Last Monday I talked a little bit about the Fall Games Auction at Games Plus in Mount Prospect, Illinois. I compared it to Paris Fashion Week because, much like a fashion show, it’s an opportunity to see everything new all in one place.
And not really in a leisurely, browsing-in-a-bookstore fashion, either. While you’re gawking at a fabulous fantasy game you never even knew existed, people all around you are bidding in a frenzy, intent on making sure you never see it again. On average, you get an 8 to 10-second glimpse at each treasure before it’s gone forever.
Unless you outbid all those other bastards, of course.
There’s a perfectly natural outcome to this mad situation. It’s known as “auction fever.” Don’t ask how I know this. (I refer you, without comment, to my March article on my last trip to Games Plus, “Spring in Illinois brings… Auction Fever.”)
In any event, I attended the Fall auction with much greater spousal oversight over my finances, and severely diminished resources. Still, I was able to come away with a host of treasures, and a lenghty list of exciting new science fiction and fantasy games to track down and investigate.
I’m not going to turn this into a catalog of new games I discovered over the span of five hours. For one thing, that would take a lot of pixels. Instead, I think I’ll focus on the most interesting items I brought home with me, and a few of the tantalizing ones that got away.
[Click on any of the images in this article for bigger versions.]
Let me repeat that for maximum impact. Cthulhu. Versus giant robots. If there’s a game premise more golden than that, I’ll eat the state of Rhode Island.
That concept alone should have you reaching for your wallet, and if it doesn’t, the high production values and captivating artwork should seal the deal.
CthulhuTech was first released in 2008, and was an Origins Award Finalist for Best Game of the Year. It’s an unusual game with an active fan base, and has changed publishers several times. It was created by Wildfire LLC and is currently published by Sandstorm (if you’re curious you can read more at the game’s website).
A handful of CthulhuTech supplements made it to the auction block; the first was Ancient Enemies, which details the Shadow War between the mysterious Eldritch Society and the insidious Chrysalis Corporation. It pulls back the curtain on Chrysalis, showing both its inner workings and the spreading cancer of the Children of Chaos.
I paid eight bucks for a copy in virtually flawless condition, with a retail price of $39.99. Definitely made the right call with this one. I also won the bidding for both Mortal Remains ($10), and Vade Mecum: The CthulhuTech Companion ($12).
CthulhuTech, at least, I was passingly familiar with; I knew it was still in print, and roughly what the books retailed for. These next items were true unknowns — one-of-a-kind treasures that, for all I knew, were long out of print and rare.
It’s dangerous to be ill-informed at auctions, as we’re about to discover.
The first board game to cast a spell on me was Dragon Rampage from Eagle Games. I knew absolutely nothing about it.
But I knew I wanted it. It was gorgeous, for one thing, and the copy being offered was in absolutely pristine shape.
I had to go with my gut — and clues from the enthusiastic bidding — to decide whether this was a rare, impossible-to-find fantasy title that would command a premium online, or whether it was a recent release and something I could order at my leisure.
I bet on the former, and ended up paying $30 for a used copy, easily one of the most expensive items I brought home from this auction.
Turns out I guessed wrong. Dragon Rampage was released in 2012; brand new copies are freely available online for around $39.99.
Luckily, it looks like it was well worth the money. The components are high quality and the game seems fast-paced and intriguing.
Now that I’m able to examine it, I’ve learned that Dragon Rampage is a strategic dice game designed by Richard Launius, designer of Arkham Horror and Defenders of the Realm. The premise is simple: players are adventurers who have dared to plunder the treasure around a sleeping dragon.
But of course, no dragon stays asleep for long, especially when its hoard is threatened…
Players earn points by fighting (or running away from) the dragon they just woke up, and for the treasures they obtain. Players can help or backstab each other, so in addition to keeping an eye on the dragon, they need to carefully watch their teammates. Suitable for ages 10 and up, it looks like a great family game.
This next item is highly unusual for lots of reasons. Z-Man Games’ Neuroshima Hex! is a post-apocalyptic strategy game based on a Polish RPG called Neuroshima. I’m still puzzling it out, but play seems to be tile-based, and there are four factions: machine, human, mutant, and Posterunek (a human military outpost).
All I know for sure is that there’s mutants and a giant robot on the cover, and that alone makes it worth the 15 bucks I paid for it. Plus, I’m a sucker for games with an exclamation mark in the title. It’s still in print and available online for around $37.
The marketing literature does a decent job of explaining the game, although it seems to be only partly translated from Polish:
Neuroshima Hex! is a game of tactics, where armies wage continuous battles against each other. It is based on a roleplaying game called Neuroshima RPG published by Portal in 2001. While being familiar with the RPG is not necessary, the players will find it easier to identify with their armies if they have read or played the game. The world of Neuroshima RPG is that of a post-apocalypse world torn apart by a war between humans and machines. The remains of humanity took shelter in the ruins of cities and organized in small communities, gangs and armies. Conflicts between such groups are not uncommon and the reasons of such are numerous: territory, food or equipment. What is more, the ruined cities are constantly patrolled by machines sent from the north, where a vast cybernetic entity, called Moloch appeared. Great wastelands that surround what was left of the greatest cities are home to another enemy — Borgo — a charismatic leader who controls an army of gruesome mutants. One of the last hopes of humanity is the Outpost, a perfectly organized army which wages a guerilla war against MOLOCH. Nevertheless, most human settlements, including the Hegemony, are not concerned with war until it comes banging at their door. Such is the world of Neuroshima. Game Contents: 140 Army Tiles, 4 Mercenray Tiles, 1 Mad Bomber Promo Tile, Board, 4 Army Reference Cards, 16 Wound Tokens, 8 HQ Damage Tokens, Rules.
The game has at least one expansion, Neuroshima Hex Duel, which doesn’t have an exclamation point in the title and is therefore less desirable.
It includes two new armies and a new board, and the Amazon product listing includes this official description: “The new board includes terminals which can be activated using energy to do funky stuff on the board.”
Funky stuff. That’s what I like to hear.
There was one copy of the expansion up for bid, and I’m glad I snagged it for just 5 bucks.
Tomb is part of a growing trend of boardgame RPGs which simulate the excitement and exploration of table-top role playing in a board game setting. Other examples include the popular Descent and Runebound from Fantasy Flight, and Steve Jackson’s Munchkin line, especially Munchkin Quest.
Like those games, Tomb allows a group of friends to get together for dungeon delving without a dungeon master, or significant set-up time. As stated right on the box cover, the objective is to “Recruit A Party. Kill The Monsters. Take Their Stuff!” Players assemble a team heroes at an Inn, venture into the dungeon, and square off against deadly monsters in an attempt to win loot and magical treasure.
The game ends when the tomb has been successfuly cleared out, and the winner is the player who has earned the most experience points — a standard yardstick for role players, anyway.
Tomb has a number of expansions which liven up the game by adding more characters, monsters, and treasures, including Cryptmaster, Crypt Dice, and the upcoming Tomb of Iuchiban.
I’ve had my eye on Tomb for a while, and was glad to see a copy in good condition come up for auction. I paid $21 for it, which turned out to be a bargain. It’s becoming hard to find in most online markets, and retails for around $58 if you can find a copy.
One of the more unusual games I won was Pieces of Eight: The Cursed Blade, from Atlas Games (2006). I’d never seen a copy and knew nothing about it, but really, who can resist a pirate game for just 4 bucks?
I expected a typical game, but when I finally got a chance to examine it the box turned out to contain a slim set of rules and a heavy bundle of coins.
What the heck?
As near as I can figure out, Pieces of Eight: The Cursed Blade is similar to a deck of Magic cards. The coins represent a pirate ship and its crew, and what I won was not a complete game, but enough to challenge another player with their own ship.
That’s what I puzzled out from the game description, at least:
Pirate Battles on the High Seas! Adventure and glory await you in Pieces of Eight, the rousing combat game of rival buccaneer ships on the high seas. You play the game with a stack of metal pirate coins held in one hand that represents your ship. The coins you choose and the order in which you place them determine your ship’s strengths, and you use the special abilities of your coins to destroy your opponent’s coins one by one. Your goal is to expose the Captain coin buried deep in the middle of your adversary’s ship, then take him out! Dare to enter the age of blood and gold with The Maiden’s Vengeance ship set. Each set includes all the coins needed for one player to construct his own ship. Your opponents will each need their own ship set to play, but there’s no other limit to the number of players who can join in. The coins in each set are not randomized; you can combine ship sets to gain a wider selection of coins and the advantage over your foes. 2+ players (each with own set) – 10 to 30 minutes – ages 10 and up.
Fortuantely, I won a second box of coins as well (what did I tell you about resisting pirate games?), this one titled Pieces of Eight: The Maiden’s Vengeance.
I’ll know more once I convince my son Drew to sit down with me and play a few rounds. Play-by-coin is a new approach for me, but I admit it has a lot of appeal.
Thanks to Howard Andrew Jones and his detailed write-up last year, I was already familiar with Victory Point Games. I knew they made terrific products, had some great solitaire science fiction titles, and I knew they were expensive.
Just like Ogre, G.E.V., Melee, and other classic microgames of my youth, Victory Point Games come in a zip-lock bag, packaging a lot of fun in a small space. However, while those old Metagaming titles were $2.95 each, Victory Point Games typically retail for $30 – $40.
$40 for a game in a ziplock bag! Times sure have changed.
So when I saw several Victory Point games make their way to the auction block, I sat up straight. No one in this crowd was likely to bid up a game in a ziplock bag, and I was certain I would escape with some bargains.
Didn’t quite turn out that way. While their games are expensive, Victory Point also has a reputation for quality. A dozen or more boxed titles were auctioned off for under 10 bucks each in the minutes prior, but the moment those slim little Victory Point games came up for auction the bidding got a lot more intense.
I ended up paying $16 for a mint condition copy of Final Frontier, their Star Trek-inspired game of starship exploration ($34.95 retail), and $13 for a used copy of Assault on Galactus Prime, a deck-building game of rebellion against a vast stellar empire ($26 retail).
The sole copy up for bid was in great shape, unpunched and virtually new, and the combination of Nazis and zombies proved too much for me. I won it for $29, easily one of the most expensive items of the day for me.
As it turned out, it was a good call. The comparison to Tannhäuser is warranted, as this is another game that postuates a much-extended World War II and an increasingly desperate world ravaged by Nazi super-science and occult experiments.
It is the year of our Lord, 1949 and the world is in flames. The human race screams in agony as the Second World War rages unchecked around the planet. Nations die and hundreds of millions perish as the thin veneer of civilization is utterly consumed in a global orgy of savagery and rage. The technology of war develops at a suicidal pace as all sides in the conflict seek the weapon that will ensure a final victory.
Dark things lurk beneath the Third Reich: twisted creatures of malevolent intent born of demented minds. It is a time of monsters and madness and armored behemoths spitting fiery death from their fearsome guns. Though chaos reigns and evil flourishes in this desperate age, it is also a time of heroes. Join us at Grindhouse Games as we journey through the bowels of a hell on earth and fight for the very survival of mankind.
This is Götterdämmerung.
Incursion simulates a daring Allied raid on a secret German labratory on the Rock of Gibralter, pitting American mechanized Seven Infantry and British MI-13 Monster Hunters against German-controlled zombies and the sinister Gretel von X. Released in 2009, the game runs for around $43 online, when you can find a copy.
More info, including a nifty newsreel, here.
Space Hulk is a venerable Games Workshop property with a rich history. The original boardgame (from 1989) was one of the very first games I played with my sons; they loved to maneuver the bulky Space Marine miniatures through the dark corridors of the derelict spacecraft, waiting to see what kind of monsters would leap out at them. To be honest, we didn’t really pay much attention to the rules; it was more like playing toy soldiers, except with gene-mutating Tyranids and soldiers in power armor.
Just because I have fond memories of a board game from a decade ago doesn’t mean I’m current with the latest Space Hulk merchandise however, a fact I discovered when the next item on my list came up for bid: Space Hulk: Death Angel, a card game from Fantasy Flight Games.
Fantasy Flight Games have been doing a fabulous job with their recent RPGs set in the Warhammer 40K universe, including Deathwatch and Rogue Trader. Rogue Trader, in fact, is the only new RPG I’ve played with any consistency in the last few years.
But a Space Hulk card game? Seriously?
Since there’s a pic of the game on the left, the suspense is ruined and you know I bought it. Call it Space Hulk nostaligia, or gamer curiosity. Perhaps it’s just an inability to resist a bargain — although Space Hulk: Death Angel sells for around $18 online, I was able to pick up two copies for around six bucks each (when dealing with card games, I just assume each player needs her own deck).
Snooping around online I found this game description, with just the right amount of Genestealer hysteria:
Purge the Xenos Threat! The Space Hulk Sin of Damnation has succumbed to vicious Genestealer infestation. Now you must purge the vile alien… Space Hulk: Death Angel The Card Game is cooperative card game for 1-6 players. Set in the grim Warhammer 40,000 universe, Death Angel pits squad of Blood Angel Space Marines against growing alien horde. It will take strategic teamwork to make it out alive. Pick your combat group, fall into formation, and prepare for the Genestealer swarms!
Aye aye, Captain! The moment I brought this one home my teenage sons came over to check it out, so I doubt I’ll lack for players.
The Ones That Got Away
Lord of the Rings Risk: Trilogy Edition. There’s not much to explain here. It’s Lords of the Rings. It’s Risk. Instead of moving your armies from Kamchatka to Japan, you move them from Mordor to the plains of Rohan. Which somehow seems more exciting, but maybe that’s just me.
Apparently, it’s not just me. For reasons I can’t explain, I really wanted this game. But so did about twenty other bidders, and I gave up when the bidding passed $12 (it eventually sold for $16).
Not to be deterred, I went online as soon as I was home to price copies. That’s when I discovered that the Trilogy Edition — which includes a full map of Middle Earth, or something — is out of print, and copies start at around $120 on Amazon.
Aaargh. Now that sixteen bucks seems cheap. Next time I go to auction, I’m bringing my iPad with me.
Now, as much as I wanted Lord of the Rings Risk: Trilogy Edition, I knew it wasn’t a rare game. I’d seen it plenty of times, and if you’re patient and resourceful, you can always find popular games at a good price eventually.
You already know I have a weakness for games featuring pirates, zombies, giant robots, and Cthulhu. To be completely accurate, we need to add zeppelins to that list. Or flying ships of any kind, really, I’m not picky.
I can tell you a lot about Sky Traders today, but right now I want to you look at that photo on the left, and imagine youself in the audience at a games auction.
You know what you have to do. That game must be yours.
And it would have been mine, too, if a bunch of people with the same idea hadn’t been sitting all around me. A used copy of Sky Traders eventually sold for $28. I dropped out around 25 bucks, deciding to take a chance that new copies were still available around $30.
Turns out that was a good bet. Sky Traders was released this year and is still in print. Retail price is $49.95, but most online vendors have it in stock for around $35.
The next game that commanded my attention was Guards! Guards!, a Discworld boardgame based on the novels of Terry Pratchett.
It was released last year by Z-Man Games. But I had no idea where it had come from as I sat on the edge of my seat, sizing it up. For all I knew, it was the only copy in existence, and my one chance to adventure in the worlds of Terry Pratchett was to bid like a drunken sailor.
Even drunken sailors know their limits, however. I dropped out at around the $35 mark. It eventually sold for $40.
Guards! Guards! is no longer in print, but copies are still available from some online vendors for around $58.
There were plenty of other games that slipped through my fingers that Saturday; fascinating old board games, and new products of the Old School Renaissance. Many of them are available through other avenues; some are long out of print. Those are the breaks, and you have to rely on experience and a little luck as you set limits for yourself.
There’s one final game I regret not winning, however. The man who won it sat next to me, and he showed me the box and its marvelous contents.
The game was Honor Harrington: Saganami Island Tactical Simulator, a space-battle simulator from Ad Astra Games based on the bestselling science fiction novels of David Weber. The huge, oversized box was packed with miniatures representing a wide variety of spacecraft.
Honor Harrington: Saganami Island Tactical Simulator sold for $40. Copies are hard to come by online; the ones I can find retail for around $75.
My total for the five hours I sat at the Saturday auction was $540.50 — about two hundred dollars over budget, but still a thousand bucks under the heart-stopping total I managed to rack up at the Spring Auction. Alice frowned mightily when I returned home, but I proved that I was able to attend an auction without giving in completely to auction fever. That’s progress, I guess.
It was a lot of fun to watch the pageant of science fiction and fantasy games at the Games Plus Saturday auction. Not so many years ago, I was convinced that fantasy board gaming was effectively dead, killed by the genre it had spawned: computer games. But if the incredible wealth of titles on display is any indication, fantasy board gaming is not only alive and well, it’s thriving.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if I can convince my sons Drew and Tim to play Tomb with me. Right after I order a copy of Sky Trader.