Showing posts with label board games. Show all posts
Showing posts with label board games. Show all posts

Thursday, February 18, 2021

TSR Minigames as Moldvay-era Adventure Modules

TSR's minigames
TSR's minigames
Last week I discussed how I saw Warlocks & Warriors as something of a "larger" minigame and thematically fitting in with Holmes Basic.   Today I want to fast forward to 1980-81 and talk a little bit about TSR's minigames.

I do not own all of these games, nor am I planning to hunt them all down. My FLGS has a few of them but I have other things on my list to find and buy first.  That being said having them all would be kind of fun.

There were eight total games and I own the first four, the same four that appeared in the 1981 Gateway to Adventure catalog.  The links below take you to their Board Game Geek pages.

Vampyre, my first one. This is for 2-6 players. Players hunt the minions of Dracula in an attempt to find and destroy his coffins.  There is a "wilderness" map and a map of Castle Dracula. Designed by Philip A. Shreffler. Art by Erol Otus.

Revolt on Antares. This game is for 2-4 players and is a "Sword and Planet" style adventure with three modes of play. Typical this boils down to the Terran Empire being the antagonists, protagonists, or neutral. Designed by Tom Moldvay and art by Bill Willingham and Erol Otus. Black Dougal makes an appearance here as well. Also listed for art are Jeff Dee (cover), David LaForce, and Jim Roslof

They've Invaded Pleasantville. For 2 players, a "Town" player and an "Alien" player.  Aliens have invaded Pleasantville as part of their global takeover plan. The town player must either stop or kill the alien sub-commander "Zebu-Lon" (wait a minute...) or get more than half of the townsfolk back to normal.  Designed by Michael Price with art by Erol Otus, Jeff Dee, David LaForce, Jim Roslof, and Bill Willingham.

SAGA. For 2-6 players. Players amass treasure, lands, and glory. The one that has the most glory at the end of 20 rounds wins. Designed by Steve Marsh with art by Erol Otus, Jeff Dee, David LaForce, Jim Roslof, and Bill Willingham.  Willingham's cover is one of the best and this also features some great Erol Otus art. 

Other minigames include Attack Force, Icebergs, Remember the Alamo and Viking Gods. I don't own these games, but their production values seem a touch higher than the first four. 

Minigames, the Gateway to Adventure!
Minigames, the Gateway to Adventure!

All the games feature a 16-page booklet with black and white art and a fold-out map.  Sometimes full color (Saga, Pleasantville, Antares) or two-color (Vampyre).  Vampyre is also the only one with the maps printed on both sides.  Each game also came with counters and two d6s. 

Vampyre minigame in clamshell, with dice, counters and map

They are all certainly playable and fun on their own.  I had a lot of fun with Vampyre back in the day. But that is not why we are here today.  No today I am going to dip a toe a little bit into my Traveller Envy and mix these with my current D&D games.   Let me start out with my old favorite and one I have used as an adventure in the past.

Minigames as B/X Adventures

There is a lot to love about these little games.  The Souvenir font really hits that nostalgia button hard for fans of the Moldvay/Cook Basic and Expert sets. Not to mention some of the best-looking Erol Otus art.   This troll not only belongs in D&D, but he is BEGGING to be in D&D.

Erol Otus Troll from SAGA
Erol Otus Troll from SAGA

Maybe it is the font, maybe it is the art but when I got these games the first thing I wanted to do was play them as part of my D&D games.  Of course, back then that meant Basic and Expert D&D.  Some of it also came from the desire to get the most out of my purchase with my limited paper route money.

Vampyre

My first minigame.  Now I am a HUGE Dracula and vampire fan so when I got the Cook/Marsh Expert Set and saw that there were vampires in it my first thoughts went to vampire hunts.  My first character was a cleric for this very reason.  The game Vampyre is set during the events of the novel Dracula with the same (or rather similar) characters.  So set in the 1890s. Since Ravenloft Masque of the Red Death was still a decade and a half away, I converted this to a simple Expert D&D monster hunt.   If I were to redo it I'd up the threat of Dracula.  In Expert, I made him a Greater Vampire

Vampire chic, circa 1981
Vampire chic, circa 1981

The dual map, a "wilderness" and a "dungeon" again BEG to be used in the Expert game. The parallels between this game and the Ravenloft adventure. No surprise since both draw from the exact same source materials.  The trick the next time I use this is to make it less like Ravenloft.

SAGA

This is the next piece of "low hanging fruit."  Like Dungeon! the connections to D&D are obvious here.  SAGA has heroes fighting monsters, exploring, gaining treasure. Sounds D&D like to me! There is a nice little Risk-like map of the Viking world. This includes all of England, Denmark, and some of Sweden, Norway, and Ireland.  The map also had "Thule" about in the place where Iceland would be expected (and to the map's odd scale).  The map is also just great to look at. 

Outside of the troll featured above the monsters include Dragons, Drow (not just dark elves), Ghosts, Giants, and Witches!  I am happy to see that witches are the next more dangerous creature after dragons.  The game has some fun spells and magical runes with simple effects and some named magical swords. 

While there are no dungeons in this game it is full of ideas. 

This got me thinking about how Vampyre and SAGA could work together.  In SAGA you travel from mainland Europe to England for treasure and glory.  In Dracula, the last act is the heroes traveling from England back to mainland Europe to hunt the monster.   Maybe with something like Draugr & Draculas as the connective tissue the mini-campaign can be changed from one of just glory to one of monster hunting across the continent to stop the master vampire. Call it Vampyre Saga.  Hmm. That sounds a little bit like a supernatural teen show on the CW.  I'll play with it a bit.

The next two are a little hard to fit in.

They Invaded Pleasantville

The premise of this game is great and recalls 50s alien invasion movies. But as Carl Sagan pointed out in The Demon-Haunted World today's alien abductions were yesteryear's demon possessions.  So swap out the aliens for demons and now this sleepy Midwestern town is a village in the Realms where demons are running rampant.  Stop the Alien Sub-CommanderDemonic Lord.

Revolt on Antares

This game is a fun Sword & Planet game, but remove it from it's setting it is a fairly generic "Us vs. Them" game of rebellion and oppressors.  Sure there are a lot of ways I could use this, but it gets it further and further away from its basic premise.  Maybe it would make for a good Star Frontiers game.

Party like it is 1981!

In any case, there is a lot more fun to be had here. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Warlocks & Warriors (1977)

Warlocks & Warriors Box cover
The weekend before last I was at my FLGS and in their "glass case" there was a game that I have been wanting since I opened my first "Gateway to Adventure."  That game is Warlocks & Warriors.

While the game has some serious nostalgia value to it (details in a bit) the game itself is so simple it makes Dungeon! look like RuneQuest or Champions.

Choose to be a warrior or a warlock and move your pawn on the board.  Run into another player? Duel, which has the effect of pushing them back. 

The goal is to get the blonde princess back to her castle so her daddy the King can give you half his kingdom and supposedly the princess too. Hey, it was 1977.  Given the cover, I thought maybe the blonde was also a playable character.  I really should have known better, but I had hoped.

But there are a few things going for it.  First and foremost this game was designed by Gardner Fox.  Yes THAT Gardner Fox.  So I was hoping for a little more to be honest.  The guy that gave us Zatanna and Doctor Fate (among others) should have had cooler warlocks.

It is also an "Introductory Fantasy Game" so it would be fun as an introduction to old-school D&D tropes for younger kids.  Though the lack of anything like fantasy monsters (as moving pieces) or treasure limit the use of this for that.  The playing pieces are basic, but not really for 1977 standards.

The cover similarities between this and Holmes Basic can't be ignored.

Holmes Basic D&D with Warlocks & Warriors Boxes

It really seems to be the same "Warlock" and "Warrior" on both covers.  Both were done by David Sutherland and both boxed sets came out the same year.

This is also not the only time we see the "Princess" we next see her in the AD&D Player's Handbook looking over the collected treasure loot. 

The W&W Princess becomes her own hero!

Maybe she told the Warrior and the Warlock (and her dad)  to go get bent and she became an adventurer herself.  I mean she is eyeing that magic sword.

Zenopus Archives (the authority on all things Holmes) comments on how the map from this game would make for a good Holmes Basic "Hex Crawl".

Warlocks & Warriors Wilderness Map

The box itself is surprisingly light.  But I am judging it by today's standards.

Warlocks & Warriors box and pawns

Warlocks & Warriors instructionsEarly TSR catalog

Warlock & Warriors credits

Would this game satisfy my "Traveller Envy?"  I am not sure.  I think I could work it into a game somehow.  Maybe as the previously mentioned Hex Crawl for Holmes (or Basic Era between levels 1 and 3).  I could come up with a whole adventure for it to be honest.  Warlock holding a princess captive, hex crawl to find her.  But that is WAY too clichéd. 

Still. I can't help think there is a way to add this to the Holmes Experience.  Potentially add it to the Monster Manual for the full 1977 experience!  Or maybe the Ancient Ruins on the map are the dungeon from the Dungeon! board game. 

Elise Gygax, D&D, Dungeon! and Warlocks & Warriors. Party like it is 1977!

The game itself is really just a larger "mini-game" not much more complex than the mini-games that TSR would later release in 1981.  I'll even go on a limb here and say the relationship between Warlocks & Warriors to Holmes is not significantly different than the relationship between the 1981 mini-games and Moldvay Basic.

TSRs Mini-games

More on these mini-games at a future date!

Reviews

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

What is "Traveller Envy" and why do I have it?

My memory is hazy, but my second RPG was either Traveller or Chill.  I like to say it was Chill since it gives me Horror RPG cred.  But in truth, I think it was Traveller.  No shame in that, I was a huge Sci-fi fan back then, even if I rarely got to play Sci-Fi games.

Who's Number 2? Sadly I can't recall.

While this month is dedicated to nothing but horror, I have been itching to get back into some sci-fi gaming and I have been reflecting a lot on something I call "Traveller Envy."

Growing up in the middle of Illinois had some advantages.  We were is what has been referred to as the RPG or even D&D pipeline.  We were situated between Chicago/Lake Geneva and Carbondale, IL where Tim Kask's (and my) Alma Mater SIU is.  We were also close enough to the University of Illinois.  It is only within the last couple of decades that I have come to learn how good I had it then.  Meaning, we had access to RPG products that most of the country lacked.  Judges Guild was just on the opposite side of Springfield from me.  Pacesetter was far North of us, but soon Mayfair would move into the Chicago burbs.  I regularly ordered games I could not otherwise find from The Dungeon Hobby shop/Mail Order Hobby Shop in Lake Geneva or Games Plus in Mount Prospect.


I would usually go to the AD&D/D&D material first, but it would not be long before I'd hit the other games, in particular Traveller.

D&D was great and had many worlds. Traveller had the whole universe. Literally.  

What struck me the most was not just all the RPG products Traveller had, but all the board games and other related games that all seemed to live inside the same in-game Universe.   I imagined campaigns (which always looked like a cross between Star Trek and Blake's 7) where you could role-play your characters and then turn around and have massive space battles using one of the many Traveller related board games

It was full immersion into a world universe that I just couldn't get with D&D.   Oh sure. I had the Dungeon! board game and I loved (love) it.  But a Dungeon! character is not the same as a D&D character. Even back in those earliest days.

I still love Dungeon!

I thought we might get a little closer in D&D4 with the various Dungeon & Dragon board games. But even they were both too close and too different at the same time.  Also I never really could get into those board games. I picked a couple up to try, but in the end I just ended up cannibalizing them for the minis.  IF and this is a big if, I ever rerun Ravenloft as a campaign I might pull that on in.

This feeling of wanting to expand my universe more with more varieties of games is something I have dubbed "Traveller Envy."

I suppose I could have also called this "Star Fleet Battles Envy" since they do something similar, but that doesn't roll off the tongue as easy.

Now it could be that my Traveller Envy is built on something that doesn't even exist.  The dawn of it was reading over Game Catalogs and maybe seeing stronger connections that were not really there.  I have learned that some of the board games take place in the RPG's "past." Even then if the connection is less than I suspect, it is still strong.

I have wanted to do something like this for a long, long time.  I have some ideas on how to do it and what to do, but I am nowhere near close to figuring it all out.

"Travelling" with the Witches

My goal would be to use some board games (as many as I can) in my War of the Witch Queens campaign.  While my Come Endless Darkness campaign is multi-versal that is not something the characters know until much, much later.  In War of the Witch Queens, they learn this early on.

So it makes sense to give it a multi-versal, multi-media feel.


None of these board games are even remotely compatible with my old-school D&D game.  They are also largely incompatible with each other.  Only Affliction and Witch Hunt work by covering the same historical event. But I have to give it a try.

In one respect at least Cauldron Bubble and Boil has the advantage of featuring my iconic witch Larian in it as the "Arcanist" witch. 


I have talked Wizard's QuestWitch's Caldron, and Witchcraft Ritual Kit before.  Not all of them are going to work. Not all of them will even work well, but I think I owe it to that 13-year-old version of me to at least give it a try.

Maybe I could have picked an easier batch.  Again my BlackStar game could work with StarFleet Battles (any version) and even some Cthulhu related games.  But this is where my love is.  Besides, there is no challenge in climbing hills, only mountains. 

Are there games you look at and think "man, I need to try that in my game"? 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Witchcraft Ritual Kit (1974)

I was out getting some driving practice with my sons over the weekend.  They didn't want too so I made them a deal, if they drove we could go to our favorite local game store Games Plus.  So we did and I found something of a little treasure.


This is Avalon Hill's Witchcraft Ritual Kit from 1974!

So imagine this, the year is 1974.  Avalon Hill knows about D&D having passed on previous Gygax penned works.  The biggest movie of the year is The Exorcist and rival Milton Bradley is churning out Ouija boards all day.  What is Avalon Hill to do?  Simple they create a "game" based on Wicca and Witchcraft.

Supposedly authored by "Dr. Brooke Hayward Jennings", who I can find nothing on anywhere, and neither has anyone else, this was one of two of their occult-themed games.  The other was called "Black Magic" and featured a similarily "porny" cover.

Now, all that aside I have been wanting this game forever.  It has been out of print since the mid-70s and finding a good copy is nearly impossible.

I found this sitting in the stacks of out of print wargames. It was labeled as "unpunched" and interior in good condition even if the box had some shelf wear.  I knew, more or less what I was getting here, so despite the high price (I am not going to tell you what I paid for it) I had to get it.

Well.  I am not disappointed.

Let's have a look inside.






That game board is gorgeous! Not so sure about all the pieces, and those game tokens have to go!
I'll likely replace the male and female figures with minis, maybe 72mm ones, and the other items with small 3D printed versions.  Don't know yet, have to read how they are used.


The gamebook is a mix-mash of all sorts of wicca, occult and pagan ideas that lack coherence. It is, however, a fun read.







This is easily the most 70s thing I own.

I could not find any reviews online and none from any pagans or gamers to give me their insight and point of view.

Also, I am not sure what I will do with it yet. Like I said some of the pieces have to go to make it playable in my mind, but that game board.

In line with my "Traveller Envy" I talked about with Wizard's Quest and Witch's Caldron boardgames I really WANT to use this as part of the larger "War of the Witch Queens" campaign. I am just not sure how yet.  I do have other board games to add to it.

Oh, it also been properly pointed out that the TRUE way to express my Board Game Traveller Envy is via Starfleet Battles and my "BlackStar" campaign.  But that is a topic for another day.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Witch's Caldron

Another "Holy Grail" find this week.  But this is a cheat, I have been looking for this on eBay for a while.

Ral Partha's Witch's Caldron
Not to be confused with The Witch's Cauldron.

I didn't want the newer 2016 version so I have been looking for a complete 1980 version with minis. Well, my persistence finally paid off.



The box is full great stuff too.







The minis are what you expect from Ral Partha in the 1980s. Yes, that is a positive thing.




The Wizard and the Witch,




Lots of great minis in this.

Part of me wants them painted, another part of me doesn't.  Maybe I'll just find some pre-painted minis that I can use in place of these.

Going back to my "Traveller Envy" I would love to figure out a way to use this in my War of the Witch Queens campaign.  A battle that the wizard pulling the strings of the PCs makes them participate in against one of the Witch Queens.