a local school, a Montessori magnet school, and the reception was hugely positive. The sales manager is actually working with them now to sell the game as a fund raiser. He mentioned the idea when he was there showing the game; two days later the teacher who had arranged for them to demo there called back to say she had sixty two orders already! This has them thinking that Once Upon A Time as school fund raiser may have some potential as a marketing ploy. The 50% that goes to the school is better than some fund raising items deliver. Atlas Games, P.O. Box 131233, Roseville, Minnesota 55113; (612) 638-0077; fax: (612) 638-0084; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avalon Hill offers a 40% discount for teachers. Avalon Hill Game Company, 4517 Harford Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21214-9989; (410) 254-9200 or (800) 999-3222; email@example.com.
Chaosium offers free or discounted games for documented schools. Chaosium, 950-A 56th Street, Oakland, California 94608; (510) 547-7681; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flying Buffalo has special group rates for classes who want to participate in their play by mail games. Rick Loomis, Flying Buffalo, P.O. Box 1467, Scottsdale, Arizona 85252; (602) 945-6917; FAX (602) 994-1170; Answering Machine (602) 994-0658; email@example.com; http://www.flyingbuffalo.com.
Global Games offers a 50% discount on games, plus $5 shipping and handling. Global Games, 1647 St. Clair Avenue West Unit 215A, Toronto, Ontario M6H 1H7 CANADA; (416) 516-9118; fax: (416) 516-4690.
Mayfair Games will send FREE train games to classrooms. Simply request this on school letterhead. Mayfair Games, P.O. Box 48539, Niles, Illinois 60648; (708) 647-9650 or (800) 432-4376; fax: (847) 647-0939; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Raven Star Game Design offers a 50% discount when purchase requests are written on school letterhead. Raven Star Game Design, 31600 Schoenherr - M1D, Warren, Michigan 48093.
Strunk Games offers discounts for the educational market. They carry such games as Stack, Abalone, and Omnigon. Strunk Games, PO Box 64, Eustis, Maine 04936; 1-800-669-3315; fax: (207) 246-4263.
Publishers interested in working with the educational market have been asking how best to advertise their products in this unfamiliar field. Below are listed several of my favorite catalog services, listings I and thousands of other teachers consult in planning curricula and ordering materials. Others are encouraged to send information on other avenues as well.
I am sure that the requirements and expectations vary among these educational publishers. Please, let the rest of know how helpful or nor these resources are.
Creative Publications, 5623 West 115th Street, Worth, Illinois 60482-9931
This catalog offers puzzles, manipulatives, and problem solving activities.
Education Publishing Service, 31 Smith Place, Cambridge, Massachusetts
EPS lists activity books and books about the teaching craft.
Interact, 1825 Gillespie Way #101, El Cajon, California 92020-1095;
Interact produce a clear, structured, educational simulations.
Social Studies School Service, 10200 Jefferson Boulevard
P.O. Box 802, Culver City, California 90232-0802
This catalog is everything social studies, from geography to adolescent interpersonal skills
Worldwide Games, P.O. Box 517, Colchester, Connecticut 06415-0517;
Worldwide Games lists beautiful puzzles, games, models, and toys. West End Games advertises Sherlock Holmes here.
If you receive a discount through your school library or a local bookstore, try ordering games through them. Many of them are happy to help in this way.
There are several other publications which may interest some of you. What information is valuable to you? Are you aware of any other useful resources?
The CAR-PGa Newsletter is published by the Committee for the Advancement of Role-Playing Games. Originally founded to address attacks on gamers, gaming, and the hobby, it has evolved into a more general support organization, promoting a variety of projects, including our own. You can reach Paul Cardwell, Jr., the chairman of the group, at 1127 Cedar, Bonham, TX 75418. Membership in the group is free, though supporting work is expected, and subscriptions to the newsletter are $7.50 for the USA and $12.00 overseas.
Gaming Intelligence is a weekly ezine full of up to date news, reviews, commentary on a wide range of board games, role playing games, war games, and more. Visit its website at http://www.rpg.net/gi or send email to email@example.com.
Graustark is a fine monthly newsletter dedicated to PBEM Diplomacy, historical fiction reviews, and the state of the hobby. Contact John Boardman, 2334 East 19th Street, New York, New York 11226-5302.
Metagame, a publication of the Interactive Literature Foundation, can be found at www.ilfinfo.org. The purpose of the ILF is to further live roleplaying as a whole. Their Summer '98 issue will cover EMT training and business larping. Metagame is now also available through paper subscriptions from ILF, P.O. Box 196, Merrifield, Virginia 22116; 703-642-5479 or Gold Rush Games, P.O. Box 2531, Elk Grove, California 95759-2531; 916-684-9443.
Paper Mayhem is a bimonthly magazine dedicated to Play By Mail Games like Star Webs and Feudal Lords. Bob Albrecht, among others, recommends it, and PBMs could allow your students to meet the challenges of games in a much broader context than a single classroom or school can provide. A one year subscription is $31.00, and you can contact them at Paper Mayhem, Department PM, 1518 Adams Street, Ottawa, IL 61350-4770.
Simulation & Gaming is a professional publication of the Association of Business Simulation and Experiential Learning (ABSEL), the International Simulation and Gaming Association (ISAGA), the Japanese Association of Simulation and Gaming (JASAG), and the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA). It is scholarly and rarefied and can be very interesting. It is aimed primarily at academics and business or military simulators. If interested ($50), contact Sage Publications, 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320.
Strategy & Tactics is a bimonthly magazine of military history and military history games. Each issue contains a complete game. Articles, maps, and tables present and explain battles and wars through the ages. You can reach the publishers at Decision Games, P.O. Box 4049, Lancaster, California 93534-4049; 805-943-6832; fax 805-943-5452; firstname.lastname@example.org.
GAMA Membership Directory: Rick Loomis (Flying Buffalo, Inc.), P.O. Box 1467, Scottsdale, Arizona 85252 (602) 945-6917 (602) 994-1170 (fax)
GAMA Newsletter: Ann Dupuis, P.O. Box 838, Randolph, MA 02368-0838; email@example.com
GAMA WWW page: Charles Ryan (Chameleon Eclectic), P.O. Box 10262, Blacksburg, Virginia 24062-0262 firstname.lastname@example.org
Industry Insights Newsletter: Ann Dupuis, P.O. Box 838, Randolph, MA 02368-0838; email@example.com
The Rose: Paul Myer (Crazy Egor's), 1699 Hamlin Parma TL Road, Hilton, New York 14468-9715 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Internet continues to change and to change society and publishing. There were varied responses to the idea of Games & Education having an electronic form. I should be sure to note here that there will likely always be a print form of the newsletter and that no one will find himself or herself suddenly cut off from our discussions. Having said that, we seem to have a couple of options when it comes to virtual versions of these essays.
1) We can send the newsletter as email.
2) We can post the newsletter to a website and send a shorter mailing to notify you that it is there. Some people cannot receive large email messages, though this seems to be shifting rapidly.
What works for you? Let us know (email@example.com.
by Brian David Phillips
English Department, National Chengchi University
Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China
The following is a summary and introduction to the Game Design Project which I have successfully used in my English as a Foreign Language classes at National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan. While my focus has been on using games and game-related projects to help my university level EFL students, the project itself can easily be adapted to other subjects and educational levels - the sophistication and subject matter would be different but the methods are fairly simple.
The Game Design Project allows the student of English as a Foreign Language to practice English as a means of (1) giving instructions and (2) accomplishing goals. It's also an entertaining way to practice English writing and conversation - depending upon the specific nature of the course. The focus of the assignment is on the creation of games using English as the medium of idea exchange as well of game play.
Students experience the process of game design from initial idea to implementation, playtest, review, and revision. The results are what I call Flash Games, simple games with rather short rules which can be picked up and mastered rather quickly (the term Flash Game is inspired by the literary term Flash Fiction which describes a short short story written under two thousand words). As student-generated Flash Games are completed, they are archived on my Game Design web page at http://phillips.personal.nccu.edu.tw/games/ while student-generated Interactive Dramas (live role playing game scenarios) are archived at my Shakespeare Eclectic Science Fiction Interactive Theatre site in the NCCU Student Scenarios section (the latter site is graciously hosted by the good folks at RPGnet at http://www.rpg.net/larp/). I archive the games on the web so that the students understand there is a "real" audience for their game beyond their classmates - to me too many class projects end up being produced for a single teacher, I prefer "real world" writing and design.
In a nutshell, the Game Design Project works this way: Students follow instructions in the Game Design Assignment sheet and create their own original games. Usually they start the sequence by sharing their game concept with other students in small group discussion and/or with the teacher in individual conferences (depending upon the focus of the class and time resources available). From the initial concept discussion, students go home and tweak the design. Each student then builds three prototypes of their game with instructions and takes them to class. Students then break into small groups - usually groups of four - and share their games with one another. Students then have the chance to ask questions about game play and go into some detail in explanation. Once all the students in a group have shared their game introductions, they trade games - each student ends up with three reviewers and with three games to review. The students then take the games home and play them with their friends. They fill out a Game Peer Evaluation and Playtest Review Form for each game. Next, students meet in small groups or in pairs and discuss the games with the designers. They return the prototypes and their review sheets and go over them. With these comments in hand, the students go home once again to complete the final draft and design of their game which is then archived on the web page for classmates and the world to see.
A great article to have your students read on game structure and design is Greg Costikyan's I HAVE NO WORDS AND I MUST DESIGN (http://www.crossover.com/%7Ecostik/nowords.html). This piece provides the students with a good introductory critical vocabulary toward game design. Here you will find valuable insights as to how to approach your game design. If you choose not to have the students read the article, then it still provides some useful fodder for your class lecture to open up the project.
The following is the meat of the handout I give my students. This version of the assignment is a bit verbose and rather complex, so teachers of high school or junior high school classes may need to simplify a bit more. Since I am looking for originality, I do not provide an example game nor do I give the students a format for rules layout (although I have considered a couple variations and may decide to add one in the future). Teachers are free to adapt it to their own class needs or simply use it wholesale or not at all:
"Design an original game. Your game should be clearly written and to the point.
"You may design any kind of game you wish: boardgame, chess or checkers or go or Chinese chess variant, card game, role playing game, interactive drama, trading card game, party game, glass bead game, a new sport or athletic game, or some new type of game.
"Your target player can be children, students, English as a Foreign Language classes, adults, party goers, hobbyists, whatever.
"Your subject matter can be anything you wish - science fiction, real estate, war, fantasy, love and romance, relationships, adult matters, wildlife, cars, or anything else you care to deal with in a game.
"Remember, this should be a new and original game. Don't bother trying to rewrite some game you played when you were a kid unless you are making a completely new and original variant (in that case you would need to provide references to the source game).
"Concentrate on creating a game simple enough that it can be learned quickly but complex enough that it can still provide hours of gaming pleasure. Elegant mechanics and simple component design is more likely to be successful for this assignment than weighty and complicated methods - save those for more complex games outside of the realm of this assignment.
"The game must have clear and concise rules. Your instructions and rules for play must be written within 1400 to 2000 words for students of Advanced English Composition class and 1000 to 1500 words for students of English Conversation class (yes, the word count requirement is rather arbitrary - in real life some games need more words to fully describe them while others don't need as much - however, the Flash Games designed for this assignment need to fall within this range as this is an effort to keep the work load for all students about the same).
"Some game components - such as draw cards and the like - may also have game instructions on them which will normally not count towards your word count total but may if the instructions are significant but the main rules must be less than 2000 words. Don't overly-complicate your game just to make the length requirement if it doesn't need it. Feel free to further illustrate concepts with useful examples of play.
"Students in the English Conversation class may feel free to work together on this project or work individually. No more than three students may join a group. The individual word count for each student remains the same, so group projects will be two or three times as long as individual projects. Advanced English Composition students may not work in groups - they must work on an individual basis for this assignment.
"Hint: Make sure you read the assignments above before designing your own game, it will save a lot of revising later.
"You will write your game and construct a prototype (in the case of games which require special boards or cards and the like). Class members will review your game following a Game Peer Evaluation and Playtest Review Form and then you will correct problems.
"The final draft of your game will be placed on the WWW, so make sure your game is original. If you have components, then hand in full size prototypes and smaller versions for scanning."
Once the students have built prototypes of their games - some complex others rather simple - they bring them to class and introduce their games to one another. Typically, I ask each student to review and playtest three different games by their classmates. They then take the games home and play them with their friends and fill out the peer review sheet:
"Answer each of the questions with as much detail and criticism as possible. When reviewing a classmate's game, you might find it helpful to imagine a bit and put yourself in the shoes of a Game Publisher. Make your comments as if you have already put your own money into developing the game to this point and are committed to putting more of your own money into publishing it. Naturally, you want the game to be the best it can be in order to make sales to recoup your investment. You also need your product to be high quality so as to encourage consumers to buy other products from your company in the future. So, when critiquing your classmate's game, you want to be as honest and as forthright as possible - also be professional.
Of course, teachers and students should not expect to strike gold every time with this project. In my own classes I have found the vast majority of the games to be rather average and not-too-terribly inspired. A small handful have been wonderful gems which with a bit more elbow grease could be turned into great games. A lamentable few will be unimaginative boring failures too. C'est la vie. Unfortunately some students will consider their games to be of the second category only to be shocked when their classmates' reviews place them in the third. A piece of the introductory lecture needs to clarify how to handle constructive criticism as well as how to be tactful about giving it. Since the final goal of the game is "real world" play, students need to set their sights on helping one another produce the best games possible for them (I constantly remind students that their games will have their names on them so they want to produce good quality and that they want to help each other improve their games for the same reasons). Despite some weaknesses, the project still has a lot to offer a class of imaginative and ambitious students (most classes would fall in this category) and it also helps otherwise "serious" students that games can be a serious business.
While the Game Design Project as I approach it in my classes is specifically intended for my EFL classes, teachers of other languages or even other subjects and levels may find it worthwhile to adapt the project to their own courses. It can lend itself to a variety of classroom applicati ons. Since I am focusing on language use, I do not limit the type of game or the subject area - albeit a fine EFL adaptation is to require the games to be conversational or compositional in nature, depending upon which skills the instructor prefers students work on at the time of the assignment (reading-based games are also a possibility in both language and literature courses). Teachers of other subjects may feel free to narrow the assignment by requiring the student-generated games be within the scope of the course matter (obviously Glass Bead Games are well suited for this sort of classroom application). Teachers may feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with reports of their own adaptation of the project. I'd be happy to archive articles on your own Game Design Project in my web page - or to link to them if you prefer to house them yourselves. *****
Visit Brian Phillips' excellent website, "Interactive Drama Freeform Live Action Role Play & Educational Gaming Resources" at www.rpg.net/larp/index.html. Brian is pursuing a doctorate on freeforms and roleplaying, and has a assembled an AMAZING on-line collection of articles, scenarios and roleplaying resources from all over the world.
by Peter L. de Rosa
Department of History, Bridgewater State College Bridgewater, MA 02325
Any educator looking for wargames for the classroom will discover that it is difficult to find an appropriate one. Most wargames are too complex for college students and it can be expensive to purchase sufficient copies for even a small class. In addition, most class periods run fifty to seventy-five minutes and few games, even with experienced players, will fit into that timeframe. Games designed for classroom use must be easy to learn and set up, playable within standard class periods, balanced, and inexpensive. In addition, they should have supporting historical information and the potential to encourage further educational exploration. The four following games all fit these criteria.
The first two games are by Louis R. Coatney, who has designed seven World War II Eastern Front simulations, and one on Guadalcanal. 1st Alamein: July 1942 represents his first efforts on North Africa. This is a fairly simple game, billed as the Beginner's Edition for The Battles of Alamein, also available from him. It features a 13 by 12 hex-sized map, 31 units, 5 pages of rules, and 3 pages of charts and tables. Coatney provides ample designer's notes and historical commentary, as well as an annotated ludography of North African games.
1st Alamein plays fairly quickly (an hour or so) and would be manageable in two fifty-minute class periods (including setup). There is one scenario covering Rommel's July offensive. Each of the ten turns has reinforcement, airstrike marker placement, movement, combat, unit recovery, and victory determination phases. The game is balanced and the designer includes information and materials for running a tournament.
1st Alamein can be obtained at Coatney's home page at http://www.wiu.edu/users/mslrc. He allows free reproduction for personal educational, and library use. The website includes instructions for downloading 1st Alamein, reviews of Stalingrad and 1941, comments on his other games, naval modeling information including plans for an introductory destroyer model, Civil War naval rules, and a Pascal Subprogram for World War II naval wargaming. In short, his website is a good way to introduce students to wargaming and history on the Internet. The game has also been reprinted in the January and February issues of the Strategist, the newsletter of the Strategy Gaming Society. These issues are available for $2.50 total from George Phillies, 87-6 Park Avenue, Worcester, MA 01605. Make the check payable to SGS.
The second Coatney game is German Eagle vs. Russian Bear: A World War II Russian Front Boardgame Kit [GERB]. This particular game is more complex than Alamein with about fifteen pages of rules. The game's relative complexity is alleviated by its logical flow, a comprehensive example of play, and its small size (12 by 8 hex-sized map, 39 units on the board to start. Coatney believes that GERB is appropriate for grades 8 and up, but it seems more suited to the college level.
The sequence of play includes weather, reinforcements/replacements/fortification, movement and combat, undispersement/refit, and victory determination phases. GERB includes five scenarios, with the Barbarossa one playable in about an hour. Overall, the game captures the major aspects of the Russo-German struggle nicely. A review and designer's notes can be found in Fire & Movement 81 (July/August 1992). The game is available from Louis Coatney, 626 Western Avenue, Macomb, IL 61455, in kit form for $15 or for $25 assembled.
GERB can also be obtained from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS), CBIS Federal, 7420 Fullerton Road, Suite 110, Springfield, VA 22153-2852; 1-800-443-3742; email@example.com. ERIC is a massive collection of educational materials on microfiche sponsored by the Department of Education. Most large libraries have the collection or can obtain a specific microfiche for you. Otherwise you can order a copy directly from EDRS, usually for about $2. The website has their current prices. GERB has two editions on ERIC (1st edition: ED 287786, 2nd edition: 361256). Coatney allows free educational reproduction of the 2nd edition. ERIC also has Coatney's interesting paper on libraries and simulations (ED 330339). Thus, using GERB could also serve to introduce students to the useful ERIC system.
In 1986, rather than whine about the decline of historical boardgaming, Game Designers Workshop attempted to make boardgaming accessible to newcomers with their introductory game The Battle of Moscow [BOM].The simulation came in booklet form, complete with essays on learning wargaming, the hobby, GDW, and Operation Typhoon (the scenario covered in BOM). The game was ideally suited for beginners with only 4 pages of rules, 1 page of charts, a 10 by 14 hex-sized map, and 36 units. BOM was balanced and played in a short amount of time. Best of all, it was free, being available at conventions, by mail from GDW in exchange for postage, or with purchase of Great Patriotic War. GDW later followed this experiment with the Battle of Basra, a tactical game based on the First Battle system.
Sadly, GDW folded in 1996, leaving BOM homeless and out of print. Frank Chadwick, GDW patriarch and the game's designer, subsequently gave permission to post the game at the Web Grognards site on the Internet (http://www.grognard.com). This site is by far the most comprehensive source of historical boardgaming information on the Web, with links to just about every other wargaming site. The BOM section also has Thomas Lane's game extension originally published in Battleplan #7.
My own desire for a fast-playing wargame appropriate for classroom use led to the design of Stratagem, which has two World War II scenarios. This game is ultrasimple with only two pages of rules, one page of optional rules, and a sample turn. Each scenario has an objectives chart, a game chart, and a chronology. A moderator records the players' moves on the game chart, and combat is resolved by a simple exchange. The system is derived from Origins of World War II, but it is greatly simplified. Generally, the other players are doomed unless they can ally against Germany. Stratagem works well in a large class, and the students enjoy it enough so that its use should not harm the hobby to any great extent. Copies are available from me. E-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions.
Finally, the text of James Dunnigan's The Complete Wargames Handbook can be found online at http://www.hyw.com. Any instructor seeking to use wargames in the classroom, or anyone simply interested in learning about them, should start here.
NASAGA '98 is the 37th Annual Conference of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association, which will be October 14-17, 1998 in Atlanta Georgia. The Conference theme is "Let the Games Begin!" The conference will feature the latest in experiential learning techniques, simulations and of course games! The conference is legendary among past participants for the interactive, fun and useful sessions, and collaborative spirit among all involved.
The North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) is a growing network of professionals working on the design, implementation, and evaluation of games and simulations to improve learning results in all types of organizations. NASAGA's primary mission is to facilitate the use of simulations and games and to collect, develop and spread information about the principles and procedures of interactive, experiential approaches to education, training, management, problem solving and decision making.
Want More Information?
or visit our website at http://nasaga.org
We've received a number of games recently. If you have a game review, please send it in! If you would like your company's game playtested or reviewed, send us a copy. We can't provide this service unless we've seen the game!
These reviews are all by David Millians. You can find many additional reviews online at www.rpg.net!
Crusade from Chameleon Eclectic Entertainment, P.O. Box 10262, Blacksburg, Virginia 24062-0262
This is a great military card game. Players fight the small unit battles of 1944 and 1945 which followed the D-Day invasion of Europe. Some cards represent units like the Tiger Tank or the L-4 Grasshopper, while others affect everything from terrain to weather and logistics. The steps in play become quite clear and simple within a few rounds of first playing. This game illustrates situations and issues during the war, and due to the cards' clear numbers and regular use, I'm currently using them for arithmetic practice. Should the basic game succeed in the market, there is talk of expansions into other theaters of World War II. This would be an excellent group of games, and the current cards are already designed with this possibility in mind.
Fluxx from Iron Crown Enterprises, P.O. Box 1605, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902; 800-325-0479
This game is the runaway hit in my class this spring. Games usually come and go in my classroom during the year, and many have, but nothing was as popular as Fluxx. Girls and boys love it! My students devised a point system in order to play one vast, continuous game.
Play begins with a small hand and a few basic rules. New cards change the rules, the limits, and even the victory conditions of each game. A player may suddenly find herself victorious, but more often the most carefully laid plans shift dramatically under the pressures of play. The ever changing rules lead to elaborate problem solving, and the game's playful but challenging and whimsical tone disrupt typical thinking. Fluxx is good brain food. Let your students at it!
Fuzzy Heroes from Inner City Games Designs, P.O. Box 345, Grayslake, Illinois 60030; 708-336-0790
In this game players guide their favorite plush toys through adventures and challenges. Adults and kids enjoy it. It's full of opportunities for strategy and storytelling and is a wonderful, clear introduction to roleplaying or wargaming. Kids are naturals for such play, and this game gives them a wonderful excuse to do so and (ahem) for us enough reason to get down on the carpet too. There are several supplements, all whimsical and expanding upon the ideas in the basic book. I plan to use this game in my day camp as a way to break the ice and to introduce kids to new kinds of games.
Men In Black from West End Games, RR 3, Box 2345, Honesdale, Pennsylvania 18431-9560; 717-253-6990
This is another game of our fanciful, modern age. If you've seen the movie, you know the style of its stories, and this game captures them well. The tabloids provide the tales, and the creativity of the participants takes it from there. My class used this and other games and movies to examine the folklore of the modern USA, our penchant to romanticize or to find intrigue and conspiracy behind the days' events.
Spammers from Atlas Games, P.O. Box 131233, Roseville, Maryland 55113; 612-638-0098; email@example.com
This game is a hilarious, biting satire of modern telecommunication woes. Players attempt to complete the most mass mailings to unsuspecting groups of Internet users: Na´ve Newbies; Ivory Tower Academics; Servants of the Man; Apostrophe User's of the World; Bored, Wealthy, Gullible Retirees; Arpanet Refugees; and We're Over 18, Honest! Other cards implement cutting edge technologies or modify the conditions of the network. Mailings range from "Rule Your Own Island Nation" and "Respond-or-be-Sued, LLP" to "Offshore Money Laundering Ltd." and "Walter's Wankery," so some of the game's features, like those of the real thing, are so-called mature, but my sixth grade computer aficionados enjoyed it without discomfort.
If you caught the language arts error cited above, extra points to you! Stock Market from Wilson Games, 2235 East 4800 Street, Suite 220, Salt Lake City, Utah 84117; 801-272-9198; fax: 801-272-9139
This game is an excellent simulation of the basic and complex possibilities in this major realm of modern investment. A clever, sliding meter tracks the ever changing value of a range of stocks, and players can travel peripheral pathways in order to split stock. The board is reminiscent of Monopoly. The basic rules are presented on the inside of the box top in such a way that play can begin after reading only a few clear paragraphs, other rules being introduced as play continues and questions arise.
Treasure Hunters from Propaganda Publishing, 3020 Boutin Drive #106, Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701
This is a delightful, short game in which two players or two teams of players race to find the buried treasure of a remote island. Its rules are simple, sufficient, and straightforward. My students and I modified the basic game without any trouble and added some rules in order to simulate the final chapters of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. It was great fun!
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