Dragon Magazine #27: Board Games and the Philosopher Stone

Dragon #27The cover of dragon #27 depicts a knight in shining armor readying an attack , lance in his hand, sitting on his horse. Good example of what Editor Tim Kask admits in this issue’s editorial, that some of the covers so far were, let’s say mediocre. And why’s he saying that? Well, #27 is another birthday issue and Mr. Kask takes the opportunity to look back on what The Dragon did well and what it did not so well. He’s also looking forward to what is yet to come, though most things he talks about come down to ‚more of the same, but better‘.

It’s Tim Kask again who reviews SPI’s The Battle of Agincourt, one of those battle simulation games I ‚ve not understood why to play them til today. As much as I’m a history afficionado (and even have studied it for some years), I’ve never had the least interest to play such simulations especially when the result of the game is enforced to ensure historical accurateness. According to the words of Tim Kask, Agincourt is such a game, where the English army will win every time as long as you’re playing by the book. This is like me playing a game of chess against Magnus Carlsen . Ok, but enough from me, Mr. Kask, while critizising some minor points, generally likes this game very much, so different tastes and all.

The game’s designer, James Dunnigan, follows up with some Designer Notes regarding this game. According to him, this game is more than just that, it is also a historical study regarding medieval strategies, tactics and battle formations. This also explains certain design decisions he made regarding leadership and morale factors. Still not my cup of tea, but at least I can see why someone might like activities like this.

The third Agincourt article by Steve Alvin is easily the most interesting of those three. The Political and Military Effects of Agincourt on the Hundred Years War describes the political situation and events in England and France leading to the Battle of Agincourt as well as the consequences and developments after this decisive English victory. I generally like those articles, because when you’re building your own world, they can be really helpful in inspiring the timeline of your setting and the relations between different countries.

Elementals and the Philosopher Stone by Jeff Swycaffer is the first D&D related article of this issue. Jeff presents a new system of 12 elements as well as 12 elementals. Interestingly enough, those 12 elements include Good and Evil (with their elementals being angels and demons), so there is a bit of alignment involved. Apart from those elementals already published in official products, each gets a short description of their looks and their special powers , while a table with game values makes them ready to be used in play. The article also contains instructions to build your own philosopher’s stone as an irregular polyhedron which can be used as a die. Which he uses to add simple rules for a more or less funny Question-Answer game. I think this article is mostly interesting for the fact that he seem to have influenced how D&D’s Inner Planes would be presented in later editions.

In this issue’s Sorcerer’s Scroll, guest author Bob Bledsaw gives his thoughts on what Judges Guild has done for the success of D&D as a whole. As I was a bit late to the party, I’ve never used anything by JG but I’ve heard more good than bad about it. And at the least, this article gives a nice overwiev about the product list, Judges Guild created over the years. Next is a short report on 1979’s Cangames, a canadian convention Gary Gygax visited. And he has a lot of praise for it.

Out on a Limb returns with a very longish answer to accusations against Ralph Bakshi in a former issue. And a very short answer by the editor himself to a really harsh attack against the critique formulated regarding the Soldier of Fortune magazine.

Next is a short articly by Gary Jordan about the use of a Tesseract as an Traveller Artifact, that can be used as additional storage room or as an escape pod in case of an emergency situation. What follows is a one-page comic by Tom Wham about „The Voyages of Exploration Ship Znutar”, which is mainly an advertisment for the game to follow up in the next issue. After that, it’s again Gary Jordan’s turn, this time with a short system for Star System Generation in the Traveller game.

Next article is the Designers‘ notes on Glenn and Kenneth Rahman’s game Divine Rights. Again, board game, so not too much love from me, but Minaria, the background setting for this game was quite awesome and I really enjoyed the article series Minarian Legends that would be later published in the pages of Dragon, but we’ll come back to that.

A quick look at Dwarves by Lance Harrop is a short summary of how the dwarven army might be organised. It comes with a chart for that organization which I guess could easily serve to form a dwarven army in any kind of system that has some rules for mass combat.

Aaaaand another set of Designers‘ notes, this time for The Emerald Tablet, which is a set of rules for miniature combat within a fantasy setting, that seems to be mainly remarkable for how it includes magic into the combat system though it seems as if this game never got much traction.

The second issue of Lawrence Schick’s and Tom Moldvay’s series Giants in the Earth presents Alan Garner’s Durathror, Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter of Mars. Never felt much use for characters from other settings in any of my games, but still like the series for the shout-out it gives to several more or less famous fantasy authors.

Next is a review about Philmar’s The english Civil War another board game, that seemed, according to Tim Kask, to suffer under a very shoddy presentation. It follows a game variant for the Imperium board game by Roberto Camino and a review by D.Minch for the air warfare game MiG Killers (what a name).

I generally like Jerome Arkenberg’s Mythos of… series, but with Mythos of Africa, I think that he crammed too much stuff into one article. I’m by no way an expert for african myths and folklore, but I know enough about the variety of the african people to be fairly sure that you‘ can’t do this topic justice on two pages. Now Arkenberg doesn’t pretend otherwise, but still I think that there is a lot of potential wasted by putting all of this in one pantheon.

Dragon’s Bestiary; The Horast by Mary Lynn Skirvin presents us with a fairly unimpressing monster that is also called the whipper beast for the whip-like tail it possesses and that it can use as a weapon in combat.

In the comics section we have another hilarious issue of Fineous Fingers, in which his friends continue their escape from the evil wizard’s castle. And last but not least, Gary Gygax presents us another issue of the Bazaar of the Bizzare, this time with the Bag of Wind, which comes in 5 variants named after the four winds of greek mythology and their keeper Aeolus. This item should be well-known to everyone who has read Homer’s Odyssey.

Wow, this took me along time. I hope you won’t have to wait for the next installment of my review series as long as for this one.

[Rezi]Dragon Magazine #26, Teil 1 – Auf dem ersten Basar des Bizarren

dragon26Im Redaktionsteil stellt uns Tim Kask neben einem neuen Mitarbeiter ein paar inhaltliche Neuerungen vor. Die später heißgeliebte Kolumne “Bazare of the Bizarre“ erblickt ebenso das Tageslicht wie auch die “Giants in the Earth“ (s.u.). Außerdem darf das obligatorische Jammern über den Mangel an druckfertigen Leserbriefen nicht fehlen. Das neue Mitglied darf sich dann selbst vorstellen. Gary Jacquet hat eine journalistische Ausbildung genossen, schon ein paar Meriten im Rollenspieldesign erworben und ist außerdem ein guter Kumpel von Tim Kask. Gibt schlechtere Eigenschaften für einen künftigen Redakteur.

Es folgen einige Artikel, die sich mit einem neuen System für Miniaturenspieler beschäftigen. System 7 Napoleonics ersetzt die bis dato üblichen Bleifiguren durch Kartoncounter und macht das Spiel in der napoleonischen Ära deutlich preiswerter. Auch scheinen die Regeln ein deutlich schnelleres Spiel zu ermöglichen. Tim Kask zeigt sich so begeistert, dass er dem System sogar eine ähnlich durchschlagende Wirkung prophezeit, wie ihn auch D&D für das Hobby hatte. Die Diskussion finde ich vor allem unter dem Gesichtspunkt interessant, dass auch heute noch sowohl Miniaturen als auch Counter Verwendung finden (z.B. bei Paizo).

Die Serie Giants in the Earth nimmt sich Helden der Fantasy-Literatur vor und bastelt sie in D&D-taugliche Charaktere inkl. Statblock um. Ich halt persönlich nicht so viel davon, verschiedene Welten miteinander zu vermischen, freue mich aber immer über Lesetipps. Die erste Folge präsentiert Jack Vances “Cugel the Clever“, Karl Edward Wagners “Jane“ sowie Talbot Mundys “Thros of Samothrace“, die ich alle nicht kenne, weswegen ich über die Umsetzung nichts sagen kann.

Es folgt eine Variante zur Spielumsetzung von Robert A. Heinleins “Starship Troopers“. Der Autor John W.S. Martin ist nämlich nicht damit zufrieden, dass die Humanoiden nur eine Nebenrolle spielen und peppt in “What about the Skinnies?“ ebendiese ein wenig auf.

Eduard S. Cooper diskutiert in “The Placement of Castles“ die Nachteile der Platzierung von Burgen im Brettspiel “Lords and Wizards“. Joe Curreri erinnert sich anlässlich des 35. Jahrestages an die Invasion der Normandie. Und James McMillan baut für das Spiel “William the Conqueror-1066“ einen Berserker inkl. Regeln für den Einsatz im Solospiel. David Sweet hingegen reichert die Schar der untoten Wesen um ein paar chinesische Exemplare an.

Michael Crane präsentiert ein kleines Hausregelpaket für Boot Hill. Einiges davon ist eher kosmetischer Natur, wie z.B. die Würfeltabelle für die Körperlänge der SC. Ganz nützlich erscheint mir aber die Variante für das schnellere Auswürfeln der Trefferzonen.

Another View of the Nine-Point Alignment Scheme von Carl Parlagreco beschäftigt sich mit der Interpretation des Gesinnungssystem und liefert eine kleine Tabelle mit möglichen Handlungsweise je Gesinnung. Die Motivation des Autors liegt in der Vermeidung ermüdender Gesinnungsdiskussionen, wozu ein solches Format allerdings nur dann beitragen dürfte, wenn sich alle Beteiligten vorher darauf einigen, ironischer weise also erst mal eine Gesinnungsdiskussion geführt wird.